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Answering Your Questions: Stretching Meals With Carbs

January 18, 2013

Question from reader, Christy:

Q. What do you think about pasta, rice, potatoes etc to stretch a food budget for big families?

Daja:  As you know I have one of those big families.  We are expecting our eighth child in July.  Five of those children are textbook boys who could inhale their way through a box of cereal in less than half an episode of Saturday morning cartoons!  My husband works a physically demanding job as a carpenter and handyman.  And I am pregnant and nursing and eating like a hobbit.  All that to say, we can put away some serious food around here.  So, if anyone understands the need to make things stretch and get ’em fed, it’s me!

Thankfully, we don’t have any dietary restrictions or gluten sensitivities that would keep us from enjoying our carbs.  I have found however that whether or not people get full and stay full depends greatly on the type of carb we are serving.  For example, if I open up some boxes of cereal for breakfast no matter how much we put away everyone will be in the kitchen searching for something to fill the void within an hour of eating, if not 30 minutes!  Mom included!  If, however, I serve steel cut oats for breakfast and really house ’em up (say with pureed pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut oil, a sprinkling of nuts and pumpkin pie spice, served with cream!) then everyone can happily wait until lunch to eat.  (Maybe except Mom, who seriously has turned into a hobbit in this pregnancy.)

So, yes, I do use carbs to fill up these bellies, but I use GOOD carbs to keep these bellies full.  Rather than white rice, store-bought egg noodles, etc. we use a steel cut or rolled whole oats, millet, quinoa, brown rice, homemade pasta, and hearty artisan breads.

Another trick to add is fat.  Fat is lovely.  Skinny people eat fat!  We need fat so that we can properly process our vitamins.  If you don’t have enough fat in your diet and you eat whole grains and vegetables all those lovely vitamins and minerals will go right through you and you won’t be able to use them.  What a waste!  So, butter that bread!  Pour cream in your coffee!  Mix coconut or flax seed oil in your oatmeal!  You won’t regret it!

Another side effect of fat, which is especially important is that it will satisfy your hunger and keep you full longer.  Somehow having just that bit of fat will mean the difference between being able to wait for the next meal or not. In fact, those who eat a diet sufficient in healthy fats actually consume less calories from snacks!  So, buttering that bread at breakfast might help prevent a mid-morning binge!  Pouring olive oil on your avocado salad at dinner may prevent that ice cream snack at 10pm.  It’s just the way the body works!

To sum up: Yes, I stretch meals with bread, rice, pasta, etc.  But I strive to use nutrient dense grains and to serve them with a healthy source of fat.

Kristina:  Well, I’ll start by saying I agree completely with Daja!  Not every carb is created equal and if we want to keep the family healthy and full we should be mindful of the types of carbs we are serving.  No white bread or white sugar, please!  I do serve potatoes, all kinds and bread with butter is a lovely meal-time extender.  I’m a mid-west girl so I’ll also serve good ol’ fashioned ho-cakes (that’s corn cakes for the rest of you.)

Another meal-time extender for us is soup.  Soup if made vegetarian or from my home-made bone broth is really inexpensive and packs a nutritional punch.  It also keeps the family full for a long time!  I use salad with vegetables grown from my garden to extend many a meal.  Likewise bean salads are great and give additional protein at the meal.

I have a great little cookbook I refer to often when wanting to stretch a meal or when the food budget is tight.  It’s the More-with-Less Cookbook.  Written by the Mennonite Community it challenges us to do more with less for the benefit of ourselves and for the world.  Focusing on “real” food that nourishes and satisfies.  Their #1 suggestion is to eat more whole grains (rice, wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn & millet), legumes, vegetables and fruits, and lastly, nuts and seeds.  Whether you are a large family or a small one we all should be intentionally stretching our meals well and the right carbs are just the answer!

There is so much beauty in bread–
Beauty of sun and soil,
Beauty of patient toil.
Winds and rains have caressed it,
   Christ often blessed it.
Be gentle
    when you touch bread.
–Author Unknown

(Linked to Tasty Traditions)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. christy permalink
    January 18, 2013 8:11 am

    Thanks so much! Every time I use whole grain pastas the kiddos rebel but I think if I start taking it a step at a time they will be better with it. They are always hungry. One thing about the soup is that it doesn’t seem to fill them up very long and I feel like I am making them another meal when they get home from soccer practice. We do have lots more vegetarian meals now then before.
    Love this blog!

    • January 18, 2013 8:21 am

      Whole grain pastas are sometimes hard to get under the radar, so to speak. One way of doing it over time is to mix it in with your regular pasta and slowly transition out your old pasta for the new! Sneaky!!

  2. sk* permalink
    January 18, 2013 8:30 pm

    I love that little poem. So sweet.

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