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Not All Carbs Are Created Equally

Lauren Larson

With the rise in popularity of the paleo and keto diets, carbohydrates are sure getting a bad reputation.

Truth is, if you’re regularly active, your body needs carbs for energy and recovery.  

Vail Health's registered dietician nutritionist, Lauren Larson, says the key is to choose the right carbs in the right portions at the right time.

What are the right carbs?

  • GO carbs include whole, minimally processed options like whole pieces of fresh fruit (bananas, apples, berries), whole grains (100% whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats), and certain vegetables (sweet potatoes, winter squash).
  • SLOW carbs include processed/starchy options like dried fruit, 100% juice, white grains, instant oats, and starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, and corn).
  • WHOA carbs include highly processed options with added sugar like sugary beverages, ice cream, cakes, cookies, candies, sweetened cereal, and flavored yogurt or oatmeal. 
What are the right portions of carbs? Hint: your measuring tool is with you all the time. Your FIST! One fist = one portion of most carbs like fruit, pasta/rice, and cereal. When it comes to snack foods (pretzels, chips, popcorn), two reasonable handfuls is about right. And for dried fruits, the center of your palm is your guide.
When is the right time to have carbs? 
  • GO carbs is nearly every meal and snack.  
  • SLOW carbs is occasionally or before/during/after exercise.
  • WHOA carbs are best to limit, avoid, or consume only around activity.
For more about GO, SLOW, and WHOA foods, check out the full list!