Looking for low-carb substitutes for bread, pasta, potatoes and rice? These ideas can help you cut carbs and calories, as well as add nutrients and fiber to your diet. See how to give some of your favorite foods a low-carb makeover.

Jessica Ball, M.S., R.D.
September 26, 2019

Pictured Recipe: Cauliflower Rice

Let's be super clear here: carbs are not bad for you. In fact, there are several great reasons to include carbs in your diet. However, eating too many refined-carb-rich foods can take the place of valuable nutrients. We created these swaps as inspiration for how to switch out refined-grain foods for vegetables, nuts, legumes and beyond for all the low-carb-lovers out there.

1. Cauliflower Rice for White Rice: Saves 15 Grams of Carbs

Cauliflower rice has 7 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup serving, compared to white rice with 22 grams. Additionally, cauliflower rice adds 3 grams of fiber to your meal, which can help keep you full for longer. Cauliflower makes for a great alternative to rice that is packed with nutrients and vitamins and saves you some carbs and calories. You can buy prechopped cauliflower rice frozen or fresh, or make your own at home with a food processor.

Learn more: How to Make Cauliflower Rice

Pictured Recipe: Blueberry Almond Chia Pudding

2. Chia Breakfast Pudding for Sweetened Oatmeal: Saves 19 Grams of Carbs

Oatmeal is a super-healthy breakfast food, but it's always nice to have other options. Per 1-cup serving, chia seed pudding contains 30 grams of carbohydrate compared with sweetened oatmeal's 49 grams, many of which are from added sugar. Though chia seeds don't have the whole grains of oatmeal, they pack a variety of their own unique health benefits. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect your heart, and antioxidants that prevent inflammation and chronic disease. To top it all off, one serving of this pudding boasts 10 grams of fiber, which is 40% of your recommended daily intake.

Read more: Is Oatmeal Good for Diabetes?

Pictured Recipe: Sichuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps

3. Lettuce Wrap for Bread: Saves 12 Grams of Carbs

There's a reason lettuce wraps are popular. You keep all the delicious filling, but get to cut out 12 grams of carbs. A large lettuce leaf has only 1 gram of carbs and 5 calories and is a great option for people trying to cut calories in general. Lettuce has a high water content, so it's a light, fresh alternative to bread to help keep you hydrated.

Related: Healthy Lettuce Wrap Recipes

Pictured Recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Pesto & Chicken

4. Zucchini Noodles for Linguine: Saves 31 Grams of Carbs

Zucchini noodles have 4 grams of carbs per cup, compared to traditional linguine with 35 grams. This is another tasty substitute for regular pasta for those who are gluten-free or counting carbs. Added bonus: zucchini noodles are quick to make from scratch and cook in just a few minutes. You can also find them pre-spiralized in the fresh produce section or freezer section of your store.

Related: Healthy Zucchini Noodle Recipes

5. Seltzer for Soda: Saves 41 Grams of Carbs

It is probably not news to anyone that soda contains a lot of sugar and calories without much nutrition. The 41 grams of carbs found in a typical 12-ounce can of soda come from added sugar, and provide almost double the recommended daily limit for added sugar. Comparatively, seltzer has zero grams of carbs per 12-ounce can and zero calories as well. If you're used to the sweetness of soda, try adding a splash of juice to your seltzer for more flavor. You can still get your bubbly fix in a low-carb way.

Pictured Recipe: Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

6. Spaghetti Squash for Lasagna: Saves 11 Grams of Carbs

Spaghetti squash lasagna has around 34 grams of carbs per serving (one quarter of a squash), which is substantially less than the 45 grams of carbs in classic lasagna. Spaghetti squash is fun to eat straight out of the skin, and the strands truly do resemble pasta noodles. This cheesy recipe is delicious twist on a classic.

Eat up: Noodle-Less Lasagna Recipes

Pictured Recipe: Yogurt with Berries

7. Plain Yogurt with Fruit for Flavored Yogurt: Saves 34 Grams of Carbs

At 13 grams of carbs per cup, plain yogurt with fruit added on top has just one-third the carbs of traditional fruit-flavored yogurt (47 grams per cup). Fruit gives you sweetness without the added sugar of fruit-flavored products. Additionally, fruit adds between 2 and 4 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup to help keep your stomach satisfied and your gut healthy.

Read more: Fruits Ranked from Lowest-Carb to Highest-Carb

Pictured Recipe: Cauliflower Pizza Crust

8. Cauliflower Pizza Crust for Wheat Pizza Crust: Saves 17 Grams of Carbs

This recipe for cauliflower pizza crust has 7 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber per slice compared to the 24 grams of carbs and zero grams of fiber in wheat crust. It also provides 75% of the Daily Value of vitamin C. Next time you're having a pizza night, give this veggie-loaded alternative a try. If you buy your cauliflower pizza crust, just know that nutrition varies from brand to brand.

Pictured Recipe: Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Feta & Walnuts

9. Sliced Nuts for Croutons: Saves 5 Grams of Carbs

Nuts are a great, low-carb way to add crunch to a salad without adding croutons (which have about 7 grams of carbs per 1/4-cup serving). Most nuts have 1 to 2 grams of carbs per tablespoon (note the smaller serving size), saving you 5 grams per serving compared with croutons. Additionally, nuts are loaded with protein and healthy fat to give a nutritional boost to your salad. Toast nuts and add spices; you won't even notice that the croutons are gone.

Pictured Recipe: Baked Parmesan Zucchini Curly Fries

10. Zucchini Fries for Potato Fries: Saves 6 Grams of Carbs

These delicious, cheesy zucchini fries have 18 grams of carbohydrates (per cup) while their potato counterparts have about 24 grams for the same-size serving. When the garden is overflowing with zucchini, it can be easy to get into a creative rut. If you are getting bored with zucchini noodles, try this crispy low-carb snack. These fries are coated in a bit of cornstarch and Parmesan to get a crispy coating.

Pictured Recipe: Lemon-Pepper Cucumbers

11. Cucumber Slices for Crackers: Saves 14 Grams of Carbs

Need a vehicle for dips, sauces or cheese, but looking to cut carbs? Look no further. A 1/2-cup serving of sliced cucumber has less than 2 grams carbs, which is a fraction of the carb content of traditional crackers (16 grams per 1/2 cup ). Many processed crackers are high in sodium too, whereas cucumbers are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium, which helps keep your blood pressure in check. Add a creamy dip or some cheese for a satisfying low-carb snack.

Pictured Recipe: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

12. Cauliflower Mac & Cheese for Mac & Cheese: Saves 48 Grams of Carbs

OK, OK. Technically, this cauliflower "mac" doesn't have any macaroni. But it does have all the saucy, cheesy goodness of mac and cheese with only 12 grams of carbohydrate per serving—compared to around 60 grams in a serving of traditional mac and cheese. As an added bonus, the cauliflower brings 87% of your Daily Value of vitamin C, which gives your immune system a boost.

Pictured Recipe: Socca

13. Chickpea Flour for White Flour: Saves 21 Grams of Carbs

If you follow a gluten-free diet, you may already be familiar with the idea of alternative flours. There are numerous non-wheat types and flavors, from chickpea flour to coconut flour to almond flour. Luckily, along with being gluten-free and high in protein, chickpea flour has only 27 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup, compared to 48 grams per 1/2 cup of white flour. You can't use it as a direct substitute for white flour, but try it out in socca and other recipes that call for chickpea flour.

Pictured Recipe: Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

14. Mashed Cauliflower for Mashed Potato: Saves 22 Grams of Carbs

Even with 32 grams of carbs per serving, it can be hard to think of something delicious that could replace mashed potatoes. With only 10 grams of carbs per serving, this mashed cauliflower gets creamy and makes a pretty delicious potato substitute. It also has fewer calories and more protein and fiber than traditional mashed potatoes.

Pictured Recipe: Cauliflower Buns

15. Cauliflower Buns for Wheat Buns: Saves 18 Grams of Carbs

These cauliflower buns contain only 8 grams of carbs compared to wheat buns with 26 grams of carbs. Like other cauliflower starch replacements, they are packed full of nutrition: this recipe, made with cheese, has 107% your Daily Value of vitamin C and 24% of your DV of calcium. Additionally, they can be made in less than an hour and stored in the freezer.

Bottom Line

To be clear, carbs are not inherently bad for your health—and our bodies (and brains especially) need carbs to function. However, if you are trying to cut out refined-grain foods, we have several ideas for low-carb swaps. Adding vegetables, nuts and legumes to your diet helps boost nutrients and fiber, which can help you lose weight, prevent chronic disease and feel fantastic.

Related:

Genius Cauliflower Swaps That Cut Carbs

Best Healthy Low-Carb Foods

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