OK kids, it’s time to talk about unpackaged carbs.
Here’s the thing about packages— opening them is very satisfying. Wanting a snack and having a tidy package right there with a ready-made snack inside is extremely convenient and delicious. We used to have a cat that would come running when he heard the rustling of his food bag because he knew we were filling his dish. Now we have 5 humans in my house who come running when they hear the crinkle of a bag being opened and we can tell what kind of bag it is— Chips? Cookies? Cereal?— because we are gifted.
But packages can be a double-edged sword. You can come running, eat the handful of chips in 30 seconds flat and still be ravenous for some nourishment. In similar fashion, you can eat half the lemon meringue cheesecake slice, fall asleep from the sugar crash, and upon waking decide that you MUST eat the remainder of the cheesecake, even knowing that this bender will be followed by 2 days of crud-recovery while your body is reeling and asking “what on earth did you DO to me???” Or so I’m told…
And here’s the thing about my family— they think ‘upgraded carbs’ is code for ‘not the good stuff,’ and they think my newfound healthy ways are great for me, but otherwise little more than an attempt to get them to eat gross things. Zucchini, heaven forbid.
What I’m trying to say is: It’s a bit of a process.
I’ve really mulled over how to reconcile these challenges. I don’t necessarily need the same treats as they’re having, but I still want to feel like I’m having a treat. The goal is to keep everyone reasonably happy, while not finding myself huddled in a corner, mainlining quesadillas.
Where I’ve landed so far is that my family gets some of their regular packaged treats, mostly things I’m not as tempted by, while I adjust for myself. So for example if they want chips and dip, I will put out dip and veggies, and then I will put chips in individual-serving-sized bowls for them [and maybe even make them do that for themselves, to minimize my own risk]. The dip on the veggies gives me enough of a kick that I don’t feel deprived by skipping the chips… and if I’m feeling really brave I set a before-chips veggie quota for the kids.
If they end up with an afternoon cookie snack, I’ll whip up a dark chocolate, gluten-free mug cake. It’s a good balance of efforts: easy enough to make within a few minutes [daily, if necessary], but difficult enough that I’m not going to take the time to make another after the first. Portion control!!!
We do a good bit of potatoes with dinner and very often I’ll throw white ones on the grill for some and sweet potatoes on for those of us that enjoy them. By the way, you know what’s good on potatoes? Lots and lots and lots of stuff. Meats. Veggies. Chili. Salsa. Awesomeness.
If we’re having tacos or burritos, I’ll have the same toppings as everyone else but put them on a nice bed of lettuce instead of a tortilla [romaine stands up to hot stuff]. This is especially fantastic if we are out at Chipotle. The ginormous portion size makes it a treat, but on the upside, I’m not over in the corner with the quesadillas, which is serious progress.
I will be honest; the first several weeks of this were a little tricky as I was re-training myself not to reach for all the same things my kids were having. There are still times I grab for packages, then re-think and [on a good day] put them back. As time goes on though, I find myself craving the packaged carbs less, and defaulting more to thinking about what my body needs and/or handles well, because it’s nice not to carb-crash on the regular.
As time goes on though, I find myself craving the packaged carbs less, and defaulting more to thinking about what my body needs and/or handles well, because it’s nice not to carb-crash on the regular.
Finally, I would feel remiss if I did not share with you my number one life-changing unpackaged carb tip and that is to boil your brown rice like pasta. Here’s what you do: bring a big pot of salty water to a boil, just like you would for pasta. Phase 1 is the boil: pour in as much rice as you want—a little or a lot—and boil, uncovered for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and drain [use good sense on your strainer, please]. Phase 2 is the steam: put the rice back in the hot pot, covered, for 10 minutes on NO heat. If you are feeling like a superstar, add some carrot or cabbage shreds, diced bell peppers, or snow peas. The result will be perfectly done, slightly nutty rice you can eat right then or stick in the fridge for reheating throughout the week.
Nourishing carbs really do feel better than empty ones, and in my experience it is WELL worth the effort to switch habits and take the time to prep and enjoy them. Before you know it you might even find yourself making healthy additions to your meals on purpose and wonder what sort of voodoo is going on because seriously, this never happens.**
Nourishing carbs really do feel better than empty ones and I feel it is worth the effort to switch habits and take the time to prep and enjoy them.
And then Ellie will smile sweetly and say, “You’re welcome!”
**All of the above is null and void if it is, say, Cinco de Mayo and we find ourselves waiting for over an hour at one of the few decent actual Mexican places in New England, and I find a seafood chimichanga on the menu. I will do a little damage control in the way of drinking a lot of water and minimizing the corn chips, but in the name of all culinary things I will be eating the chimichanga, enjoying the HECK out of it, and going straight to bed when we get home because it’s late, and because holy-deep-fried-tortillas, I’m tired.