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Staunching Starches: 4 Tips for Cutting Back on Starchy Carbs

Tips for reducing refined flour and starchy carbsIn my last post, I offered 5 tips for cutting back on refined sugar, which factored into my weight loss goal discussed in The Benefits of Moving Outside Our Comfort Zones. Today I’ll offer advice for doing the same with starchy carbs. For the record, carbs are not the enemy. There are plenty of healthy carbs that you can and should be incorporating into a healthy, balanced diet. Fruits and vegetable are all carbohydrates that can be eaten in abundance. What causes us to overeat sometimes is starchy carbs, especially ones containing refined flours.

Eating the Right Balance

According to Barry Sears, creator of the Zone diet, it’s not about eliminating all of a single thing, whether it’s carbs, protein or fats. It’s about getting the right balance of all 3 in your body, opting for the healthiest versions of each. The trouble is that in North America we tend to eat too many unhealthy carbs by way of refined sugars and starchy options.

4 Tips for Reducing Starchy Carbs in Your Diet

1. Replace them with fruits and veggies. We are used to filling our plates with starchy fillers, whether it’s french fries, pasta or rice. It’s usually cheaper and easier to use starchy carbs to round out our meals. There are a number of tasty replacements that can be made that won’t leave you wanting. For breakfast, replace toast or hashbrowns with servings of fruit. You’ll be able to load up on different options like grapefruit, oranges, pineapple, berries etc. For a convenience food, have a fruit salad served with cottage cheese or a smoothie with fruits, spinach & protein powder rather than reaching for cereal. A sandwich can be made with lettuce leaves instead of bread. And instead of spaghetti, try putting your Bolognese sauce on roast spaghetti squash. There are lots of creative options if you take the time to look into them.

2. Reduce portions of starchy carbs. You don’t have to eliminate all starchy carbs, if you just minimize the ones you do have. If you can’t live without bread in your sandwiches, try making or buying your bread in whole wheat (unsliced) loaves then slicing the bread thinly. Alternatively, you could use bread on one side and lettuce on the other. Try using rice, potatoes or quinoa as an accent rather than serving your food on a huge bed of it. I like mixing small portions of them into salads, soups or stews. Even when I make curry, I just blend a smaller amount of rice directly into the curry rather then serving it on a bed of rice. Check out this zone block guide to get a better idea of how many grams of carbs you get in different foods, so you can better balance them in your diet.

3. Avoid refined starchy carbs. The more refined your starchy carbs, the less fibre is contained in them. This results in the food being metabolized more quickly, leaving you feeling more hungry. The metabolized carbohydrates (especially from white flour) also have a drastic affect on a person’s glycemic response, which in turn lowers immune system response, creates inflammation in the body, and disrupts digestion. If you’re going to include starchy carbs in your diet, choose brown or whole grain rice, quinoa, potatoes with their skins (boiled, grilled, baked or roasted), barley, millet, oats, etc, instead of bread, pasta, bagels, waffles, crackers, etc. If you must have bread, cereal, etc, at least buy ones made from whole grains, which will provide a little more fibre than their white counterparts.

4. Don’t buy starchy snacks. People have a tendency to graze on snack foods, especially when we’re at work, on the go, or when we’ve waited to long between meals. This is when we tend to reach for convenience food like crackers, cookies, doughnuts, pastries, chips, etc. Try to keep healthier options in your fridge, in your purse or glove compartment or at work, like fresh fruit, trail mix, nuts, unsweetened apple sauce, string cheese, deli meats, cut-up veggies, hummus, etc. Unsweetened yogurt, cottage or ricotta cheese are all great options for pairing with fresh fruit.

Feel free to also allow for the occasional “cheat meal” every couple of weeks. This will help you when you’re going out for a meal at a restaurant or at a friend’s place so you don’t have to say no to foods or come across as rude. It also helps keep you sane if you really can’t live without your favourite breads, pastas and pastries.

Have you discovered some great ideas and/or recipes that help you cut back on starchy carbs? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments. 🙂

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