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While carbohydrates might be villainized by many fad diets today, complex carbohydrates are actually very good for you! Earlier this week, we shared creative summer wellness routines to try this season — two of which involved healthier dinners and getting better sleep. Combine both wellness routines with an evening supper rich in complex carbs. Research shows that eating complex carbohydrates before bed is important for higher quality and longer sleep. Plus, a diet high in complex carbohydrates improves your digestion, boosts your gut health, balances your blood sugar, and may even improve weight loss or support healthy weight maintenance. The following three recipes are delicious, easy to make, and get you a full serving of healthy complex carbs.

1. Easy Split Pea Soup

Split peas are high in a complex carbohydrate referred to as starches. A single 1/2 cup serving gets you 11 grams of healthy carbs, including 4 grams of fiber. You also get a high amount of immune system-supporting vitamin C (34% of your RDI) and vitamin K (24%). Even beyond providing a lot of good-for-you vitamins and minerals, peas are a great source of plant compounds and antioxidants. Take saponins, for example — this compound may help reduce your risks of diseases like cancer.

Enjoy all these health benefits with this easy-to-make split pea soup. It’s rich and creamy in texture, full of flavor, and takes very little prep time (perfect for a busy weekday dinner!).

1 tbsp avocado oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
4 c unsalted chicken broth (or a plant-based chicken broth)
4 c water
1 16-oz. bag of dried split peas
3 bay leaves
2 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 lb of ham shank or ham bone (optional if you follow a plant-based diet)
4 carrots, trimmed and chopped

Place a large stock pot on your stove. On medium heat, saute the onions and celery in the avocado oil until tender, then add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes or until the garlic is golden-brown and fragrant.

Add the water, broth, peas, bay leaves, seasoning, and salt. Stir well, then add the optional ham. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the peas cook for an hour. Add the carrots and simmer for another 30-60 minutes or until the peas have broken down into a creamy liquid. Enjoy!

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2. Zesty Leek-and-Oat Soup

Oats aren’t just for breakfast! Oats are a delicious, B-vitamin-rich food that’s exceptionally high in complex carbohydrates. A diet high in oats has been shown to improve your cholesterol levels, reduce your disease risks, strengthen your immune system, and so much more. Simmered with summer leeks and broth, the result is an Irish-inspired leek soup that’s hearty, warm and comforting.

1 tbsp butter
3 large leeks, cut lengthwise in half and then julienned
1/2 cup steel cut oats (gluten free if you follow a gluten-free diet)
4 cups chicken broth (or plant-based chicken broth if you follow a plant-based lifestyle)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh chives, minced

Saute the leeks in butter for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the broth and milk and raise the heat to bring the pot to a boil. Stir in the pepper and oatmeal and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cover the pot and let it simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve hot with the chives sprinkled on top for a garnish. Enjoy!

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3. Whole Wheat Baked Pasta Casserole

This effortless casserole is so rich and saucy, you won’t believe it’s actually good for you. Whereas most casseroles call for pasta made with refined grain, whole wheat pasta gets you high amounts of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and vital minerals and vitamins like riboflavin. And because this casserole is so flavorful, you can sneak in antioxidant-rich summer veggies like zucchini to increase this dinner’s nutritional profile without compromising its status as the ultimate comfort food (even picky kids won’t notice the veggies!).

Casserole:
2 cups dry whole wheat spiral pasta (ideally organic)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes (use a plant-based substitute if you prefer)
4 tbsp grass-fed organic butter, divided
2 medium zucchini, ends cut off then cubed
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 c half-and-half cream
3/4 pound cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
1 tsp Italian seasoning

Topping:
1 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil and cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on its package, as every pasta variety is different.

While the pasta is cooking, saute the cubed chicken in half of the butter until cooked well. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the rest of the butter, saute the zucchini and onion until tender and fragrant. Stir in the cream, then the flour, cheese, seasonings, and chicken.

In a 9×13 baking dish, add the drained pasta. Stir in the chicken-and-cream mixture and mix well.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake for 15 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and the topping has browned. Enjoy!

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