I cut out carbs for a month. Some simple food swaps made it less miserable - and possibly even enjoyable.

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I cut out carbs for a month. Some simple food swaps made it less miserable - and possibly even enjoyable.
Cutting carbs can be as simple as swapping out flavored yogurt for plain topped with berries and nuts, like I did here with my go-to breakfast.Gabby Landsverk
  • I recently tried a modified low carb diet and found it was challenging to give up some foods.
  • Foods like yogurt, nut butter, quinoa, and veggies helped me cut carbs without feeling hungry.
  • But low-carb may not work for everyone. If you crave carbs, it's OK to eat them in a balanced diet.

I love bread. But in the interest of journalistic integrity, I recently tried cutting carbs for the first time, since I often write about low-carb diets and have been curious about the benefits.

I found it challenging to stay below even a moderate limit of daily carbohydrates on my carb-cycling plan. In the process, though, I learned some simple food hacks for cutting carbs without going full keto, like eating more full-fat yogurt, nut butter, and quinoa, and sipping seltzer and kombucha.

Yogurt is a versatile protein source

Early on in my carb cycling journey, I noticed a lot of surprising foods are high-carb. Flavored yogurt is a big culprit, since even fruit-based varieties can hide a lot of added sugar.

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That doesn't mean you have to stick to plain yogurt. Adding fresh or frozen fruit, nuts and seeds, or a bit of honey can make it delicious while giving you more control over what you're eating.

Another hack I found for low-carb days is mixing protein powder directly into plain yogurt for a low-carb sweet treat with a light, creamy texture and tons of protein. I used a chocolate protein shake mix and powdered peanut butter, but found it works for any powdered protein.

It can also be helpful to add full-fat yogurt to your routine if you don't already. I found that the thicker texture keeps me satiated for longer. It helped make sure I was getting enough calories - a common mistake on low-carb diets is cutting both calories and carbs too quickly at the beginning, making it difficult to sustain over time.

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Quinoa is a filling, high-protein substitute for rice

A quick caveat: a true keto diet wouldn't include quinoa, because even a modest portion has enough carbs to easily surpass the limits of stricter diets. But if you're just trying to be more carb-aware, or just balance out your macros, it's a convenient, filling way to add protein and round out a meal.

I cook my quinoa in a rice cooker, and add a bouillon cube and spices along with the water so it's packed with flavor. It makes a good side or foundation for grain bowls, soups, or salads.

I cut out carbs for a month. Some simple food swaps made it less miserable - and possibly even enjoyable.
Quinoa salad adds a satisfying boost of protein with fewer carbs than white rice.Westend61/Getty Images

Crunchy veggies are a good snack when you need a distraction

I'm not usually a snack person, but when I'm very busy or writing on deadline, I often crave food to help me power through the stress.

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Cucumbers, celery, carrots, and bell peppers were part of my regular grocery rotation so I always had low-carb snacks. I cut them up in advance and paired them with spicy and flavorful condiments like chili peanut sauce and sriracha mayo.

If you're the type of person who regularly snacks as a way to give your brain a break, I'd recommend trying this to fill the gap of chips and crackers.

As a bonus, veggies that are high in water can also help keep you hydrated, which can stave off brain fog or fatigue that can sometimes come from cutting carbs.

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Nuts and nut butter can keep you full and help satisfy cravings

When cutting carbs, you need to replace them with higher fat foods to get enough energy. Nuts are a convenient source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They're are also packed with fiber, which is great for both digestion and for feeling satisfied after eating.

I snack on nuts almost every day. I also find a spoonful of pecan or almond butter is a perfect solution if I'm still feeling hungry or craving something else after a meal. Many are available in fun flavors like salted caramel, cinnamon roll, or my personal favorite, sweet potato pie, which genuinely tastes like dessert and was a go-to bedtime snack or sweet tooth fix on my low carb days.

Reach for kombucha or flavored seltzer instead of beer or soda

I regularly unwind with a craft beer on Friday evenings, and trying to kick off the weekend without some kind of refreshment can feel unsatisfying. I found that sipping on kombucha and flavored seltzer felt like the post-work treat I was looking for. I home-brew my kombucha, but if you're drink store-bought, check the label, since added sugar can vary a lot.

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While no sparkling water or is going to completely satisfy serious beer geeks, you might be pleasantly surprised by the options available to quench your thirst.

If you still miss carbs, it's OK to add them back into your diet

While I enjoyed low-carb foods like lettuce wraps, and grain-free "granola," the truth is they can be disappointing replacements. When you're craving bread, pasta, or potatoes, there's often no substitute for the real thing.

That's OK. If, after trying a low-carb diet for a few weeks, you're struggling to feel satisfied with your meals or laying awake at night craving bread, that may be a sign to scale back your restrictions.

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"If you think cutting carbs is the most effective, but it makes you die inside, don't do it," registered dietitian Georgie Fear previously told Insider.

Flexibility in your diet can help you stick to it long-term, which is why I try to eat healthy 80% of the time, and allow myself space to really enjoy food, too.

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