Last week, I shared that two friends, my husband, and I have been eating low-carb as part of a Keto diet for the past three months. To lose weight, limiting your carbohydrate intake to 20 grams of carbs per day puts you into ketosis, which encourages your body to burn you own fat for energy. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, but I lost 25 pounds in three months since beginning Keto — I’m still amazed at how quickly and effortlessly this happened! I also hesitate to use the word “diet,” as I never felt like I was dieting — I ate whenever I was hungry, and I ate as much as I wanted. There is plenty of information online if you’d like to learn more about Keto.
There’s definitely an initial learning curve though in figuring out what you’re going to eat each day. Anything with high amounts of sugar is out, and for this former high carb eater, that meant saying goodbye to cereal, fruit juices, bagels, jellies, crackers, and lots of other things I used to enjoy regularly. While there are a lot of sugar-free products out there, I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners at all, so I didn’t consider using anything that included aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame k.
Fortunately, there are a lot of low-carb products on the market that are both delicious and don’t involve artificial sweeteners. All of these things have become items that I purchase regularly and enjoy as part of our newer, carb-limited lifestyle.
Note too that when you’re reading labels and calculating your carb count, any fiber and sugar alcohols listed in the Nutrition Facts table need to be subtracted from your total carbohydrate grams. Fiber and most low-gram sugar alcohols do not count against your carb intake. So, a product with 11 grams of total carbs, 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of sugar alcohol equals one net carb per serving: 11-5-5 = 1.
Swerve has been the saving grace to curbing my sweet tooth. It’s a sweetener made from erythritol, which is a non-caloric sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in fruits such as pears. (Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols, though they share a molecular structure with both.) You can cook and bake with Swerve just as you would cook and bake with sugar, which means I haven’t had to give up cookies, cakes, pancakes, or waffles on my low-carb lifestyle.
Granular Swerve has a somewhat different mouth feel than sugar (think gritty like a pear is gritty) but the confectioners’ variety is smooth and tastes just like the real deal. (Again, I have little tolerance for “fake” sugar flavors, but erythritol tastes remarkably like sugar.) I use the powdered variety as a 1:1 substitution for both granular and powdered sugar, and I’m still making amazing peanut butter cookies and shortbread cookies.
Available locally at Jewel-Osco, Meijer, Woodmans, and also on Amazon.
Lakanto maple syrup
This is the best-tasting syrup I have found that has no sugar. I enjoy this on my low-carb waffles and pancakes every week! While I have been a real maple syrup junkie for my entire adult life, and nothing will ever be as good as the real deal, this is a decent substitute. Lakanto syrup is sweetened with monk fruit, erythritol, and stevia. Lakanto clocks in at just one net carb per two-tablespoon serving, compared to a whopping 53 carbs for the same size serving of 100% maple syrup.
Available locally at Jewel-Osco, and also on Amazon.
(If you’re not avoiding artificial sweeteners, Smuckers makes a net-zero carb sugar-free syrup that’s made from sorbitol, sucralose, and acesulfame k.)
Bob’s Red Mill almond and coconut flour
If you’re like me, you will want to continue making foods that involve flour, even when wheat flour is off limits due to its high carb count. Enter alternative flours, like almond and coconut. Almond flour has 4 net carbs per two tablespoons, and coconut flour has 3 net carbs per two tablespoons. You’ll want the super-fine grind of almond flour for cookies, cakes, and pizza crusts, and coconut flour for pancakes, waffles, and muffins.
Each cooks a bit differently — almond flour is more dense than wheat flour, and coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid, so you’ve got to adjust for that a bit. You’ll find a of low-carb recipes online involving both. Coconut flour is about half the price of almond flour, so that’s also a plus.
Crystal Light Pure
While on Keto, most of the things I used to drink went out the window. No soda, no fruit juice, no milk. Coffee and tea are fine, but I’m not a coffee drinker, and I’m also not a fan of iced tea. This left me drinking a lot of water, water, and water. Water is wonderful for you, of course, but once in a while, I’d like to have something resembling a juice drink or lemonade.
Crystal Light makes many zero-carb flavors with artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame k, but again, I’m avoiding artificial sweeteners. However, the Crystal Light Pure line of drink mixes is sweetened with stevia and sugar. It’s a small amount of sugar at 2 net carbs, but it’s worth it to me once in a while to enjoy a nice, cold glass of lemonade. If you’re avoiding 100% of all sugar though, this may not be for you.
Available locally at: Jewel-Osco, Meijer, likely at many other grocery stores and drugstores, and also on Amazon.
I missed eating crackers immensely — I love snacking on crackers. Who knew there were multiple kinds of all-cheese crackers out there? These crackers are made from baked cheese. That’s it! This means they’re carb-free, and you can still enjoy the salty, satisfying crunch of eating something cracker or chip-like.
These crackers give you the satisfying crunch of a chip or cracker without the carbs. My favorite are Cello Whisps, which you can find at a lot of stores. Mrs. Cubbinson’s Crisps are a close second. Both are light, crunchy, and perfect for sticking in your purse if you want a Keto-friendly snack when you’re going to the movies.
Trader Joe’s has their own brand of Oven Baked Cheese Bites. These are little round “moons” with craters in them and a big crunch. There’s another brand of cheese crackers called Moon Cheese that I’ve seen at Target — they are really similar to the Trader Joe’s version.
Aldi has Specially Selected Parmesan Crisps, which are my husband’s favorite. The “Everything” flavor has all of the toppings of an “everything” bagel in a cheese crisp.
I missed eating spreadable cheese and cracker so much that my kids caught me spreading soft cheese ON a cheese cracker. “Are you eating cheese… on cheese, Mom?” Yes. Yes, I was.
Bonus: If you have a Silpat mat, you can put shredded cheese on the mat in your oven and make your own crackers like this! I’ve done a whole sheet – bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes. They will harden when they cook — then just break into pieces once it’s baked. If cheese is on sale, it may be more cost effective to simply make your own crackers.
Cello Whisps are available at Jewel-Osco, Walmart, Meijer, likely many other stores, and on Amazon. Moon Cheese is available at Target and on Amazon. Specially Selected Parmesan Crisps are available at Aldi.
Want something sweeter? I just discovered these Foodie Fuel snacks at the WOW Summit healthy-lifestyle blogger conference. They’re like little granola bites made with sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. They have 5g of net carbs per serving and hit the spot when you want something that’s a little sweet. They come in a variety of flavors, but the chocolate variety has the lowest net carbs.
I want to find more snacks like these!
Available locally at Jewel-Osco, and also on Amazon.
Low carb breads and tortillas
Bread on a low-carb diet? Yes, you can! We refrained from having any bread for the first two months of our low-carb eating, but there are actually a couple of breads out there that you can still enjoy on a low-carb diet. Healthy Life 100% whole wheat bread has 5.5g of net carbs per slice, which means you can have a piece of toast, or an entire sandwich on bread if you can spare 11 net carbs for the day! How about that.
In reading a variety of Keto websites, I saw Aldi’s Fit & Active 100% Whole Wheat bread recommended often too, and guess what? I strongly suspect Aldi’s bread is actually Healthy Life bread in a store-brand wrapper. The ingredients and carbs are the same, so that’s another option for picking this up at a low price.
Healthy Life also has lower-carb English muffins, hot dog, and hamburger buns. None of these are as low as the bread, and I’ve only just started incorporating these into my routine a bit as I’ve upped my carb limit to 50 a day. Both sides of an English muffin will cost you 16g of net carbs per day. A hot dog or hamburger bun will cost you 15g net carbs.
Available locally at: Jewel-Osco, Meijer, and likely at many other stores. Fit & Active bread is available at Aldi.
I’ve found two brands of low-carb tortillas at local stores (and you know what this means — tacos, fajitas, and quesadillas can all be Keto-friendly! La Tortilla Factory’s low carb tortillas have just 3g of net carbs, and Mission’s Carb Balance tortillas have 4g of net carbs. While the Mission tortillas look and taste more like the real deal, they also have sucralose in the ingredients, which I’m avoiding. If it’s not an issue for you, they’re good — but I wish I would have read the label a little more closely.
The La Tortilla Factory tortillas are a little lower in net carbs, but they’re also a heartier, wheatier tortilla. You get two more tortillas in the package for the price though, which is a win in my book.
Mission available locally at: Jewel-Osco, Meijer, and likely at many other stores. I’ve only found La Tortilla Factory tortillas at Meijer.
Eda’s Premium Hard Candy
There isn’t much candy you can eat while going low-carb. While there are many sugar-free candies out there, the majority of them use artificial sweeteners or maltitol. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, and while it’s in a lot of sugar-free and low-carb candies and bars, I found that maltitol was well-documented as one of the worst sugar alcohols to indulge in while going low-carb.
Maltitol elicits a glycemic response, because your body recognizes it as sugar, and I read multiple articles saying that maltitol can kick you out of the fat-burning ketosis state that low-carbers try to remain in — this was also my friend’s experience with low-carb maltitol snack bars. Maltitol also gives many people horrific gastrointestinal distress. (If you’ve ever read the Amazon reviews for Haribo Sugarless Gummy Bears, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t? Buckle up.)
About a week into my low-carb journey, I was really missing having candy. I headed to Woodman’s, which has a huge candy aisle. I thought, if there is any kind of candy out there that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners or maltitol, I just might find it there. Unfortunately, maltitol was the main sweetener in nearly every non-artificially-sweetened sugar-free candy that I looked at.
Eda’s hard candies: They were exactly what I was looking for! These hard candies come in a wide variety of flavors, and they are sweetened with sorbitol. While sorbitol is also a sugar alcohol, it’s far at the other end of the spectrum from maltitol. It has a low glycemic response, and it counts as a zero net carb.
These candies are delicious! They do not taste sugar-free at all, and many of the flavors remind me of Jolly Ranchers, especially the watermelon. I’m also happy to report that Eda’s hard candies did not send me running for the bathroom, even if I ate a bunch in the same day.
Since discovering these, I don’t think I’ve gone a single day without having at least one. They are one of my favorite low-carb indulgences. Each one has 3g of carbs, all of which is a sugar alcohol — yes, it’s a zer0-net-carb candy!
Low carb ice creams
I started eating Keto in the summer, and who wants to spend those last, long, lingering summer nights without ice cream? Right around the time we started eating Keto, Jewel-Osco had a free pint of Enlightened low-carb ice cream in their MyMixx ecoupons. Meijer’s registers were printing Catalina coupons for free pints of Halo Top. I picked both up, and my taste buds were opened to the wonderful new world of low-carb ice cream. I recently tried Arctic Zero and was excited about yet another frozen treat option.
Now, these are not carb-free ice creams by any stretch of the imagination, but they have much lower carb counts than traditional ice cream. Some days, I would eat next to no carbs so I could “spend” them all on dessert.
Halo Top and Enlightened are sweetened with sugar and erythritol, and Arctic Zero is sweetened with sugar and monkfruit. Most flavors are about 5 to 6g net carbs per serving. Yum!
Available locally at Jewel-Osco and Meijer, and likely at many other stores.
You may also enjoy:
- My low-carb life: 25 pounds down (and counting…)
- My favorite low-carb recipes for things you’d think are “off limits”