Make Smart Carbohydrate Choices

Make healthier carbohydrate choices.


A registered dietitian’s advice on making smart carbohydrate choices

When counselling people for weight, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, the topic of carbohydrates is always discussed. I frequently see two opposite patterns when it comes to the consumption of carbohydrate sources such as breads, cereals, and pastas. One is the group of people who abstain from carbohydrates completely because of perceived weight gain consequences, thus consuming very limited amounts and finding themselves tired, irritable and unable to concentrate. The other is the group who makes poor choices in how frequently they consume carbohydrates, consequently in-taking less nutrients, vitamins and minerals, while eating unhealthier fats, added sugar, sodium and calories.

I explain that we need carbohydrates because they:

  1. Are the body’s main and preferred source of energy
  2. Are necessary for optimal brain function
  3. Provide key vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium
  4. Can contain high fibre that: regulates blood sugar, reduces blood cholesterol, decreases the risk of chronic diseases, supports good bowel function, makes us feel full, or satisfied, which helps manage body weight

I teach people to:

  1. Choose high fibre and nutrient-dense most, or nearly all of the time
  2. Have appropriate amounts, being aware of serving vs portion sizes
  3. Limit the added fats and sugars found in sauces, spreads, gravies and other condiments
  4. Make the plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein and ¼ whole grain

I use the example of eating dinner at a pasta restaurant. Something like fettuccine alfredo is served to cover the entire plate, made with white noodles, and smothered with a high fat sauce. It comes with a minimal amount of protein and a caesar side salad.  A better alternative would be to choose a whole grain pasta to accompany an adequate protein source with a dark green salad and side of steamed vegetables.