Last year was a busy one. Work was crazy, my husband and I adopted a puppy, and I had seven weddings to attend, two of which I was in, which meant bachelorette parties, bridal showers and more. It was a very exciting—and super-busy—year! My schedule was packed and it took its toll on my health. I was stressed out, I wasn't exercising or making healthy eating a priority, and I had all these extra opportunities to eat and drink just a bit more than my body needed. With that, came 15 extra pounds, a little more stress and a bad attitude.
To be honest, I was so disappointed that I'd taken such bad care of myself by prioritizing everything but my health that I couldn't muster the motivation to do anything about it. (Sound familiar?) But as my schedule calmed down, I did find my way back to some healthy habits, but nothing drastic. I was spending time in the kitchen again, trying out new dinner ideas and doing some simple meal prep for work lunches (I count chopping up a head of romaine as meal prep, FYI), which, as the meal plan editor here at EatingWell, is both my job and something I enjoy doing.
The months carried on and at some point I noticed my pants were not as tight as they used to be. I hopped on the scale and was down more than just a few pounds—15 to be exact. Like, what? It seemed like a lot for what I was doing. I still wasn't exercising, keeping track of calories, making drastic changes to what I was eating or giving up my nightly glass (or two) of red wine. But, still, I had lost weight. I thought back on the past months and the only thing that had really changed was that I was eating more carbs—specifically whole grains.
Why Eating More Carbs Helped Me Lose Weight
Pictured recipe: Chopped Rainbow Salad Bowls with Peanut Sauce
Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and whole-wheat pasta, are carbohydrate-rich foods packed with fiber. Fiber has many amazing health benefits, from boosting gut bacteria to decreasing diabetes risk and, in my case, making it easier to lose weight. Fiber-rich carbs, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, help to fill you up and keep you feeling full for longer. Fiber is indigestible, so it takes your body a while to pass it through your digestive system, helping to maintain that full feeling. And, interestingly, fiber can bind with some of the glucose and fat in foods, meaning you pass those calories out with the fiber, rather than absorbing them.
Read More: Top High-Fiber Foods You Need in Your Life
What I Ate to Lose Weight
I was making this one recipe a ton, the Rainbow Veggie Spring Roll Bowl—not gonna lie, mainly because of the peanut sauce you drizzle on top—and subbing in brown rice for the rice noodles to give the meal an extra fiber boost. I was eating a variation of this chopped salad bowl often for lunch or dinner, mixing up the veggies and dressing and eventually switching from brown rice to quicker-cooking bulgur (like the recipe pictured above), which also delivered more protein. Some weeks, I only got as far as making a big pot of bulgur to throw in whatever I was bringing for lunch or to serve alongside dinner. And at some point, for no particular reason other than it tasted good, I started adding granola to my breakfast yogurt, which I noticed not only made me enjoy my breakfast more, but also helped carry me through to lunch.
It's not like I was avoiding whole grains before this (or any type of carb, for that matter), but I certainly wasn't eating as much. These two changes—eating granola and some other kind of whole grain every day—upped my daily fiber intake by roughly 12 grams (about half of the recommended 30 grams), helping to bring my weight back down. Now, this is not new news. Research has shown us time and time again how effective fiber can be for weight loss and overall health and in order to get more fiber, you need to be eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils—all the more reason to avoid low-carb diets like keto and Whole30.
As life calmed down, my stress levels decreased, my exercise habits increased (puppy by my side), and I was in a better, healthier place. And I ended up losing a few more pounds on top of it all. Beyond just losing weight, I felt better all-around. I was more regular and had fewer days where I felt bloated and uncomfortable, I had more energy during the day (especially after lunch), and I was in a much better mood. I know life will always have its ups and downs and I'm guaranteed to have even harder years ahead. But knowing I can rely on eating more fiber-rich carbs as a strategy to stay healthy—in addition to making it a priority to stress less and stay active—makes it all seem much less intimidating.
Healthy Ways to Eat More Carbs Each Day
If you're looking to lose weight, improve your gut health, ward off diabetes, heart disease and more, rather trying to eat less (or cutting out entire food groups altogether), focus instead on eating more of the foods that deliver good-for-you fiber. Try these recipes (some of my personal favorites) and give meal prep a chance, if you're not already doing so.
- Creamy Blueberry Pecan Overnight Oats (If I don't have blueberries, I'll sub in peaches.)
- Maple-Nut Granola
- Avocado-Egg Toast
- Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups (Pictured above, these also make a great snack.)
- Greek Mezze Meal-Prep Bowls
- Vegan Superfood Buddha Bowls
- Meal-Prep Roasted Vegetable Bowls with Pesto (Great for when you have leftover veggies!)
- Superfood Chopped Salad with Salmon & Creamy Garlic Dressing (Mix in some bulgur.)
- One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta
- Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl
- Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas & Spinach (Serve with whole-wheat pita bread.)