Beyond Rice and Roti: Adapting International Cuisines for the 21DSD

Hey Folks! We’re excited to introduce Certified 21DSD Coach Rebekah Reddy. Rebekah's article is part of a series of articles contributed by our Certified 21DSD Coaches. Enjoy! – Diane and Team

I’m a white American-born woman raised in small-town California, but I’ve had many experiences over the decades that have broadened my exposure to different cultures and their regional cuisines. As a teenager, I spent a year in Quito, Ecuador as an exchange student, and a month in Tianjin, China after graduating from high school. I then moved to the diverse melting pot of the San Francisco Bay Area, which further expanded my appreciation and love for the rich traditions and unique flavors of international cuisines.

I had never tried Indian food until I started dating my Fijian Indian husband, and as part of his family, I have tasted and learned to make so many amazing foods that I probably wouldn’t have ever had the opportunity to try. I have learned to love dahl, make dosa, and chow down on homemade rotis. But when approaching a 21DSD, many grain and legume-based staple foods are off limits, which can feel daunting to someone who enjoys those foods daily and can’t imagine life without them.

Many traditional staples have become refined, processed, junk-laden imitations of their original versions. I’m talking about tortillas, rice, noodles, and flatbreads, as well as sugar-sweetened and preservative-filled sauces and artificially flavored spice blends.

If you went back 100 years, would you find artificial coloring in your tandoori masala? Or hydrogenated oils and dough conditioners in your tortillas? What about the amount of refinement and processing that goes into making any type of noodle? The answer: probably not.

It’s important to realize that most of these staples are filler foods. They are cheap sources of carbohydrates that don’t add much nutrition, but instead make the meals stretch farther or cut the intense flavors of the dish. Some consist of ingredients that are difficult to digest, or are so refined and processed that they do more harm than good when it comes to our health.

So what should you do if you are interested in accepting the challenge of completing a 21DSD, but the thought of limiting or eliminating foods that are a mainstay in your traditional cuisine seems impossible?

First up, you need to think outside the bread box.

Or beyond the roti, rice, tortillas, noodles, etc. that are part of your cultural dishes. If you can imagine enjoying the flavors of your favorite dish with some minor adjustments, then you will be able to eat whatever food you want.

Consider making an Indian curry and eating it without the rice. Make an Asian noodle dish but omit the noodles. Eat the fillings of your favorite tacos without the tortilla. Turn your favorite flavors into a soup or a stew, or scoop up the meat and vegetables with some crunchy lettuce. Can you envision this?

I know it can be hard, especially when you are used to eating something every day. But I can speak from experience when I say that it is possible…you just have to think of the possibilities and imagine a slightly altered style of eating. You can do it!

One of the things that worked well for me when I first did a 21DSD was to tell myself that it is only 21 days. Can you go without _____ for 21 days? Yes, you can! Will you miss that food? Probably, but you might also be surprised that you don’t miss it as much as you expected to.

When you think beyond the rice and roti, you are giving yourself the opportunity to make new choices, to try new things, and to see what those changes will do for your overall health. If you don’t try it, you won’t ever know that you are actually sensitive to wheat, that rice makes you feel bloated, or that sugar saps your energy.

So instead of letting a few cultural staples stop you from taking your health to another level, wrap your mind around the fact that you can go 21 days without those foods or you can adapt your favorite dishes to be 21DSD-friendly. And remember that you can always add them back in later if you choose to do so.

Find alternatives that will work, even temporarily.

Try the dish without the sweetener, rice, roti, or noodle. Some dishes are just fine without them, while others would be better with some type of 21DSD-friendly substitute for your favorite staples. Explore just a few of the recipes that are available in both The 21-Day Sugar Detox and The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook, or do a quick Google search for the dish/ingredient you are looking to replace.

Eliminating rice?
  • Basic Cilantro Cauli-Rice—guide book p 172
  • Moroccan Cauli-Rice Pilaf—cookbook p 137
Want a flatbread, roti, or tortilla?
Craving noodles?
  • Spaghetti Squash Bolognese—guide book p 122
  • Pesto Spaghetti Squash—guide book p 177
  • Lemon & Garlic Noodles with Olives—guide book p 176
  • Shrimp Pad Thai—guide book p 148
  • Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl—cookbook p 108
Adapt your own recipes to be 21DSD-compliant.

Sometimes making simple substitutions will make your favorite dish 21DSD-friendly. Switch out the cooking fat, find a spice blend that doesn’t have any artificial colors/preservatives/additives, or simply omit any sweeteners in the recipe. You’ll be surprised how good a dish will taste even without the sugar or grains!

And if you typically serve your favorite meal over rice, or with a flatbread or noodle, consider eating it alone or with one of the above substitutes. Most recipes can be adjusted to be 21DSD-compliant…you just might need to do a little research and prep work to make it happen.

When all else fails, ask for help.

If you’re thinking that you just can’t see beyond the rice and roti, ask for help! Perhaps a friend or family member has already done the 21DSD or is interested in doing it with you; partnering with someone else means another head to come up with creative solutions or meal ideas.

Take a look at the 21DSD Pinterest page or ask in the 21-Day Sugar Detox Facebook Community for new ways of looking at your traditional favorites.

You can also hire a 21DSD Certified Coach like me who can troubleshoot ingredients, offer substitution suggestions, and help you create a meal plan that includes many of your favorite foods, but still keeps you on plan.

Whatever your cultural heritage, imagine the possibilities of enjoying your favorite foods without the rice or roti and take charge of your health. Happy eating!

Rebekah cooking - Version 5Rebekah Reddy has been a stay-at-home mom to her three children (two girls, one boy) since 2006, but in her former life she was a high school English/ESL teacher. She holds a BA in English with a minor in Spanish, an MA in English with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and a California teaching credential. She is also a certified Nutrition Educator, 21DSD Certified Coach, and the author of the blog Half Indian Cook through which she shares recipes and writes about food and culture in her mixed-ethnicity family.

Rebekah specializes in adapting Indian and other ethnic cuisines to be Paleo or 21DSD-friendly as well as working with pregnant or breastfeeding women, busy families, and children. Rebekah’s passion for delicious, nutritious food has led her entire family to improved health and she hopes to support you in whatever health-related changes you wish to make.

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  1. Pingback: Beyond Rice and Roti: Adapting Ethnic Cuisines for the 21-Day Sugar Detox « Half Indian Cook

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