Mood swings, fatigue and headaches are all par for the course when it comes to low-fibre, sugary foods like chips, muesli bars and white bread, and many kids’ lunchboxes are lined with these staples. But there is solution to keep them pumped (and awake) for the school day – complex carbs.
Carbohydrates are one of the biggest sources of energy in our diets and they also happen to be one of the 3 essential macronutrient food groups – a list which includes proteins and fats. But not all carbs are made the same.
Fast-release carbs like rice, white bread and table sugar release glucose into our bloodstream quicker. This means it has a higher glycaemic index (GI). These foods – though they are safe in moderation – pose a higher risk of spiking our blood sugar levels, which can come with some nasty side effects.
Common signs of a blood sugar spike.
- Increased thirst.
- Increased urination.
- Blurry vision.
- Brain fog.
With spelling tests, handball games and long division to get through, these are the last distractions kids need on their plates during school. This is where slow-release carbs come in.
Also known as complex carbohydrates, slow-release carbs are a whole other ball game – they’re less likely to spike blood sugar levels and they provide energy more consistently throughout the day. No more sugar crashes after recess! They’re also made up of starches and fibre, and are a little harder for us to digest – this is a good thing. The reason is simple: it keeps us fuller for longer.
The benefits of complex carbs.
- They’re higher in nutrients than their quick-release counterparts.
- They help keep blood sugar levels stable.
- They support gut health due to their prebiotic content.
Let’s get into some of our top picks for slow-release carbs.
Packing in nearly a third of our daily protein needs and 15% of our calcium needs, chickpeas are already a nutritional powerhouse that can boost the health profile of any lunchbox. But they’re also bursting with fibre, with research showing these tiny legumes benefit digestion and gut health.
Simply add them to your kids’ sandwiches, drop them into soups and pasta dishes or even make some hummus. Other legumes like lentils and kidney beans are also nutritious sources of complex carbs.
Sweet potatoes are exploding with vitamins like vitamin C, B and E, but its vitamin A content is the real hero of this veggie, coming in at more than 5 times the required amount in just one medium-sized sweet potato. While this is essential for developing eye health, it’s not the reason it’s on this list. This humble veggie provides slow-release energy and is high in fibre, keeping kids full between meals.
Vegetable sources of carbohydrates are highly beneficial for health – especially for growing kids. A study found that when switching excess meat consumption out for veggies, particularly complex carbs like potatoes, participants decreased their risk for diabetes by 23%.
Pasta gets a bad rap, with new ways constantly emerging to replace this staple – zoodles, anyone? These alternatives all have a place in a healthy diet, but that doesn’t mean pasta itself isn’t packed with nutritional benefits.
Depending on what type of pasta you use, this may be one of the less nutrient dense options, but it still makes for a healthy addition to a meal. Add in some healthy fats like avocado and olive oil, combined with the protein of lentils and vitamins from your favourite veggies, and you’ve got a quick, nutritionally balanced meal that will satisfy both adults and kids alike.
A few other sources of complex carbohydrates.
- Nuts and nut butters: These are high in fibre, healthy fats and vitamins, making them a great snack to keep the woof from the door.
- Quinoa: This low-GI grain is a complete source of protein, and paired with its slow-release energy, it’s makes for a welcome addition to a balanced lunch.
- Oatmeal: An oldie but a goodie – oats have a reputation for being a satiating, nutritious brekkie, and that’s because it contains prebiotics which aid digestion, and those slow-release carbs that will keep you – and the kids – tied over until lunch.
- Fruit: Yes, fruits are complex carbs too! Plus, they're loaded with antioxidant, vitamins and minerals, and make for the perfect lunchbox snack.
If you’re looking to live a heathier lifestyle and learn more tips and tricks to maintaining a balanced diet, we invite you to join us for the 8-Week Program. We’ll be ditching sugar and saying goodbye to the 3 o’clock slump and the host of symptoms that come with sugar. Sound good? Sign up HERE.