20+ Tasty, Low-carb Versions of Your Favorite High-carb Foods

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Eating more healthfully doesn’t have to mean giving up all your favorite foods and flavors, or flipping your lifestyle upside down. You can make simple, daily¬†upgrades to your habits¬†instead, and satisfy your high-carb cravings with delicious, nutritious alternatives.

20+ tasty low-carb versions of your favorite high-carb foods zucchini noodles zoodles

These substitutes all have lower glycemic loads (to find out why this is important even for non-diabetics check out this blog post).

They are more complex and nutrient-dense than their high-cal, high-carb cousins. They’re also gluten-free!

{General recipes and how-to’s are included with each item. For a more specific recipe, click on the included images.}

20+ Tasty, Low-carb Substitutes

Noodles

Spaghetti:

  • Spiralized zucchini (zoodles) – This substitute is especially easy if you’ve got a spiralizer, but even if you don’t, it is doable. Just use a vegetable peeler, knife, or julienne peeler to craft fettuccine-like noodles. Once noodle-fied, saute (with garlic, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you like). This method also works for other veggies of course, like beetroot and carrots.
  • Spaghetti squash – This particular squash variety (as you can infer from the name), is already naturally in noodle form. Cut squash in half, roast at 400 degrees F until tender (~25 minutes), then scrap out the “noodles” inside with a fork.
  • Cabbage – Cut cabbage of any color into thin slices, season, and saute until tender.

Lasagna:

  • Cauliflower – Rice ~1 lb cauliflower (essentially food process it into rice-sized pieces), then mix with 2 eggs, and 3/4 grated cheese (mozzarella and Parmesan mix works well). Season with garlic, pepper, salt, and Italian herbs, and spread onto lined sheet pan (1/4 inch thick layer) and bake at 375 for 15 minutes pr until golden brown. Use as noodles in lasagna recipe of your choice!
  • Eggplant – Slice into 1/4 inch thick strips, season with salt and pepper, place on baking sheet for 5 minutes each side at 425. Use as noodles!
  • Zucchini – Slice into 1/8 inch thick strips, salt, and set aside for 10+ minutes, then blot dry (this will draw out water and keep them from being mushy). To draw out even more moisture, you can wrap the slices in a towel and set something heavy on top. Grill or pan fry 2-3 minutes each side until browned, then place on a towel to absorb any moisture leftover.

Stir fry:

  • Spiralized veggie noodles – see “zoodles” above, but season with some Tamari sauce
  • Shirataki noodles – find these in a grocery store, and cook as directed. Their made with yam flour and have zero digestible carbs!

Bread, Buns, & Crust

Bread:

  • Mushrooms – Roast large portobello mushrooms and use as the top and bottom of a sandwich.
  • “Cloud bread” – Eggs, cream cheese, cream of tarter, and seasonings come together in this recipe.

Buns:

  • Portobello mushrooms – Roast ’em and use them as buns.

Crust:

  • Cauliflower – Roughly chop 1 medium cauliflower and process until it resembles a fine powder, then cover and microwave for 4-6 minutes. Once it’s cooled enough to touch it, wring out excess water (get it as dry as you can), and mix with Parmesan (1/4 c), Italian seasoning, salt, 1 egg, and shredded mozzarella to hold it all together (1 cup). Press onto greased, round baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Rice

Rice in stir fries, soups, or side-dishes

  • Riced cauliflower – Use other yellow or purple varietals to make a jeweled rice.
  • Shirataki rice – Look for at your grocery store (try an Asian grocery store), cook as directed.

Wraps

Wraps & tortillas:

  • Lettuce – Use a leaf of washed romaine lettuce to act as a fresh, crunchy wrap for your tacos or cold wraps.
  • Collard greens – Trip the inside of the stem so that it is flush with the rest of the leaf, then submerge in simmered water for 30 seconds or so and transfer to an ice bath for 10 seconds to cool down. Remove and pat dry.

Potatoes

Mashed potatoes:

  • Cauliflower – This one may be the closest substitutes in this list, when prepared properly the swap may go completely unnoticed! Start by cutting 2 cauliflower heads down to florets. Steam until tender (using whatever method you choose). Once cooled, squeeze/wring out the cauliflower with a towel to thoroughly dry it. Combine with cheese, butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper to taste, and process until smooth. For a dairy free version, use almond milk, oil of your choice, and plenty of garlic for flavor. Top with chives, cheese, bacon, whatever you like.

French fries:

  • Butternut squash, turnips, carrots – While the butternut squash version will definitely still contain carbs, it will contain fewer than standard fries would! Just chop the ends off, peel, scoop the seeds out, and cut into fry-sized pieces. Toss with a little bit of oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast on a greased pan at 425 for approx. 20 minutes each side. Veggies like turnips or carrots can be used to roast, too.

Chips:

  • Kale chips – De-stem the kale (the fastest way to do this is to hold the base of the stem and pull off the leaves from base to tip), then cut or tear into chip-sized pieces. Insure the leaves are dry, then toss them onto a pan that is lightly sprayed with oil (or lined with parchment paper) and give the leaves themselves a mist of oil. Sprinkle with salt and whatever other flavors you want, and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until edges are slightly browned.
  • Other veggie chips – Thinly slice (<1/8 inch) beets, zucchini, sweet potato, turnips, carrots, and any other vegetables you’d like, and place on a pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly spritz the sliced veggies with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven until browned and curling at the edges (15-20 minutes, flipping at the half-way mark).

Cereals

Granola:

  • Nuts – To cut down on the number of carbs and crank up the number of healthy fats in granola, add nuts and seeds. Granola is easy to make at home, and extraordinarily customizable. Chop almonds, pecans, and any other nuts of your choice. Add chia seeds, milled flax, green pumpkin seeds, and/or sunflower seeds. Toss with unrefined coconut oil (just enough to coat most of the contents with a thin layer), a dash of cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Spread across a parchment paper covered sheet pan and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, occasionally shifting the granola around. For clumpier granola, pack the pan more tightly and press down in a few places to form clumps halfway through baking. If you’d like, add unsweetened coconut flakes about halfway through.

Baked goods

https://ifoodreal.com/almond-flour-banana-muffins/

Flour:

  • Almond flour – While it isn’t a direct 1:1 substitute, some investigation can often get you a recipe that includes almond flour instead of wheat or white flour. Many desserts are actually much more moist, dense, and rich when almond flour is used. They’ll also be higher in healthy fats and protein, too.
  • Other alternative low-carb flours – Many low or zero-carb flours exist that have been specially formulated to replace wheat or white flour. Beware of any flours that appear to be highly processed or bleached, and pay attention to how you feel when you consume them.

Grab-and-Go Snacks

Protein bars:

  • Jerky – With most of its calories coming from protein, a couple pieces of jerky can go a long way towards satisfying your muscles and your appetite.
  • String cheese – Because most of the natural sugars present in milk have been fermented away during the cheese making process, string cheese (or other, bite-sized options) make a tasty low-carb snack. 

Hopefully, these low-carb substitutions have given you some ideas on how to upgrade your diet! Know any other good low-carb options? Drop a comment below!

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