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Low-Carb Italian Sausage Meals

By Andrea Boldt

Add variety to your low-carb meals by using Italian sausage as the main ingredient. Throw it on the grill and eat it plain, alongside grilled summer squash, salad or steamed broccoli, or incorporate it in a recipe for a satisfying meal.

Spicy or mild, sausage qualifies as a low-carb food if it has no added wheat or sugar as fillers -- so check the label. High-quality sausage should be mostly meat and spices.

Low-Carb Italian Sausage Frittata

Sausage and eggs are naturally low-carb foods. Combine them into a quick and easy frittata, which is like an open-faced omelet. Slice the sausages and precook them in a large skillet coated with olive oil. Add chopped red onion and sliced zucchini squash, and brown. The red onion adds 6 grams of net carbs for 1/4 cup, and you get 1 net carb gram for every 1/2 cup of squash. "Net" carbs are simply the total carbs minus any fiber in the food.

As the sausage and vegetables cook, beat several whole eggs with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning -- which adds zero carbs to the dish -- in a separate bowl. Pour the eggs into the skillet over the sausage and vegetables; sprinkle with Parmesan or Asiago cheese and place in a 350-degree oven until set -- usually about 15 minutes. The cheese adds less than 1 gram of carbohydrates per ounce. Serve wedges of the frittata with green salad.

Sausage, Spinach and Cheese Bake

Combine mild Italian sausage with spinach and cheese for a warm, creamy casserole.

Precook sliced Italian sausage in olive oil. Add several handfuls of raw baby spinach -- which has less than 1 gram of carbs per cup -- during the last minute or so of cooking so it wilts.

In a separate bowl, stir together 1 egg with a 14.5-ounce can of tomato sauce, which contains between 14 and 29 grams net carbs total -- the exact number varies slightly by brand, so check the label. Mix in some shredded cheddar cheese.

Spread the sausage and spinach in a casserole dish; pour the egg mixture over the top and stir together. Sprinkle on a little additional shredded cheese and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the casserole bubbles and the cheese is melted.

If you serve four people with the recipe, each serving contains less than 10 grams of carbs total.

Sausage and Pepper Skillet Meal

Combine the classic hoagie ingredients of Italian sausage and peppers into a low-carb skillet meal. Heat coconut oil or olive oil over high heat; add slices of Italian sausage, and brown. Remove the sausage to a plate and set aside. Add onion; red, green and yellow bell peppers; mushrooms; and green beans to the skillet. Saute until browned and soft. Return the sausage to the skillet and add 1/2 cup of canned, diced tomatoes, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for 3 to 5 more minutes, and serve topped with fresh minced basil.

Use one to two sausages per serving. The diced tomatoes have 4 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup; the peppers have 3 grams per 1/2 cup cooked; the mushrooms 1 gram per 1/2 cup; the green beans 3 grams per 1/2 cup. Remember, all of these carbs will be divided among all the servings, so it stays quite low.

Low-Carb Sausage Gratin

Choose a cheesy gratin as an alternative to tomato-based flavors. Sauté sliced Italian sausage with one chopped leek -- the white part only -- chopped yellow onion, broccoli and cauliflower florets in butter. If you use a total of 1 1/2 cups of vegetables, you'll add about 7 grams of net carbs to the dish. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper and dried thyme.

As the meat and vegetables sauté, use a separate bowl to stir together a few tablespoons of Dijon mustard with a cup or two of sour cream and shredded cheese -- use mozzarella or mild cheddar.

Combine the vegetables, sausage and sour cream mixture together in a casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted.

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