The Perfect Carbohydrate (March 9, 2013)

Either click here or keep reading for March 2nd’s piece on finding the right carbohydrates to keep you healthy, energized, and satisfied!

The Search for the Perfect Carb

Last week, I let you in on the life-changing (for me, at least) secret that is my non-diet diet. For many people, the concept of the “healthy carb” is the trickiest part of the non-diet diet formula. The labelling is confusing, the classifications blurry. Whole wheat, gluten-free, seven grain … what is it that we want again? Finding the perfect healthy carbohydrate can be equal parts daunting and mind-bending.

As a rule of thumb, you want to steer clear of pre-packaged foods, and carbs are no exception. They tend to be full of salt, sugar and preservatives (no matter how putatively “healthy” they claim to be). Instead, you want to fill your shopping cart with whole carbohydrates with low glycemic indexes, many of which you’ll find in the produce aisle. Sweet potato and squash are your friends; they’re healthy, tasty, and shockingly easy on your wallet.

When you aren’t looking for carbs in the produce aisle, you should head to the health food (or bulk) store. While they have brown rice and whole wheat flour aplenty, they also offer the trendy grain-of-the-moment, quinoa.

Grown largely in Central and South America, quinoa is touted for its high protein and low glyemic index. It is gluten-free for all of you celiacs out there, and much loved by vegetarians and vegans as a source of protein.

It has also tripled in price in the last six years. Quinoa’s dramatic rise in popularity, particularly in North America, is to blame for this price increase. Our love for quinoa has resulted in Peruvian and Bolivian communities being priced out of eating the very same food that they not only produce, but depend on. For many socially conscious eaters, this is alarming.

I can offer a solution that will keep your waistline in check and your bank account happy.

Bulgur wheat. Available at local health and bulk stores (or occasionally in the health food aisle of your grocery store), bulgur wheat has a shockingly similar nutritional profile to quinoa, at about one-sixth of the price. It is grown in the United States and Canada, and easily substitutes for quinoa in any recipe you may have.

If this all sounds great, but you have no idea what on earth to do with either quinoa or bulgur, look no further than this page. Accompanying this column is one of my favourite recipes, which you’re sure to love as well. I first developed it as a quinoa recipe, but have been making it with bulgur more recently — and my wallet thanks me.

Molly Daley runs a healthy cooking, fitness, and wellness blog, Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl, which you can find at

Molly’s World Famous Bulgur Salad

Alright, perhaps it isn’t world famous. But it should be! If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be this salad; 100% clean, filling, vegan, gluten free, and delicious.

Bulgur and beans provide protein and fiber, while the avocado and flax give you omega 3 and just the right amount of healthy fats. This salad almost sneaks in your greens, which is great if you aren’t terribly keen on more traditional, leafy salads. Not only that, but it is easy, flexible and super versatile. Great for lunch, dinner, a snack, or a side dish, I almost always have this salad waiting for me in fridge. And I promise, if you bring this to a dinner party, you will be the most popular person in the room.

For the salad

Baby spinach (I use about a cup and a half)

Cilantro (about three quarters of a cup)

Three quarters of a cup of bulgur

1 can of beans (I like either lentils or black beans — and be sure to drain them)

1 can of corn

1 can heart-of-palm (or artichokes, depending on your taste)

1 avocado, chopped

Sprinkle of flax and chia seeds

Optional: cherry tomatoes, chopped mushrooms

First, you’ll want to cook your bulgur. Though it sounds simple, bulgur (and similar grains, like quinoa) can be a bit finicky to cook. I’ve found the best way is to bring about a cup and a half of water to a boil, then toss in your bulgur. Stir for about a minute, then turn your heat off. By the time it has completely cooled, you should have perfectly cooked grain without any excess water.

While it is cooling, chop your spinach and cilantro. I like it to be quite fine, but you can keep it a bit chunkier if you prefer — you just want your greens small enough that they’ll cling to your bulgur. Either way, throw them in the bottom of a big salad bowl.

Throw your now-cooled bulgur on top of your greens, and mix it quite thoroughly. Now, add your corn and beans, and mix until well incorporated. Finally, throw in your heart of palm, avocado, and seeds. Mix well.

For the dressing

One-eighth of a cup of olive oil

One-eighth of a cup of lemon juice

Teaspoon of dijon mustard (although any mustard will do)

Shake of salt

Dash of agave nectar

In my view, this dressing really makes this salad go from good to ‘wow!’ Grab a small cup and add your olive oil, then your lemon juice, and finally a heaping teaspoon of Dijon. Give it a wee squeeze of agave (or a pinch of just plain sugar, if you don’t have any other sweetener), and a pinch of salt. Thoroughly mix together, and pour over your salad.

Toss to fully coat your salad with the dressing. I prefer this dish if it has time to really absorb the juices — at least two hours in the fridge. But if you’re in a rush, fear not! This salad is beyond tasty no matter what.

The text of this article is copyright of Sun Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Perfect Carbohydrate