Limiting or cutting carbohydrates (carbs) can help people reduce their overall caloric intake. A person can try limiting refined bread and grains, using alternatives to flour, finding low carb snacks, and more.

Carbs, especially refined or processed ones, tend to convert into sugars in the body very quickly. Limiting the intake of carbs may be difficult, but finding alternatives can help.

However, carbs are a crucial part of a balanced diet, and people should not exclude them entirely.

Sugar from carbohydrates can be an important source of energy. If the body does not need all of the energy from carbs immediately, it stores it as glycogen in the liver and muscles.

If a person eats more carbs than they can use or store, the body converts these to fat for use later. If the body does not need this energy, it stays in the fat cells. A buildup of this excess from each meal may lead to weight gain over time.

There are some simple ways to remove carbs from a diet without feeling as if the diet is restrictive. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help cut carbs.

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Bread, especially white bread, tends to be high in refined flour, low in fiber, and a source of simple carbohydrates.

A person may choose to remove refined grains from their diet gradually. An example of how someone might do this is to stop eating packaged snacks, such as crackers and biscuits, in their first week of reducing carbs.

In the second week, they may also try giving up baked goods that could include cookies and muffins. In the third week, they can remove bread, and so on, until they have eliminated all refined grains and bread products from the diet.

A lot of the time, what people miss is the function of refined grains more than the food itself. After all, bread and flour make up the base for everyday items such as sandwiches, pasta, and pizza.

There are some low carb vegetable versions of each of these that may eliminate the need for refined grains.

Examples include:

  • shredded zucchini or yellow squash for pasta
  • mashed cauliflower for a low carb version of mashed potatoes
  • cauliflower for an alternative pizza crust

Learn more about alternatives to bread.

There are some flours available to low-carb dieters.

Flours made from the following may be suitable for a person following a low carb diet:

  • certain nuts, such as almonds
  • chickpea
  • coconut
  • oat

These low-carb flours are flexible, and people may want to try using them to make everything from fried chicken and pizza crusts to muffins and pancakes.

Limiting or avoiding drinks with added sugars can help a person reduce their carb intake.

Sugar-sweetened drinks can include:

  • soda
  • energy drinks
  • iced teas
  • fruit cocktails
  • sports drinks
  • flavored milk

Even seemingly healthy drinks, such as fruit juice, may contain a large amount of sugar.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are unhealthy in general. As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages may influence:

  • weight gain and obesity
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes
  • tooth decay
  • gout

A person who drinks liquid calories from sugary beverages may not even recognize that they are having extra calories and may still be hungry. Still feeling hungry after consuming empty calories may lead to overeating and weight gain.

One of the easiest ways to cut unnecessary carbs out of a diet is to eliminate sugary beverages altogether.

Water contains zero calories or carbohydrates, but there are also numerous ways to flavor water.

People can try replacing sugary beverages with unsweetened drinks, such as sparkling water, or infuse water with berries for a natural sweetness that also provides vitamins and minerals.

Many herbs, fruits, and vegetables may add some of their flavors to water if people leave chopped pieces in a jug of water overnight.

Suggestions for fruits and herbs that do this include:

  • orange slices
  • lemon slices
  • grapefruit slices
  • lime slices
  • mint leaves
  • basil leaves
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • cucumber
  • berries

After soaking the ingredients overnight, strain the flavored water and pour it into a bottle to drink throughout the day. These fruit infusions can be a flavorful alternative to sugary drinks.

Packaged snacks can be high in carbohydrates. Most dried, packaged goods will contain flour, sugar, or refined starchy ingredients.

Examples of packaged snacks to avoid can include:

  • cakes
  • cookies
  • chocolate
  • candy
  • roasted and salted peanuts

It may be best to avoid packaged snacks unless they come from whole-food sources, such as a bar that has only fruits and nuts.

Most packaged snacks are going to be high in carbs from ingredients that include potatoes, grains, and corn. Having low-carb options on hand may help to resist the urge to snack on less healthful foods.

Some healthful snacks to have on hand include:

  • almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • apples
  • natural yogurt
  • pumpkin seeds
  • satsumas
  • strawberries
  • eggs

Eggs may be especially helpful as part of a breakfast or early snack. Eggs are low in carbs and high in protein, which may help a person feel full for longer throughout the day.

Learn more about low carb foods.

The following tips may help people stick to low carb diets.

Order “protein style”

Since cutting carbs has become a popular way to lose weight, some terms have popped up to describe certain dietary preferences.

For instance, ordering a burger or sandwich without a bun — also called ordering “protein style” — is a simple way to reduce the carb load of a meal by a significant amount.

Many restaurants will offer lettuce leaves or other greens as a replacement for bread, which may still give a sandwich its handy, on-the-go feel.

Ordering protein-style may also cover options for sides. Most places can easily remove starchy or carb-rich sides, such as potatoes or toast, and add additional vegetables to the plate.

Ask for extra lemon at restaurants

At a restaurant, there may not be many low carb drink options, and an individual’s cravings may be high. Lemon wedges or slices of lemon are a few simple alternatives that many restaurants have on hand.

If someone asks for extra lemon to add to a glass of plain or carbonated water, it can add extra flavor, while also providing the health benefits of lemon. The lemon delivers some flavor, and the acids may also help digest the meal.

When a strong craving hits, a low carb sweetener, such as xylitol or erythritol, may add a sweet sensation to the drink and instantly create a low carb lemonade.

Read food labels

Food labels provide all the basic information about a particular food. Reading these labels and weighing them against a carb-cutting diet plan may make it easy to see how many carbs a person is consuming.

When looking at a food label, people should take the total carbs and subtract the amount of fiber. This gives the net or “real” amount of carbs.

Comparing the real carbs to a person’s dietary recommendations may make it easier to see what foods fit into a person’s eating plan.

Learn more about calculating net carbs.

Contact a dietitian

A person can contact a dietitian for more advice on how to reduce the amount of carbs they consume. The dietitian can help them create an eating plan that is low in carbs while ensuring they get all of the essential nutrients they need.

Here are some frequently asked questions about carbs.

What is the easiest way to cut carbs?

Reducing carbs gradually may be easier than significantly removing carbs from a person’s diet straight away. A person may choose alternatives to refined bread and flour for foods such as sandwiches, pasta, and pizza. Keeping some low carb snacks on hand can also help.

Can you lose weight by cutting carbs?

Following a low carb diet can help a person lose weight. A 2018 study found that reducing dietary carbohydrates increased energy expenditure, which may benefit weight loss.

What foods are high in carbs to avoid?

Refined grains are high in carbs. These can include foods such as white bread, white flour, and white rice. Avoiding foods made with or containing these can help a person following a low carb diet.

Learning how to make tasty alternatives to high carb foods can help a person following a low carb diet. Adding some low carb snacks to an eating plan can also make cutting carbs easier and can make the transition to a low carb diet much smoother.

It may also be helpful for people to contact a dietitian about the best way to eat in a low carb way, and how to eventually transition back to a more sustainable and balanced diet later.