Thursday, March 17, 2011

The skinny on density

Starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice have a place in a healthy diet. They provide relatively quick energy and, if they’re whole-grain and varied, they also bring to the table necessary nutrients like B vitamins along with that all-important fibre.

The thing is, the calorie/nutrition ratio in starches doesn’t always work in favour of weight loss because they’re calorie-dense. On the other hand, vegetables are nutrient-dense and calorie-light.

A plateful of veggies delivers more vitamins and minerals – and a fraction of the calories – of a plateful of pasta.

As I try to ditch the pounds, I keep my intake of starches to a minimum because I tend to go overboard if I have them around. That means I have to get the  nutrients and energy (aka calories) elsewhere.

For me, that mostly means lots of vitamin-rich, fibre-rich, complex-carbohydrate vegetables and fruit. They’re loaded with nutrients and less loaded with calories than bread. Also, they release their energy to me at a nice steady rate.

What that boils down to is that with more veg and less rice, I get better nutrition, lots of energy, and I feel full. I’m not depriving my body of anything. Quite the contrary. I’m getting more nutrients now than when I used to eat more pasta and fewer peppers.

However, as I progress toward my goal weight, I need to remember that I can introduce grains and starches to get more variety – and therefore more nutrition – into my diet. (I keep in mind that brown rice offers more of the good stuff than white rice, just as whole-grain bread and pasta does.)

Three or four times a week now, I have a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal (1/4 cup steel-cut oats cooked in almost a cup of water). When I’m exercising a lot, I also have a couple of slices of whole-grain multi-grain bread and sometimes a muffin from my favourite bakery (multigrain and not too sweet).

My guru, Vicki Waters, really likes sprouted breads and whole-grain crackers. Fodder is especially fond of rye flatbread, which he now enjoys several times a week with hummus.

And when I need some solid, transportable, mixed-source calories to carry me through a meeting or a workout, I pack along a three-inch square of my latest invention:

3 small apples, sauced OR about 1 cup of pre-made applesauce
1/2 cup natural, nothin' but peanuts, peanut butter
1 cup steel-cut oats soaked in 2 cups of hot water, then cooked until the liquid is absorbed (about 2 cups cooked oats)
10 dates, chopped (about ½ cup)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 ½ squares of bittersweet baking chocolate, roughly shaved (about ½ cup)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into greased 9x12” pan.
Bake at 375° for about 15 minutes.
When it’s cool, I cut into three-inch squares and freeze two to a package.

I don’t know what to call them besides delicious.


  1. The squares do sound delicious! Must try.


    When I first put the recipe up, I forgot to list peanut butter in the ingredients. I used about half a cup of natural pb – it adds a little good fat and some protein to the bars.