Skip to main content


Open Main MenuClose Main Menu

Complex Carbohydrates for Energy and Fiber

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient. They give you energy to do daily tasks. There are two types of carbohydrates.


Simple carbohydrates are the sugars added to foods and beverages to sweeten the flavor. Foods with added sugar often supply calories but few or no important nutrients and no fiber. Examples include sugar-sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, pastries, and candy. Try to eat less of these foods. Complex carbohydrates are naturally found in foods such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. These foods provide healthy calories and nutrients important for you and your baby’s health. Choose more of these foods.


What is fiber? Many of the same foods that provide complex carbohydrates provide fiber. Fiber is the part of food that your body does not digest and is sometimes called roughage or bulk. It keeps food moving through the digestive system and can help prevent constipation. Fiber is important because it helps regulate blood sugars, lowers cholesterol, keeps you feeling full and satisfied, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and lowers your risk of heart disease.


Many people do not eat enough fiber-rich foods. Increase the amount you eat slowly. For example, add an extra vegetable or fruit each day until you reach the recommended goals. As you add more fiber to your diet, make sure that you are drinking at least 8 to 9 cups of fluid each day. To help you get enough complex carbohydrates and fiber, choose foods from the grain, fruit and vegetable food groups.


Breads and Cereals 

When you buy breads and cereals, look for the words whole grain, whole wheat, whole oats, oatmeal, or brown rice on the ingredient label.Try to eat 6 ounces of breads, cereals, pasta or rice each day during the first trimester of pregnancy. During the second and third trimester, increase bread and cereal servings to eight or nine servings. This will provide the extra calories and fiber you need. At least 3 ounces need to be whole grain. One ounce is 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta, and about ¾ cup of ready-to-eat cereal.


INGREDIENTS: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat bran, high fructose corn syrup, rolled wheat, wheat gluten, yeast...


Be aware: Products that say multi-grain, 100% wheat, and seven grain on the label may not be whole grain products. 


Tips for eating more whole grains

  • Eat 100% whole wheat crackers
  • Try whole wheat pasta
  • Add brown rice to a bean dish
  • Choose oatmeal for breakfast
  • Sprinkle chia seeds or flaxseeds on smoothies and oatmeal
  • Eat popcorn for a snack
  • Add black beans to a taco or salad


Fruits and Vegetables

Focus on eating 2 cups of fruit each day. A medium size piece of fresh fruit is about 1 cup. You can also choose canned and cooked fruits. When you buy canned fruit, look for fruit packed in fruit juice or water.

  • Eat a variety of different vegetables to get 2½ cups of vegetables each day.
  • Tips for eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Eat fresh, canned, or dried fruits for dessert.
  • Carry apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes, or raisins with you for a snack.


Deana Hildebrand, PhD, RD, LD

Professor & Extension Specialist


Christine Walters, MS, RDN

Dietetic Intern, Extension Program Assistant


Tori Compton

Dietetic Intern, Extension Program Assistant

Was this information helpful?
Fact Sheet
Understanding Free Sulfur Dioxide (FSO₂) in Wine

By Aaron Essary. Learn about the use and differnt forms of Free Sulfur Dioxide in winemaking. Tags: SO2, Free SO2, Sulfur Dioxide, Wine, Winemaking.

Cooking & Food SafetyCooking Techniques & RecipesCropsFruits & Tree NutsGrapes & Wine
Fact Sheet
Change the Trivia Questions – Now There Are "Nine Major Food Allergens"

By William McGlynn, Ravi Jadeja, Renee’ Albers-Nelson and Darren Scott. Learn about the newest major food allergen.

Cooking & Food Safety
Fact Sheet
Common Ticks of Oklahoma and Tick-Borne Diseases

By Jonathan A. Cammack, Bruce H. Noden, Justin L. Talley. Learn about the ticks that are native and/or common to Oklahoma and the various diseases they may carry.

CropsHealth, Nutrition & WellnessInsects, Pests, and DiseasesLawn & Garden Insects, Pests, & Diseases
Fact Sheet
Food Emulsifiers

By Nurhan Turgut Dunford. Learn about basic information on emulsifiers commonly used for formulating food products and tips for selecting a suitable one.

Cooking & Food SafetyFood Products
Back To Top