Easy Swaps for Refined Carbs

Pasta, pizza, freshly baked bread -- these comfort foods are universal.

These carbs we all love have one thing in common: refined carbohydrates with less nutritional value. They are stripped of their nutrients through the refining process and can cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

I teach and believe that "off-limit" foods are unnecessary, and finding ways to infuse more health benefits into the foods we already love is a better approach.

Here are some swaps for refined carbs that you can use to add a punch of nutrition into your favorite meals:

Chickpea or Bean Pasta

There are many alternatives to wheat pasta out there, but chickpea pasta is an excellent choice because it's packed with protein and fiber. Like most beans and legumes, chickpeas are complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest and won't spike your blood sugar levels. You can also buy other bean pasta, such as mung bean and black bean pasta, but chickpeas taste the most similar to wheat.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I would never tell you to give up pizza, but swapping the white dough for a veggie crust, such as cauliflower, can make your cravings much healthier. Cauliflower is rich in fiber, low in calories, and makes a delicious crispy, thin crust. Top your pizza with some tomato sauce, veggies, or lean meats for the perfect healthy meal. You can use other veggies, such as butternut squash, as a pizza base as well, but cauliflower is a great starting point.

Use Lettuce Wraps Instead of Tortillas

The next time you make tacos, fajitas, or any other wrap, use lettuce instead of a tortilla. Lettuce wraps make a refreshing, low-calorie alternative to tortillas, and they have more fiber and micronutrients, depending on the type of lettuce you choose. While iceberg lettuce isn't as nutritionally dense, it has high water content. Boston lettuce has more nutrients and fiber but will still give you a refreshing wrap.

Swap Refined White Grains for Whole Grains

Carbohydrates provide us with a boost of energy and are the only macronutrients that contain fiber necessary for digestion. However, not all carbs are created equally. Instead of having white bread, pasta, or rice, try some whole-grain carbohydrates. You can buy pasta made of buckwheat or quinoa, rye bread or whole-grain bread, and brown rice. These alternatives are not stripped of their nutrients and will be easier on your blood sugar levels.

Zucchini Noodles

Pasta is often made with refined wheat unless you opt for whole-grain pasta. Regardless, it is high in carbohydrates and isn't always suitable for those who are avoiding gluten. If you want a healthy, low-carb, gluten-free option, try using zucchini instead. Zucchini noodles are a lighter alternative to regular wheat noodles, with many more nutrients. They take minutes to make and give you a crunchy texture that goes well with any pasta sauce.

Swap Sugary Cereal for Oats

Store-bought breakfast cereals are full of sugars and are often made with refined grains. Try making oatmeal instead. Oats are high in fiber, which keeps you full for a long time. You can sweeten to your liking with natural sweeteners such as honey instead of refined white sugar. Add some toppings, such as berries or nut butter, for a hearty breakfast.

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