Whilst it is not the be all and end all of approaches to nutrition, low carbohydrate diets can be an effective way to not only lose weight but also control appetite and manage blood sugar levels. This generally is the result of replacing carbohydrates in the diet with additional protein. There are many ways that a low carbohydrate diet can be achieved, for example, simply reducing the portion sizes of rice (1/4 – ½ cup) and increasing the protein and vegetables on your plate will minimise the carbs you eat. However, you may also wish to replace these carbohydrates with low kilojoule options as well. Replacing your carbohydrate portion with a vegetable alternative keeps the quantity of the meal the same (or even larger), and provides you with plenty of fibre, which helps you feel full. Below are my six favourite ways to replace carbs with vegetables.
1. Broccoli rice
Similar to the more popular cauliflower rice, broccoli rice is created by pulsing florets in a food processor until a rough ‘grain’ is formed. Broccoli or cauliflower rice can be substituted for regular rice, which is quite carbohydrate-heavy. The recommended portion size for rice is half a cup (two serves) per meal, which is much smaller than many of eat. What I like to do to mix my half cup of rice with X amount of broccoli rice and enjoy it with a chicken curry or a casserole. Alternatively, you can replace your entire rice portion with this low carb vegetable swap. Microwave or steam your broccoli rice for 1-2 minutes to soften it, and it is ready to use!
2. Zucchini noodles
Probably my all time favourite vegetable swap – zucchini noodles are made by ‘spiralizing’ raw zucchini so that it represents noodles or pasta. Zucchini is quite a bland vegetable, which means it carries flavour very well. I like to enjoy my zucchini noodles in spaghetti bolognese. I spiralize 1-2 zucchinis (depending on how hungry I am) and place that into my bowl topped with approximately 150g beef bolognese sauce. This meal is a personal favourite in the colder weather, and if I’m making the meal for others, I’ll cook up regular pasta for them. We are all eating the same meal, but mine is that little bit lighter which suits me just fine. Zucchini noodles are quite fine and delicate, so I don’t bother cooking them before I put my sauce on top.
3. Cauliflower mash
A fantastic swap for the family favourite potato mash. Cauliflower mash is made by steaming or boiling florets in water, before blitzing in a food processor till smooth. I like to add a little dijon mustard, cheese and season to mine. Cauliflower mash is great for those who are not too fond of cauliflower as it becomes a beautifully rich and silky consistency and pairs perfectly with a heart roast dinner.
4. Lettuce leaf wraps
Take one or two large green leaves from an iceberg or cos lettuce and lay it flat on your board before adding in your choice of wrap fillings. Think san chow bao crossed with a sandwich. Rather than having your greens torn up in a salad, a lettuce leaf wrap gives your a more interesting way to increase your vegetable intake. I love to fill mine with grilled chicken, cheese, pesto and roasted vegetables. Easy, tasty, low carb and high fibre.
5. Cauliflower pizza
Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable, and you can actually use it to make great pizza bases. Firstly you’ll want to place the florets of one large cauliflower into a food processor and pulse until a fine grain is formed. Next, steam the cauliflower till soft, before removing all moisture as best you can. You can wrap the cauliflower in a towel to squeeze if you’d like. Mix your cauliflower with parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic powder and 2 lightly beaten eggs and spread the dough out on a tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, top with your favourite pizza toppings and cook for a further 10, and you are done! Cauliflower pizza is great for game nights or family gatherings where you’re looking for easily shared meals.
6. Carrot fries
Carrot fries are a great low carb replacement for your potato or sweet potato fries. Simply cut carrots into sticks, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven until cooked through and crispy on the edges. Dip into a spiced yoghurt dip. Your friends are guaranteed to love this one!4