We all know eating too many grams of carbohydrates will make us fat. Or at least we *think* eating too many carbs will make us fat. Hence, all the low carb diets out there in this crazy world. This common misconception, however, is not true. As someone who has experimented with many different types of diets–typically, just for fun & just to see the difference in my energy levels & overall wellness–carbohydrates are necessary.
To make the long story short, your body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is the most accessible type of energy your body uses for any sort of activity. When your body does not have enough glycogen, it will use protein for energy. Your body uses protein to build tissues, like muscles. Therefore, when you don’t eat carbohydrates, your body will eat your muscle tissue. Very counterproductive if you work out a lot. Read more about protein here.
That, however, does not mean eating a bag of Cheetos before a workout.
Being the foodie that I am & having tried more kinds and types of food than most people I know, here are my favorite alternatives to popular carbs:
- Steel Cut Oatmeal – A great alternative to regular breakfast staples like cereal or instant oatmeal or McMuffins. When I have time to cook, I get Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats. There are about 17 servings in each container & each serving has 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber & 5 grams of protein. Make enough for a few days, pack them in little pouches or containers & freeze for later consumption. When I’m super lazy or short on time, I make the microwaveable version of Trader Joe’s Steel Cut Oatmeal. This version is sweetened with brown sugar & maple syrup, so it contains about 6 more grams of sugar. Otherwise nutrition info is the same. Top with fresh or frozen fruit, almonds, granola, etc. & enjoy! There are options :)
- Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortillas – Great alternative to bread, regular corn & flour tortillas, & tortilla chips. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Sprouted Grain Tortillas? How can that even taste good?” These tortillas are awesome! And if you like chewy stuff, like me, then you will love these. The ingredients include: “Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Unhulled Sesame Seeds, Organic Sprouted Whole Soybeans, Organic Sprouted Whole Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Millet, Organic Sprouted Whole Lentils, Organic Sprouted Whole Spelt, Sea Salt.” Yea, I know. Too much awesomeness rolled into one tortilla. Imagine all the things you can make to eat, like:
- Tortilla Chips – Cut a tortilla up into eight pieces, sprinkle with salt, pepper, whatever other seasoning you want, maybe drizzle some olive oil over the tortillas (for extra crunchiness) & bake. Delicious with some homemade guacamole. See my recipe for 2-minute guacamole here.
- Breakfast Burritos – Chicken seasoned with your favorite Mexican seasonings, fluffy egg whites, guacamole, sprinkled w/reduced fat four cheese blend. Making breakfast burritos can be time-consuming, so I like to make enough for a few days, wrap them in aluminum foil & stick them in the fridge. In the morning, you can unwrap & heat (not in the aluminum!), & enjoy with your favorite hot sauce. Breakfast burritos make for awesome lunches too. Yes, I’m part of the “I Can Eat Breakfast for All Meals of the Day” club.
- Trader Joe’s Rice Medley – An alternative to regular white rice. Also more interesting than brown rice, even though brown rice is also a staple in my healthstyle. TJ’s rice medley is a blend of brown rice, red rice and black barley & makes a great side dish for chicken, fish, or other meaty foods. One serving has 160 calories, 1/2 gram of fat, 5 grams of fiber & 6 grams of protein. This is great when you’re short on time & don’t have time to cook rice. You just pop a pouch in the microwave for 3 minutes & it’s done! For me, one pouch is enough for three meals, but I think there are two servings per pouch.
Other awesome carb alternatives include:
- Quinoa – which I haven’t quite figured out how to prepare yet, so I can’t write about it.
- Squash – butternut squash (obsessed!), spaghetti squash (alternative to regular spaghetti or other pastas), pumpkin, etc. Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite things to make. I’ll post the recipe in another post.
- Peas & Legumes – all types of beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, chickpeas (hummus), edamame. Most are high in fiber & protein.
I didn’t mention regular veggies & fruits, because they’re not really alternatives. Hopefully, most people are eating enough fruits & veggies every day.
What are your favorite healthy carbs to eat? And how do you prepare/cook them?