Low-Carb Options for High-Carb Foods

Starch, milk, and dessert options that won't spike blood sugar

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

One of 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 there are substitutes that can be just as satisfying and tasty as their high-carb counterparts.

Whether you are adopting a temporary low-carb diet or looking to make a permanent lifestyle change, these low-carb options for popular foods can help you make adjustments that both align with your diet goals and make mealtime enjoyable.

Bread

There are many people who adamantly believe that they cannot live without their daily slice (or more) of bread. There are many bread alternatives that are every bit as versatile as a standard white loaf, but that are far healthier.

Some of the options include:

  • 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

Pasta is a consistent crowd-pleaser. There are exceptions to standard varieties 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" (zoodles)

If you are hankering for traditional pasta, get a 100 percent 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 versions in higher-end grocery stores, be sure to read nutrition labels closely to check for both the total carbs and net carbs.

In the end, you may be better served by making your own cereal if you are on a strict low-carb diet. Among some of the tastier 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 close 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 that have far less lactose than the milk they're made with. Not only are they good for your digestion, but they are also perfectly acceptable for a low-carb diet.

Sweets and Desserts

Many treats aren't exactly waistline-friendly, but sweets and desserts don't need to be avoided entirely. Low-sugar fruits are great options to reach for, as they often satisfy and are lower in carbs than other picks. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Apricots
  • Guava
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwi

If that just isn't what you crave, eat the real-sugar item you desire, but be mindful of your portions and indulge only occasionally. Choices made with artificial sweeteners often fit in a low-carb eating plan, but there are considerations to weigh before integrating them into your diet.

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