Before we get too far into things, let me say loud and clear that there is nothing wrong with eating carbs. In their whole format, they are nutrient-dense foods that can certainly be incorporated into a healthy diet, however, there is a time and a place for everything when it comes to nutrition. Depending on your personal goals, temporarily limiting carbohydrate-rich foods in your diet can have positive side effects. Whether someone is trying to address their blood sugar, manage their weight, or increase mental clarity, opting for low-carb food swaps is a great way to help you reach your goals without feeling deprived. So, if you are looking to cut down on carbs, but don’t want to compromise on flavor, here are 11 low-carb food swaps that are equally delicious and nutritious.
Easy Low-Carb Food Swaps
Here are 11 easy low-carb swaps you can try today.
1. Swap Rice for Quinoa or Cauliflower Rice
Although often considered a grain, quinoa is actually a seed that contains fat, and protein and although it does contain carbohydrates it is relatively low compared to other grains. Compared to white rice, quinoa contains double the protein, coming in at 8 grams per cup as opposed to 4 grams per cup, and is just as easy to cook. In addition to quinoa, cauliflower is also a great low-carb swap for white rice. Although it may seem a little odd, cauliflower rice is essentially just cauliflower blitzed in a food processor until it resembles rice, and then cooked by steaming it or stir-frying it until tender. Not only is it delicious, but cauliflower rice contains almost 90% fewer carbs than white rice and double the fiber making it a great low-carb swap.
2. Swap Spaghetti for Zucchini Noodles or Spaghetti Squash
Pasta is a favorite dish for many so finding low-carb alternatives can make sticking to your game plan a whole lot easier. Although they sound like a lot of work, making zucchini noodles is actually really easy; all you need is a spiralizer, a few minutes and you’ll have zoodles for days that you can easily substitute in your favorite pasta dish. However, if zucchini is not your thing, not to worry, spaghetti squash works equally well, if not better. Simply cut a spaghetti squash in half, roast it in the oven, and then scrape out the cooked strands out with a fork. In addition to being delicious, using zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash is a great way to add more veggies to your diet.
3. Swap Mashed Potatoes for Cauliflower Mash or Celeriac Mash
Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food and rightfully so, they are rich, creamy, and delicious. The good news is if you are trying to keep things low-carb there are a ton of delicious swaps that you can make that will hit the comfort food spot! Once cooked and mashed, cauliflower easily takes on the consistency of mashed potatoes, and you can easily jazz it up with garlic, herbs, and seasonings to your liking. Alternatively, celeriac, also known as celery root, is a root vegetable that can serve as a delicious alternative to mashed potatoes. Not only does celeriac contain a quarter of the carbs that potatoes do, but it is also much less expensive than cauliflower making it an ideal low-carb swap.
4. Swap Roasted Potatoes for Roasted Rutabaga or Roasted Radishes
If you love the crispy crunchiness of roasted potatoes I highly suggest that you give roasted rutabaga and radishes a try! Much like potatoes, rutabaga is a root vegetable, however, it contains half of the carbohydrates making it a great substitute, and it can easily be roasted whole, cubed, sliced, or cut into fries for a simple low-carb side dish. Plus, although radishes are most frequently used in salads or eaten raw on their own, once roasted they take on a sweet flavor and tender texture that pairs well with any main course and they contain a small fraction of the carbohydrates found in classic roasted potatoes.
5. Swap Wraps for Collard Wraps or Lettuce Wraps
By this point, most people have likely heard of swapping tortillas for lettuce wraps, however, collard green wraps may be new to some. Since collard greens are quite large in size, they are ideal for wrapping up sandwiches, burgers, tacos, burritos, and pretty much anything else you can think of. They can certainly be eaten raw, however, if you find the flavor too bitter you can quickly blanch them in water to help cut the bitterness and provide a more tender texture at the same time.
6. Swap Croutons for Nuts or Seeds
Although they may not seem like much, those croutons in your salad can quickly add up to a couple of slices of bread which is less than ideal if you are trying to watch your carb intake! So, if you are looking to add a little crunch to your salad, opt for a handful of nuts and/or seeds instead. Raw almonds, walnuts, and pecans all work really well, as do pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and if you are looking for a little extra flavor you can also give them a quick roast. Not only do they taste great, but nuts and seeds provide healthy fat and a touch of plant-based protein to any salad.
7. Swap Bread Crumbs for Ground Almonds or Shredded Coconut
There is nothing better than the crunchy exterior of breaded chicken and fish, fortunately, there are plenty of low-carb alternatives that you can use in your favorite dishes. Almond meal, or ground almonds, is a great low-carb swap for classic “Shake n’ Bake” recipes or oven-baked chicken fingers, as it adheres well to any meat and crisps up well in the oven, or if you are looking for a little island vibe, shredded coconut provides a ton of texture and flavour and works really well on poultry and seafood like in these coconut crusted fish tacos.
8. Swap Toast for Sweet Potato Toast
Let’s be honest, finding a complete low-carb alternative to bread is pretty tough, but if you are in a pinch, sweet potato toast can certainly help fill the gap! Just as the name implies, sweet potato toast is made by thinly slicing sweet potatoes length-wise and cooking them in a toaster as you would regular toast. They may take a little longer to cook than regular toast, but once cooked sweet potato toast provides the perfect texture, sturdiness, and crunchiness to hold your favorite toppings in a low-carb way.
9. Swap Burger Buns for Lettuce Wraps or Mushroom Caps
The easiest way to do a low-carb burger is just to eat it bunless, but if you want something that you can grab onto, lettuce wraps and mushroom caps both work really well. A lettuce wrap is certainly the simplest swap, although it may be a little juicy to eat, and while a mushroom cap burger may require a little more work, it is definitely worth the effort. Although they can technically be eaten raw, portobello mushroom caps are best when grilled, and given they have the same shape as a burger bun they cover a burger very well.
10. Swap Lasagna Noodles for Eggplant Slices or Zucchini Slices
If you love a good lasagna you are in luck! When sliced thinly lengthwise, both eggplant and zucchini are great low-carb swaps for classic lasagna noodles. With just a couple eggplants, you can easily recreate your traditional family recipe with all of the rich, hearty, and creamy flavors without all of the added carbs, and pack in some extra veggies at the same time.
11. Swap Pancakes for Almond Flour Pancakes
Almond flour is a great low-carb, high-protein, and high-fat alternative to traditional flour. Although it’s not always a simple one-to-one swap in recipes, there are plenty of almond flour recipes that create delicious baked goods. With a few basic ingredients, you can easily whip together almond flour pancakes that are just as fluffy and flavourful as the real deal, so you can still enjoy your weekend brunch while keeping your goals in mind.