Cutting back on carbs? Dietitian Melissa Meier offers simple food swaps to avoid a blood sugar spike.
Carbs are often frowned upon when it comes to healthy eating, but their bad reputation isn’t exactly warranted. You might be surprised to hear this, but carbs are actually an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet (yes, you read that correctly… essential).
Carbohydrates are the type of fuel your body and brain are wired to use most efficiently. But that’s not your green light to go hell for leather on pizza, pasta and bread, because all carbs are not created equally. Here’s what you need to know.
Complex vs. simple carbs
One of the main things to keep in mind when talking carbs is the glycaemic index, which is a measurement of how quickly carbohydrates are broken down into sugar and released into your bloodstream.
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‘Complex’ or low-GI carbs are digested slowly, so your blood sugars gently rise and fall. ‘Simple’ or high-GI carbs, on the other hand, are broken down much more rapidly, so your blood sugars spike and crash in a shorter amount of time. While the former leaves you feeling full and satisfied long after a meal, the latter means hunger pangs will quickly strike again.
The other main consideration when talking carbs is the wholegrain status. Obviously, this doesn’t affect all carb choices, but it’s important when choosing grains like bread, rice and pasta.
Wholegrains contain all three natural layers of the grain: the fibre-rich bran on the outside, the nutrient-dense germ in the core and the starchy endosperm in centre. Refined grains, on the other hand, consist only of the starchy endosperm.
Not only are wholegrains usually lower-GI, they’re also packed with nutritional goodness (read: far more micronutrients than refined choices) and have been linked to a raft of health perks, including reduced risk of heart disease, type two diabetes and certain cancers.
20 swaps to reduce simple carbs
As a dietitian, I’m always recommending low-GI and/or wholegrain carbs in place of simple, refined ones. They’re oh-so-good for you, provide stacks of top-notch nutrition and make you feel good from the inside out. So, to help you make the switch, here are twenty different ways to reduce high-GI, refined carbs from your diet, to leave room for wholegrains and low-GI carbs.
- Swap white bread for wholemeal bread with grains and seeds.
- Swap white rice for long grain brown rice.
- Swap white pasta for wholemeal or legume-based pasta.
- Swap water crackers for wholegrain crispbreads.
- Swap ice cream for fresh fruit and yoghurt.
- Swap soft drink for kombucha.
- Swap fruit juice for a homemade smoothie made of milk, natural yoghurt and fruit.
- Swap pretzels for unsalted nuts.
- Swap quick oats for rolled oats.
- Swap corn pasta for wholemeal pasta.
- Swap cornflakes for natural muesli.
- Swap puffed wheat flakes for bircher muesli.
- Swap mashed white potato for mashed pumpkin.
- Swap couscous for quinoa.
- Swap crisps for roasted chickpeas.
- Swap sweet biscuits for a wholegrain muesli bar.
- Swap chocolate milk for an iced latte (i.e. coffee and milk).
- Swap multigrain bread for wholemeal sourdough.
- Swap pita bread for a multigrain wrap.
- Swap roasted white potato for sweet potato.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.