Carbs – They are not the Enemy!

By H&W on 1st Feb 2019

Beth Allen, Wellness Director at Faith Family Medical Center

We all know people who are often sluggish throughout the day. One solution that you may not have thought of? Eat more carbs!

We have been conditioned to think that all carbs are bad – but that just isn’t true! In fact, carbohydrates are the number one source of energy for the body.

Making Healthier Choices
Many people lump all carbs into one basket and label them as “bad.”  While a brownie or a bag of chips is not a great choice, your body can still use those foods for energy. A healthier carb choice is a fresh apple or pear with skin on it! This fiber-rich carb will provide you with energy to fight off sluggishness.

As a dietitian at Faith Family Medical Center, I spend a lot of time helping patients understand which carbs are great choices, good choices, or not so good choices. Remembering that no food is off-limits is important to keep in mind. If someone tells me that they want to have dessert when they go out for dinner on their anniversary, I suggest they split the dessert and leave off the bread, because there usually is a carb dish, such as pasta or potatoes that is served with the meal.

Another option is to have just a bite of the bread to satisfy your temptation. Learning how to eat carbs correctly takes time. I work with many patients who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic and learning to eat carbs in the right way is advice I often give them.

Sneaky Sodas
One of the worst carbs for you is a sugar-sweetened beverage. Many people do not even realize that they are carbohydrates! Whether it comes in the form of juice, sweet tea, or a smoothie – knowing the carb total is very important.

Did you know that a 12 oz. can of regular soda contains 39 grams of carbs? That is the same as eating two slices of bread and half of a large apple or 8-10 crackers, a piece of fresh fruit, and one small cookie! The difference is that the actual food items fill you up, whereas the soda doesn’t.

Make a Food Plan
A simple way to start a food plan is to become more aware of the carbs you are taking in – it’s all in the nutrition fact section on the food label! Here are some ideas:

Try a baked sweet potato with a teaspoon of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon as opposed to a heavy sweet potato casserole dish with lots of butter and sugar. Eating the peeling on the baked sweet potato adds additional fiber. Both are carbs, so if you are having the casserole, just eat less of another carb at that meal. Eating the food in its natural form is always the best choice. For example: a sugar-free pie still has carbohydrates – it is important to remember that having “sugar-free” on the label doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. It has flour, fruit, and often includes syrup.

Another carb-smart substitute is mashes cauliflower potatoes instead of traditional mashed potatoes – check out the recipe below to learn how to make this healthy side dish!

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes
Serves 4-6


  • 1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Steam the garlic, potato, and cauliflower in the microwave for 4 minutes.
  2. Test for tenderness of the vegetables by piercing with a fork. If not tender, put back in the microwave for another minute.
  3. Place the cooked vegetables in a deep dish to mash with a mixer.
  4. Add the butter, salt and pepper and a little milk if mixture does not resemble mashed potatoes.
  5. Serve as any side that you would use potatoes for.
  6. You can still call them “mashed potatoes” because it does have potatoes in it. After everyone says they like the dish – then tell them the main ingredient. This allows you to eat another carbohydrate (such as a roll or cooked apples) since you didn’t overdo it with your potatoes!


About Beth Allen

Beth Allen, Registered Dietitian, is the Wellness Director for Faith Family Medical Center (FFMC), a nonprofit primary care clinic serving Nashville’s working uninsured and under-insured. The center’s Journey to Wellness program teaches healthy nutritional and fitness habits to FFMC patients and their families at no cost. To learn more about becoming a patient, please call (615) 341-0808 or visit

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