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11 low-carb alternatives for weight loss

Bowl of courgetti noodles.

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. 

Overloading on these empty carbs could actually be holding you back from meeting your health and weight loss goals. But cutting down on starchy and sugary carbs is much easier said than done. If they currently make up a staple part of your diet, it can be hard to know where to begin.

That’s where low carb alternatives come in. It involves swapping out starchy and sugary carbs that are easy to overeat, for equally-delicious and ultra-filling low-carb alternatives. Embracing simple swaps is one of the fastest ways to improve your day-to-day diet and means you can still enjoy the same meals as everyone else!

Why choose low-carb alternatives?

The secret to better health isn’t to cut carbs 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.

Confused? Here’s a simple breakdown of carbs to get you started:

  • Fibrous 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 simple carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta, rice, white bread and cereals
  • Sugary carbs: Typically high GI: Found in highly processed foods such as pizzas, biscuits, pastries, sweets, ice cream and processed juices

Sugary carbs and starches 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. Fibrous carbs take longer to break down in the body and therefore take longer to impact blood sugar (if at all), which will help you to avoid the dreaded ‘sugar crash’ or mid-morning slump.

This is the basis of 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, high GI carbs can lead to overeating and weight gain, because your body constantly craves more sugar and carbs to keep you ticking over.

Generally, the fewer 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.

How carbs affect blood sugar

If all the GI and blood sugar talk has you feeling overwhelmed, take a look at this handy chart. Most people know that eating a chocolate bar or packet of sweets will affect blood sugar, but this displays the sugar equivalence of everyday carbs like rice, pasta and cereal.

Let’s take a look at the first example together. It shows that a 150g bowl of basmati rice will raise your blood glucose in the same way that 10.1 teaspoons of sugar would—quite an eye-opener!

Simple Swaps for Weight-Loss Infographic inspired by original content created by Dr. David Unwin PHC - Informing Healthy Decisions.

Infographic inspired by original content created by Dr. David Unwin
Public Health Collaboration – Informing Healthy Decisions.

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. 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 for all the carb classics.

1. Low-carb rice alternative: Cauliflower or broccoli rice

We get it, rice is nice, but it’s also pure starch and pretty 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 day-to-day rice dishes.

Our favourite? Cauliflower rice. As well as being low-carb and low-GI, it’s quick and easy to make, looks just like rice and makes 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!

Grate raw cauliflower to make cauliflower rice - a low-carb alternative to rice.

How to make cauliflower rice: 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.

2. 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 delicious, yet less calorific and lower on the glycemic index. Plus, they pack a serious punch of fibre, vitamins and minerals! What’s not to love?

Sweet potato fries.

How to cook with sweet potato: You can cook them just as you would white potatoes. Boil them, bake them, mash them or fry them to your heart’s content! We love adding olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder, before roasting them until crispy.

3. 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.

Roasted celeriac.

How to cook with celeriac: 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.

4. 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. Thankfully, there’s no need to give up spag bol for good – spiralized courgette or ‘courgetti’ makes a nutritious, fibre-packed, low-carb sub.

Courgetti - low-carb alternative to noodles.

How to make courgetti: 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.

5. 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 a carb-heavy load. Why not opt for a low-carb alternative, such as carrot and courgette noodles, instead? They’ll satisfy your stir fry fix but keep you fuller for longer, whilst increasing the nutritional value of your plate.

Raw carrot and courgette noodles.

How to make carrot & courgette noodles: 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. Season to taste and add your favourite toppings!

6. 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 incredibly moreish once baked!

Baked aubergine crisps.

How to make aubergine crisps: 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.

7. 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.

Homemade crunchy kale crisps.

How to make kale crisps: 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 10—15 or until crispy, but still green. Make sure to give them a good stir halfway through cooking to prevent them from 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.

8. 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 eaten excessively. 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.

Lettuce wraps - Low0carb alternative to flatbreads/ tortilla wraps.

How to make lettuce wraps: 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.

9. 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.

Cauliflower mash.

How to make cauli mash: 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!

10. Low-carb burger bun 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 (or vegan!) weekend burger or BBQ feast, without any guilt. Pair them with carrot or sweet potato fries for the perfect healthy low-carb meal.

Portobello mushrooms.

How to make cauli mash: 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!

11. Low-carb cereal or porridge 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 or bowl of Purition will keep your blood sugar steady and reduce those dreaded mid-morning munchies.

Purition - Low-carb alternative breakfast or lunch.

Perfect for breakfast or lunch, our whole food low-carb blends 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 an ultra-versatile addition to your low-carb diet and can be prepared as a:

  • Shake: Blend 40g Purition with 200–250ml of your favourite milk and any added extras
  • Yoghurt bowl: Mix 40g Purition into a serving of yoghurt and top with nuts and seeds
  • Instant low-carb porridge: Add a splash of hot water or milk to 40g Purition and mix well

Purition is the ultimate low-carb alternative! 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. 

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