Talking Fitness Thursday: For the Love of Zucchini

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying really hard to incorporate more whole foods into my diet. That became more important than ever when I was diagnosed with PCOS. My food mantra, which I picked up from Dr. K, is “high protein, low sugar, low carb.” For the most part, I think I’ve done a pretty good job about sticking to the mantra, though I have slipped up occasionally. Changing my processed food-heavy diet has definitely been a learning experience, but I’m finally finding my feet with this whole “cleaner eating” thing. The high-protein part has been easiest for me — I love chicken and turkey, and it’s been interesting to learn about new ways to cook them. The low-sugar part has been harder as I’m not a huge fruit person, and I still haven’t been able to completely let go of sweets (nor do I think I truly ever will). Of the three parts, though, the low-carb bit has been the hardest. I’ve always been a lover of bread, pasta, and potatoes; I still eat my favorite bread, but less frequently, and we’ve switched to whole-wheat pasta, but the potatoes have been the biggest issue. Saying no to baked potatoes and chips has been much more difficult than I thought it would be! I’ve been eating a different vegetable with my dinner every night, trying to adjust to the no-potato rule. I like a lot of different veggies, but I prefer most of them to be cooked. I’m always on the lookout for healthy new ways to enjoy my meals and snacks, and Pinterest has played a huge role in discovering awesome new recipes to test out with my family.

One of my favorite snacks is zucchini chips! They’re very easy to prepare and delicious when they’re done. They’re also a wonderful substitute for potato chips — much lower in carbs, preservative-free, and not fried, plus you can season them however you like to change the flavor profile. Some days I crave spicy food, so I sprinkle the zucchini with cayenne pepper; sometimes I crave barbecue, so I use a combination of paprika and chili powder; other times I just want something Italian, so I’ll dust my zucchini with garlic and Italian seasoning. The zucchini alone is like a blank slate, and it’s fun to create my own flavors!

I shared a photo of these on my personal Facebook page a while ago, and the response was surprising. I just thought I was sharing a picture, but people started asking how I’d made them. Soon after, I was getting questions about why they didn’t come out right or why they didn’t achieve a certain flavor profile. So, for today’s Talking Fitness Thursday post, I’d like to share a step-by-step photo essay on how to prepare zucchini chips!

So first things first, you need to gather your ingredients. I make two big trays at a time, and I line them with parchment paper (to keep the zucchini from sticking) which is lightly sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Aside from that, you obviously need zucchini; I use two large ones. The seasonings you use depend on the flavor profile you’re going for — for the purpose of this recipe I’m keeping it very simple and just using seas salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and some Onion Onion I have from Tastefully Simple. (If I had any of their Garlic Garlic left, I would use it in place of the garlic powder.)

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, preheat the oven to 300* and wash the zucchini, making sure to clear off any dirt. Dry them and then start cutting! If you have a mandoline, it will definitely save you time and guarantee uniform thinness in your slices; I personally prefer slicing them with a knife. Whichever method you choose, cut the zucchini as thin as you can so they look and taste like chips while they’re baking.

When you finished slicing the zucchini, lay them out on the sprayed, parchment-lined baking sheets and very lightly spray the tops.

Now comes the fun part — seasoning! I sprinkled on some garlic powder, then Onion Onion, followed by black pepper and finished them off with a pinch of sea salt. These chips are totally customizable so you can really use any combination that you like! The one catch — don’t overdo it. Use a very light hand with these because the flavor will intensify as they bake. Just a little seasoning will go a very long way!

After you’re satisfied with your seasoning, you have to deal with the hard part: Place the trays in the oven, set a timer for 90 minutes, and let them bake.

After about 45 minutes, start checking the chips every 15 minutes or so. As they start turning brown, they’re ready to come out…but not all of them will brown at the same time. Each chip bakes at its own pace and patience is really the name of the game. I promise they’re worth the wait.

Hello, my pretties! Get in mah belly!!!

So talk to me, everyone! What’s your favorite healthy snack?