Mislabeled as a “naughty” food, pasta is the pitbull of the weight loss world. Without giving it much of a chance, people assume it’s bad news—a nutrient-void carb-mine that’s waiting to attack their flat belly progress. And while it may be true that the run-of-the-mill white stuff is one of the most popular high-carb foods, the whole grain variety is a potent source of satiating fiber, a nutrient that’s been shown to aid weight loss. What’s more, comparatively speaking, both refined and whole grain pastas are actually not all that carb-dense.
Ironically enough, many of the foods people assume are not that high in carbohydrates actually pack more of the nutrient than an entire enough bowl of penne noodles. (For reference, that’s 33 grams.) Don’t believe it? All of the foods below—some healthy and some not so much—fit the bill. If you’re trying to cut back on the nutrient or simply want to learn more about nutrition, it’s time to start taking some notes, guys! Oh, and if you’re looking for even more carb intel, be sure to check out these questions about carbs—answered in 5 words or less!
Carb count: 50 grams per fruit
If you’re trying to eat low carb, a mango may not the best choice. But if eating a well-rounded, vitamin-filled diet is your goal, reach for this tropical fruit. Just half of one packs an entire day’s worth of vitamin C, a nutrient that wards off fat-storing cortisol spikes. If mangos typically make an appearance in your daily smoothie, add a scoop of protein powder and a handful of raw oats, too. This ups your drink’s protein and fiber content and slows the digestion of the fruit’s sugars, keeping you fuller, longer.
Carb count: 36 grams per wrap
If you typically go with wraps because you think they’re healthier than bread, you’ve got things all wrong. Not only do two slices of Ezekiel bread have about the same number of carbs as a wrap, but wraps are also far more calorie– and fat-filled than a standard sammy base. The reason: In order for the tortilla to stay flexible, manufacturers add fat, often in the form of soybean oil and hydrogenated oils. Yuck! Instead of choosing one of our high-carb foods, go for a better-for-you bread.
Carb count: 38-39 grams per 12 fl oz
You already knew soda was filled with chemicals and sugar but did you realize that it packs more carbohydrates than an entire bowl of pasta? It’s true! A 12-ounce can of Sprite has 38 grams of carbs while a classic cola has about 39 grams. For a healthier flavor-filled way to rehydrate, check out these detox waters for fat burning and weight loss.
Carb count: 63 grams, per USDA defined restaurant serving
While most people know that potatoes are starchy, French fries are super carb-laden, packing twice as many carbs as a bowl of pasta in a standard family-style serving. (You know, the baskets you’re supposed to share, but don’t.) It gets worse: Vegetable-oil-fried foods like fries contain high levels of something called inflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are inflammation-causing compounds that form when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures. To learn more about the dangers of inflammation, check out our exclusive report, inflammatory foods making you fat.
Carb count: 34 grams per 1.5 oz small box
They may be cute, but they sure aren’t innocent. This sweet and chewy oatmeal topper carries 34 grams of carbs—just slightly more than a cup of penne—in one tiny single-serve box.
Carb count: 55 grams per medium bagel
With 277 calories, 55 grams of carbs, and just traces of fiber, this morning staple is bound to send your blood sugar skyrocketing. What’s more, its lack of fiber will also make you crave more carbs throughout the rest of the day—basically the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to dial back on the nutrient. The reason: “When you eat something carb-filled that doesn’t have fiber, it’s like eating pure sugar, which is why it’s so addictive,” explains lyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN.
Carb count: 74 grams, large pastry
Get this: Just one commercially prepared blueberry muffin has as many carbs as not one, not two, but five slices of bread! It’s also a fat and calorie-mine, carrying over 520 calories and a third of the day’s fat in one pastry. And eating half now and “saving the rest for later” is nearly impossible; foods rich in carbs, fat, and sugar are downright addicting. A Scripps Research Institute study found that mice who had been fed diets with high levels of those very nutrients displayed withdrawal symptoms and were more sensitive to stressful situations after they were put on a healthier diet. For a healthier breakfast option, check out these delicious healthy breakfast ideas!
Carb count: 35 carbs, per extra large (9″ or longer) fruit
They may be one of our high-carb foods, but bananas get the green light in our book. They’re a good source of magnesium, a nutrient that aids protein synthesis, which, in turn, increases lean muscle mass. Magnesium also helps boost lipolysis, the process by which the body releases fat from its stores. For even more ways the yellow fruit can help you reach your better-body goals, check out these reasons to eat more bananas.
Carb count: 43 grams per 1 piece (1/8 of 9″ diameter pie)
You knew this holiday time-staple was indulgent, but thanks to all the added sugar and fruit-filled centers, a slice of the dessert manages to serve up more carbs than a bowl of pasta. Sheesh! To find out how your favorite variety compares to the competition, check out how the most popular pies rank.
Carb count: 56 grams per ½ cup
Do you avoid the starchy mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving and steer clear of the carb-filled stuffing on Christmas? Well unless you’re also avoiding this wiggly, wobbly concoction you’re likely not staying on track with your low-carb diet plan. A half-cup serving of the tangy, sweet condiment packs 220 calories, 48 grams of sugar, and 56 grams of carbohydrates. Dial back your serving size or make the switch to a cranberry-orange relish, a topper with a more potent flavor. More flavor means you can get away with using less, so you’ll take in fewer calories and carbs. #Winning!
Carb count: 44 – 55 grams per 15-ounce bottle.
If you’re an avid Eat This, Not That! reader, you likely already know that we’re big fans of weight loss smoothies. They’re one of the most low-stress and portable ways to consume a wholesome meal filled with produce and protein. But since they’re made with flavorful fruits, which generally carry a hefty dose of carbs, they’re not always the best bet for folks trying to dial back their carb intake. The no-sugar-added bottled varieties by Naked, for example, pack anywhere from 44 to 55 grams of carbs per bottle.
Carb count: 74 grams per USDA defined serving (~ 4 dates)
Commonly used as a binder and sweetener in energy ball recipes and homemade snack bars, dates carry a fair share of carbohydrates. If you want to nosh we recommend sticking to two at a time, which have about 140 calories and 37 grams of carbohydrates. To blunt of some of the sugar rush, top the dried fruit with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a quick and easy snack.
Carb count: 39 grams per cup
Packed with the hunger-busting combo of eight grams of protein and six grams of fiber in just one cooked cup, quinoa is an ideal protein source for vegetarians and vegans alike! But if you’re trying to watch your carbs, you may want to dial back your portions. Instead of thinking of quinoa as the “main attraction” on your plate, consider it more of a topping. Sprinkle it on top of salads, add it to your omelets or use it in lieu of a sugar-filled granola in Greek yogurt parfaits.
Carb count: 41 grams per cup cubed
The oh-so-delicious sweet potato is yet another healthy food that’s a carb heavyweight, packing even more of the nutrient than a cup of quinoa—but don’t let that scare you away. The root veggie is actually one of Shaun T’s top weight loss foods. “Sweet potatoes are a great post-workout snack,” Shaun T tells us. “They’re low on the glycemic index and rich in fiber which helps tame that out-of-control appetite many people have after they exercise.” For an easy dinner side dish, bake one whole, and drizzle it with EVOO, paprika, garlic powder, and ground pepper. Delish!
Carb count: 36 grams per average-sized plain slice
While pizza and pasta are often labeled as Italian food no-nos among the diet crowd, for low-carb dieters, pizza is the worst of two evils. Though it’s not that much more carb-laden, the average cheese-topped slice serves up three more grams of carbohydrates than a plain bowl of penne.
Apples & Applesauce
Carb count: 36 per large apple, 46 grams per cup of applesauce
Apples are one of our favorite on-the-go hunger crushers, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re a potent source of carbs. Same goes for applesauce, which gets its additional grams from a hefty dose of sugar. Our advice: Cut out the applesauce completely and stock up on some of these low-carb fruits.
Carb count: 45 grams per bar
Since carbs provide energy, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that energy bars are loaded with carbohydrates. That said, you’d be amazed at how many people don’t make the connection. On average, these health food imposters carry up to 45 grams of carbs—and are chock full of sugar and scary chemicals, too. They’re basically a triple threat to your health. For better ways to add some pep in your step, check out these best foods for energy.
Carb count: 43 grams per ¾ cup
Most people solely consider beans an alternative protein source, without taking much notice of their high-carb content. However, a ¾-cup serving of this Asian-native serves up a whopping 43 grams of carbohydrates and an impressive 13.5 grams of protein. The beans are loaded with fiber, a nutrient that improves digestive health and regulates blood sugar levels.
Carb count: 34-52 grams per defined serving
Many people think of fruity fat-free candies like Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, and gummy bears as better-for-your candies, but the truth is they’re just as packed with carbs and sugar as their chocolate counterparts—and in some cases, they actually carry more carbs! For example, a pack of M&M’S Milk Chocolate carries 34 grams of carbs, while a packet of Sour Patch Kids is packed 52 grams. And just four Twizzlers (which the brand considers a standard serving size) contains 36 grams of carbs. If you’re looking for a lower carb sweet, consider grabbing a handful Lifesaver Gummies. Eight of them have 22 grams of carbs.