“Many of my clients are reluctant to part with their highly processed favorites because they don’t think their cravings can be satisfied with healthy food,” says Cheryl Forberg, RD, chef and nutritionist for NBC's The Biggest Loser. “But it’s a misconception that simple, nutritious foods can’t be absolutely bursting with flavor!”
Start using these carb-slashing cooking tips today.
1. Pizza (288 calories, 33 grams of carbs per slice)
Swap the thick crust for a mushroom cap (22 calories, 4.3 grams of carbs).
Building your pizza on a mushroom is a simple way to cut the carbs and calories. When you eat mushrooms, you also get nutrients like potassium, which can help lower blood pressure, and niacin, a B vitamin that helps your body change carbs into fuel for energy.
“Plus, mushrooms have a meaty texture and rich flavor,” Forberg says.
2. Potato chips (230 calories, 23 grams of carbs per 2-ounce serving)
Swap chips for slices of jicama (45 calories, 10 grams of carbs per 1-cup serving).
“Jicama is a sweet, edible root that makes a delicious impostor for your favorite dip,” Forberg says.
Note the difference in serving size.
3. Spaghetti (One cup has 176 calories and 39 grams of carbs.)
Swap the white noodles for spaghetti squash (42 calories, 10 grams of carbs per 1-cup serving).
Want actual pasta? Choose one that's made from whole-grain flour.
At 174 calories and 37 grams of carbs per 1-cup serving, that's pretty similar to pasta made from white flour. But there's a difference.
“Higher in protein and fiber, whole-grain pasta keeps your blood sugar in check, so your hunger won't return as quickly as it does with white pasta,” Forberg says. “It also contains more health-boosting antioxidants and filling dietary fiber than the refined versions.”
She suggests cooking whole-grain pasta al dente, meaning it's fully cooked but not totally soft, so it keeps its flavor (which could be either slight nutty or sweet, depending on the brand).
4. Lasagna (Three pieces of the pasta -- just the pasta, not including the filling -- have 190 calories and 37 grams of carbs.)
Swap the white lasagna sheets for grilled eggplant (34 calories, 8 grams of carbs per 1-cup serving).
Eggplant gives you fiber for not a lot of calories. It's also a good source of natural plant chemicals called bioflavonoids (which are good for your blood pressure) and vitamin K (which can help prevent blood clots).
“Whether it’s baked, broiled, grilled, sauteed, or even microwaved, a little cooking yields a tender, almost creamy texture to this versatile veggie,” Forberg says. "When shopping for eggplant, look for smooth skin that yields slightly to pressure but bounces back.”
5. Mashed Potatoes (One-third of a cup has 66 calories and13 grams of carbs.)
Swap the potatoes for cauliflower (14 calories, 2.5 grams of carbs per 1/2-cup serving).
While the numbers for the “real” mashed potatoes may not seem very high at first glance, check out the portion size. One-third of a cup is small. Is that really all you're going to eat?
Use cauliflower instead of the potatoes, and you'll get more fiber and potassium, Sherr says.
6. Sugary Breakfast Cereals
Swap the supersweet cereal for a whole-grain version.
“The slow release of energy from these complex carbohydrates will keep you fuller longer while keeping your energy and blood sugar revved,” Forberg says.
She recommends choosing a cereal that gives you at least 5 grams of fiber and no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.