Zoodles with Avocado Pesto (Paleo, vegan, gluten-free)

zoodles with avocado pesto 1

In CrossFit, there’s a term known as “AMRAP,” which stands for “As Many Rounds As Possible.” The idea is that you repeat a circuit as many times as possible within a given time frame — for example, five deadlifts, 20 squats, 10 pushups and maybe some mountain climbers, as many times as you can for 15 minutes.

When I can’t stomach the meat in Paleo and feel like I need to eat a little lighter, I like to say I’m doing “AMVAP,” which stands for “As Many Vegetables As Possible.”

The reason most diets work is because they increase the amount of fruits and vegetables the person is eating and cut down on processed foods. AMVAP just formalizes that tendency. Cauliflower for rice or quinoa and zucchini for noodles are prime examples of AMVAP swaps, but it’s a larger mindset. When I do it, I generally also follow Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 rules, cutting out meat, grains, sugar, dairy and processed foods before 6 p.m.

That’s the hardest part. Did I tell you that Diet Coke is my biggest vice? It is.

zoodles with avocado pesto 2 vegan gluten-free paleo

Like any sustainable “diet,” it leaves you with choices. Sure, have some cheese with dinner! Have some good fats! Eat a cookie! But you know what the best part of AMVAP is? As a mindset, it rewards you for healthy steps you take and minimizes guilt. Nothing is verboten; you just try as hard as you can to maximize the produce you’re eating, and everything else falls into place.

This dish, adapted from a similar one at Oh She Glows, is perfect for that mindset. Creamy and fresh without being heavy, it’s made up almost entirely of vegetables. Zucchini noodles replace pasta, avocados stand in for cream and fresh herbs and lemon add a ton of flavor. I literally made it one morning on the way to work, and it’s so quick and easy that you can do the same.

If you don’t have a spiral slicer, you can use a julienne peeler for slightly shorter noodles. The one I recently purchased, the Gefu Spirelli, is small and handy and easy to use — and no, that’s not an affiliate link.

What do you do when you’re feeling a little…indulged?

Zoodles with Avocado Pesto
A delicious, light, no-cook “pasta” dish suitable for Paleo, vegan, and gluten-free diets.
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus zest
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. First, use a spiral slicer or julienne peeler on the zucchini. Roll the strands in paper towels and set aside.
  2. Blend remaining ingredients except zest and black pepper in a mini food processor or blender and process until smooth. Place zucchini spirals in a bowl, pour sauce over, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Toss until well-combined. Serve, topping with zest and pepper to taste.

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