How to Bulk Up Your Portion Sizes With Veggies

Hungry Girl's Super-Sized Spinach Fettuccine Girlfredo
Courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com

Like most people, I enjoy large servings of food without large calorie counts. That's why I super-size my dishes using vegetables. What does this mean? I find the perfect veggie and cooking method to expand the portion, without compromising the taste or adding a lot of calories. Check out some of my favorite super-sizing veggies and the best ways to use them.

Zucchini 

Zucchini is surprisingly great at imitating pasta and a medium one has only around 30 calories, plus 2g fiber.

To turn zucchini into fettuccine-like ribbons peel it into very thin long strips using a veggie peeler, then use it how you'd like.

  • Fill out fettuccine dishes: Cook the zucchini ribbons until tender, either in a skillet with a bit of water or by steaming them in the microwave, then toss with cooked pasta. I like to make a low-calorie Alfredo sauce out of light spreadable cheese wedges and light sour cream to enjoy with the zucchini ribbons.
  • Add it to your lasagna: Instead of making skinny zucchini strips, slice your squash into slabs and swap out half of your lasagna noodles for layers of these. You could even go completely noodle-free! To keep your dish on the light side, use part-skim mozzarella cheese and low-fat marinara sauce.
  • Super-size your pasta salads: You don't even have to cook up the zucchini ribbons when making a cold pasta salad. Just mix the strands with cooked and chilled high-fiber pasta, reduced-fat cheese (I like feta), and low-fat Italian dressing.

    Broccoli Cole Slaw 

    Not familiar with broccoli slaw? It's a must-have fridge staple, a mix of shredded broccoli stems, carrots, and cabbage. A cup of the stuff has only 25 calories, as well as 3g fiber. Here are some ideas for what to do with it.

    • Bulk up spaghetti dishes: Steam slaw in the microwave (sometimes you can do it right in the package) and toss with high-fiber spaghetti and low-fat marinara sauce. I often skip the pasta altogether.
    • Fill out deli-style salads: Roughly chop it and add it to your next tuna salad or chicken salad. Be sure to use reduced-fat versions of mayo and sour cream—that's where the fat comes from!
    • Beef up meatloaf's serving size: Get some veggies into your protein-packed dishes. Just finely chop the slaw and mix with extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey. I make mine in a muffin pan for portion control.
    • Make a frozen meal more filling: I find that there's usually plenty of extra sauce to go around, so just stir in some steamed slaw. I like to start with a protein-based meal under 300 calories.

    Spaghetti Squash 

    The name says it all. This veggie is a great spaghetti swap. One cup of the cooked strands has only about 40 calories, not to mention 2g fiber. To prepare it, first nuke the entire thing in the microwave, making it easier to cut, then halve lengthwise and remove the seeds. Bake or microwave it until soft, adding a little water to keep it moist, then scrape out the strands, drain them, blot away any moisture, and use as you'd like.

    • Stretch out your spaghetti: Toss the strands with high-fiber spaghetti and you've doubled your portion size for hardly any calories. I cover it all with some low-fat marinara and top with meatballs made from extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey.      
    • Noodle up your chili: Chili and spaghetti make a great combo, but spaghetti squash is much lower in calories than regular pasta. Look for canned chili that's low in fat (regular or vegetarian), or make your own with lean/extra-lean ground meat, beans, and veggies. The spaghetti squash will make your chili meal much more satisfying, and with the right seasonings, you'll have a delicious dish.

    Cauliflower 

    This vegetable is fantastic at super-sizing starches. And it has only about 30 calories per cup, plus 2g fiber.

    • Double your mashed potatoes: Boil or steam cauliflower florets (fresh or frozen) and mash with your potatoes. Some light butter, a little salt, and a bit of light sour cream seal the deal.
    • Multiply your mac and cheese: Just steam and chop a few cups of cauliflower florets. The frozen kind works great here. I make my mac and cheese with high-fiber elbow macaroni and reduced-fat cheeses.
    • Increase your potato salad: Just chop and steam! You can bulk up your spud salad even more with hard-boiled egg whites, chopped celery, and diced onion. And stick with light sour cream or mayo when whipping up that dressing.
    • Enlarge your risotto: I've developed a recipe that is so much easier to make than traditional risotto, and cauliflower stars as the super-sizing ingredient. I call it my Creamy Mushroom Faux-sotto. ​  

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