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Low-Carb, High-Impact – 22 Healthy Recipes

By Catherine Newman

Eating fewer carbs can mean more stable energy and blood sugars; read for appealing recipe ideas

What more info just like this?

This month, we’re showcasing our existing low-carb diaTribe recipes and introducing some new ones. And that’s not because we’re promoting a fad diet, I swear, or working for the bacon people, or hoping that you will renounce toast for the rest of your life. (Although honestly, as far as that last one goes? Feel free.) It’s because, as our own Adam Brown has demonstrated, a low- or lower-carb diet is, at least for folks with diabetes, helpful in achieving more stable blood sugars and lower insulin needs. But those things translate into facts for folks without diabetes too: more stable blood sugar means more stable energy, which means I just feel better. If I wake up and eat an egg or another high-protein breakfast food, like the Cottage Cheese Pancakes below? I feel full, keyed up, and ready to think. If I roll out of bed into, say, a pile of glazed donuts? I feel hyper and giddy – boinging around purposelessly for about three minutes – and then exhausted and brain-dead, and then hungry again. I realize these observations are not a scientific study. But Adam’s got the science, so please click over and see it if you like. 

For the purpose of this column we are defining a low-carb meal as one that has 15 or fewer grams of carbohydrates in a single serving. Of course, when trying out new low-carb recipes, keep an eye out on blood sugars and insulin dosing. All of these recipes are family-tested, satisfying, and delicious – and that means even to people (such as, for instance, teenagers) who might typically be torn from their beloved carbs kicking and screaming. But don’t take my word for it.

Click to jump to new recipes: 

And, at the very bottom, are previous recipes we've shared that are also low-carb.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Makes: 4 servings

Total carbohydrates: 9 grams per serving

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

My daughter and I would basically eat these every morning – and sometimes, for weeks at a time, we do. It’s mostly only running out of cottage cheese that slows us down. If you have Eastern European relatives, then you will know what I mean when I describe them as a little bit like blintzes, but with the filling and crepe all mixed together: tender, delicate, and so tasty. Please note, too, that the recipe scales down easily: you can even quarter it to make the perfect serving for one person.

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups full-fat (4%) cottage cheese

4 eggs

4 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, or experiment with whole-grain, coconut, and/or almond flour)

3 tablespoons melted butter (plus more butter for greasing the pan and serving)

¾ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

Instructions

1. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat while you prepare the batter.

2. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until there are no lumps.

3. Butter the skillet (which should be hot by now), then pour in dollops of batter so that they spread into 3- or 4-inch circles. Cook until the underside is deeply golden and the edges are starting to look dry, then flip and cook until the other side is golden (around 5 minutes altogether).

4. Serve with butter and fruit, or, honestly – and this is my favorite way – completely plain.

Basic Cauliflower Rice

Makes: 4 servings

Total carbohydrates: 6 grams per serving

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

I know, I know. “Cauliflower Rice” is the kind of thing you see all over the internet, and you’re like, please. Because you imagine it’s going to have as much in common with real rice as a baby carrot has with a Cheeto. And you’re kind of right. Cauliflower rice is not really like rice. But it is delicious and satisfying as its own thing – a cross between a vegetable and something vaguely grain-like, and it’s packed with vitamins and fiber instead of carbs. You can buy it in 16-ounce packages at Trader Joe’s and many supermarkets, but it’s easy to make your own from a whole head of cauliflower (or a bag of florets, if that’s what you’ve got). And you can use it as a simple or gussied-up side, or as the base for a main dish.

Ingredients

1 large head cauliflower

3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

Instructions

1. Use a large knife to cut the cauliflower into quarters, then cut the hard core out of each quarter (the leaves will come off with it) and discard it. Use your hands to break the quarters up into florets that are around an inch or two across. (If this is your first time prepping cauliflower, see this article for an easy-to-follow video.)

2. In three batches, put the florets in a food processor or blender fitted with a steel blade, and pulse until the pieces are around the size of a grain of rice. Some will be more like couscous, and some will be slightly larger, and all of it is fine! Dump the riced cauliflower into a large bowl as you finish each batch. If you notice some stray large pieces, you can leave them, eat them, or pop them back in the food processor—your call!

3. Heat the oil in a wide pan over high heat. When it is hot, add all the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally at first, until it is just turning golden on the edges, and as tender as you like it. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. At first it will get very steamy and damp, and then it will start to dry out and you will need to stir it more.

4. Season the cauliflower with the salt. Taste it and add more if it needs it, then serve.

Fancy it up with:

  • a spoonful of garlic butter and a sprinkle of parsley

  • a scoop of tomato or meat sauce

  • a swirl of pesto

Or swap it into your favorite fried-rice recipe, where it will behave compellingly like rice.

Or make this filling, fantastic, and adaptable Cauliflower Rice Casserole: Mix the cooked cauliflower rice with 6 beaten eggs, 1 cup of grated cheese (include some cottage or cream cheese, if you like), 1 tablespoon grainy or Dijon mustard, the grated zest of ½ a lemon, and other herbs and seasonings of your choice (I like to add sautéed onions, finely chopped dill or parsley, and plenty of salt and pepper). Pour this mixture into a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 until puffed, golden, and set, around 30-40 minutes. Makes 6 servings, 5-7 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Perfectly Simple Guacamole

Makes: 4 servings

Total carbohydrates: 7-10 grams per serving (depending on the vegetables you dip)

Hands-on time: 5 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes

Probably you think your favorite part of chips and guac is the chips, but if you make really excellent guacamole and serve it with an exciting assortment of vegetables, you might not miss those chips as much as you imagine. Feel free to add whatever you like to this recipe: salsa, chopped tomatoes, even corn kernels. But try it plain first – that’s how we grew to love it after a trip to Mexico, where we were served chunky, simple guacamole seasoned only with lime and salt, and it was absolute perfection. Plus, avocados are such nutritional powerhouses – filled with fats, vitamins, and minerals – that you’ll feel great after eating it.

Ingredients

2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled (watch how to cut an avocado here)

Juice of one juicy lime (about 2 tablespoons) plus a few scrapings of its zest

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)

1 tablespoon finely chopped raw onion and/or 1 finely minced garlic clove (optional)

Instructions

1. In a bowl, using a fork, mash together the avocado with the lime juice and zest and the salt. Stir in the optional ingredients.

2. Add salt or lime juice to taste, then serve with raw vegetables for scooping: carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, celery stalks, cucumber spears or slices, green beans, sugar snap peas, and radishes.

Herby Asian-Style Lettuce Wraps

Makes: 2-3 servings

Total carbohydrates: 2-6 grams per serving, depending on accompaniments

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

This is such an insanely delicious dinner that my family can identify it by smell from outside of our house. Plus, it’s lots of fun for each person to assemble their own wraps with all their favorite herbs and accompaniments. Even the herb-suspicious tend to feel friendly towards fresh mint, if you can get your hands on some. The only problem is the deliciousness itself, which makes it so that you kind of have to double this recipe to feed a family of four.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or sambal oelek (or something else spicy)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil      

2 scallions, slivered

1 tablespoon finely minced ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground beef (yes, you can use turkey)

For serving

  • 1 head of butter lettuce or Boston bibb lettuce, whole leaves washed and dried

  • 2 cups fresh herb leaves, ideally mint, basil, and cilantro (or pick 1 or 2)

  • Carrots (grated) and/or radishes (sliced), and/or cucumber (sliced or cut into thin strips), sprinkled with salt and white or rice vinegar

  • Pickled jalapeno slices (from a jar)

  • Slivered scallions

  • Hot sauce

Instructions

1. In a small bowl or mug, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and hot sauce.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds, then add the ground beef, raise the heat to high, and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks.

3. Stir in soy sauce mixture and simmer until it’s heated through, about 2 minutes.

4. Let folks at the table help themselves to lettuce leaves, which they should think of as a kind of leafy taco shell and fill with meat, herbs, veggies, and other accompaniments.

Here are more low-carb recipe ideas that we’ve shared in the past:

Breakfast

Lunch

Snacks

Dinner

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Last year they started the WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and are currently developing Seasoned, their senior version, commissioned by the AARP. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health and happiness at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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