Almost Starch-Free Diet

cheddarveggiechicken

The picture above is a simple recipe:  chicken, veggies of your choice, spices and cheddar cheese.  It meets my definition of a starch-free recipe, and is as simple as it sounds.  Just wait until the very last minute to add the cheddar cheese, so it doesn’t make a mess or burn in your pan!

About a year and a half ago, my daughter and I went on an almost-starch-free diet.  It has been an adventure, and we have learned a lot!  At least for us, it has also been a big health improvement!  Weight loss is only part of the improvement.  Several health issues that we were dealing with have also greatly improved.

We were introduced to the idea through a friend.  At the time, my daughter was involved in a tremendous amount of exercise,walking in combination with riding her bicycle from Key West, Florida, to the Canadian border.  With all of that exercise, you would think that weight loss would be automatic.  Apparently, not with her metabolism!  I was accompanying her on her journey in my car, so she didn’t have to carry everything on her back, so she could switch back and forth from bicycling to walking, and to help keep her safe.  It was a fun journey, but that is another story for another day!

During our short stay with a friend during our journey, she suggested that my daughter try the paleo diet.  What we have ended up with is similar to the paleo diet, but one we feel works better for us.  Obviously, I chose to join her in this attempt to improve her health!  A couple of weeks later, still on our journey north, we had the opportunity to try, for one week, to live without starch.

After one week, and her walking over 100 miles, we realized that we felt better and weren’t hungry between meals.  Immediately after that week, we were back on our “normal” diet — and we felt bloated and awful!  Needless to say, we made the decision to try a starch-free diet on a long-term basis as soon as we had the opportunity to do so, which meant after our trip was completed — about six weeks later.

It has become a lifestyle choice for us.  We occasionally consume starch, but when we do, it is a conscious choice on our part.  For example, we take communion.  And once in awhile (3-4 times a year), we will deliberately consume starch for one reason or another (like not offending a friend who invites us to tea and serves only starchy snacks).

You may be wondering by now exactly what we DO eat.  It’s pretty simple, really.  All the meat we want, all the vegetables we want, some fruit, and lots of nuts and dairy (especially cheese and yogurt).  If we get hungry between meals, a hunk of cheese or a few nuts do wonders!  We do not worry about how MUCH fat we consume — only what TYPE of fat we consume.  So fried foods ARE on our menu!  In fact, we love stir-fry.  We use a lot of olive oil.  (I should mention, related to this brief discussion of fat consumption, that on this diet my high cholesterol problem has disappeared and I no longer have to be medicated for it!)

We try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, although frozen is also acceptable.  On anything we buy, the less processed it is, the better.  We also try to buy meat with as little fat as possible.  But we have found that it can be as inexpensive to eat this way as before!

Why do I say “almost” starch-free?  Because we use regular sugar, brown sugar, and honey instead of any substitutes.  After doing quite a bit of research on sugar substitutes, we came to the conclusion that we would rather choose “normal” sweeteners.  I’m not convinced that the substitutes don’t have long-term unhealthy results!  However, we try to LIMIT our consumption of sweets.  We DO, however, include chocolate in our diet, but preferably dark chocolate, and in small quantities.

Going out to eat can be challenging.  I don’t always want to eat just salads!  However, I have found that a lot of restaurants in America now offer a paleo menu.  There are usually several options to choose from that I find acceptable.  So I can eat out with my friends and not make a big issue out of my choice of foods!

Eating in a restaurant overseas, especially a third-world country like Guatemala, is MUCH more challenging!  I tell the waiter/waitress that I want no bread, so often I end up with a tortilla.  Not quite what I had in mind!  LOL!  And no rice.  And no potatoes.  As you can see, it definitely limits my options in those situations!  So I often go for something that (hopefully) does not have any (or much) starch in it, like chili, or meat and vegetable shish-kebabs.

It can also be interesting going to parties — if you ever take note, there are very few party snacks that do NOT include starch!  So we often take something to “contribute” to the snacks, so there is at least SOMETHING we can snack on!  What we take may even be “disguised” as starch, but actually has no starch in it!  Another option is to carry in our purses a snack that we CAN eat, such as a handful of almonds.  In Guatemala, I have found a snack option readily available that’s not easily found here — plantain chips!

If you came to this website looking for recipes, I’m quite willing to provide a few.  There are plenty of recipes available on the internet, though.  Watch out for anything that includes flour or other starches as ingredients.  On the paleo recipes, I always substitute real sugar or honey or brown sugar for the sweetener they list, though you probably want to do a little research on equivalents so it tastes right.  Below is a recipe my daughter came up with.  It is a great substitute or Hash Browns — you and your guests will have a hard time believing what they are actually made from!

Baby Lima Bean Hash

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups dried Great Northern beans
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • cumin
  • minced onion
  • garlic
  • chili powder
  • extra virgin olive oil

Soak and prepare Great Northern beans until soft.  Then chop or mash the beans (I used a hand food chopper).  Mix in the eggs and cheese and seasoning (to taste), then simply fry up in olive oil the way you would hash-browns.

Top with sour cream, salsa, BBQ sauce, tomatoes, sautéed onions/mushrooms, extra cheese or anything else you might put on hash-browns.

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