Carbohydrates may be the most important source of energy in your diet, as well as a source of essential nutrients. Choosing the right carbs in the right serving sizes can actually help with weight loss and a reduced risk for chronic conditions.
Meanwhile, having the wrong ones or too many carbs can lead to weight gain and health concerns. Here are the basics of fitting healthy carbohydrates into a meal plan for prediabetes and health.
Sugars and starches are types of carbohydrates that add calories and bump up blood sugar, while fiber is a type of carbohydrate that does not contribute calories and that stabilizes blood sugar. When choosing carbohydrate foods, looking for more fiber and less sugar and starch can lead you to the best choices.
|Often: High-Fiber Foods||Less Often: Sugary and Starchy Low-Fiber or Low-Nutrient Foods|
Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates and calories, and high in fiber. They are welcome at any meal or snack!
The Right Serving Sizes
Having the right amount of carbs at meals and snacks can help stabilize blood sugar, which helps with weight loss, keeps energy even, and reduces carbohydrate cravings.
The “right amount” varies by the person, with bigger, more active males generally needing more carbs than smaller, less active females. A good rule of thumb is to have 30 to 45 or even 60 grams of carbs at each meal and 15 to 30 grams at snacks.
Thinking of carb foods in terms of 15-gram increments lets you hit those numbers without going crazy counting carbs. That way, you can just have 2 to 3 or 4 15-gram servings of carbs for meals, and 1 to 2 15-gram servings at snacks.
Each of these have a serving size of about 15 grams of carbs:
- 1 slice of bread, ½ English muffin, ½ tortilla, small dinner roll
- 1 small piece of fruit, 1 cup of melon or strawberries, ¾ cup of blueberries
- ⅓ cup of cooked rice
- ½ cup of cooked pasta, bulgur, barley, quinoa, corn, or peas
- 1 small baked potato or sweet potato
Once you know which carbs and how much, how do you get a balanced meal on your plate? Starting with veggies, choosing your carbs, and adding some lean protein and a bit of healthy fat can give you a sure winner every time. Here are just a few examples…
- Egg whites with spinach, feta cheese, and oregano served with cooked sweet potato slices
- Turkey sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and
- Tuna salad made with plain yogurt instead of mayo, served on top of a greens-based salad and with whole-grain crackers on the side.
- Grilled chicken with a salad with spinach, raspberries, and cooked barley.
- Four-bean salad, made with olive oil, spices, and vinegar, and a piece of fruit.
Starting with hard-core starches and sugary foods may not leave much room on your plate – or in your belly – for more filling, lower-calorie vegetables that should be the biggest component of a healthy diet. Instead, Lark suggests serving the vegetables first, then adding smaller amounts of other foods, to ensure that you get a good amount of vegetables.