5 Slow Carb Swaps for Energy, Weight Loss and Health – 80 Twenty Nutrition

5 Slow Carb Swaps for Energy, Weight Loss and Health

In the 90s it was low fat, in the 2000’s it was low carb. So what diet defines the current decade? Slow carb!

Carbs have gotten a bad rap, but they don’t deserve to have so many haters. How did they fall out of favour?

A Coles Notes version of what happened:

During the low fat diet craze, people were replacing fat with low fat products that were packed with the wrong kinds of carbs. Not having enough fat and eating the wrong carbs just made people hungrier, making weight loss even more of a challenge. As a result, people then turned to cutting carbs to lose the weight. This works as a short-term weight loss strategy, but headaches and low energy levels make it tough to stick to for long.

Fast forward to the present day. Finally, people seem to be coming around to an approach that is supported by decades of scientific research.

Repeat after me: Not all carbs are created equal.

Your Body on Whoa Carbs

There are fast-releasing carbs (what I call “Whoa Carbs” because they put your body on a roller coaster) and slow-releasing carbs (“Slow Carbs”).

What happens when you have fast-releasing “Whoa Carbs” like white rice, pop, or candy? You’re subjecting your body to the Spike-Crash-Crave cycle. First, your blood sugar skyrockets (The Spike) and your body releases a surge of insulin to move the sugar out of your blood and into your cells for energy. But this spike in blood sugar causes you to release too much insulin, making your blood sugar levels drop along with your energy levels, leading you to “The Crash”. This low blood sugar and low energy also leads you to crave more fast-releasing carbs, making it difficult to control your appetite and lose weight (the dreaded “Crave”).

Your Body on Slow Carbs

Slow carbs have a very different effect on the body. Your blood sugar will go up slowly, won’t go up as high, and will peter off gradually, looking more like a gentle wave than a tsunami. This means you avoid the Spike-Crash-Crave cycle. Research suggests that the most effective long-term weight loss diet features moderate amounts of protein along with slow carbs.

So how do you know your slow carbs from your fast-releasing “Whoa Carbs”?

Test your knowledge with these five “Whoa Carb” versus “Slow Carb” foods. Which food will you choose and which will you swap out for increased energy levels, fewer cravings and better overall health?

Test your knowledge with these five “Whoa Carb” versus “Slow Carb” foods. Which food will you choose and which will you swap out for increased energy levels, fewer cravings and better overall health?

(Hint: go for the better-for-you slow carb choice).

  1. Rice Cakes vs. Wholegrain Bread

Rice cakes versus whole grain bread slow carb food swaps Christy Brissette media dietitian 80 Twenty Nutrition2 Quaker lightly salted rice cakes                           

Calories: 70

Carbs: 14 g

Fibre: 1 g

-compare to-

1 slice of Stonemill Sprouted 3 Grain Bread

Calories: 75

Carbs: 14 g

Fibre: 2 g

Which is the healthier choice?

Sprouted 3 Grain Bread wins! You might think rice cakes are better diet food because you “can eat more”, but you’ll be less satisfied with fast-releasing carbs that make your energy levels crash and cause cravings for more food. The wholegrain bread is the healthier choice for Slow Carbs that give you sustained energy and prevent carbs from being stored as fat.

2. Barley vs. Couscous

Barley or Couscous slow carb media dietitian Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition

 1/2 cup cooked barley

Calories: 102

Carbs: 23 g

Fibre: 2 g

-compare to-

1/2 cup cooked couscous

Calories: 93

Carbs: 19 g

Fibre: 1 g

Which is the healthiest choice?

The barley contains soluble fibre, a type of fibre that stays in your stomach longer, slows down the digestion of carbs and prevents blood sugar spikes. The barley is a better choice than the couscous because the barley is a Slow Carb, and it also contains more total fibre.

3. Snap Pea Crisps vs. Roasted Chickpeas

snap pea crisps or roasted chickpeas slow carb media dietitian Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition

Snap Pea Crisps

28 grams (22 pieces)

Calories: 120

Carbs: 15 g

Fibre: 3 g

-compare to-

The Good Bean Roasted Chickpeas

Calories: 120

Carbs: 18

Fibre: 5 g

Which is the healthiest choice?

The Snap Pea Crisps are made with not only peas, but also contain white rice, a fast-release “Whoa Carb” that starts up the Spike-Crash-Crave cycle. Beans, lentils and chickpeas are nutrient-packed slow carbs that keep you fuller even longer because of their fibre and protein.

4. Pure Maple Syrup vs. Raw Cane Sugar

maple syrup or brown sugar low GI slow carb media dietitian Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition

Both have the same calories (15) and carbohydrate (4 g) in 1 teaspoon (no fibre).

Which is the healthiest choice?

Maple syrup comes out ahead thanks to causing a smaller spike in your blood sugar. Bonus: it also has minerals and antioxidants, unlike many other sweeteners.  Keep in mind that even if you’re choosing sugar-free or Slow Carb sweeteners, you should still limit the total amount of sweeteners and added sugars you eat. The World Health Organization recommends you limit added sugars to 10% or less of your daily calories (about 13 teaspoons of sugar or sweeteners).

5. Energy Bar Battle

energy bar low GI slow carb media dietitian Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition

SoLo GI Bar

Calories: 200

Carbs: 26 g

Fibre: 4 g

Protein: 11 g

-compare to-

CLIF Crunch Bar

Calories: 200

Carbs: 27 g

Fibre: 3 g

Protein: 3 g

Which is the healthier choice?

The SoLo GI bar comes out ahead for being clinically validated as low glycemic index (low GI). That means it was studied in a lab and when eaten by different people, was shown to create a slow and steady release of sugar into the blood. The slow carb SoLo GI bar is the better choice for keeping cravings at bay and providing lasting energy without a “crash”.

Slow Carb Symbols

In some countries, there are labels or symbols on foods that have been tested and proven to be low on the glycemic index (aka a slow carb). In Canada, products that are tested at Glycemic Index Labs in Toronto can carry the GI Labs service mark.


The Canadian Diabetes Association recently announced they are going to be launching a slow carb (low glycemic index) symbol for foods and will be receiving guidance from Health Canada. This will be a big help when you go to the grocery store and are looking for slow carb options.

Choosing slow carbs is a powerful tool for your weight loss tool box!

Swapping out your “Whoa Carbs” and replacing them with slow carbs is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

If you are watching your weight, keep in mind that calories still matter. Make slow carbs ¼ of your plate, lean protein ¼, and the other half vegetables and fruit. Include a couple of tablespoons of healthy fats, and you’ll be well on your way to a slim waistline and improved health!

Do you have questions about how to live a slow carb lifestyle? Visit my Facebook Page or comment below and ask away!

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