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Carbs: A Guide to the Good and the Bad

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, but not all carbs are created equal. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. Good carbs are nutrient-rich, high-fiber versions of carbohydrates that you may already be including in your diet. They are found in foods like brown rice, 100% whole grain pasta, beans, corn, fruits, and low-fat yogurt. Good carbs break down within your body to give you energy and help you feel full. Bad carbs, on the other hand, tend to be high in sugar or starches and lack fiber. These carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash, leading to weight gain, fatigue, and other health problems. Common bad carbs are foods that are made with white flour. This may include white rice, white pasta, processed potatoes, (French fries or potato chips) cookies, saltine crackers, juice, and soda. 

How to Incorporate Good Carbs into Your Diet 

Here are three simple steps you can take to add good carbs into your diet: 

1. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber. Fiber helps slow down the absorption of carbs and prevents blood sugar spikes. You can add your favorite vegetables to your scrambled eggs in the morning, top your morning bowl of oatmeal with banana slices and blueberries, or make a salad with your favorite greens and chopped vegetables. 

2. Include beans in your diet. Beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. They will keep you feeling full and energized. You can dip your raw vegetable sticks in hummus, add mashed pinto beans into your tacos, or add cannellini beans to your favorite pasta dish.  

3. Swap processed carbs for 100% whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread are great choices. They are a good source of fiber and will help you feel full longer.  You can top your brown rice with your favorite homemade stir-fry, make a sandwich with 100% whole grain bread, or boil a pot of 100% whole grain pasts and top it with your favorite tomato sauce and lean protein.  

In addition to the foods mentioned above, there are a number of other healthy carbs you can try.  

Good Carb Choices 

  • Omega-3s: Salmon, tuna, and walnuts are examples of proteins that have heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. 
  • Antioxidants: All types of fruit- great sources of antioxidants. 
  • Popcorn: a high-fiber snack that is low in fat. 

Timing is everything when it comes to eating carbs. To maximize your energy and control your appetite, try incorporating good carbs during the following times: 

  • Before and after workouts. Provides energy during the workout and refuels your body after your workout. A banana is a great carb source to fuel your muscles. 
  • Across meals and snacks. Keeps your blood sugar levels stable and stops you from getting too hungry. 
  • With nutrient-rich, low-carb vegetables. Helps you get the most nutrients out of your meal. 

Changing to good carbs can be a great way to improve your health and well-being. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your carb intake as needed.  

Author: Amanda Tovar RDN, LD, CDCES | CCS Health 

This site is for educational purposes only. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before making any decisions about your health.  


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