Refined carbs or nothing?

Hi Sassy! We've all heard about refraining from refined carbs and eating whole grains instead. My question is regarding eating out and making the best choice given my options.

For example, I ordered a vegetarian dish recently (veggies/tofu/brown sauce) and was offered (white) rice or rice noodles. Should I say no to both if brown rice is not an option? Should I ask to substitute extra vegges instead?

Thank you in advance.
Austin, TX


Sassy Sez: Hi Rhonda! Great to hear from you, and you ask such a good question.

Firstly, I love that you were in a restaurant that offered such a yummy-sounding dish, veggies/tofu/brown sauce. Curious, was it an Asian restaurant? Or more of a mainstream-type of place? I only ask because I like to keep my pulse on what is being offered in non-vegetarian restaurants out there -- the tide is starting to turn a bit and more and more restaurants are offering vegetarian (and vegan!) options.

But I digress...

If it were me in this situation, where you have the option of refined carbs -- which are whole-grain carbohydrates stripped of their outer-layer where the nutrients reside -- I would almost always say no to them. Maybe I didn't when I first went vegan, but over the years of being vegan I have become more and more in tune with my body and eating white rice or other refined carbs ALWAYS makes me tired in the long run.

Why? Because, as you may know, not only are refined carbs devoid of nutrition, but they digest very quickly which can cause a spike in blood sugar giving you a burst of energy, but then there is always a crash. This is never a good thing, especially for those people trying to get control of their blood sugar, or those trying to lose weight or keep weight off.

Rice noodles? Same thing = refined. Unless they are brown rice noodles in which case that would be closer to a whole grain and a better option.

I LOVE your idea of simply asking for more vegetables! While some restaurants may not honor this request (veggies are more expensive than white rice and rice noodles), they just might and it never hurts to ask. Of course, veggies digest more quickly than tofu/beans, so you might even ask for more tofu as well to help fill you up for a longer period of time.

Hope this helps. :)

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May 21, 2013
I'd go for the white rice over nothing, this time
by: Anonymous

For one rare meal? I would choose the white rice. The noodles could be fried, and could be a riskier choice. Asians have done quite well on white rice, surprisingly, and I don't think this kind of exception is going to cost any long-lasting damage. Even for a diabetic, it is the total glycemic LOAD of the entire meal (which in this case would take into account the vegetables) rather that counts, rather than the fact that you have one individual item with a high glycemic index number.

May 24, 2013
Good point...
by: Sassy

You definitely make a good point. I think it depends on how often someone goes out to eat. From where I sit, MOST people go out to eat. And lots of people are "doing vegan" on the road. If this is the case, and if you're making the decision to eat refined carbs MOST of the time...well, not such a good idea.

But I DO agree with you, if one doesn't eat out often and is faced with this choice, a little white rice couldn't hurt. :)

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