Think of it this way—a calorie is not a calorie, but rather it depends on the source of it. You can know and understand the calorie count of an apple for example, but in the end you are getting nutrients. Just because you can get the same calories out of a few crackers, doesn’t mean that they are equally as good of a snack.
As you work to understand what makes up the right types of calories in your healthy eating habits, consider a few key elements. If you can think through these factors then you can weigh if it’s a good food choice or a poor one.
- Consider the makeup of the food itself—if it’s natural and from the earth then you are getting nutrients as part of the calorie investment.
- If it is whole food and from the earth then it will provide you natural energy and fuel, and therefore is a good calorie choice.
- If you get significant calories per serving but can’t figure out the actual nutrients or healthy ingredients, then it’s a poor calorie choice.
- If you get nothing back from eating this food, such as better health or energy, then it’s best to choose something else.
- If you get a whole lot of fat, sodium, or additives and preservatives along with the calories then it’s not a good food choice.
- Consider calories to be an investment into your health and well being, so optimize them to get the most out of them with every food choice.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
Start with understanding this—CARBOHYDRATES ARE ESSENTIAL! So this should automatically ensure that you cast aside any type of diet that tells you to stop eating carbs altogether.
There really is a difference between good carbs and bad carbs, so it’s up to you to know the difference. By noting the differences between the two, you can make healthy choices and get the most out of your carbohydrates.
When you eat carbohydrates, they get converted to glucose in your system, which is used to provide energy and allow your brain, muscles and body to function. They also provide many of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients necessary for good health.
SO THE RIGHT CARBS ARE ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU!
Good carbs generally have these healthy characteristics
- High in fiber: Help you to feel full longer and give you natural energy
- Low glycemic index: stabilizes blood sugar levels and insulin production
- Greater “thermic effect”: naturally stimulates metabolism and promotes fat loss.
The following food types are generally considered to be good carbs and should make up most of your carb intake.
- Whole vegetables
- Whole fruits
- Whole grains (sourdough, rye, etc)
Simply put, if you eat only good carbs you can avoid many of the health problems that plague millions of people around the world. In essence to be healthier and in better shape, choosing good carbs can:
- You will feel better and have significantly more energy
- You will lose most or all of your excess body fat
- You will have more energy and better quality of life
So if it’s not obvious with certain carbohydrates, you may like some guidelines to help you in making good choices. If you’re not sure, then know this about bad carbs:
-Most bad carbs are refined, processed, starchy foods that have had all or most of their natural ingredients and fiber stripped away or removed.
-To try to make them taste better or be more “consumer friendly” they lose their nutritional makeup and therefore their benefits as well.
-Most baked goods, white breads, pastas, snack foods, candies, and diet and regular soft drinks fit into this category.
-Bleached, enriched “white flour’ and white sugar, along with an array of artificial flavorings, coloring, and preservatives are the most common ingredients used to make “bad carb” foods.
-These are harmful because the human body is not able to process them very well.
– It’s also important to realize that many processed carb foods provide large amounts of ‘empty’ calories – calories with little or no nutritional-value.
Most of the processed carbs we eat wreak havoc on our natural hormone levels. Insulin production, especially, is ‘thrown out of whack’ as the body attempts to process the huge amounts of starches and simple sugars contained in a typical ‘bad carb’-based meal.
This leads to dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose levels – a big reason why you often feel lethargic after eating high-sugar, unhealthy meals. The up and down cycle of feeling full and then shortly after feeling hungry isn’t good for your health, and most certainly isn’t good for your ability to lose weight.
Simple Tips for Incorporating Good Carbs Into Your Diet
- Try to cut out as much ‘junk food’ from your diet as possible. This includes pretty much all chips, candy, soft drinks. These are the bad carbs and all full of empty calories.
- Avoid or limit your intake of refined flour baked goods, including non-whole-grain breads, bagels, doughnuts, cupcakes, brownies, cakes, etc. Also, throw out the processed, high-sugar breakfast cereals – stick to whole-grain cereals and oatmeal.
- Buy a variety of fresh fruits and veggies and begin to include at least 1 or 2 servings with each meal. Be sure that within this food group you aim to eat at least two servings of leafy green vegetables each day.
- Use nuts and seeds as healthy, portable snacks you can carry anywhere. Also, they can be used to add flavor and ‘texture’ to many different foods (especially salads).
- Eat a serving of beans or legumes at least 1-2 times per day. The dozens of different types of beans and peas can be used in hundreds of delicious recipes. Also, consider buying or making bean sprouts – they are considered to be some of the most nutritionally ‘powerful’ foods available!
- Always choose the whole-grain option when it comes to breads, cereals, crackers, pastas, etc. Just make sure that ‘whole-grain’ is the first word in the ingredients list and you’ll be fine. Read labels carefully and know exactly what you are getting!
Tip: Always try to eat protein with your good carbs. Not only does this offer a natural balance in your food consumption, but it slows the rate at which the sugar hits your blood stream.