Starchless Meals

by Anne Hirsh

Building meals without starchy carbohydrates is something of a challenge. Starches are almost universal at mealtime, from Asia's rice and noodles to the potatoes and "daily bread" of the west. If you're cutting starches from your diet for weight loss reasons, or counting carbohydrates to control your diabetes, meeting that challenge is a daily struggle. Successfully constructing starchless meals is a careful balancing act, and knowing the starch content of common foods is a necessity.

Main Courses

Meats are starch-free foods unless you add starches to them in the form of breading, stuffing, or cooked-in vegetables. For a healthy, low-fat starchless main course, look to fish for many of your meals. Pan-fry or oven bake your favorite fish, lightly seasoned with any spices that will entice your kids. If they'll only eat fish that's fried and breaded, try dressing it up with their favorite sauces after you check the sauce labels to ensure they have no added starch. Fresh white fish such as cod or sole tends to taste less "fishy," which can appeal to picky eaters. Avoid imitation fish products such as fake crab, as these products may have added starch. If fish just doesn't go over well with your crowd, white-meat chicken and turkey, also unbreaded, are a good alternative. Simmer them in starch-free sauces, roast them in the oven or bake them with your kids' favorite spices.

Low-Carb Sides

Avoid heavy vegetables like potatoes, carrots, winter squash and corn for your starch-free meals. Unfortunately, kid-friendly veggies like peas, green beans, and even cucumbers and tomatoes contain starch, so avoid these as well. Instead, make a slaw of shredded peeled apples and red and green cabbage, or peel and season summer squash and mushrooms, if your kids will eat them, and sauté them in olive or sesame oil. Avoid any grain sides like rice or pasta. Beans also contain starch, but their high protein and other nutrients make them a high-quality food, so, as with vegetables, don't be afraid of the starch in beans unless a doctor has specified avoiding them.

Getting Kids to Eat

A meal of plain meat and vegetables may not appeal to your little ones, especially if they are used to filling sides like bread or potatoes. This is worsened by the fact that high-fiber foods, which are the most filling as well as having other health benefits, often have starch. You can help your kids feel satisfied by offering cut fruit as an appetizer or an after-dinner treat. Cheese is also a tasty filler that most kids enjoy, but its high fat content means you should limit its use. For breakfast, try sending your kids off with a fruit-filled low-fat yogurt. You can also make your own chips by baking thin slices of summer squash or other low-starch veggies in the oven until they become crisp, which can satisfy your children's desire to snack and are easy to pack in lunches.

Less-Obvious Starches

Aside from grains and starchy vegetables, starch may lurk in some foods you don't suspect. Soups generally contain some form of starch, whether it's naturally occurring from potatoes, grains or veggies, or added as a thickener. Some sauces also use corn starch as a thickener, so read labels carefully. Dense fruits such as raisins and prunes are high in starch, although their fresh counterparts, grapes and plums, are usually safe. This is because other sugars convert to starch as the fruit dries. The opposite is true of bananas, which are high in starch as they grow, but as they ripen the starches convert to sugars. If a fruit salad is on your menu for a side or dessert, use only fresh grapes and fully ripe bananas to avoid the starch.

About the Author

Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.