The health benefits of cutting back on bread-based meals, sugary coffees, and other simple carbohydrates extend far beyond a slimmer waistline. Low-carb eating can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and lower your blood pressure (which in turn, can help you live longer).
But, we are also human—and sometimes that carb-y pizza craving hits hard and nothing else will satiate it. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to still enjoy your favorite dishes and treats on a low-carb diet, simply by making a few tweaks (and yes, the end results are downright delicious and nutritionist-approved).
Whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds or cut carbs for the other health perks, it doesn’t mean you have to totally sacrifice tasty foods. Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, celebrity nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author of Bone Broth Diet, shares a few of her go-to ways to satisfy your cravings with healthy, low-carb twists on your favorite indulgences. Keep reading to see her 7 ways to make your favorite foods low-carb, and next, don’t miss the #1 best juice to drink every day, according to science.
If the best part of waking up is your morning latte but you’re trying to cut the carbs or lose weight, don’t fret—you can still enjoy your favorite warm caffeinated beverage by making a few low-sugar substitutions.
The key to nixing the carbs in your latte is to skip the sugar and dairy creamers. If a latte’s richness is what you’re after, you can make it with lactose-free ghee—keto dieters love this move because ghee is zero carbs while high in fat-burning fatty acids.
If you’re not on the buttery coffee train (it’s definitely not for everyone), whip up your latte by frothing some unsweetened coconut or almond milk (and don’t add sugar). For an unsweetened treat-like topper, Petrucci suggests adding a few dashes of cinnamon.
What’s more delicious than a slice of pizza? Two slices of pizza (because having just one is unheard of!). But watch out for that carb content: two slices of regular ‘za can have anywhere from 50 to 75 carbs.
A great way to lower the carb content in pizza is to opt-out of the typical bread crust and use a different, more nutritious base. The most common alternative, cauliflower crust, is one you can make yourself or buy frozen; it’s a great option because, on top of being low carb, it’s a powerhouse of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and fiber. As store-bought brands continue to get low-carb creative, there are other underrated options in the freezer aisle worth trying too, including broccoli, kale, and even chickpea crusts.
One warning from Petrucci if you’re going out on pizza night and trying to keep your carb count in check: “Beware of ordering cauliflower pizza in a restaurant—oftentimes, they still add flour to the base, so it may not be as low carb as you’re hoping for.”
Chips and dip
Good news: This simple-to-serve appetizer can be made low-carb just as easily.
Swap out the carb-heavy chips for protein chips or try air frying your own low-carb, almond flour-based keto tortilla chips. And don’t forget the sliced cucumbers, carrots, and celery, which still give you the satisfying crunch without all the carbs (chips are just a dip vehicle anyway!). “I like to put out an assortment of dippers so my guests can alternate them, but I always include veggies because they’re rich in fiber, which also helps slim you down,” says Petrucci.
While you’re dipping, you may as well give your body a hearty dose of fat-burning superfoods by choosing fresh guacamole. Low-carb avocado is loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, fiber (which helps you feel fuller longer), and may help with maintaining a healthy weight. In one large observational American study, evidence found that people who ate avocados tended to have a lower body weight than those who didn’t. Another perk: guac doesn’t cost extra when you make it yourself! Here are 20 amazing and healthy guacamole recipes.
This traditional Vietnamese soup has been rising in popularity in the states over the years for good reasons: it’s rich, soul-satisfying, and bursting with umami and zippy flavors. It’s typically made with a savory bone broth and served with thinly sliced beef, bean sprouts, chili, lime, Thai basil, and flat rice noodles. While eating a pile of rice noodles may feel comforting and taste yummy at the time, prepare yourself for an impending sugar crash from carbo-loading.
Instead of carb-heavy noods, get an extra dose of veggies with zoodles. “Zucchini noodles are a great substitute in this soup and give you a nice hit of vitamin A, manganese, and potassium,” says Petrucci.
Related: 19 Surprising Foods With More Carbs Than a Bowl of Pasta
Spaghetti and meatballs
Carbs equal comfort, and spaghetti and meatballs reign supreme in both those departments. First, the pasta: a cup of cooked spaghetti rings in at a big 43 grams of carbs. The perfect low-carb substitute here? The aptly-named spaghetti squash. It’s easy to make (you can literally cook it in the microwave), and “instead of a major carb-bomb, you’ll be getting tons of vitamin C, vitamin B6, betacarotene, and fiber,” says Petrucci.
If you’re jonesing for that “real” pasta taste and texture but still want to cut the carbs, choose a high-protein, legume-based alternative—many options on the market will have even pasta connoisseurs fooled.
When it comes to making the meatballs, skip the breadcrumb filler (contrary to popular belief, you don’t need it). Fresh herbs and some grated parmesan cheese will give the meat a flavor kick (and also keep the balls keto-friendly).
Sauce-wise, beware that many pre-jarred spaghetti sauces are loaded with sugar. If you go the store-bought route, make sure you choose a low-carb sauce; otherwise, you can easily make it homemade with just crushed tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasoning, and salt.
Related: The Best Low-Carb Breads on Grocery Store Shelves
While taking a bite of your spicy tuna roll, have you ever wondered why sushi rice is so sticky on the seaweed? It’s because the rice is sweetened—which also means more carbs. “There are 30 grams of carbs in just one sushi roll, which is more than you’d get from a whole candy bar,” warns Petrucci
Now, the delicious ingredients wrapped up within your go-to rolls—the salmon, tuna, avocado, and veggies—are chock full of health benefits and enticing flavors. For a carb-friendly take on this authentic Japanese food, deconstruct your favorite roll combos into a poké bowl with a cauliflower rice base. This way, you can enjoy all the best parts of sushi—the healthy, flavorful fish and vegetables—without packing on the pounds.
If you’re of the belief that “sushi night” calls for rolls, order a Naruto roll, which uses a very thin cucumber ribbon instead of rice to wrap the ingredients.
We get it—it’s steak night and you want a big dollop of scrumptious buttery mashed potatoes on the side. But brace yourself for the numbers: one cup of these ‘taters clocks in at about 35 grams of carbs.
Luckily, one of our favorite cruciferous vegetables is back again to satisfy and save the day. One cup of mashed cauliflower has just five grams of carbs, plus a very similar consistency to the real deal. “You can still add a little grass-fed butter to your mashed cauliflower for that perfect homestyle flavor!” says Petrucci.
Seriously, what can’t cauliflower do?
For more, check out The Best Low-Carb Diets—Ranked!