Low-Carb? Don't Starve: Veggie Alternatives to Pasta, Rice and Bread

Low-Carb? Don't Starve: Veggie Alternatives to Pasta, Rice and Bread
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I'm a devout carnivore. Meat is still what's for dinner most days "chez nous." So a low-carb, high-protein diet suggested by my doctor sounded perfect for me.

But a few weeks in, I got tired of the same old "meat -- eggs -- veg" routine. Granted, there were a few "fruit" days. And I learned to turn my protein shakes into something akin to ice cream. But... we're not in the Paleolithic Age, folks. Let us eat cake sometimes. Seriously.

Actually, almost all craving for sugar -- also a no-no for me now -- and most carbs ended quickly. I have always been more about savory than sweet. Save for ice cream -- I'm powerless when it comes to that creamy confection. But my Magic Bullet whips fruit and a dash of heavy cream (no carbs, kids) into a smooth substitute that works for me.

And yes, it's about a lifestyle change, I know. Substitutes weaken the will power. Or so they say. But I'm an old dog. New tricks take time. And even young dogs need a little time to catch on.

So even without the cravings, I did miss pasta and bread sometimes. Not just the taste, but the ease of just tossing a handful of pasta in water and topping or tossing it it, once al dente, with a plethora of tasty things. And you can put almost anything you put in a sandwich -- except PBJ and other sweet stuff -- between lettuce leaves, of course. But lettuce isn't nearly as soul satisfying as a couple of slices of really good artisan bread.

But I have found a few recipes and sites that have given me guilt-free substitutes for pasta and bread. I've even learned to crush up pork rinds instead of bread to replace the crunchy crumbs we like to coat our fried chicken and other friend meats with. There's even a great rosemary-flavored mix you can keep handy.

For pasta, I "spiralize" now. The Inspiralized site, created by Ali Maffucci, is the best source of info and videos about this diet craze -- the video page, shows you how to have a heaping plate of "pasta-rized" veggies on your plate in minute.

Couldn't be simpler. I bought a spiralizer from Amazon.com -- not the one she recommends, but a somewhat cheaper and yet sturdier one that received raves from buyers on the site.

Minutes after it arrived, fully assembled and ready to rock, I turned two zucchinis into long strands of delicious "pasta" that didn't need anything more than a little salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and some Parmesan. But you can use zukes the same way you would use real pasta, pouring on all the sauces you want.

I'm looking forward to spiraling sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash next. The Inspiralized site shows you how to spiralize almost any round or tubular veggie with a solid center. Once "pasta-rized," you can dress them with simple herbs and oils, saute or bake and eat.

Before long, you'll come up with lots of other ways to use your new "pasta." In fact, chopping your spiraled veggies into smaller bits creates a great "rice" substitute, too.

Speaking of rice, "riced" and mashed cauliflower are a "paleo" hit, too. Because butter and heavy cream have no carbs -- no kidding -- you can make them both as delicious as the real things in no time. Experiment with spices and toppings, or just scarf 'em up with a little butter.

Bread was harder to replace. But flax flour came to the rescue. While one serving of the flax bread recipe I use appears to have 9 grams of carbs, the fiber content cuts that down to less than one. So even if you ate the whole tray full, you'd still be below your carb count for the day -- careful, though. It's flax seed. So the first batch may go right through you pretty fast!

But the hands down winner of the "Who knew?" prize for bread substitutes were cauliflower "foccacia" bread sticks. No kidding. Cauliflower, again. Add a marinara sauce for dipping and you'll be fighting your carb-eating pals for these things. You'll see.

In fact, I find that my own family is beginning to look over my shoulder a lot when I cook. "Ugh, what is that?" has become, "Hey...that looks...good."

What fun it is to take a big bite, smile and say, "Tastes good, too." And really mean it!

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