Low-Carb Substitutes for High-Carb Foods

Tasty Alternatives That Won't Raise Your Blood Sugar

Spaghetti squash is not only low in carbs, but much richer in nutrients compared to pasta.
Carolyn J Thompson

One the most challenging aspects of starting a low-carb diet is cutting back on the foods you enjoy or include as part of your dietary routine. There is no denying that it can be tough coping with carb loss, but, with a little insight and invention, you can find substitutes that can be just as satisfying and tasty as their high-carb counterparts.

Bread

Bread is considered by many to be the "staff of life," and there are those who adamantly believe that they cannot live without their daily slice. But, if you really think about it, bread is not just one thing; there is a world of different breads out there—flat ones, round ones, hard ones, soft ones—that are every bit as versatile as your standard white loaf but far more healthy. 

Among some of the options are:

  • Low-carb sliced breads, such as BFree Food's Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
  • Low-carb tortillas, such as La Tortillas
  • Low-carb pita bread, such as Joseph's High-Fiber Pita Pockets
  • Low-carb buns, such as Smart Buns
  • High-fiber crisp bread, such as GG Bran Crispbread
  • Low-carb crackers, such as Andre's Carbo-Save
  • Homemade flax meal bread
  • Homemade low-carb muffins 

There are also breads that are lower on the glycemic index (GI), meaning they won't affect your blood sugar as much. By and large, these low-GI breads tend to be extremely heavy and are often made with sprouted grains. While they may take some getting used to, the carbs in them are harder to break down and less likely to convert to sugar.

Pasta

We all love our pasta but can rarely include it as part of a low-carb menu. Happily, there are exceptions that take just as well to a marinara sauce or a simple tossing in olive oil and parmesan.

Among them are:

  • Low-carb pasta, such as Dreamfields Low-Carb Fettucine
  • Low-carb Asian noodles, such as ExploreAsian Gluten-Free Pasta
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Shirataki noodles, made from yam flour
  • Zucchini "noodles" (julienned fresh zucchini found in the fresh produce section)

If you are hankering for traditional pasta, get a 100% whole grain pasta and cook it al dente (still slightly firm to the bite), which will make it slightly less glycemic. A small serving will work just fine on a moderate-carb diet. 

Cereal

Cereals are typically processed and will almost invariably have a high GI. While you may find some low-carb version in higher-end grocery stores, be sure to read the nutrition label closely to check for both the total carbs and net carbs.

In the end, you may be better served to make your own cereal if you are on a strict low-carb diet. Among some of the more tasty ideas are:

Potatoes

Potatoes have the unfortunate distinction of shooting a person's blood sugar right through the roof. This is because the starches contained in them are made of long strings of glucose.

To this end, if you want to get your potato fix and still remain low-carb, try these healthy substitutes:

There is also a commercial product called Carb Counter Instant Mashers that you can add to cauliflower or celeriac mash to give the dish more body. 

Rice

A cup of cooked white rice has a glycemic load (GL) of 35, excluding it from most low-carb diets. Brown rice fares only a little better with a GL of 20. If you need to cut rice from your diet, here are some tasty substitutes you can explore:

Milk

Milk contains carbohydrates in the form of lactose. While it tends to have less impact on your blood sugar, lactose is one of those "hidden" carbs that we don't pay enough attention to. This shouldn't suggest that you avoid milk—its nutritional benefits far outweigh the consequences—but rather that you pay closer attention to your intake.

If you find that you need to pull back on your dairy intake, consider using:

  • Low-lactose milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Unsweetened soy milk
  • Unsweetened almond milk

There are also some yogurts have far less lactose than the milk they're made. Not only are they good for your digestion, they are perfectly acceptable for a low-carb diet.

Sweets and Dessert

With the exception of low-sugar fruits and certain artificially-sweetened foods, if something is sweet, you can bet that it is loaded with carbs. To this end, you can either avoid sweets altogether or opt for recipes that use sweeteners like Splenda or Equal.

However, if you do use an artificial sweetener in a recipe, choose a liquid one over a powdered one. Powdered sweeteners often contain ingredients that increase their pourability as well as their carb count. While this is generally not a problem when sweetening your coffee, it may be if you are baking a dessert.

Liquid artificial sweeteners, by contrast, have zero carbs. Erythritol and xylitol are two of the best. Maltitol, which is more common, may cause diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain and should probably be avoided.

Among some of the sweet treat acceptable to a low-carb diet are:

  • Sugar-free jams
  • Sugar-free chocolates, such as ChocoPerfection Bars
  • Low-carb dessert mixes, such as those from Dixie Carb Counter
  • Low-carb pancake syrup, such as ChocZero Maple Sauce
  • Low-carb pie crusts, such as Carb Counters Graham Cracker Crust Mix
  • Homemade low-carb candies