When you hear “carbohydrate” what comes to your mind first? Probably bread, pasta, and rice. But, pretty much every food has some carbohydrates in it. I have heard many people say they are on a “no-carb diet,” but they are eating fruits and vegetables. We don’t often think about vegetables and fruits or nuts and seeds as having carbohydrates in them, but they do.

Interestingly, a small banana has about the same amount of carbohydrates as one slice of wheat bread.

We can get in a broad spectrum of nutrients by eating a whole foods based diet; we do not need bread, pasta, rice, and cereal in the diet. There are much better sources of carbohydrates.


One reason cereals, breads, pasta, and rice have been looked at as “health foods” is because they are enriched with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate (a B vitamin), which is needed to prevent neural tube defects.

Adding this vitamin to food products serves its purpose to prevent spina bifida. However, folate in its natural form is best and is found in several whole foods including green, leafy vegetables, as well as lentils and beans.

The recommended amount of folate for adult men and women is 400 micrograms per day.

Just 4 spears of asparagus have about 88 micrograms of folate in them, ½ cup cooked broccoli has 130 micrograms, and 1 cup cooked pinto beans has almost 300 micrograms of folate!

Not only can you get in great nutrients (e.g., folate, potassium) by eating these real foods, but you can also lower your carbohydrate intake. The best part is you can still enjoy food and not feel deprived of these high carbohydrate grains.

Here are 3 steps to creating healthy low carb dinners that you are sure to want to try!

1) Think vegetables!

Zucchini, parsnips, squashes, and cauliflower are great low-carb options in place of pasta and rice. You can make zucchini noodles in a veggie spiralizer, cauliflower “rice” in your food processer, bake up a spaghetti squash, or grate up some parsnip hash browns.healthy low carb dinners_2

Let’s see how the carbohydrates compare!

1 cup cooked zucchini noodles = 7g
1 cup cooked spaghetti= 43g
1 cup cooked cauliflower “rice”= 6g
1 cup cooked brown rice: 45g
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash: 10g
1 cup cooked spaghetti: 43g
1 cup white potato hash browns: 46g
1 cup parsnip hash browns: 26g

This is one of my all time favorite recipes that uses parsnips as the main source of carbohydrate in the meal. You will love this one:

Parsnip Noodles with Lemon-Basil Cashew Cream Sauce


Olive oil or good quality butter
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 large parsnips
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in water
Zest and juice from ½ lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large basil leaf
6 Tbsp. chicken broth

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add in butter or olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Once heated, add in the garlic and shallot. Cook for about 2 minutes until shallots soften. Pour into a food processor along with the pre-soaked cashews, chicken broth, salt and pepper, basil and lemon zest and juice.

Pulse until creamy and set aside. Place the large skillet back over medium heat and add in butter or olive oil to coat the pan. Once oil heats, add in the parsnip noodles and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes or until cooked to al dente.

Pour the cashew sauce over the noodles and let cook for 1-2 minutes or until warmed. Top with some grilled shrimp and fresh parsley.

Recipe from inspiralized.com

2) Pick ONE source of starch at your meal and always include a non-starchy vegetable.

For example, instead of having both rice and beans with your meal, pick one or the other and bulk up the rest of the meal with a green vegetable and about 3-4 ounces of protein. By doing this you can reduce your carbohydrates by at least 20 grams. Let’s compare the carbohydrates:

1 cup brown rice (45g) + 1 cup cooked beans  (41g) = 86g
1 cup brown rice  (45g)+ 1 cup cooked broccoli (12g) = 57g
1 cup cooked beans (41g) + 1 cup cooked broccoli (12g)= 53g

3) Choose carbohydrate sources that don’t increase your cravings for more.

It can be hard to stop after that 1 serving of spaghetti! Try having some spaghetti squash instead to get at that pasta craving with something healthier that also does not increase the desire to eat more. You could also try some butternut squash fries instead of those made with potatoes. Let’s compare the carbohydrates in these:

1 cup butternut squash fries: 22g
1 cup white potato fries: 39g

Lastly, do not forget to include some healthy fat with your meal. We need some! Fat helps absorb the fat-soluble nutrients, vitamins A, D, E, and K. It also leaves you feeling more satisfied and can help reduce the cravings for more starchy carbohydrates.

Add a bit of hummus, some good quality butter, or olive oil or virgin coconut oil to your vegetables.


-Self Nutrition Data. Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com. Accessed April 9.  2015.

-Inspiralized.com. Parsnip Noodles with Lemon-Basil Cashew Cream Sauce and Garlic Shrimp. Retrieved from www.inspiralized.com. Accessed April 9, 2015.

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