Carbohydrates are one of three essential macronutrients. Our bodies need them for energy, however not all carbs are created equal. When trying to lose weight it can be helpful to understand which foods are high in carbohydrates, how they can impact your health and how they affect weight loss journey. Many of these foods are everyday items that seem harmless but can pack a significant calorie punch, which would hinder your progress. This article will reveal 12 high-carb foods that you might want to avoid if you’re on a low-carb diet for weight loss, and suggest low-carb alternatives that you can enjoy instead. These alternatives will not only help you maintain a balanced diet, but can also assist you in achieving your weight loss goals without feeling deprived. Remember, the key is not to eliminate carbs completely, but rather to choose those that provide more nutritional benefits, keep you feeling full longer, and support your overall health.
High Carb Foods To Avoid For Weight Loss: Do Carbohydrates Cause Weight Gain?
Carbohydrates do not inherently cause weight gain. Weight gain is typically the result of consuming more calories than your body uses, regardless of whether these calories come from carbs, fats, or proteins (17).
However, certain types of carbohydrates, such as simple sugars and refined grains, are easy to overeat and can provide a lot of calories without making you feel very full. In addition, these types of carbs tend to be less nutrient-dense than the complex carbs found in whole foods.
So, while carbs themselves don’t cause weight gain, the type of carbs you may choose and the overall balance of your diet can influence your weight. It’s also important to note that individual carbohydrate needs can vary based on factors like physical activity level.
What Is The Number 1 Worst Carb To Avoid For Weight Loss?
The number 1 worst carb to avoid, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, is added sugar.
Added sugars are typically found in ultra processed foods, which usually provide a lot of calories but very few nutrients or fiber. They don’t provide much or any nutritional value and they don’t make you feel very full after eating them, despite having eaten a significant number of calories.
You don’t have to eliminate these foods altogether, because enjoyment of food is also important, and being too restrictive with your diet can backfire or cause harm. Just try to limit your intake of added sugars. The CDC recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories, while the American Heart Association suggests no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 150 calories (9 teaspoons) per day for men.
High Carb Foods To Avoid For Weight Loss: What Foods Are Highest In Carbs?
The high-carb foods that we want to limit tend to be those that are highly processed or made from refined grains, which tend to be high in simple sugars. Below is a list of 15 high carb foods to avoid to lose weight:
1. Bread, Grains, And Pasta
Bread, grains, and pasta are staple foods in many diets. They are high in carbohydrates, especially when they are made from refined white flour. These types of carbohydrates are quickly digested and provide a lot of calories with almost no fiber, which means not much of a feeling of fullness (12).
Instead of this, consider choosing whole grain options. Whole grains are higher in fiber and other nutrients, making them a healthier choice. They are digested slowly, helping to keep blood sugar levels stable and you feeling satisfied longer (5). Whole wheat breads, brown rice and other whole grains, and whole wheat pasta may be better choices than their “white” counterparts.
Read More: 4 Diet Chicken Recipes For Weight Loss
2. Sugary Foods
Sugary foods, such as candy, cookies, and cakes, are high carb foods to avoid when losing weight. They are high in simple sugars, which provides quick energy but can lead to a crash later on (12).
Additionally, sugary foods are typically low in nutrients and high in empty calories, meaning they provide little nutritional value relative to their calorie content.
Opt for fresh fruits or dark chocolate as alternatives. While fruits do contain sugar, they also provide fiber and important nutrients. Dark chocolate in moderation can be a healthier choice as it is lower in sugar and contains antioxidants (2).
3. Soft Pretzels
Soft pretzels are another high carb food to avoid. They are made from refined flour and are thus high in quickly digested carbs and low in fiber and nutrients.
Instead, opt for a handful of nuts or seeds. They are lower in carbs and provide healthy fats, protein, and fiber (8).
4. Processed Sugary Cereal
Processed cereals can be high in sugar and refined grains, both of which should be limited on a low-carb diet.
Milkshakes are high in sugar and often contain ice cream, which is also a high-carb food.
As an alternative, consider a smoothie made with unsweetened milk of your choice, a small amount of fruit, and plenty of greens. This will provide you with plenty of nutrients without the excess sugar and carbs.
Ice-cream is high in sugar and carbs. It’s also typically high in fat, making it a calorie-dense food that can contribute to weight gain.
For a healthier treat, consider a bowl of fresh berries topped with a dollop of greek yogurt. You’ll get the sweetness you’re craving along with beneficial nutrients and fiber.
7. Cereal Bars
Many cereal bars are packed with sugar and refined grains. Despite their healthy image, they can be quite high in carbs and calories.
Look for bars made with whole foods like nuts and seeds, and with minimal added sugars. Or better yet, make your own at home so you can control what goes in them (if you have the time and inclination).
BetterMe app is a foolproof way to go from zero to a weight loss hero in a safe and sustainable way! What are you waiting for? Start transforming your body now!
Alcoholic beverages, particularly sweet ones, can be high in carbs. Plus, alcohol provides empty calories and can stimulate appetite, potentially leading to weight gain (1).
If you choose to drink, opt for dry wines, light beers, or spirits mixed with zero-calorie beverages. These options tend to be lower in carbs. But avoiding alcohol altogether will probably help you lose weight faster.
9. Ultra Processed Foods
Many ultra processed foods are high in added sugars or other simple carbs, as well as unhealthy fats and sodium. They’re also often low in nutrients and fiber (16).
Instead, focus on eating a variety of whole foods. These are typically higher in nutrients and fiber and lower in carbs and calories.
10. Sweets And Desserts
Sweets and desserts are typically high in added sugar and other refined carbs, contributing to their high carb content. They can also be quite calorie-dense, and eating them frequently can contribute to weight gain (11).
Consider satisfying your sweet tooth with a piece of fruit or a serving of yogurt instead. These foods are naturally sweet and provide a range of beneficial nutrients.
Traditional pancakes made from white flour are high in carbs and low in fiber. They can be high in calories and aren’t very filling, which may contribute to overeating.
Try making pancakes using whole wheat flour, or almond or oat flour for a lower-carb alternative. These versions will also provide more fiber and protein.
12. Soft Drinks
Soft drinks and other sweetened beverages are high in added sugar and carbs (7). Drinking them can contribute a significant amount of calories to your diet, and these liquid calories don’t make you feel full the way food does (9).
Consider swapping soft drinks for water, unsweetened iced tea, or flavored sparkling water. These beverages are virtually carb-free and calorie-free and much better for your overall health.
High Carb Foods To Avoid For Weight Loss: What Carbs Should I Avoid To Lose Weight?
To lose weight, it’s generally recommended to limit the following types of carbohydrates:
- Refined Carbs: These are carbs that have been processed and stripped of their natural fiber and nutrients. Examples include white bread, white rice, and pastries.
- Simple Sugars: These are carbs that are quickly digested and can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Examples include table sugar, corn syrup, and anything with added sugars.
- Sugary Drinks: Beverages like soda, sweet tea, and fruit juices are high in sugar and can add a significant number of empty calories to your diet.
- High Glycemic Index Carbs: These are foods that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Many ultra processed foods fall into this category.
- Low-Fiber Carbs: Fiber slows the digestion of carbs, helping you feel full longer. Avoid carbs that are low in fiber like many ultra processed foods.
Some of the categories listed above overlap–for example, refined carbs are typically high in simple sugars and have a high glycemic index.
Another important thing to note is that some healthy complex carbs also contain high amounts of carbohydrates.These include foods like potatoes, beans, legumes, fruits, and whole grains. Most people don’t need to limit these, unless they have a medical reason or are on a very low-carb diet.
Read More: How Many Carbs A Day To Lose Weight?
What Carbs Should I Eat To Lose Belly Fat?
To lose belly fat, you’ll need to create a calorie deficit which promotes weight loss in general. To help you do this, focus on incorporating the following types of carbohydrates into your diet:
These carbs are digested slowly, keeping you satisfied longer and preventing overeating. They’re found in foods like whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes (10).
Fiber is essential for weight loss as it promotes satiety and aids digestion (3). Opt for carbs that are high in fiber such as whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Low Glycemic Index Carbohydrates
Foods with a low glycemic index cause a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar levels (13). They tend to be higher in fiber, which can help manage hunger.
Whole foods are minimally processed and typically higher in nutrients and fiber than their more refined counterparts.
Carbohydrates With Protein
Pairing carbohydrates with protein can help promote muscle growth and recovery and keep you feeling satisfied, which can aid in weight loss and reducing belly fat (6) (15). Foods like legumes and quinoa are good sources of both carbohydrates and protein.
Remember, while these types of carbs can support weight loss, it’s still important to maintain a balanced diet and engage in regular physical activity. And, as always, portion control is key – even healthy foods can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.
Additionally, some people may find that temporarily reducing their carb intake of both healthy and unhealthy carbs can help them to reach their weight loss goals. In this case, it’s important to focus on getting your carbs primarily from veggies and fruit, while consuming limited amounts of whole grains. This approach isn’t safe for everyone, so talk to your healthcare provider first.
Intense sweat sessions, working weight loss tips, lip-smacking recipes come in one package with the BetterMe app. And all of it is at your fingertips, start transforming your life now!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What Are The 5 Foods That Burn Belly Fat?
A: A healthy balanced diet with a calorie deficit is what burns belly fat, not specific foods. Some examples of foods to include in that healthy balanced diet are: include:
- Beans: High in soluble fiber, beans can help reduce belly fat by making you feel full longer, thereby helping to control calorie intake.
- Fish: Rich in lean protein and healthy fats, fish can aid in weight loss.
- Dark Leafy Greens: Foods like spinach and kale are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help in weight reduction and belly fat loss.
- Flaxseeds: These are rich in healthy fats and dietary fiber, aiding in weight loss and reducing belly fat.
- Eggs: High in protein, eggs can keep you satisfied for long periods, helping in overall weight loss and reduction of belly fat.
Q: Are Potatoes Bad Carbs?
A: Potatoes are not necessarily “bad” carbs, but they are high in carbohydrates and can raise blood sugar levels if eaten in large amounts, so people with diabetes should be aware of that. They can be part of a healthy diet if consumed in moderation and prepared in a healthy way, such as baking or boiling instead of frying.
Q: What Happens If You Stop Eating Bread For 14 Days?
A: If you stop eating bread for 14 days, you may notice some changes depending on your overall diet.
If bread was your main source of carbohydrates and you didn’t replace it with other healthy complex carbohydrate sources, you might experience symptoms like cravings, tiredness, and irritability. If you replace white bread with whole grains, beans and legumes, and vegetables, you may find that you feel fuller for longer and don’t need to eat as much to be satisfied.
Q: What Can I Eat Instead Of Bread And Potatoes?
A: Instead of bread, consider options like lettuce wraps, cauliflower “bread,” or whole grain tortillas. For potato alternatives, try sweet potatoes, turnips, cauliflower, or squash. These alternatives often offer more nutrients and fiber than traditional bread and potatoes.
High Carb Foods To Avoid For Weight Loss: The Bottom Line
A low carb diet can be effective for weight loss and reducing belly fat, but it’s important to focus on nutritious whole foods and limit ultra processed options. Additionally, proper portion control is essential.
By including high-fiber carbs such as whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables; swapping sugary drinks for water or unsweetened tea; and avoiding added sugars and refined carbs, you can make sure your diet is balanced and supports your weight loss goals.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update (2015, link.springer.com)
- Dark chocolate: An overview of its biological activity, processing, and fortification approaches (2022, sciencedirect.com)
- Dietary Fiber and Energy Regulation (2007, sciencedirect.com)
- Dietary fiber and satiety: the effects of oats on satiety (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary Fibre from Whole Grains and Their Benefits on Metabolic Health (2020, mdpi.com)
- Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit (2019, mdpi.com)
- Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Nut Consumption (2010, mdpi.com)
- Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight (2007, sciencedirect.com)
- Physiology, Carbohydrates (2023, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding (2016, mdpi.com)
- The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model of Obesity: Beyond ‘Calories In, Calories Out’ (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effects of meal glycemic load on blood glucose levels of adults with different body mass indexes (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Role of Legumes in Human Nutrition (2016, intechopen.com)
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, sciencedirect.com)
- Ultra-Processed Foods and Health Outcomes: A Narrative Review (2020, mdpi.com)
- Weight Change – Clinical Methods (1990, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Whole Grains (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Whole grains, refined grains and fortified refined grains: What’s the difference? (2000, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)