Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
To avoid heavily processed, nutrient depleted carbohydrates over the summer, try getting your carbs and fiber from the abundant vegetables of summer. One of these quick and easy low-carb swaps is a great option next time you want less starch and more nutritional bulk.
A veg-packed Thai curry can be light enough for summer but also enough to fill and fuel. If a plate of brown rice is too much alongside though, try cauliflower rice. Simply grate fresh cauliflower and steam for a few minutes on the stovetop or microwave, and it’s ready to soak up the sauce of your curry or whatever else you fancy. Keep a bag of grated cauliflower in the freezer for a quick side dish with very little prep work required.
Spiralized vegetables are all the rage and are a light alternative to traditional pasta, especially if you have a gluten intolerance. Or you can use them to make your salads a little more playful; the twisty shapes add great texture. Beets, zucchini, carrots, cucumber, apples, pears, and sweet potato are all ideal candidates for this low-carb twist. If you don’t have a spiralizer to make those appealing twirls you can try a sharp knife or mandolin, but a decent spiralizer makes it temptingly easy.
Eggplant is a hearty vegetable that is already popular as a stand-in for meat. It also works well as a substitute for pasta sheets in lasagna. It’s not as quick and easy as other dishes, but it makes a good filling meal and comes packed full of fiber, magnesium, and potassium. The skin is also rich in antioxidants.
For a light lunch or quick snack, replace a tortilla wrap, bun, or bread with a large lettuce leaf, such as Romaine or Cos varieties, and pack with whatever filling you fancy. Pro tip: Keep any preferred dressing on the side and dip your wrap, instead of putting it on the inside, to keep it from getting too messy.
Rip up a few kale leaves, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper or a dusting of paprika and spread on a baking tray. Cook in a hot oven for just a few minutes (watch carefully to avoid burning) and you have a great substitute for potato chips (an air fryer is also great for this). Works well with parsnips, carrots, and similar starchy vegetables, too—and you can make it less oily and salty than many of the store-bought versions.
Like eggplants, mushrooms give great body and flavor to veggie dishes—and mushroom based, meat-free burgers are well known. But what if you love a fresh beef burger but don’t want the stodgy bun? A couple of portobello mushroom caps can serve just as well as bread substitutes. Drizzle on a touch of oil, and grill or roast for a few minutes while you cook your beef, and you have an even more flavorful burger prepared. Accompany with parsnip crisps or sweet potato fries plus a crisp side salad for a meal that really serves up your vegetable needs.
Dr Sally Norton is an NHS weight-loss consultant surgeon and UK Health expert. She is founder of VavistaLife.