You may have heard that going low-carb can be helpful for weight loss, but did you know that not all carbohydrates are created equal? While it’s beneficial to skip foods high in added sugar, you don’t need to cut all carbs out of the picture. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains can contain carbs, but they are still an excellent part of a balanced, healthy diet.
If you’re new to cutting carbs, you can start by making nutritious, lower-carbohydrate swaps instead of cutting carbohydrates from your diet altogether. To help, we’ve gathered seven nutritious low-carb swaps:
1. Leafy Greens Instead of a Wheat Wrap
Wraps are a convenient mobile meal option, but white and whole-wheat wraps tend to be high in carbohydrates, calories and sodium. Lighten up your wrap by swapping it for a nutrient-dense collard, kale or crispy lettuce wrap. Use sturdy collards for heartier wraps and lettuce for open-faced or lighter wraps.
- A wheat wrap or tortilla contains about 24 grams of carbs while collards (2 cups, chopped) contain 3.9 grams of carbs. You save 20 grams of carbs.
- Recipe inspiration: Five-Spice Turkey and Lettuce Wraps.
2. Spaghetti Squash Instead of Pasta
Spaghetti squash is a wonderful ingredient for a low-carbohydrate diet. It’s a nutritious, gluten-free, low-carb alternative to pasta that is easier to make than spiralized vegetable noodles and just as versatile. It’s easy to cook, and takes on the flavor of sauces and seasonings. (Learn more about spaghetti squash and how to use it in our ingredient spotlight.)
- Whole-grain pasta (⅔ cup, cooked), contains about 31.72 grams of carbs while spaghetti squash (⅔ cup, cooked) contains 6.68 grams of carbs. You save 25 grams of carbs.
- Recipe inspiration: Garlic Shrimp with Cilantro Spaghetti Squash.
3. Cauliflower Crust Instead of Regular Pizza Crust
You’ll be happy to hear that you don’t have to live without pizza if you’re watching your carbs! Simply swap regular pizza dough with a DIY cauliflower crust. Not only will you save on carbs, cauliflower crust is packed with nutrients and fiber, giving you a lot of bang for your carbohydrate buck.
- A whole-wheat pizza crust (47 grams) contains about 26 grams of carbs, while a cauliflower crust (50 grams) contains 7.94 grams of carbs. You save about 18 grams of carbs.
- Recipe inspiration: Mediterranean Cauliflower Pizza.
4. Zucchini Mash Instead of Mashed Potatoes
If you’re craving a little comfort food, try an easy zucchini mash instead of your standard mashed potatoes. You can prepare it in as little as 15 minutes.
- A serving of mashed potatoes (½ cup) contains 18.45 grams of carbs, while a serving of mashed zucchini (½ cup) is 3.23 grams of carbs. You save 15 grams of carbs.
- Recipe inspiration: Zucchini Chile-Cheddar Mash.
5. Coconut Flakes or Crumbs Instead of Bread Crumbs
If your recipe calls for a little crunch, try swapping out breadcrumbs for coconut flakes instead. Coconut adds a nice texture to the outside of whatever you’re coating, making it a fun, low-carb substitute. If you’re making chicken or fish, for example, simply coat your protein with egg and roll it in coconut flakes before baking or frying. (Depending on the recipe, this swap may not be appropriate, as coconut retains its distinct tropical flavor when you cook it.)
- Bread crumbs (¼ cup) contain 19.43 grams of carbs, while coconut flakes (1 ounce) contain 7 grams of carbs. You save about 12 grams of carbs.
- Recipe inspiration: Coconut Baked Chicken with Apple-Kale Salad.
6. Portobello Mushrooms Instead of Flatbread
Entertaining guests with a low-carb meal is easy, especially if you swap out flatbreads and cracker-based hors d’oeuvres for veggies such as portobello mushrooms. Not only does this swap save you carbs, it’s also high in fiber and nutrients.
- Foccacia flatbread (1 slice, 57 grams) contains 20.42 grams of carbs, while portobello mushrooms (57 grams) contain 1.88 grams of carbs. You save about 18 grams of carbs.
- Recipe inspiration: Tomato-and-Olive-Stuffed Portobello Caps.
7. Spiced Fruit Instead of Pie
There’s no need to avoid fruit-based desserts when you’re watching your carbs. Instead of a piece of cake or pie, try baked, spiced fruit topped with a bit of coconut yogurt and some nuts. Simply removing the shell will save you quite a few carbs.