If you’re trying to lose weight, you may have heard a good way to accomplish the goal is to reduce carbohydrates in your diet. I don’t know about you, but when I tried it, it was really difficult to cut out some of my favorite foods, like bread and pasta.
As it turns out, carbs are in just about everything you eat as part of a normal diet. Thankfully, there are easy swaps and substitutions you can make to the foods you love. These low-carb substitutions are delicious and easy because many of these ideas come prepackaged from your local grocery store.
Easy low-carb swaps
Any pasta dish you eat is likely packed with carbohydrates. If you’re craving your favorite pasta dishes, try subbing in spaghetti squash or zoodles (zucchini sliced into noodle-sized pieces). For your favorite lasagna or mac n’ cheese, you can use zucchini slices or cauliflower pieces. Not only will you avoid eating all of those extra carbs, you’ll be eating extra veggies.
- To make spaghetti squash noodles, slice the squash in half and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Place the pieces cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F for 45-50 minutes. When it’s done, scrape the squash noodles onto a plate and pair with your favorite sauce. Don’t forget a little fresh grated parmesan cheese.
- Make zoodles by using a spiralizer or julienne peeler to cut washed zucchini into long, noodle-like pieces. Sauté the squash in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil (and garlic as desired) for 1-2 minutes. You’ll want the zoodles to have a fresh, slightly crunchy (el dente) texture because let’s face it, nobody likes a limp noodle.
- Substituting lasagna noodles with zucchini slices is simple. Use a peeler or knife to cut the zucchini lengthwise into slices that are about ¼ inch thick. Place them on a greased cookie sheet, sprinkle with Italian seasonings, and bake at 425°F for 20 minutes. After baking, layer the slices in your lasagna like you would if you were using pasta.
- Can’t get the craving for your mom’s homemade mac n’ cheese out of your head? Substitute cauliflower florets for the macaroni. Boil the florets for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain off water and smother with your favorite cheese sauce.
Hamburger buns and wraps
It’s hard to get away from the American classic, the hamburger. The problem is that hamburger buns add a ton of carbs. Not great when what you really want is that juicy burger anyway. The same goes for sandwiches, tacos, burritos, and other meals that include bread, wraps, or shells. Get your burger, sandwich, or taco fix while still sticking to your low-carb goals by following these tips.
- The simplest fix for burgers, tacos, and burritos is to wrap them in fresh lettuce. Take washed iceberg lettuce leaves and wrap them around your “dressed up” burger or sandwich fixings, or fill them with taco meat, guacamole, and salsa for a taco.
- Make hamburger “buns” with Portobello mushrooms. Place the mushroom caps on a cooking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast in the oven for 12 minutes at 450°F. Top the mushroom caps with your hamburger patty and favorite toppings.
Mashed potatoes and fries
Mashed potatoes are a favorite comfort food for adults and kids alike. So if you can’t bear to part with their creamy, buttery goodness, fake it. Cauliflower offers a substitute that even your kids will love. Still need your French fry fix? Sub in veggie fries. Here’s how:
- Cauliflower mashed “potatoes” are actually less work than regular mashed potatoes. Wash the cauliflower head and cut the florets away from the stem. Boil the florets for about 6 minutes, then remove them and drain the water. Pat the florets dry with a towel, but try not to let them cool. Place them in a food processor with butter, garlic, and salt and pepper, then mix until they look like mashed potatoes.
- Squash French fries can be just as delicious as potato French fries, without all the carbs. Slice up butternut squash or zucchini into fry-like pieces. Place on a greased baking sheet, season as desired, and bake at 425°F for 25-30 minutes. Dip into your favorite condiments.
Rice is versatile and easy to prepare, which makes it even more difficult to avoid if you’re on a low-carb diet. Whether you’re eating burrito bowls or fried rice, you’re packing on a lot of unnecessary carbohydrates. One of the quickest and easiest low-carb swaps for regular rice is cauliflower “rice.”
You can “rice” cauliflower at home by first cutting the florets from the head of cauliflower, trying not to include much of the stems as you cut. This will help you avoid a strong and sometimes bitter cauliflower flavor in your “rice.” Place the florets in a food processor and chop them until they look similar to rice. Steam the “riced” cauliflower and use it in your favorite recipes.
Some grocery stores have started selling riced cauliflower in the freezer and produce sections. This makes this substitution even easier.
Of all the food I gave up for my low-carb diet, pizza is absolutely the one that I miss the most. It’s hard to find a substitute for pizza that comes with the ease of fresh delivery, but it’s possible to make a quick low-carb pizza crust with cauliflower.
Start by cutting the florets from the cauliflower head and putting them in a food processor like you would if you were “ricing” the cauliflower. Steam until soft. Dump the steamed cauliflower onto a towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
Place the mostly dry cauliflower in a mixing bowl with ½ cup of mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, 2 beaten eggs, and Italian seasonings of your choice.
Combine, then shape into a pizza crust shape on parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes at 400°F. Remove from the oven, top with your favorite toppings, and put it back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
No matter what your favorite carb-loaded food is, there’s a healthy swap for it. Using these tips and tricks, you can eat a low-carb diet and still enjoy many of the foods you love. The added bonus is you’ll be healthier as a result!