It’s a new year, and if you’re anything like 48% of the population whose resolution was to “eat healthier,” you might find yourself starting to slip by February. After all, we are surrounded by food. From TV commercials to stalking Facebook ads to drool-worthy specials du jour from our favorite local eateries, temptation is everywhere. Carbohydrates are everywhere! But there are tasty ways to substitute your go-to carbs for a decadent meal, without compromising any flavor.
Don’t believe me?
I get it. My wife’s family is Italian – carbs don’t just have their own block of the food pyramid, they are the food pyramid. But believe it or not, vegetable carb substitutes are popping up at restaurants and grocery stores alike. Once you know what to look for, that diet will no longer seem like a restriction, but a victory lap for those resolutions.
The most popular carb substitute on the market right now is cauliflower rice. Yes, cauliflower rice. If you have a head of cauliflower and a food processor – or even a standard kitchen grater – you can make it yourself in minutes. Don’t want to DIY? There’s a plethora of products for carb-adverse consumers that include riced cauliflower and broccoli (sold plain or in flavor varieties enhanced with flecks of bells peppers or fresh-to-frozen onions). These are perfect for things like my cilantro-lime tacos.
If noodles are more your style, though, you can get a decent spiralizer online and make every kind of veggie “noodle” under the sun. Your local grocery store carries lots of options as well – sweet potato rotini, spiraled spaghetti and butternut squash, and even beet noodles. A go-to dinner for me is my signature Pad Thai, but I replace traditional rice noodles with squash noodles or “zoodles” – zucchini noodles. Throw in julienned bell peppers, shelled edamame, protein of choice, my gluten-free Pad Thai sauce (for sale at Stella’s Sundries), and you have a chef-worthy dinner.
For Friday night pizza, try creating your favorite pie with a cauliflower crust. Local Greek deli and produce heaven, Spiro’s, sells individual cauliflower crusts for those one-pan family dinners or solo midnight munchies. While cauliflower crusts can be eaten raw (they are fully cooked, just even more delicious in the form of pizza), I always bake mine for a good ten minutes prior to loading it with sauce and toppings, to ensure a crispy exterior.
If you’re not in the mood to slave over the stove, Tutto Bene in downtown Gulfport also offers a fabulous cauliflower crust option for their pizzas. Open-air Isabelle’s Restaurant at the Peninsula Inn also boasts a hearty squash noodle option for their fresh, seasonal veggie bowl entrée.
So, sure, the versatility of veggies makes them easy to prepare as a flavorful, health-conscious alternative to classic carbs. But is it just a fad?
Most of us don’t cook with heaps of lard anymore, or use cartons of heavy cream. Those things are delicious, but our modern palates have adjusted to love things that are just a little bit better for our bodies. With the right recipe, veggies can give the joy of carbs, without all the calories.
And, just maybe, help us stick to our New Year’s resolutions beyond February.
Morgan Banno is a culinary student at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Former head chef at Gulfport restaurant Stella’s, she’s owner of the meal-prep service, Nun on the Run. Morgan holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of South Florida. As a ballerina-turned-chef, Morgan’s studies have brought her across the globe in pursuit of all things adventure and food.