Low-carb diets have many health benefits. By limiting your carbohydrate intake, these food regimes can help you lose weight and gain a better control over your blood sugar levels.
But, what happens when you really want your favorite comfort food, or you are craving a handful of crunchy, salty chips with your childhood-favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich? The answer: substitute your traditional carbohydrates for low-carb options! They will help keep your diet on track while still satisfying your cravings and feeling full.
What is a Carbohydrate?
A carbohydrate is a macronutrient, meaning it is essential in providing energy to the body. Fat and protein are the other two macronutrients.
Think of consuming protein as giving your body the energy it needs to perform all of the “behind the scenes” work, such as build and/or repair tissue, bones, muscles, and skin. Protein-rich foods include seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. Fats, such as fatty meat (bacon) and fish, cheeses, butter, avocados, coconuts and oils, are stored in fat cells for future energy use.
If proteins and fats give your body energy, why not eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet? Because your body needs them for its immediate energy needs! The best example of immediate energy is exercise. Without carbs, you struggle to run that extra lap or play that extra inning.
Types of Carbohydrates
There are two types of carbohydrates – simple and complex. Simple carbs, like table sugar, are found in sodas, baked goods, beer, candies, etc. Your body can quickly break down these carbs, which can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. You may even experience highs and lows in your energy. Remember to consume these in moderation (or avoid altogether, depending on your diet). Complex carbs take a little longer to break down, but they provide your body with consistent energy. Vegetables, dairy products, breads and pastas are all complex carbohydrates.
Consuming the appropriate amount of carbohydrates is key to providing your body with the right amount of fuel it needs – not too much and not too little. With low-carb diets, substituting your traditional carbs for carb-free options, or those lower in carbs, can be beneficial in maintaining this balance.
Tasty Substitutions for Traditional Carbohydrates
1. Burger Bun for a Portobello Mushroom
A burger itself is delicious and low-carb, but when you add a processed, white bread bun, you add unneeded carbs. Swap the bun out for a grilled, seasoned portobello mushroom and load on your favorites like tomatoes, lettuce, and onion.
2. Taco Shells for a Lettuce Leaf
Taco salads are great, but sometimes you want to mix it up! Instead of using a traditional taco shell, which is loaded with carbs, use a romaine leaf as your shell. It’s easy to hold and won’t break when you add in your protein and toppings.
3. White Bread Toast for Sweet Potato Toast
Missing your crispy, buttery toast in the morning? Try making toast out of sweet potatoes! Cut your sweet potato into even slices and stick it in the toaster on the highest setting until brown on each sides. Top with peanut butter, jam, or avocado!
4. Potato Chips for Veggie Chips
Reaching for a bag of chips is easy and can satisfy any craving for something salty and crunchy. When you sit down for a movie at night, munch on veggie chips instead! Create chips out of your favorite vegetables such as kale, spinach, cucumbers or even beets. Bake them in the oven, add a pinch of salt, and enjoy!
5. Mac and Cheese for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
The ooey gooey comfort of mac and cheese can bring you back to your childhood, but it can also pack a heavy punch against your low-carb diet. Trade those noodles for cauliflower and keep the cheesy flavor!
Diets shouldn’t deprive your body of the nutrients it needs. Keep your low-carb diet on track with simple swaps using healthier options that won’t sacrifice flavor or deprive you of your favorite foods.