Carbohydrates have an undeserved reputation as the bad boys on the block. But all carbs aren’t unhealthy. In fact, the right carbs are a necessary part of a healthy diet.
There are two carbohydrate types: simple and complex. Your body can more easily digest simple carbs, which are found in fruits and dairy and in processed, refined foods like pasta, sugar and white bread. Complex carbs take longer to break down and are found in bread, brown rice, legumes, vegetables and whole-grain pasta.
The key a healthy diet with carbohydrates is making wise choices. This means avoiding processed and refined ones as much as possible and consuming more complex ones.
These eight easy tips can help you get more complex carbs as well as good-for-you simple carbs in your diet:
- Start your day with high-fiber foods, such as oatmeal, oat cereal and whole-bran or whole-wheat bagels, muffins or English muffins.
- Read labels carefully. Look for whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient on breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and rice.
- Put bananas or berries in your oatmeal or add fruit on the side.
- Drink a half-cup—4 ounces—of 100 percent fruit juice once or twice a day. If you like fizz, mix it with club soda or unsweetened seltzer water.
- Use brown rice instead of white.
- Have dried fruits and vegetable juice boxes on hand—but keep an eye on the sugar content—and keep a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen for snacks.
- Add barley to soups and stews. Top casseroles and salads with bulgur.
- Reach for whole-grain snacks, including popcorn, corn tortilla chips, whole-wheat pita bread or whole-wheat crackers. Top them with salsa, hummus or low-fat cheese.