Shopping for the Right Carbs

Butter is not a carb.

But carbs are. And if you ask me, they get a real bad rap. 

In a previous life, carbs sat at the top of the list of foods that haunted me. Bread, pasta, tortillas, wraps, noodles, desserts...all sorts of really delicious things whose absence tend to make life sad. Have you had carb-phobia, too?

You're in luck. Ditching carb fear and focusing instead on whole, unprocessed carbohydrates does a magical thing: it shows you that in their natural, unaltered form, many foods we've traditionally demonized are actually incredibly nutritious and have some pretty wicked health benefits. That's right baby, TOAST IS BACK. 

[Curious about what processed foods are? I'm a big fan of the way Lisa Leake explains it. Want to know what "real food" is? She's got a killer explanation for that, too.]

Our body needs energy, so it needs carbs. It loves carbs, and the right carbs love us, too. Vegetables and fruit are beautiful sources, as well as beans, legumes, and whole grains if your body tolerates them. (If not, let's talk — I've got you.) 

If you'd like to explore this concept more, McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped eloquently breaks down the reason our body needs carbs, and how to choose the best ones for you. Part 1 dives more into the science-y stuff and what carbs are composed of, while Part 2 shares whole food sources of carbohydrates + how to maximize their positive effect on the body. 

But really, the hardest part about getting good carbs into our diet is actually shopping for them, right? I know, it's the worst. Because I'd be devastated if you thought you could never have pasta again, here are a few of my favorite brands that transform traditionally empty carbs into high-vibe nutritional powerhouses. 

Tolerant's red and green lentil, and black bean pastas. 
Jovial's array of organic ancient grain + gluten-free pastas. 
Banza chickpea pasta. 
Ancient Harvest's organic quinoa and supergrain pastas. 

Food For Life Ezekiel bread — the only bread I buy. Sprouted, living whole grains means you'll find these in the freezer section. Their cinnamon raisin is children and husband-approved. They also have English muffins, tortillas, wraps, and gluten-free options. 

When shopping in the regular bread section of your grocery store, you want to look for whole wheat and/or sprouted grains, no preservatives, certified organic ingredients, and, if possible no added sugars. 

Bob's Red Mill is amazing. They have flours of every persuasion, as well as gluten-free baking blends and mixes (I adore their gluten-free pizza mix). They also have mixes for your favorite traditional baking desires, like cornbread, pancakes, and muffins.  

Might I suggest high-tailing it to the bulk-bin section of your grocery store? That's where I get all my favorite organic and non-GMO whole grains, including brown and white rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, rolled oats, lentils, and popcorn kernels. 

When it comes to tortillas, I prefer corn, and ideally a tortilla that is only organic corn, water, and salt. The extra stuff isn't doing you any favors. 

Food For Life has my favorite tortillas, because they are sprouted and good AF. 

Also, it is ridiculously simple and insanely gratifying to make your own tortillas. Not to mention, very impressive for guests. 

At the end of the day, when it comes to carbs, look for whole grains, and minimal, pronounceable ingredients that are organic and/or non-GMO. The farmer's market is also a spectacular option for acquiring whole grain foods like bread and tortillas. AND the farmers are right there in front of your face so you can ask them all the questions you want. Plus freshness. Plus local. Heck yeah. 

What's a new carb you can experiment with this week?


A vibrant, healthy garden pasta salad. 
Sea salt dark chocolate granola. (Take it on your summer road trips!)
Choco mint smoothie with greens. 
Cucumber mango miso noodle bowls. 
Creamy cauliflower kale mushroom pasta bake. (Perfect for experimenting with a new whole grain pasta.) 

When it comes to caffeine, matcha gives you the sustained focus of renewed energy without the ugly crash. Plus it's gorgeous. You'll want ceremonial grade for drinking, and culinary grade for baking and mixing into smoothies.