What are healthy, complex carbohydrates?
Starchy carbohydrate foods mainly consist of bread, pasta, rice and cereals which in most cases are our primary source of fuel, especially for the brain as they eventually get broken down into sugar.
Sugary foods such as chocolate, cakes, sweets biscuits, sugar coated cereal bars and sugary drinks provide your body with a quick energy boost, but in excess, will provide a source of empty calories which could lead to weight gain. The energy from these foods is short lived and will raise your blood sugars more quickly than complex carbohydrates which provide more sustained energy.
What are the right carbohydrates for healthier eating and weight loss?
What are complex carbohydrates?
Complex carbohydrates are usually referred to as high fibre foods and have a more complicated structure than sugar. Complex carbohydrate foods consist mainly of wholegrains such as brown rice, wholegrain bread and high fibre cereals. These are digested more slowly and help us feel fuller for longer than sugars.
Complex carbohydrates provide more sustained energy than sugars.
Other rich sources of complex carbohydrates or dietary fibre include pulses (beans, lentils and chickpeas), vegetables and whole fruits.
“When you eat carbohydrate foods, aim for wholegrain varieties and high fibre foods which may help you feel fuller for longer and give you more sustained energy”
Below are some simple swaps to help you choose more complex carbohydrates:
White rice Brown rice
White bread Whole meal bread
Crisps Plain popcorn
Fruit and vegetables
It is recommended that we have at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily. These foods are not only rich in fibre (complex carbohydrates), but also vitamins and antioxidants.
Below is a list of portions of complex, fibre rich carbohydrates which count towards your fruit and vegetable intake.
. Aim to increase wholegrains and fruit and vegetables this week as part of your goals.
- A handful or around 10-12 berries, such as blue berries or grapes
- One medium sized fruit, such as an apple, pear or banana
- Two small fruits, such as plums, satsumas
- Half a large fruit, such as avocado or grapefruit
- A large slice of pineapple or melon
- One tablespoon of dried fruit (about 30g) – limit these as they are a concentrated source of sugar
- Three heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- A dessert bowl of salad
- Three tablespoons of pulses eg beans, lentils and chickpeas (no matter how much you eat of these they only count as one portion as they contain fewer nutrients than fruit and vegetables)
“Foods rich in fibre and / or those rich in protein can help make you feel fuller for longer. Remember a snack is a snack! Therefore, consider your portion size”
Below is a list of snack ideas to help get you started:
- Plain nuts (small handful)
- Dried fruit (small handful)
- A couple of seeded or whole meal crackers with peanut butter or soft low-fat cheese.
- Small plain flapjack or a plain cereal bar (without a coating of chocolate and extra syrup)
- Small pot of low-fat yoghurt
- Couple of oatcake biscuits
- Small bowl of wholegrain cereal with low fat milk
- Boiled egg
- Toasted teacake or fruit scone with jam
- A large handful of crudités (broccoli, cauliflower, snowpeas, celery) with a spoonful of hummus or yoghurt-based dip
- Half a handful of chopped mixed fruit
- A whole fruit (size of a medium apple)
- A large slice of melon sprinkled with cinnamon