Pantry basics

Low Carb Pantry Basics

Throw out the high carb culprits

Knowing what not to eat is as important as knowing what you can eat. There are bound to be some unlikely suspects of hidden sugars and starches, so check all labels carefully.

Also, you’ll want to keep things simple for yourself by ridding your pantry of all the high-carb no-nos, such as:

  • High sugar carbonated and soft drinks
  • Fruit juices
  • Potato crisps
  • Cereals
  • Bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, rice crackers
  • Muesli bars
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Salad dressings with sugar
  • Worcestershire sauce.
  • Regular ketchup (Get the sugar free one such as Heinz)
  • Tomato-based chili sauces and cocktail sauces (unless labeled as sugar-free)
  • Tartar sauce
  • Exotic sauces, such as Teriyaki sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, oyster sauce
  • Many sauces, including steak sauce and barbecue sauce have a lot of sugar (always check the labels)
  • Jams, jellies, preserves

Here are the stock up ingredients you may need in your pantry for your Low-Carb Lifestyle, so you will have them at hand when you need them.

Always check labels for hidden starch and sugar additives such as fructose, glucose, corn syrup, etc.

1. Flour and baking substitutes

Almond flour/meal

This is an essential for any sort of baking. Almond flour is rich in vitamins and minerals and provides the most calcium compared to any other nut. A serving (1/4 cup or 28 grams) of almond flour has around 160 calories, 6 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber.

Almond four and almond meal are interchangeable in most recipes. Almond flour is a finer grade than almond meal, it gives a lovely fine texture, but is generally more expensive.

You can also make your own almond meal (sometimes called ground almonds) by placing whole almonds in your blender and pulsing them with the blade attachment until a crumb texture is achieved. Be careful not to process them for too long, you may just end up with almond butter.

You can get it here

Coconut flour

This is a must have staple to help replace all-purpose flour. Coconut flour is another great option if you are allergic to nuts. It can often be lower in price, and is also lower in carbohydrate content.

It is important to know that coconut flour tends to need a lot more moisture when baking. There is no easy conversion factor when using coconut flour instead of wheat flour or almond flour. Experiment with recipes that require coconut flour to get a feel for how much you need.

Get it here


These seeds are another pantry staple that contain loads of healthy fats. They are a great bulking agent on my grain-free granola and grain-free granola bars.

Get flaxseeds here
Get linseeds here

Psyllium husks

This is a great addition to your pantry, and has many health benefits. Psyllium husk is packed with fiber and is often used as a colon cleanser.

In baking, it can add volume and help batters and cakes bind together. It swells and absorbs liquids which adds volume, fibre and a “gel like” property.

You may see psyllium husk whole or powder. The only difference is how fine the psyllium has been ground, or not. I use the powder, but have also used the whole husks successfully too.

Get the powder here

Low Carb Baking Mix

Carbquik: While this is “low carb” the count is still high so be careful how much you use. It is a bit expensive but can be worth it when you are need to whip up a baking substitute quickly. Get it here

4. Sugar substitutes

Stevia is the most common sweetener used in low carb and sugar free baking. It has been used for centuries from the leaves of the stevia plant and does not raise blood sugars.

Use granulated and powdered forms of sweetener in your recipes, rather than drops and concentrated pure stevia.
Use sweeteners containing erythritol, xylitol or stevia. Experiment till you find the one you like best. Stay away from anything that has dextrose or maltodextrin as sweetener ingredients.


5. Oil substitutes

Avoid seed oils such as sunflower, canola etc. as they are high in omega 6. Replace with the following:

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil will help you to lose weight. Be sure to take at least a tablespoon full every day. It also has many nutritional benefits, and is packed with healthy fats. Make sure it is organic or virgin, such as Thrive Market.
You can get yours here

Olive Oil

It is a wonderful and healthy replacement for other cooking oils.

Extra virgin olive oil has a really fruity taste, which can sometimes be too strong in a mayonnaise. In that case use the lighter variety.

Avocado Oil

Use it liberally over salads. It is a a healthy low-carb substitute in your pantry for when avocados are not in season.

Macadamia oil

6. Acceptable fats and butters


Cut back on the cheese, yogurt, cream and milk. Small quantities are acceptable, but too much can spike insulin which is detrimental to the metabolic adaptation that needs to take place in order to reap the full benefits of low carb diets.

  • Milk in limited quantities. Substitute dairy milk with almond or coconut milk if possible.
  • Cheeses
  • Cream
  • Full fat yoghurt
  • Cream cheese full fat, such as Philidelphia (choose a brand with 30% fat and less than 3% carbs)
  • Sour cream
  • Feta
  • Haloumi
  • Butter


  • Coconut milk.
  • Coconut cream. Coconut cream is different from coconut milk in that it contains less water and more coconut oil, so it has a thicker texture It is generally under 4% carbs and over 20% fat. Coconut cream is a high fat cream which helps thicken sauces and dips.
  • Coconut butter. Coconut butter can be a nice snack by the teaspoon, to keep you going until the next meal time.

7. Chocolate substitutes

Unseetened Cocoa Powder

Always make sure to read the nutrition label as many cocoa powders are actually sweetened cocoa for drinking. You want to buy the unsweetened variety that is intended for baking.

Cocao powder is perfect for adding into your baking, smoothies, coffee and more!
Once you find a good unsweetened cocoa, stick to it. It truly does make a huge difference to chocolate low-carb baking goodies!

Unseetened Cacao nibs

Cacao nibs are an easy and perfect substitute for chocolate chips. Many sugar-free chocolate chips on the market now, have very questionable sweeteners in them. Go for cacao nibs instead and taste the difference. They are packed with flavour, a little bitter, but great to snack on and for baking , e.g. for chocolate chip cookies.

Dark chocolate
Lindt is a high quality chocolate and comes in 99% pure chocolate, without the sugar. See here

8. Canned or bottled foods you can stock up with

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Canned vegetables (asparagus, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, and so on)
  • Canned tuna, salmon, or sardines (in water)
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Marinated vegetables (okra, beans)
  • Roasted peppers
  • Pickles and pickle relish

9. Get your condiments of choice for flavour

Many condiments are riddled with all kinds of sugar. Before you start reading labels, get familiar with sugar’s many disguises. Keep the following low- or no-carb condiments on hand to give your food flavor:

  • Seasoning salts and peppers
  • Dried herbs and spices. With the exception of some mixtures that have added sugar, all are acceptable.
  • Fresh herbs – start growing your own parsley, basil, mint, chives, coriander etc
  • Vinegars: Cider and wine vinegars. You can also explore many infused vinegars but be sure to check for carbs in any fruit vinegar.
  • Full fat mayonnaise
  • Mustard, with the exception of sweetened mustards, especially honey mustard
  • Low-carb, sugar free ketchup
  • Concentrated tomato paste
  • Most bottled hot sauces, such as Tabasco
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Sugar-free salad dressings, preferably brands high in monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil (check labels carefully).
  • Horseradish
  • Pesto
  • Lemon or lime juice (1 gram of carb per tablespoon)
  • Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth or bouillon
  • Dill pickle relish
  • Sugar-free sweet pickle relish
  • Low carb jams and preserves (check labels)
  • Extracts (vanilla, lemon, almond, etc.)
  • Coconut shredded unsweetened
  • Sugar free jelly

10. Snacks for when you are on the go

There are low carb substitutes for snacks you can prepare beforehand, such as:

  • Nuts and seed mixes
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Dips and patés to spice up raw low carb veggie sticks, such as celery.
  • Low carb smoothies
  • Keto cheese and bacon nachos

However, eating a low-carb diet doesn’t always mean constant food preparation and cooking from scratch. There are many commercially available snacks you can keep on hand to satisfy hunger pangs in a pinch.

For all of the following, read food labels carefully to spot added sugar and starch:

  • Some nutrition bars (check labels)
  • Some jerkies, such as beef, turkey, or salmon
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Low carb tortillas (if you can find)
  • Dark chocolate (sugar free)

11. Fresh produce

It is advisable to plan your meals ahead so that you can stock up and don’t run out of fresh ingredients. Try to buy as fresh, organic and as free range as possible to avoid pollutants, chemicals, GMO’s, etc:

  • All fresh vegetables, except starchy root vegetables which are high in carbs, such as potatoes, kumara, parsnips, etc.
  • Fruits: Most fruits are high carb, except the berries which can be eaten in small quantities, such as strawberries, blueberries.
  • Salad ingredients: Eat as much leafy green vegetables and fresh herbs as possible. Moderate amounts of carrot, celery, tomatoes, avocados, etc. are allowed, but keep a tab on the carbs.
  • All meats: Try to buy free range, grass fed meats.
  • Bacon: No added sugar or honey cured
  • Chicken and turkey: Whole, breasts, legs, mince
  • Sausages: Read labels to ensure the highest meat content and no starch fillers such as flour, wheat, rice, etc.
  • Red meats: steak, chops, mince/ground meat etc.
  • Fish: Salmon, snapper, frozen shrimps, mussels, hoki, tuna, sardines and all fatty omega 3 rich seafood. Avoid all processed battered or crumbed fish.
  • Eggs: Boiled, fried, omelette, scrambled, poached, etc.

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