It’s a myth that carbs are fattening – they provide nutrients and energy, dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine said.
I lost 35 pounds three years ago while maintaining my muscle, and never cut out carbs.
Here are some of my favorite carb-based meals, from waffles to pasta and meatballs.
Carbs aren’t inherently fattening, and they help fuel workouts.
I’ve maintained my weight loss since, and I’ve continued to work on gradual body recomposition — losing fat and building muscle.
I used to think I had to cut carbs to achieve these results, but I’ve learned over time that they’re important for fueling an active lifestyle and aren’t fattening. The only thing that causes weight gain is eating in a calorie surplus, whether it’s from carbs, fat, or protein.
I eat carbs at every meal, mainly eating complex carbs that release energy slowly and are high in fiber, like brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oats. But I eat following the 80/20 principle and also eat fries, cake, and white bread.
Here are some of my favorite carb-based meals that helped me get — and stay — healthy and in shape.
1. Spiced apple baked oats
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an oven safe dish.
2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, saving some of the chopped apple to sprinkle on top.
3. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden on top (bear in mind it will firm up more once you remove it).
4. Drizzle with peanut butter and dig in!
Dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine said: “I’m a fan of any breakfast that includes one or more types of fruit (diversity is key for gut health!), and this breakfast provides one of your five a day (one portion being 80g). Oats provide additional fiber, and together with the protein powder, help to reduce the overall glycemic index of the dish, which helps to increase satiety.”
2. Protein pancakes
It’s hard to make protein pancakes that actually taste good (I find they very often come out with a rubbery texture), but this twist on Ludlam-Raine’s own recipe is a winner for me, and it doesn’t even use protein powder.
20g plain flour
100g Greek yogurt
1/2 mashed banana
Toppings of your choice
1. Whisk all the pancake ingredients together then pour large spoonfuls into a frying pan on a medium heat (add a little oil, butter, or cooking spray first).
2. Cook each pancake for a few minutes until bubbles form, flip and cook the other side, stack up, add toppings, and serve.
Ludlam-Raine said: “This breakfast recipe is naturally high in protein, thanks to the eggs and Greek yogurt, and provides fiber, nutrients (including potassium), as well as slow-release energy thanks to the flour, oats, and banana. Adding fresh, frozen, or canned fruit for a topping is a great way to get in one of your five a day.”
3. Protein waffles
These high protein waffles are great for breakfast or dessert, topped with whatever I’m craving.
1. Heat up your waffle iron and grease with some cooking spray.
2. Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined.
3. Pour the batter into the waffle iron as many times as necessary to use it all up. Add your toppings and dig in.
Ludlam-Raine said: “These protein waffles should leave you feeling full and energized as they not only contain protein from the eggs and protein powder, but fiber too from the oats and banana, which in addition provides potassium and one of your five-a-day.”
4. Chicken, avocado, and cream cheese sandwich
This sandwich combo is delicious and ticks all the macro boxes. Use a bagel thin or try an open sandwich if you want to reduce the calories.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Many people shy away from carbs such as bread, but they shouldn’t be feared. Whole wheat and wholegrain breads are a key source of fiber in the diet, as well as B vitamins, and may even be fortified with calcium and vitamin D too. Adding some lean protein, such as chicken and cream cheese, will help to keep you satiated, in addition to healthy fats from the avocado.”
5. Chicken, cheese, sweetcorn, and red pepper quesadilla
This is such a quick and easy lunch, and you can add whatever fillings you fancy.
Mediterranean veggies (like peppers), diced and cooked
Mexican-spiced cooked chicken breast
1. Put a frying pan on a medium heat to warm up.
2. Place a wrap in the pan then add your toppings.
3. When the cheese is melted and everything is warm, fold the wrap in half.
4. Remove from the pan and enjoy.
Ludlam-Raine said: “The more variety we can get with our plant-based foods the better, and Mediterranean vegetables are a great choice as they will each contain a unique set of nutrients to contribute towards our daily requirements. To make this plant-based you could even swap the chicken for mixed beans for a source of protein and fiber too.”
6. Fajita bowl
It’s essentially a fajita, but instead of in a wrap, on top of brown rice. If you want to lighten the calories or raise the protein of a classic fajita, swap sour cream for fat-free Greek yogurt. I often put together bowls like this from leftovers so there’s no cooking involved. Alter the quantities to fit your goals.
125g (1/2 cup) brown rice, cooked
1 chicken breast, chopped into chunks
1 pepper and/or zucchini, cut into thin slices
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
1. Heat a little oil or cooking spray in a pan on medium-high heat.
2. Add the chicken and vegetables and fry until the peppers are soft and the chicken is cooked through, stirring regularly. Season with fajita seasoning, salt, and pepper.
3. Spoon your rice into a bowl and top with the chicken and veg, avocado, and yogurt.
Ludlam-Raine said: “This sounds delicious! I love adding Greek yogurt as a condiment to my foods (especially spicy dishes) for a boost of protein, calcium, and naturally occurring probiotics. You could also add some homemade salsa using chopped tomatoes, red onion, and coriander for extra veggies.”
7. Peanut butter chicken curry
This recipe is by the fitness influencer Lucy Mountain and has become a staple in my kitchen. I love peanut butter, so I am always looking for ways to incorporate it into my meals. The quantities below serve four.
400g (about 2 cups) chicken breast, diced
1 white onion, chopped
3 red bell peppers, chopped
200g (2 3/4 cups) broccoli, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
80g (1/3 cup) crunchy peanut butter
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
500g (2 cups) microwave rice
1. Heat some oil or cooking spray in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onion, peppers, and broccoli until softened.
2. Add the chicken to the pan and stir occasionally until cooked through.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, peanut butter, curry powder, and soy sauce, and stir until smooth.
4. Place a lid on the pan and simmer until the sauce is thick and everything is cooked through.
5. Serve with the rice.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Although some people shy away from using peanut butter due to the amount of calories, it’s a great source of healthy unsaturated fats. Some brands may add salt or sugar, so try to opt for 100% nut options and for low sodium soy sauce. This looks like a really balanced, tasty, and satisfying meal!”
8. Turkey meatball pasta
I often make simple dinners with whole wheat pasta, a sauce made from low-fat cream cheese and pesto, meatballs or sausages (often turkey/chicken but sometimes beef or pork too), and whatever vegetable I fancy. It’s easy, tasty, and great for cooking in bulk and then reheating.
All you really need to do is cook everything separately, combine it all in a large pan, melt in the sauce, stir until combined and well coated, and dig in.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Turkey is a great lean source of protein which is high in essential amino acids, including tryptophan which is involved in the production of certain hormones such as serotonin and melatonin which promote a good mood and better sleep, too. Using a light cream cheese for the sauce is a great way to keep the calories down and saturated fats, too.”
9. One-pan Mexican beef with rice
This recipe by sports nutritionist Scott Baptie is delicious and really comforting thanks to the cheesy topping.
Ludlam-Raine said: “I absolutely love all-in-one recipes! Try to opt for whole grain rice for a source of fiber and lean beef to keep mindful of saturated fats. Beef is however a great source of B12, iron, and protein to name a few. To make this meal go further you could even add a tin of lentils for extra fiber — 3 tbsp is one of your five-a-day.”
10. Romesco chicken and potato tray bake
I love chicken tray bakes, especially when you can cook the sides in the same dish. This one is a recipe by Good Housekeeping and is full of Spanish flavors. I serve it with broccoli for extra nutrients, volume, and deliciousness.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Tray bakes are a mid-week favourite as they take such little time to prepare and you can add any vegetables you have left in your fridge. If you don’t eat chicken, you could swap this for cod or salmon.”
11. Chicken, vegetable, and noodle stir-fry
A stir-fry isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it ticks all the boxes: nutritious, fast, easy, and tasty. I sometimes speed up the process even more by buying pre-prepared mixes of stir-fry vegetables.
All you need to do is heat some oil in a hot wok, stir-fry your protein of choice until seared, add chopped veggies and cook for a few minutes more, add ready-made noodles or rice, then stir in your sauce (and check your protein is cooked thoroughly before serving). Sometimes I add edamame or lentil noodles for an extra protein boost.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Stir-fries are a great way to pack a good volume of vegetables into your meal if you struggle to meet your five-a-day. If you wanted to boost the protein content here, you could even add an egg and scramble in with the vegetables for an egg-fried stir-fry.”
Read the original article on Insider