Instead of French fries, consider a side salad. This is an easy swap that's naturally low in carbohydrates, yet packed with nutrition.
If your doctor has told you to cut carbs, you're probably wondering: "What's left to eat?" A lot, actually. In fact, there are tons of great-tasting low-carb recipes and low-carb alternatives to the foods you already love.
With a little bit of creativity and a dash of nutrition know-how, you can trim extra carbohydrates from your diet while still eating healthy all day long. Here are some nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to get you started.
Instead of: Corn-based or puffed-rice cereal
Try: Whole-grain toasted oat cereal
A bowl of cereal can be a quick, healthy way to start the day. However, many kinds of cereal are packed with processed carbohydrates and sugars that can cause blood glucose levels to skyrocket. Consider a bowl of toasted oat cereal instead. Oats are rich in soluble fiber, which can help control blood glucose and lower cholesterol.
Instead of: Yogurt with bananas
Try: Yogurt with strawberries
Probiotic-rich yogurt is a great breakfast choice for people with diabetes. And topping it with fruit is an easy way to pump up flavor and nutrition, but certain fruits can add unwanted extra carbs. Enter strawberries. With only 6 grams of carbohydrates per half-cup, strawberries are a perfect yogurt topper and might just be the most diabetes-friendly fruit around.
Instead of: Toast with jam
Try: Whole-wheat toast with almond butter
Almond butter is a naturally sweet stand-in for jam or jelly. Plus, research has shown that eating almonds and other tree nuts can benefit blood sugar levels—and the more you eat, the greater the effect. Just keep in mind that nut butters can be high in calories, so try to limit your servings to 1 tablespoon.
Instead of: A burrito
Try: A taco salad
Did you know that a burrito can pack nearly 80 grams of carbs? So next time you're craving Mexican food, opt for a taco salad instead. And for maximum carb control, skip the taco shell and order it with fresh lettuce, grilled chicken, sauteed vegetables, salsa, and a dollop of guacamole for a more reasonable 19 grams of carbohydrates.
Instead of: A side order of French fries
Try: A side salad
Fat and calories aren't the only reasons to skip the fries. Just one small serving delivers 65 grams of carbohydrates on average. Luckily, most restaurants will happily swap in a side salad instead. The end result: Fewer carbs and calories, yet more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Instead of: A tuna fish sandwich
Try: A tuna-stuffed red pepper
Fish is a great choice for maintaining heart health, but when it's tucked between a couple of slices of bread, the carbs can really start to add up. So consider skipping the bread altogether and serving your tuna in a hollowed-out red pepper instead. You'll knock off 22 grams of carbohydrates and, in the process, you'll also gain twice your daily dose of vitamin C: a nutrient that can help prevent blood vessel damage in people with Type 1 diabetes.
Instead of: Spaghetti and meatballs
Try: Spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs
For a new spin on an old favorite, try this great recipe for spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs. With 37 fewer grams of carbohydrates per serving–and less saturated fat–this recipe is a healthy and delicious alternative that's also fun to prepare.
Instead of: Rice
Try: Cauliflower rice
If you're tired of measuring out tiny servings of rice, cauliflower rice may appeal to you. Not only is it lower in carbohydrates, but it also delivers more vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Plus, it's super easy to prepare. Simply break a head of cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until the pieces reach the consistency of rice. Then, saute the mixture in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice.
Instead of: A baked sweet potato
Try: Baked butternut squash
Sweet potatoes and butternut squash have a lot in common: They're both loaded with vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. However, carbohydrate-wise they differ substantially, with 11 grams of carbs per half-cup of baked butternut squash compared to 21 grams in a half-cup of baked sweet potato. While a baked sweet potato is a healthier alternative to a regular potato in terms of calories and carbs, it's in your best interest to set them both aside if you're looking to eat healthier.
Cutting carbohydrates can sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. With these low-carb recipes and low-carb alternatives, trimming carbohydrates from your meals can be a cinch.
By Karen Ansel, MS, RDN
Joslin Diabetes Center, How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release
The University of Oklahoma, Stopping Diabetes Damage With Vitamin C
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.