How to Minimize Carbs without Losing the Health Benefits
Guest Post From Anna Baird
Carbohydrates (or carbs) are everywhere and boy, are they tempting! Bread, pasta, cereals, alcohol and even some fruits (like bananas, pears, mangos, and raisins) and vegetables (like potatoes, corn beef, and yams) are all high-carb foods.
Some forms of carbohydrates are best to avoid if you are a health-conscious individual. However, carbs give your body energy and without energy, how are you going to power through your regular workday, let alone get the exercise your body needs? Fiber is a carbohydrate that aids in your body's digestion which is also necessary for leading a happy and healthy life.
We’ve compiled a list of ways you can minimize your carbohydrate intake while maintaining the health benefits that carbs provide.
Eat Whole Grains
We recommend saving your carb allowance for whole grains. Whole grains will allow your body to take in necessary fiber and help your body to feel fuller with a smaller portion of carbohydrates and they are full of other health benefits.
Quinoa is a whole grain that’s inexpensive, easy to cook and can replace less healthy foods. It’s a great alternative to rice and we even like adding spices and using it to replace minced beef in recipes (or you can mix it with the ground meat to make it healthier but not completely meat-free).
If you’re as obsessed with pasta as we are, you can buy whole grain pasta (or make it yourself) so you can feel like you’re indulging without all the empty calories of regular pasta.
Another great whole grain is oatmeal. We’re talking about real oats, not the sweetened kind! We love making overnight oats in the evening for a power-packed breakfast that’s easy to grab and eat on the go the next morning. Swap out different kinds of milk and nut butter, sprinkle on fruit, granola or chia seeds, the possibilities are endless and the health benefits are amazing!
Other whole grains to use in recipes include amaranth and barley. Also, if you’re not crazy about oats, you can find whole-grain breakfast cereals.
Get Plenty of Fiber
We’ve already mentioned fiber once, but it’s so important it needs its own category! Fiber is essential to aid digestion. Fiber helps maintain the good bacteria in your gut and can reduce our risk of heart disease. Not only that but it can also actually help you lose weight and maintain a low blood sugar level.
Snack on fruits like apples, raspberries, pears or strawberries (these are also two great topping choices for your overnight oats) to get a good dose of fiber and fight off cravings between meals that could lead to unhealthy, carb-heavy gorging.
Toss some avocado or carrots on top of your salad give your healthy lunch a good fiber boost and power your body through to dinner. Or you might make a hearty lentil and kidney bean stew.
Keep Your Energy Levels Up
Carbs give our body energy, and we definitely don’t want to deprive ourselves of that! Here are some other energy-boosting foods that will keep your brain and body moving all day and won’t pile on the carbs.
Lean meats like chicken and fish like salmon are high in protein, which gives our bodies energy. Other protein-rich foods include eggs, almonds, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and beans.
A great alternative to caffeinated beverages is a power smoothie. Try mixing different greens with fruits and yogurt for a nutrient-packed, energy-boosting beverage. Or, try one of these low-carb smoothie recipes.
If you’re not a smoothie person, these no-bake oatmeal bites are easy to make and easy to transport. You can have them for breakfast or pop one as a snack when the afternoon munchies hit instead of making a less-healthy choice.
This seems like a given, but it’s so important we can’t leave it out. Not only is drinking enough water essential to helping deliver nutrients throughout your body and maintaining your body temperature, it also energizes your muscles so you can exercise safely and it can help prevent unnecessary eating. Often, when we think we are hungry we are actually mistaking our thirst for hunger.
Carry a reusable water bottle throughout the day as a reminder to drink water. You can even add lemon, lime, cucumber, mint leaves or basil leaves to give your water a great flavor without adding unnecessary sugar.
What to Avoid
Sometimes it’s easier to just avoid certain foods altogether. Maybe these foods trigger you into eating more or, more likely since they don’t have many nutrients they don’t satisfy you and you end up needing to eat more on top of making the unhealthy choice to start with. Here are some foods we recommend avoiding or eating sparingly.
● Beverages like soda and juice are packed with sugar and really don’t have any redeeming qualities. If you think your juice is healthy, take a look at the label and make sure there is actually fruit in it. Chances are, it’s just high-fructose corn syrup and instead of a healthy addition to your meal, it’s adding sugar without any nutrients and probably leaving you hungrier than before!
● White bread, flour tortillas, bagels, and pasta, while so tempting, are tricky foods. They are low in nutrients but high in carbohydrates (thus high in calories) and although they may make you full at first, the feeling won’t last. Not to mention, when have you eaten white bread plain (without sandwich fixings or butter and jam) or a bagel without cream cheese, a tortilla with no filling or pasta without sauce?
● White sugar, brown sugar, and honey sweeteners. Instead, try Stevia or Xylitol.
● Potatoes/French Fries. Make a delicious veggie side instead of the high carb, high starch, low nutrient potato side dish. Artichokes or broccoli make for great substitutes and they’re both high in healthy nutrients. If you’re at a restaurant and the standard side is a potato, ask for a substitution.
● Milk, instead try nut milk or oat milk. While some dairy products have important proteins, milk is high-carb and high-fat and it’s so easy to avoid.
Regardless of which of these tips you incorporate into your daily diet, it’s important to remember to always keep a balance! We recommend avoiding certain foods, but that doesn’t mean you should try never to eat them again. Depriving yourself of a food you love completely isn’t necessary for staying healthy.
Anna Baird is a gardener with a hint of philosophy - Anna also writes on renewable energy, environment, crafts and DIY. She grew up in East London and lives in San Diego. She loves to write everywhere!