Low carb side dishes – Is there a life after pasta?

Low carb vegetablesTraditional Western main meals tend to include a starchy side dish that is full or carbohydrates – potatoes, rice or pasta. Flour is used extensively in cooking, for sauces, batter and pastry cases. All these foods are loaded with carbs and so would have to go on a low-carb diet.

Avoiding these foods might seem impossible at first, but in reality it is just a matter of habit – you crave these foods not because your body needs them, but because you are used to them.

The fact is, some of these foods are actually bad for you – beyond any weight loss implications. White wheat flour and other refined grains are processed heavily before they reach human food chain and so are neither natural nor healthy.

You will be better off choosing other types of foods for your side dishes. The easiest and most obvious choice is vegetables. It doesn’t have to be all green salad either – you can find simple low-carb substitutes for most common side dishes.

The key to making them taste nice is to always add some fat – butter or vegetable oil – 1 tsp is usually enough to make a real different to taste. Season with salt and pepper, and you will find that your vegetables taste just as good (if not better) than those heaps of starch you used to consume.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Cauliflower works well as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Steam or boil until very soft, press any excess water out in a colander, and them mash with a generous amount of butter. Adding some cheese to the mash gives it extra niceness – try grated cheddar, parmesan or ricotta. This dish can work well on its own, or as a potato substitute in dishes like shepherd’s pie. See more low-carb cauliflower recipes
    Raw cauliflower carb count: 3.5g carbs per 100g.
  • Cabbage makes a convincing substitute for pasta. Shred white or young green cabbage very thinly and fry with 1 tsp of vegetable oil on a medium heat, for about 7-10 minutes. Once it turns soft, it will taste nice but bland enough to be used as a substitute for pasta or noodles – it will just take on the flavour of whatever sauce or dish you will have with it.
    Raw white cabbage carb count: 3.7 carbs per 100g
  • Courgettes are another hero of low carb cooking. Grated courgettes are often used to make low carb bread, cakes and fritattas. You can also slice them thinly and use a a substitute for pasta sheets, for example, for lasagna. See more low-carb recipes with courgettes
    Raw courgettes carb count: 2.5g carbs per 100g
  • Peppers and aubergines are also reasonably low carb, and make a lovely vegetable side dish when grilled with a bit of olive oil, basil and garlic.
    Raw peppers carb count: 5.4g carbs per 100g
    Raw aubergines carb count: 5.7g carbs per 100g 
  • Spaghetti squash provides a nice substitute for pasta – roast it an scoop out the insides. It can be difficult to find in the UK – but some branches of Tesco and Waitrose do carry it.
    Raw spaghetti squash carb count: 4.2g carbs per 100g 
  • Fine beans (aka French beans) and mange-tout are very nice steamed, with a bit of butter.
    Raw fine beans carb count: 6g carbs per 100g
    Raw mange tout carb count: 4.2g carbs per 100g
  • Shirataki noodles are Japanese noodles made from elephant yams and contain virtually no calories or carbs. They are not easy to get in the UK, so the easiest option is to shop online.
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