Carbohydrates are often portrayed as the enemies of healthy eating, an idea that’s been reinforced by diets like paleo and keto, which rule these macronutrients largely off-limits.
“Carbs belong to a food group that people love and love to hate for so many reasons,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the New York–based author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table. Because they are digested more quickly than protein and fat, carbs can have a more significant effect on blood sugar and hunger hormones, leaving you less satisfied if you eat them alone, she says.
It doesn’t help that on the whole, Americans tend to eat too many of the wrong kinds of carbohydrates. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), carbs should make up between 45 and 65 percent of your diet, primarily from high-quality nutritional sources such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. But one analysis of 18 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 21 percent of the typical American diet comes from low-quality carbohydrates, such as refined carbs, fruit juice, and potatoes, and 14 percent comes from added sugars.
This is especially troubling given that evidence shows that diets high in refined carbohydrates (like those in white rice, white bread, and white pasta) have been linked to an increased risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, per research from 2021.
Giving up carbs entirely isn’t the solution, says Taub-Dix, since these macronutrients are our bodies’ main source of energy. Research has also linked carbs to an increase in serotonin, a brain chemical responsible for mood. “When people want to lose weight, carbs tend to be the first nutrient they slash,” says Taub-Dix. “But there’s no need to avoid them. In fact, I encourage carbs at every meal and snack.”
How? Well, make sure you’re choosing the right ones for your snacks — complex carbs like whole grains that have nutrients like fiber — and pair them with some lean protein and healthy fat for maximum satisfaction. Here are 10 healthy carb snack suggestions to get you started.
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