Let me start by saying that carbs definitely have a place as part of an overall healthy diet. For starters, under normal circumstances, they’re the body’s preferred source of energy—providing the fuel for speed, stamina, concentration, recovery, and even fluid balance. Yet, there can also be too much of a good thing, and of course, not all carbs are created equal—some sources of carbs are certainly better options than others. Refined carbs, for example, can be heavy and high in calories, leading to feeling sluggish and bloated. So, even if you haven’t completely jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, you may still want to look into low-carb alternatives to help you reach your fitness and weight-loss goals.
When you talk with people about cutting carbs—or even carb cycling—one of the biggest complaints you hear is how much they miss their favorite carb-heavy foods like pasta, snack foods, desserts, and the like. In other words, many of us are looking to have our cake and eat it too—without all the excess calories and carbs.
When you’re looking to tighten things up, what can you eat instead of the usual carb-laden foods you crave? Let’s dig into some of the top low-carb alternatives.
15 Low-Carb Alternatives to Your Favorite High-Carb Foods
1. Replace Pasta with Zoodles, Spaghetti Squash, Cauliflower, or Cabbage
This one shouldn’t come as a big surprise. As low-carb diets have become more popular, there’s been no shortage of veggie-inspired pasta substitutes. Zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,” and spaghetti squash are simple to prepare and make the perfect foundation for your favorite “noodle” dishes—from standard spaghetti to Pad Thai to buttered zoodles to your mom’s famous tuna casserole to homemade mac and cheese.
Zucchini makes more than just zoodles. For example, thinly sliced zucchini can even be used instead of lasagna noodles. (Eggplant also works exceptionally well.)
And if you’re just not feeling zucchini, other options include Japanese shirataki noodles (which are made from the konjac plant) or cabbage, which works remarkably well in Asian-inspired dishes.
2. Replace Rice with Cauliflower Rice
In the past, you used to have to use a food processor to “rice” your cauliflower. Of course, you can still do that, but if you want to save time, you can now pick up fresh or frozen bags of cauliflower rice from several brands. Cauliflower rice is extremely versatile, nutrient-dense, low calorie, and low carb, and it can be used in any recipe that calls for rice. Plus, it takes way less time to cook.
3. Replace French Fries with Jicama or Parsnip Fries
Ahhh… French fried potatoes (even sweet potato fries) are so addicting and so hard to give up. Now, you don’t have to when you’re cutting carbs. But instead of standard potato-based fries, use jicama or parsnips instead by slicing them into strips, tossing them in a little olive or avocado oil, seasoning to your taste (try salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, paprika, or any other favorite herbs), and then roasting them until they’re crispy. You’ll get a healthy serving of fiber and vitamin C with a similar taste and texture as your usual fries.
Other options to try when you’re in the mood for French fries include sliced butternut squash, turnips, or even carrots.
4. Replace Chips with Zucchini Chips
The salty, crunchy goodness of potato chips is another hard one to give up—especially during a game or at a picnic. So, what can you eat instead of high-calorie, high-carb potato chips? Zucchini again comes to the rescue. Bonus: they become crisp without needing a fryer, so you won’t just cut carbs but fat and calories as well.
For a simple, low-carb alternative, give Coach Cristina’s Baked Smoked Paprika Zucchini Chips a try. Bet you can’t eat just one! But now you don’t have to feel guilty if you clear out the whole bowl. Instead, you can pat yourself on the back for consuming a healthy dose of veggies.
5. Replace Crackers with Cheese Crisps
Rather than chowing down on the traditional cheese and crackers, why not try cheese crisps instead? There are store-bought options available like Trader Joe’s oven-baked cheese bites or Whisps Cheddar Cheese Crisps, which are both made from 100% cheese.
Or you can make your own by combining ¾ cup Parmesan and ¾ cup cheddar cheese. Preheat your oven to 400° F, line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper, and then place tablespoon-sized heaps of cheese onto the tray. (Remember to give them plenty of room so they can spread out.) Cook for six to eight minutes until the edges are starting to brown. Let them cool and then place them on paper towels to drain and crisp. Enjoy a delicious, crisp “cracker” with barely a carb (and no gluten) in sight!
6. Replace Hash Browns with Yellow Summer Squash
If your favorite hearty breakfast includes a pile of carb-laden hash browns, you are not alone. Since white potatoes are a far cry from empty calories, you probably don’t have to say goodbye to them for good; however, if you’re on the path of cutting carbs, there’s a simple, tasty low-carb substitute: yellow summer squash. You can use your usual hash brown recipe and just use the squash as a low-carb alternative for the potatoes.
7. Replace Croutons with Nuts
When eating a big salad, it’s nice to add a bit of crunch. Yet when you’re going low-carb, croutons are out. Not to worry; nuts, especially pistachios, make a fantastic low-carb alternative that’s also a rich source of protein and fiber, which can both help you feel fuller for longer.
8. Replace Taco Shells or Sandwich Wraps with Leafy Greens
What’s your favorite sandwich? Tuna salad, egg salad, or maybe ham and cheese? Well, guess what? You don’t need bread for any of those. You can easily make your favorite sandwich into a tasty, low-carb lettuce wrap.
What about taco Tuesday? That can still be a thing too. Grab a large leaf of lettuce, load it up with your favorite taco filling, top with salsa and your usual fixings, and you’re all set.
9. Replace Burger Buns with Portobello Mushrooms
This takes a mushroom burger to a whole new level. Simply roast a large portabella mushroom in the oven (at 450° F) for about 12 minutes while you’re grilling your burger. Mushrooms are a great low-carb alternative and surprisingly delicious.
10. Replace Mashed Potatoes with Mashed Cauliflower
With a consistency surprisingly similar to mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower can star as the lead in the low-carb alternatives of this famous comfort food. You can add some garlic and chives and use broth instead of water for a truly mouthwatering, low-carb dish.
11. Replace Pancakes with Low-Carb Alternatives
Nope, there’s no need to give up on your traditional pancakes. Just skip the wheat-based flour and use either coconut or almond flour as a low-carb alternative, just like these yummy Almond Flour Pancakes courtesy of our beloved Coach Cristina. (She really does embody the meaning of “the way to a person’s heart is through his/her stomach,” doesn’t she? She’s certainly loved in our community, and recipes like this make us adore her that much more!)
12. Replace Milkshakes with Protein Smoothies
If you’re looking for a rich, creamy, sweet, and decadent milkshake, you don’t have to deprive yourself; reach for BioTRUST Low Carb instead. You can mix any of the fantastic flavors (Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla Cream, Peach Mango, Café Mocha, or Strawberry Banana) with water or your favorite nut milk alternative for a delicious, low-carb treat that’s as yummy as an ice cream shop milkshake—without all the added sugar. Or, you can take it up a notch with a fantastic recipe like any of these:
- VIP Protein Shake Contest-Winning Recipes
- 3 Mouth-Watering Plant Protein Shake Recipes
- Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Protein Shake
- These 3 Delicious Protein Smoothies Help Boost Weight Loss
13. Replace Pizza Crust with Cauliflower Crust
You may think that it’s impossible to enjoy low-carb pizza. After all, great pizza revolves around an amazing crust. Never fear, my friend. Cauliflower Pizza Crust is surprisingly good. But if that doesn’t suit your fancy (or you just want something that’s easier to throw together), use a large mushroom to add your favorite pizza toppings to instead.
14. Replace Nacho Chips with Bell Peppers
Another super-simple low-carb substitute is to replace tortilla chips with mini bell peppers when you want nachos. All you have to do is grab your favorite nacho fixings (e.g., ground beef, sautéed onion, green onion, diced tomato, seasonings, and shredded cheese) and place them on top of mini bell peppers that have been sliced in half with the seeds removed. Fill them up and then bake them for around 25 minutes at 425° F, and you’ll be ready to snack away!
15. Replace Regular Bread with Low-Carb Alternatives
Made with ancient grains (including barley, spelt, millet, lentils, soybeans, along with the usual wheat), one of the most popular bread alternatives is Ezekiel bread. It’s both lower in net carbs and higher in fiber than “regular bread.” Yet it is bread, so it can be used just as you use the bread you’re used to.
You can also make your own “bread-like” recipe. Don’t worry, though, as there are a lot of good options. Cloud or “oopsie” bread, for example, is made with eggs, cream cheese, cream of tartar, and salt. It’s relatively simple to make in under an hour.
Other options include homemade breads made with almond flour, coconut flour, or even cauliflower (using a similar recipe to cauliflower pizza crust).
Many folks find the easiest low-carb alternatives to bread are raw lettuce, roasted eggplant, or grilled or roasted portabella mushrooms.
Low-Carb Alternatives for Your Favorite Foods
Whether you’re cutting carbs (for example, on a keto diet) or just trying to improve your overall diet quality, there are so many delicious low-carb alternatives for the usual carb-filled favorites. All it takes is a little creativity and a willingness to try something new, and you can easily find a new favorite to fill the spot. All the flavor without any guilt—now that’s what we call a win-win!