7 simple swaps for lower-carb meals
By Louise Belle BHSc (Nut Med)
Are you looking for healthier alternatives to your favourite, carb-filled meals? There are simple swaps you can make to transform your meal into one that is more nutritious and lower in carbs.
1. Swap pasta for zucchini noodles
A very simple way to make your favourite pasta dish a little healthier, is to swap out the pasta for zucchini noodles (or ‘zoodles’). Pasta is a dense source of refined carbohydrates, which are ok in small amounts, but many people go overboard on the carbs, leaving them with excess weight and insulin resistance. You will need a spiraliser or a vegetable peeler to make the noodles, and simply cook for a few minutes on the stove. Not only does it feel like you’re eating pasta, but you’re sneaking in an extra serve of veggies AND you escape that heavy, bloated feeling that you get after a big bowl of pasta. It’s a win win win! 1 cup of pasta has 42g of carbs, compared to 10g in two medium zucchinis.
2. Swap white rice for cauliflower rice
Rice goes well with just about any stir fry, curry or stew. Unfortunately, white rice is high in refined carbohydrates (57g per cup) which can contribute to spikes in blood sugar and offers little nutritional value. Cauliflower rice, made by simply pulsing cauliflower florets in a food processer is a great alternative. It’s low carb (about 5g in one small head) and is great for cleansing the liver. For those times when cauliflower just won’t cut the mustard, swap your white rice for quinoa or a combination of brown rice and quinoa for a lower carb option that’s high in protein, B vitamins and fibre.
3. Swap flour for almond meal
Whether you’re baking brownies, making pancakes, veggie patties, meat balls, chicken tenders or biscuits, almost always almond meal or almond flour can be used as a substitute for regular wheat flour. Regular flour has a high glycaemic index, is very processed and contains gluten which is inflammatory to the body. Almond meal is a great high protein alternative that you can use as a replacement. It is also full of healthy fats, fibre and is naturally gluten free. 1 cup of flour contains approximately 100g of carbohydrates, compared to just 4g in a cup of almond meal.
4. Swap mashed potato for veggie mash
Whilst mashed white potatoes aren’t as high in carbs as some of the other foods mentioned above (11g of carbs per 100g of potato), there are still healthier alternatives. Swapping potato for vegetables such as cauliflower, pumpkin, zucchini, sweet potato, carrot and broccoli will increase the nutrient profile of your mash and make for a delicious alternative. You don’t need to get rid of the potatoes completely, simply boil them up with some other vegetables.
5. Swap cereal for home-made granola
Conventional cereals that you buy from the supermarket are generally packed full of sugar and are low in important vitamins and minerals. For example, 40g of Just Right cereal has about 11g of sugar, and 28g of carbohydrates. If you love to have a bowl of cereal in the morning, there are healthier alternatives. Make your own granola using different chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans), seeds (flax, chia, sunflower, pepitas, hemp) and oats or quinoa flakes with a hint of cinnamon. You can store it in a big glass jar and enjoy it in the morning with milk of your choice, and some sliced fruit. This will contain about half the carbohydrates and is high in healthy fats and protein.
6. Swap regular treats for protein treats
If you are a lover of biscuits, bliss balls, smoothies, slices, bars, muffins and so on, you can make them healthier by adding protein powder. Protein helps to stabilise blood sugar levels by reducing the rate in which carbohydrates (sugar) are absorbed in the blood stream. By subbing out some of the dry ingredients and adding in a protein powder, you will also be able to decrease the carbohydrate content. It is important to note that not all protein powders are equal and some of them contain added sugars. Synd X protein powder is very low in carbohydrates (only 1.1g per serve) and does not contain any added sugar.
7. Swap quiche for frittata
We all love a good quiche, and there are so many combinations of ingredients that you can eat it regularly and not get sick of it. Unfortunately, quiche isn’t always the healthiest option because of the pastry. The pastry is a dense source of carbohydrates and whilst it is delicious, it isn’t a necessity to the meal. Try making a frittata instead. Its pretty much the same thing and you can use the same filling ingredients, but you simply omit the pastry and pour the filling directly into a baking dish. Alternatively, you can make a base using almond meal.