Whether you’re looking to lose weight or simply make healthier choices, replacing empty calories with nutrient-dense foods is a great place to start. These low-carb alternatives will give your favourite comfort foods a low-carb, low-GI makeover, without compromising on taste!
Bread, pasta, potatoes, bagels, pizza. Carb-heavy comfort foods might hit that sweet spot, but they’re also to blame for endless hunger pangs and insatiable cravings. Truth be told, overloading on these empty carbs could be holding you back from meeting your health goals.
But cutting down on starchy and sugary carbs is easier said than done. If they currently make up a staple part of your diet, it can be hard to know where to begin. Plus, sudden and drastic diet changes rarely lead to lasting results.
That’s why we believe that making small, manageable swaps is the best approach. We call these ‘healthy food swaps’ and it simply means swapping out starchy, sugary carbs for equally-delicious low-carb alternatives. Embracing gradual and achievable swaps can lead to huge results over time and will help you to develop healthy habits that stick.
Why choose low-carb alternatives?
Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy. You might feel like they’re the enemy, but they’re actually an essential part of your diet. The secret isn’t to cut them out completely, but rather, to be smart about your carb choice. It’s the type, quality and quantity of carbohydrate in our diet which is important.
Making healthy food swaps and choosing low-carb alternatives will help you to trim calories, reduce cravings and boost the nutritional content of your meals, all at once.
Confused? Here’s a simple breakdown of carbs to get you started:
- Fibrous (green) carbs — typically low GI: Found in most fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those grown above ground
- Starchy (beige) carbs — typically moderate-high GI: Found in potatoes, pasta, rice, white bread and cereals etc
- Sugary (white) carbs — typically high GI: Found in highly processed foods such as pizzas, biscuits, pastries, sweets, ice cream and processed juices etc
Starchy and sugary carbs provide your body with fast-release energy and cause your blood sugar to spike. Initially, this feels good. But this ‘sugar high’ is quickly followed by a significant fall, causing low energy, hunger pangs and sugar cravings.
This is known as the Glycemic Index (GI), a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods, according to how they affect blood sugar levels. Over time, eating too many sugary or starchy, high GI carbs can lead to overeating and weight gain, because your body constantly craves more sugar and refined carbs to keep you ticking over.
Ready to swap to low-carb alternatives?
Swap high GI starchy and sugary carbs for lower GI, fibrous carbs.
Generally, the less starchy and sugary carbs you eat, the less hungry you will feel. Plus, eating more fibrous carbs comes with an additional benefit — better nutrition. These ‘good’ carbs give you the most bang for your buck in terms of fibre, vitamins and minerals, which all help your body to function at its best.
So, while it’s totally fine to enjoy carbs in all their forms in moderation (we’re all human), making a few low-carb swaps will help you to feel fuller for longer and healthier overall. Studies show that you’re also likely to end up shedding the stubborn belly fat that so many of us struggle with!
10 healthy low-carb alternatives
These simple low-carb alternatives are easy to implement into your daily routine and will help you to keep your sugar and starch intake in moderation. And guess what? You don’t even need to miss out on your favourite everyday meals — from spaghetti dishes to burger nights, we’ve got the perfect healthy food swap!
Low-carb rice alternative: Cauliflower or brocolli rice
We get it, rice is nice — but it’s also pure starch and extremely high in carbohydrates. While it’s okay to enjoy rice in moderation, there are plenty of low-carb, low-GI alternatives that could completely transform your everyday meals. Our favourite? Cauliflower rice. As well as being super low-carb and GI, it’s quick and easy to make, looks just like rice and makes for a filling base for any meal.
Once you’ve tried cauli rice, mix it up and try it with broccoli instead. It’s just as — if not more — delicious and equally quick and easy to prepare. Even better, make both and mix them together for a colourful, fibre and nutrient-packed low-carb rice combo!
Make it yourself: Cut cauliflower or broccoli into small chunks, place in your food processor and blitz in batches until it resembles the texture of rice. Alternatively, you could use a grater! Eat it raw or stir-fry with a little olive oil for around 5 minutes.
Low-carb potato alternative: Sweet potato
If white potatoes are a staple in your everyday meals, swapping to sweet potatoes makes for an easy diet upgrade. Sweet potatoes are equally (if not more) delicious yet less calorific and lower on the glycemic index. Plus, they pack a serious punch of fibre, vitamins and minerals!
Make it yourself: You can cook sweet potatoes just as you would white potatoes — boil them, bake them, mash them or fry them to your heart’s content! We love adding a burst of flavour with paprika or garlic powder.
or better still, celeriac!
Overdone it on the sweet potato? Celeriac, also known as celery root, is another great spud swap. Sure, it’s not the best-looking vegetable in the world, but we promise it tastes better than it looks! Thanks to its subtle, light flavour, this versatile root vegetable can easily substitute mash, fries and other potato dishes.
Make it yourself: Want to mash it? Cut off the outer skin, cube the celeriac, boil in water and then mash as usual. Add a little grated parmesan for some oomph! Fancy low-carb celeriac fries? Peel off the outer skin, cut into chip-shaped slices, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until crispy.
Low-carb chips alternative: Carrot fries
If you’re keen to be healthier but can’t seem to get rid of those french fry cravings, carrot fries should be your new go-to. Once seasoned and baked, they crisp and crunch up to perfection and boast a subtle sweet taste. With a lower GI and fewer carbs and calories to boot, you’ll be surprised at just how delicious they are!
Make it yourself: Chop your carrots into thin fries and toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper and your choice of spices and seasonings. Bake at 200° for around 25 minutes, until crispy.
Low-carb pasta alternative: Courgetti
They may be one of the nation’s favourite comfort foods, but pasta and spaghetti dishes can easily pack 100-150g of carbohydrates per meal. But there’s no need to give up spag bol for good (we wouldn’t do that to you!) — spiralized courgette or ‘courgetti’ makes a nutritious, fibre-packed, low-carb sub.
Make it yourself: Allow 1 large or 2 small courgettes per person. Trim the ends of the courgettes and use your spiralizer to create long, thin spirals. No spiralizer? Cut the courgettes into thin strips or use a julienne or potato peeler lengthways to peel the courgette into ribbons. Enjoy them raw or fry them with some olive oil for 1-2 minutes!
Low-carb noodle alternative: Carrot and courgette noodles
They’re convenient and cheap, but white noodles have the potential to turn the healthiest of meals into carb-heavy loads. So, why not opt for a low-carb alternative, such as carrot and courgette noodles? They’ll satisfy your stir fry fix but keep you fuller for longer and increase the nutritional value of your plate.
Make it yourself: Allow 2 carrots and 1 courgette per person. Peel the carrots and trim the ends. Trim the ends off the courgettes. If you’ve got a spiralizer, spiralize the veg using the largest noodle cut size available. Alternatively, use a peeler to create long, thin strips. Cook the carrot and courgette noodles in olive or sesame oil over a medium heat for around 3 minutes and add your favourite toppings!
Low-carb crisps alternative: Baked aubergine crisps
If you’re prone to reaching for the crisp cupboard to help you through the mid-afternoon slump, you’ll love these crispy aubergine chips as a low-carb alternative. They’re quick to prepare and surprisingly moreish once baked! For added flavour, make sure to generously spice and season them.
Make it yourself: Thinly slice an aubergine or two — the thinner your slices, the crispier the finished result. Lay the slices on a greased baking tray and spray or lightly drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, plus whatever spices or flavourings you fancy. Bake for around 8–10 minutes before flipping them and baking for a further 8–10 minutes on the other side. Keep a close eye on these whilst cooking, as they tend to burn easily.
or better still, kale crisps!
Eating delicious, crunchy, low-carb crisps whilst gaining all the health and nutritional benefits of kale? Yep, this one’s a winner. This leafy green vegetable is nutrient-dense and boasts generous amounts of vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese in every serving. Kale crisps might not look like the crisps you’re used to, but they taste great and make a great low-calorie nibble for serial-snackers.
Make it yourself: Rinse the kale and dry it well. Strip the leaves from their stems, put them in a bowl and toss generously with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Spread the leaves in a single layer on a baking tray (you might need two) and bake for around 30 minutes. Make sure to to give them a good stir halfway through cooking to prevent them sticking to the tray. Leave to cool and crisp up for around 15 minutes before eating — feel free to add a little more seasoning if necessary.
Low-carb bread alternative: Lettuce wraps
Bread lover? Aren’t we all! But bread is a highly refined carbohydrate and is typically low in micronutrients. It’s what we’d call an ‘empty’ carb — it tastes good, but it does no good for your body. If you’re looking to make some healthy food swaps but can’t resist a sandwich, try out lettuce wraps. You’ll actually find that you can taste the flavour of your fillings far more, as they often get masked by bread.
Make it yourself: Wrap a giant leaf of romaine or iceberg lettuce around your choice of filling. Alternatively, build a ‘lettuce sandwich’ by sandwiching your filling between two sturdy leaves, just like you would with bread.
Low-carb mashed potato alternative: Cauliflower mash
Looking for an alternative for your every day, starch-packed mashed potatoes? Cauliflower takes the crown on this one. This low-carb healthy swap is seriously creamy and has a surprisingly similar texture to the real deal. Plus, using a variety of add-ins seasonings can really amp up the flavour — we like using olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs.
Make it yourself: Chop up the head of a cauliflower into small florets and place it in a large pan or pot. Cover it with water and heat until the water boils, before simmering for around 10 minutes. Drain and place the cauliflower in a food processor with your choice of add-ins. Process until smooth and serve!
Low-carb burger buns alternative: Portobello mushrooms
Even if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, you don’t need to ditch burger night. Swapping carb-packed burger buns for portobello mushrooms will solve your sandwich-situ and allow you to devour a low-carb meaty weekend burger or BBQ feast, without any guilt. Pair them with carrot or sweet potato fries for the perfect healthy treat meal!
Make it yourself: Brush the mushrooms with olive oil and salt and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until they’ve softened. Add your cooked burger and top the ‘buns’ with sesame seeds for some extra crunch!
Low-carb cereal alternative: Purition
What do most shop-bought breakfast cereals have in common? They give the impression that they’re healthy as can be, but are actually highly processed and packed with sugar and refined carbs. Swapping these cereals out for a delicious, low-carb glass of Purition will keep your blood sugar steady and reduce those dreaded mid-morning munchies.
Perfect for breakfast or lunch, our shakes are made with a blend of seven seeds and nuts, as well as your choice of a vegan or vegetarian protein. At just 2-4g of carbohydrates per meal, Purition can support your weight-loss goals whilst giving your body everything it needs to thrive. Real food ingredients, pure nutrition and absolutely nothing artificial.
Purition is the ultimate healthy food swap! It takes just 30 seconds to make one of our 14 all-natural shake flavours, providing a small, low-carb meal, even if you’re pushed for time.