They might be delicious, but carbohydrates can be seriously calorific. Whether you're on a Paleo, Keto, Low Carb diet or just want a lighter meal, we've got some amazing carb alternatives for you to try.
There's nothing like bread substitutes, pasta, and potato alternatives to help you make your meals low-carb and nutritious. Get all the taste and texture of your favourite carbs, without the calories, and start losing weight today.
Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in April 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in November 2018.
The importance of carbohydrates
First and foremost, it's important to understand what carbohydrates actually are and the important role they play in our diet.
Despite common opinion, carbohydrates are not 'bad' - whilst they may be high in calories, they're essential for energy production.
There are two types of carbs:
- Simple carbohydrates - sugars that provide quick but not prolonged bouts of energy, eg. white bread and sweets.
- Complex carbohydrates - wholegrain and fibre-rich foods that keep you fuller for longer and provide a slow release of energy, eg. fruits and wholemeal pasta.
If you want to lose weight, it's best to focus more on eating complex carbs, as these are much more nutritionally valuable to our bodies. Whilst many people will try a low-carb diet at some point in their lifetime, it's important to note that complex carbohydrates provide us with lots of energy, so any diet should be carried out cautiously.
While you're here, we've got some great tips for losing weight!
Replace bread with these carb alternatives
1. Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Ooozy, cheesy goodness is hard to resist.
If you're a big pizza fan but looking to cut out carbs, then you'll be pleased to hear about this great alternative to the normal dough.
Learn how to make your own cauliflower pizza at The Lucky Penny - it's surprisingly easy to make, and you can customise them to your taste to make them as cheesy as you like. The kids will no doubt love this recipe too.
- aubergine, cheese & red onion
- mozzarella & tomato
- ham, mascarpone & basil
2. Cloud Bread
Bread - we all love it. However, one little slice can soon turn into two, then three, and so forth and so on.
Cloud bread is a wonderful bread substitute that can be used for sandwiches and burger buns. They look pretty amazing, don't they? You can even toast Cloud Bread, making them perfect for breakfast.
Find this grain-free replacement bread recipe at MOMables.com. Give it a go - we'd love to know what you think of them!
- ham & cheese
- toasted with jam
3. Cauliflower Tortillas
Fajitas, wraps - if you're a big tortilla fan then you'll have to try your hand at these. All you really need for this low-carb recipe is cauliflower and eggs and you're set.
Visit simple Tortilla recipe from Slim Palate to find out how to make them. I'm sure they'd make super-tasty quesadillas for all the cheese fans out there.
- chicken fajitas
4. Mushroom Burger Buns
There's no arguing that burgers are extremely tasty, but all that meat, cheese and bread makes for a pretty hefty meal.
It's time to say goodbye to burger buns and hello to mushroom buns - your new favourite bread substitute!
These are perfect for BBQ season, so if you're heading to a friend's then remember to pick up some Portobello mushrooms.
There's an easy recipe at ruled.me that looks good enough to eat - a promising sign!
- beef patty
- guacamole & tomato
5. Lettuce Wraps
Don't be put off by the fact lettuce is normally eaten in boring salads - as a wrap, it provides a crunchy and healthy alternative to your traditional carby ones.
Grab some iceberg or baby gem lettuce leaves and cram full with your favourite fillings to try it.
While these wraps are great with all types of cuisine, one of our personal favourites is with Thai mince dishes.
- pork mince, chilli & shallot
- salsa & guacamole
- stir-fried beef
Carb substitutes for potatoes
6. Avocado Fries
Love avocado? Then you're going to adore this new take on them!
Avocado fries are a healthier take on your favourite side. Plus, they're super filling and satisfying so you definitely won't need to eat as many.
If you want to find out how to make your own, head over to JoytheBaker.com. There's also a rather mouth-watering cheese dip to go with them to boot.
- with eggs & salsa
- with chicken
7. Cauliflower Mash
We're big fans of cauliflower here at Expert Home Tips. Long gone are the days when it was eaten steamed or boiled, now it's all about cauliflower mash.
It's a wonderful potato substitute that tastes just as good, if not better than the real deal.
Here's how to make it:
- Chop up your cauliflower into bite-sized bits, steam (or boil).
- Blend / mash-up with a bit of butter.
- Add salt and pepper. If you've got a food processor, it's even easier.
- fried aubergine
- cottage pie
8. Or why not try Broccoli Cauliflower Mash?
The supermarkets are now stocking these trendy new packets of equal amounts of broccoli and cauliflower - which is great news for you as this mash is now very simple to do.
Follow the same instructions as with the Cauliflower Mash above and you'll soon be tucking into this healthy and delicious potato mash substitute.
It's another brilliant way to sneak more vegetables into your children's diet, and we promise you, it's delicious.
- pork steak
- portobello mushroom
- shepherds pie (instead of mash)
9. Carrot & Swede Mash
Here's another tasty and easy low-carb mash that goes great with roast dinners or haggis, and it's so simple to do!
- Boil 500g chopped carrot with 500g chopped swede (some supermarkets will even offer pre-chopped bags of both.)
- Mash when they're soft.
- Add a dash of nutmeg and a sprinkling of pepper and salt - you're done!
10. Try some Butternut Squash Cubes
Butternut squash is great as it provides a similar texture to potato without costing you as many calories. Plus, it adds a gorgeous pop of colour to otherwise dull-looking meals.
Here's how to make yours:
- Chop your butternut squash into cubes and whack them on a baking tray with salt, pepper and olive oil.
- Cook at around 200°C and bake until golden.
- You can add flavours, depending on what you fancy - we like to either make them spicy, with chilli flakes and cumin or classic with rosemary and thyme.
11. Courgette Fries
A low-carb alternative for fries - is it really possible?
If you've been to a trendy burger joint in the last two years, chances are you'll already know about courgette fries. They're now extremely popular as they're unarguably tasty and obviously much healthier than traditional potato chips.
We'd definitely recommend heading to Kitchen Sanctuary for a cheesy courgette recipe next time you're in the mood for 'fast food'.
- onion rings
12. Radish Crisps
Potato crisps are so last year. If you want to be able to indulge in your favourite snack without packing on the pounds, jump on the radish crisp train.
Low Carb Yum has an amazing recipe that tastes almost better than actual crisps! Plus, Lisa has loads of other, low-carb recipes we'd recommend checking out too.
These little bites would brighten up any table and they'd also make a great party snack.
- dips of all kinds!
13. Courgette Fritti
We're determined to show you there are plenty of ways to get all the satisfaction of carbs, without the calories, and courgette fritti is one of our favourite substitutes.
Courgette fritti is essentially courgette fries, but much more delicate (and fancier-looking too!) Best of all, you only need flour, milk and courgettes to make them - it's really that easy!
Head over to A Beautiful Plate to try these for dinner tonight.
14. White Bean Mash
Another fab substitute for your creamy mashed potato is white bean mash. It's stodgier than traditional potato and also cauliflower mash - it's a super hearty accompaniment for those tasty winter dishes.
Here's how to make it:
- Grab a can of haricot beans and rinse them.
- Bring to the boil in a small pan with some stock and minced garlic.
- Simmer for 10 minutes and then mash.
It's a splendid substitute for mashed potato and the addition of garlic makes it extra tasty.
Give it a whirl for a quick and easy mid-week dinner.
- pork steak
- Mediterranean vegetables
15. Carrot Fries
Many of us think that sweet potatoes are healthier than traditional Maris Pipers, but in reality, they're just as calorie-heavy.
If you don't fancy courgette chips, why not try carrot? Almost everyone likes carrot, even the kids, so this recipe from 2teaspoons should go down a treat
16. Kale Crisps
Kale is often hailed as a superfood, so any way you can incorporate it into your diet is great.
You can buy a packet full of kale leaves from supermarkets which will make loads of delicious chips to snack on at work, school or in front of the TV.
Best of all, there are only three steps!
- Preheat the oven to 175°C, line a baking tray and spread your leaves on it.
- Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until edges are brown.
Don't presume kale chips have to be boring - you can dress them up any way you like.
Try it with...
- curry powder
17. Vegetable Crisps
Savoury fans will love to eat vegetable crisps. You can now pick them up in most supermarkets, but they can be surprisingly expensive.
Cut carbs and costs by making your own at home. Try out these Oven Roasted Herbed Vegetable Crisps from Mother Would Know for a guilt-free treat today.
- dips of all kinds
Low-carb pasta & rice
18. Courgetti is the best pasta alternative
Courgetti spaghetti is super fun to make, looks great, and tastes divine too - not to mention it rhymes!
It's what it says on the tin: spaghetti made from courgettes. You don't need a fancy spiraliser to do this, (although one may come in handy) a simple julienne peeler will do. If you'd prefer courgetti 'ribbons', you can even use a normal peeler.
Give My Fussy Eater's recipe a go to see if you can be converted to this carb alternative today.
- chicken & sweetcorn
- pesto & mushroom
19. Whip up some Cabbage Noodles
Pasta is such a tasty and easy go-to meal, but it isn't the lightest of dishes.
Want a way to make it lighter? Try Cabbage Noodles! They're extremely easy to make and surprisingly satisfying.
- Grab a sharp knife, chopping board and slice your cabbage into long strips.
- Fill a saucepan with water and give your cabbage a quick boil - Easy!
They're great for students who may have a cupboard full of pasta sauce ready to cook with and want a healthier take on their standard carby meals.
- bolognese sauce
- tomato sauce, garlic & parmesan
- bacon lardons, garlic & chicken
20. Cook Aubergine & Courgette Lasagne
Who doesn't love a rich, warming lasagne? (Especially during the cooler months!) Want all that cheesy goodness without the calories? Go veggie!
Veggie lasagnas are rich and tasty and a wonderful way of getting more veg into your diet, plus the leftovers make a very enviable work lunch.
Head over to Cookie + Kate for a truly delicious looking recipe that the whole family will love.
Doesn't it look delicious?
- green salad
- tomato, basil & mozzarella
- glass of wine
21. Cauliflower Rice / Couscous
Cauliflower isn't just good for replacing potatoes, it can also replace couscous and rice.
- Grate as much cauliflower as you need
- Heat a little oil in a pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper and you're done. It really is that simple! Choosing what to serve it with is the difficult part...
- honey & soy chicken
- stir-fried vegetables
- beef strips
We hope you enjoyed the list! Tell us your favourite carb alternatives in the comments below...