Boring Carbohydrates

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • When they're diagnosed with diabetes and told it would be good to restrict carbohydrates, many people complain, "But I love carbohydrates!" as if this were an unusual preference.


    Most people love carbohydrates . . . or think they do. They list foods like pizza, pasta, potatoes, and bread as their favorite foods.


    But is it really the carbs they love? Or is it what they put on the carbs?


    The bread in pizza is really just a way to hold the meat, cheese, tomato sauce, and other toppings together. Pasta is rarely eaten bare; you cover it with some kind of sauce, or at least some butter or olive oil and garlic. Potatoes are pretty bland just boiled and thrown onto your plate. Isn't it the butter or sour cream or cheese or whatever you serve them with that has most of the taste?

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    The same goes for bread. How many people eat a plain slice of bread? When I was growing up, being willing to eat a slice of bread without butter was a sign that you were truly hungry, so when we whined that we were hungry before dinner, hoping for a piece of candy or a slice of pie, we were offered only a slice of white bread. Quite often we rejected that. We weren't really hungry.


    Even when plain bread is tasty, it's not the flour we're enjoying; it's the texture, and the yeasty smell.


    Bread is often used as a sandwich or a convenient way to get butter and jam into your mouth. But do we really eat it because we like the taste of flour? I don't think so. Isn't the sandwich filling what we really taste when we eat a sandwich? The crunch of toast is nice, but again, it's not the flour we like. It's the crunch and the butter melted on top of the toast.


    It's the crunch, the fat, and the salt that makes potato chips appealing. The potato is just a vehicle for absorbing the fat and the salt.


    By chance I did an interesting experiment the other day that made me realize I don't miss carbohydrates at all. I had some new cabinets built in my kitchen, so I was cleaning out the old ones and came across some stuff I'd forgotten I had. One such item was some spaghetti made with durum wheat and jerusalem artichokes. I think when I got it, I thought it was mostly jerusalem artichoke, which contains a fiber called inulin and doesn't raise blood glucose much, but the artichoke actually constituted relatively little of the ingredients, so I only had it once.


    I threw most of the spaghetti away, but I decided to eat a little bit before I did because I couldn't remember what it tasted like. I slathered it with butter, and I also had some boiled cabbage with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice and garlic, along with a piece of meat. I thought the pasta would be a big treat.




    Even covered with butter, the pasta was boring. I ate most of the small serving on my plate, but I didn't particularly enjoy it; I couldn't wait to get to the much tastier cabbage with oil and lemon juice.


    A similar thing has occurred when I make a few soybeans or tepary beans, thinking it will be an interesting change from my normal diet of protein and low-carb vegetables. Again, even with butter or olive oil, I usually feel that the starchy food is just taking room on my plate that could be used for tastier stuff. If there's nothing green on my plate, I feel deprived.


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    Carbohydrates really aren't very tasty. They're just cheap ways to fill people up, great additions to the menu if you're feeding a bunch of teenaged boys who exercise a lot and you don't want to bankrupt yourself in the process.


    Knowing that the carbs are mostly just vehicles for tasty sauces, you can learn to substitute, figure out how you can get the tasty sauce without the starch. For example, the macaroni in macaroni and cheese has very little taste. You can make macaphoni and cheese instead, using small chunks of tofu in place of the pasta. The taste and texture are almost identical.


    Most people know about pureed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. Tofu shirataki noodles can be used as a base for tasty pasta sauces. They're best if you soak them for awhile in the sauces before you serve them. Or think of other ways to use the pasta sauces. How about green beans with spaghetti sauce? Or vegetable spaghetti? Or okra? All these veggies go well with tomato sauce.


    Sandwiches are the most difficult to find a substitute for. If you're at home, you can just eat your meat or egg sandwich between two large lettuce leaves, but these don't travel too well. And peanut butter on lettuce doesn't really ring my bell.


    When you need a sandwich away from home, there are various kinds of low-carb wraps that don't have many carbs. I like the flavor of Joseph's, which I occasionally use a half at a time. La Tortilla Factory also makes them. I've taken some low-carb wraps with me when I have to eat at a sandwich shop, and they're generally quite willing to use them in place of bread, especially when you say you're diabetic.


    What you need to do is figure out how you can keep eating your favorite tasty carb sauces without the carbs. Just keep reminding yourself that carbs themselves really aren't very tasty, and then reducing your consumption of carby foods becomes much much easier.



Published On: March 15, 2011