Planning what meals to eat is a fantastic way to ensure you're getting your desired caloric intake along with plenty of beneficial nutrients. If you're looking to hit your macros while lowering calories, add some low-calorie, high-carb foods to your rotation.
What Are High-Carb Foods?
What counts as a high-carb food or a low-carb food totally varies depending on your daily calorie intake and whether you're following a specific low-carb diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, recommends that adult men and women over the age of 18 aim for 130 grams of carbs per day, or 45 to 65 percent of their daily caloric intake.
High-carb foods are foods that would make up a significant percentage of your daily carbohydrate intake. If you're following a low-carb diet, anything containing over 5 grams of carbs might count as high-carb. But if you're aiming to eat the recommended 130 grams of carbs per day, a high-carb food for you may contain 40 or 50 grams of carbs.
A high-carb diet is not an inherently bad thing. More relevant is the quality of carbs you eat — focusing on whole grains rather than refined carbs and sugar that can trigger inflammation and contribute to health issues like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. Research shows that consuming a high-carb diet containing plenty of dietary fiber can actually help you lose weight.
A July 2016 paper published in the journal Age and Ageing investigated the high-carb, low-protein diet of the longest-living people in the world — the residents of Okinawa, a Japanese island. Followers of the Okinawan diet consume just 9 percent protein and 85 percent carbohydrates, with sweet potatoes as the main carbohydrate source. This suggests that following a high-carb lifestyle is not incompatible with living a long and healthy life, depending on which carbs you consume.
You can lose weight on a low-calorie, high-carb diet if that's your goal, provided you're burning more energy than you eat. Reduce your calorie intake, up the calories you burn through working out — or combine the two. Fad diets and "quick fixes" are unlikely to work. Instead, aim to lose a maximum of 1 to 2 pounds a week through healthy eating and safe, effective exercise.
If you're looking for high-carb, low-calorie foods, you'll find plenty of options in the vegetable world.
- One cup of Brussels sprouts contains 56 calories and over 11 grams of carbs, of which 4 grams are fiber and almost 3 grams are sugar.
- One cup of cubed, baked butternut squash provides 82 calories, including almost 2 grams of protein and 21 grams of carbs (6 grams of fiber and 4 grams of sugar). Butternut squash is also packed with potassium.
- One cup of sweet corn kernels provides 155 calories, 6 grams of protein and almost 37 grams of carbs (around 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar).
High-Carb Root Vegetables
Root veggies, most commonly eaten in winter, are delicious foods that can be high in carb content.
- A cup of raw fennel bulb contains 27 calories and over 6 grams of carbs. The licorice-like flavor pairs really well with fish.
- One cup of cubed boiled turnips contains 34 calories and almost 8 grams of carbs (3 grams of fiber and almost 5 grams of sugar). Turnips are a wonderful addition to soups and stews.
- Parsnips, a close relative of carrots, deliver 111 calories and over 26 grams of carbs per cup. That includes over 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar. Roast parsnips on a sheet pan for an easy side dish.
- One cup of taro, a tropical root vegetable, packs 187 calories and an impressive 46 grams of carbohydrates, including 7 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of sugar.
A number of fruits are also high in carbs but relatively low in calories.
- One medium-sized, peeled apple contains 77 calories and over 20 grams of carbs, including 2 grams of fiber and over 16 grams of sugar.
- One cup of raw blueberries provides 84 calories and over 21 grams of carbs, including almost 4 grams of fiber and almost 15 grams of sugar.
- One large orange provides 86 calories and almost 22 grams of carbs, with over 4 grams of fiber and 17 grams of sugar.
- USDA: "Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Flesh, Without Salt"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Pros and Cons of Root Vegetables"
- USDA: "Potatoes, Baked, Flesh, Without Salt"
- Tufts University: "The Nutritional Value of White Potatoes"
- USDA: "Squash, Winter, Butternut, Cooked, Baked, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Corn, Sweet, Yellow, Frozen, Kernels on Cob, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 7: Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- Mayo Clinic: "Low-Carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?"
- Age and Ageing: "New Horizons: Dietary Protein, Ageing and the Okinawan Ratio"
- Journal of Nutrition: "A High-Carbohydrate, High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Results in Weight Loss Among Adults at High Risk of Type 2 Diabetes"
- USDA: "Carrots, Raw"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vitamin A"
- USDA: "Turnips, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Beets, Raw"
- USDA: "Parsnips, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Taro, Cooked, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Fennel, Bulb, Raw"
- USDA: "Brussels Sprouts, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Bananas, Raw"
- USDA: "Oranges, Raw, All Commercial Varieties"
- USDA: "Blueberries, Raw"
- USDA: "Apples, Raw, Without Skin"