My Top 5 Carb Replacements
If you have been following me for a while now, you know that I LOVE CARBS, but I also LOVE using CARB REPLACEMENTS in a ton of my recipes!
During my professional rugby career, I was constantly told ‘CARBS, CARBS, CARBS” for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and everything in between) to make sure that I was fuelled to be an athlete. However, I was CONSTANTLY tired (I would nap for 1-2 hrs a day) and felt as though I was never firing on all cylinders.
However, during my last year as a professional, I began experimenting with more balanced ways of fuelling my body. Eventually after a bunch of trial and error, I found that a mix of carb based meals (generally post workout) and low carb meals, filled with healthy fats and higher protein content, left me feeling incredibly energized, happy and satiated.
As I transitioned from a full time athlete to “the real world”, I wanted to share the positive effects of my new eating pattern with as many people as possible! This is exactly why in each customized #90DayLeanPlan, we use a mix of lower carb AND higher carb meals to strike that perfect balance that will feed and fuel your body, while turning your body into a phat burning machine! In each meal plan, I make it my mission to create the BEST, and TASTIEST LOW CARB RECIPES that ensure every meal is equally as enjoyable as your typical carb based meal…However, there is one important differentiator: YOU DO NOT GET THE CRASH that is generally associated with heavy carb based meals. Instead, these low carb meals leave you feeling energized and ready to go!
Since carbs metabolize quickly in the body, consuming heavy, carb based meals will cause an insulin spike in your body. Insulin is a hormone which releases in your body in order to keep you blood sugar levels within a specific, healthy range. The more carbs you eat, the more insulin your body will release; which means if you have eaten more carbs then your body needs for energy, the insulin will convert these carbs into stored fat in the body.
Today, whenever I am craving a carb-loaded dish, such as pasta or pizza, or even if I’m just looking for something a little more filling, I use carb replacements to satisfy my taste buds, as well as fuel my body appropriately! Most of the carbs we typically think of are things like potatoes, bread, pasta, or dessert type foods such as cake or cookies. These foods contain refined carbs which come from refined sugars and refined grains.
Are refined carbs bad for you?
I want to be very clear here, I DO EAT REFINED CARBS! However, I do so in moderation and try to reduce the occurrence due to some of the negative effects I experienced as a professional rugby player (fatigue, bloated, heavy, lethargic, etc).
Refined carbs tend to have a negative effect on us because they have been stripped of most of the fibre, minerals and vitamins they had once contained. When you consume refined carbs, you may feel full at first, but they actually digest QUICKER than most foods, causing us to feel hungry sooner, spike our insulin levels, and cause us to overeat.
How do we combat this?! We use carb replacements of course! Now some of the replacements I will be listing are considered carbs too. The difference is that they are NOT refined! These foods contain the vitamins, minerals and fibre needed to make for a slower digestion and therefore will not cause overeating and spiked insulin levels like refined carbs will! Some healthy carbs include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and root veggies.
Here are my top 5 carb replacements:
Cauliflower HAS to be at the top of my list because it is super versatile and can be used to replace a ton of different dishes. Due to its texture and fairly bland taste, it is easy to add flavour to it without having any overpowering cauliflower taste to it. Its texture allows for you to play around with it a bit, cutting, chopping, dicing or slicing, sautéed, baked or broiled - the possibilities are endless! Cauliflower is high in fibre and contains many vitamins and omega-3s!
Some of my favourite foods to replace with cauliflower are rice and pizza! With cauliflower rice, you can get creative, using it to make a leanlicious shrimp stir-fry, a low carb risotto, or even a burrito bowl! You can also roast cauliflower, which can be super tasty on its own, or you can use it to make a leanlicous roasted cauliflower pizza!
2. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another one of my favourite carb replacements! They are super nutritious, contains high amounts of fibre, vitamin A, C and B6, and are high in antioxidants. When cooked, sweet potatoes can be versatile too and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes!
One of my favourite foods to swap for sweet potatoes are regular potatoes. Although they may look similar, the nutritious value they both bring are different! Sweet potatoes are lower in carbs and overall calories than a regular potato! You can easily make any potato dish with a sweet potato by simply swapping out the regular potato for sweet potato, it’s that simple! Another good swap for sweet potatoes is toast! Believe it or not, you can toss a sliced and cooked slice of sweet potato in the toaster, crisp it up, add some peanut butter and bananas, and you got yourself a nice low carb breaky!
3. Palmini Pasta and other pasta substitutes
Pasta and noodles are the base of many popular dishes in a ton of different cultures. They are easy to make, super versitile, and of course, tasty! The only problem is, regular pasta and noodles are loaded with refined carbs! The good news? There are a couple of GREAT low carb pasta replacements you can try to satisfy your pasta cravings!
One of my newest finds and definitely a favourite so far is Palmini pasta. Palmini is made from hearts of palm, which comes from a palm tree. Since it comes from a plant, Palmini is 90% water and contains a ton of fibre! When cooked the proper way, Palmini tastes JUST like regular pasta! Another great pasta substitute is Konjac noodles! I like to use these noodles for more asian inspired dishes, such as stir fry and pad thai! Konjac noodles come from the root of the konjac plant, and just like Palmini, is made up mostly of water (97%)!
4. Almond flour, flax meal, and coconut flour
Almond flour, flax meal and coconut flour are all great flour replacements! Flour is one of the most commonly used refined grains! Found in a ton of different recipes from breads and pastas to cake and cookies, flour is definitely something we want to stay away from when trying to get lean!
Almond flour is made from 100% ground almonds! Almonds are high in protein and healthy fats! Flax meal is made from ground flax seeds and is high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, fat and protein! Coconut flour is made from the pulp of a coconut, which is a by-product when making coconut milk! Coconut flour is high in protein, fibre and healthy fats! All 3 of these alternatives are great for baking and breading - all of which are good depending on what kind of dish you are making! Using any of these 3 types of flours will significantly alter the nutritional value of your dish!
5. Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are a great refined sugar replacement! Many sugar alcohols come from fruits and vegetables, due to this they are usually high in fibre! Compared to regular sugar, sugar alcohols have significantly less calories and carb content, if any at all. Some sugar alcohols, such as erythritol contain no calories at all!
I like to use sugar alcohols in ANY recipe or dish to replace regular sugar. Not only do they have less calories, but they are naturally sweeter than refined sugar, so you won’t need to use as much to get the sweetness you are looking for! I like using sugar alcohols when making many of my lean dessert recipes such as my keto peanut butter cookies.
There you have it Squadies! My top 5 carb replacements!
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