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Healthy Carbs for Weight Loss

Healthy Carbs for Weight Loss

By Stacey Feintuch

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Do you believe that carbs are the enemy, destined to pack on the pounds and squash your weight-loss goals?

Think again. Contrary to popular opinion, not all carbs are evil. In fact, carbs are necessary for energy. You just need to select the right carbs—ones that are full of nutrients and fiber—if you're looking to take off some pounds. That way, you'll feel fuller for longer and be less likely to choose hunger-induced unhealthy snacks.

By incorporating the healthy carbs outlined below into your diet, you'll stay fueled while also flattening your tummy and slimming down. Plus, you can watch your weight without feeling like you're missing out on tasty fare. Just always speak with your health care provider before changing your diet.

Barley
Research has found that barley can help suppress your appetite. It raises blood sugar more slowly than when you eat a doughnut, for example. So, you avoid the sugar spike and crash that leaves you feeling famished after you eat that doughnut. Plus, barley is loaded with fiber, a nutrient that helps fill you up and ward off cravings. And, because it helps stabilize blood sugar levels as well as decrease inflammation, you'll feel lighter after you eat barley. Need we say more? This Barley Jambalaya is a healthy update of a classic Louisiana dish.

Sweet potatoes
Because they're brimming with water and fiber, sweet potatoes will help you feel full and satisfied. Plus, their creaminess and tastiness will satiate and indulge any comfort-food cravings, without the calories found in junk food. Just avoid coating these potatoes with bacon, butter or other fatty toppings; otherwise, you'll counteract their slimming prowess. This easy "detox" soup is a perfect warm-you-up dish designed to replenish nutrients, help digestion, aid weight loss and recharge your body.

Acorn squash
This winter squash is a sweet vegetable that boasts plenty of fiber, vitamin C and minerals like calcium and iron. It's so flavorful that you'll forget that it's good for you. The easiest way to prepare this squash is to cut off the stem (if any). Halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp knife. Scoop out any seeds or fibrous material from the center. Then place it cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 45 minutes (depending on its size) in a 375-degree oven. You may also want to munch on this Gluten-Free Squash & Caramelized Onion Quesadilla.

Beans
Each type of bean offers different amounts of fiber, but all offer filling protein. Studies have found that bean eaters have a lower risk of an expanding waistline and a lower risk of being obese. (Just rinse canned beans to lower their sodium level.) Chopped tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers can be combined with cannellini (white) beans, almonds and a simple vinaigrette for a delicious and satisfying salad. Or try these orange and yellow bell peppers stuffed with garbanzo beans, kale, walnuts and brown rice. They make a tasty Mediterranean-influenced vegetarian dish, chock-full of iron.

Whole-wheat bread
Just because you're dieting doesn't mean you must say good-bye to sandwiches. When buying bread, look for loaves labeled as 100-percent whole wheat. Avoid ones with high fructose corn syrup or with a blend of whole and enriched wheats. Tuna on whole wheat packs a carb-and-protein punch while also being low in calories. Put four ounces of water-packed tuna (a lean protein) on a slice of whole-wheat bread. Flavor by drizzling some lemon juice and olive oil on top. Or try these turkey and cucumber sandwiches. With whole grains, lean protein, vegetables and dairy, these sandwiches make a balanced meal that will keep you satisfied all afternoon.

Whole-wheat pasta
Research has found that eating more whole grains is associated with a lower BMI (body mass index) and less abdominal fat. Whole-wheat pasta contains three parts of the grain, which makes it full of filling fiber and rich in nutrients. Just know that nutrient-rich carbs are part of a balanced meal, not the whole meal, so keep your portions in check. Serve this Healthy Pasta Bake with a big salad.

Air-popped popcorn
Craving something salty? Step away from the potato chips! Grab some popcorn instead. Research has found that popcorn reduces feelings of hunger for those looking to watch their calories and manage body weight, and it offers more short-term satiety than chips. Plus, you get a lot of bang for your buck. That means you can eat more air-popped popcorn minus the extra calories you'd consume compared to other snacks, including chips.

Watermelon
This fruit is indeed a carb! It's made nearly all of water. So, eat as much watermelon as you'd like without worrying about the calories. To go beyond basic, combine watermelon with some savory and spicy ingredients for a refreshing twist in this simple and quick gazpacho recipe. Or create this Mango and Watermelon Salad. Here, you can also remove the watercress and pair with grilled chicken or fish.

Oatmeal
Research has found that adding more soluble fiber to your diet may reduce deep belly fat. And since it dissolves into a substance that delays the emptying of your stomach, you stay fuller longer. And this soluble fiber is just what's found in oatmeal. Start the day with these Oatmeal Carob Chip Pancakes or this Red Fruit Trio Oatmeal.

Green peas
Green peas, which are legumes, are loaded with vitamins, minerals and filling fiber. Research has found that eating a diet with legumes aids weight loss more effectively than the same diet without them. Green peas also contain zinc, known to help fight colds. And this zinc may help reduce hunger by raising your levels of leptin, a hormone that tells your brain when your stomach is full. This soup is easy to make and loaded with vegetables, including peas.

Quinoa
Quinoa boasts a light and mild flavor plus filling protein and fiber to boot. A complete protein, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, which your body needs to build lean, calorie-burning muscle. This pilaf pairs avocados and bell peppers with red quinoa and grilled chicken for a satisfying, colorful meal. Need a simple, refreshing dessert? Try this Quinoa and Coconut Milk.