Vinny Russo

Carb swaps: Which Foods Can I Substitute for Carbohydrates?

From low-carb dieters to those who welcome wonders such as bread and potatoes with open arms, we all have our own relationship with carbohydrates. Chances are you’ve tried cutting them out all together with the aim of losing a few pounds. Or maybe you’ve tried to substitute them with ‘similar’, less starchy foods, only to find your new food choice is bland and unfulfilling. Keep reading to find out which food swaps you can try out to ensure you’re not overdoing it on the carb front.

“A lot of emphasis in the nutritional world is put on your carbohydrate intake. Any way you look at it, carbs get demonized and people feel more comfortable with heading down the low carb route. As a nutritional coach, I love to fuel my clients with carbohydrates and find it essential to keep them in the diet as long as I can. When it comes to manipulating variables to help clients lose body fat, get ready for a competition, a prepare for a photo shoot or wedding, carbohydrates are the variable that is manipulated most often.

When going lower carb or just trying to control your overall caloric intake, you need to get creative to stick with it. So here are some carb alternatives you can use to help keep your carbohydrate intake on the lower side – if you want it to be! Remember, I am a big advocate of keeping carbs in your diet, but depending on the individual, some may be able to handle more carbohydrates per day than others.

Here’s five of my favorite easy carb swaps to help you enjoy your favorite meals, just with a slight tweak.


My first alternative is one that I use on a daily basis, just because I love volume in my food. Try using blended cauliflower as a substitute to rice or to add volume to your rice dish. Take a clean cauliflower and break it up into florets. Take the florets and place them into a blender and blend away. That’s it! The end result is finely chopped up cauliflower that has the same texture as rice. You can substitute this blended cauliflower for a serving of rice or use half a normal serving of rice and add volume to your plate by mixing in the riced cauliflower to keep the carb count down.

If choosing to use just the cauliflower, cook in a pan with seasonings like salt, pepper, cumin, onion powder and garlic powder. This will help make the cauliflower crispy and add some flavor. Once prepared, mix in your favorite lean protein source and some mixed vegetables for one hell of a meal!

Hash browns – courgette style!

This alternative deals with a staple that is among many breakfasts – hash browns! These pan-fried, crispy potatoes have become a celebrated side addition to any breakfast plate. So here is a alternative you can use to keep that breakfast feeling with a fraction of the carbohydrates.  Grate the courgette, season with salt and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Drain as much liquid out as possible by squeezing through a clean tea-towel, add to a large bowl and mix in eggs and season to taste. Oven bake for around 30 minutes at 200°C (400°F). Now just a quick side note, it will be hard to get the Zucchini as crispy as the potatoes but the taste is favorably similar. Pair it up with a vegetable omelette for the perfect carb-friendly breakfast.

Protein pancakes

Going back to our breakfast, (just because I can eat “breakfast” labelled foods all day, every day!), pancakes seem to just put a smile on my face. Pancakes are carb heavy, plus the addition of toppings such as maple syrup adds a ton more. So what can you do? Well here’s my alternative for you! First, go and grab some oatmeal, cottage cheese, egg whites and even some protein powder (optional but it will help with the consistency of the pancake). Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth and cook the mixture as you would a regular pancake. If you want to go really low carb here, mix the oats and cottage cheese (may be too watery) and just use egg whites and protein powder. If you’re in need of something sweet, add a Carb Killa® bar to your pancakes for a low sugar, low carb kick.

‘Shroom buns

The last two alternatives involve the same substitute – portobello mushrooms! If you’re trying to cut down on your bread intake, use two portobello mushrooms as the bun for a burger. It actually looks like a burger bun, too! Just make your sandwich the way you normally would, using the mushrooms as your bread. No preparation here, just substitution.

Portabello pizza

The last and final alternative is using that same portobello mushroom cap, but as the base of a mini pizza! Just cut the gills of the mushroom out and bake for 5-10 minutes to dry it out. Then you can get creative with your toppings! Add pizza staples such as tomato sauce, mozzarella and maybe even some sliced onions, peppers and more mushrooms to create a delicious alternative to your favorite carby pizza. When you are done masterfully crafting your portobello pizza, grill it just long enough for the cheese to melt. As the mushroom holds a good amount of water, the pizza will be moist so a knife and fork will be needed!”

Which of these carb swaps will you be trying out? Share your food photos with us on Instagram at @grenadeofficial – we’d love to see what you’ve rustled up! Looking for more nutritional tips and recipes? Head over to our blog for more inspiration. If you’d like more advice from Vinny, make sure you follow him on Instagram!

This article by Vinny Russo was originally posted on

About the Author Vinny Russo

I have a Bachelors in Science, I am PN.1 certified, NFPT certified, and in the process of obtaining my CN.L (Clinical Nutritional License) and my MSCN (Masters in Applied Clinical Nutrition). My mission is help you reach your health-related goals while educating throughout our journey together. The goal is to have you become a master of your own health by teaching you how nutrition works and what works best for your individual body.

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