In one respect, I can barely believe it’s March already. On the other hand, I’m so pleased!
After what felt like an endless cycle of walking to and from work in the dark, the tides have finally turned and we have light. And the clocks go back too ... did I mention that I’m excited about spring?
With the lighter – and milder weather – I’m starting to revisit what I eat. I’m no longer craving the stodgy, winter dishes that kept me going through the colder months. I now want something fresher, lighter, and less carb-heavy.
Carbs are an essential part of our diet. As much as I love bread and pasta, I accept that my waistline doesn’t; eat them every day and the pounds soon start creeping on. But I had a dilemma; most of my favourite dishes had bread, pasta, noodles or rice as a major component. I had to find a way to still eat my favourite meals but make them lighter.
I started by looking at vegetables. There is no lack of information out there about how good vegetables are for us, and in my mind, the more you eat the better. I use six vegetables as carb alternatives, which includes carrots, courgettes, sweet potatoes, squash, cauliflower and kale.
Alternatives to pasta and noodles
Courgettes, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash all work as great alternatives. The great thing about these veggies is you don’t need any fancy equipment to turn them into pasta or noodles. If you have a spiraliser, great, but if not, a vegetable peeler will do. Anything that creates ribbons will work.
If you are making courgette noodles – or courgetti as they are known – take care when cooking. This vegetable has a lot of natural water content, so only really needs a few minutes in a pan with a tiny splash of oil to cook it through. I have two ways I love to serve courgetti. The first is with a little soy, ginger and honey, served alongside some baked salmon. Healthy and delicious. The other is with a classic Bolognese sauce. I use extra lean mince to make the whole dish healthier, but once the Bolognese sauce is on top, you’ll forget you’re not eating spaghetti.
Squash makes a great alternative to pasta too, however it takes a little longer to prepare. Simply cut the squash in half and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Then, use a fork to pull the flesh out, which naturally comes away like spaghetti. When I cook this, I like to serve the squash pasta with some peas and chorizo.
Alternatives to rice
A great alternative to rice is cauliflower. Simply throw some florets into a food processer and whir until they turn into fine grains of rice. I then like to top the cauliflower rice with a Thai green curry – it’s a delicious lower carb alternative.
There’s an assumption that cauliflower is the only real rice alternative but that’s not the case. Courgette works well as rice if you grate it. Using a standard grater, use the biggest holes to turn the courgette into rice. Saute with some prawns and a little lemon and chilli and you have a truly delicious dish.
I also like to use kale as an alternative to rice. It doesn’t look the same by any stretch of the imagination but cut into small pieces and steamed, it’s a lovely base to add a good dollop of chilli con carne if you’re conscious about getting your greens and cutting down on your carbs.
Those are my tips for swapping out carbs for something a little healthier. Are there any other veggies I could try?
Chiara is an editor who likes the simple things in life; a cup of tea by the fire, travel, and spending time with friends and family. She also can’t resist the lure of Scandinavian decor and has a penchant for anything warm and cosy. You can find out more about Chiara and follow her adventures on her blog, Wine and Olives.