Starches are carbohydrate-based foods, such as breads, pasta, cereals and potatoes. Starches account for roughly one-third of most people’s diets, according to the Food Standards Agency. While whole grain starches and starchy vegetables are rich in nutrients and fiber, other forms of starches provide “empty” calories, or calories devoid of nutritional benefits. For optimum health, aim for a balanced diet, based upon healthy foods. When you do consume less-healthy starch varieties, keep your portions modest.


Enriched Breads

Enriched flour, whether white or wheat, begins as a whole grain. During food processing, most of the vitamins, minerals and fiber are stripped away. Enriched flour is the main ingredient in many breads. The Mayo Clinic recommends replacing enriched bread, which contains 0.6 g of fiber per slice, with wheat grain breads, which contain 1.9 g of fiber or more per slice. Limit or avoid other enriched bread products as well, such as commercially prepared bagels, pizza crust, flour tortillas, popovers, dinner rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns and English muffins. For best results, check ingredient lists on bread products. If the word ‘enriched’ is listed as a main ingredient, opt for a whole grain variety instead.


Added Sugars

Added sugars are used to add sweet flavor to foods during food processing or preparation. While a modest amount of added sugars is unlikely to damage your wellness, consuming excessive amounts can lead to weight gain, poor nutrient intake, tooth decay and blood sugar problems. Common forms of added sugar in Americans’ diets, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, include brown sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, honey, lactose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose and powdered sugar. Foods rich in added sugars include sugary soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, frosting, pancake syrup, jelly, jam, pastries, muffins, ice cream and sweetened coffee beverages.


Fried Starches

Frying foods adds calories and fats, usually unhealthy varieties, to your diet. Replacing fried starches, such as french fries, potato chips, doughnuts, fried plantains and restaurant appetizers, such as mozzarella sticks and batter-fried peppers, with grilled, baked and steamed foods can may keep your cholesterol levels, caloric intake and heart-health in check. The breading on fried meats, such as fried chicken, fish fillets and chicken nuggets, is another source of fried starch. Commercially prepared fried foods, such as potato and tortilla chips and doughnuts, contain trans fats, which can increase your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol and decrease your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol — a nutritional “double whammy,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Avoid these foods in particular for best results.