Wellness Wednesday Tip – Nourishing our bodies with nutritious foods is a key component to get through long, busy and perhaps stressful work days. This week, set a new intention to bring a nutritious snack to work each day and you may find you have both increased and sustained energy throughout the day. Check out ideas and recipes for healthy complex carb snacks for work below!

By April D. Davis, RDN, CD, ACSM CEP

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules.  The body converts carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose.  Carbohydrates provide the main source of fuel for all physical activity, along with being the sole source of fuel for the brain.  Adequate intake of carbs is crucial for recovery from long-term physical exertion and maintaining the correct amount of carbohydrate stores, known as glycogen, in the body.

Where can I find carbs?

There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.  Simple carbs are made up of only one or two sugar molecules, whereas complex carbs are composed of two or more linked simple sugars.  The complex carbs found in foods are starches and fiber.  It is important to include complex carbs in your daily diet because they help keep the digestive system healthy, lower cholesterol levels, and aid in controlling blood sugar.  Fiber is extremely beneficial to maintain a healthy gut and stabilize blood sugar levels.  A high-fiber diet will also help you feel fuller for longer, which is important for those strenuous days at school or the office.

Most of the foods found in the grains section of USDA ChooseMyPlate are excellent sources of complex carbs, fiber and B vitamins.  The key is to choose whole grain products that are more nutrient-dense to sustain energy longer than simple, or refined carbs.  In addition to whole grains, fruits and vegetables are ideal for snacking because they contain soluble and insoluble fiber.  Dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products provide a convenient mix of carbohydrates, fiber and protein – a perfect combination to get you through the day.

Healthy Complex Carb Snacks for Work

No-Bake Energy Bites

Jicama sticks and sunflower seed butter

Raw Chocolate Smoothie Recipe with Avocado, Almond Milk and Raw Honey

Plain yogurt topped with fruit and chopped nuts

Homemade granola bars

Hummus and veggies (of all shapes and colors)

How much should be consumed daily?

You should be getting about 45-65 percent of your daily intake in the form of carbohydrates.  On particularly active days, “graze” on nutritional snacks that are rich in carbohydrates (I highly recommend the granola bar recipe above).  Most importantly, remember to replenish your energy stores by eating plenty of complex carbs after a markedly physical day, especially if endurance exercise was part of your regimen.  A good rule of thumb is to eat about 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight after prolonged strenuous activity.

Remember, a proper intake of complex carbohydrates will ensure you have enough physical and mental energy to meet the demands that life brings your way.  Stay active and be well!

For more information of carbohydrates and fiber, please visit Nutrition.gov.