Carbs have always been a bit of a hot topic when it comes to dieting or healthy eating. There are people who are fiercely promote high-carb-low-fat and those who promote high-fat/protein-low carb.
From all my years of dieting and experience working with people who've been yo-yo dieting for most of their adult life, carbs are actually really important for losing weight, maintaining weight loss and living a healthy balanced life.
Carbs will not make you fat when they are the right carbs and are packed with amazing nutrients.
So what are the right carbs?
1. Sweet Potato
A total unsung superfood in my eyes. It's packed with vitamin A and C which is amazing for your skin, plus lots of fibre and energy to keep you feeling full and fuelled to continue working out. Other root vegetable like pumpkin and butternut are also great nutrient packed carbs.
I love to eat mine as a roasted jacket potato or was wedges, but you can also spiralize it and use it for noodles.
I'd recommend eating sweet potatoes at lunch time with a salad or some quinoa, or 2-3 times a week in the evening if you are regular active (45 minutes a day 5 days a week).
These are seeds that look like grains and are treated like grains, but are packed with protein, so make a great carb for getting lean. So what are they?
Quinoa - probably the most popular pseudo-grain. It's great for salads and for a hearty morning porridge. I use quinoa flakes to make a super filling porridge.
Buckwheat - with a beautiful nutty flavour it's great to use as granola to give some crunch. Buckwheat flour also makes for an amazing gluten free weekend pancake.
Millet - makes a great substitute for cous cous. You can use it in salads or in winter with stews and curries.
Amaranth - like a tiny version of quinoa. I generally use amaranth to make porridge in the winter.
Eat pseudo grains in the morning and at lunch.
Are they a carb or a protein? Well they're both and that's why I love them! Packed with fibre, lots of vitamins and minerals they make a great addition to salads.
Some of my favourites are black beans and chickpeas. Black beans are an amazing recovery food (read why here) and can be easily added to your evening salads to bulk it out.
Eat beans at lunch or in the evenings to keep you feeling full.
4. Quality breads
Yep not all bread is evil, just the preservative, additive and refined bread you find in the super market. Healthy breads are great for helping you transition to a healthier, less processed way of eating. Always make sure you go for wholegrain rye bread or sourdough breads.
Rye bread - is made with rye grain which is wheat free and a grain lower in gluten, which is going to cause less belly bloat.
Sourdough bread - uses the traditional method of making bread and uses fermented sourdough cultures. This makes it easier to digest and gives a little hit of pro-biotics.
Keep bread to 1 serving a week at breakfast or lunch. Thats 2 small slices or 1 large slice.
A few other things:
Gluten - I am not anti gluten if you are able to digest it, however the wheat grain we eat today is not the grain we thrived on hundreds of years ago. It's been bred to be super weather resistant and pest resistant using natural farming cross breeding methods. This has resulted in a wheat grain that is super high in gluten and very hard on our digestive system. For this reason I recommend keeping gluten to a minimal.
Oats - Are also a great carb. They have the highest fat content of all the grains. Generally oats are best if you are trying to increase muscle mass significantly and not the greatest for getting lean. Some people do really well on oats so it's really a personal thing. If you feel your diet is really good but you are not getting the lean results you're hoping for, try swapping your oats for quinoa and see if that makes a difference.
Timing and consistency - If you are trying to lose weight or get leaner, I suggest eating carbs at breakfast and lunch (before 1pm). Eat your carbs at the same time everyday and soon your body will get into the routine of receiving these healthy carbs, so will use them to re-fuel your muscles and for energy rather than just storing them because it's not sure when it might get them again.
Vegans - If you are vegan/plant-based like me, carbs are your main source of energy, so obviously you'd need to include them in your evening meals. If you are trying to get lean I find it's better to watch your fat content rather than to cut your carbs - focus on reducing the amount of raw desserts, nut butters, nuts and oils.
I have a few recipes that use all these great carbs that you might like to try: