Last summer, right after getting engaged, I decided that it was time for me to learn some healthier eating habits. I can say that I’ve never been the healthiest of eaters, but I blame that on being so picky, so I wanted to find ways to get the nutrients in my body that would help me lose weight when paired with a good exercise routine… because we all know that exercising alone won’t solve our issues with having a little extra cushioning on the muffin top. I wanted to look my best for my big day, and I knew that learning these healthy-eating habits wouldn’t come out of thin air and that I definitely need someone there to hold me accountable. So I decided to meet with a dietician to learn what I need to do; someone to tell me what to eat and make me feel bad when I didn’t follow my program [ok, she never did that, but it made me feel guilty going in and saying I ate two big slices of pizza instead of that celery with peanut butter I agreed to in past meetings].
One of the very first food categories we talked about were carbs… that naughty, naughty word that all you Atkin’s fanatics cringe when hearing. Now, I’ve always known that carb overloading was never good for you, that is unless you have a race or big game coming up [anyone remember those carb-loading parties when you played sports?]. Well, I don’t run races and I don’t play sports so too many carbs were going straight to the areas of my body that I didn’t want [i.e. my thighs, ass and belly]. Because of this, I needed to find supplemental foods to curb my cravings for my favorite foods, such as pizza, pasta and sandwiches. So I set out to find some alternatives that actually weren’t too bad! Below are 5 foods that you can use as substitutes for some of your favorite carb dishes.
Spaghetti Squash is harvested in early fall but keeps well for months if stored in a cool, dry area. There are a variety of recipes that you can use with this vegetable, such hash browns, pancakes and a substitute for any spaghetti noodle [pair it with spaghetti sauce, herbs, garlic, etc.]
Zucchini, another form of squash, is in season during the summer months [May-Sept]. When buying, look for smaller zucchini that are firm, heavy, unblemished, bright and glossy in appearance. There are an abundance of recipes out there that utilize zucchini, including lasagna and pizza [substitute thinly sliced zucchini for the noodles and crust], fries or chips and many more.
Cauliflower is a summer and autumn vegetable that has a variety of uses when working toward a lower carb diet. Some of my favorite recipes that I look forward to trying is mashed “potatoes”, cauliflower pizza crust and “tater tots”.
If you are someone who craves chips, this is a great alternative to sitting down with a bag in your lap. Cut each stick into quarter-inch think slices and place on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick spray. Bake in the oven at 375 for 4 to 6 minutes and voila, you’ve got yourself some cheese flavored chips! Also try this with zucchini’s that are lightly sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
Now, this may be a no-brainer, but using lettuce leafs is a fabulous way to cut carbs! Wrap your burgers in some lettuce leaves, use lettuce leaves instead of taco shells, or make yourself a salad instead of a sandwich – include all of your fixin’s [protein, cheese, additional veggies and some low-carb dressing] and feel good about cutting those carbs out of your meal!
So, let me conclude this post by saying that not all carbs are bad, and if you love them like I do, make sure you allow yourself to enjoy it – but do it in moderation. I cut my “bad” carb intake to no more than one time a day, some days I cut it out all together. But I would still eat “good” carbs, which included brown rice, quinoa [you need to try this if you haven’t], brown rice pasta noodles [check out Trader Joe’s] and 100% whole wheat pasta [another Trader Joe find but I know Target and Cub sell some, to]. Again, eat this in moderation and try not to eat it for more than one meal a day. Below is an idea of what I may eat during the day:
Brown Rice Cake with Peanut Butter
1 cup of strawberries
2 or 3 strips of nitrate-free bacon
Salad with chicken strips or taco-seasoned ground beef
1 cup of Pomegranate Greek Yogurt [my favorite from Trader Joes and contains less sugar than Chobani or Yoplait]
Carrot sticks or celery with peanut butter
Chicken stir fry with brown rice
Check back next week and I’ll share one of my favorite low carb recipes – a great alternative to one of my favorite foods! Can you guess what it is?