Carb Substitutions: You'll Never Miss Those Old Go-To Comfort Foods


What do pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, and yes, even oatmeal and winter squash have in common? Besides being delicious, they cause dangerous blood sugar spikes that create constant hunger and cravings. Sure, they might be somewhat healthy, but that doesn't mean they are good for weight loss, and they certainly won't slim your waistline. They also slow metabolism, making your body resist weight loss.

When it comes to losing one pound per day and keeping it off, your success lies in finding lower carb replacements for the foods you love. Remember, that for every food you crave, there is a healthier replacement. Once you try these low-carb, high-fiber substitutions, you'll never miss the old go-to comfort foods. 

Keep in mind that when cooking those old go-to comfort foods that while most of the recipes you find on the internet might remove starchy carbs, but hey replace them with fats that are not healthy for your heart and prevent weight loss and fat burning. Stop researching, keep it simple, and stick to the Metabolic Boosting Meal Plan when searching for cooking ingredients. And, if you don’t see a food listed it’s because it's not good for your metabolism.

With a few herbs and spices and some vegetable broth, you'll revive your vegetable eating habits, and you might even begin to love them. I know I do!

A few possible options to use when cooking your vegetables cleaner are defatted gluten-free broth, herbs and spices, and spray oil when needed (but limited). Avoid cream, butter (all), milk (including coconut, soy, and almond), sour cream, cheese, mayonnaise, etc. Use onions, garlic, and herbs and spices instead, and for thickening, puree a “free” vegetable and add it to thicken soups or eat them instead of mashed potatoes.

Be careful not to make the mistake of using starchy vegetables and limit high sugar veggies such as carrots, butternut squash, and all winter squashes. Even spaghetti squash can be high in blood sugar spiking carbs, so pay attention to your portions if you decide to eat it. Better yet, have spiralized zucchini instead if you like larger portions.


Substitution = Lettuce

When making sandwiches, substitute lettuce or cabbage for the bread or wraps. You can slap some turkey breast, mustard, and tomatoes onto a leaf of lettuce and roll it up. I’ve made some great tasting wraps using lettuce instead of bread. You can use tuna with horseradish or relish, or even vegetable rolls dressed with mustard mixed with apple cider vinegar. They are delicious and very pretty, so they appeal to the eyes, and the best part is you can eat as many as you would like.

Carbs eliminated: 30 grams or more per sandwich, depending on which bread you choose. Those thin wraps that seem healthier contain even more carbs!

Mashed Potatoes
Substitution = Cauliflower

Steam some fresh or frozen cauliflower in the microwave, then spray them with a butter substitute and purée in a food processor or blender (or mash by hand). Salt and pepper to taste and you've got something that even the chefs agree can honestly compete with the real thing any day. To make them even better, try adding roasted garlic or steam in non-fat chicken broth.

Carbs eliminated: 30 grams per cup. After a couple of bites, you'll forget they aren’t potatoes.

Substitution = Spaghetti Squash or Spiralized Zucchini

A cooked spaghetti squash is like mother nature’s spaghetti. The flesh becomes like noodle-like strands. All you have to do is cut the squash in ½ and remove the seeds. Then place the cut side down on a plate with a ¼ cup of water. Nuke it for 10 minutes, or until it's soft to the touch. Let it cool and scrape out the spaghetti strands and top with tomato sauce. Add a bit of Parmesan cheese, and you’ve got a filling, delicious, fast meal that can certainly become your new comfort food.

Rice or Grains
Substitution = Riced Cauliflower or any Riced Vegetable

Riced cauliflower can be purchased at Trader Joe's® or just about any supermarket these days in the frozen food section. Of course, you can rice it yourself, but that’s very time consuming, and your time is better spent exercising... just sayin'.

You can use a food processor, but then you'll have to clean it, decreasing the time you have to exercise, so do yourself a favor and buy it already riced. Experiment with different cooking methods and remember to season after cooking so you use less, and it tastes better. You can also microwave it per the package directions.

You can stir-fry it for 5 minutes. This method tastes best and gives it a nutty flavor, but the texture is less pleasing because it can easily get mushy. Also, this method tends to use more oil, even when sprayed, so beware and keep in mind that water works. 

Roasting: Toss the riced cauliflower in a pan, spray with spray olive oil and spread it out in a thin layer, and roast for 12 minutes or so at 350°. You'll always want to mix ½ way through for even cooking, and it's better to undercook than to overcook, or you'll have mashed potatoes.

Riced cauliflower can be added to soups to thicken and add texture and flavor. It can also become the base for all types of salads. I love shrimp seasoned with a dash of garlic salt or Mrs. Dash®.

Carbs eliminated: 30 grams in ½ a cup. Who eats ½ a cup? No one! That’s why you should switch to riced cauliflower instead. Riced cauliflower can be fluffy or crunchy, depending on how long you cook it. It adds a delicious, intensified nutty flavor when it's not drowning in sauces or creams.

Want it faster and even lower carb? Buy spiralized zucchini and nuke it in a bowl with a little water, season to taste, and top with marinara sauce... MANGIA! Spiralized zucchini is now sold everywhere, or you can make it yourself using a vegetable peeler. I live on this as a base for my fish or “zoodles” in my soup.

Carbs eliminated: 30-40 per cup!

Both spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles have the same consistency as real pasta unless you overcook them. Zucchini adds extra texture that you don't get from noodles alone.

Substitution = Portabello Mushrooms for Pizza Crust

Cut the gills out of the inside of mushrooms, then place them on a cookie sheet that's been sprayed with spray olive oil, then bake for 5-10 minutes, so it dries out slightly. Add tomato sauce (I love to add garlic and onions with some roasted broccoli and a little bit of Parmesan cheese to trick my eye into thinking it's really getting something) and broil it until the toppings are cooked.

Carbs eliminated: About 41 grams, and that saving doesn’t include the dangerous toppings most pizzas are topped with that wreck weight loss and heart health.

Beefaroni (this recipe lowers fat and calories, so I had to share it)
Substitution for Pasta = Eggplant

Mix diced eggplant with 80 percent lean ground turkey, which is much healthier and better for weight loss than beef (yes, even if it's lean). You have to soften the eggplant first by cutting it in half, spray it with olive oil spray, and then broil for 10-20 minutes. Let it cool, dice it up, and mix with ground turkey, tomato sauce, spices, and you've got a healthy, delicious meal your whole family will love. It tastes like a healthy version of Hamburger Helper®!

Carbs eliminated: 30+ grams per cup, and you're also saving tons of calories and sparing your heart the saturated fats.

Lasagna Noodles (I'm Italian, of course, I had to add this!)
Substitution = Zucchini for Lasagna Noodles

Slice 4-5 medium zucchinis lengthwise into ¾-inch thick strips. Sprinkle Italian seasoning on the strips, place them in a single layer on a non-stick cookie sheet, and bake at 425° for 20 minutes or so, depending on your oven. You want them firm, but not too crisp. Then simply make the lasagna as you normally would, replacing lasagna noodles with the baked zucchini noodles instead. Since you're eating clean to be lean, why not try all vegetable lasagna, or at least use lean turkey meat. I also use shrimp and simply skip the cheese and allow the flavors of the sauce to be the attraction. As an Italian, it's all about the “gravy,” the sauce. I do sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the top for eye trickery.

Carbs eliminated: About 36 per serving, at least!

Be patient with yourself. You may have to try this a few times to get it right.
Good chefs practice recipes at least five times to learn how to make them. When your family oohs and aahs, it will be worth it!

There you have it! Weeknight recipes that are fast, easy, and won't slow your weight loss or cost you a fortune!

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  • Lisa Lynn