If carbohydrates were in high school, they would be the most popular kid in school. This is because carbohydrates are the food group that is most loved and hated by everyone. For some, carbohydrates are the BEST because they serve as the base to every meal…. They are the pancake that soaks up our syrup, the bread that holds our sandwich together, and the candy our sweet tooth craves after a meal. For others, carbohydrates are the WORST because they are the easiest to tempt us and over eat. They are the basket of garlic bread staring at us, the French fries we need one more bite of, and the slice of chocolate cake we need to finish. Carbohydrates are the most popular food group that is most loved and hated, so along came the idea of “cutting carbs.”
The idea of “cutting carbs” is commonly associated with dieting, low-energy levels, boring meals, or those sarcastic pizza slicing memes. In this common diet strategy, the goal is to reduce the total intake of calories by restricting the amount of calories coming from carbohydrates to achieve weight-loss. During the low-carb diet, some aim to cut carbs out completely, eliminate carbs at certain meals, or reduce overall carb intake.
You probably didn’t know cutting carbs could be easy or fun, but it actually can be. So, whether you are trying a low-carb diet, getting bored on your low-carb diet, trying lose weight, or just looking for new meal ideas, here are 6 easy ways to cut carbs…
Replace half of the carbohydrates at a meal with a source of dairy to cut about 100 calories each meal. This method helps reduce the overall amount of carbohydrates and increase protein to help keep you fuller for longer. As long as you choose a low or non-fat source of dairy, this can be a tasty and easy switch! For example at breakfast, reduce grains (oatmeal, cereal, ect.) by half and add in ½ cup yogurt.
Replace half of the carbohydrates at a meal with a source of vegetables to cut about 200 calories each meal. One cup of grains (rice, pasta, etc.) contains about 45 grams of carbohydrates and 180 calories, while one cup of raw vegetables (or half cup cooked) contains 5 grams of carbohydrates and 28 calories. For example at lunch or dinner, reduce the carbohydrate source (rice, pasta, etc.) in half and add in vegetables. This method can even be accomplished at Chipotle by ordering a salad or burrito bowl, requesting a smaller serving of rice, and a larger serving of grilled vegetables. By thinking LESS carbohydrates and MORE vegetables, you can easily accomplish this carb cutting goal by replacing some carbohydrates with vegetables.
Replace the carbohydrate source with a “pseudo-carbohydrate” source. This technique can cut over 300 calories by replacing a carbohydrate source with a “pseudo-carbohydrate,” or vegetable that resembles a carbohydrate. For example, instead of pasta noodles, utilize zucchini or spaghetti squash to make the noodles. Other fun-mock pseudo-carbohydrate meal ideas include, eggplant Parmesan, butternut squash lasagna, or cauliflower rice!
Eat vegetables and healthy fats as snacks, instead of your usual pita chips and hummus, fruit and pretzels, or whatever your current snack may be. This snack switch can cut 100 calories from each of your daily snacks. When that mid-day snack craving hits, base your snacks off of crisp veggies and a healthy fat source for a satisfying snack. For your next snack, dip cucumbers in hummus, pair pretzels with cheese and crackers, or enjoy celery topped with almond butter.
Just eat real fruit instead of processed fruit to save you a handful of calories! One serving of fruit (1/2 cup fresh fruit/juice or ¼ cup dried fruit) contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates and 60 calories. Therefore, you can eat TWICE as much fresh fruit as dried fruit for the same amount of calories. Even better, whole fruit is more filling than fruit juice. Try these simple switches: apples instead of apple chips, grapes instead of raisins, or any whole fruit instead of the juice.
Did you know that sometimes when you think you are hungry, you are really just thirsty? By drinking more water throughout the day, you can not only stay hydrated, but also curb off thoughts of hunger. This technique can cut 300 calories during the day by avoiding that extra snack or serving when you are may just be thirsty. However, make sure you are not drinking your calories with sugar-sweetened or high-calorie beverages. To start, try drinking 1 cup of liquid at each meal. To add more hydration, try infused waters (water + mint + lime or water + strawberries + basil), homemade lemon (water + fresh squeezed lemon + stevia), or green tea with a little honey.
Cutting carbs doesn’t have to be restrictive or boring! It can be as easy as adding more veggies to your plate and as fun as trying a new, cool recipe. If your goal is to start a low-carb diet, lose weight, or just to add variety to your meals, try out these 6 easy ways to cut carbs at your next meal.