]There’s nothing wrong with eating carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a source of energy your muscles need. When you do high-intensity workouts, it’s important to have enough carbs stored in your muscles, in the form of glycogen, to reduce fatigue. It’s the processed and rapidly absorbed carbs that spike your blood sugar and insulin levels that are less desirable.
One way to avoid the ‘bad” carb problem is to limit foods made with white flour, foods with added sugar and low-fiber offerings like pasta, rice, and white potatoes. Sometimes that’s hard to do when you consider even common foods like sandwiches you get at restaurants are made with white-flour bread. One solution is to make your own sandwiches with 100% whole wheat bread that’s high in fiber, but you have other options. For most carbs that you eat, there are healthy carb substitutions, higher in fiber and considerably more blood sugar and waistline friendly. Here are some healthy carb swaps to consider.
Healthy Carb Substitutions: Nix the Low-Fiber Pasta
In case you don’t know the stats, standard pasta is high in carbs and low in fiber. Yes, you can buy whole wheat pasta but it’s still relatively carb heavy. For example, a cup of whole wheat spaghetti has 31 grams of net carbs. A low-carb alternative is shirataki pasta, made from konjac yams. Shirataki noodles and pasta come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are available at many whole food markets. Best of all they have no carbs and are rich in a fiber called glucomannan.
If you prefer something that doesn’t come in a package, buy a whole spaghetti squash and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. Then scoop the insides out after cooking and remove the seeds. You’ll be left with strands of squash that resemble fine spaghetti noodles, a perfect blanket for marinara and other favorite pasta sauces. Spaghetti squash naturally has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants too.
If you have a spiral vegetable tool, use it to make noodles out of other vegetables including zucchini, turnips and other varieties of squash. Don’t forget you can always enjoy your favorite pasta sauce over a bed of spinach or other sautéed greens instead of pasta.
Want to reduce the carbs in your next batch of lasagna? Substitute baked zucchini strips for lasagna noodles. You’ll never miss the pasta. What about another comfort food – mac and cheese? Cut back on the pasta in this crowd-pleasing dish and replace it with veggies like broccoli or cauliflower.
Healthy Carb Substitutions: Healthier Rice Substitutes
Some foods taste better on a bed of rice. Unfortunately, white rice is stripped of its fiber and natural vitamins and minerals, so much so that minerals and vitamins have to be added before it’s packaged. Brown rice contains more fiber but there are some concerns about arsenic in brown rice. Skip the rice entirely and dine on quinoa. Quinoa is higher in protein, contains more fiber and is a complete source of essential amino acids. It also doesn’t contain gluten, although contamination with gluten may be a concern. Barley is another whole grain substitute for rice that’s blood sugar friendly but it’s not gluten-free.
How about mock rice made from cauliflower? All you need is fresh cauliflower and a food processor. After washing and draining the cauliflower, place it in the food processor and pulse it until it resembles grains of rice. Remove the grains from the food processor and saute the grains lightly to soften them. It’s one of the healthiest versions of “rice” around.
Healthy Carb Substitutions: Healthy Carb “Bread”
Going bunless or using a lettuce leaf as a sandwich wrap is always an option, but you’ll get more nutritional benefits by wrapping your next sandwich masterpiece in a cabbage or kale leaf instead. Use a big green leaf as a substitute for taco shells too. Instead of a hamburger bun, sandwich your meat or veggie burger between two portabella mushrooms and add your choice of condiments. Don’t forget to add some veggies to your “burger.”
Healthy Carb Substitutions: Fewer Potatoes, More Veggies
Potatoes are high in carbs and impact your blood sugar more than most vegetables. Substitute mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes next time you have a hankering for comfort food. After roasting cauliflower, place it in a food processor. Add other ingredients you normally use in mashed potatoes like milk or milk substitute, butter, salt etc. Puree until smooth.
Skip the “potato” fries and enjoy baked butternut squash fries instead. Butternut squash is lower in carbs and has plenty of carotenoids that you won’t find in white potatoes. To make these guilt-free fries, cut butternut squash into wedges. Spray a cooking sheet lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly salt the wedges and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. If you don’t have butternut squash on hand, make zucchini or sweet potato baked fries instead.
Healthy Carb Substitutions: White Flour Substitutions
If you bake, reduce the carbs in your freshly baked creations by substituting coconut flour, almond flour or ground flaxseed for a portion of the flour the recipe recommends. All are low in carbs and high in fiber. You can substitute almond flour one to one for other flours but coconut flour is highly absorbent so increase the amount of liquid in the recipe by one cup for each cup of coconut flour you substitute.
Healthy Carb Substitutions: Fun with Pizza
Pizza isn’t all bad, especially if you add lots of vegetable toppings. The main problem is the crust. Why not enjoy your favorite pizza toppings on a Portabella mushroom instead? Also available online are recipes for making pizza crust out of cauliflower. Who would have known cauliflower is so versatile and healthy?
The Bottom Line
You can still enjoy carby favorites without all the carbs and get more fiber and antioxidants at the same time. You need a certain quantity of carbohydrates in your diet but make sure they’re healthy ones.
Self Nutrition Data.
WebMD. “Arsenic in Food”
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