13 Healthy Carb Alternatives
There are many reasons why you should be interested in cutting back on carbs. Studies show that low carb diets can help you lose weight and even prevent diabetes. For those who love pancakes, pasta, and pizza, letting go of these comfort foods can be a challenge. There is no denying that they are delicious, but they also share one thing in common – they are substantial in carbs and leave you feeling tired. So what’s one to do?
Beginning to Cut Carbs
You don’t want to give up all your carbs, and you don’t have to. You can easily cut your carb intake by following these steps:
Reduce Your Bread Intake
Bread, especially white bread, is low in fiber and high in carbs, making it one of the worst foods you can eat for your weight loss. Refined grains can negatively impact your weight loss goals and even cause you to increase weight. On the other hand, healthy grains like rye have 15 grams of carbs per slice and also contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If possible, you ought to eliminate bread from your diet. Still, if the bread is too important to you, you could try a healthy alternative.
Eliminate Sugary Drinks
Removing sugary drinks from your diet is not an option. Sugary beverages not only contain unhealthy sugar, but are also full of carbs. A can of sugary soda has up to 38 grams of carbs, and only 12 ounces of iced tea contains 36 grams of carbs. You can significantly reduce your carb intake by merely removing these unhealthy drinks from your diet.
Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
Fruit juice is another beverage that has many fooled. Just because it’s ‘fruit’ juice doesn’t mean it is healthy. In fact, fruit juice is full of sugar and has no fiber at all. Although some juices may contain a few vitamins and minerals, in terms of sugar and carbs, fruit juices are just as bad. Even the 100% fruit juice label isn’t healthy. For example, only 12 ounces of 100 percent apple juice has 48 grams of carbs.
Substitute Sugar with Sweeteners
If you are on a low-carb diet, sugar is your enemy. A single tablespoon of sugar has 12 grams of carbs, and if you think honey is better, think again. One tablespoon of honey has 17 grams of carbs, which is even more than sugar. But there are a few sugar-free sweeteners that do have some health benefits.
Stevia, for instance, is derived from the stevia plant and is a healthy sweetener that can even help lower blood sugar levels and promote insulin sensitivity. Another option is erythritol that also tastes like sugar but does not raise glucose levels. Finally, Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that may protect against obesity.
Change Your Snack Choices
Snacking on chips, pretzels, and crackers may not sound like a big deal, but carbs can quickly add up in snack foods. Instead of snacking on carbohydrate-rich foods, switch to a protein snack. Studies prove that those who choose high-protein snacks felt fuller and ate up to 100 calories less at dinner. High protein snacks include almonds, peanuts, cheese, walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts.
The truth is, practicing these carb-reducing habits is just the first step in lowering your carb intake. You must do more to make sure you aren’t jeopardizing your diet by eating too many carbs. You need to make carb-reduction an everyday choice, and the only way to do this is by substituting high-carb foods with low-carb ones. We’ve put together 13 of the healthiest carb alternatives.
13 Healthy Carb Ideas to Aid Weight Loss
1. Instead of Potatoes or Bread: Veggies
This can be particularly challenging when you are out eating with friends. No matter how carb-free you plan to be, when you order a meal, it automatically comes with some starch on the side. This starch can be in the form of potatoes, bread, rolls, or pasta. When you see the starchy part sitting on the side of your plate, it may not seem like a lot, but it can add up to 30 grams of carbs to your meal. An easy solution is to ask for low carb vegetables instead of the starch.
2. Instead of Refined Flour: Wheat Flour
Most baked goods like muffins and cookies use refined flour. Although whole wheat flour does have some carbs, it is far less than refined flour. Even better, opt for flour made from nuts like almond flour. Almond flour has less than 11 grams of carbs, while coconut flour has 21 grams. If it is difficult to find food that uses these healthy flours, it just might be time you started learning how to bake.
3. Instead of Traditional Milk: Nut Milk
Milk may be nutritious, but if you are on a diet, this nutrition may be too much. The sugar called lactose gives the milk a high carb content. One glass of full fat or even low fat milk can have up to 13 grams of carbs. This may not sound like a lot, but if you are fond of adding milk to shakes or drinking milk straight, this could easily add up and contribute to your high carb intake. A good substitute is coconut milk, almond milk, or other milk made from nuts. Not only do they have less sugar and carbs, but they are rich in other minerals and vitamins.
4. Instead of High-Carb Side Dishes: Non-Starchy Vegetables
Not all vegetables are equal in terms of their carb content. Although all plants have a lot of nutritional value, if you want to keep your carb intake down, it is best to select non-starchy types. Generally, legumes, beets, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, and beans are all high in carbs. On the other hand, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, and avocados are low in carbs and can be a good substitute for starchy veggies.
5. Instead of Fruit-Flavored Yogurt: Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is excellent for your body, as long as you choose the right kind of yogurt. Traditional fruit yogurt or frozen yogurt can be packed with calories and carbs. Greek yogurt, on the other hand, only has four grams of carbs. On top of its low-carb content, Greek yogurt can also reduce heart disease risk and appetite – both of which are useful to stick to your diet.
6. Instead of High-Carb Cheese: Mozzarella, Cheddar, Ricotta, and Cottage Cheese
If you are a cheese lover, we have good news for you – cheese is generally low in carbs. Mozzarella and cheddar only have one gram of carbs, while Ricotta and cottage cheese have three grams of carbs. On top of this, cheese is also a good source of protein. If you are a vegetarian, don’t fret. Plant-based cheese is also a great source of protein and healthy fats, so whichever way, cheese is a safe, low-carb food.
7. Instead of Cereal or Pancakes: Eggs
Some breakfast foods are packed with carbs, even in small amounts. For example, cereals are mostly refined grains and sugar. One report studied the most popular breakfast cereals loved by children and found that a single cup had more sugar than three chocolate chip cookies.
If you are on a weight loss journey, this is unacceptable. Pancakes and waffles are another bad breakfast idea if you want to cut down on carbs. Not only are pancakes often made from refined sugar, but they are also topped with syrup, which adds to the calorie content. Then are the seemingly healthy granola bars, which many think are a healthy breakfast option. Sadly, popular brands contain a lot of sugar, corn syrup, and honey, which makes them no better than candy bars.
Instead of these famous breakfasts, eat a high-protein breakfast, such as an egg-based one. Eggs contain less than a gram of carbs and are a great source of protein. Protein helps you feel full throughout the day and prevents you from overeating or binging. On top of that, there are so many ways you can prepare eggs, so breakfast is never dull.
8. Instead of Bad Fatty Oils: Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Virgin Coconut Oil
A low-carb diet often means eating more fatty foods instead. This being the case, it is vital that you carefully choose the healthiest fats available. Two of such fats are extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil. Both oils are rich in saturated fat that can help reduce belly fat and HDL cholesterol levels. One study showed that those who ate a breakfast rich in this type of fats ate fewer calories during lunchtime. Extra virgin olive oil also has many health benefits, including reducing blood pressure and improving cell function.
A great way to ensure you get the health benefits of these oils is to use them when cooking your low-carb foods. Not only will they add taste to your diet, but they can improve your health and help you feel full for longer.
9. Instead of Pasta: Zucchini Noodles
If pasta is one of your biggest vices and something you can’t lete go of, don’t worry. There is a delicious substitute that you can continue to enjoy during your weight loss – zucchini noodles.
Also called zoodles, these noodles are thin ribbons of zucchini that are tossed in a sauce to imitate the texture and taste of traditional noodles. Zucchini or summer squash is packed with many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, potassium, manganese, vitamin K, folate, and fiber, and only has three grams of carbs.
Zucchini noodles are also high in antioxidants and can promote digestive health because of their high fiber content. Studies show that those who want to reduce their carb intake could substitute zucchini and enjoy lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
If zucchini is not your cup of tea, you can try other alternatives like cabbage noodles. You may never think of using cabbage as a pasta alternative, but cabbage does an excellent job as a substitute. Cabbage is especially useful as a substitute for lasagna sheets.
All you have to do is blanch the cabbage and use the leaves as you would lasagna sheets. Cabbage only has around 6 grams of carbs for every 100 grams. It is also a good source of folate and other vitamins and minerals.
Other alternatives for pasta include seaweed pasta, tofu noodles, shirataki noodles, onion noodles, and sprouts.
10. Instead of Traditional Rice: Cauliflower Rice
Rice is a staple in many countries, and if you are trying to cut carbs, it may be impossible to remove rice from your diet. The solution is to substitute traditional rice for cauliflower rice. This may sound weird, but once you try it, you’ll realize how similar it tastes to rice. Making cauliflower rice is pretty straightforward.
All you need to do is cut the cauliflower into florets and process them until they resemble grains of rice. Remove the large pieces and repeat until you get enough rice. Then, warm some oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the cauliflower rice until tender.
Cauliflower is loaded with nutrients like fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, K, and B6. For one cup of cauliflower, you only get 25 calories compared to 218 calories from a cup of traditional rice.
11. Instead of Pizza Crust: Cauliflower Crust
If you can use cauliflower instead of rice, you can use it instead of flour. You can easily find a premade cauliflower crust from the grocery store, or you can make it yourself. Either way, you’ll never know the difference until you see your belly fat melting away. At the same time, you continue to enjoy your favorite pizzas.
To make your cauliflower crust, break the cauliflower into florets and process in a food processor. Then, steam the processed pieces in a steamer and drain all the moisture out. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and add oregano, salt, powder, eggs, and parmesan. By now, the texture will be similar to the dough so that you can transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes and then add the toppings of your choice.
12. Instead of Tortillas: Lettuce Wraps
Tortillas or taco wraps are often made from refined flour, which is something you want to stay away from if you are on a low-carb diet. But this doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to your favorite tortillas or tacos. Instead, use fresh lettuce as wraps.
You can use any type of leafy lettuce for wraps, including romaine hearts or Boston bib lettuce. The advantage of using lettuce wraps is that they are easy to modify when it comes to filling and wrapping. You can also use this alternative when making spring rolls.
13. Instead of Toast: Sweet Potatoes
Instead of using bread for toast, use sweet potatoes instead. This may sound weird, but sweet potatoes are very versatile foods. To make a delicious potato toast, cut the sweet potato into rounds, brush it with some olive oil, and bake it for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven. Once it is cooked, you can top the slices with anything from cheese to avocado.
Low Carb Snacks to Take you Through the Day
One of the problems those on a low carb diet find is that they quickly get hungry in between meals. So when you have to snack, you again need to find a low carb alternative. Here are some easy to make alternatives that are packed with nutrients but are low in carbs.
- Cheddar cheese crisps: This snack is both delicious and filling and very easy to make. All you need to do is cut slices of cheddar into squares and bake them for about 30 minutes or until they are crisp.
- Stuffed avocado: Avocados are another great low carb alternative with only 12 grams of carbs, most of which are not absorbed by your body. Just halve the avocado, and add a filling of your choice – scrambled eggs, cheese, or tuna are a few options.
- Dark chocolate with cashew butter: Dark chocolate is one of the best alternatives that not only gives you energy, but satisfies your sweet cravings. An ounce of dark chocolate can offer 9 grams of fiber and 12 grams of carbs.
- Deviled eggs: We have already touched on how eggs are a great source of protein and other essential nutrients. Deviled eggs are boiled eggs with a tasty filling. Once the eggs are cooked, scoop out the yolk and mix it with mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Then spoon the mixture back into the egg.
- Homemade trail mix: This is another good alternative that gives you the chance to combine different nuts and seeds to create your very own trail mix. Examples of what to mix include chopped walnuts, toasted pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, and pecan halves.
- Berries in whipped cream: Whipped cream is not as unhealthy as you may think, especially if you are on a low carb diet. Of course, you don’t want to overindulge, so just mix two tablespoons of whipped cream with a few berries of your choice. Blueberries are a great option, with only 11 grams of carbs in half a cup.
- Strawberry smoothie: Who said you couldn’t enjoy a healthy smoothie on a diet? The secret lies in choosing healthy, low-carb alternatives. For example, half a cup of strawberries has six grams of carbs, so add some almond milk, protein powder, and vanilla extract, and you have a delicious yet healthy smoothie.
- Kale chips: Kale is one of those vegetables that aren’t for everyone. Still, one cup of kale has less than a gram of carbs, so it is something those on a diet should try. If sautéed kale is not appealing, try kale chips. All you need to do is rip the leaves into bite-sized pieces, top them with a little olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, and bake them for ten minutes.
Starting a low-carb diet may be one of the best things you can do to achieve your weight loss goals. However, many shun this type of diet, fearing they’ll have to give up some of their favorite high carb foods like pasta and pizzas. The truth is many healthy alternatives taste just as delicious. So the next time you crave pizza, pasta, or burgers, do yourself a favor and choose these low carb alternatives instead.