You know to avoid the pale sliced stuff, but what about these other processed offenders?
White bread has pretty much become bad-for-you public enemy number one; who doesn't automatically order their turkey and Swiss on whole wheat? The reason, of course, is that white bread is processed—it's had all its goodness stripped away, leaving a soft, squishy slice that was all the rage in the last century. But even if you're a whole-wheat convert, other processed carbs may be finding their way into your diet, many with more than an entire day's worth of recommended carbohydrates.
Your first line of defense is to opt for whole foods that are as close as possible to their original source, says Manual Villacorta, RD, author of Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches. And, as always, managing portion sizes is key. Otherwise, here are eight bad carbs that may be sneaking into your diet, even if you've sworn off the white slices forever.
Not only can these have as many calories as a meal, (sometimes upwards of 400) their carb count can be on par with a pre-marathon pasta binge; some have 60–80g of carbs per serving. Add in sugars, saturated fats in whipped cream, and chocolate flavorings, and you've got dessert in a very large plastic cup.
Bagels are a morning ritual for some, but according to Villacorta, unless you're hitting the gym right after (and plan on staying until lunch), you may want to rethink, even if you opt for whole wheat.
"Depending on the size, I normally recommend a bagel to someone who is going on a two- to three-hour run afterwards," he says. The reason is portion size. Many deli bagels can have 250-300 calories and more than 50g of carbs each.
Smoothie and juice spots are everywhere, and they can seem like a healthy drink to get on the go. But a 16oz fruit-heavy juice can have as many as 75g of carbohydrates and 64g of sugar (ditto for smoothies). If you can't start the day without juice, stick to about 4oz, which has a reasonable 15-20g of carbs.
If you're going to indulge in a few processed carbs, don't do it here. While the carb count isn't necessarily through the roof (about 18g per serving), these orange snacks are particularly cringe inducing because there is literally no other redeeming nutritional factor. They're full of chemicals, additives, and artificial colors, plus they may also contain high-fructose corn syrup. And don't be fooled by organic versions. They may be filled with less artificial junk, but processed flour and high-fat cheese can still be "organic."
Muffins used to be a baseball-sized treat. Now they're more like softballs, with some containing nearly 64g of carbs and more than 30g of sugar. If your morning muffin is made with processed flour, sugar, and butter, it's really no different than a slice of cake. Stick to a two-ounce serving and choose whole grain ingredients—think bran, not lemon poppy.
It's the ultimate chick pre-workout/afternoon/late-night snack, and yogurt on its own is a great choice. Problem is, that fruit is sugar central. All yogurt contains lactose, which is a naturally occurring carbohydrate; generally in a single serving it equals about 12-15g of carbs, which is fine, but when you add the jammy fruit you can nearly double that amount. You end up with nearly 30g of carbs, half of which is the processed, quick-burning kind. Stick to the creamy (and protein-packed) Greek variety and add some cut-up fresh fruit.
It may seem obvious, given the size, but for many of us it's a key part of the movie-going experience, and besides, even if you order a bag once a week, how bad can that be? According to Villacorta, very. Popcorn is already about 1,200 calories, almost all from carbohydrates (and a whopping 580mg of sodium) for a large-sized bag. That's before you add the butter. Don't waste an entire day's worth carbs and calories while you mindlessly munch your way through The Hunger Games.
Essentially candy for health-food nuts, and who eats just one—or five? In fact, a scant ¼ cup contains 20g of carbs and 19g of sugar. Skip the bulk candy aisle at your health food store and pick up a small bar of dark chocolate instead.