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Eat This, Not That: Healthier Carb Substitutes

Early in your healthy eating journey, it’s not uncommon to rely heavily on familiar foods - foods that you’re comfortable with and that happen to fit your new eating parameters.

Take a single day in your new eating routine, for example. At breakfast, scrambled eggs with a side of avocado are great tasting, familiar and filling. Grilled chicken salad works well for an at-work lunch. Baked tilapia with steamed broccoli make for a quick and easy dinner option that can be seasoned for added flavor. No doubt, that’s a healthy day of eating!

Extrapolate that day’s worth of healthy meals into a week or two (or a month), however, and you’re sure to run into “meat and veggie” burnout. (And you thought it was just you....)

If you find yourself pining for variety or missing your favorite foods,  stop now and release the guilt. (Doesn't that feel good?) You have so many more options than you might think! Are you ready for some new healthy menu choices? Check out these “eat this, not that” alternatives for instant mealtime inspiration. 

Eat This:  Meatza
Not That: Meat Lover’s Pizza

Oh, how we love pizza.... Did you know there are 350 slices of pizza consumed every second? The good news is we can happily sustain that love affair with minimal impact to our fat-promoting insulin levels. Just mix ground beef with pizza spices such as garlic, oregano and caraway seeds. Add some parmesan and eggs for binding, bake, and drain the fat. Finish it off with pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your favorite toppings before broiling. 

Eat This! Cheese-Based Cheese Crackers
Not That: Flour-Based Cheese Crackers

If you need some crunchy satisfaction, look no further. Spread party-tray-sized slices of cheese on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, and then cool. You won’t miss the flour or the expanding waistline!

Eat This! Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
Not That: Mashed Potatoes 

Swap out high-glycemic potatoes for nutrient-packed, low-carb cauliflower, and your family might not notice the difference.

Steam cauliflower with halved garlic cloves. Salt and pepper liberally. Toss it all in a food processor or quality blender with a couple spoonfuls of butter or ghee, and blend until it becomes perfect mashed “potato” goodness.

Eat This! One Minute Muffin
Not That: English Muffin

Bread seems to be the #1 nemesis of many well-intentioned low-carbers. It doesn’t help that friends and family so often implore (upon hearing of their loved ones’ bread boycotts), “What will you eat then?” If you’re feeling like a dietary outcast, try experimenting with this straightforward “starter” bread. Adapt the flavor based on your preferences. 

Eat This! Real-food Pancakes
Not That: Pancake Mix

Protein shakes, bacon and eggs are the tried and true staples of a low carb breakfast. But what do you do when you just want a pancake? The answer: turn to coconut and almond flour (two great lower-carb substitutes) combined with cinnamon, pumpkin puree, or other real-food flavor of your choice. Mix with eggs and milk, almond milk, or water before cooking in a griddle or cast-iron skillet.

Protein powder can even be added for an additional nutrient boost (and thicker batter). There are numerous variations readily available on low carbohydrate blogs and websites. Step out of your comfort zone and find the one that works best for you.

Eat This! Vegetables Noodles
Not That: Angel Hair Pasta

A vegetable “spiralizer” is perhaps one of my favorite kitchen investments. It can turn your favorite veggies and fruits into long, beautiful strands. Spiralize zucchini and add to “spaghetti” meat sauce. Simmer until tender. Or make an “angel hair” cold antipasto with red wine vinaigrette, cubed salami and provolone cheese, olives, and roasted red peppers.

If you don’t have a spiralizer, roast a spaghetti squash that has been halved lengthwise and place flesh-side down on a baking sheet with a small amount of water. Roast at 375 degrees until pierced easily with a fork. Run a fork to lift the “spaghetti” strands out of the middle. 

Eat This! Grain-Free Wraps
Not that: Wheat Wraps

A lower carbohydrate lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re barred from the convenience of utensil-free meals. Just like pancake substitutes, almond meal and coconut flour are common staples in grain-free wrap recipes. (You can even use finely riced cauliflower that has been microwaved. After the water is squeezed out, it can be mixed with egg and baked.)

Large lettuce leaves, lightly steamed collard green leaves, and cabbage are particularly quick and easy wrap substitutes. Asian chicken lettuce cups and romaine “tacos” spread with guacamole, seasoned ground beef and pico de gallo can be a fun and flavorful meal the whole family will enjoy. Large cabbage leaves can be boiled for 10 minutes to serve as the tortilla for baked enchiladas or the shells for stuffed shells. Likewise, a raw cabbage leaf “wrap” is a great substitute for nitrate-free bratwurst buns! The possibilities are endless. 

A Final Word: Low carbohydrate substitutes aren’t meant to taste or feel exactly like the “real” thing. The irony is, however, that these lower carb options are, in fact, the real as opposed to processed food options. If you’re serious about getting your blood glucose under control, continuing or maintaining fat loss, and improving energy, these "eat this” options will help you expand what food choices will become your new “normal.” Accept the transition for the continuing experiment it will be. Have fun with the process! You’ll undoubtedly find many new and delicious favorites!

Are you looking for more carb substitutes or healthy eating ideas? Talk with one of our dietitians today!

In health, Samantha Bielawski, Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.



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