Some of the greatest foods known to man are made up of carbohydrates; I never want to live in a world without pizza, pasta, and bread. But what these delicious foods offer in taste and satiety, they lack in nutritional value. Refined and processed carbohydrates like those found in white bread and pasta are a key contributor to weight gain and can even cause bloating and indigestion. So if you're working on staying healthy ahead of summer and want to pick up some healthier eating habits along the way, consider Insider's list of realistic carb swaps. Adapted from an excerpt of The Pizza Diet by chef Pasquale Cozzolino, these suggestions all stick to the strategy of opting for filling, fiber-rich complex carbs that give your body sustained energy. Get your carb fix without the extra pounds by sticking to the following six foods.
Whole wheat + alternative pastas
I like this first suggestion because it's actually realistic; attempting to satiate your pasta craving with a fiber-rich apple just isn't going to cut it. Whole wheat pasta, on the other hand, tastes similar enough to white pasta but includes all three parts of the grain, making it slower to digest and higher in fiber. The same goes for other pasta alternatives like chickpea pasta (my personal favorite, which I actually eat when I'm craving carbs), quinoa pasta, and lentil pasta. If you douse the noodles in a healthy tomato sauce and a sprinkle of cheese, you may not even notice the difference.
Whole wheat bread
Similar to the above suggestion, whole wheat bread is similar tasting enough to moonlight as white bread but offers far more health benefits. It also contains all three fiber and nutrient parts of the grain, making it slower to digest and more filling. With that said, selecting the right bread at the grocery store is easier said than done. Make sure to read the nutrition labels and look out for unhealthy, blood sugar-spiking ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup or a blend of whole and enriched wheats. Dave's Killer Bread is always a safe bet.
Black beans + legumes
These two also get points for actually filling you up. Both beans and legumes are a great source of protein, fiber, and a host of necessary nutrients. As Insider writes, just one cup of black beans has 12 grams of protein and nine grams of fiber, plus folate, vitamin B, and copper. Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and peas are also great for weight loss; the publication sites a four-week Spanish study that found "eating a calorie-restricted diet that includes four weekly servings of legumes aids weight loss more effectively than an equivalent diet that doesn't include them."
Quinoa is one of the most nutrient-rich grains and contains the most protein of them all. It's also a great dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and B vitamins. It's a great healthy alternative to rice in just about any meal, like the above quinoa bowl from The Modern Proper. Insider also recommends trying quinoa in the morning, as it has twice the protein of cereals and fewer carbs and sugar. TMP's six-ingredient breakfast quinoa will start off your morning right.
Insider refers to sweet potatoes as the "king of slow carbs" because they're digested slowly and keep you feeling full and energized longer. "Plus they are loaded with fiber, nutrients and can help you burn fat," it adds. Loaded with antioxidants known as carotenoids, sweet potatoes also stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, "which prevents calories from being converted into fat."
With six grams of stomach-filling fiber, Barley is a high-grade appetite suppressant that has been linked to lowered cholesterol, decreased blood sugars, and improved satiety. It can also help to regulate your digestive system. Try adding it to a summer salad like in the above Modern Proper recipe, or using it as a soup base instead of noodles.