Whether you decide to eat a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss or other health reasons, finding tasty alternatives to everyday eats is the key to your success. No one is going to be happy eating a low-carb diet with celery sticks as their only option every time they feel like potato chips.
It’s important to note that eating a low-carb diet is different than eating foods that are gluten-free. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats and rye products. People who are gluten-sensitive or who have Celiac disease can typically still eat foods like potatoes, gluten-free pasta, quinoa and things with sugar in them. All of these things can still be high in carbohydrates.
Eating a low-carb diet means just that. Anything with a lot of carbs in it is typically avoided. That means saying good-bye to your average pizza, lasagna and ice cream. It may sound restrictive, but that’s where we come in. Here’s our list of 8 low-carb substitutes for everyday eating.
Along with being low in carbohydrates these substitutes offer simple, healthy and non-processed food options for anyone who wants to have an overall healthier diet.
1. Spaghetti squash: This squash is a wonderful alternative for almost any pasta dish. It has a neutral flavor making it easy to eat with any kind of pasta sauce including marinara, meat-based pasta sauce, pesto and even Alfredo sauce. For a lighter option, you can even combine this with a simple olive-oil based sauce and roasted vegetables, chicken or seafood. It be used for virtually any pasta recipe that calls for spaghetti or linguine. Spaghetti squash is oblong and yellow in color. It’s a winter squash, but you can usually find it any time of year in most grocery stores.
Nutritional Information: Spaghetti squash is a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, vitamin C and manganese. A cup of plain cooked spaghetti squash has about 42 calories, no fat and 10 grams carbohydrates.
Preparation: To make squash as a pasta substitute start by washing the outside of the squash and cutting it in half lengthwise. Once cut, scoop out the seeds and pulp inside. Drizzle each half with a little olive oil to lightly coat the flesh. Place the squash, flesh side down, on a baking sheet. You may want to line your sheet with foil for easy clean up after the squash is cooked. Put the squash in an oven heated to about 375 degrees F for 35 minutes or until the insides can be easily scraped out with a fork. When you scrape out the insides, it should be soft and have a string-like consistency very similar to spaghetti. Be careful not to overcook the squash as the inside can become mushy. Put your desired portion size of the scraped out squash on a plate, top it with your favorite sauce and you’re ready to eat a low-carb “pasta” dish.
2. Eggplant: If you love lasagna, eggplant is your new best friend. It can be used as a substitute for noodles when making this classic baked pasta dish. You also don’t need to bread or fry the eggplant like with eggplant parmesan recipes.
Nutritional Information: Eggplant is a good source of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, fiber and manganese. A cup of plain cooked eggplant has about 35 calories, no fat and 9 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Wash the eggplant and cut it into thin round slices. Place the slices on a cooking sheet and bake them in an oven set at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Mid-way through the cooking time check on the slices and flip them over so that each side gets evening cooked. The end result should be eggplant slices that are lightly browned and softened. Once the slices are done, they are ready to be used in your favorite lasagna recipe. For best results, we recommend making the lasagna up ahead of time and letting it set in the refrigerator before you’re ready to cook it. This way the flavors of the sauce and cheese combined with the eggplant can marinate together.
For a more robust herb flavor, you can very lightly season the eggplant slices with olive oil and Italian seasoning before you cook them, but it’s not necessary.
3. Cauliflower: Move over mashed potatoes, it’s time for some cauliflower. Cauliflower can be boiled and mashed just like potatoes for a low-carb side dish or even as a substitute for recipes that use mashed potatoes like Shepherd’s pie. It’s perfect for a low-carb Thanksgiving day menu.
Nutritional Information: This vegetable is a good source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, fiber, potassium and vitamins C, K and B6. A half cup serving of plain cooked cauliflower has about 14 calories, no fat and 3 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Wash the cauliflower and cut into florets. Boil the florets in a pot of lightly-salted water until the cauliflower is tender. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and then put it back in the pot or another big bowl. Use a potato mashed to smash the cauliflower. During this time you can add things like butter or cream cheese to give the cauliflower an extra creamy texture. You can also just enjoy it plain with some seasonings or a little lemon.
There are many ways to prepare mashed cauliflower. For more recipes visit here.
4. Kale: Along with its many health benefits, kale is a great low-carb substitute for chips. Obviously, they are a different texture than potato chips, but they’ll satisfy your craving for a crunchy snack.
Nutritional Information: Kale is a well-known superfood. It’s packed with nutrients including protein, vitamin E, A, C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, fiber, calcium, potassium and manganese. A cup of plain cooked kale has about 36 calories, 1 gram of fat and 7 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Remove the kale leaves from the thick stalk and cut them into pieces. Wash the pieces and dry thoroughly by patting with paper towel or using a salad spinner. Drizzle the pieces with olive or coconut oil and add salt, pepper and any other seasonings you enjoy. Place the kale on baking sheet covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake the kale in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. The finished pieces should be crispy but not burned. It’s snack time!
5. Plain Non-fat Greek Yogurt: Yogurt is well-known for helping to aid digestion and as a great source of calcium. Nutrition aside, it can also be used a low-carb and low-fat substitute for ice cream.
Nutritional Information: Yogurt contains probiotics, which are healthy active cultures that can help aid digestion. A serving size of about 1 and 1/3 cup has about 100 calories, no fat and 7 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Combine plain non-fat Greek yogurt with frozen berries and a natural sweetener like honey or agave in a blender. Once you have a smooth blend, place the mixture in the freezer until it solidifies and has an ice cream-like consistency. You can also add fresh lemon juice, vanilla and other spices to flavor your low-carb concoction. Berries are naturally lower in carbs that other fruits, plus they have a multitude of health benefits, making them a great natural way to flavor your ice cream. It’s important to note that natural sweeteners like agave and honey are not very low in carbohydrates, but they are a healthier natural alternative to using fake sweeteners. While they are low in calories and carbs, many sweeteners contain aspartame, which we think is more unhealthy than eating a few extra carbs from a natural sweetener. You have to weigh out the benefits and downsides to see which is the best option for you.
You can find more recipes for Greek yogurt ice cream here.
6. Portabella Mushrooms: When you feel like having sauce, melted cheese and yummy pizza toppings, portabella mushroom caps can be your new best friend. They don’t offer the same consistency as your favorite thin crust or deep dish pizza, but they are most certainly a healthier and low-carb alternative. There are other recipes out there for low-carb pizza crusts that use flax meal or soy flour. We like portabella mushroom caps because they are simple to use and don’t require a lot of additional steps to transform or process the base ingredients into a crust.
Nutritional Information: Portabella mushrooms are a good source of thiamin, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, zinc, fiber, riboflavin, niacin, potassium and manganese. A cup of raw mushrooms has about 22 calories, no fat and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Start with large portabella mushrooms. Remove the steams, lightly rinse the caps and pat them dry with a paper towel. Mushrooms absorb water so you don’t need to soak them in a lot of water. This can result in a mushy “crust.” Use a spoon to remove the gills to create space for your sauce and toppings. Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F. This helps soften the caps before you add your toppings. Remove from the oven and top the caps with a thin layer of your favorite sauce, cheese and toppings. Your only limitation when it comes to toppings is the size of your cap, so let your imagination run wild. Everything from pepperoni to sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, proscuito and artichoke hearts can be used. Of course the cheese can be substituted to also make this a vegan-friendly recipe.
7. Iceberg Lettuce: There’s not a ton of nutritional value in iceberg lettuce compared to other green vegetables, but it’s the perfect bread substitute when it comes to sandwiches, wraps and burgers. Plus it’s easy to find, inexpensive and very simple to use.
Nutritional Information: Iceberg lettuce contains small amounts of many nutrients including fiber, vitamin A and C, calcium, iron and protein. A cup of raw lettuce has about 10 calories, no fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Start with a head of iceberg lettuce. Carefully break off a few large leaves. Try not to rip them. Wash the leaves and pat dry with paper towel. For the most part one large leave can be used for a sandwich, wrap or burger. After the leaf is dry, add slices of lunch meat, cheese, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, mustard or whatever your favorite sandwich ingredients are. The same process goes for wraps and burgers.
If you know you’re going to a barbeque where burgers are the main course, bring a few pre-washed iceberg lettuce leaves with you so you have a low-carb substitute ready to go.
8. Cucumber: Speaking of sandwiches, cucumbers are another great alternative to bread. They can be sliced and hallowed out to form sub sandwich “rolls.” Plus, cucumbers offer a multitude of health benefits. They are low in calories and are made up of 95 percent water. Combined with their fiber content, cucumbers are great for hydration and elimination. Aside from using cucumbers to make a sandwich, they can also be cut into round slices and used as a substitute for chips and dip. Use cucumber slices as a substitute for chips with salsa or spinach artichoke dip .
Nutritional information: Cucumbers are a good source of vitamin A, C and K, phosphorus, fiber and potassium. A half cup of raw cucumber with the peel has about 8 calories, no fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Preparation: Start with a large cucumber. You may want to buy an organic one since you’ll be eating the skin. Cut the cucumber in half (length wise) and scoop out the insides to form a nice crevice for your sandwich filling. Next, fill the cucumber with lunch meat or other scrumptious sandwich ingredients. This alternative works especially well with tuna fish and egg salad.
There you have it - 8 easy low-carb substitutes for everyday eating. Let us know if you have a suggestions of favorite recipe when it comes to eating a low-carb diet.