Lighten Up Carb-Heavy Dishes for Summer

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As temperatures rise, we look for ways to lighten up and refresh our meals and beverages to counter the heat. A carb-lover might sometimes find it hard to part with comforting carb-heavy dishes, but there are ways to lighten the carb load while adding extra flavor, texture, and nutrition to the dish.

Ways to Lighten Up Carb-Heavy Dishes

Substitute Veggie “Noodles”

For your favorite noodle or pasta salad, replace half of the noodles with vegetables that are grated or run through a mandolin to make noodle-like shapes. For example, make zucchini “ribbons”, asparagus “shavings”, and carrot “curls.” Another easy one is pea shoots or bean sprouts for Asian-flavored noodle dishes. There’s no need to cut them – just wash and dry and you are ready to go. You can also use green beans, sugar snap peas, or snow peas that are thinly sliced on the diagonal. For lasagna fans, eggplant slices can stand in for the noodle sheets.


If you are a fan of rice dishes, replace one-third to one-half of the rice with finely chopped cauliflower or broccoli florets, mushrooms, or green or red pepper. For an extra punch of flavor, roast the vegetable before chopping into small pieces.

Veggie Wrapper

Instead of a tortilla, use blanched leafy dark greens like kale, collard, or seaweed (nori) sheets. Another way to replace a carb wrapper is with a protein such as thinly-cooked egg omelet, or bean curd sheets (found in Asian stores). Love cannelloni? Replace the pasta shells by cutting eggplant lengthwise into thin “sheets” and using these for wrapping.

Go Open-Faced

Add some new life to old-time favorite sandwiches or burgers by making them open-faced: Replace half the bun or one slice of bread with a new topper. Great substitutes include portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, grilled pineapple, zucchini, pepper or eggplant slices, or a few dollops of freshly made salsa. On the richer side, you can use avocado slices or a tasty slice of mozzarella.

Easy on the Dough

Pizza is popular and easy, but the thick, heavy crust could use a makeover. If you start with a raw dough, opt to make a thinner crust and find ways to punch up the flavor in the dough recipe by adding more spices. For pre-made options, pita bread makes a lighter and easy stand-in for pizza crust.

The Bottom Line

There’s no reason to give up carbohydrates, since they are still the major sources of fuel for our bodies, especially when we are out and about in the sunshine. Trying out ideas from our above list will satisfy the carb-lover in you while making sure you’re still getting the benefit of various vegetables in your meals.

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