5 alternatives to starchy veggies at dinner

Who doesn't love a big serving of creamy mashed potatoes or a side of steamy rice with their chicken? They're delicious, but it's easy to overindulge in these starchy, higher-calorie foods while falling short on healthier vegetables.

Try these ideas for smart substitutions that are lower in calories and carbs, but will still delight your taste buds and satisfy your appetite.

1. Swop the potato for cauliflower

Start with cauliflower, a non-starchy vegetable that easily mimics starchy ones, says registered dietitian Rachel Begun. You can mash, whip or rice cauliflower just like potatoes, and even use it to make pizza crust.

2. Rethink your spaghetti

Try zucchini noodles or butternut noodles instead of regular spaghetti and top it with fresh tomato sauce. While spaghetti squash is not that readily available in South Africa, you can shred the fleshy insides of a gem squash and top it with a tomato-based pasta sauce. For a great mac and cheese alternative, scoop out the insides of gem squash and bake it with a sprinkling of low-fat zesty cheese. It's a great source of vitamin C, fibre and potassium, plus you'll get calcium from the cheese.

zoodles, zucchini noodles

3. Roast a variety of veggies

Roast gem squash, patty pans, zucchini or Hubbard squash for lighter yet still sweet swaps for sweet potatoes. 

roasted vegetables

4. Incorporate whole grains

When you want to have a grain, make it a whole grain, like couscous, quinoa or barley. Whole grain side dishes are a great way to get fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. To save on calories, cut your usual portion in half and add in steamed or lightly sautéed vegetables to boost volume and nutrients. And don't forget to use herbs and spices to liven up the taste.

quinoa

5. Go green

Get into the habit thinking "dinner is not dinner without a side of greens". Don't make your family force down kale if everyone hates it. Green veggies do not have to be limited to a bowl of limp, steamed spinach. Sprinkle green beans with a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs and roast them in the oven. As long as there is a splash of green on your plate, it's all good. 

steamed green beans

So, get out of the potato-and-rice rut and savour these easy substitutions to spice up your dinner tonight.

Image credit: iStock