Health Tip:

Turn Any Recipe into a Fat Burner

By making targeted substitutions to your favorite recipes, you can turn anything into a well-balanced meal.

As a dietitian and home cook, one of my hobbies is to look at recipes and challenge myself to find ways to make them just a bit healthier. If you’re on a low carb diet, knowing when and how to make substitutions is essential. While you can often find delicious low carb recipes through a simple Google or Pinterest search, not every “low carb” recipe you find is a winner. Therefore, learning how to take any recipe and adapt it into a low carb dish is a skill worth cultivating.

Remember that just like anything, you will have to practice recipe substitution before it feels natural. Start by simply looking at every recipe with a critical eye. Does it have any high carb ingredients? Is it balanced – aka does it have enough veggies? Just because a recipe is described as “healthy” or “low carb” doesn’t mean it can’t be made better.

Here are 5 great tips that will help you turn any recipe into a low carb masterpiece:

  1. Substitute the starch.

    Obviously starches and starchy vegetables are out when it comes to a low carb diet. Consider the following substitutions for any recipes that calls for starch:
    Starch Substitution
    Pasta Eggplant
    Spaghetti squash
    Shirataki noodles
    Zucchini or yellow squash noodles (“zoodles”)
    Rice Riced broccoli
    Riced cauliflower
    Potatoes or sweet potatoes (chunks) Butternut squash
    Celery root
    Kohlrabi
    Parsnips
    Radishes
    Rutabaga
    Turnips
    Potatoes or sweet potatoes (mashed) Brussels sprouts
    Butternut squash
    Cauliflower
    Celery root
    Rutabaga
    Bread, wraps, or tortillas Bib lettuce
    Cauliflower wrap/bread (made with 4 grams net carbs or fewer)
    Chaffle
    Jicama tortilla
    Portobello mushrooms
  2. Add more vegetables.

    Bulk up your recipe by adding 1-2 extra veggies to the dish. Be creative with your choices! Zucchini, cabbage, bell peppers, and onions all blend very nicely into most recipes. Alternatively, serve your dish with at least 1-2 extra side vegetables.
  3. Use dark meat.

    If your recipe calls for chicken breast, substitute skinless/boneless chicken thighs instead – it’ll have more flavor and more satisfying fats.
  4. Choose an oil with a good fat profile.

    Avocado, canola, and olive oil all have excellent heart-healthy fat profiles (a great balance of monounsaturated fats to polyunsaturated fats). Use one of those to cook instead of vegetable oil or coconut oil.
  5. Boost the seasonings.

    If you make substitutions, especially if you add extra veggies, consider increasing the volume of seasonings called for in the recipe. This will certainly be a trial-and-error experiment but start with 1.5 times the amount of seasonings called for in the recipe. Example: if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, add 1.5 teaspoons. You may need a calculator for this part!

Adapting a recipe can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be! Your challenge – should you choose to accept it (and I highly recommend you do) – is to make substitutions to at least ONE new recipe every week. Find recipes in a favorite cookbook, website, Pinterest, etc. and just start making 1-2 edits using the tips above. Give it a month or so and you’ll feel like a pro!

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Hi there! I’m Gabby, head registered dietitian at WellnessFromFood. If you have questions, please email me! Want to lose weight with me? Click here

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