When it comes to weight loss, chances are you’ve been told that carbs (at least the starchy ones) are a no-no when it comes to what you can eat in order to net the results you are looking for.
And if you’ve worked with a Life Time Trainer, you may have been advised to prioritize non-starchy vegetables and some fruit as your main source of carbohydrates at mealtime.
This recommendation is a good one, as we live in world that prioritizes highly-processed foods for their convenience and tasty flavor profile, so it’s often really easy to overeat carbohydrates in comparison to our fat and protein needs.
But, for most people, there is a little wiggle room when it comes to having starchy carbohydrates on the menu and still stay on track toward your weight loss goal. It just takes a little focus on portion size and timing to make them fit into your eating routine.
First Things First
Carbohydrate recommendations should be individualized. What one person can intake and utilize as fuel is dependent on their genetics, what their activity level is (during the day and at the gym) along with whether or not their metabolism is utilizing them well.
Knowing that most processed or simple carbohydrates (added sugar, cereals, chips and known junk foods) don’t promote nourishment or health, they’re likely never recommended on any meal plan promoting weight loss. And although you’ll find our top seven carbohydrate or “starchy” food recommendations below, I always point out that portion size is key (measure if you’ve never measured them before) and try to incorporate them post-activity, such as breakfast after your morning workout.
2 Tablespoons of Chia Seeds: 120 calories, 10g of carbs, 10g of fiber
Chia seeds are a superfood that you need in your life. Not only are they an amazing source of fiber (hello blood sugar regulation and feeling full longer), they are also packed with other nutrients, including fatty acids, certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This type of nutrient profile supports energy, digestion and can serve as a natural appetite suppressant.
If you’ve never used chia seeds before, try adding them to your morning protein shake, smoothie bowl or on top of your favorite salad. My favorite way to consume them is as a pudding or overnight-oatmeal-like breakfast: Add ¼ cup of seeds to 1 Cup of coconut milk and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Let it sit overnight in your refrigerator (seeds will gelatinize and turn into a pudding-like texture) and enjoy in the morning by topping it off with some fresh berries.
Steel Cut Oats
¼ cup uncooked Steel-Cut Oats: 150 calories, 27g of carbs, 4g of fiber
When it comes to oats or oatmeal, most people have tried quick oats or rolled oats before. A common breakfast in the American household, most instant oatmeal is loaded with sugar and artificial nonsense. If cereal is your jam, I would steer you toward using steel-cut oats, as an option for breakfast or as an addition to your protein shake or protein energy ball. Steel-cut oats (also called Irish or Scotch oats and are naturally gluten-free) are a less processed oat and is higher in fiber. Because of this, the glycemic index or impact to blood sugar is lower while keeping your body fuller longer and keeping your energy up.
Steel-cut oats do take a little longer for preparation (remember they have minimal processing), but they are super simple to use for make-ahead oatmeal in the morning and a go-to in my house for breakfast. They have a chewier texture so they fill you faster, often leaving you consuming less than you normally would. I like to top mine with some fresh fruit and cinnamon plus add a little almond or vanilla extract.
1 medium Sweet Potato (3.9 oz): 100 calories, 27g of carbs, 4g of fiber
Sweet potatoes are rich in many vitamins and minerals and provide excellent levels of beta-carotene (antioxidant), vitamin C and potassium. Known for their bright orange color, they can also be found with a purple tone. They are often deemed healthier than regular potatoes due to their lower glycemic index and because they are higher in fiber and have high levels of Vitamin A. These nutrients can help support blood sugar and help reduce oxidative damage and cancer risk.
Sweet potatoes taste amazing – and there are a plethora of ways to consume them. You can bake, roast, broil and even slow cook them. Most of my clients consume them with just a little bit of butter, but you can add in yummy spices such as nutmeg, ginger or cumin to help improve their flavor profile even further. Serve some cubed sweet potato alongside your breakfast omelet or your other protein and vegetables at meal time or eat it mashed with some cinnamon and butter for dessert.
1/2 cup canned low-sodium black beans: 109 calories, 20g carbs, 8g fiber
One serving of black beans provides almost one-third of your daily fiber needs along with numerous vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, protein and diseasing fighting antioxidants. Their nutrient profile has them linked to helping protect against inflammation, certain cancers and diabetes and improving digestion. Not only are they extremely affordable and versatile, but their fiber content makes them a great energy source while keeping you full for a long time.
Because cooking dried beans can take a long time, most people opt in for a precooked/canned option. Go for organic or in a BPA-free and low-sodium option and consider adding them to your morning eggs, as a side along your chicken breast at meal time or to your favorite chili recipe.
½ cup of cooked Quinoa: 111 calories, 20g of carbs, 3g of fiber
Quinoa has become a popular whole grain over the last few years. Often touted for its protein content (it contains all nine of the essential amino acids), it also is naturally gluten-free, a great source of fiber and is often described as a superfood. It can have an impact on disease prevention, due to its antioxidant and nutrient profile, including high levels of magnesium.
On its own, quinoa can taste sort of plain. But if you add the right spices, it can make for a nice side dish at dinner, or be used (similar to chia or steel cut oats) as an oatmeal like option for the mornings. I like adding some butter, pecans and cinnamon to mine. But you can also consider eating it as a base to your salads, stuffed peppers or stir fry.
1 cup of cooked squash: 40 calories, 10g of carbs, 2.2g of fiber
Spaghetti squash is a favorite in my house. It’s one of those suggestions often offered up in lieu of box pasta (to cut the carbs, but add nutritional value), yet, if you’ve never prepared this vegetable before, you might be hesitant to try. Spaghetti squash is part of a winter squash family that are all great sources B-vitamins, Vitamin C, folic acid, fiber and potassium. Spaghetti squash has the lowest of calories and carbohydrates than any other winter squash and is 35 grams lower in carbohydrate when compared to 1 cup of pasta noodles.
There other several ways to cook spaghetti squash, including baking, boiling, microwaving (cut in half, first) or slow-cooking it. Once tender, simply take a fork to the inner flesh and like magic, it comes out like spaghetti. Serve it up with some homemade tomato sauce and ground beef or turkey and you’ve got a perfect comfort food dinner.
1 cup mashed pumpkin: 49 calories, 12g of carb, 3g of fiber
Did you know one cup of pumpkin can provide a day’s worth of your vitamin A needs? Pumpkin is loaded with other nutrients, including Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and manganese — all of which help your body fight infection and protect your cells from oxidative damage. These essential nutrients also boost the immune system, decrease inflammation and potentially regulate blood sugar.
Pumpkin can be cubed and roasted in the oven and served over a salad or with other vegetables at dinner. You can also puree pumpkin and add it to shakes/smoothies or your favorite soup or chili recipe. If you don’t want to prepare the actual squash, purchase canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin) to add to your favorite protein shake in the morning.
Max Reynoso NASM-CPT, PES, CES, Physical Therapist Aide, Kettlebell Cert, Power Plate Cert. Metabolic Tech, is Fitness Professional at the Life Time Fitness in Gilbert, AZ. He’s been in the fitness field for 20 years helping people take control of the way the look and feel. If you wish to setup a Training Solution Consultation with him so he can review your current fitness status and help you design a plan of action for 2016, contact him at email@example.com or call 530-522-8483