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Food Inspiration  |  November 16, 2018

Carbohydrates (Carbs) are Not All the Same

- Find the Best and Reduce the Rest



Three quick ideas...

1.    EAT MORE PLANTS!  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans are examples of carbohydrates that are good for you.  Check out our plant dictionary for examples.

2.    READ THE NUTRITION FACTS LABEL!  Look for foods with fiber and limits on sugar, saturated fat and sodium.  Picking out the right carbohydrates can be easy.

3.    MAKE ONE SIMPLE SWAP!  Reduce foods that have no nutrition, also known as empty calories. Ideas: one less dessert, fruit for dessert, water instead of soda, reduce the portion of your sweet or salty treat.


Dr. Tiffany Nguyen, pediatrician and Board Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, explains why saying “NO” to carbs is not the answer. We want to help you get smarter about the ones that are good for you and when to limit the ones that aren’t.

Let’s start with the basics — where do the good carbs come from? The short
answer is PLANTS!

Carbohydrates from whole, plant foods, provide quick and long-lasting energy,
as well as essential nutrition.

Good Carb wheel.

“Filling up on the right kind of carbohydrates from whole foods
will help you reduce calories in your diet and not make you
gain weight like many people often believe."   — Dr. Nguyen 


Because sugar is also a carbohydrate. And the added sugar in foods that makes cookies, cakes and candy taste deliciously sweet provides calories with little to no nutritional benefit.

“Close to HALF (40 percent) of today’s calories for ages 2 to 18 years is from added sugar and solid fats, also known as empty calories. Some of the leading sources are soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts (ice cream), grain desserts (cookies), pizza and whole milk.3

You also need to watch out for highly-processed plant foods that strip the plant of nutrition found in nature. An example of this would be the many different ways to eat a potato.  More nutrition and less of what we want to avoid can be found in the baked potato versus a french fry or a potato chip.

As it turns out, we are eating much more empty calories and added sugar from highly-processed carbs than is recommended — up to three times more — and these excess, empty calories can lead to weight gain.2  Weight gain can lead to other diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Setting limits on these foods throughout the day and replacing them with nutritious foods will help reduce added sugar (and saturated fat) in the diet and support health. Try our three small quick ideas at the beginning of this article to see just how easy it can be to eat the right carbohydrates!




3.  Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 10, Pages 1477-1484, October 2010. Available at:

4.  USDA Nutrient Analysis Database and

Plant Dictionary

Whole grains: whole grain cereals, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, whole oats, whole grain crackers

BSources:eans: black, pinto, white, navy, lentils, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tofu, soybeans (edamame),

Seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sunflower butter

Nuts: almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter

Fruits: Apples, banana, grapes, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, pears, peaches

Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, salad, peppers, tomatoes, corn, peas, potatoes


What Kids Want to Know About Nutrition
Our nutrition and story teams partnered with Dr. Tiffany Nguyen, a Pediatrician and Board Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, to bring you the facts on important nutrition topics that come up daily in her practice with kids. Our goal is to dispel eating myths and provide kids and families with the tools to support a lifetime of health. Don’t have a lot of time? No worries. We will also give you the nutrition scoop in three simple tips that may seem small, but can help lead to big changes.


About the Authors
Tiffany Nguyen, DO, FAAP, is board certified in Pediatrics and Lifestyle Medicine. She has practiced medicine at Texas Pediatrics in Houston, TX, since 2003. She went to medical school at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and did her residency at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. She is an avid foodie, loves hiking, is a mom to two kids, plays the flute and is a “reformed one-shoulder backpack wearer.”

Julie Salmen, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in the Chicago area and has worked in nutrition since 2001. She champions for consumers to have access to nutritious, plant-based foods that nurture people and planet health.  She loves to discover new coffee shops when traveling, swims to stay active and grows a big vegetable garden, with the help of her daughter Mabel.

Kashi is a Corporate Roundtable Member and proud supporter of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM). ACLM offers healthcare professionals the opportunity to become Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine. For more information, click on this link:

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