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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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 comfortfood minus piles of carbs. The garlic and chives add an extra dimension of flavor that’s sure to be a hit.
Also try: Almond flour pancakes or oatmeal and cottage cheese
Using almond instead of wheat-based flour keeps these breakfast beauties lower in carbs without sacrificing the tiniest bit of taste. Whip up the batter with a blender for a quicker breakfast, or use a bowl and whisk—either option yields delicious results. Add berries for some color and a fruity zing. Oh, and trust us one this one—make an extra batch to freeze for a busy morning.
It’s a lucky thing that this recipe is for one, because you won’t want to share. Oats and cottage cheese come together as pancake batter, while banana adds a hint of natural sweetness. Blend for just 30 seconds and drop batter onto a heated skillet for perfect pancakes. Don’t forget add-ins like chocolate chips!
You will believe it when you taste it—mushrooms make an incredibly tasty pizza crust. Lunch or dinner doesn’t get simpler than this: drizzle mushroom caps with olive oil, load up on your favorite toppings like cheese or veggies, and bake. Sprinkle a little fresh basil on to bring it over the top.
Is there anything cauliflower can’t disguise itself as? Don’t be put off by making your own “dough.” The taste is well worth it, and takes less time than traditional dough (no rising, yay!). Roasted veggies and goat cheese are a tasty topping, but if you prefer a more conventional pizza, load it up with marinara and mozz.
Try this basic recipe when you’re just craving a big ol’ bowl of rice. If you’re looking for something fancier, the suggested add-ins like lemon and sea salt or curry, ginger, and red chilies will jazz up your cauliflower in no time (We especially have our eyes on the Spanish cauliflower rice version that includes salsa and jalapenos!).
Also try: Black bean spaghetti, shredded cabbage, spaghetti squash, or sweet potato noodles
Spaghetti made out of... black beans?! With 25 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber per serving, this alternative will keep you feeling full and satisfied much longer than whole-wheat spaghetti noodles. Give it a whirl in this Mexican-inspired dish.
Sriracha, garlic, and veggies are an epic trio, and this alternative is just as delightful. This version lightens the load by using Japanese shirataki noodles (made out of yams and already cooked!), which have zero carbs, to create a restaurant-worthy—but still healthy—dish.
18. Skinny Spaghetti
Cabbage masked as spaghetti? Trust us, it works. The cabbage “noodles” lose their cabbage-y flavor, and become the perfect vehicle for this flavorful chili that uses staple ingredients like garlic and chopped tomatoes. Bonus: Use the leftover chili in a burrito, taco, or even eat it on its own.
Using only four ingredients, this basic recipe is a great base to build a simple spaghetti dish. Adding vegetables like mushrooms or spinach boosts healthful goodness, while throwing in some cooked chicken or shrimp will give it an extra protein boost. But if you want to eat it as is, using squash instead of typical pasta will keep you guilt-free.
20. Japchae (Korean Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Noodles)
Vegetarian-friendly, throw this this stir-fry together quickly for an easy after-work dinner. The prep and cook time are equally minimal, and the dish tastes great served warm or at room temperature (and yes, even cold, and straight from the refrigerator!).