One of the things that might seem hard about switching to a new eating style is figuring out how to substitute healthy foods for the unhealthy foods you’ve always loved.
One of the things that might seem hard about switching to a new eating style is figuring out how to substitute healthy foods for the unhealthy foods you’ve always loved. The great things is, there are so many ways to satisfy the cravings that you have by just thinking a little outside the box and trying new things.
For example, do you want a sandwich? Take everything you were going to put on the bread and put it in a bowl with seasoning or a healthy dressing and use a fork. You can even put it on a bed of lettuce or spinach and make it a salad. The bread is only there as a way to hold the good stuff anyway.
Do you love a good burger? Eat it with a lettuce wrap or just eat it without the bun and use a fork. Just like the sandwich, that bun is just there to hold all the good stuff anyway.
If you really want that sandwich or burger with the bread included - there are some great low-carb buns and bread available in stores now. My favorite keto bread I’ve ever had is Inked Bread Co’s Timber wolf keto seeds bread. SO, so good! Unfortunately it’s currently mostly just available toward the west coast but it’s starting to pop up in others! Our go-to brand otherwise is Sola and we buy that for a great price at Costco. We try not to eat too much bread - even the low-carb bread - but sometimes it’s nice to have it for certain things. :)
Do you love fajitas, tacos, and burritos? Eat all the good stuff and leave out the tortilla - just put it in a bowl and use a fork. Taco salads are great too and easy to just eat everything except the taco shell. If you can’t live without the tortilla, Mission makes some great low-carb tortillas and they’re found most anywhere.
Are you looking for something crunchy like chips? Try pork rinds. There are great brands out there with lots of different flavor options. Or get plain ones which are great to use for dips like guacamole or cream cheese with Everything Bagel seasoning sprinkled on top. Pork rinds are also great to use instead of breadcrumbs in recipes or crumbled up for a crunch on top of things like you’d use croutons.
Coffee is one of the biggest hurdles people have to overcome when going low-carb. If you drink it black like my husband (blech!) you don’t have anything to worry about but for those who don’t, here are some ideas… Ditch that premade, store-bought coffee creamer (which is full of vegetable oil) and use heavy whipping cream instead. If you like it sweeter and with flavor, my favorite thing to add is Jordan’s Skinny syrups. There are SO many flavors to choose from too. And don’t order regular specialty coffees at your favorite coffee shop - those are FULL of sugar - instead order coffee with heavy cream and sugar-free flavor. Most places offer this now and it’s still a delicious specialty coffee with no sugar! Some have a ton of sugar-free syrup options to choose from. Dutch Bros is our favorite. :)
I will add - just because something says “sugar-free” doesn’t mean that it’s “good” for you. As much as you can, look for alternatives that are naturally sugar-free or low-carb. (Like the heavy cream substitution for coffee creamer.) But no judgment from me if you throw some sugar-free things in the mix. ;) There are definitely sweeteners that are worse for you than others and I think it’s valuable to educate yourself on those but adding in a sugar-free treat sometimes is better than living a life full of sugary foods all the time. And some of us can’t imagine life without a treat sometimes right? That’s my 2 cents. ;)
In addition to coffee drinks, I know alcoholic drinks are something that can be hard to figure out. Alcohol is definitely something you don’t want to have too much of if you’re trying to live a low-carb/keto lifestyle - especially if you’re doing it for health reasons. Alcohol is hard on the liver and can cause fatty liver disease or cirrhosis, it can stop your weight loss, it can cause you to gain belly fat, and can cause your cravings to increase and make you eat more. I know many people enjoy having a drink every now and then though so if you’re going to do so, choose wisely. If you’re a beer drinker, there are several beers that are super low-carb these days so they’ll be better choices than a regular beer for sure. Regular beer is basically just liquid bread. lol! BUT - make sure you don’t drink way more because they are low-carb and end up having as many carbs as you would if you’d had regular beer and drank less. ;) If you like wine, choose a low-carb red wine. Those are going to be much better for you than the sugary, sweet white wines. If you like cocktails, many of those are going to be full of sugar so try things like whiskey, vodka, brandy, gin, or tequila as they are naturally low carb. Just add a shot to some water and you can even add some Mio to give it some flavor or add your shot to some sparkling water or club soda. I also enjoy Jordan’s Skinny Mixes to make some cocktails. My favorite is the Skinny Margarita!
Going low-carb and eliminating sugar is all about being creative and looking for different ways to enjoy the things you love with better choices of food.
Here are more things that should be subbed out and what you should replace it with:
- This isn’t necessarily a carb issue but a health issue - don’t use vegetable oils (corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil) or hydrogenated oil (oil that is solid at room temperature such as Crisco or margarine) as these are very inflammatory to our bodies. Instead use avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or MCT oil. Each of these oils have things they’re great for - for example avocado oil is great for cooking, olive oil is great for making salad dressing or mayo, and MCT oil is great to add to coffee or a smoothie for some added fat for satiety and for health benefits.
- In addition to the vegetable oils, you’ll also want to replace a lot of the store bought salad dressings and mayo with a higher quality brand as most of those are made with vegetable oil. You can buy Primal Kitchen brands or you can even make your own. It’s pretty simple and there are tons of recipes for both online.
- Get rid of regular white flour and replace it with almond flour or coconut flour instead. (Coconut flour isn’t and equal 1:1 ratio so you’ll have to adjust the amount used when using that.)
- Get rid of the sugary candy and instead treat yourself with ChocZero candy or something of similar quality. Let me just tell you ChocZero is AMAZING! ;) And they have a huge variety of products - not just candy.
- Do you love ice cream? It’s full of sugar so you want to eliminate that but Rebel is AMAZING ice cream without the sugar. It seriously tastes like homemade ice cream to me.
- Just looking for a good dessert and need something sweet after a meal? You can make a big variety of desserts with staples like cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar-free pudding or sugar-free jello packets, berries, cocoa powder, etc. You can also make mug cake, 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies, blueberry muffins, berry cheesecake bars, as well as many other things. I’ll be sharing more and more recipes for things like this in the future so make sure you’re subscribed to get all these in your inbox! This is a great dessert I’ve shared before - Lemon Cheesecake Mousse. It’s SO good!
- In order to make those yummy desserts you need something to use instead of sugar and my preference is erythritol. I’ve made all kinds of things with it and it’s always been great in my opinion. It’s also about the best sweetener you can use in regards to the glycemic index and keeping your insulin low. I like Anthony’s brand.
- If you love trail mix, don’t grab the premade bags at the store - those will be full of carbs and sugar because of ingredients added that aren’t low-carb. Instead make your own! Choose the nuts that are lower in carbs and are full of healthy nutrients (like almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pecans, and walnuts) and then add things like unsweetened coconut flakes, ChocZero chocolate chips and/or cacao nibs.
- Some things are as simple as just choosing a better brand. Peanut butter is a great snack on celery and is very filling but many brands are higher in sugar and carbs and are filled with unhealthy oils. Ditch the Jiffy or Peter Pan and look for a great organic brand. To know if it’s the best, read the ingredients and it should be nothing but peanuts and maybe salt. That’s it. You can also choose other nut butters like almond butter. Just read the labels - that’s the most important part.
- Rice is a no-no on a low-carb diet but you can substitute cauliflower rice in it’s place. You can even buy bags of it already made in the freezer section of the grocery store now. This is great for many recipes!
- Pop is something that many people love and have a hard time letting go of. And the diet versions really aren’t any better for you than the sugary versions. I don’t drink pop and haven’t for many, many years - long before we started living a low-carb life - so it’s not something I had to learn how to find a substitution for but one of the things my husband enjoys instead of pop is ICE drinks. These have the carbonation so if the fizz is what you’re after you can satisfy that craving. They have a lot of great flavors too so plenty to choose from.
- If you use milk, cow’s milk has quite a bit of sugar (not to mention lots of hormones can be added to cow’s milk!) so you want to eliminate that from your diet but you can get unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk to use as a substitute and it’s so much healthier. (They do have sweetened varieties so make sure you’re getting unsweetened so you don’t just add sugar a different way.)
- Juice needs to go as it’s basically just candy in a glass. Water should replace it but if you’re not a big fan of plain water, a great way to jazz it up is with Mio flavoring like I mentioned above. Unsweetened ice tea is also great to drink - green tea is especially healthy with its extra antioxidants.
- Potatoes are one of those things that a lot of people love and have a hard time giving up as well. If you’re baking things that have potatoes in it, turnips are a nice alternative and have a very similar taste and texture. Cauliflower can be substituted to make mashed “potatoes" and when you add some cream or butter and seasonings they can be quite tasty!
- I know a lot of people love their pasta and can’t imagine giving it up but you can make a variety of pasta dishes with great substitutes. Zoodles, which is just spiral cut zucchini, are a great to use as a pasta replacement. Egg wraps can also be a fantastic replacement - you can use them as layers for lasagna or cut them in strips to make “noodles.” Sprouts, spaghetti squash, or shirataki noodles can also be good substitutes.
Cereal is a super popular breakfast food but it is FULL of carbs and sugar and very unhealthy so alternatives are going to be so much better for you. There are some companies making keto branded cereal and granola so there are some options to explore and try to see if you like those as much. One caution with things like this - just because something is labeled keto doesn’t mean it’s good for you and honestly doesn’t even mean it’s low-carb. I’ve picked up some things at the store that say keto and they have a pretty high carb count - way more than I would give up for that type of food. So if you look for something like this, make sure you read the label and check the carb count and see what the ingredients are. Some better alternatives are just a completely different type of breakfast that’s made up of quality food.
The main thing to remember is that there is an alternative for SO many things and you don’t have to feel deprived when you switch to a low-carb lifestyles. Carbs and sugar are also very addictive and by eliminating these from your diet you’ll also change your tastes and the cravings for these foods will diminish or leave you completely. That’s one thing that shocked me after we started our low-carb lifestyle back in 2019. After eliminating all those types of foods from my diet, I no longer wanted them anymore. And if I tasted something that I used to love, it didn’t even taste good to me anymore! It’s amazing how you can transform yourself with these simple steps. You may not think it’s easy - but it is simple. ;)
Is there another food that you have a hard time giving up? Have you looked to see if you could find a good alternative or substitute? It might be the difference in successfully changing your diet! :)
If I can help with any other ideas feel free to comment below with what you’re looking for help with. :)