If you are looking for ways to increase your carb intake, you might wonder which foods are also low in calories.
While carbs are often given a bad reputation, they are necessary to help provide your body with energy. Low-calorie and high-carb foods help you achieve your carb intake without adding too many calories that would affect your calorie budget.
In this article, I will give you a list of 10 low-calorie and high-carb foods to include in your diet.
However, before we begin, we need to determine what is considered a low-calorie and high-carb food.
What Defines Food Low In Calories and High In Carbs?
Defining Low Calories
Low-calorie foods are those that have less than 100 calories per 100 grams.
For example, in 100 g of onions, you only get 36 kcal, while in 100 g of milk chocolate, you get 535 kcal. This means onions are a low-calorie food because you get a low number of calories for every 100 g.
Defining High Carbs
When talking about high carbs, there is no standard definition. However, in my experience as a registered dietitian, food is typically described as high in carbs when it has more than 14 grams per 100 grams of food.
For example, carrots are low in carbs since they only contain 9.8 g of carbs per 100 g. On the other hand, sugar is a high-carb food since it has 99.6 g of carbs per 100 g.
Food can be considered low in calories and high in carbs when it has less than 100 kcal and more than 14 grams of carbs per 100 grams.
10 Best Foods Low In Calories High In Carbs
The 10 best low calorie, high carb foods are:
Bananas are low in calories and high in carbs. In 100 g of bananas, you get 85 kcal and 20.1 g of carbs.
One of the benefits of bananas is that they are simple carbs. This means it doesn’t take much time to digest them compared to other foods like whole grain bread.
For those looking for a quick pre-workout snack, adding a banana 15-30 minutes before a workout does the trick.
Bananas provide you with a good vitamin B6 intake since they offer 18% of the daily recommended value. One of the benefits of vitamin B6 is that it can positively impact PMS symptoms in menstruating individuals.
A study showed that women who consumed 50 mg of vitamin B (the equivalent of 12 kg of bananas) had a reduction in their PMS symptoms by more than 69%.
I know it sounds crazy to consume 12 kg of bananas. However, you can still get benefits from vitamin B if you eat 1-2 bananas per day and also consume other high vitamin B foods (such as beef and fish) or take a vitamin B supplement.
Another fruit that is high in carbs but low in calories is pears. In 100 g of pears, you get 57 kcal and 15.2 g of carbs.
Not only are they highly nutritious and full of antioxidants (which can help decrease inflammation in your body), but they can also reduce the risk of chronic conditions.
A study showed consuming at least 25 g of white fruits (the flesh from the pear) daily decreases the risk of stroke by 9%.
The other fruit that is high in carbs and low in calories is blueberries. In 100 g of blueberries, you get 64 kcal and 14.6 g of carbs.
Studies have even shown that blueberries are the fruit with the highest antioxidant content.
Also, they have a positive effect on your heart health.
A study showed that overweight adults who consumed 2 oz of blueberry juice daily reduced their LDL (bad cholesterol levels) by 28%.
Cherries are low in calories and high in carbs, making them an ideal option for those looking for these properties. In 100 g of cherries, you get 63 kcal and 16 g of carbs.
Like blueberries, cherries are very high in antioxidants, making them a great addition if you want to reduce inflammation in your body.
Also, research shows that they can positively impact your athletic performance.
A study was done on 27 endurance athletes who consumed 480 mL of cherry juice once a day for ten days. Not only was their inflammation reduced by 47%, but their muscle soreness was reduced by 34%, leading to better recovery.
5. White Potatoes
Potatoes are known for being high in carbs, but what most people don’t know is that they are low in calories. In 100 g of baked potato, you get 92 kcal and 21.1 g of carbs.
They are also very nutrient rich since they are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium.
One of the benefits of potatoes is that they’re gluten-free, which is an ideal option for those with celiac disease who cannot have any gluten in their diets.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Another great starch to have is sweet potatoes. In 100 g of cooked sweet potato, you get 90 kcal and 20.7 g of carbs.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A since they have 384% of the daily recommended value.
One of the benefits of vitamin A is that it strengthens your bones.
A study showed that people with higher levels of vitamin A in their blood had a 6% reduced risk of fractures.
Rice is an excellent option if you want to increase your carb intake without increasing your calories too much. In 100 g of rice, you get 97 kcal and 21.1 g of carbs.
One of the benefits of rice is its versatility. You can use it both in savory and sweet dishes.
For those looking to do a carb load (adding many carbs before a race to fuel up your glycogen stores), rice is one of the best options you can include.
While white rice is lower in nutrients than brown rice, it can still provide you with fast-acting energy, making it an ideal food to have 15-30 minutes before training.
If you want a higher nutrient and fiber intake, you can switch to brown rice.
Brown rice has more thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc than white rice. It also has 1.2 grams more fiber (in 100 g) than white rice.
Parsnips are another great low-calorie and high-carb food. In 100 g of parsnips, you get 75 kcal and 18 g of carbs.
They are very high in nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. Also, they are high in antioxidants that can help decrease inflammation.
Parsnips contain 25% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
Research shows that people who consume vitamin C daily (more than 700 mg of vitamin C in supplement form) can reduce the risk of heart disease by 25%.
Even though the study was done on vitamin C supplements, you can still get antioxidant properties and immune-boosting benefits from consuming natural vitamin C sources like parsnips.
9. Non-Fat Yogurt
If you are looking for a food that is low in calories, high in carbs, and can give you some protein, then yogurt is the choice. In 100 g of yogurt, you get 95 kcal, 19 g of carbs, and 4.4 g of protein.
One of the biggest benefits of yogurt is that it has probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that can create a healthy gut.
Research shows that including probiotics daily can help reduce IBS symptoms by up to 50%.
If you don’t have IBS, you can still benefit from consuming probiotics. They help promote a healthy gut, leading to increased immunity and better bowel movements.
- Related Article: 30 Yogurt Brands With the Most Protein
Finally, one of the foods you can include is peas since they are low in calories and high in carbs. In 100 g of peas, you get 81 kcal and 14.4 g of carbs.
They are a very nutritious food since they are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
One of the benefits of peas is that they are a protein-rich plant. They provide you with more than 5 g of protein per 100 g, representing the same amount as one medium egg.
- Related Article: 15 Beans & Legumes With the Most Protein (Complete List)
Tips on How To Decrease Your Calorie Intake While Increasing Your Carb Intake
1. Add Vegetables and Fruits
As you can see from the list, most foods high in carbs but low in calories are fruits or starchy vegetables. If you are looking to include more carbs without increasing your carb intake, make sure to add plenty of fruits and carb-rich vegetables.
Avoid eating too many processed foods. They can have a lot of carbs but also tend to be calorically dense and highly platable, making them easy to overeat.
2. Track Your Portions
Make sure to track your portions and macros (protein, carbs, and fats) to avoid accidentally going over your daily calorie limit. You can use a calorie counter app like MacroFactor to make sure you stay within your total calorie budget while still hitting your carb goals.
Using this link gets you an extra week on your free trial (2 weeks total). Cancel any time before your trial ends without being charged.
Reasons To Include Low-Calorie, High-Carb Foods in Your Diet
You Are an Athlete
One of the reasons you may want to include more carbs with fewer calories is that you are an athlete.
Whether you’re an endurance athlete or a strength athlete (i.e., a bodybuilder), you might need to increase your carb intake so you have enough energy to perform at your best, but you still have to manage your overall daily calories so you don’t gain excess fat.
This is especially important for athletes in sports like powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting where you need enough carbs to support your training but have to watch your daily calories to make sure you stay within a certain weight class.
You Love Carbs But Need to Control Your Calories
The other reason to have low-calorie and high-carb foods is that you LOVE carbs but are in a caloric deficit or just want to make sure you’re not accidentally eating too much for your body’s needs.
Let’s face it: carbs are life, but when you are in a caloric deficit or trying to be more mindful of how much you eat each day, you need to control which foods you eat to ensure you are within your goals.
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.