Good carbs, bad carbs

Eating bread, potatoes and pasta will pile on the pounds, right? Forget what you've heard—our bodies need carbs. Here's how to enjoy them without adding extra inches

Not all carbs are created equal

Foods with a high glycemic index can make your blood sugar levels spike, which can make your body store fat and encourage you to overeat. Others help stabilize your blood sugar and come loaded with nutrients and fibre—which fill you up, give you longer lasting energy and keep your digestive system humming.

Bad carbs

• White bread High GI rating, zero fibre, few nutrients

• White bagel Same as white bread, plus an average bagel equals as many as four servings of bread

• Potatoes High GI rating, lends itself to frying or loading with butter and other toppings

• White cereals High GI rating, no fibre, often loaded with sugar

• Soft drinks GI rating through the roof, calories galore, zero nutrients, don’t fill you up

• Ice cream High GI rating, loaded with fat and sugar

• “Light” and “fat-free” foods High GI rating; manufacturers often fill these salad dressings, yogurts and other low-fat foods with sugar for taste

• Instant white rice No fibre means a sky-high GI rating

• Bananas and melons High GI rating because of their sugar content; eat in moderation as these tasty fruits are a good source of vitamins

Good carbs

• Whole-grain bread Moderate GI rating, filling, loaded with fibre
How to eat it well Eat as toast with a low-sugar jam, in a sandwich filled with tuna (made with low-fat mayo and lots of veggies) or slices of roast turkey

• Legumes Lentils, kidney beans, chick peas and the like are both a protein and a carb; low GI rating, full of nutrients and fibre
How to eat them well Mixed with vegetables and some curry sauce on brown rice, rolled into a whole-wheat wrap

• Brown rice Moderate GI rating
How to eat it well The same way you would eat white rice, served with curries, meat and veggies and in sushi

• Sweet potatoes Moderate GI rating, plenty of nutrients and fibre, great taste
How to eat them well The same way you would eat regular potatoes—mashed, baked or barbecued with spices and a dash of olive oil, chopped up in a soup, chili or curry

• Pasta Low GI rating, especially whole-grain varieties
How to eat it well Buy whole-grain pasta whenever possible, cook al dente and keep your serving size between half a cup and one cup (125 to 250 mL).

• Apples, pears, grapefruit Low GI rating, nutrient- and fibre-rich
How to eat them well Whole rather than juiced. Although you always want to eat a variety of fruit, focus on these low-GI varieties if your weight is an issue.

• Lettuce, broccoli, spinach, celery Low GI rating, minimal calories and lots of fibre
How to eat them well At almost every meal, toss low-cal vegetables onto your plate to fill up your stomach and give you lots of nutrients; eat salads frequently.