Swap Your Side Dish and Slash Calories & Carbs 77%

by Camille on July 4, 2011

Grilled mini bananas

It’s been seven months since my son was born, and (unlike those first few post-partum months) I’ve been thinking a lot about what I eat. I have two goals: One, eat nutrient-rich food so I’m getting more value from every calorie; and two, eat in a way that helps me get back in shape. (I’ve been able to lose almost all of the weight I put on during pregnancy—but I’m miles from being as fit as I was a year and a half ago, so I’m on the lookout for foods that will give me energy for my workouts.)

As such, I’ve been casting a critical eye at my side dishes—i.e., the non-protein portion of my meals. I’ve talked about my love of white rice many times here at Svelte. I’m not about to give that up, but when I started examining my lunches and dinners, I realized they were heavy on other filler foods like cous cous, pasta, bread and potatoes.

While I was brainstorming about how to switch things up, I remembered something dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner told me when I was interviewing her for a story for Prevention. She pointed out that one of the easiest ways to make meals healthier is to rethink the “starch” portion of your meal. “People eat starchy foods like potatoes because that’s what they’re used to. You can swap these foods out with nutritious vegetables that are just as satisfying, but better for you.”

With that in mind, I’ve been experimenting. One recent discovery is grilled mini-bananas, sliced length-wise and grilled in a pan. They look (and taste!) deep-fried, but they’re actually lower in cabs and calories than rice. Here are a few other smart swaps I’ve been using:

Instead of … 1 cup pasta (220 calories, 43 g carbs)
Try … 1 cup stirfry veggies (70 calories, 10 g carbs)
Stir-fry veggies are surprisingly versatile; I like to use them in place of pasta. Serve with marinara sauce, ground turkey and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for a delicious, gluten-free dinner that will run you about 70% fewer calories and 77% fewer carbs than pasta.

Instead of … 1 cup rice (205 calories, 44 g carb)
Try … 1 banana or roughly three mini bananas, grilled (107 calories, 27 g carb s)
Not only are grilled bananas sweet and satisfying, they’re chock full of potassium—a mineral that helps lower blood pressure and maintains nerve fuction.

Instead of … 1 cup mashed potatoes (174 calories, 37 g carbs)
Try … 14 baked sweet potato fries (140 calories, 23 g carbs)
In addition to being a great source of vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes are lower in natural sugar and carbs (really!) than white potatoes. And, of course, they’re delicious.

Do you have any unusual side dishes to share?


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Cameo July 5, 2011 at 7:24 am

Yum! Great swap ideas. I am totally going to try the banana. I have been doing this sort of swapping for the past 6 mos and it really works a charm!

SARA July 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Camille, I need to try this banana of which you speak. Sounds delicious! I do sweet potatoes a whole lot these days, but also eggplant slices (tons of antioxidants and I love the savoriness) and cauliflower, cooked on high in the oven until they get really toasted on the outside. My Whole Foods has a steamed collard greens salad with apples, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes (therein lies the flavor trick) that’s as easy to replicate as it sounds.

Lauren Slayton July 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm

so true. I find anything roasted is satisfying (parsnips, asparagus etc). I like slaws too. I also make “carrot fries” with a little honey. All about trade offs.

GiGi Eats Celebrities June 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Spaghetti Squash instead of Spaghetti! That is definitely my go-to and saves sooo many calories & empty carbs! Oh and I love making butternut squash “fries”! Although I should call them… “bakes!” LOL!

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