The 21 Unhealthiest Carbs on the Planet
Carbohydrates. They’re the most important source of energy for the body. Our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose, then use this type of energy for cells, tissues, and organs, storing any extra sugar in the liver and muscles for when it’s needed. But here’s the thing: Not all carbs are created equal, especially when it comes to rapid weight loss. And the difference between good and bad carbs can transform your body.
Many, particularly the types of carbs that are added to our food in the form of sweeteners, are likely to get in the way of your noble mission to look and feel your best. Below are 22 of the worst carbohydrates to eat if that’s indeed your goal. Avoid, or at least limit, as many of the below as you can and watch your belly shrink. If you’re concerned about your carb intake, not only should you cut the following carbs from your diet, but you should see if you’re experiencing any of the 8 Warning Signs You’re Eating Too Many Carbs.
1. Coffee Drinks
Coffee is great for your health and weight loss goals (as long as you don’t overdo it). It packs a virtually calorie-free boost to your metabolism, it’s rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and it reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, liver cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, among others. But those benefits of coffee are offset when you dump fatty and caloric additives into this amazing stuff — or worse, order a coffee chain’s drink that has the same calorie and carb profile as a dessert. Some of the unhealthiest coffee drinks can easily reach 400 calories and 60 to 80 grams of carbs per serving. Avoid them, unless you want your coffee habit to increase your girth.
Tip: Get a taste for delicious and evocative black coffee by experimenting with different blends and roasts and ease into it by splashing in a bit of whole milk.
According to Manuel Villacorta, RD, author of Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, to be nutritionally worthwhile, eating a bagel must be paired with something else: A two- to three-hour run. See, even before you’ve treated it with butter, cream cheese, or a similar delivery method for empty carbs, a bagel could pack 250 to 300 calories and a whopping 50 grams of carbs. That makes a morning bagel significantly more caloric and carborific than a serving of white-flour pasta.
Tip: Unlock the power of the carbs in oatmeal for breakfast — and be smart about the fixings. Get healthy ideas from these delicious overnight oat recipes!
3. Jelly and Preserves
These classic spreads look innocent enough, but they’re actually pieces of fruit smothered in sugar and juice and shoved inside a jar. Just one tablespoon of Smucker’s grape jelly has 13 grams of carbs, 12 grams of sugar and 50 calories — and let’s be honest, who uses just one?
Tip: Top peanut butter sandwiches with fresh pieces of fruit like banana and strawberries to get a similar taste with none of the added sugar.
4. Acai Bowls
It doesn’t matter what it is — eating too much of anything promises unwanted consequences. Yes, even smoothie bowls! Fruit is incredibly healthy — don’t get us wrong — but an issue arises when you have too much blended fruit without any digestion-slowing, blood sugar-balancing fiber, fats, and protein. The result is a huge whack of carbs, like the 102 grams of carbs and 70 grams of sugar (not necessarily all of which is considered added sugar, but still sugar) in Jamba Juice’s Island Pitaya bowl.
5. Cheese Crackers
A simple delivery method for cheese, one serving of these crunchy rectangles has about 18 grams of carbohydrates. That may seem modest compared to the carbs hiding out in a 16 oz smoothie, but unlike a drink made chiefly of blended fruit, crackers bring nothing to the party nutritionally besides the waist-widening carbs. Top them with high-fat cheese and you’ll do your silhouette a huge disservice.
Tip: If you like your cheese to ride on something crunchy, pair it with crudité. Crisp, fibrous organic vegetables will fill you up so you don’t go nuts with the Roquefort. But if you must eat crackers, make it one of the 12 Healthy Store-Bought Cracker Brands, According to Nutritionists.
6. Baked Goods
No, you’re not imagining it: Baked goods like muffins are getting larger. They’re also getting sweeter and cakier, effectively encroaching on cupcake territory. Some muffins contain upward of 60 grams of carbs and more than 30 grams of sugar. Think about that the next time someone emails your floor that there’s a basket of these carb grenades in the conference room.
7. Yogurt with Fruit on the Bottom
Yogurt is an excellent weight loss weapon. A plain Greek variety is one of the most enjoyable ways to get a burst of hunger-busting protein and a litany of vitamins and minerals. While yogurt itself does have carbs from lactose, you can double or even triple the amount by picking one with a thick layer of jammy fruit on the bottom.
Tip: Buy your yogurt plain or low-sugar yogurt and add some fresh, cut-up fruit. Crisp sliced apple would be a perfect choice to add fiber
8. White Bread
Many of us grew up eating white bread, so we understand that it may hold a special place in your heart. But it’s anything but healthy. Made with starchy enriched flour instead of healthy whole grains, white bread is packed with carbs and void of the belly-filling fiber that boosts satiety and keeps blood sugar stable. What’s worse, refined white-flour foods have been linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Plus, they lead to weight gain and make it more difficult to lose weight, too.
Tip: Opt for whole grain bread or any of the best bread brands for weight loss. Eating whole grains can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.
If you think these flimsy blankets of carbohydrates are better for you than bread, you’re not alone; it’s a common misconception. But there are 35 grams of carbs in a 10-inch white tortilla wrap. Take a closer look at the nutrition label, and you’ll find that many varieties are loaded with calories and chemicals like L-cysteine, a “dough conditioner” made from human hair and poultry feathers.
Tip: Restock your shelves with whole grain bread that’s free of high fructose corn syrup. Make it one of these best brand name breads for weight loss!
Most brewskis offer 10 to more than 20 grams of carbs in a 12-ounce glass. Too many of those too often, and all you’ll have to show for it is a paunch. Beer amounts to little more than liquid carbs.
Tip: One of the best healthy beers is Guinness. Despite its heavy, hearty, and dark appearance, this stout has 20 fewer calories per 12 oz serving than a Bud.
11. White Rice
White rice is a household staple, but it really shouldn’t be. Just like white bread, white rice has been stripped of its nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, making it nothing more than empty calories and a lot of carbs. Whole-grain rice is rich in filling, good-for-you nutrients.
Tip: Look for brown and wild rice and whole-grain pastas that are free of any sketchy ingredients to avoid a fat belly!
Pretzels are basically nutrient-stripped carbs covered in blood-pressure-raising salt, so are you really all that shocked they made this list? They offer no health benefits and lack any ingredient that will help keep you full or satisfied.
Tip: Eat kale chips or snap pea crisps as healthier alternatives. They’re far better cheat meals.
13. Yogurt-Covered Raisins
You could delude yourself into thinking that this is a healthy snack. It was a grape once, right? Well, its days of hanging off a California vine have long gone. Now dried and covered it sugary yogurt, a quarter-cup packs 20 grams of carbs and 19 grams of sugar.
Tip: Satisfy your sweet tooth with a small amount of high-quality dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao.
14. Fruit Snacks and Gummies
“They might have a ‘fat-free’ label on the front, but these snacks are anything but kid-friendly,” warns registered dietitian Lisa Moskovitz, RD, founder of The New York Nutrition Group. “Void of any nutrition whatsoever, all they offer are empty calories that can lead to weight gain, cavity-causing sugar, and enough chemical preservatives to last a lifetime.” That sugar Moskovitz mentions? It’s usually high-fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to belly fat.
Tip: Eating an honest-to-goodness piece of organic fruit provides way more nutrition than any colorfully packaged derivative.
It’s estimated that after it was introduced to Europe from South America, the potato was responsible for 65% of the increase in Western Europe’s population and a 25% of the increase in the rate of urbanization. Why? Well, the spud is an awesome vegetable rich in fiber, protein, and vitamins. Over the past century, however, people have gotten a taste for the potato sans most of its inherent goodness. We’re talking fries. Take off the skin (where many of the nutrients and fiber live) and greatly increase the fat-soaking surface area by cutting it into long thin pieces, and boom, you’ve turned a positive into a negative. All carbs, all fat, and little in the way of anything else.
Tip: Switch to sweet potato fries, like the ones in these sweet potato recipes. The same-sized portion has a third of the calories, a third less carbohydrate content, and is significantly higher in fiber.
Most of the evils of pizza lie in the empty-calorie, carbohydrate-rich crust. One of Uno’s Chicago Meat Market Individual Pan Pizzas contains 120 grams of carbs, which is just under half your recommended daily value of carbs. Typically made from refined white flour, pizza dough offers little nutrition and will spike your insulin levels, causing you to crave more. The less crust you indulge in, the better.
Tip: The basic pizza toppings of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil are an incredible combination. Minus the pizza dough, these constitute a Caprese salad, which has a lot of the same flavor without the carbs.
17. Tortilla Chips
Chances are, you’ll find a bag of tortilla chips in every household. The classic party food often contains a laundry list of ingredients, and none of them contain many nutrients. “Generally speaking, for most crackers and chips, much of the nutritional value of the grain has been removed during processing — especially when these foods are white rather than whole-wheat, because the husk and outer layers of the grain have been removed,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
Tip: For a more nutrient-dense alternative that still offers crunch, try air-popped popcorn with your own added herbs and spices, or even crackers made with whole-wheat that have four to five grams of fiber per serving
18. White Pasta
It seems as though pasta is always condemned to the “Not That!” list, right? The truth is, it can offer some nutrients, but you’ve got to choose the right kind. White pasta is made from white flour, which is a bad way to get carbs if you plan on getting and staying svelte.
Tip: Sub out pasta for substitutes like spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles to create a fat-burning pasta dish. Both veggies are rich in vitamins A and C, and also contain potassium and other healthy nutrients important for optimal body function.
White flour, salt, sugar, butter, eggs, milk. There are too many low-nutrient-density ingredients (and not nearly enough of the eggs and milk) to make pancakes anything other than big ol’ carb-laden disks of empty calories. Adding chocolate chips, syrup, or more butter definitely won’t help.
Tip: Make this dish less empty by replacing white flour and sugar with a mixture of whole-wheat flour, oats, pecans, and cinnamon, and you’ll lose belly fat. Adding bananas or blueberries as a topping ups vitamin content. If you’re using syrup, opt for 100% pure maple syrup and not the Fugazi stuff derived from high fructose corn syrup.
20. Barbecue Sauce
Just two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s Original barbecue sauce have between 70 calories, more than 17 grams of sugar, and 18 grams of carbohydrates. That’s enough to turn a piece of grilled steak into a delivery method for empty calories.
Tip: Sub out BBQ sauce for a mix of low-sodium soy sauce and a little honey. You’ll still get the sweet and tangy taste you crave without going overboard on nutrient-free calories.21
21. Refined Cereals
Refined cereals are another infamous source of nutritionally void carbs, topped with a ton of sugar that creates double trouble for your waistline. Raisin Bran (45 g), Frosted Mini-Wheats (48 g), and Oatmeal Crisp (46 g) all top the list of the most carb-laden cereals available.