Quality Carbohydrates

By Alise Robers, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

The most important thing about carbohydrates is the type you choose to eat. Carbohydrates include sugars, starches, and fibers that work as the body’s main source of energy. We are probably most familiar with them in their refined forms, which include table sugar and high fructose corn syrup used in cookies, soft drinks, candies, jams, and other sweetened foods.

Keep in mind that some sources are healthier than others. Good sources of carbohydrates include legumes (dried beans and peas), vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grain foods.  For example, switch out the french fries or highly refined white bread you were going to have for dinner with some whole wheat bread or quinoa!

Listed below are eight quality carbohydrate options to mix into your diet.


Brown Rice


Steamed brown rice is a great carbohydrate option. The difference between white and brown rice is how they’ve been processed.1 Before white rice went through any kind of refining process it looked exactly like brown rice. Once the rice is refined it is stripped of the side hull and bran, which contains protein, thiamine, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and potassium.2 This process also changes how our bodies use the carbohydrates. Food is our body’s source of energy and brown rice burns much slower than white rice, meaning you will have more energy for a longer period of time after eating brown rice.1 knowing this, adding a serving of brown rice combined with a portion of protein and vegetables is a quality meal. But, rice in general is better than none. So, even white rice has its merits.




Potatoes make it easy because nature has made them the perfect size; just pick one that is about the size of your clenched fist and you’re good to go.1 No measuring or weighing necessary.  They are good to pair with any protein and taste great even without adding all the butter or sour cream. However, if you need that extra flavor then try it with a spoonful of salsa, ketchup, or a pinch of salt and pepper!




Oatmeal is a delicious breakfast option that is easy to make, inexpensive, and packed full of nutrients.  Something to watch out for when picking your oatmeal is the large amount of sugar hidden in instant oatmeal products.1 Avoid these and grab yourself some old-fashioned Quaker Oats and top them with berries, cinnamon, and honey for some added texture and flavor!


Whole-grain Pasta


Pasta is a good low-fat source of carbohydrates as long as you can recognize the difference between a plateful and a portion! Opting for whole grain pasta is an even healthier option because it contains the same amount protein, has more fiber, and fewer calories.3 Instead of topping your pasta with a heavy sauce, butter, or cheese try adding a good source of protein (shrimp or chicken) and squeezing some lemon on top. Now you have a delicious and simple meal.


Sweet Potatoes and Yams


Contrary to popular belief, many people assume that sweet potatoes are higher in calories than a regular potato because they are so much sweeter. This is not the case. Both are actually very similar when it comes to calories.1 It is best to store sweet potatoes in a cool dry place and not in the refrigerator. Putting them in the refrigerator will cause them to become hard and bitter tasting.1 the best way to prepare these carbohydrates is by baking, boiling, or microwaving them.4 If you want to spice up your sweet potato try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dab of butter.


Greek Yogurt


Yogurt is not only a good source of protein but also of carbohydrates. It is also loaded with probiotics that can help maintain the balance of bacteria necessary for a healthy digestive system and boost your immune system.1, 5 Sadly, I’m not talking about frozen yogurt because it is too high in sugar. Greek yogurt, however, is a great snack that can be topped with fresh fruit or granola.




Fruit is a deliciously sweet carbohydrate that nature has also already portioned for us! 1 Grab an apple, a banana, or a peach and you’re good to go. They’re packed with nutrients and are easy to throw in your bag for a snack on a busy day. You can also combine them with a source of good protein and you have yourself a healthy meal. One example, enjoy a hard-boiled egg and a grapefruit.



Whole-Wheat Bread


Whole wheat bread is great as long as you make sure you are buying breads that list whole grain, whole oats, whole rye, whole grain corn, whole grain barley, or brown rice as the first ingredient.7 Stay away from breads that list wheat flour, degerminated cornmeal, or enriched flour as their first ingredient because these are not good sources of whole grain.7 A serving size is generally one slice of bread or one whole-wheat tortilla.1,6 To make this a wholesome meal add some protein (chicken or turkey) and veggies for a hearty but healthy sandwich or wrap!











  1. Phillips, Bill, and Michael D’Orso. “The Nutrition for Life Method.” Body For Life. 1st New York: HarperCollins, 1999. 86-89. Print.
  2. “10 Reasons Why Brwon Rice is the Healthy Choice.” VegKitchen. N.p., 09 Apr. 2017. Web. 2017
  3. Writer, Leaf Group. “Whole-Grain Pasta vs. Regular Pasta.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate. SF Gate, 05 July 2012. Web. 2017
  4. “Whats New and Beneficial About Sweet Potatoes.” The Worlds Healthiest Foods.p., n.d. Web. 2017. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?dbid=64&tname=foodspice.
  5. “Yogurt Nutrition- Nutrients Contained in Yogurt, Health Benefits, Greek Yogurt.” org. Dairy Council of California, 2017. Web. 2017. http://www.healthyeating.org/Milk-Dairy/Nutrients-in-Milk-Cheese-Yogurt/Yogurt-Nutrition.aspx
  6. “U.S. Dietary Guidelines and WG.” S. Dietary Guideline and WG | The Whole Grains Council. Whole Grains Council, n.d. Web. 2017.
  7. Drummond, Karen E., and Lisa M. Brefere. “Chapter 3, Carbohydrates.” Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals. 8th New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., n.d. 92-93. Print.



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