Choosing Smart Carbs

Carbohydrates are one of the body’s main sources of energy. There are two kinds: complex and simple.

Eat More Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are unprocessed and unrefined and typically don't have added sugar, salt or fat. They often have a low glycemic index, which means they don't raise blood sugar and insulin levels as quickly as processed foods. They also take awhile to break down in the body, so they long-lasting energy throughout the day.

Tips for Choosing Complex Carbs

Complex carbs have fiber and include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

  • Choose a baked or sweet potato instead of French fries
  • Eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Start the day with oatmeal, rather than a sugary breakfast cereal
  • Look for breads, rolls and pasta that list "whole grain" or "multi-grain" as the first ingredient

Examples of complex carbs include:

  • Berries, nuts and seed
  • Fresh fruits
  • Eggs
  • Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, asparagus or kale

Skip the Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are sugars. They break down quickly, causing a burst of energy lasting only for a short period of time (sugar high), followed by fatigue.

Realistically, it's nearly impossible to cut sugary desserts completely out your diet. Diets that suggest avoiding cake, chocolate and fast food burgers often don't work because they put constraints on people. Eventually, those limitations lead people to cheat on their diet.

It's fine to enjoy fatty and sugary foods, just in moderation. As long as you follow a balanced diet most of the time, you don't need to feel guilty about eating a fun-size Snickers.

Items to Limit/Eliminate

  • Artificial sweeteners. Don't be fooled by labels that say "fat free!" and "contains no sugar!"
  • Salad bars. Salad bars can be a great way to load up on veggies; however, piling on cheese, pasta salads, croutons and dressing can make the calories add up.
  • Soda. Soda and other calorie-filled, sugar-sweetened beverages have contributed to skyrocketing rates of obesity and Type II diabetes. There are 150 calories in a can of soda. Even diet soda can lead to weight gain. By cutting one soda a day, you could potentially lose 16 pounds in a year.

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