By Guest Blogger Emily Saunders

It is important to eat healthy starches- but at the right times and in the right amounts.

First of all let’s define starch.  Many women ask, “What the heck is starch and how is it different than sugar?”  Some women think that ALL carbohydrates (which include green fibrous veggies) are starches and shouldn’t be eaten regularly. I’ve also run into people who eat nothing but protein and maybe a few leaves of lettuce and can’t understand why all they want to do is sleep all the time.

So today when we talk about starch we’re talking about NON-SUGARY starches.  These are things like rice, potatoes, quinoa, oats and whole grains.  We’re also talking about starchier (higher carbohydrate) vegetables like zuchini, squash, and peas.

Finally, we’re talking about BEANS.  Yes beans are a starch.  Yes, they contain protein and fiber (like most starches), but they are 70% starch.

So let’s talk about how to choose starches:

1.  Choose starches that YOU find satisfying.  Perhaps your morning oats keep you full until lunch time whereas if you just eat eggs and bacon you’re ravenous (this would be me by the way).  Your body NEEDS starch, it’s just a matter of how much and I can’t answer that question for you- it’s going to take some detective work.  Carbohydrates are our bodies’ most usable source of energy.  Quit eating carbs and you’re guaranteed to crash.

2.  Choose high fiber, higher protein, high water starches.  Consider using quinoa or brown rice over white rice.  Sweet potatoes over white potatoes and zucchini noodles over whole wheat pasta.  There is a lot of great marketing out there about “high fiber healthy bread” and “high fiber pasta” etc.  That said, when you consider the carbohydrates- sometimes more than 50 grams per serving- we’re really getting duped.  Additionally, many of these foods are very heavily processed and contain questionable ingredients.

3.  Consider the timing of your starches.  Generally we recommend eating starches in the morning (when they will most likely be used for fuel) and post-workout (when muscles are looking to replenish their glycogen stores).

That said, each person is different.  Some people find that if they don’t eat starch at dinner then they ALWAYS eat sweets late at night.  I don’t think I need to tell you that eating 1/2 a baked potato is superior to eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Pay attention to your HEC- hunger, energy and cravings as well as your results as you begin to understand how starches are affecting you.  When you find your balance then that’s the perfect place for you.

4. Pay attention to serving sizes.  Often the portion size on the box is NOT the portion size on our plate.  1/2 cup of cooked brown rice is about 1/5 of what they serve you at most Asian restaurants.  Giant baked potatoes at restaurants are about 4 or 5 x larger than the 1/2 medium baked potato serving size we recommend.  Start with 1/2 cup of cooked grains, beans or rice and 1/2 a baked potato or sweet potato and see how your body responds.  Add or subtract serving size as needed.

5. Choose veggies first.  Starchy veggies like zucchini, squash, and peas can be really satisfying yet are lower in starch than their grain and potato counter parts.

6.  Pair with protein.  Of course we recommend eating protein with every single meal, but it’s even more important when you’re eating starch.  A corn tortilla with beans and rice is starch upon starch upon starch which equals a big insulin surge.  Your body needs the glucagon from protein to help combat that surge.  Instead choose ONE- tortilla or beans and pair it with chicken or steak and lots of veggies like lettuce and salsa plus a small serving of guacamole.  Notice the difference in how you feel in the hours afterward.

Still have questions about starch? Feel free to ask below!


Emily Saunders is part of the Momsanity Team, which is a community of Moms striving to achieve balance through physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. You can read more about this amazing program here.