Living Well

Pairing Carbs with Protein

When it comes to dieting, there are tons of silly rules out there on pairing and not pairing foods for health. One recommendation that is healthy for most individuals is to pair carbohydrate and protein foods. Any time you eat a carbohydrate food, also eat a protein food. For example, if you eat an apple, have a little peanut butter; if you eat popcorn, also eat a string cheese.

Carbohydrates and proteins are both nutrients that provide our bodies with calories. Fats also contain calories. When broken down in our bodies, carbohydrates are broken into small units of sugar and proteins are broken into amino acids. The sugars are absorbed and used by the body for energy and the amino acids are used by our cells for a variety of processes includes: building hormones, neurotransmitters, and muscle.

When you eat a carbohydrate food and your body breaks it down into sugar, naturally your blood sugar rises as this sugar is absorbed. Pairing carbohydrates and protein foods reduces spikes in blood sugar.

If the food also contain fiber, it will help control your appetite. The fiber takes longer to digest which means we feel fuller longer and are less likely to be hungry before our next meal. When possible, choose carbohydrate foods with 3 or more grams of fiber!

Pairing carbohydrates and protein is healthy for almost all people including individuals with diabetes and those who want to prevent diabetes. Please note: if you need to increase your blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) due to a diabetic low, avoid fiber and protein as this will hinder getting blood sugar back to a normal level.

Pairing carbohydrate and protein food is an easy way to control blood sugar and appetite. Here is our chart of carbohydrate and protein foods to get you thinking about delicious pairs!

    Foods containing carbohydrates and protein:

    • Cow’s and soy milk
    • Yogurt including traditional and Greek varieties.  Greek yogurt has more protein, but traditional yogurt still contains protein, just as smaller amount
    • Hummus and other bean based dips/spreads
    • Protein bars such as Quest and ONE bars

    Hummus is made from garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, and is a source of carbohydrate and protein. Enjoy this sweet version of hummus and enjoy with fresh fruit or by the spoon! Yum!

    Chocolate Hummus


    • 1 can cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup or raw honey
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
    • 1/2 cup milk, diary or non-dairy
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


    1. Place chickpeas, cocoa powder, and maple syrup/honey in a food processor or high powered blender.
    2. Process/blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the melted chocolate chips followed by the milk.
    3. Enjoy with fruit, whole grain graham crackers, or by the spoonful! Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

    This medical and/or nutritional information is not intended to be a substitute for individual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

    Stephanie Edson Regional Wellness Specialist, MS, RDN, LD, LMNT
    Stephanie is an award-winning registered dietitian who believes in empowering every individual to make nutritious food choices to support a healthy lifestyle. She believes in the power of food as medicine and loves sharing about nutrition with others.