Thursday, April 25, 2013

Carb Ideas for gluten or grain free diets

I always hope to find a grain we can use for our meals, especially now that we're trying to make bento lunches, but since we can't do that yet, we're going to be working on some substitutions for our carbohydrate needs. For a 600 mL bento, according to, there's usually around 1 cup of rice, which has 43 grams of carbs and is around 200 calories.

If we use potatoes, like we did in this bento:

our bento with potatoes rather than rice

We only get 25 grams of carbs for 1 cup of fried potatoes, although when fried, we get around 360 calories (the potatoes without the oil are around 120 calories by themselves). With the above bento, we had quick pickled bell peppers, mini italian meatballs, roasted broccoli, and fried rosemary potatoes, with quick pickled zucchini pieces and red bell pepper pieces for decoration. To get more carbs, I probably should have added some fruit, as well. 

As you can see, we still had lots of space we could have filled up the bento with, though, so I could have added the fruit with room to spare. This was enough food for my daughter's meal, but my son tried to avoid eating most of his veggies and was hungry again within an hour. Sigh. 

Using resources like the ones I talk about here, I'm trying to work out how many carbs and calories the kids should be having, to help me set up these bentos properly. Because we have so many food issues, we have a Dietician (I always screw up and call her a nutritionist) who helps, but to be honest, a Dietician is less help than I would hope for in the best case.

A Dietician is working off of the information they have, obviously. But many times, that information is based on having available foods that my family simply doesn't have. Just as an example, we don't have dairy, so there has to be other calcium sources, except since I react to high sulfur foods and foods with certain pesticides, that eliminates most of the best sources of veggie calcium from my diet.

In fact, my high-calcium foods are so limited that I've had to look at foraging sources, like cholla cactus buds. As you can imagine, cholla cactus is not on the regular charts a Dietician has available. SO many of my food requirements end up like this, where all the available sources are not available to me, so I have to get some basic guidelines from my Dietician and then hunt around until I find sources for these. Don't get me wrong, my Dietician is awesome, and she tries really hard. Knowing my pesticide issues, she's even called local farms to see if they use them. Truly, she's great.

But at the end of the day, I've had to figure a lot of this out on my own, at least many of the details.

At this point, I'm using the recommendations from the USDA and my Dietician and seeing how these work for us. If you've never looked into it, you might be interested to know that different countries actually have different recommendations for daily intake of things like vitamins, carbs, protein, even calories. I always try to remember that because I think it's important to realize that the medical community is not infallible, and they don't all agree on what is best for our bodies.

If they don't agree on what is needed for us to be healthy, then I think we as adults have a responsibility to pay attention to our bodies and determine if the recommended nutrient levels are working for us or if we need more, or possibly even don't require as much as recommended. Most countries don't vary on recommendations that much, but there's variation in their recommendations, and I personally believe there's variation in individual needs, too.

So, according to the USDA, my son's age group, 9-13 years, should be having around 2,300 calories a day. The minimum daily carbs recommended for him are 130 grams a day.

My daughter's age group, 14-18, and my own age group should be eating around 2,400 calories a day (about 700 more than that is for boys the same age group). The minimum carbs recommended for both of us is also 130 grams a day.

These minimum carbs are determined based on what is considered the minimum necessary to provide energy for your brain, which is not something I ever really thought about. Never knew carbs were as important to my brain as they seem to be.

Now even thought the above amount is the minimum, carb sources are also supposed to make up about 45-65% of your daily calories. For my son, that's nearly 260 grams of carbs per day, minimum (1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories). For my daughter and I, that's 270 grams of carbs daily.

When you aren't eating any grains, or are gluten free but not rich enough to buy five tons of GF grains, that's a lot of carbs to work into the diet! I really don't want us to be having potatoes with every meal for our carbs, even though my Irish genes would probably be quite happy with that, so I need more variety.

Gluten free and/or grain free carbs for lunches and bentos:
- Rice can work for those who can have grains but need to be gluten free. 
- If you have problems with rice due to corn issues or other reasons, I think sorghum, quinoa, or millet could go well with savory foods.  I think amaranth and teff have too much of a porridge consistency to go well with this type of meal. 
- If I could find a safe, non-GMO corn masa that I could have, I'd make mini-corn tortillas in a heart beat.
- mashed potato, turnip, rutabaga, or even a little carrot, depending on what flavor you needed, could work as a carb base for other foods in the meal. I imagine a mashed carrot and potato mixture might be good with poultry, for example.
- cooked and mashed plantain, either boiled or fried, has twice the carbs as the same amount of potatoes. If the plantain is ripe, it has a very distinctive sweet flavor. If it is unripe, it takes much longer to cook and it has a curious lack of flavor, so it tastes better with added flavorings or mixed with something else. 
- grated or food processed cauliflower that is then steamed works for bentos. Has the consistency of rice, I understand. It's not as high in carbs, but still works in bentos for a lower carb day.
- and fruit is always higher in carbs, as well, although it doesn't work as well for a major portion of a bento on a day to day basis.

I'll be talking more about carb specifics for various foods in later!

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