If you’ve ever thought of trying a Paleo or Whole30 approach to eating, you may have wondered what in the heck you and your kids will fill up on if there is no bread. The Standard American Diet (SAD) relies on bread and other grains as the main energy source. A classic Paleo or Whole30 approach means that you ditch the grains (as well as beans and dairy). So what will you eat to fill you and your family up if you lose bread and all the things made from flour? You can’t just substitute gluten-free grains like oats and rice, because these approaches are entirely grain-free.
First of all, why ditch the grains?
There is validity in dropping grains, at least on a daily basis, for some people. Before making this decision, it’s best to first determine if they are a problem for you. Read my article on Figuring Out Food Sensitivities to learn how to do this. Let’s discuss who may benefit from ditching grains…
Grain-free can be a good match for people with autoimmune conditions. The premise is that humans have only cultivated and eaten grains (and beans and dairy) for a speck of our evolutionary history. Research shows that some people haven’t adapted well to these newer foods that came about during the Neolithic (Agricultural) Revolution. Specifically, the research points to grains and dairy provoking autoimmune reactions through a process called “molecular mimicry.” The protein structure in milk or grains may be similar enough to human tissues that when the immune system tags the food protein as an antigen it also attacks body tissues. For example, gliadin (the protein in gluten) is linked to autoimmune thyroid disease. However, not everyone with thyroid autoimmunity reacts to gluten, and that’s why it’s important to explore your own sensitivities and potential immune triggers.
Suspicion of a wheat problem
People without autoimmunity may still have a problem with wheat. Many people think this means celiac disease, which is autoimmune. However, there are many ways that people can have a problem with wheat that isn’t connected to autoimmune. This includes non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity, an actual wheat allergy, or an intolerance to the FODMAP fiber in wheat. The latter tends to affect those with GI conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Nutrition benefits and blood sugar regulation
Paleo (grain/dairy/bean-free) carbohydrates tend to be higher in phytonutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. They are also lower in sugar and high in fiber, therefore they are good for blood sugar regulation, bowel regulatory, and provide beneficial prebiotic food for good gut bacteria. People with blood sugar issues, insulin resistance, prediabetes, or weight resistance may benefit more from these fiber-rich nutrient-dense grain-free carbs.
So what are Paleo carbs? Where IS the bread?
Paleo/Whole30 carbs are the plants that humans have eaten forever, including leaves (lettuce), stem (celery), roots (carrot), tubers (potato), bulbs (onion), flowers (broccoli), and fruits (eggplant). The starchier (bread substitute) sources are the roots, tubers, and fruits. By fruits, I also mean hearty starchy winter squashes and plantains, not just what we think of as a SAD fruit (like apple and banana).
These starchy plants are generally not “convenience foods.” They need the basics: washing, cutting up, and basic cooking. Some folks are intimidated by thinking of what to eat and then preparing it. But these foods are actually easy to prepare, and making large quantities allows for leftovers for days. You can absolutely learn to do this, and there are a plethora of yummy ways to prepare these starchy plants. You can also use gadgets to help cut, like a food processor or spiralizer. And you can purchase many foods pre-cut these days.
Next, we talk about what these starchy plants are, and then I’ll link to some of my favorite recipes. You can easily rotate recipes so that you expand your plant foods (and nutrients) far beyond the SAD, instead of just eating the same few grains over and over and over. Choose a variety of colors, as each plant color provides different antioxidants and phytonutrients. These plants also tend to be high in magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and C.
Starchy roots and tubers
- Potatoes (try red and purple)
- Sweet potatoes & yams (bright orange and yellow)
- Celery or celeriac
- Ginger and turmeric
- Daikin, radish, turnip
- Tiger nuts
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Water chestnuts
Starchy fruits disguised as vegetables
- Butternut squash
- Delacotta squash
- String bean
- Corn on the cob (technically not Whole30-approved)
- Green peas
Preparing these foods
You can simply google the ingredients and find a plethora of recipes. If you’re also following Paleo or Whole30, add that to your search. My favorite sites with tons of recipes are Nom Nom Paleo, Paleo Leap, Paleo Grubs, The Paleo Mom, and PaleoOMG. Here are yummy recipes, many of which we make on a regular basis:
- Cinamon Chili Roasted Sweet Potato Cubes
- Celeriac Mash
- Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
- Balsamic Roasted Beets
- Crispy Fried Plantains
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Oven-baked Sweet Potato Toast, 4 Ways
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Roasted Fennel with Garlic & Chives
- Crispy Rosemary Taro Rounds
- Roasted Jerusalem Articoke with Chives
- Crispy Smashed Potatoes
- Roasted Sweet Poatoes with Pecans
- “Cheddar” Rutabega Mash
- Creamy Parsnip Gratin
When we are in a busy phase and don’t want to follow recipes, we simply cut up a variety of veggies, toss in olive oil and herbs, and roast! Our go-tos include sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, eggplant, fennel, and beets. Or toss a whole squash (or cut in half) in the oven to roast, so it’s no-peel or chop. Another easy option is to bake whole potatoes or yams.
Questions about Paleo carbs? Please let me know below,