If you’ve decided to lower your carb intake, you may think you’re doomed to a life of breadless, unsatisfying meals. Fortunately, that’s not actually the case. There are a bunch of crafty ways to take low-carb foods and turn them into something that’s almost identical to the carby foods you love. I’m talking ’bout zucchini pasta, cauliflower rice, sweet potato toast—the taste and texture of these chameleon ingredients will fill the carb-shaped hole in your heart in a healthier way.
Before you actually start reducing the amount of carbs you eat, it’s important to understand that there’s no need to cut them out of your diet entirely. In fact, complex carbohydrates—the type found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—are an excellent source of energy, which makes them great to eat before or after a cardio workout. The kind of carbs that are best left behind, however, are refined carbs—AKA foods made with white flour.
And whatever your reason for cutting carbs, these seven registered dietitian-approved meals are ones that you should definitely have in your repertoire.
Stuffed portabella mushrooms
“My go-to low-carb dinner is stuffed portabella mushrooms. You stuff a portabella mushroom with any of your favorite ingredients, and I love to stuff mine with hearty greens. Start with olive oil and garlic in a pan and add handfuls of your favorite greens—kale, Swiss chard, beet greens—until wilted. Add some lemon juice and white beans as desired and top with mozzarella cheese before baking in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.”
—Emily Cope-Kyle, M.S., R.D. owner and consulting dietitian at EmilyKyleNutrition.com
Shirataki noodle salad
“I love a filling salad for lunch, packed with lots of vegetables, greens, and some plant-based protein, such as beans or tofu. Shirataki noodles, [made from tofu and/or yams], are very low in calories and carbohydrates.”
—Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., The Plant-Powered Dietitian, SharonPalmer.com
Cauliflower crust pizza
“I LOVE pizza, but it’s so heavy and often lacking in nutrients. So, opting for a low-carb version is great. Homemade cauliflower crust (I’m gluten-free), topped with tomato sauce, feta cheese, and pepperoni is a tasty treat. Plus, the cauliflower beefs up the nutrition in the crust, which is usually made from white flour. You can also throw on some arugula, chopped tomatoes, onions, or wilted spinach for more veggies and flavor!”
—Lauren Minchen, M.P.H., R.D.N., C.D.N., owner of Lauren Minchen Nutrition and Golda Bar
Caulirice stuffed peppers
“I’m obsessed with these because they are so beautiful, nutritious, and are incredibly satisfying! To make them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Halve and seed 4 large bell peppers. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet over the stovetop, sauté an onion with 2 chopped cloves of garlic until caramelized. Then add in one pound of lean ground turkey, one pound of cauliflower rice, and about a cup of marinara sauce. Sauté over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes and season to taste. Fill peppers and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until peppers have softened. Enjoy!”
—Ilana Muhlstein, R.D.
Garlic-herb steak salad
“One of my favorite hearty salads that’s packed with nutrition and flavor is this garlic-herb steak salad. It’s a cinch to make so I often choose this one when I need a fast and filling meal in less than 30 minutes. It’s also the perfect crowd pleaser with toppings that are easily identifiable! This low-carb salad is paired with a delicious mustard vinaigrette, but pairs well with practically any dressing.”
—Shannon Garcia, M.D.S., R.D. with KISS in the Kitchen
Tofu with string beans
“Oh my yumminess! Garlic and olive oil add so much flavor to this dish that you won’t even miss the rice. Instead, double up on the crunchy string beans and plant proteins. This dish is one of my favorites because it’s ready in less than five minutes. To make it, sauté two cloves of chopped garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil until fragrant. Add the green beans and cook until tender. Add the tofu and cook until will incorporated.”
—Laura Cipullo, R.D., C.D.N., C.D.E., C.E.D.R.D., owner of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition
Fruity egg wraps
“Enjoy a high protein breakfast or snack with these low-carb fruity egg wraps. (That might sound weird, but they’re more like a combo between and omelet and a crepe.) They are really versatile and can be stuffed either savory or sweet. Three wraps have 24 grams of protein and only 12 grams of carbs.”
—Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You