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Mary-Linh Tran

Junior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

As you know, we’ve been working on something exciting: our very first cookbook! Anyone Can Cook will be published with Prestel in Spring 2021—you can preorder it here. The cookbook is for brand new or seasoned home cooks looking to infuse fresh ideas into their weeknight cooking routine, which is why this month, to celebrate its release, we’ll focus on all the different ways to tackle dinner throughout the week, and share tips and tricks from our chefs and editors. All month long, you’ll get exclusive sneak peeks into Anyone Can Cook, plus plenty of new, satisfying, and versatile recipe ideas to rely on the whole week through.

Let’s get something out of the way: There’s a common misconception that carbs lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, but carbs aren’t bad for you. In fact, carbs are macronutrients that help our bodies produce glucose, which is our primary source of energy. Carbs’ bad reputation can be attributed to the sheer amount of refined carbs (carbs that have been processed and stripped of their fiber and vitamins) that are out there. Refined carbs come in the form of white flour, white bread, sodas, breakfast cereals, pastries, and pasta.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with gorging on a plate of spaghetti Bolognese every once in a while. But as with many things in life, consuming too much of one thing isn’t healthy. So we created this quick cheat sheet not to promote a carb-free diet, but to give some guidance if you’re looking to vary up your meals or sneak in some extra vegetables. If you find yourself reaching for a box of pasta every night, maybe it’s time to switch it up and show your vegetables some love. From zoodles to lettuce wraps, you’ll be surprised by how versatile some of our most commonplace vegetables are.

Zoodles for noodles

Zoodles or zucchini noodles are fresh zucchinis that’ve been spiralized or cut into thin strips to resemble noodles, hence their endearing nickname. Spiralized vegetables have grown in popularity over the last decade, but zucchini is perhaps the most popular and easiest to prepare and cook with, as it’s relatively neutral in flavor, so you can dress it up however you like. Whether they’re eaten raw in a salad or drenched in a creamy peanut sauce, zoodles are a fantastic swap for pasta and are packed with vitamins A and C, manganese, and potassium. Plus, you don’t even need a spiralizer to make this at home. Use a julienne peeler, mandoline, or practice your julienning skills and make zoodles with a cutting board and knife. A tip? Don’t peel the zucchini and discard the seedy core, as it’s quite watery and delicate and won’t hold up if you plan on cooking it.

Cauliflower for rice

Blitz cauliflower in a food processor or use a box grater to shave it into rice-sized pieces, then heat them up in a pan with some olive oil and there you have it: cauliflower rice. One serving of cauliflower fulfills the recommended daily amount for vitamin C, making it a super nutritious alternative to rice. Use it in any rice-centric recipe like risotto, pilaf, jambalaya or fried rice, or as the base for a grain bowl or sandwich wrap. Fun fact: You can also prepare a pizza dough from cauliflower, who knew?

Sweet potato or carrot for anything and everything potato

White potatoes are often sidelined for being carb-laden, while sweet potatoes get all the credit of being healthy and wholesome. The truth is, sweet potatoes and white potatoes contain the same amount of carbohydrates. However, sweet potatoes contain more anti-inflammatory and blood-regulating nutrients, including the antioxidant beta carotene, which our body turns into vitamin A. I know, I know, nothing beats a buttery loaded baked potato, but why not try it with a sweet potato next time? You can pretty much sub sweet potato anywhere you’d need a white potato and the result will be delicious. Another great alternative? Carrots. You won’t be able to stuff a baked carrot, but you can certainly mash it, roast it to make carrot fries, or shred it to make a carrot breakfast hash.

Sliced eggplant or zucchini for lasagna sheets

A lot of our favorite comfort foods contain tons of carbs, but here’s a good way to lighten up one of them: The next time you make lasagna, ditch the noodles and layer thin slices of eggplant or zucchini to provide all the silky texture of lasagna without the extra carbs. When sandwiched in between layers of gooey cheese and a hearty meat sauce, I promise nobody will miss the noodles. If using eggplant, think of it as a lighter but no less tasty take on eggplant parm.

Lettuce wraps for tortillas or bread

If you’re feeling bold, use lettuce to hold some of your favorite ingredients for sandwiches and wraps. Lettuce won’t hold sauces very well, but as a carrier for tuna salad, smoked salmon, shrimp, vegetables, or even grilled chicken, you can totally rely on lettuce for a light and fresh alternative that won’t leave you feeling bloated. Plus, it’s a fun way to eat!

Chia pudding for oatmeal

It’s no secret that oats are chock full of fiber. Whether they get tossed into cookies, cakes, or simply in a bowl of yogurt, oats tend to be the most-reached for ingredients when we want to add a bit of nutritional value to our baking and for breakfast. Nutritious as they are, they’re also carb-heavy, which isn’t always the best thing to put in your body first thing in the morning. Enter: Chia pudding. When mixed with liquid, chia seeds become pudding-like. Eaten on their own, they lack flavor, so mix it with a warm berry sauce, honey, maple syrup, coconut flakes, peanut butter, or keep it simple with slices of your favorite fruit, like mango. Chia seeds have two times more protein than most grains and are loaded with healthy fats, potassium, fiber, calcium, and plenty of antioxidants—who doesn’t want to start their morning with all this?

Do you have any low-carb swaps you didn’t see on this list? Let us know in the comments or upload your recipe to our app to share it with the community!

More delicious ideas for you