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HOW TO Find Low Calorie/Carb Ingredient Alternatives



Calories are the basic unit of energy found in all foods and are necessary to maintain the body's vital functions or basal metabolic rate. The amount of calories a person needs depends on factors like their age, gender, and lean muscle mass. The daily value (%DV) for calories is 2000 calories per day, but people active with strength training or other exercises may want to consume more. Eating too few calories for a prolonged period of time causes a person to become underweight (per the BMI) leading to muscle atrophy, weakened immunity, and eventually, organ failure. Conversely, eating too many calories causes a person to become overweight and obese, increasing their chances of heart disease, type II diabetes, and cancer.

The lists below show ingredients with high calorie or carbohydrate context in red text, and low cal/carb items and alternatives next to them in green text.


Low Cal Vegetables and Alternatives

Most vegetables are very low in calories, with a few starchy exceptions:

  • Avocado > Asparagus

  • Corn > Chopped Celery

  • ​Olive Oil > Sunflower Oil

  • Potatoes > Cauliflower, Carrots, Zucchini

  • ​Sweet Peas > Snap Peas

  • Sweet Potatoes, Yams > Pumpkin

These vegetables are very low calories and carbs:

  • Artichokes

  • Broccoli

  • Brussel Sprouts

  • Cabbage

  • Cucumber

  • Eggplant

  • Garlic

  • Jicama​ sticks

  • Kale

  • Mushrooms

  • Onions

  • Peppers

  • Radishes

  • Romaine lettuce

  • Spinach

  • Tomato

  • Turnips

  • Watercress


Low Cal Fruits and Alternatives

Most fruits are low in calories, with a few starchy exceptions:

  • Bananas > Pineapple

  • Grapes, Raisins > Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries

These fruits are also low in calories and carbs:

  • Apricot

  • Cantaloupe

  • Grapefruit

  • Orange

  • Lemons and limes

  • Papaya

  • Peach

  • Watermelon


Low Cal Meats and Protein Alternatives

  • Almonds, Coconut, Pecans > Edamame

  • Beef > Turkey or Chicken Breast

  • Chicken or Beef Broth > Organic Broth

  • Chickpeas, Garbanzo beans > Kidney Beans

  • Eggs > Egg Whites

  • Ham > Pork Tenderloin

  • Refried Beans > Refried Pinto Beans

  • Salmon > Cod, Tuna

  • Steak > Eye Of Round Steak

  • Tofu > Kidney Beans, Lentils

These items are also low in calories and carbs, but high in protein:

  • Mussels

  • Shrimp

  • Soy


Low Cal Cheese and Dairy Alternatives

Most dairy items are high in calories and carbohydrates. As a rule of thumb, look for items that are Non-Fat, Fat Free, Reduced Fat, Unsweetened, Sugar Free, Skim Milk.

  • Cheese > Part-Skim Cheese

  • Ricotta > Cottage Cheese

  • Pudding Mix > Sugar Free Pudding Mix

  • Sour Cream > Non-Fat or Reduced Fat Sour Cream

  • Whipped Cream > Non- Fat Non-Dairy Whipped Topping

  • Whole Milk, Coconut Milk > Unsweetened Almond Milk, Skim Milk, Grassfed Milk

  • Yogurt > Yogurt, Non-Fat or Low-Fat


Low Cal Bread & Pasta and Alternatives

Most bread and pasta items are high in calories and carbohydrates. As a rule of thumb, look for items that are Non-Fat, Fat Free, Reduced Fat, Unsweetened, Sugar Free, Whole Grain.

  • Bread > Sandwich thins

  • Cereal and Granola > Wheat Bran

  • Pasta > Soba Noodles, Daikon radish, spaghetti squash

  • Popcorn > Low cal unbuttered Popcorn

  • Pretzels > Rice cakes

  • Ramen Noodles > Shirataki Noodles

  • Rice > Teff grain


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