When you’re making a grain-based starch selection, better carbs include whole grains, like barley, quinoa, whole-grain couscous, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice, instead of refined white pasta and white rice. During the process of refining grains (these include white flour and white rice), nutrients and fiber from the bran and germ are lost, according to Oldways Whole Grains Council.
The carb count is often similar. According to the USDA, 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 39.4 g of carbohydrates, while 1 cup of instant white rice contains about 44.2 grams of carbohydrates. However, quinoa has protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber not found in white rice.
To ensure you’re purchasing whole grain, look for the Whole Grain Stamp or choose foods that list “whole grain [name of grain],” “whole wheat,” or “stone-ground whole [name of grain]” on the ingredients label, the Council advises. Brown rice, oats, and wheatberries are also whole-grain products.
Another tip: You can slow the rise in blood sugar that results from eating grains (even whole grains). “Anytime you can add slow-digested nutrients to a meal, it may help to slow the rate at which carbohydrates are converted into sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream,” says Palinski-Wade. Add unsaturated fats, protein, or more fiber to a meal with grains. That could mean, for example, adding sliced avocado, nonstarchy veggies, and cubed chicken breast to a bowl of brown rice, she suggests.