This time of year is incredibly unique. The holiday season tends to be stacked with super heavy (albeit quite yummy) foods, treats, and an abundance of family time. But as we inch closer to New Year’s Eve, we start to wonder what we can do to make the next year even better.
For many, this means setting achievable personal goals, such as incorporating more healthy foods into one’s diet and putting effort into staying active. What this doesn’t have to mean, however, is that if you’re one of those people trying to eat healthier, you need to say goodbye to your favorite meals and snacks. Long gone are the days when you had to sacrifice everything you love about food and opt for a carrot stick instead to get more veggies in your diet.
Plenty of vegetables can be cleverly used as a substitute for carbs and even specific proteins in your favorite meals–and they’re absolutely delicious.
Zucchini is a wildly popular summer squash and probably the best known in the category. It’s commonly seasoned, sauteed, and used as a side for a well-balanced meal. But this green gem’s neutral taste allows for easy creativity and versatility.
Chicken Parmesan -> Zucchini Parmesan
While I can’t in good conscience refer to a meal consisting of copious amounts of sauce and cheese as “healthy,” this swap certainly boosts the meal’s score. This simple layered casserole consists of three elements: roasted zucchini, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Consider it a guilt-free way to satisfy your craving for heavy Italian food.
Lasagna -> Zucchini Lasagna
We love a solid pasta moment, and lasagna is a beloved, classic meal. But, if you’re looking for a way to indulge without feeling too weighed down, this is your key to a veggie-forward and delightful dish. Swap the layered lasagna noodles with long strips of zucchini, and you’ll hardly know the difference.
Spaghetti & Meatballs -> Zoodles and Meatballs
If your family’s quick go-to dinner is spaghetti and meatballs, then this will be a surprisingly easy swap to make. Plus, who doesn’t love saying the word “zoodles?” While zucchini noodles aren’t exactly brand new to the world of alternative foods, they’re a fairly simple means of incorporating more veggies into your dinner menu.
You can also opt for already-made pasta crafted with Zucchini if you want to make the swap but still crave that familiar pasta texture.
Eggplant doesn’t seem to be as popular as zucchini in the kitchen, but many delicious zucchini recipes can be made with eggplants the same way. So, if zucchini isn’t your favorite, or if you’re growing tired of it, then it’s eggplant’s time to shine.
Chicken Parmesan -> Eggplant Parmesan
This is another not-at-all-new concept, but in case you’re striking out while brainstorming, we’ll gladly mention it here. This classic Italian dish, although packed with cheese and savory sauce, is also loaded with the antioxidants, fiber, and nutritional benefits that come with eating eggplant.
Lasagna -> Eggplant Lasagna
With lasagna, you can actually end up with better results using eggplant since it releases less juice in the oven, meaning your lasagne will come out a little thicker.
Formerly known as the vegetable your parents could never get you to eat growing up, cauliflower has risen the ranks of popularity in recent years. It’s absurdly versatile thanks to its relatively neutral flavor, and its nutritional benefits are nothing to scoff at. It contains a solid amount of protein, fiber, and vitamins, and is low in fat.
Macaroni & Cheese -> Baked Cauliflower Macaroni & “Cheese”
Mac and cheese is a staple in almost every household with kids, and that love of all the cheesy goodness that comes with this meal doesn’t tend to fade as we grow up. That said, it’s not exactly a beacon of nutritional value. But, when you use cauliflower to create the cheese sauce or even sneak it into the pasta itself, it can boost the dish’s health points.
Pizza Crust -> Cauliflower Crust
Nothing on Beyonce’s green earth will get people to give up on pizza entirely, and that’s likely how cauliflower crust came into the picture. Swapping standard pizza dough with cauliflower “dough” turns pizza into a gluten-free, keto-friendly, and nutritious option.
Fried Rice -> Riced Cauliflower
Grated, or “riced,” cauliflower is the answer to your stir fry cravings. Fairly simple, this swap can be combined with other vegetables and proteins to create a nutritious comfort food that still tastes great.
Chicken Wings -> Cauliflower Bites
Look, nothing will entirely replace hot wings, but cauliflower bites are the best contender. Unlike chicken wings, cauliflower is free of cholesterol, low in fat and saturated fat, and packed with fiber and antioxidants. Toss with buffalo sauce and bake, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how delicious this substitute is.
Okay, so mushrooms aren’t a vegetable. But they’re high in nutritional value and can be used as a substitute in too many meals to list. Whether you’re a vegetarian or are simply looking to eat a little less meat, mushrooms can take center stage in several meatless recipes, from tacos to burgers and more. They have a uniquely savory flavor and a dense, meaty texture when cooked, making them a perfect base for vegetarian versions of classic meat dishes.
For some inspiration, check out this Mushroom Alfredo with Veggie-Based Penne Recipe!
Sometimes, pasta is the only answer. When zoodles don’t cut it, alternative pastas can step right in and elevate a standard dish. These days, you can find anything from cauliflower-based pasta to sweet potato and zucchini–and they all taste great. So, if subbing doesn’t seem like a tasty option for you, veggie-based pastas can step in and help you create a crave-worthy dish.
In fact, alternative pastas, such as Veggiecraft Farms’ Sweet Potato Spaghetti, have veggies in every bite and are higher in protein and fiber than standard pasta brands. Best of all? Veggiecraft’s made-in-Italy, three-ingredient pastas are a delicious, gluten-free twist on family favorites you already know you love!
Whether your goal is to incorporate more veggies into your own diet or to find ways to get more veggies into your kids’ meals, these examples are just some of the ways you can do it! You don’t have to make severe lifestyle changes overnight to get more nutrients into your and your family’s bodies! It just takes some clever swaps to find what works best for you and, more specifically, your taste buds.