Sunday, February 9, 2020

Add some healthy carbs to your day.

Carbs – so many myths about carbs.  Come January, you hear about people going on diets and many people say they are “cutting my carbs”.  Are there carbs you should cut back on?  Yes, but there are also carbs you should be adding to your diet, not cutting.  Healthy carbs add important nutrients to your diet.  And carbs are your body’s fuel.  Low carb diets can mean low energy diets.  I love carbs and we aren’t cutting carbs in our family.  Recently, I was out eating lunch with my two daughters.  The waiter asked, “would you like a bread basket?”   We all responded in unison, “YES!”  And we enjoyed every piece of bread in that bread basket.

So, what are the “healthy carbs” and what are the carbs we actually should be cutting back on?

What are carbs?
I showed a video in the nutrition class I teach that asked people on the street, “What are carbs?”  Most people really couldn’t answer that question.  Carbs can be starches like the starches found in bread, beans, potatoes, pasta or sugars like white table sugar or the natural sugar found in fruit. Fiber is also a carb, even though we can’t digest it, fiber is important for a healthy digestive system.  

Why do we need carbs?
Carbs are your body’s main source of fuel.  When you eat starches or sugars, your body turns it into glucose which fuels all of our body cells.  And we need glucose to support the physical activities we do each day.  According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines about half our daily calories should be from carbs. 

What are healthy carbs?
The least processed carbs are the healthiest.  That would be whole grains like oatmeal, whole grain bread, whole grain English muffins, whole grain cereal like Shredded Wheat, Wheat Chex, Cheerios, and whole grain pasta.  Good carbs also include fruit and vegetables and beans.  All of these healthy carbs are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.  They also provide those healthy antioxidants that help prevent diseases and boost our immune systems. 

What are unhealthy carbs?
A student said there aren’t really “bad” carbs, there are just carbs that aren’t so good for our health.  These would include processed foods like white bread, pastries, donuts, sugar sweetened beverages like Sunny D, Hi-C, lemonade, juice drinks.  Why are they considered unhealthy?  First, these processed carbs are stripped of many vitamins and minerals during processing and often stripped of fiber.  Carbs high in sugar are easily digested and can lead to weight gain, and promote diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Look at the ingredients when you buy a packaged food.  If the first ingredient is sugar, high fructose corn syrup or some other sugar, the food is mostly sugar and not a very healthy choice.  Save those foods for dessert.  

How can you add some healthy carbs to your day?

Breakfast – eat some whole grain cereal, have a slice of whole grain toast, enjoy an English muffin.  Oatmeal is one of the healthiest choices for a breakfast cereal but there are many whole grain cereals.  If you have kids, let them choose any big G cereal as all General Mills cereals are whole grain.   Enjoy some fresh fruit like bananas.  Bananas are full of nutrients, add some fiber to your day, and are a quick energy source to start your day. 

Lunch – pack a lunch that includes some whole grain.  It doesn’t have to be whole grain bread, as you can choose some whole grain crackers.  Or chips – yes, chips.  I love chips and often eat some chips at lunch.  But usually healthy, whole grain chips, like Sun Chips, or Late July chips or Food Should Taste Good chips. 

Add some whole grain chips to your lunch.
Juice – be sure the juice you buy is “real” juice.   Juice drinks like Sunny D and Hi-C have little juice and lots of added sugar and are never a good choice.  I like a glass of 100% Orange Juice or 100% Grapefruit Juice.  Some of my students like Naked Juice and V8.  Find a 100% juice that you like to drink.

Dinner – reach for those sweet potato fries or enjoy a baked sweet potato.  Serve some brown rice instead of white rice.  At a recent meeting the professor next to me said she loved white rice but maybe she ate too much of it.  I suggested she switch it up with some brown rice as brown rice is whole grain.  Quinoa comes in easy to cook 90 second packets.  This makes it so easy to add Quinoa to any dinner.  And Quinoa is whole grain and for those worried about gluten – it is gluten-free.   Enjoy some chili made with beans as beans are a very healthy carb. 
Quinoa is whole grain and this Quinoa cooks in 90 seconds.
What are some ways you can “add some carbs” to your day?  Not just any carbs, but some healthy carbs.  

Sources:  carbs, U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Naked Juice,  V8,  Dinner   Image sources:  Quinoa, Chips, V8 Fusion

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