TIME vaccines

The Anti-Vaxxers Simply Won’t Quit

Safe baby: a child in Africa receives an oral vaccine
Safe baby: a child in Africa receives an oral vaccine ranplett; Getty Images/Vetta

Even as cases of whooping cough, polio, measles and mumps soar, vaccine deniers continue to leave children and babies unprotected. Stubbornness may be part of human nature—but the price is just too high

It’s never easy to say oops. You know it if you’ve ever said something nasty during an argument and found it hard to apologize later. You know it if you’ve ever caused a fender bender on the road and been unable to say “my bad.” And you know it if you’ve ever failed to inoculate your baby against a range of disabling and deadly diseases that can be easily and harmlessly prevented with vaccines, in effect failing to perform the most basic job of parenthood, which is to keep your children safe.

What’s that? You think that under those circumstances an oops wouldn’t be hard to get out? Not so, according to a disturbing study presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver. Researchers looked at vaccination rates both before and during an outbreak of whooping cough in Washington state in 2011 and 2012, and found that even as the disease was spreading and unvaccinated children were suffering, the percentage of parents who brought their 3- to 8-month olds in for their scheduled inoculations didn’t budge.

Nope, the parents effectively said, still not persuaded.

“We have always assumed that when the risk of catching a disease is high, people will accept a vaccine that is effective at preventing the disease,” said lead author Dr. Elizabeth Wolf of the University of Washington, in a statement that accompanied the release of the study. “Our results may challenge that assumption.”

That says something deeply troubling not just about the outlook for childrens’ health, but about human obtuseness, particularly as outbreaks of measles strike New York City, Orange County, Calif. and elsewhere, while mumps cases spread throughout Columbus, Ohio. Despite this real-time, real-world evidence of the damage caused by the anti-vaccine crazies—who have spent the better part of 16 years peddling the fable that vaccines are filled with never-fully-specified “toxins” that cause autism and an ever-changing pu pu platter of other imaginary ills—many parents and even some doctors continue to close their eyes.

That’s a problem not just for the unprotected kids, but for everyone. If we got smoking rates in the U.S. down to just 10% of the population, we’d celebrate that fact as a great public health victory. But as virologists and epidemiologists remind us again and again and again, when 10%—or even 5%—of parents opt out of vaccines for their kids or insist on making up their own vaccination schedule, they destroy the herd immunity effect that should protect the handful of people in any population who can’t get vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons. If a virus can’t find an entry point into a community, it can never make its way to the most vulnerable members. Every parent who opts out opens one more infectious avenue.

The U.S. is not alone in playing craps with vaccine-preventable diseases. The Vancouver report was issued on the same day that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency concerning the spread of polio from Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon, and the presence of the virus in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Nigeria. The emergency did not arise because of some new, especially tenacious strain of polio. Indeed, the disease has been at the brink of eradication for a few years now, with only 160 endemic cases in three countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria—in 2013, and 257 cases in countries into which the virus was imported by carriers crossing the border. But attacks on medical field workers by militant groups in Pakistan have disrupted inoculation efforts there, and war or unrest in Syria and elsewhere have made the safe passage of vaccinators impossible.

Extremists in the Middle East and Africa are hardly motivated by the same ideas as rumor-mongers and frightened parents in the U.S. But both are committing the same moral crime, jeopardizing the health and welfare of blameless babies. It’s those babies who will pay the price—and the parents and extremists who must bear the blame.

TIME health

MERS Shows That The Next Pandemic Is Only a Plane Flight Away

SARS ravaged Hong Kong in 2003
A single patient seeded Hong Kong's SARS outbreak in 2003 Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images

On Feb. 21, 2003, a 64-year-old Chinese physician named Dr. Liu Jianlun traveled to Hong Kong to attend a wedding. He stayed in room 911 on the ninth floor of the Metropole Hotel. Liu, who had been treating cases of a mysterious respiratory disease in the neighboring Chinese province of Guangdong, was already sick when he arrived in Hong Kong, and the next day he checked into the city’s Kwong Wah hospital. Liu died on Mar. 4 of the disease doctors soon named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. But before he died, he inadvertently infected at least 16 people who spent time on the ninth floor of that Hotel.

Some of those people boarded international flights before they knew they were sick, seeding new outbreaks in places like Vietnam, Taiwan and Singapore. SARS had been confined to southern China for months, but once Liu checked into the Metropole Hotel, it was only a matter of time before the first new infectious disease of the 21st century went global. Before it was stamped out months later, SARS had infected 8,273 people, killing 775 people in 37 countries.

It’s that chain of events that must have been on American officials’ minds last week when news broke that the U.S. had its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). A male health care provider had been in Saudi Arabia, the epicenter for the ongoing MERS outbreaks, before flying to Chicago via London on Apr. 24. After arriving in Chicago, he took a bus to the Indiana town of Munster, where on Apr. 28 he was admitted to the hospital and was eventually diagnosed with MERS. A deadly respiratory disease that has already infected hundreds, almost all in Saudi Arabia, and killed over 100 people had come to the U.S.

CDC officials played down the larger threat of the first U.S. MERS case. “In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS to make its way to the U.S.,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on May 2. “We have been preparing for this.” CDC officials will contact and track individuals who might have been close to the patient — including health workers who treated him and fellow travelers on his international flights and his bus ride to Munster — just in case any developed MERS symptoms. That’s not likely. So far MERS hasn’t shown much ability to spread easily from person to person, so the threat to the larger U.S. public is probably very small.

But if that Indiana case remains isolated — and MERS itself never becomes the global health threat that SARS was — it only means we were lucky.

As Schuchat put it, exotic, emerging diseases are now “just a plane’s ride away.” In the past, before international air travel became common, emerging pathogens could begin infecting people but remain geographically isolated for decades. Scientists now think that HIV was active among people in Central Africa for decades before it really began spreading globally in the 1970s, again thanks largely to international air travel. Today there’s almost no spot on the planet — from the rainforests of Cameroon to the hinterland of China — so remote that someone couldn’t make it to a heavily populated city like New York or Hong Kong in less than 24 hours, potentially carrying a new infectious disease with them.

The surest way to prevent the spread of new infectious disease would be to shut down international travel and trade, which is obviously not going to happen. The occasional pandemic might simply be one of the prices we pay for a globalized world. But we can do much more to try to detect and snuff out new pathogens before they endanger the health of the planet.

Because most new diseases emerge in animals before jumping to human beings (the virus that causes MERS seems to infect humans mostly via camel, though bats may be the original source), we need to police the porous boundary between animal health and human health. That work is being done by groups like Global Viral (whose founder I profiled in November 2011) is creating an early warning system capable of forecasting and containing new pathogens before they fuel pandemics. But as the stubborn spread of MERS shows, that’s easier said than done — especially if diseases emerge in countries that have less than open political systems.

Because as it turns out, the driving factor behind the spread of new diseases isn’t just globalization. It’s also political denial. SARS was able to spread beyond China’s borders in part because the Chinese government initially covered up the outbreaks — at one point even driving SARS patients around Beijing in ambulances to hide them from an international health team. Meanwhile, the autocratic Saudi government has made life difficult for researchers studying MERS. Much the same thing happened when the avian flu virus H5N1 began spreading in Southeast Asia in 2004. In every case, a rapid and public response might have contained those viruses before they threatened the rest of the world.

Eleven years later Hong Kong’s Metropole Hotel is now called the Metropark, and Liu Jianlun’s infamous room 911 doesn’t exist any more. After SARS, hotel management changed the number to 913 in an attempt to scrub out the past. Denial is always so tempting. But in an interconnected world, where the travel plans of a single person can seed deadly outbreaks a continent away, it’s no longer an option.


8 Easy Taco Recipes for a Delicious Cinco de Mayo


Tacos are a delicious way to enjoy Mexican cuisine—they’re quick, filing, and flavor-packed. These lightened recipes turn up the heat, but keep the calorie count low.

Soft Tacos With Spicy Chicken
Marinating the chicken breasts with vinegar, spices, and onion adds flavor and creates a tender base for this easy recipe. Add salsa, lettuce, and avocado slices to top these tacos off.

Ingredients: Chicken breasts, bay leaf, oregano, chipotle chiles, red onion, white wine vinegar, olive oil, dark beer, corn tortillas, cilantro, salsa

Calories: 225

Try this recipe: Soft Tacos With Spicy Chicken

Steak Tacos With Simple Guacamole
This taco has a decadent taste, but is completely diet-friendly. Instead of using cheese, which is high in saturated fat, this recipe uses guacamole, which is rich in hearty-healthy fats. You’ll be satisfied without doing damage to your waistline.

Ingredients: Vegetable oil, Mexican oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic, flank steak, onion, red and yellow bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, avocados, lime juice, flour tortillas

Calories: 490

Try this recipe: Steak Tacos With Simple Guacamole

Pork-and-Black Bean Tacos
This recipe uses leftovers from Horseradish-Crusted Pork Tenderloin to create an unusual but delicious dinner. And with 23 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber, you won’t be tempted to have a midnight snack.

Ingredients: Pork tenderloin, black beans, olive oil, Brussels sprouts, garlic, cider vinegar, sweet potatoes, chipotle chiles, corn taco shells, red onion, sour cream, limes

Calories: 363

Try this recipe: Pork-and-Black Bean Tacos

Pulled-Pork Tacos
Before you put your slow-cooker away for the spring, try these tender tacos. Salsa, chili powder, and even a bit of unsweetened cocoa add a smoky flavor to the rich pork. And since the pork is so rich on its own, a dab of sour cream adds the perfect finish to this recipe.

Ingredients: Salsa, chili powder, dried oregano, unsweetened cocoa, pork butt or shoulder, corn tortillas, cilantro sprigs, sour cream, limes

Calories: 574

Try this recipe: Pulled-Pork Tacos

Skillet Veggie Tacos
This low-cal taco adds a kick with the addition of jalapeño peppers. Plus the veggies and beans add 5 grams of filling fiber and 8 grams of protein.

Ingredients: Red bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, jalapeño peppers, garlic, olive oil, cumin, oregano, sweet white wine, pinto beans, fat-free tortillas, feta cheese

Calories: 200

Try this recipe: Skillet Veggie Tacos

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Tacos
A salsa, cilantro, and lime juice topping adds a spicy layer to these otherwise mild tacos. And shrimp is rich in iron, which gives you energy and keeps your immune system healthy.

Ingredients: Shrimp, black beans, scallions, avocado, salsa verde, cilantro, limes, flour tortillas, red bell pepper

Calories: 453

Try this recipe: Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Tacos

Tex-Mex Beef Tacos
This recipe satisfies your craving for Mexican food, and it’s low in fat (thanks to lean ground sirloin), easy to prepare, and fast. You can also serve it with fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, salsa, and fat-free sour cream.

Ingredients: Onion, garlic, sirloin, frozen corn, black beans, tomato sauce, chipotle chiles, fat-free tortillas

Calories: 266

Try this recipe: Tex-Mex Beef Tacos

Fish Tacos
Mango and avocado create a rich mix of sweet and salty flavors, while the marinated tilapia adds a tangy citrus element. The radishes have a mild bitterness, a nice complement to this 450-calorie dish.

Ingredients: Red wine vinegar, sugar, chili powder, red onion, radishes, tilapia, limes, garlic, mango, avocado, cilantro, canola oil, corn tortillas, salsa verde

Calories: 449

Try this recipe: Fish Tacos

This article originally appeared on Health.com.


Many Bullying Victims Bring Weapons To School

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About 200,000 bullied high school students bring weapons to school, according to new data.

High schoolers who are bullied, be it with physical assault, taunting or damage to their personal belongings, are up to 31 times more likely to bring weapons — like a gun or knife — to school than kids who are not bullied.

Researchers looked at data culled by the CDC, which surveyed thousands of New York City high school students. The students were asked if they had ever been bullied at school and how many days within the last month they had brought a weapon at school.

The researchers looked at a series of risk factors that could increase the likelihood that students would bring weapons to school, which consisted of skipping school due to feeling unsafe, having belongings and property stolen or damaged, being threatened or injured with weapons, and being in a physical fight. In total, 20% of high schoolers reported being bullying victims.

High schoolers who were bullied tended to be female, white, and performed worse in school — 8.6% were likely to bring weapons to school compared to 4.6% who were not. But the most dramatic increases were seen among students who experienced more than one kind of intimidation. Up to 28% of students experiencing one risk factor brought a weapon to school, and 62% of kids experiencing three risk factors brought a weapon to campus.

The researchers hope that their findings will help educators better identify students who are at a higher risk for violence, and prevent further campus violence and cheating.

TIME Infectious Disease

WHO Declares Health Emergency on Polio

The World Health Organization declared polio an international health emergency on Monday as the rise in cases threatens eradication efforts and singled out the conflict zones of Syria, Cameroon and Pakistan as worrisome sources of its spread

The recent spread of the polio virus is a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Ten countries currently report evidence that the virus, which can cause paralysis, is circulating among people. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan recently convened a committee to evaluate international efforts that began 25 years ago to eradicate the disease and the 14-member panel found disturbing evidence that interruptions in vaccination programs have allowed the virus to break through in some parts of the world.

Especially concerning was the fact that three countries—Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon—showed higher rates of transmission of wild polio virus to other nations even during the disease’s more dormant period. That raises the possibility that when the virus becomes more active, from April into the summer, transmission rates will peak even more. “If the situation as of today and April 2014 is unchecked, it could result in the failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases,” Dr. Bruce Ayleward, WHO’s assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration said during a conference call.

The emergency measures require that residents in the three countries actively exporting polio virus receive a dose of either of the two polio vaccines four weeks-to-12 months before traveling, and that they be provided with proof of their immunization. The remaining seven affected countries are encouraged, but not required, to do the same. The WHO recommended these measures remain in place until countries show no new transmission of polio for six months and evidence of eradication efforts, including immunization programs. While not legally binding, the cooperation of affected countries is expected, Ayleward said. The WHO’s action may also help governments to make polio immunization a priority; in 2009, a similar declaration during the H1N1 pandemic allowed nations to prioritize health care services to protect and treat patients affected by the flu.

Health officials have been getting closer to making polio the second disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated by vaccinating children in countries where the wild virus continues to circulate. But social unrest and political conflict have interrupted immunization programs—some health workers have become targets of violence in Pakistan, for example, while growing populations of displaced residents such as refugees who are without access to health care services also provide fertile conditions for the virus to spread. Seven of the 10 countries now reporting wild polio virus have been successful at eliminating the disease in the past, but have been reinfected in recent years.

Chan asked the committee to reconvene in three months to see if the recommendations were effective in controlling the spread of the disease.

TIME Research

Kids’ Own Drivers, Not Strangers, Are Biggest DUI Death Risk, Study Says

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that child traffic deaths from drunk driving are on the decline in recent years but the greatest threat to their safety remains the adults behind the wheel of the car themselves, not strangers in other vehicles

The biggest risk to children when it comes to drunk drivers are the adults driving them, not strangers, according to a new study.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that child traffic deaths caused by drunk driving sharply declined in recent years, the Associated Press reports. But of the 2,344 children under 15 killed in such incidents between 2000 and 2010, about two-thirds were riding in a car with a drunk driver themselves, according to the study.

Most of the adult drivers survived these crashes, suggesting not enough children were wearing seat belts, researchers say.

The study, led by Dr. Kyran Quinlan of Northwestern University and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed government data on traffic deaths.


TIME Aging

‘Vampire’ Mice May Hold Key to Eternal Youth

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New studies published in Science and Nature Medicine find that older mice who are given blood from younger rodents quickly become rejuvenated, raising hopes for treating age-related degenerative conditions in humans like dementia and Alzheimer's

Aging mice gain energy, while also exhibiting greater strength and memory, when injected with the blood of younger specimens, according to a new study.

Scientists at Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco, carried out experiments on rodents with ages equivalent to humans in their 20s and 60s.

A protein called GDF11 — also found in human blood — is behind the rejuvenating properties, they suggest in research published in the journals Science and Nature Medicine. Concentration of the substance appears to decline in advanced years.

The findings could be used to treat age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, some have cautioned that stimulating the rapid regrowth of cells could possibly lead to increased risks of cancer.


11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

From missing out on sleep to genetic factors, there are plenty of reasons why your abdominal fat, which can be a predictor of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and some cancers, may be stubbornly sticking around

Getting rid of your belly bulge is important for more than just vanity’s sake. Excess abdominal fat-particularly visceral fat, the kind that surrounds your organs and puffs your stomach into a “beer gut”-is a predictor of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and some cancers. If diet and exercise haven’t done much to reduce your pooch, then your hormones, your age and other genetic factors may be the reason why. Read on for 11 possible reasons why your belly fat won’t budge.

Health.com: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

You’re getting older
As you get older, your body changes how it gains and loses weight. Both men and women experience a declining metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body needs to function normally. On top of that, women have to deal with menopause. “If women gain weight after menopause, it’s more likely to be in their bellies,” says Michael Jensen, M.D., professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic’s endocrinology division. In menopause, production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone slows down. Meanwhile, testosterone levels also start to drop, but at a slower rate. This shift in hormones causes women to hold on to weight in their bellies. The good news: you can fight this process. Read on.

You’re doing the wrong workout
A daily run or Spin class is great for your heart, but cardio workouts alone won’t do much for your waist. “You need to do a combination of weights and cardiovascular training,” says Sangeeta Kashyap, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. Strength training increases muscle mass, which sets your body up to burn more fat. “Muscle burns more calories than fat, and therefore you naturally burn more calories throughout the day by having more muscle,” says Kate Patton, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. Patton recommends 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 125 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week.

You’re eating too many processed foods
“Refined grains like white bread, crackers and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies,” says Patton. “Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat.” Natural foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are full of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may therefore actually prevent belly fat, Patton says.

Health.com: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

You’re eating the wrong fats
The body doesn’t react to all fats in the same way. Research correlates high intake of saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy) to increased visceral fat, says Patton. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (the kind in olive oil and avocados) and specific types of polyunsaturated fats (mainly omega-3s, found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon) have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and if eaten in proper portions may do your body good. But Patton warns that eating too much fat of any kind increases your calorie intake and could lead to weight gain, so enjoy healthy fats in moderation.

Your workout isn’t challenging enough
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) “You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that,” says Natalie Jill, a San Diego–based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you’re going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you’ll burn more calories in less time.

Health.com: 25 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

You’re doing the wrong exercises
Doing crunches until the cows come home? Stop it! When you’re down to your final inches of belly fat, the dreaded crunch won’t be the exercise that finally reveals your six-pack. “You can’t spot reduce,” Jill says. Instead, she suggests doing functional exercises that use the muscles in your core — abdominals, back, pelvic, obliques — as well as other body parts. “These exercises use more muscles, so there is a higher rate of calorie burn while you are doing them,” she says. Planks are her favorite functional exercise — they activate not just your core muscles but also your arm, leg and butt muscles.

You’re stressed
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids — whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it’s not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you’re stressed, though that’s part of it. It’s also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

You’re skimping on sleep
If you’re among the 30% of Americans who sleep less than six hours a night, here’s one simple way to whittle your waistline: catch more Zs. A 16-year study of almost 70,000 women found that those who slept five hours or less a night were 30% more likely to gain 30 or more pounds than those who slept seven hours. The National Institutes of Health suggest adults sleep seven to eight hours a night.

You’re apple-shaped
If you tend to pack the pounds around your middle rather than your hips and thighs, then you’re apple shaped. This genetic predisposition means ridding yourself of belly fat will be harder, Dr. Kashyap says, but not impossible.

You’re sick
If your testosterone levels are high — something that can occur with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — you might have difficulty losing weight. “If you’re an apple shape and overweight, it’s a good idea to see your doctor,” Dr. Kashyap says, since there may also be a chance that you are prediabetic or diabetic.

You’re unmotivated
Are you committed to the work needed to lose belly fat? “Reducing belly fat takes a combination approach of a low-calorie diet that is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates and sugar along with cardiovascular and weight training,” Dr. Kashyap says. “If you are willing to do the work, you can move past genetics and lose it.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Infectious Disease

Tough Mudder Racers Caught Stomach Bug After Ingesting Muddy Water

2014 Tough Mudder
A competitor falls into muddy water during Toughmudder at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on March 22, 2014 in Phillip Island, Australia. Quinn Rooney—Getty Images

In a new CDC report, researchers say that multiple cases of fever, vomiting and explosive diarrhea were likely the result of C.Coli infections that victims picked up while traversing a muddy obstacle course at a Tough Mudder competition in Nevada

Falling face-first into the mud during an extreme endurance event like the Tough Mudder race could solidify your status as a hardcore adventurer, but a team of unlucky participants discovered it could also send you to the hospital with a severe stomach bug.

In Oct. 2012, three active-duty military members went to an air force hospital with fever, vomiting and hemorrhagic diarrhea, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday. Doctors determined that all three patients had competed in a Tough Mudder race in Beatty, Nev., just a few days before, and all had either plunged their heads into some sloppy earth or been partially submerged under water.

A subsequent investigation found evidence of 22 cases, 4 confirmed and 18 probable, of Campylobacter coli, or C.Coli, which likely found its way into the muddy water by way of fecal matter from cows and pigs.

Lt. Col. Chad Claar, who lead the research, told the Washington Post he suspected there were likely more people who suffered from the outbreak but either sought private medical care or didn’t fall ill enough to seek treatment.


5 Delicious Pasta Alternatives with a Fraction of the Calories

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It’s that transition time of year when many of my clients ask for advice on switching up their staple meals. Warmer weather means we’re no longer bundling up, and bathing suit season is approaching, so ditching hearty starches like pasta just makes sense. But salads aren’t your only option. There are tons of veggies to choose from, and five in particular make perfect pasta stand-ins.

Here’s how to use vegetables to create easy main-dish meals that will leave you feeling lightened up and fully satisfied.

Health.com: 11 Fresh Fruit and Veggie Recipes for Spring

Julienned zucchini

Savings per cup compared to whole wheat pasta: 155 calories, 33 grams of carbs

Kitchen gadgets that create spiral or noodle-shaped cuts of everything from carrots to cucumbers are all the rage right now. You can pick up a spiralizer or a mandolin slicer at a kitchen store for about $40, or imitate the effect by using a julienne peeler (if you don’t already have one in the drawer, they’re about $10). In addition to providing 35% of your daily vitamin C needs per cup, raw zucchini makes a great base for a chilled “pasta salad.” Add additional veggies, like quartered grape tomatoes and minced red onion, along with a lean protein (like beans, lentils, chicken, or salmon), then toss with balsamic vinaigrette and refrigerate. A perfect make-ahead lunch option!

Health.com:26 Quick and Tasty Zucchini Recipes

Spaghetti squash

Savings per cup compared to whole wheat pasta: 132 calories, 27 grams of carbs

You won’t need any fancy tools to create the angel hair-like strands found inside this cooked squash, a source of blood-pressure regulating, bloat-busting potassium. If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash yet, I predict love at first bite, and I promise it’s easy. Just slice lengthwise, remove the seeds, place cut side down on a foil-lined oven tray, and roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Once squash is cooled enough to handle, rake the flesh with a fork to release the “spaghetti.” Toss with marinara and top with lean protein, or use as the base for a casserole.

Shredded cabbage

Savings per cup compared to whole wheat pasta: 156 calories, 33 grams of carbs

As a member of the cruciferous veggie family (which also includes kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts), cabbage is a known cancer fighter and potent heart protector. Most people associate it with slaw, but steamed cabbage is also a terrific pasta substitute. Cover a cup with stewed tomato sauce seasoned with harissa, slather with pesto, or toss with a combo of mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions, sautéed in extra olive oil with garlic and basil.

Health.com: 23 Easy Cabbage Recipes

French beans

Savings per cup compared to whole wheat pasta: 144 calories, 30 grams of carbs

French beans—which are more petite than common green beans with a softer pod—are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and immune-supporting vitamins A and C. Steam a large handful and toss with sun-dried tomato or roasted red pepper pesto, and then use them as a bed for lentils or cooked shrimp (this combo is also great chilled), or slice them lengthwise to form skinnier strands and cover with a ladle of thick tomato sauce.

Health.com: Best and Worst Foods to Avoid Bloating

Ribboned eggplant

Savings per cup compared to whole wheat pasta: 139 calories, 28 grams of carbs

Natural substances in eggplant are known to fight aging, protect the brain, and trigger blood vessels to relax, which improves blood flow and boosts circulation. To take advantage of their benefits, grab a vegetable peeler and go to town, slicing the entire eggplant into thin “ribbons.” Lightly mist or brush the ribbons with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet. Serve them hot or chilled as a pasta replacement; or top slices with goodies like hummus, roll up and enjoy!

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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