Comfort Food Alternatives to Bread, Pasta, Potatoes and Rice

Parsnips, carrots, beetroot and swedeWith autumn on its way, our diets naturally move from cold foods to hot meals. We want food to be warming especially when we’ve been out in chilly temperatures or rainy nights. Salads become soup; stir fries become curries; stew, chilli-con-carne and bolognaise begin to reappear. And with that there is an increase in white starchy carbohydrates, namely bread, pasta, bread, potatoes and rice. The body naturally reaches for these foods because they are easier to digest, therefore reducing the amount of effort that goes into absorbing the nutrients as well as to provide it with the body with lots of glucose that gives it that boost when battling against the elements.

As regular readers to this blog and my BitchBuzz column are aware, too many portions of these white carbs can result in weight gain because the body converts excess glucose into fat to store for the next time we are chasing after that sabre-toothed tiger. Rather than talk about portion control I want to focus on alternatives to these starchy carbs. The alternatives aren’t the holy grail but they contain more nutrients and as well as provide a well-needed change to our habitual diets.

Quinoa: often referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. From South America, this superfood is the only naturally occurring vegetable form of complete protein. This means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that our body needs to build the protein that it requires for growth and repair.

Used as a replacement for rice or pasta, the disadvantage of quinoa is that it can taste a little dusty on its own. So I always add stronger taste, whether it be a curry sauce, fresh herbs or spices, or my favourite, lightly cooked garlic and onion with olive oil.

Quinoa is now available in most high street supermarkets and health food shops – you can buy either red or white varieties – each containing it’s own powerhouse of nutrients.

Millet: Used as an alternative to rice, this grain is rather special as it is the only alkaline grain in nature. This means that it helps your body achieve its natural pH balance of 7. Most of the food we eat; namely meat, dairy, sugar, fats; are acidic in the body. Acidic bodies are a breeding ground for disease so the more alkaline foods – vegetables, fruit and millet – the better.

Brown rice: the main complaint about brown rice that it is hard and not easy to eat. The solution is to avoid brown long-grain or basmati rice like the plague. Short-grain rice is the only option. It absorbs the most water and can be quite fluffy and nutty. I’m so used to it now, I almost get blinded by white rice, and have been known to accuse my rice of being white when in fact it is brown. The best way to get your taste buds into brown rice is to add extra tasty ingredients to it. The most effective combination is onion and cumin seeds. **Just gently fry some chopped onion in olive oil, add a couple of spoonfuls of cumin seeds and cook for a couple of minutes until you start to smell them. Then add the mixture to the rice and even the most anti-brown ricer will be converted**

Root Vegetable mash: swede, turnip, parsnip, carrot, beetroot and celeriac can be boiled, drained and mashed instead of potato.

**Combine in twos, for example, carrot and beetroot, swede and parsnip or carrot and celeriac; with a little butter or olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. It can also be squished into patties and dry fried as an accompaniment to a main dish**

Root vegetable chips: are great for kids instead of chips. Cut any of the above into thin lengths, sprinkle with olive oil and roast in a hot oven for approximately 30-40 minutes. Add some chilli flakes or cumin seeds for that extra pzazz.

Image by blmurch

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