Top 10 Foods Highest in Carbohydrates (To Limit or Avoid)

Photo of Daisy Whitbread Written by Daisy Whitbread
BSc (Hons) MSc DipION
Photo of Dr. Nicolette Natale Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Nicolette Natale
Evidence Based. References sourced from PubMed.
Powered by USDA Nutrition Data.
Top 10 Foods Highest in Carbohydrates (To Limit or Avoid)

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients required by the body for proper functioning and good health. The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy to the body, including the brain. (1,2)

Healthy high carb foods like whole grains, plus fruits and vegetables (also classed as carbohydrates) are an essential part of a balanced diet. Eating plenty of healthy high carb foods reduces the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. (3,4) On the other hand, excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates like sugar or corn syrup, can increase our risk of the same diseases. (4,5)

Unhealthy high-carbohydrate foods include pancakes, soft pretzels, bread products, ready-to-eat cereals, milkshakes, ice cream, cereal bars, cake, pies, muffins, sweetened canned fruits, sugary drinks, fruit juices, corn chips, potato chips, and candies. Healthy high- carbohydrate foods include whole grains, beans, vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds. The daily value (DV) for carbohydrates is 275 grams. (6)

Below is a list of foods highest in carbohydrates to avoid. For more see the extended list of carb-rich restaurant foods to avoid. To see a list of which carbs to eat, see the list of healthy high-carb foods.

Printable One Page Sheet

Click to Print
A printable list of the top 10 foods highest in carbs to avoid.

Restaurant Foods High in Carbs

1. Sweet and Sour Chicken per order 61% DV
2. Vegetable Lo Mein per order 54% DV
3. Fast Foods (Applebees Onion Rings) per order 51% DV
4. Fast Foods (Hot Cakes with Syrup) per 3 pancakes 37% DV
5. Carrabbas Italian Grill Spaghetti With Pomodoro Sauce per order 33% DV
6. Olive Garden Spaghetti With Meat Sauce per order 33% DV
7. McDonalds McFlurry With Oreo Cookies per 12oz shake 31% DV
8. Taco Bell Taco Salad per order 29% DV
9. TGI Fridays French Fries per order 25% DV
10. Dennys Mozzarella Cheese Sticks per order 23% DV

The daily value (%DV) for carbohydrates is 275g and is a general target intended for most people. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) shows specific targets by age and gender. The RDA for carbohydrates is between 60g - 130g for most people.

Life StageRDA
0-6 months old*60g
7-12 months old*95g
1-3 years old130g
4-8 years old130g
9+ years old130g
9+ years old130g
14-50 years old175g
14-50 years old210g

Use the ranking tool links below to select foods and create your own food list to share or print.

View more nutrients with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

  1. Qi X, Tester RF. Physiology, Carbohydrates Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2019 Oct;33:18-28. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2019.07.004. Epub 2019 Jul 19. 31451258
  2. Wali JA, Raubenheimer D, Senior AM, Le Couteur DG, Simpson SJ. Importance of Carbohydrate Quality: What Does It Mean and How to Measure It? Cardiovasc Res. 2021 Jan 21;117(2):386-401. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvaa136. 32386289
  3. Slavin J. Whole grains and human health Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):129-34. doi: 10.1079/PNS2002221. 12740067
  4. Perler BK, Friedman ES, Wu GD. The Burden of Carbohydrates in Health and Disease Annu Rev Physiol. 2023 Feb 10;85:449-468. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-031522-092054. Epub 2022 Nov 14. 36375468
  5. Sievenpiper JL. Carbohydrates: Separating fact from fiction Nutr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;78(Suppl 1):69-77. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz082. 32728757
  6. U.S.FDA - Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels
MyFoodData provides free nutrition data tools and articles to help you organize and understand the foods you eat.

Try the recipe nutrition calculator, or daily meal planner.

Create a free account to log and track foods.