Carbs can be healthy! Image by: Getty Images
No matter your craving—pizza, pasta, chocolate—we've got a healthy carb substitute that's good for you.Low-carb diets affect our mood and energy for a reason—carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for our bodies. But our carb carvings aren’t just biological, they’re a learned response in the brain, says Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. "Research has shown that when we give in to our cravings over and over we map an automatic response in the brain." The good news is you can create a new, healthier pathway with nutritious alternatives that satisfy your carb cravings without any negative side effects like low energy or weight gain. Here are a few handy suggestions.
Make a homemade veggie pizza using whole wheat pita and low-fat mozzarella or ricotta cheese. "It's already personal size so there's no chance of overeating," says Brissette. Spread tomato sauce on your pita (if desired), and top with finely diced veggies and cheese. Bake until crisp, melted and irresistible. Carb-curving bonus: Eating whole wheat carbs can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Try this recipe: Double Mozzarella and Spinach Pita Pizzas.
Chocolate chia pudding couldn't be easier to make. "Just add skim milk or a milk alternative, cocoa powder and your choice of sweetener to chia seed, stir it up and put it in the fridge," says Brissette. The chia seeds absorb all the liquid, take on the cocoa flavour and gel into pudding consistency, she adds. Carb-curving bonus: Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which will help keep you feeling fuller longer. Find out more about chia seeds.
Prepare your own sweet potato fries. Cut up sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, add a dash of salt and bake until crispy, says Brissette. The salty, sweet, rich treat will more than satisfy your fix. Carb-curving bonus: Sweet potatoes contain more fibre and fewer total carbs than white potatoes. Try this recipe: Baked Herb Sweet Potato Fries.
"My latest obsession is 'nice cream'," says Brissette. "Take a frozen fruit, bananas work well, and add skim milk or a milk alternative like almond milk until the drink is the consistency of ice cream. It really helps kick sweet cravings." Carb-curving bonus:Fresh fruit is fibre-rich, which provides "bulk", slowing digestion and making you feel full longer. Try this recipe: Pineapple Berry Smoothie.
Spaghetti squash makes a great substitute for pasta noodles, says Brissette. Just steam, separate the strands with a fork, and add your favourite pasta sauce. Carb-curving bonus:You'll get a host of vitamins from the squash, including vitamin A, vitamin C and beta-carotene. "If you're craving lasagna, I use sliced zucchini in place of the noodle," adds Brissette. Try this recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes.
Make your own popcorn with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt and herbs, or, for a cheesy hit, add nutritional yeast. "You can buy nutritional yeast in bulk stores and health food stores," says Brissette. "It's just like sprinkling Parmesan cheese flakes onto your popcorn." Carb-curving bonus:Nutritional yeast is rich in B vitamins such as riboflavin and niacin. "Plus, it gives you a ton of flavour without a ton of fat," adds Brissette. Find out how to make popcorn the old-fashioned way.
Eat a handful of your favourite nuts along with one or two squares of dark chocolate. Nuts won't trigger the same serotonin release that carbs do, says Brissette, but they will keep you satisfied. "Just make sure you stick to a handful because nuts are high in calories." Carb-curving bonus: The natural fats in the nuts and protein will curb your appetite while the dark chocolate will satisfy your sweet craving. Find out everything you need to know about nuts.
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