Low Carb Product Reviews

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for… low carb product reviews!

As mentioned previously, I am a notorious stocker-upper – or maybe just a packrat. I’ve had to install two large wooden shelf units on my dining room window seat to accommodate the food that won’t fit into my pantry, not to mention the cookbooks that won’t fit on my cookbook shelf. I’ve filled to overflowing not only the freezer attached to my refrigerator (a large-ish side-by-side), but two additional freezers as well. Stop by my place sometime and I’ll feed you!

In the process of collecting all this low carb food, I’ve tried a great many low carb specialty products. Note that I am aspartame-intolerant, so there are many perfectly good low carb products that I’ve never bought after reading the labels. Also, there are many products I haven’t tried because I’ve already found something good in that category and therefore haven’t explored further. Keep in mind, too, that tastes differ, and you may love something I hated or vice versa. So here, without further ado and in alphabetical order, are my picks and pans.

  • Artificial Sweeteners: Splenda is my sweetener of choice for most purposes. It is heat-stable and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste. Sweet One (acesulfame potassium) is also good, though I’ve found it best mixed with Splenda in cooking and baking. If you can get Sugar Twin and Brown Sugar Twin from Canada (not the US version, which are made with saccharine), they are made with cyclamates and are much better than the saccharine kind.
  • Bagels: Cheeters onion bagels. Look no further – these are small and expensive but they are The Real Thing. Awesome with onion and chive cream cheese and a slice of nova lox!
  • BBQ Sauce: I prefer spicy BBQ sauce rather than sweet, and have been able to find some off-brands with about 6 grams of carbohydrates per 2-tablespoon serving, which is adequate for those rare occasions when I have barbecue. My favorite is Stubb’s spicy. If you like a sweet sauce, Walden Farms sauces are very tasty, and have 0 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
  • Bread, Machine Mixes: The low carb bread machine mixes I have tried have universally overwhelmed me with soy – but then, I’m particularly sensitive to soy. If you don’t mind a soy taste (ranging from fairly mild to quite strong, depending on brand), they do rise nicely and make a properly textured loaf, with fewer carbs per serving than most of the ready-made low carb breads.
  • Bread, Ready-Made: Atkins white bread is not bad. Not so wonderful I’d jump for joy, but decent as toast and makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. My personal favorite is less pricey – Country Hearth Lite Wheat Bread, a franchised label available in my local supermarkets under the Schwebel’s brand name. According to package information, a serving is TWO slices and has 12 grams of total carbohydrates, with 4 of those being fiber, for a net carbohydrate count of 4 grams per slice. And it tastes like regular bread! Other “lite” and “light” breads vary in their carbohydrate count, from 5 grams to over 10 grams per slice, so read the labels carefully.
  • Bread, Rolls: O’So Lo rolls come in three varieties – original, sourdough, and pumpernickel. They are all good, and even better warmed up in the toaster oven. They are also just the right size and shape to be used as hamburger buns, and have only 3 grams of net carbs each! Look around before buying – prices on these range from about $2.39 for a box of 4, up to $5.99.
  • Breadcrumbs: Keto crumbs are good, but do have a bit of a soy flavor. I find them best used in small quantities. Other people I know, who are not soy-sensitive, use them without restriction. The nice thing about them is that they come in several flavors.
  • Brownies: The Atkins brownie mix gets a thumbs-up. Not cheap, but good.
  • Cereal, Cold: Keto Crisp is good; Keto Cocoa Crisp is awesome. Try them with either heavy cream mixed with water, or almond milk. Beware – Keto Cocoa Crisp with some heavy cream (no water) is much too decadent.
  • Cereal, Hot: Carbsense hot cereal is good; so is Flax-O-Meal. Be prepared for flax-based cereals to be just a little slimy in texture. I’ve recently started buying Keto hot cereals, which are much more oatmeal-like and very yummy. I’ve tried the old-fashioned oatmeal flavor, the banana nut flavor, and the apple cinnamon flavor, and they’re all good. I wish they’d make one unsweetened, though, so I could add my own sweetener. I used some of the old-fashioned oatmeal flavor to top a no-sugar-added apple crisp dessert, too!
  • Chocolate Candy Bars: Carbolite bars are the best I’ve tasted. Pure DeLite and Ross bars come in a very close second, with Atkins Endulge bars not far behind. I own, and will need to use for cooking, some Doctor’s Diet sugar free chocolate bars that just weren’t up to my standard for eating as candy. (NOTE: There are a number of other brands that are available from various places online (including CarbSmart: sugfrechoc.html ) which I either have not tried or would not spend that amount to purchase again after trying it once, even though it was good, because it’s just out of my budget. The above brands are widely available in local stores ranging from the health food store to Wal-Mart.)
  • Chocolate Candy (in pieces, not in bars): Russell Stover. YUM! Comes in about 8 different varieties, available in Walmart for $1.50 a bag and in grocery stores for not much more than that. Each bag holds about 6-12 pieces depending on the variety.
  • Cookies, Mixes: Keto cookie mixes are pretty good. Homemade are better, but homemade cookies require special ingredients, measuring, and generally making a mess in the kitchen. Just like with those regular non-low carb cookies. And just like a regular non-low carb cookie mix, Keto cookie mix makes it easy. Definitely worth having on hand.
  • Cookies, Ready-Made: Granny Oats Oatmeal Cookies are good, but pricey Keto Cookies biscotti-style cookies are dry as a good biscotti should be, and very tasty. Also pricey, but worth it for a quick grab. Pure De-Lite makes a “high protein” cookie that is chocolate with white chocolate chips and To Die For. It’s a shame low carb cookies are so expensive. For the price, I’d rather bake my own cookies, either homemade or from a low carb mix.
  • Crackers: Scandinavian Bran Crispbreads are approximately 100% fiber. They also taste like 100% fiber, comparable to a nice chunk of corrugated cardboard (actually, I’ve never tasted cardboard – these crackers are pretty well tasteless, which is one thing I like about them). They make a great base for tasty toppings like tuna or chicken salad, cream cheese with smoked salmon and capers, or thin-sliced roast beef and Provolone smeared with horseradish sauce. Definitely worth buying if you just want something to hold up your cream cheese and you don’t want to waste carbs on a Wasa or Rye-Krisp. Cheeters crackers are good, but have a heavy taste and an air of soy about them. My favorites of the Cheeters brand are the garlic and rye flavors, which to me have the least soy taste. Remember again, I’m very sensitive to soy, and your mileage may vary.
  • Croutons & Salad Toppings: The various seasoned almond salad toppings are a real boon to low carbers. They add flavor and crunch with negligible carbohydrates. I have also bought “Better Croutons,” but they are more suited to making poultry stuffing, than to putting on salad. Atkins recommends using the Atkins brand bread to make homemade croutons. The nice thing about making your own is that you can season them any way you like!
  • Fruit Spread: Most “non-low carb fruit only” spreads have 10 grams of carbohydrates in a 1-tablespoon serving. Because I don’t consume aspartame in any way, shape, or form, I get E.D. Smith “DeLightFul” fruit spread, which is sucralose-sweetened and has only 2 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon. It comes in four flavors that I’ve been able to find – Strawberry, Raspberry, Wildberry, and Apricot. All of them are yummy and available in supermarkets.
  • Gelatin, Mixes: While Jell-O, Royal, and various store brands are perfectly good for people who don’t have an aspartame intolerance, if you can get your hands on some Aeroplane Jellies from Australia, you will be amazed at some of the flavors such as Banana, Port Wine, and Passionfruit. They are not legal for importation to the U.S. because they are sweetened with cyclamates, but if you have a friend or relative Down Under, you are allowed to have the jellies sent to you for personal use. I use the banana flavor in my Banana Cream Pie recipe. Superb!
  • Gelatin Desserts, Ready-Made: Jolly Rancher brand is sweetened with sucralose (Splenda) and comes in those convenient little snack cups. I’ve found it in raspberry flavor, and a pack with both strawberry and green apple flavors. It’s all good.
  • Gum Thickeners: Most of the straight gums (xanthan, guar) seem to be relatively comparable. I like not/Starch because it doesn’t clump up in a pot of simmering liquid the way xanthan or guar gum sometimes does. (Maybe if I were more careful with my gums, they wouldn’t clump?) Also, not/Sugar can be used in uncooked liquids, which makes it a good choice for thickening fruit spreads and protein shakes. In my opinion, the Expert Foods products are a little better because they are specifically geared to the thickening needs of low carb cooks.
  • Hot Cocoa Mix: Your own homemade will be richer and tastier, but Swiss Miss Diet is perfectly adequate for keeping around the office or in your briefcase or handbag for a quick fix. It is lower in carbs than the Swiss Miss No Sugar Added variety, with no appreciable difference in taste. I do know someone who is addicted to the Keto hot chocolate mix, but since I’m not a big hot chocolate drinker, I haven’t gotten around to trying it.
  • Ice Cream: The Keto brand ice cream mix is pretty good, although my homemade recipe is slightly better. Once again, it’s a question of convenience versus the old DIY method! Of the no-sugar-added commercial brands (most of which are pretty high in carbohydrates for low carb dieters but may be okay as an occasional treat in moderation), my pick is a local brand, Pierre’s Slender, sweetened with Splenda. Nationwide, low carbers tend to agree that Splenda-sweetened ice creams are better than aspartame-sweetened ones.
  • Ketchup: Regular ketchup has 5 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon serving. Walden Farms’ has 0 grams and tastes a lot like the leading national brand.
  • Mayonnaise: I like Duke’s, which is available at Walmart and has no added sugar.
  • Oil, MCT: Keto Butta is a tasty way to get your medium-chain triglycerides. I like it drizzled on steamed veggies.
  • Pancake Mix: Both Atkins and Keto mixes are decent. I think my homemade tastes better, but it’s also slightly higher in carbs than the boxed mixes.
  • Pancake Syrup: Watch out for some of the sugar-free brands which may contain 12 grams of carbohydrates or more per serving, and remember that if you buy a brand sweetened with aspartame, such as Howard’s or Spring Tree, you should not heat it before serving. My pick is Vermont/Maple Grove Farms brands. They are both the same syrup packed under different labels. It is thick enough to put on pancakes, 4 grams of carbohydrates per serving, and a nice maple taste.
  • Pasta: Keto pasta shells are the most palatable low carb pasta I’ve tasted, but they have a tendency to fall apart in the cooking and draining process – especially if you don’t watch the clock carefully. They’re good as the noodle in chicken noodle soup, since they don’t have a strong flavor of their own. Keto elbows, and the matching macaroni-and-cheese mix, are nice but not spectacular, good in casseroles and “hot dishes.” Due Amici pasta, which was recently clearanced through a major chain of discount clearance stores and is now hard to find, is a chewy pasta with a heavy flavor. It is very filling – a 2-ounce serving really is a serving when it comes to this stuff! It’s good with a strong sauce such as a Bolognese, or in a chili-Mac sort of casserole. I’ve also converted a Southern-style Mac-and-cheese recipe that mellows out the taste of this pasta considerably. I’m going to be eating it for a long time to come – I bought 100 pounds of it at that discount store. Apparently the “new generation” of it is Darielle pasta, with a lighter color, lighter taste, smaller package (12 ounces instead of 16 ounces), and a few more grams of carbohydrates per serving. If someone has tried it, let me know how it is.
  • Pickles: No more rinsing dill pickle relish and then sprinkling it with Splenda! Mt. Olive brand, now widely available in grocery stores, makes Splenda-sweetened pickles in slices, slabs, relish, and gherkins. YUM!
  • Pie Fillings: Technically, these are not really low carb, because they do contain fruit and fruit is not particularly low carb. However, they are useful for making occasional “controlled carbohydrate” treats, and for maintenance. The Lucky Leaf brand of no-sugar-added pie filling comes in apple and cherry, and is available at some Walmart supercenters and other stores that carry Lucky Leaf products. Both flavors are very good. The cherry pie filling is also good for topping LC cheesecake, and one heaping spoonful is still fairly low in carbs!
  • Polyol Sweeteners: These are the “sugar alcohols” – so called in spite of the fact that they are neither sugar nor alcohol. They are not non-caloric, but are not digested or absorbed by the body in the same way as sugars are. Some people have side effects from polyols, such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea, if they consume large quantities. I have used maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. They are useful in sugar-free cooking and baking because they have bulking and glazing properties similar to sugar. However, they will not feed yeast if you are making yeast bread – for that, you need a small amount of real sugar (which will be eaten by the yeast long before you eat the bread). I do recommend keeping polyols on hand if you cook or bake low carb sweets. The easiest to find is Steel’s Gourmet brand maltitol. Another polyol, isomalt, is one of the ingredients in Diabetisweet, which can be found at some pharmacies and other stores where diabetic supplies are sold. (The other ingredient in Diabetisweet is acesulfame potassium, presumably to make the isomalt sweeter, because isomalt is not as sweet as sugar or some of the other polyols.)
  • Pork Rinds, Microwave: The bulk microwave pork rinds from J&J Critters (http://www.microwaveporkrinds.com) are hands-down the best of the bunch. They do, however, require that you purchase your own brown paper bags and keep a 1/3 cup measure on hand. Never mind that you have to fuss – they come in four flavors, plus the company sells additional seasoning packets for the plain ones, and dip mixes that complement and contrast with the available flavors. Don’t say you don’t like pork rinds until you’ve tried these!
  • Potato Substitutes: I do not happen to think that mashed cauliflower tastes like potatoes. It’s good, but potatoes it ain’t. And none of the special products I’ve tried that are supposed to be mixed with it help one bit – the biggest help is a chunk of cream cheese and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Ketato Mix, however, is pretty good for other purposes, such as making low carb German-style potato dumplings. You can even have low carb Chicken’n’Dumplings, thanks to Ketato Mix!
  • Protein Bars: The newer labels on most of these admit that they contain previously “hidden” carbs from polyols such as glycerine and maltitol. You should deduct these carbohydrates from the total unless you are one of those people who actually absorb polyols as carbs. Tastes in bars vary incredibly, but my favorites are the EAS Carb Control cookies & cream flavor, Pure Protein’s strawberry cheesecake flavor, and a couple of the chocolatey Nitro-Tech ones. You may not like the same ones; I have had at least 50 different brands/flavors of bars in the last few years, and these are the ones I’ve settled on for myself when I need a quick protein snack on the go. Recently I’ve been hearing incredible reviews of the new Detour bar, but haven’t been able to find one locally to try myself – they’re sold out everywhere I’ve been! They do have 10 grams of “impact” carbs, though, which is a little high for many low carbers.
  • Protein Powders: My personal favorite is the Keto brand. It has no unpleasant soy taste, and mixes well with water in a shaker bottle. Try mixing the banana and peach flavors together! For baking, I’ve used Designer Protein (unflavored), Atkins (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry), and Carb Solutions (chocolate). They all work well in low carb baking. I’ve also used Nutribiotics rice protein powder for cooking, with good results.
  • Protein Shakes, Premixed: I like the Carb Solutions cappuccino flavor; the chocolate is okay, and the vanilla is passable. My favorite chocolate premixed shake is the EAS Carb Control chocolate fudge flavor.
  • Salad Dressings: Hubby is a Thousand Island kinda guy, and Walden Farms makes a great low carb Thousand Island. I also liked their Hot Bacon dressing on a spinach salad.
  • Snack Chips, etc.: Keto makes some pretty darn good chips. They are better by far than the Lean Protein chips which stoped production over a year ago. I bought “Just The Cheese” once, – it was good, but I can bake my own cheese for a lot less money. If you don’t have the time, inclination, or oven space to bake your own cheese, by all means buy it because baked cheese is an awesome LC snack!
  • Soda Pop: I’m not much of a soda drinker, but (believe it or not) the “Clover Valley” brand of diet soda from Dollar General Stores is about the best sugar-free soda I’ve tasted. It’s sweetened with a mix of sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame-K (Sunnett, Sweet One).
  • Syrups, Flavored: Both Atkins and DaVinci syrups are thin, watery syrups of the type meant to be used in coffee. Atkins’ brand comes in half a dozen or so flavors; DaVinci is available in over 30 flavors, from the ubiquitous to the somewhat absurd (B52?). They are useful for jazzing up protein shakes, baking flaxseed muffins, flavoring mock apple or mock pineapple dishes, and probably half a dozen other uses I’ve never thought of. They’re even good in coffee!
  • Syrups, Topping: I own a couple but haven’t tried them yet. I have heard that the Steel’s Gourmet dessert sauces are excellent, but this is only what I have heard.
  • Thickening Agents (see Gum Thickeners)
  • Tortillas and Wraps: La Tortilla Factory makes some great low carb tortillas, in two sizes and several flavors. They keep in the fridge for weeks and in the freezer for months, and make good roll-ups and excellent enchiladas. I’ve also fried them to make tortilla chips. The only problem with them may be if they turn out to be a “trigger” food for you and you eat too many of them and then go looking for the high carbohydrate ones. Mountain Bread is a square tortilla-type wrap. It’s a little higher in carbs than the La Tortilla ones, but it’s also bigger. Tastes like a wrap, what more can I say?

Well, now that I no longer have room in my house for more products to try, I look forward to hearing from you to let me know what you think of some of the things out there that I haven’t mentioned here. I know there are probably a dozen more products I’ve used but forgotten to review, so if I think of them I’ll be sure to review them next time.

Until then, be well and Happy Low Carbing!

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