While there are nutritious carbs, there are also “bad carbs” that can spike your blood sugar, increase appetite, and potentially lead to weight gain.
But, what are the worst refined carbs? What are the worst carbs to eat? Is there a list of carbs to avoid or a list of bad carbs to help guide your decisions when deciding which high-carb foods are healthy and which foods high in carbs to avoid?
In this article, we will present a list of foods high in carbs to avoid and discuss why these are “bad carbs to eat” if you are trying to promote overall health, optimal body weight, and improve how your body feels and functions.
Let’s get going!
19 Carbs To Avoid: What Are the Worst Carbs to Eat?
The following list of carbs to avoid highlights some of the main categories of bad refined carbs and unhealthy high-glycemic carbs that you should avoid or limit in your diet:
#1: Coffee Drinks
There are plenty of foods that are high in unhealthy carbs and sugar that we often don’t even categorize as “high-carb foods.”
A great example is coffee drinks, such as those found at Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or other coffee chains.
Although plain black coffee, or coffee with a splash of milk or plant-based milk, is very low in carbs and can actually boost metabolism, there are tons of unhealthy coffee drinks high in sugar and “bad carbs.“
For example, some commercial coffee drinks are pumped with all sorts of artificially flavored syrups, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and maltodextrin and contain upwards of 60 to 80 grams of carbs per serving, most of which is highly refined sugar.
These coffee drinks often pack over 400 to 600 calories and are much more along the lines of a dessert than a healthy coffee beverage.
You may not be surprised to see bagels on the list of high-carb foods to avoid.
Although bagels can be incorporated into a healthy diet, particularly for endurance athletes like runners and triathletes, as part of pre-race or pre-workout fueling, regularly eating bagels if you are inactive will likely not support your health and weight loss goals.
Bagels made from white flour contain some of the worst refined carbs, and the density of a bagel means that you are getting up to 50 grams of carbs or more per serving.
Even though a bagel is not sweet like a donut or dessert, so it doesn’t contain a lot of added sugar, the body reacts to refined white flour similarly as it does to simple sugars because the white flour breaks down so quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar and insulin.
Muffins are often seen as the “healthier“ option for donuts, croissants, and other pastries, but they are packed with some of the worst refined carbs to avoid.
They often have lots of added sugar and are made from refined flour.
Donuts are on the list of bad carbs to avoid because they are little more than processed flour, sugar, and oil.
Jelly often gets overlooked when considering a list of the worst high-carb foods to avoid because it is a simple spread that many people see as a fat-free alternative to butter or a healthy fruit companion to peanut butter.
However, most jellies and preservatives are made with tons of added sugars.
For example, a single tablespoon of Smucker’s grape jelly has 13 grams of carbs, including 12 grams of sugar, much of which is actually added sugar, even though fruit contains natural sugar.
#6: Barbecue Sauce
Barbecue sauce may be one of the more surprising entries on this worst carbs to eat list, but most commercial barbecue sauce is made with high fructose corn syrup and tons of added sugar (17 grams in 2 tablespoons!).
#7: Yogurt With Fruit On the Bottom
Other yogurts have Oreo cookie toppings or other sugar-sweetened granola, and you can get upwards of 30 grams of carbs and 25 grams of sugar in a single 6-ounce to-go cup of yogurt.
The main trouble here is that people often think they are having a healthy snack when they choose yogurt, but if you select one of these sweetened, processed yogurt snacks, you are having some of the worst refined carbs rather than a satiating, nutritious food.
#8: Fruit Snacks
Packaged fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups, Gushers, and yogurt-covered raisins are often given to kids as a “fruit alternative“ snack, but all of these packaged fruit snacks are loaded with added sugar and little to no real fruit (aside from raisins in yogurt-covered raisins).
Many people choose gummy fruit candy in place of chocolate to save on calories from fat, but candies like Skittles, Twizzlers, and Sour Patch Kids should be at the top of this list of the worst carbs to eat.
These candies are nothing more than high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, and other real and artificial sugars. A serving of Twizzlers or Skittles has as many calories as M&M’s or a Snickers bar, but the entire package is bad carbs.
#10: Acai Bowls
Another surprising addition to this list of bad carbs to avoid are Açaí bowls, as they are touted as healthy foods.
Although you can make your own healthy açai bowl, many commercial açai bowls are very high in carbs and contain added sugars instead of natural carbs from fruit and yogurt.
#11: Refined Breads and Grains
White bread, white pasta, white rice, quick oats for oatmeal, English muffins, tortilla, crackers, mac & cheese in a box, and couscous are also on this bad carbs list because they are all made from refined flour.
Even if the product is enriched with vitamins and minerals, you will be missing out on the natural vitamins and minerals, fiber, and protein found in whole-grain alternatives.
#12: Breakfast Cereal
Sugar-sweetened cereals are among the worst carbs to eat.
Not only is the foundation of the cereal made from refined flour, but many sweet cereals have 9 to 12 grams of added sugar or more per serving, and many people pour themselves quite a big bowl of cereal that constitutes far more than a single serving.
#13: Pancake Syrup
Pancake syrup is usually made with fructose corn syrup or other fake “maple syrup“ sugar substitutes. A 2-tablespoon serving of Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Syrup has 25 grams of carbs and 15 grams of added sugar.
#14: Soda and Juice
Sweetened beverages like soda and fruit juice are loaded with sugar and very high in some of the worst carbs to eat.
Note that diet drinks made from artificial sweeteners may contain no carbs but are likely no more healthy in the long term, and they also contribute to weight gain.
You are better off trying to slowly transition to flavored water like lemon water or seltzer with a splash of lemon.
It’s no surprise that sweets like cookies, pastries, pies, snack cakes, etc., are on a list of the worst refined carbs to eat.
These foods are made from simple sugars and refined carbs, particularly if the baked goods are not homemade.
#16: Granola Bars
Although there are some healthy protein bars and energy bars, and these convenience foods can be helpful for athletes for use before, during, or after a workout, granola bars, and cereal bars are on this list of the worst refined carbs to eat.
This is because most of the common granola bars are unhealthy and made from refined oats and added sugar.
Cereal bars usually have a jam filling made from artificial fruit substitutes and added sugar, and some breakfast cereal bars use a sugary cereal coated in marshmallows or some other frosting-like substance to hold the sweet brick together.
#17: Applesauce, Jello, and Pudding
Unsweetened applesauce is fine, but many jars and cups of applesauce are loaded with added sugar, and pudding cups are even worse.
Snack foods like pretzels, tortilla chips, french fries, tater tots, butter popcorn, cheese crackers, Teddy Grahams, Dunkaroos, Combos or pizza bites, etc., are on this list of bad carbs because they are all made from refined carbs with little fiber, protein, or nutritional benefits.
It is possible to choose some healthier snack options made from whole grains, but the common choices tend to be bad carbs to avoid.
#19: Pancakes and Waffles
You can make healthy, protein-packed pancakes and waffles, but boxed mixes made from refined flour for these breakfast favorites certainly fall on this list of foods high in carbs to avoid.
There you have it, our detailed list full of carbs to avoid when possible.
You can learn more about cutting out sugar here.