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October 20, 2020 / Amy Height

10 Simple Low Carb Food Swaps

Sun-dried tomato and parmesan zucchini noodles on a white plate on a blue napkin with a fork next to it.

When you picture the inside of a grocery store you may think of rows of canned vegetables, sauces, freezer meals, and numerous bread and grain products.

That’s likely because Americans choose grains and starches over most other foods. A Pew Research study found that the average number of daily calories from grains jumped from about 400 to 600 between 1970 and 2010, along with an increase in overall calories consumed. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes remained low, with very little change in their consumption rates.

Cutting back on carbohydrates through low carb swaps, especially from processed foods, could help in reducing the risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and obesity in some populations. Research suggests that a moderate reduction in carbohydrates per day can make a noticeable difference in metabolic health, weight maintenance, and blood sugar regulation.

Many lifestyle programs, such as keto, paleo, and Whole30, have touted the benefits of reducing carbs, but finding simple, cost-effective low carb food swaps can be challenging.

Thankfully, low carb meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult or taste bad. If you’re looking for creative ways to boost your overall nutrition, lower your carb intake, and eat delicious food, check out our 10 favorite low carb swaps.

Benefits of a Low Carb Lifestyle

Low carb lifestyles have gained in popularity over the past decade and continue to be a viable option for many Americans, due in part to the numerous benefits that people experience. These may include:

If you’re looking to start your own low carb journey, talk to your doctor to discuss any potential health risks associated with making a major lifestyle change. After you confirm with your doctor, you can start your healthy meal planning with these low carb food swaps.

1. Swap Wheat Bread for Low Carb Breads

Three slices of low-carb bread next to a loaf on top of a wooden cutting board.

Many brands of whole wheat bread contain about 13 grams of carbohydrates per slice. If you’re practicing a keto lifestyle, that is nearly all your carbohydrates in one slice of bread! Thankfully, there are numerous grain-free, paleo-style low carb swaps offered at your local grocery store.

Making your own bread is also a cost-effective way to maintain your low carb lifestyle with just a few ingredients. One of our favorites is this grain-free, keto-friendly bread that slices just like regular bread.

2. Swap Rice for Cauliflower Rice

Blue bowl filled with cauliflower rice sitting on a blue wooden table with cauliflower on it.

Not all rice is created equal (brown, black, and wild rice have more fiber and nutrients than white rice), and just one cup of cooked rice can have up to 45 grams of carbs. That’s about a day’s worth of carbs on a low carb diet.

If you're looking for a low carb swap, try cauliflower rice. Most grocery stores sell pre-riced cauliflower in the refrigerator or freezer sections, but it’s also easy to make your own. Simply steam florets, food process into a coarse pulp, and use a tea towel to remove excess moisture. At just five grams of carbohydrates per cup, you’ll still be able to enjoy the texture and flavor of rice – without worrying about the carbs. Cauliflower rice is a great way to round out a meal; try it in this Greek shrimp and cauliflower rice skillet.

3. Swap Noodles for Spiralized Vegetables

One skillet of zucchini noodles and chicken being held by a person over light gray counter tops.

Even on a low carb diet, you can still enjoy a delicious meal like pesto chicken zucchini noodles using a few strategic low carb food swaps. One of the easiest ways to create long noodles similar to spaghetti is with a spiralizer. Vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato, and carrots are ideal for spiralizing and offering a tasty, gluten-free option.

If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or a sharp knife to turn firm vegetables into noodles. Enjoy them raw, tossed in a salad, or lightly steamed with a low carb topping or sauce.

As an added bonus, these low carb swaps have more fiber, vitamins, and micronutrients than wheat pasta; plus, they’re filling and help you meet the recommended servings of vegetables for the day.

Other low carb noodle options include:

4. Swap Granola for Grain-Free Variations

Grain-free granola made with mixed nuts, seeds, raisins, coconut flakes, chia, and coconut seeds in a glass jar on a wooden table.

Many commercially prepared grain-based granolas have upwards of 35 grams of carbohydrates in a half-cup serving due to their high sugar content and reliance on grains. To continue enjoying the crunch of granola without the carbs, try this low carb swap of cinnamon nut granola.

For something entirely different, try out coconut chia pudding with spiced pears. Chia pudding is a great option for a quick, low-prep breakfast.

5. Swap Crackers for Cheese Crisps

Cheddar cheese crisps with herbs and sauces on a slate board on a wooden table.

Crackers are a crunchy, delicious snack, but can contain up to 19 grams of carbohydrates in a 6-cracker serving.

If you’re looking for a low carb swap that’s also keto-friendly, try cheese crisps. Simply grate your favorite cheese, sprinkle onto parchment paper in little mounds, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes.

6. Swap Wheat Tortillas for Alternative Flour Tortillas

Three taquitos with meat, and cheese inside low carb tortillas on a gray plate on a table.

Tortillas are a favorite for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and more, but they come with a lot of carbohydrates. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to make low carb tortillas with flours like almond, coconut, and arrowroot. There are also a number of brands that sell low carb tortillas making it even easier to satisfy that low carb swap.

For baked dishes, like enchiladas, try swapping out tortillas with long slices of zucchini or sweet potato for a nutrient-rich dinner treat.

7. Swap Pizza Crust for Cauliflower Crust

Mozzarella pizza with cauliflower crust on a wooden cutting board next to oil, pizza sauce, and arugula on a white table.

Pizza is a dish that everyone loves but is tough to give up if you’re following a low carb lifestyle. But you don’t have to completely give it up when you use a delicious cauliflower crust.

With just a few ingredients like eggs, cheese, and cauliflower, you can make your very own crust at home. Try our very own sausage, fennel, and onion pizza with a cauliflower crust, or get creative and add your own toppings for an easy weeknight meal. This pizza comes in at just 14 grams of carbs per serving, but you can easily make it more or less by changing up your toppings.

8. Swap Mashed Potatoes for Mashed Turnips

Three turnips next to a cutting board with a knife on top.

Potatoes are delicious and versatile, but they also are starchy and high in carbohydrates. One potato can contain 25 grams of carbs, and that’s without adding toppings or seasoning.

There are a number of root vegetables ideal for low carb swaps from carrots to celery root, but turnips are a favorite because they are low carb and very tasty. They contain only a third of the carbohydrates in potatoes and are backed with folate and B6.

To prepare, simply cut into large chunks and boil or roast until fork tender. Add them to a food processor or blender with your favorite seasoning, fat of your choice, and milk (dairy-free is great, too). Process until smooth, pour in a bowl, and serve hot.

9. Swap Croutons for Nuts

Salad with arugula, walnuts, cheese, and pears in a glass bowl next to a small bowl of walnuts and a fork.

Croutons offer a delicious crunch to salads, but since they’re typically made with wheat bread, they also contain significant carbohydrates.

Keep the crunch and the flavor by tossing salads with your favorite nuts or seeds. Some of our favorites are almonds and walnuts, which are perfectly bite-sized and readily available at the store. An ounce of almonds contains just 5 grams of carbs, a fraction of a typical crouton.

10. Swap Hamburger Buns with Lettuce Wraps

Ham and egg lettuce wraps with chives and seasoning on top of a white table.

This low carb food swap is one of the easiest to do because you don’t have to cook anything. Simply buy a fresh head of your favorite lettuce (romaine and iceberg are the sturdiest), and tear off whole leaves to create a crunchy, nutritious “bun.” Try Moroccan chicken burger lettuce wraps if you’re looking for healthy ways to incorporate this low carb swap into your diet.

This is also a great low carb swap for tacos or tuna salad. Whole romaine lettuce leaves create the perfect vessel to hold all your favorite ingredients without losing the flavor.

The Takeaway

Low carb food swaps are perfect when you’re keto meal planning or simply working towards a low carb lifestyle. If you’re looking for more creative ways to eat low carb, PlateJoy is here to help.

Our meal plans and recipes can be customized to your specific diet, including low carb, Paleo, and keto, helping you reap the benefits of meal planning without stressing about what to make for the week. Sign up for a free trial and learn more about how PlateJoy can help you on your road to a healthy, low carb lifestyle.

Amy Height
Holistic Nutritionist @ From the Ground Up Wellness

Amy Height is the founder of From the Ground Up Wellness, a holistic nutrition practice where she specializes in plant-based nutrition and helping her clients combat food addiction. She completed her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she received her certification in the Health Coach Training Program. She is a triathlete and CrossFitter with a passion for all things outdoors. By night, Amy stage manages Broadway musicals and she frequently travels North America seeking out the best vegan restaurants and the best run courses. Follow her on Instagram or check out her blog for recipe and wellness ideas.

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