The Best Swaps for High-Carb Ingredients and Dishes

IMAGE Riell Santos

High-carb ingredients are usually the first to go when you or someone in your household is trying to lose weight or eat in a healthier manner. This can be a struggle for many Filipinos, especially since many of us grew up viewing rice as a staple food and eating bread like pandesal for breakfast. 

Giving up carbs-or at least high-carb ingredients-may seem like a challenging hurdle, and it may even discourage you from trying to eat in a more disciplined manner altogether. But take heart! The good news is that there is an abundance of alternatives for the high-carb food items that you love, and many of them are readily available in your nearby grocery or supermarket. Let's go over the high-carb ingredients one commonly finds in a typical Filipino kitchen or pantry and the low- or no-carb ingredients that you can switch them out with. 

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There are many Filipino dishes that just don't taste the same if you don't eat them with rice-or at least, that's what many rice lovers like to think. Sure, giving up this ingredient can be a difficult prospect at first, but it'll get easier with time, especially if you're able to find alternatives that feel and taste a bit like the rice grains we all know and love. Here are 2 low-carb ingredients that you can substitute for rice and use with meals that feature or are often paired with a plate of steaming, hot rice.

Cauliflower Rice - A low-carb ingredient that often serves as an alternative to rice, cauliflower rice can be added to maki rolls or paired with just about any dish that should be eaten with a bowl of rice. It's also a great substitute for couscous. To get you started, here's a cheesy cauliflower rice dish that's so good, you won't mind that it doesn't have rice in it.

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Shirataki Rice - If you really need to keep your carb consumption low, you can go with shirataki rice, which has even lower carbs than cauliflower rice. It is not an actual type of rice but an analog that is made from a soluble dietary fiber known as glucomannan, which, in turn, is derived from the root of the Japanese konjac plant. For a better mouthfeel, consider mixing the 2 types of rice alternative on your next meal.

Photo by Majoy Siason

Pasta and Noodles

Pasta and noodles are the highlight of many Italian and Asian dishes. If you're on a low-carb diet, it's difficult to imagine how you're going to satisfy your craving for such dishes. Don't worry, though, because there are definitely diet-friendly alternatives to these high-carb staples.

Vegetable Noodles - A spiralizer can help you transform regular vegetables into slightly crunchy pasta or noodles within a few minutes. Some of the vegetables that can serve as a stand-in for pasta include zucchini, cabbage, and eggplant. Try this guilt-free zucchini noodles sardines recipe if you're in need of a quick pick-me-up after a long day; it only needs 20 minutes of prep time and cooking.

Shirataki Noodles - Shirataki noodles are readily available in many local markets, and they're a great option if you want to enjoy noodles without having to go through a bit of effort, which vegetable noodles entail. Just like shirataki rice, shirataki noodles are low in carbohydrates and calories, which can be helpful if you're on a diet or if you're avoiding spikes in your blood sugar level.

Photo by Riell Santos


If you're used to eating cereals in the morning, you can substitute them with food items like seeds, nuts, and coconut flakes while you're on a low-carb diet. This combination may offer a different mouthfeel, but it can be just as filling as your favorite cereal brands. You can buy a prepared mix of flaked nuts and seeds under different brands in most supermarkets, but you can also come up with a unique breakfast concoction that's perfectly suited to your mood and diet. 


For example, you can buy coconut chips and nuts separately, process them at home, toast them in a pan, and mix them with a dollop of Greek yogurt or almond milk. Here are a few more yogurt-topped breakfast bowl recipes that will surely keep you going for the rest of the morning. 

Photo by Majoy Siason


If you're craving for potato fries or chips, there are healthier alternatives that you can get without compromising your low-carb diet. Instead of dicing potatoes and deep-frying them, how about roasting or baking them instead?  You can also consider frying low-carb vegetables like cauliflower, turnips, and radishes instead. These veggies might feel and taste different than fried potatoes, but they'll prove to be a more diet-friendly alternative if you just want to satisfy your sudden craving for potato chips or fries. 

If you're just looking for something to nibble on, you can also cut carrots and cucumbers into strips and munch on them, or you can try cooking this crispy sitaw snack that you can prepare in as little as 30 minutes. Just replace the all-purpose flour and cornstarch with low-carb alternatives like almond flour or coconut flour.

Photo by Patrick Martires


Deciding on a proper substitute for bread depends on a number of factors, first of which is how you want to eat it. Here are low-carb alternatives to bread that can work for different scenarios:

Portobello Mushroom - Grilled Portobello mushrooms are roughly the same size as bagels, and they'd make a great 'bread' if you want to prepare an open-faced sandwich or a solo-size pizza.

Lettuce Wraps - Lettuce wraps make a great alternative to both soft and hard taco shells and tortillas. These versatile vegetables can even be used to make healthy spring rolls.

Eggplant and Zucchini - Want a piece of low-carb 'bread' to go with your low-carb pasta? Simply slice a few zucchinis or eggplants, add some spices to them, and bake them for a scrumptious substitute.

These low-carb alternatives taste good enough that you won't feel like you're sacrificing too much by leaving high-carb ingredients out of your grocery list. Which are you planning to purchase the next time you're out grocery shopping? 



Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on by submitting your recipe here.

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