A common myth is that foods high in carbs are bad for you because they lead to weight gain and obesity. What if we told you that you could eat healthy without having to cut out carbs from your life? Contrary to popular belief, carbs themselves aren’t the problem; the problem is the type of starchy carbs you consume that may not be the healthiest option. So instead of going totally carb-free, the key to a healthy lifestyle lies in making a switch to healthier options that work better for both weight loss and energy levels.
Try these 7 easy hacks to eating healthier carbs in your diet today:
1. Complex is good
Complex carbs such as whole grains (think couscous, buckwheat, quinoa and barley) are fibre rich types of carbs that make for better choices over normal simple carbs. Complex carbs take a longer time to break down, leading you to feel fuller for a longer period of time, while curbing unnecessary snacking. Similarly, white bread is made from refined wheat flour which has been stripped clean of all its vitamins and fibre – substitute white bread for brown bread or wholemeal bread.
2. Swap white rice for brown or cauliflower rice
The more whole the food, the more nutrient-dense it is, thus the healthier it is to consume. Although white and brown rice are very similar when it comes to counting calories, carbohydrates and protein, brown rice has more fibre, vitamins and minerals than its fairer cousin, making it the healthier option. Plus, since brown rice is more filling than white rice, you’ll cut down on the normal calories consumed in rice as you’ll only need to eat a very small portion of brown rice compared to what you would eat for white rice.
If you still like the white colour, substitute cauliflower rice for white rice by simply grating some cauliflower or by giving it a whiz in the food processor. It can’t get any easier than that.
3. Control the sweet tooth
Eating healthier carbs doesn’t mean giving up on sweet desserts. It just means making better choices. For instance, swap creamy thick shakes for gut-healthy smoothies with yoghurt and frozen berries; opt for a frosting-free muffin instead of a slice of cake or a cupcake; reach for fresh fruit at the end of the meal instead of desserts. However, if you’re not able to tame your sweet cravings, try halving the quantity consumed instead. You’ll still have your indulgent sweet treat, but only at half the carbs calories.
4. Sweet potatoes over potatoes
Despite being called ‘sweet’, these humble potato variants actually contain lower calories and more vitamins A, C and fibre than regular potatoes, making them the healthier option by far. Plus, since they have complex carbs, you’ll stay fuller for longer later.
5. Veggie-fy your carbs
Swap your favourite carbs (think potatoes and pasta) for vegetables. We’ve already mentioned swapping rice for cauliflower, but why stop there? Mashed potatoes are a great indulgences, but can pack quite a calorific punch. Switch to a low-carb substitute instead by mashing some steamed cauliflower instead. Invest in a spiraliser and ditch spaghetti for delicious zucchini noodles ‘zoodles’ in its place. Even better, zoodles can be eaten raw with just a touch of salad dressing, and they still have the same bite as al dente pasta.
Likewise, substitute yellow noodles for the low calorie and low carb konjac noodles (also known as shirataki noodles), which are made from glucomannan, a fibre from the konjac root.
6. Water, water, water
You’ve heard this one countless times before. Cut out unwanted sugar and calories from soft drinks, sodas, alcohol, beer and juices by simply drinking water. Even low-sugar options in sodas and fruit juices aren’t as healthy as they claim to be, as artificial sweeteners can negatively impact blood sugar levels, leading to weight gain. Find the taste of ordinary water boring? Add a slice or two of lemon to regular tap water or soda water.
7. Go nuts over bread
Artisanal bread is all the rage these days, with bakers using special high fibre and high protein flour to batch make small quantities of quality bread. While there is really no substitute for great bread (which means high carbs), you can eat healthier by having breads made from nut flours instead of regular white or even rye flour. Wholegrain breads made from flax seed meal or almond flour and sprinkled over with a mixture of seeds (think sesame, pepitas, flax seeds, and so on), are lower in carbs and calories despite being quite dense.
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