There are a lot of diets out there, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by conflicting nutrition advice. Many popular diets today – including the Ketogenic, South Beach, and Atkins diets – are focused on reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat. This can be hard to do, especially since foods high in carbohydrates are often comfort foods, like cakes, cookies, and potatoes. Eating a lower-carb diet can help you lose weight and can help you control diabetes and its complications. You shouldn’t cut out all carbs completely, though, because carbohydrates, along with protein and fats, are one of the ways our bodies get energy. But reducing your intake of simple carbohydrates, “empty” carbs, or “processed” carbs (like those found in white bread, bagels, donuts, and cookies) is a healthy idea.
Here are 12 simple ways to cut down on unhealthy carbs.
Learn to Spot Sugar
Read nutrition labels to get the whole picture about the foods you’re eating. Labels list the total carbohydrate count and the sugars of the food you’re eating. Watch out for added sugar, and watch out for sugar under names like glucose, dextrose, corn syrup. Sweeteners that sound “natural” add carbs, too, so look for honey, maple syrup, raw sugar, and molasses. Here are some additional tips on a low sugar diet!
Track Your Snacks
Become conscious of what you eat. Snacks like pretzels, chips, and cookies are high in carbs. If you tend to just grab snacks as you pass the pantry, they can be hard to track. Become more conscious about your hunger and your snacking. Ask yourself, am I actually hungry, or just bored?
Cut Out Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Try to limit artificial sweeteners, too, because their sweetness makes you crave sugar even more. Drink unsweetened iced tea or naturally flavored sparkling water instead of sodas.
Fill Up on Fiber
Dietary fiber keeps you feeling full, which will minimize carb cravings. It’s also essential for healthy digestion and heart health.
Find Whole-Wheat Versions of Your Favorite Foods
Look for whole-grain bread, crackers, and cereals instead of white bread and cereals made from rice or corn. Substitute traditional pasta with whole wheat pasta or chickpea pasta. Watch out for labels with claims like “made with whole grains” or “all natural.” Read ingredient lists on packaged food to make sure it’s 100% whole grain.
Eat Whole Fruit
Instead of drinking fruit juice or spreading jelly on your toast, eat whole fruits that provide fiber. Eat an orange instead of orange juice, or top your toast with cream cheese and berries instead of jam.
Increase Vegetable Intake
If you’re getting more of your food as vegetables, you won’t have room for breads, pastas, and other carbs. Try filling more of your plate with green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli. Cauliflower can also be used as a low-carb swap for rice and even pizza dough.
Eat Healthy Fats
Not all fat is created equal. Limit saturated fats like the ones found in cheese, meat, cream, and some processed foods. Try to eat more foods that contain unsaturated fats, like nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive oil, and full fat yogurt.
Watch Your Portion Size
Keep tabs on what you’re eating at meals. For example, a serving of bread is one slice, and a serving of pasta is ½ cup. Restaurant servings of pasta are often 4 times the recommended serving size. Learn to estimate proper portion sizes.
Don’t Skip Meals
Eat no fewer than three meals a day. You can also snack on healthy, low-carb snacks like hard boiled eggs, cheese, and almonds. This helps reduce hunger that will lead to binges, cravings, and feelings of deprivation.
Have a High-Protein Breakfast
Starting your day with a high-protein meal can keep you feeling full and less likely to snack on carbs. Try Greek yogurt topped with berries, or Mexican scrambled eggs with black beans, salsa, and avocado. If you love pancakes, try a grain-free version, made only of bananas and eggs.
Have a Healthy Snack Before Going Out to Eat
Eating out in restaurants can spell trouble for lower-carb diets. Bread before the meal, fries with the entrée, and those temptingly sweet desserts. Plan ahead and have a healthy, low-carb snack and drink a glass of water before going out. Maybe the bread basket won’t look so tempting if you’re not quite as hungry when you get to the table.