“So let me get this straight. You don’t eat bread and you don’t eat pasta. You don’t eat rice, white potatoes or oats. So what the (bleep) do you eat???!!!”
If I had a penny for every time I’d been asked this question...well, you know how that old story goes.
One of the biggest challenges to any successful dietary change is coming up with healthy alternatives to your mealtime regulars. I’d say most people, particularly those with a hectic schedule, have a dazzling repertoire of half a dozen or so “go-to” meals that they rotate between. Fair? Stepping out of that 6-meal comfort zone, unarmed, often paves the way to failure, accidental starvation or just total taste bud boredom!
So, if failing to find suitable alternatives leads to dietary downfalls, I thought I’d share some of my favourite replacements for those common starchy carbohydrates and help you over the hump! With such great nutritional value, mineral content, alkalising anti-inflammatory properties and oodles of positive effects on energy, digestive health, bowel habits, sleep patterns, skin tone and more, these healthy (and delicious) alternatives are certainly worth a go.
1. COURGETTI / ZOODLES
I LOVE LOVE LOVE courgette, so imagine my delight when I discovered that I could replace heavy, glutinous spaghetti with my favourite veggie. To make pretty spaghetti/noodle shaped courgetti, you’ll need either a spiralizer or a julienne peeler. I promise it is worth the small investment! Alternatively you can use your standard peeler to slice the courgette lengthways into courgette ribbons – slightly different aesthetics and texture but tastes just as great!
You can eat the courgetti raw, but I like to warm mine through and soften them slightly by stirring them over a gentle heat with a little olive oil, butter, or tbsp of stock/water for 2-3 minutes. Season to taste, top with your bolognese / sauce of choice and enjoy! Courgetti also works brilliantly in a stir-fry; just throw the raw noodles into the pan at the end to warm through.
*(“Zoodles” for my Zucchini-calling American friends!)
2. CAULIFLOWER RICE
Rich in beneficial phytochemicals and a great source of vitamin C, the humble cauliflower is another firm favourite, especially because of its versatility. This veggie alternative to rice is super easy, and very quick to make if you have a food processor with a grater attachment. If not, you can hand grate it – good for the biceps too!
Remove leaves and tough stalk of the cauliflower, then “rice” florets (white, flowery part) with your food processor or grater. Add a small amount (2tsps) of fat (coconut oil/ghee/butter etc) to pan with splash of water or stock (about 2tbsps) then add cauliflower "rice". Cook over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes with lid on so it steams, until tender. If you find it starts to catch at all just add another splash of water. Season to taste and enjoy!
**Please don’t throw away the cauliflower stem and leaves – they’re perfectly edible and delicious thrown in veggie soup!
3. SPAGHETTI SQUASH
Don’t be put off by the hard, canary-yellow exterior, this squash is super easy to prepare and it truly does resemble spaghetti once cooked. The flavour is mild so I like this best when partnered with a hearty sauce!
Cut squash in half lengthways, remove seeds, drizzle with a bit of oil. Roast at 200º, face side down in a roasting dish, until tender (30-45 minutes dependant on size). You know it’s ready when you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork all the way to the skin and the texture isn’t too crunchy. Once ready, use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel, separating it into strands. Toss with a little olive oil or butter and season with a little salt and pepper. Yum!
4. CAULIFLOWER MASH
The first time I tried to make this, it was a total mushy disaster! Thanks go out to the Hemsley + Hemsley sisters who showed me that steaming with garlic is the way. I can highly recommend their cook book 'The Art of Eating Well'.
Remove stalk and leaves and cut cauliflower into florets or chunks of similar size. Place a chunk of butter/fat of choice in the bottom of a pan with 2 tbps of water then place the cauliflower on top with 2 whole, peeled, cloves of garlic. Cover the pan and steam over a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft. If pan dries out before the cauliflower’s ready, add a splash more of water. Once soft, blitz it all with a hand-held blender or food processor to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy! We LOVE this with beef stews and leafy greens.
'Keen-waa' (or “Kin-oh-wa”, as Graham says) is quite simply one of nature’s best. It is packed with protein, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients, much of which manages to withstand cooking temperatures! As a great rice, cous cous and pasta replacement, quinoa serves as a simple side to any dish. It’s awesome cooked up ‘risotto style’ and even is fab in certain baked treats…just so great!
Rinse well with water to avoid bitterness and to be super good 'activate' (remove gut irritants) by soaking in water over night (this is not an essential step). To cook, use a 1:2 part ratio of quinoa to stock/bone broth. This will give you plenty of flavour and retain a bit of bite. Simple place the stock and quinoa in a pan, bring it to the boil, then cover with a lid and reduce heat to a simmer until all liquid absorbed.
I wasn’t going to include this last one as I felt it was too 'simples', but SOO often it is part of our meals, I figured if it works for us, it could work for you! A simple bed of raw spinach goes with anything. Whether it's under your Bolognese, panfried fish fillet, vegetable curry or whatever, it provides a healthy, hearty base to any centrepiece. If you're not a fan of raw spinach, you can blanch it but then you lose the crunch and the volume, not to mention some of the super healthy nutrient content.
So there you go folks. I may not regularly eat bread, pasta, rice, white potatoes etc, but I certainly do eat, and this is how!