Sugar and flour are mainstays of baking, making it challenging to enjoy baked goods if you're following a low-carbohydrate meal plan. Most low-carb dieters aim to consume somewhere between 50 and 150 grams of carbohydrates per day, and some go as low as 20 grams. When you consider that 1 cup of all-purpose flour contains nearly 100 grams of carbs, it's easy to see why you'd need to seek out lower-carb baking products. Luckily, with some suitable alternatives, you don't have to miss out on baked goods while watching your carbs.
Coconut flour makes an excellent flour alternative when it comes to low-carb, grain-free baking. It's made from coconut meat that's dried, defatted and ground into a fine powder. The result is a light, highly absorbent flour that's rich in fiber and low in carbohydrates. A 1/4 cup of coconut flour contains 10 grams of fiber and just 6 grams of "net carbs" -- total carbs minus the fiber.
Coconut flour blends easily, making it versatile for use in baked goods and savory foods. However, its not a 1:1 equivalent, according to Bruce Fife, author of "Cooking with Coconut Flour." For recipes, substitute 1/4 cup of coconut flour for every 1 cup of regular flour, recommends Fife. Because coconut flour absorbs more water than regular flour, Fife also recommends that you increase the water or milk content of the recipe by about 20 percent.
Another baking mainstay in low-carb kitchens is almond flour. A 1/4 cup of almond flour contains just 2 grams of net carbs, as well as healthy unsaturated fats. The typical almond flour is made from almonds that are blanched, that is, boiled in water to remove the skins, before being ground into a fine flour. It adds a lightly sweet flavor and a moist texture to baked goods, making it excellent for cakes, cookies, breads and pie crusts. Don't confuse almond flour with almond meal -- the meal is coarse, doesn't hold together well and doesn't provide a cohesive texture. Almond flour takes some experimenting to get the taste and texture to your liking. Bobs Red Mill recommends substituting 25 percent of the flour in your baking with almond flour. As you get more comfortable baking with almond flour, you'll learn what ratio works best for your recipes.
Flaxseeds are known for their high omega-3 fat content, which is linked to heart health. They're also rich in fiber and beneficial plant compounds called lignans that help ward off cell damage from free radicals. Not only can you add flaxseeds to your yogurt, smoothies and salads, you can use flaxseed flour as a baking alternative to regular flour. It has a rich, nutty flavor perfect for breads, cereal bars, whole grain muffins, cookies, nutty cakes and scones. Because the carbohydrates from ground flaxseeds come from fiber, the typical flaxseed flour contains zero net carbs and about 8 grams of fiber per 1/4-cup serving. To get started using flax flour in your recipes replace 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of regular flour with flax flour.
Commercial Low-Carb Baking Mixes
In the baking aisle, you'll also find commercial low-carb baking mixes that contain a blend of flour substitutes, such as oat, hazelnut and soy flour. The amount of carbs in these mixes varies widely depending on the blend. Bob Redmill's low-carb baking mix, for example, contains 8 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup of flour. Likewise, the amount of low-carb flour you use to replace regular flour varies, so it's crucial to follow the manufacturers recommendations, initially. Some baking blends are geared toward specific foods, such as breakfast blends for pancakes and waffles, while others are more flexible. Be sure to check the label to make sure the blend you choose is right for your baking needs.