Recently I decided to take home all of the white rice that came along with my dinner at a local Chinese restaurant so I could, out of curiosity, measure the amount of rice commonly served with one single entrée. It was two full cups – 6 “carb choices” in diabetes language, or 90 grams of carbohydrate. The story is much the same with other “staple” starches like potatoes, pasta, or bread – concentrated carbohydrate in a food that we’ve known and loved since childhood. These foods are sometimes called a “staple food”— defined as a food that is eaten routinely, and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet in a given population.
Staple starches may still provide essential calories and carbohydrate energy for some poorly nourished people, but for most of us these foods are just a cultural or family tradition. And, with diabetes, staple starches can be a huge challenge because of that history.
It’s not that these foods are forbidden – the challenge is the portion size. The 15 grams of carbohydrate portion – one “carb choice” – is only ⅓ cup cooked rice or pasta, 3 ounces of white potato and one slice of bread. These are not “traditional” portions.
How can you keep your traditional staple starch on your menu without feeling deprived? Stop treating them like a bland filler. Prepare your rice, potato, or pasta with herbs and spices and/or with vegetables. By adding a boost of flavor to highlight the tastes of your staple starch you’ll feel like you are getting more food for less.
• Roast potatoes with a little olive oil, garlic and a fresh herb like rosemary
• Toast almonds or pecans to mix with brown rice and scallions, or make Spanish rice with tomatoes, cumin, oregano and cayenne
• Serve pasta with mushrooms or with sautéed vegetables
Powerful flavors can compensate for smaller portions, so give your traditional starch the recognition it deserves and you can have your starch and eat it too.