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/ Source: TODAY
By Joy Bauer

Carbs get a bad rap, but there's no need to avoid them completely. If you're looking to clean up your diet, improve your blood sugar, or lose weight, here's a manageable goal: eat fewer refined carbs (found in white bread and rice, cookies and candy) that provide little nutrition, spike your blood sugar, and leave you feeling hungry later.

Instead, embrace high-quality complex forms (found in whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies) that also shower your body with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Try these four clever carb swaps to start eating and feeling better.

TODAY

Bagels

Standard bagels are made with refined, junky white flour and void of nutrition. To make matters worse, they typically weigh in at about 450 calories, and that’s before you even consider any of the toppings you spread on. FYI: that’s the equivalent of about 6 slices of white bread! Instead, my skinny bagelis made with whole grain flour, non-fat Greek yogurt and chia seeds. And, it provides 10 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, plus vitamins and minerals for just 140 calories. It’s one delicious and diet-friendly deal.

Mashed potatoes

Whether you’re watching your carbs or trying to lose weight, or if you simply love hot, creamy comfort food, making a batch of mashed potatoes using cauliflower is a smart move. While one cup of mashed potatoes made with starchy spuds will cost you about 300 calories and 37 grams of carbs, my new and improved lightened up rendition is only 70 calories and 8 grams of carb. Plus, cauliflower is a cruciferous veggie with cancer fighting capabilities!

RELATED: 9 easy tips from all of the best diets

TODAY

Pancakes

A stack of three diner-style flapjacks is basically a mound of junky, refined white flour topped with sugary syrup and butter. They may taste good going down, but between the lousy ingredients and the 750-calorie load, you’ll probably leave the table feeling bloated and have an energy crash soon after.

Instead, make my 3-ingredient pancakes for just 215 calories and enjoy the added bonus of 10 grams protein and 4 grams filling fiber! And since the banana adds natural sweetness, there’s a good chance you won’t even need any syrup. They’re easy to make and yummy to eat.

Pasta

While it’s perfectly fine to dig into a delicious bowl of traditional pasta every once in a while, standard starchy noodles are white and refined and typically stripped of whole grain goodness. Instead, here are a few better-for-you brands to stash in the spaghetti section of your pantry. (And no, they don’t taste like cardboard.). While, the calories are similar to traditional pasta, each of these innovative options offer up about double the protein and triple the fiber. Mix them with some light marinara sauce and a sprinkling of parm for an Italian feast with staying power.

Ancient Harvest POW! makes protein-rich penne pairing quinoa with green lentils and protein-rich elbows pairing quinoa with black beans.

Banza pasta comes in a variety of shapes and is made with chickpeas and pea protein, so it’s higher in protein and fiber compared to traditional pasta.

Tolerant pasta is made with either red lentils or a combo of black beans, lentils and chickpeas. Lentils are like the king of legumes, offering a slew of vitamins and minerals, including a nice amount of plant-based iron.

For more healthy tips and recipes, follow Joy on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and check out her cookbook From Junk Food to Joy Food.​ Watch her on NBC's Health+Happiness every weekend.