Health & Nutrition

Healthier RTE: Better Carbohydrates

Busy families and office workers enjoy the simplicity and convenience of ready-to-eat (RTE) meals. RTE meal provides an easy way to save time and energy on busy weeknights but not all of them meet the requirements which your body requires. They are mostly loaded with carbohydrates and perhaps have gotten a bad rep over the years especially with the buzz of the trendy ketogenic diet.

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, known as an umbrella term that encompasses sugar, fruits, vegetables, fibers, and legumes7. Adults should consume 45–65% of their total calories from carbohydrates. It provides the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support body functions and physical activity13. Many consumers are now aware that they should include higher quality carbohydrates in their diet and the image of whole grains as a better choice is now firmly established in consumers’ mind9.


Quinoa is a highly nutritious pseudo-grain due to its outstanding protein quality and wide range of minerals and vitamins12. Quinoa is a rich source of carbohydrates and is one of the rare plants which have all 9 essential amino acids and highest protein content in all cereals11.  Thanks to its high fibre content and low glycemic index, it has been linked to weight loss and healthy living1. Adding fibre-rich foods like quinoa into your diet can promotes satiety and help support digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and fueling beneficial bacteria in the gut2,3,5. Since quinoa is so versatile, there are many ways to incorporate it into RTE meals, especially as a better-for-you substitute in place of potatoes, rice, and other starchy sides.


Oat is a good source of carbohydrates and quality protein with excellent amino acid profile. It also contains much higher levels of lipids than other cereals which are excellent sources of energy and unsaturated fatty acids10.  As for the micronutrients, oats are particularly rich in potassium. The distinguishing feature of oats is its rich content of dietary fibre, especially soluble β-glucans15. Oat β-glucans has been studied extensively for its effects on heart health and cholesterol levels, as well as blood glucose regulation8,14. Oats are made to oatmeal cup which is a filling breakfast that is ready to eat on your way to work, after your morning workout, or at the office in less than a minute.

Choosing Healthier Carbs6

Instead of..Try..
White riceBrown rice, quinoa, riced cauliflower
White potatoes (including fries and mashed potatoes)Cauliflower mash, sweet potato
Regular pastaWhole-wheat pasta, spaghetti squash
White breadWhole-wheat or whole-grain bread
Sugary breakfast cerealHigh-fibre, low-sugar cereal
Instant oatmealSteel-cut or rolled oats
CornflakesLow-sugar bran flakes
Sugary fruit juicesWhole Fruits

Follow these recommendations,

            In other words, it is recommended to limit high processed foods, refined simple sugars which provide calories but has minimal nutrition. Get more complex carbohydrates and healthy nutrients by eating more fruits and vegetables. Lastly, focus on whole-grain rice, breads and cereals, and legumes like beans, lentils and dried peas4. However, balance is key. Your body needs a variety of nutritious foods to get all the necessary nutrients – not just carbohydrates. Read the food label and pairing foods with healthy carbs with other nutrient-dense foods will enable you to choose a healthier RTE meal options so you can save time without it being a detriment to your health.


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2Agarwal, N., Kolba, N., Khen, N., Even, C., Turjeman, S., Koren, O., & Tako, E. (2022). Quinoa Soluble Fiber and Quercetin Alter the Composition of the Gut Microbiome and Improve Brush Border Membrane Morphology In Vivo (Gallus gallus). Nutrients, 14(3), 448.

3Akbar, A., & Shreenath, A.P. (2021). High Fiber Diet. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

4American Heart Association. (2018). Carbohydrates.

5Graf, B., Rojas-Silva, P., Rojo, L., Delatorre-Herrera, J., Baldeón, M., & Raskin, I. (2015). Innovations in Health Value and Functional Food Development of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoaWilld.). Comprehensive Reviews In Food Science And Food Safety, 14(4), 431-445.

6HelpGuide Org International. (2021). Refined Carbs and Sugar: The Diet Saboteurs.

7Holesh J. E., Aslam, S., & Martin, A. (2021). Physiology, Carbohydrates. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

8Joyce, S., Kamil, A., Fleige, L., & Gahan, C. (2019). The Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Oats and Oat Beta Glucan: Modes of Action and Potential Role of Bile Acids and the Microbiome. Frontiers In Nutrition, 6.

9New Nutrition Business. (2021). 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2022. Industry Report.

10Rasane, P., Jha, A., Sabikhi, L., Kumar, A., & Unnikrishnan, V. (2013). Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods – a review. Journal Of Food Science And Technology, 52(2), 662-675.

11Rizwan, B., Noreen, S., Mubarik, F., Attique, A., Naeem, M., Siddiqa, A., Farooq, F., & Mehmood, A. (2020). Quinoa- A nutritive and health perspective. International Journal of Biosciences, 17(2), 169-178.

12Sharma, V., Chandra, S., Dwivedi, P., & Parturkar, M. (2015). Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): A Nutritional Healthy Grain. International Journal of Advanced Research, 3(9), 725-736.

13Slavin, J., & Carlson, J. (2014). Carbohydrates. Advances In Nutrition, 5(6), 760-761.

14Wang, Q., & Ellis, P. (2014). Oat β-glucan: physico-chemical characteristics in relation to its blood-glucose and cholesterol-lowering properties. British Journal Of Nutrition, 112(S2), S4-S13.

15Zhang, K., Dong, R., Hu, X., Ren, C., & Li, Y. (2021). Oat-Based Foods: Chemical Constituents, Glycemic Index, and the Effect of Processing. Foods, 10(6), 1304.