What do mac and cheese, stacks of pancakes, and bowls of pasta all have in common? If you answered, “Umm, they’re delicious,” you’d be right. But they’re also heavy in carbs and can leave you feeling tired and annoyed. And while a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates is good for us in moderation, after a long, cold winter, you might be itching to try something fresh for spring. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve gathered some of the most notorious carb-heavy foods and found a delicious, low-carb alternative to satisfy any craving.
Instead of TACO SHELLS try LEAFY GREENS
1. Cilantro-Lime Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps Because you can turn almost any sandwich into a lettuce wrap, we’re partial to this version that replaces taco shells with iceberg lettuce and fills it with juicy turkey, a delicious homemade salsa, and all your favorite taco fixings. Increase nutrients even more by replacing the lettuce with spinach leaves.
Instead of HAMBURGER BUNS try PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
2. Turkey Cacciatore Burgers on Portobello “Buns” A classy twist on the average turkey burger, this nutritious recipe comes together quickly—the mushrooms roast in the oven for 12 minutes while the turkey cooks on the stovetop—looks complicated (read: serve when you have friends coming over), and tastes delicious. Packed with protein, thanks to turkey, plenty of potassium courtesy of the mushrooms, and crazy tasty. What more do you need?
Instead of SLICED BREAD try EGGPLANT
3. Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint Not quite a sandwich but an elegant spin on bruschetta, this recipe forgoes bread for eggplant, for a healthier version of the Italian classic. While the eggplant roasts in the oven, mix the remaining handful of ingredients (onions, tomatoes, capers) to get them ready to be scooped onto the eggplant and you’re done!
Instead of FRENCH FRIES try BUTTERNUT SQUASH, TURNIPS, or CARROTS
4. Baked Butternut Squash Fries When you need a crunchy fry, these crispy squash spears fit the bill. Technically a fruit, butternut squash is full of nutrients like potassium and carotenoids (which help protect your heart). Speed things up by skipping the peeling step—the fries will still be delicious.
5. Roasted Turnips with Parmesan Haven’t ever really eaten turnips? It’s time to give them a second look. They’re inexpensive and their natural sweetness makes them seem like a real treat. Leave the skins on the turnips before roasting to make this already super-easy recipe even quicker. Try them alongside your favorite burger or sandwich recipe for a fry that’s a vegetable in disguise.
6. Healthy Baked Carrot Fries Here’s a kitchen secret: when carrots are baked, they taste surprisingly similar to sweet potatoes. That makes these beta-carotene-packed carrot fries all the more sweet. Just chop, toss in salt and pepper, and bake. Want to add some extra zing? Use your favorite spices like garlic, Old Bay, or crushed red pepper to up the flavor even more.
Instead of LASSAGNA try ZUCCHINI or EGGPLANT
7. Delicious Zucchini Lasagna You won’t miss the noodles in this meaty, cheesy lasagna that’s packed with fresh zucchini. Just two or three thinly sliced zucchinis are needed to replace normal lasagna noodles. Give it a whirl in the summer when farmers’ markets and gardens are bursting with the vegetable.
8. Easy Eggplant Lasagna If you love eggplant, this recipe’s for you. If you don’t love eggplant yet, you will after whipping up this pasta-free dish. It comes together quickly for a lasagna that’s got all the flavor of the familiar version without the carbs. It’s also insanely flexible: peel or don’t peel the eggplant and make the slices as thick (or thin) as you like. Use jarred pasta sauce to speed things up even more.
Instead of MAC & CHEESE or MASHED POTATOES try CAULIFLOWER
9. Mac-and-Cheese-Style Cauliflower A creamy, cheesy alternative to typical mac and cheese, it’s not a stretch to think this version is preferable to using elbow pasta, no matter what your relationship with carbs may be. Boil cauliflower, whisk up a cheese sauce, and throw it all in the oven. For a fancier twist, use your favorite non-cheddar cheeses or a combo (mozzarella and pepper jack, anyone?)
10. Mashed Cauliflower With Garlic and Chives Move over, cream- and butter-laden mashed potatoes—there’s a new side dish in town. This mashed cauliflower takes on the consistency of potatoes after getting chopped up in a food processor or blender (or use a potato masher to get chunkier “potato” pieces and work on your upper arm strength!), so get ready to enjoy a favorite comfort food minus piles of carbs. The garlic and chives add an extra dimension of flavor that’s sure to be a hit.
Want more? Click over to Greatist for the full list of 20 Low-Carb Substitiutions That Don’t Suck!