Lettuce Tell You About Veggie Substitutes

It can be a challenge to get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet every dayWhether you’re a mom, a health enthusiast or just a food lover, getting a proper amount of vegetables each day is important to living a healthy lifestyleOne emerging trend is substituting vegetables for traditional carbohydrate or grain-based dishes, such as cauliflower pizza crust, zoodles (zucchini noodles) and others. 

So, how can you implement more healthy veggies into you or your family’s diet? We reached out to expert Anne Elizabeth CundiffRD, LD, FAND and retail registered dietitian, to learn more about veggie carbohydrates. 

What are the benefits of replacing items like noodles, rice, bread and baking flours with vegetables substitutes? 

Cundiff: The benefits of using vegetable substitutions for traditional grains would be if you had a food allergy such as Celiac Disease, are having difficulty controlling blood sugars with pre-diabetes or diabetes, like the taste of substitutes or are trying to incorporate more vegetables in your daily food intake. 

Americans are generally not consuming enough fruits and vegetables in their daily diets. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can defend against diseases such as: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

What are some ways that vegetables can be used in place of traditional carbs? 

Cundiff: Vegetables are being transformed into vegetable noodles, breads, chips, crackers, pizza crusts and beverages. I personally prefer the vegetables noodles, vegetables mash (like potatoes, squash and cauliflower) and pureed vegetables in juices or sauces.  

Do you think we lose taste and flavor when replacing these foods with vegetables? 

Cundiff: Taste and flavor vary greatly from person to person, so I think it would be something to evaluate on an individual basis.  

Are there any tips to add flavor or texture when using vegetables in place of grains? 

Cundiff: I flavor vegetable substitutions the same as I would traditional grains, lots of herbs, spices and healthy high flavor fats like olive oil. There will always be a bit of a difference in texture, so experimenting with a variety of cooking preparations is a good idea. I personally like to sauté zucchini noodles instead of steaming when using it as a pasta substitute, so the texture seems more al dente. 

recipe for summer pasta salad

Should people avoid eating grains? 

Cundiff: I believe grains and traditional carbohydrates are a great way to get certain vitamins, minerals and fiber, especially when choosing products made with whole grains. If you are choosing whole grains and practicing portion control to meet your health and wellness needs, there is no need to replace them with other substitutes. 

Do you recommend people replace their carb dishes with veggie substitutes? 

Cundiff: I always like to meet my clients where they are in their food preferences and provide suggestions based on their needs. I am pro-carbohydrates and feel we need to keep discussing them in a positive light. They are not the enemy! Portion size consumption is very important to discuss with all the food groups, making all foods fit without having to find substitutes for our favorites. 

Where do you see veggie substitutes going in the future? Do you think the market will expand or has it reached its limit? 

Cundiff: I think the market will always keep expanding. I hope to see the options continue to grow so it continues to encourage people to eat more vegetables every day. 

Do you have any tips for ways to add more vegetables to a diet? 

Cundiff: When people think of vegetable servings, they think of enormous quantities and get overwhelmed. One cup of raw (about the size of a tennis ball) and ½ cup cooked (about the size of two golf balls) is a serving, so helping people to understand how this looks each day is a great place to start. Examine how many you get each day and then determine how to increase the servings to an attainable goal. I like to start with 3-4 servings a day. I personally start each day with 2 cups of raw spinach in a smoothie and I know I am halfway there.  

Vegetable carbohydrate substitutions are one of many great ways to increase your daily consumption of vegetables. However, you can still enjoy your favorite carb-rich foods while being mindful of portion control and opting for whole grains. Try Cundiff’s favorite recipe and for more delicious vegetable recipes visit Pinterest.