Microwave dinners, frozen meals, deli sandwiches and other prepared foods are quick and convenient when you don't have time to cook. However, these foods are typically high in simple carbohydrates, sugar and sodium. Starchy carbohydrates and sugar cause your blood glucose levels to fluctuate and can lead to weight gain, obesity and diseases such as diabetes. Sodium is found in salt and other ingredients that are added to many processed foods. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Eating more whole foods helps reduce carbs, sugar and sodium from your diet.
Eliminate prepared microwave and frozen meals from your diet. These convenience foods are typically high in refined or white flour and other simple carbohydrates and sugar, which are added to boost the flavor. They also contain high amounts of salt to help preserve them. These include frozen pasta dinners, pizzas, fish fingers, fries and prepared meat pies. You may be surprised to learn your 283-gram frozen pasta entree contains 2.83 grams of sugar, 470 grams of sodium and 36.7 grams of carbohydrates.
Eat more whole foods that are simple to prepare. Purchase fresh ingredients such as a winter squash, spinach and brown rice and prepare your own meal. Cooking at home helps you to avoid hidden sodium and sugar that are found in most prepared foods.
Eat whole grains such as brown rice, whole-grain pasta and bread, barley, oats and quinoa. These grains are rich in essential dietary fiber, a complex carbohydrate that will help balance your blood sugar levels.
Avoid cuisines that are high in starchy carbohydrates such as Chinese or Italian food when you are dining out. Chinese food contains white rice and white-flour dumplings and Italian food is based on white pastas and bread. These refined carbohydrates are quickly converted into sugars in your body. Chinese food is also high in sodium, which is found in MSG flavoring, soy sauce and other sauces used in cooking. Just 1 teaspoon of regular soy sauce contains 335 milligrams of sodium, while a similar amount of low-sodium soy sauce still contains 177 milligrams of sodium.
Have fresh fruit for dessert instead of baked cakes and other sweets. Baked desserts are high in white flour -- a simple carbohydrate -- and sugar. Puree frozen bananas or berries and add them to low-fat, unsweetened yogurt for an alternative to ice cream.
- American Heart Association: Sugar and Carbohydrates
- MayoClinic.com: High-Fiber Foods
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Myths
- BBC Health: Warning Over Hidden Salt in Foods
- USDA Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data for Chicken Pasta Pomodoro, Frozen Entree
- USDA Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data for Soy Sauce
- Salad dressings, sauces and condiments such as ketchup contain hidden sugar and salt. Avoid these by making your own dressings and sauces with olive oil, vinegar and fresh or dried herbs.
- Breakfast cereals are another source of hidden carbohydrates, sugar and salt. Make your own porridge with plain oats instead of the eating the instant kind or boxed breakfast cereals.
- Avoid adding salt to your dishes by flavoring them with herbs and spices instead.
- Purchase low-sodium soup, sauces and other foods whenever possible.
- If you have diabetes, you may have to restrict how much fruit you can eat, as fruit contains natural sugars; consult your doctor or nutritionist before changing your diet.
- Carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced daily diet. Check a food guide or consult a nutritionist to see the types and amounts of carbohydrates you should be eating.
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.