Cold winter days can make us yearn for rich, filling meals: bubbling lasagnas, piles of mashed potatoes, deep-pan pizzas and spicy curries with rice. Our bodies may crave carbohydrate-rich comfort food. Carbohydrates are our bodies’ main source of fuel and essential for our well-being. However, starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes, rice and bread, are also responsible for bloat and long-term weight gain.
We need to be careful about carbohydrates whilst still enjoying delicious meals on cold winter days. Here are five suggestions for replacing starchy carbohydrates with healthier, tasty alternatives that have the added benefit of putting an extra serving of vegetable on your plate.
Cauliflower is a highly nutritious vegetable, stacked with vitamins, detoxifying enzymes and fiber, and makes a great substitute for starchy staples like potato and rice. Mashed cauliflower makes a delightful change from standard potato and can be used in the same meals – as a side dish or atop shepherd’s pie for example.
One medium head of raw cauliflower will give 2-3 generous servings. Break the head into florets then steam or microwave till tender. Shake away any excess water and add any other ingredients you would use with mashed potatoes. As well as seasoning, butter or milk, you might add chives, garlic or peppers. Mash by hand or in a blender and serve. Heavenly!
Without additives, one cup of cauliflower contains 5 grams of carbohydrate compared to 26 grams in one cup of potato.
Another tasty use for the versatile cauliflower is as rice substitute. Cauliflower rice makes an excellent accompaniment to curries and stews and is quick and easy to make.
Place the florets of one head of cauliflower into a processor and shred until the granules are the size of grains of rice. A plain steel or shredder blade works well. A grater works too but takes more time. Place the ‘rice’ in a covered microwave dish. Do not add water and heat on high for approximately 6 minutes. Serve immediately with your main dish.
White rice has about 40 grams of carbohydrate compared to the 5 grams in cauliflower.
Rich tomato sauce is flavorsome and nutritious and a steaming hot lasagna is just the dish to tuck into on a cold winter’s evening. Traditional lasagna noodles are heavy with carbohydrates – 17 grams per noodle, whereas the eggplant alternative has just 3 grams of carbohydrates per 50 gram slice.
As well as being delicious, eggplant contains a host of vitamins and minerals as well as flavonoids which are understood to lower the risk of heart disease.
For 4 servings you will need one large eggplant, a simple tomato sauce, with or without meat, ½ lb. ricotta cheese, one cup each of grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and 2 standard eggs.
Prepare the eggplant by slicing into strips, each about ¼” thick. Brush the strips with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper and roast in the oven (350of/180oc) for around 10 minutes, until tender. Use this time to mix the ricotta, the Parmesan and the eggs. Then layer your lasagna in a non-stick baking dish. Start with the sauce; add the cheese and then eggplant and so on, finishing with a sprinkled layer of mozzarella. Bake for about 30 minutes until heated through and bubbling.
Butternut squash fries
Butternut squash is among the best vegetable alternatives to potato fries. It retains its texture when roasted and the taste is unrivaled. Butternut squash is an extraordinarily nutrient-rich vegetable. One cup provides 437% percent of our daily vitamin A requirements. That alone is enough to put it on the must-have list.
All that is required is the squash, salt and an oven. Pre-heat the oven to 425of/220oc. Peel the squash, slice in half and de-seed. Cut into equal-sized strips to resemble french fries and dust lightly with salt. Bake on a non-stick surface for about 40 minutes, turning the fries after 20. Fries are ready when they are crispy at the edges and starting to brown.
Enjoy with your favorite meal or just as a snack with ketchup. 100 grams of butternut squash carries 12 grams of carbohydrate – the potato equivalent is around 41.
Portobello mushroom pizza base and bread buns
Mushrooms are protein rich and fat free and the Portobello variety is a sumptuous, filling substitute for carbohydrate-rich pizza dough and bread buns. A Portobello mushroom is custom-made for these purposes. Upended, its cap is ideal for holding burgers, sandwich or pizza filling.
To make an open sandwich, place a Portobello mushroom cap, gill side up, on the rack of a roasting tray and drizzle the inside with olive oil. Roast for around 12 minutes (425of/220oc) and season with salt and pepper before adding your chosen filling.
To prepare a pizza base, lightly oil all around the mushroom. Sprinkle salt and pepper before cooking and add your filling – tomatoes, mozzarella and oregano are a lovely combination. If your filling is a little too juicy, prick the base of the mushroom to allow excess liquid to escape through the rack. Finish with a sprinkling of cheese. Your pizza should be hot and bubbling in about 15 minutes.
A large Portobello mushroom (200 grams) has fewer than 8 grams of carbohydrate compared to a single serving of pizza dough’s 27 and a 100 gram bread roll’s 25. The mushroom versions are far more filling for far fewer carbohydrates.
There are many more delicious ways to reduce carbohydrate in the diet, and once some of these have been tasted you may well find that this reduced-carbohydrate meals are not just for weight-loss and fitness regimes but are delicious enough to satisfy forever. You may never eat another potato!
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