Options, Faux Grains, and the Keto Diet

These grains are the cream of the crop for a low carb count.

Low carb enthusiasts tend to use a food’s net carb count when deciding what to include in their diets, so we’ve included those numbers here.

You can figure out the net carbs using this equation:

Total carbs – fiber = net carbs

The amount and types of grains you include in your diet will mainly depend on how strict your low carb lifestyle is.

1. Oats

Steel-cut and old-fashioned oats can become breakfast staples if you want to check your carb count.

A quarter-cup of steel-cut oats (which makes about 1 cup when cooked) provides:

  • 27 grams of carbs
  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 23 grams of net carbs
  • 5 grams of protein

Oats have the highest carb count of all our low carb grains. It’s best not to include them if you’re following the keto diet — even 1/2 cup of oats will take up a huge chunk of your daily carb allowance.

Instant oats may seem like a great timesaving option, but they’re highly processed. This processing removes many of the grain’s nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and the very filling protein and fiber.

Oats are naturally gluten-free, but gluten contamination can still happen if the oats are processed in a facility that also processes wheat, rye, or barley. Keep an eye out for gluten-free certification on the packaging if that’s a concern for you.

Recipes involving oats can go way beyond your typical oatmeal. Savory oatmeal dishes are also totally delicious.

2. Quinoa

This naturally gluten-free grain (OK, technically a pseudograin) has become popular with the plant-based eating community because of its higher-than-average protein content.

Half a cup of cooked quinoa provides:

  • about 20 grams of carbs
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 17 grams of net carbs
  • 4 grams of protein

Quinoa makes a fantastic stand-in for overnight oats and can be added to salads for a fiber, protein, and texture boost. It’s also a great replacement for higher-carb grains for people on the keto diet.

There’s a whole caboodle of interesting ways to eat quinoa.

3. Rye

Rye flour is one of the most nutrient-dense grains out there, but it’s not the most well known.

Rye bread is the most common way to add rye to your diet (and a great choice, we might add).

One slice of rye bread contains:

  • 15 grams of carbs
  • almost 2 grams of fiber
  • 13 grams of net carbs
  • almost 3 grams of protein

This makes it a clear winner for folks smashing the keto diet.

It also makes a fantastic base for avocado toast and just about any sandwich.

4. Bulgur

Bulgur is versatile. You can sub it in for rice, quinoa, or even your morning oats.

Half a cup of cooked bulgur adds these nutrients to your diet:

  • 17 grams of carbs
  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 13 grams of net carbs
  • 3 grams of protein

Plus, it adds about 80 calories to your daily intake — boom! Bulgur’s net carb count makes it one of the lowest-carb whole grains and a good choice for keto champions looking to boost their grain intake.

5. Millet

Millet comes in a bit lower in the fiber department. Half a cup of cooked millet provides:

  • 20 grams of carbs
  • 1.1 grams of fiber
  • 19 grams of net carbs
  • 3 grams of protein

You can find millet in many packaged grain blends, but it also makes a great breakfast cereal option or a stand-in for rice in this week’s stir-fry.

6. Couscous

Couscous isn’t the most nutrient-dense of the grain options, but it’s at the lower end of the scale when it comes to carb count.

Half a cup of cooked couscous provides:

  • 18 grams of carbs
  • 1.1 grams of fiber
  • 17 grams of net carbs
  • 3 grams of protein

If that side of brown rice is getting you down, switch things up with couscous. Like rice, it’s a blank slate for flavor. Get creative! Couscous is so low carb, they named it twice.

(Hint: It goes great in a stuffed squash or a salad.)

7. Wild rice

Wild rice is almost identical nutritionally to couscous (although it offers a shade more fiber).

Half a cup of cooked wild rice provides:

  • 18 grams of carbs
  • 1.5 grams of fiber
  • 16.5 grams of net carbs
  • 3.2 grams of protein

If you’re looking for an alternative to the same old white or brown rice, this is a denser and nuttier option to try.

8. Spelt

You’re likely to find spelt bread on store shelves. It’s not a bad choice (especially for protein content), but it does have more carbs than some other whole grains.

Half a cup of cooked spelt provides:

  • 25 grams of carbs
  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 21 grams of net carbs
  • 5.3 grams of protein

If you’re looking for spelt bread, make sure you read nutrition labels to check that the first ingredients are whole spelt flour and water. The exact numbers vary by brand, but a 1-ounce slice offers roughly:

  • 12 grams of carbs
  • 1.5 grams of fiber
  • 11.5 grams of net carbs
  • 3 grams of protein

9. Popcorn

Sometimes you want a snack you can eat slowly, one piece at a time, that really hits the spot. Do you even popcorn, bro?

Here are the nutrition stats for 1 cup of popped popcorn (but keep in mind that 1 cup is just a couple handfuls, so you’ll probably eat more than that in a sitting):

  • 6.2 grams of carbs
  • 1.1 grams of fiber
  • 5 grams of net carbs
  • 1 gram of protein

A small 2012 study compared feelings of satisfaction after snacking on 1 cup of popcorn, 6 cups of popcorn, or 1 cup of potato chips. Participants reported feeling just as satisfied by 1 cup of popcorn as by 1 cup of potato chips.

One 30-calorie cup of popcorn brings the same satisfaction as a 150-calorie cup of potato chips. *Mic drop*

We’ve got plenty of inventive popcorn recipes for those mid-movie-marathon munchies.

10. Barley

Barley is another versatile grain. Half a cup of cooked barley provides:

  • around 22 grams of carbs
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 19 grams of net carbs
  • 1.7 grams of protein

The amount of protein here isn’t going to fill you up, but the 3 grams of fiber can help you go from feeling famished to full.

Barley has pretty phenomenal street cred as mushrooms’ partner in crime in mushroom barley soup. It can also make a fantastic side dish, serve as a stand-in for risotto, or give a fiber boost to salads.

11. Teff

Your first reaction to reading this heading may have been “WTF is teff?” We get it. Allow us to elaborate.

Teff is an African grain that’s gluten-free and a better source of calcium than almost any other grain.

Half a cup of cooked teff provides:

  • 25 grams of carbs
  • 3.5 grams of fiber
  • 21.5 grams of net carbs
  • 4.8 grams of protein

If gluten-free baking is your jam, teff flour is a great swap for wheat flours. It’s also perfect for those mornings when oats feel kinda blah, and it’s a great replacement for rice.

12. Buckwheat

This gluten-free grain will definitely satisfy and comes in pretty high on the low carb list.

Half a cup of cooked buckwheat provides:

  • 17 grams of carbs
  • about 2 grams of fiber
  • 15 grams of net carbs
  • 3 grams of protein

Soba noodles, traditional in Japanese cuisine, are made entirely of buckwheat and water. They make a great substitute for spaghetti. If the grain train is feeling a bit boring, give soba a try.

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