A few years ago I was coaching a client through a no sugar no white carbohydrate protocol. During one session we were talking about smell and how 75% of what we perceive as taste is actually smell. I told her that through the initial stages of this sugar dump it is actually helpful to smell chocolate. Although this may sound strange, a good inhale of chocolate has the power to release those feel good endorphins that we are most often looking for when we want carbs.
She said, “Well that's fine, but I can't walk around with a bag of mashed potatoes in my purse to sniff when I need a fix.”
Abra (savvy nutrition coach): 0
After a very long belly laugh I ditched this smell theory and spent the rest of the session helping my client plan certain foods and recipes that would both help curb the cravings and satisfy the comfort food (i.e. mashed potato) desire.
Before I continue, let's set the record straight on a few things:
1) Not all “Carbs” are bad (actually I don't consider any food inherently good or bad)
2) This word “carbs” is very general. So let's be clear, there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are things like white sugar, or anything that converts quickly to glucose in your system; white bread, heavily refined grains, white pasta, white potatoes, etc. Complex carbohydrates are whole grains or starches that are slower to convert to glucose in your system. Complex carbohydrates will give you longer lasting energy with smaller insulin spikes, while simple “carbs” will result in a quick energy hit followed by a big energy dip. Make sense?
3) A diet rich in simple “carbs” (that would be the basis of the SAD – Standard American Diet) will increase likelihood of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
Ok, now that we are straight on “carbs” Let's get to business.
I crave carbs, Abra. What should I do?
First of all, I am not a fan of any dietary protocol that removes all carbohydrates. Personally I find whole grains, beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables to be an essential element of a healthy diet. If you have found that your body does not do well with any grains, ok. What works for me may not work for you.
So when the carb cravings hit, ask yourself:
Have I had any whole grains today?
If the answer is no begin there. Do things like add 1/4 cup of quinoa to your afternoon salad, or a small serving of beans to your dinner.
If you have had whole grains and you find that your carb cravings are just increasing I suggest making recipes that feel like the “carbs” you are craving.
Enter mashed cauliflower.
Oh food gods, thank you for delivering this most genius food.
If you are a mashed potato lover, like my dear client, give mashed cauliflower a try and see if that can satisfy your desire for starchy goodness.
Add this recipe to your arsenal and whip it out each and every time the “carb” monster starts a-growlin'!
There are a million variations on this one theme.
Below is a basic recipe with the addition of balsamic onions (yum!)
But also try these varieties:
1) Add chopped fresh basil to the mash and drizzle with high quality extra virgin olive oil, crunchy sea salt, and lots of black pepper, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
2) Add 2 Tbsp fresh goat cheese, and chopped chives.
3) Add Roasted Garlic, an entire head. You will make this a thousand times! (how to roast garlic here)
4) Mash with chopped cilantro, jalapeno, and a sprinkle of cumin.
5) Mash with a dash of siracha sauce and top with chopped fresh parsley
Remember cravings are magical nuggets of information, they are not, a green light to eat whatever you choose. Listen to your carb cravings and respond with nourishing, comforting food.
‘Cause carbs ain't the boss of NO ONE
Mashed Cauliflower with Balsamic Onions
- 1 head of cauliflower medium to large
- 1/4 cup of chicken stock, or veggie stock
- 1 tablespoon of grass fed butter, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper
- 2 large onions sliced into half moons
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup of chicken stock, or veggie stock
- In a large pan over medium-low heat sauté onions and fresh thyme in olive oil for 10-12 minutes until soft, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and balsamic vinegar. Cover and cook additional 15-20 minutes until all liquid is evaporated and onions are soft and have taken on some color. You may need to add a bit more stock and continue stirring to achieve desired consistency.
- Meanwhile, chop cauliflower into small florets and place in a large pot. Add enough chicken or veggie stock to 1/2 cover the cauliflower (depending on the size of cauliflower and size of pot you use this should be around 1/4-1/2 cup of stock.) Add butter, salt, and pepper, turn heat to medium high and bring liquid to a boil. Cover and cook until cauliflower is super tender (about 5-7 minutes) Once cauliflower is tender remove lid and reduce liquid (if there is any left) to just around 1 tbsp.
- Mash cauliflower directly in pot until using an immersion blender until nearly smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Alternatively if you don’t have an immersion blender transfer cauliflower to food processor or blender and process until you reach the consistency of mashed potato.
- Serve mashed cauliflower topped with balsamic onions.
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