Great Grain Substitutes

We rarely eat eggplant, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I don’t remember having it as a child. It’s just not a go-to vegetable for us. Imagine my surprise (and excitement) to find that my family loved (as in requested it be done again) when I substituted eggplant for the rice in my stuffed bell peppers. In our home, we are not known for snubbing our whole grains. In fact, I count on whole grains for contributing to our fiber intake.

However, sometimes it’s fun to find a way to switch things up a bit and substitute a tried and true grain with a new ingredient, and for us, it’s usually a vegetable. It’s exciting to discover something new that the family loves, and it’s satisfying to be introducing more or different vegetables into the diet. My kids get a kick out of knowing that they are eating something new (and possibly previously disliked) and enjoying it. And I love introducing a wider variety of nutrients into their diets.

The Substitutions

Here are some substitutions that you can try with your family:

  • Cauliflower - The list of things that you can do with cauliflower is almost endless it seems. You can make a cauliflower crust for pizza, substitute it for rice, or use it to make excellent cauliflower dippers to skip the breadsticks.
  • Cucumber - What fun for your child to be able to build his own mini sandwich using sliced cucumber as the “bread.”
  • Eggplant - We weren’t looking to take the brown rice out of our stuffed peppers. But someone suggested to us that we try it, and it was a huge success. In our recipe, the stuffing calls for one cup of cooked rice, and I substituted one medium eggplant that I peeled, diced and sautéed. Another idea is to bake slices of eggplant to use as the base of mini pizzas. Or use thinly sliced eggplant in your lasagna to replace the noodles.
  • Lettuce - If you are feeling like you need a break from bread on your sandwich, a leaf of green leafy lettuce is a great way to wrap up your sandwich ingredients. Or use it as your taco “shell.”
  • Portabella mushrooms - Portabella mushrooms can be used as the base to a pizza, as the “bread” for a sandwich or the “bun” for your burger.
  • Spaghetti squash and cabbage - Use spaghetti squash or long julienned strips of cabbage as a different type of “noodle” in many dishes. My mouth waters thinking of cabbage noodles in a vegetable soup.
  • Zucchini - Have you ever thought of turning your zucchini into noodles? Or maybe adding zucchini fries to your burger menu? What about zucchini used to replace the noodles in lasagna?

Do you have any favorite substitutions that your family enjoys? Making a substitution keeps you from getting tired of tried and true recipes by adding a new and exciting element that can introduce a variety of nutrients into the diet while tasting delicious.

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