Spring has finally arrived! If you’re like me, warmer weather makes you want to change the way you eat. Now that we’re swapping those bulky sweaters for lighter, more revealing clothes, there’s nothing to hide behind. Suddenly, all my cravings for hearty bowls of stews and chilis and never-ending carbs are disappearing. That doesn’t mean, however, that I only want salads and smoothies. I still want my favorite foods; I just want them a bit lighter. Here are my tips for making lighter versions of all your favorite dishes that won’t weigh you down but will still leave you satisfied.
1. Smarter Sandwiches
Sandwiches are one of the most popular meal choices for lunch, dinner or anytime. They’re portable, easy to make and delicious. The problem with sandwiches is that depending on how we make them, they can be high in calories and fat. Instead of making sandwiches that can weigh us down, we can make smarter sandwiches. One way is to eat half the amount of bread by making open-faced sandwiches. Try this Caramelized Shallot and Portobello Open-Faced Sandwich; you’ll never miss that second slice of bread.
Another idea is to swap out the usual bread or roll for a wrap. Tortillas are delicious and hold everything together. You can buy them in any store or learn how 7 Ways to Make Grain-Free Wraps and Tortillas out of cauliflower, eggplant, and coconut flour. Try these Curried Chickpea Salad Wraps, UnTuna Wraps or these Mostly Raw Barbecue Popcorn Cauliflower Wraps. Even better, use leafy greens as the wrap as in these Thai Tempeh Collard Greens Wraps and these Rainbow Chard Wraps with Millet and Chickpeas. Read How to Lighten Up Sandwiches for Summer for even more ideas.
2. Noodle Knowledge
Noodle dishes are always a favorite but who wants a mere two-ounces of pasta? Not me! That’s not satisfying at all, but if you make your noodles out of veggies, you can eat all you want and feel good about it. Using a spiralizer or a regular, ol’ vegetable peeler, you can make noodles out of zucchini, carrots, eggplant, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, and pretty much any long vegetable.
Get recipe ideas in Lighten Up Summer Meals With These 15 Vegan Spiralized Noodle Dishes and 10 Fresh Veggie Noodle Dishes for Spring. Also, try these Garlicky Zoodles with Sunflower Seeds, Coconut Curry with Sweet Potato Noodles, and this Vegetable Noodle Pad Thai.
3. Slimmer Sauces
Now that your noodles are lighter don’t weigh them down with heavy sauces. Sure, we want luscious, creamy sauces, but we can still make them lighter. Skip the milks, creams, and cheeses and turn to nuts, seeds, and veggies.
Alfredo sauce can still be on the menu when you make it with nuts and seeds like this Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo with Kale and Peas and this Creamy Cashew Alfredo. Veggies like carrots and potatoes make delicious cheesy sauces as in this Healthy Mac n’ Cheese. Pesto sauces are not only packed with flavor, but they’re filled with greens. Try this Healthy Spinach and Walnut Pesto Pasta and this Pesto Pasta with Roasted Vegetables.
4. Veggie Swaps
Sometimes all it takes to make a meal lighter is just swapping out an ingredient or two for something healthier and less fattening. If you love mashed potatoes, you can have them but instead of using all potatoes, try swapping half of them for another vegetable. There are lots of veggies that can be boiled and mashed or pureed just like potatoes – parsnips, turnips, celeriac, rutabaga, and even cauliflower like this yummy CauliMash and this Herbed Celeriac Purée With Sautéed Chanterelle Mushrooms.
Rice is one of those foods I have trouble controlling my portions of but if I make my own “rice” out of cauliflower, I can eat as much as I want and not feel guilty. Try this Easy Cauliflower Rice and Greens, Raw Mushroom Kale Rice and this Asian Ginger Tofu with Carrot Rice with Bok Choy. You can also make pizza crust out of veggies and legumes like this Cauliflower Crust Pizza and Lentil Crust Pizza.
5. Say Bye to the Fry
One of my biggest weaknesses is fried food. While I rarely ever deep-fry anything, I still tend to pan-fry most foods. But when I’m trying to eat lighter, I skip the frying pan and turn to my oven. Baked food can be just as delicious, crispy and indulgent as fried food but without all that oil.
Love onion rings? You can have all you want when you bake them like these Baked Onion Rings and these Crispy, Crunchy Cornmeal and Pepita Onion Rings. Jalapeno poppers are one of my favorite appetizers, so I learned to make Baked Jalapeno Poppers instead of frying them. Learn How to Make the Perfect Baked Tofu, How to Make Perfectly Crispy French Fries Without Frying in Oil, Crispy Turmeric Tofu Nuggets, and Crunchy Tempeh Sticks all without frying.
6. Say Yes to Dessert
Trying to eat lighter and healthier does NOT mean giving up dessert. You can make smarter choices and still delight in sweets. Did you know that adding fruits and veggies like avocado, apple sauce, and sweet potatoes to your desserts can help you use less or even no oils or fats? Check out How to Make Dessert Healthier by Substituting Fats With Fruits and Veggies and Veggies for Dessert? You Bet! How to Use Vegetables to Make Sweet Desserts. Try these methods to make this Oil-Free Black Forest Cake and these nearly fat-free Glazed Doughnuts.
Cut the sugar down or out completely and use alternate ways of adding sweetness to your goodies. Read Sweet! The Healthiest Alternative to White Sugar and then go make this Sugar-Free Strawberry Shortcake and Refined Sugar-Free Chocolate Muffins. Find even more healthy dessert recipes in Yes, This is for REAL! 10 Low Fat, Low Sugar, Raw Vegan Desserts.
It only takes a few strategic swaps to make all your favorite dishes lighter but still keep you satisfied.
Lead image source: Rainbow Chard Wraps with Millet and Chickpeas