Repeat after me: Carbs are not the enemy.
Seriously! Though exact carbohydrate needs differ from person to person, the body needs some to maintain proper function and keep our brain and body energized.
One of the most common questions I get from clients is, “So what ‘counts’ as a carb serving?”
The short answer is “15 grams,” but what that looks like on your plate varies. To help clear up the confusion, I wrote an article for Azumio with some handy info to help you determine what “counts” as a carb serving.
- Grains: These are your oats, barley, rice, wheat, millet, amaranth, sorghum, and so on. Whole grains (think brown rice instead of white) will break down more slowly and keep your blood sugar and energy more stable. 15 grams of carbohydrate is equivalent to about ⅓ – ½ cup of cooked grain, depending on the grain. The diabetic exchange list provides a more detailed breakdown.
- Beans: Often mistakenly labeled as vegetables, the nutritional profile of beans, peas, and lentils are actually similar to grains. About ½ cup cooked (or ¼ cup dry) beans, peas, or lentils provides 15 grams of carbohydrate.
- Starchy Vegetables: These get a bad rap but can make a tasty, nutritious grain-free carb source. Some good choices: parsnips, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, and green peas.A 15-gram carbohydrate serving of starchy vegetables is about ½ a cup cooked for most, 1 cup for cooked pumpkin or winter squash, or ½ a medium baked potato.
- Fruit: Prioritize the fresh stuff over dried or juiced. A 15-gram carbohydrate serving is equivalent to about ¾ cup of berries, a 9-inch banana, a medium apple, ¼ cup of dried fruit, of a ½-cup of fruit juice. The Diabetic Exchange list provides more detailed information.
- Dairy: Depending on your nutrition needs (ex: if you have diabetes), you may want to account for lactose, the naturally present carbohydrate in dairy. Each serving of milk provides about 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrate. Exact amount in products like yogurt and ice cream will vary from brand to brand. Just remember that added sugars will be contributing carbohydrates. One exception to the “milk= carbs” thing: The Diabetic Exchange system lists cheese as a meat because it’s, essentially, the protein and fat from milk.
The best way to eat carbs is in the context of a meal or snack that also provides protein and/or fat to buffer the breakdown. This helps boost satisfaction and promotes more stable blood sugar to ward off later hanger and keep you from eating random crap you’ll wish you hadn’t.
Here are some quick and easy ideas for protein and carb snacks. A few of my personal favorites from the list:
Piece of fruit and 1 tablespoon nut butter. This classic combo will keep you full for hours, thanks to the fiber in the fruit and heart-healthy fats in the nut butter. Think beyond apples and try sliced pear, stone fruit like peaches and plums, or your favorite berries. Bananas are a delicious, convenient option as well.
A hard-boiled egg or piece of cheese and a piece of fruit makes a handy breakfast or snack. If you’re watching your saturated fat intake, you can always toss the egg yolks.
1 slice whole wheat toast with ¼ cup cottage cheese and cinnamon on top will give you slow-burning energy, thanks to the fiber in the toast and the 8 grams of protein in the cottage cheese. If you don’t want a ton of sodium, look for a no-salt added cottage cheese.
Roasted Chickpeas. Along with filling fiber and complex carbs, beans also provide some protein. Toss a ½ cup of chickpeas with your favorite spices and a teaspoon of olive or coconut oil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, shaking the pan a few times to prevent sticking. You can make this ahead of time and place into an airtight container once cooler to take with you on your day.
Mason Jar Hummus & Veggies: Place ¼ cup of your favorite hummus in the bottom of a small mason jar. Arrange sliced vegetables in the jar and seal.
Plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup of berries will provide a good balance of protein and complex carbs. Not into plain? Stir in up to one teaspoon of your favorite jam, honey, or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.
Do you get confused about carbs? What are some of your favorite protein-and-carb combos?
This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.
***This post may contain affiliate links. I only share products and services I love and would recommend anyway.
Hungry for more?
Subscribe to get the latest nutrition information, self-care strategies, and healthy living tips delivered right to your inbox.