The List of Healthy Carbs You SHOULD Eat
If you’re interested in health, it’s probable you already know which “bad” carbohydrates you need to avoid. What’s critical to eating success is a healthy carb list you can use to substitute the not-so-good ones most of the time.
Your body needs carbohydrates but the standard Western Diet consists of too many (and the wrong kinds) that contribute to obesity and insulin resistance. The right carbs (sugars, starches, and fiber) provide energy and nutrients your body needs to function at peak.
Not Even “Good” Food Should Be an Obsession
Remember – you don’t have to be perfect! This was a lesson that was difficult for me to learn in my own life and one that I still struggle with from time to time.
No matter how bad any specific food may be, all of us are likely to slip down that slope once in a while. We’re human and wired to love food. Especially food that’s advertised incessantly on television, billboards, radio, and movies. All the bad stuff…begging us to eat it.
Before working to lose weight, food provided a false sense of comfort and gave me something I could control. I hid behind food – ignoring the real problems in my life. After a life-threatening blood clot, I knew I had to alter the way I thought about food.
When I started working to lose my first 100 pounds (and save my life), I fluctuated to the opposite extreme. Committed to dropping the weight, I berated myself for every brunch pastry, every glass of wine, and every square of chocolate.
I made food my enemy.
Monitoring (literally) every bite of food and every calorie was actually self-defeating. Suddenly, I understood why 95% of “diets” fail. When all you think about is food, it becomes an obsession and when you tell yourself you “aren’t allowed” to have something, human nature makes you crave it.
Eating right is about balance. I strive to reach an 80% “good food” balance. That means you focus on outstanding food choices the majority of the time and don’t be cruel to yourself when you enjoy a treat.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Carbs are my personal weakness. I do what I can to hold off “cravings” so I don’t slide back to unhealthy eating habits.
To maintain my balance, I substitute those foods I crave (considered “junk” by most nutritionists) with a list of healthy carbs. That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy a piece of cheesecake or a delicious glass of wine once in a while but these replacements absolutely help!
In my home, I don’t have any refined carbohydrates or sugars. I also don’t buy pre-packaged or pre-made foods. I know when I go out to dinner, I’ll be tempted to enjoy the breads or desserts I love most so I don’t keep it in my kitchen. If I have a dinner party, I send the leftovers home with guests to get it out of the house.
Extreme? Possibly, but I know what will happen if I have certain foods accessible so I do what I can to not set myself up to fail.
During the work week while I’m in my home office, I stick to an exclusive eating plan of complete proteins, lots of vegetables, fruit, water, and coffee.
I don’t consider the weekends my opportunity to “cheat” because I don’t start bingeing on my favorite foods Friday night and continue until Sunday.
However, it’s very likely I’ll have a good cheat meal when out with friends and family so I’m cognizant of that and make better choices when I’m alone.
Work Within the Framework of Your “Real” Life
It’s easy for health gurus to tell you “go 100% organic” but that can be difficult (and expensive) if organic selections aren’t available to you locally.
If you work odd hours, the expectation that you’ll prepare the ideal health conscious meal in the middle of the night is also harder to stick to.
Whatever time you wake up, you should consume true carbohydrates early in the day so your body can burn it as fuel. Try not to “top-load” your carbs in the hours before bed. The lack of activity makes it less likely they’ll be utilized. The truth is that what you deal with day by day is different than anyone else. You have to figure out what works for you – realistically – so you increase your chances of success.
List of Healthy Carb Substitutes
- Green Tea: Rather than buy bottled sodas, sport drinks, or other simple carbs that provide nothing nutritionally, I make flavored green tea at home or I drink infused water. With a hint of sweetness (I use a bit of raw sugar or honey) and a pop of caffeine, green tea satisfies the sweet tooth without overwhelming me with junk calories.
I also have a weakness for fancy coffees so I try to limit them to once or twice a week while I’m running errands. I buy them in the morning so there’s a better chance of burning off those empty sugars.
- Whole Fruit: I love fruit smoothies and for years, I thought they were the healthier option. I was so wrong. They’re packed with sugar and empty calories. Instead, I get my juice by adding fruit to my super healthy green smoothie or by simply eating it by itself.
Avoid bottled fruit juices because even 100% is packed with calories and the potential fiber is lost in processing. Some researchers have stated that too much fruit juice can have the same effect as too much soda.
- Sweet Potatoes: Depending on preparation, sweet potatoes can be as much of a dietary challenge as white potatoes. However, if you avoid frying them, they offer a lovely side dish with more vitamins and minerals than their pale cousin and are a better carb to choose.
If you need a “fry” fix, consider roasting a tray of veggies instead. I do this with eggplant, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, and garlic cloves and the blend of flavors doesn’t make me miss the greasy fries I used to love.
- Legumes: These are an excellent way to get much-needed fiber and protein without added junk. They’re a great family meal option because they’re inexpensive and plentiful pretty much everywhere.
I make a small batch of dry beans that I can use in other recipes for a few days. They’re easy to prepare and versatile. I make a kidney bean and garlic paste (similar to hummus) that’s delicious on pita.
- Nuts and Seeds: A great source of healthy fats, nuts and seeds are packed with nutrition. They’re a quick snack that travel well so they’re the perfect choice when you need a quick energy boost.
Eating right doesn’t have to be painful, make you feel deprived, or take up all your time. If you stock this list of healthy carbs and find others that work for you, you’ll be less tempted to grab the easiest foods.
Take things gradually and listen to your body. If you have a day now and again where you pull into a drive-thru, don’t beat yourself up. Try to avoid doing it again for a while.
Controlling your weight is about long-term health and feeling amazing. You can make it happen one bite at a time.