Find carb-conscious tips and recipes that will stick to your ribs, and not your waistline. 
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

When it comes to our diets, carbohydrates are fickle friends. On one hand, the macronutrient is necessary for boosting energy and providing the body with essential vitamins and minerals. But when we eat too many carbs, particularly refined ones with added sugar, we may experience weight gain, increased stress levels, and difficulty stopping ourselves from overeating - all of which make it easy to dismiss carbs as diet wreckers.

At Cooking Light, we believe that balancing the good and bad effects of carbs doesn't mean avoiding them altogether. Rather, we should be conscious of carbs, choosing them wisely.

What does this mean? Most foods - from leafy vegetables to bread and cookies - contain carbs, but they affect our bodies in different ways. Choosing carbs wisely means opting for whole and minimally processed grains over refined, selecting whole fruit over juice, and incorporating more fresh produce into our meals as often as possible.

We've picked these five easy ways to cook carb-conscious, with delicious recipes to prove it:

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

1. Skip the Bread

While that's easier said than done, swapping out bread for a bed of greens can make a huge difference in your daily carb intake. Recipes like the Cheeseburger Salad take your favorite sandwich flavors and whip out instead a low-calorie option.

2. Rethink Your Crust

Some things just need a crust, like quiche. But with a decent amount of flour (and sometimes butter), a traditional quiche or pie crust might not be the best thing for you waist line. Turn to alternative recipes like Tomato-Leek Pie with Quinoa Crust or Spinach and Feta Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust for satisfying breakfast favorites.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

3. Squash Cravings

While we already believe that all veggies are magical, squash stands out particularly when it comes to low-carb swaps. There are several types that work for substitutions, like Sea Salt and Vinegar Zucchini Chips in place of traditional potato chips or Spaghetti Squash Lasagna for a noodle-free alternative. 

Credit: Photo: Iain Bagwell

4. Don't Fear Grains

The trick is to just keep a variety of whole grains on hand, and don't limit yourself in their uses. Some types have more or less carbs than others, so choose your grain accordingly. For example, Steel-Cut Oats Jambalaya uses a breakfast favorite in a savory way, while providing more protein and fiber than white rice.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

5. Think Thin with Pizza

While pizza seems like the ultimate no-no for most dieters, it doesn't have to be that way. Avoid ultra thick (and carb-dense) crusts, and look to thin crust recipes like Crunchy Whole-Wheat Veggie Pizza or even go grain-free with Cauliflower Crust Pizza.