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Crunchy Low-Carb Foods

By Andrea Cespedes

A low-carb diet restricts you to fewer than 150 grams of carbs per day, and extremely low-carb diets permit fewer than 50 grams. With such restrictions, you can't really afford a lot of snack foods, such as chips, crackers and cookies, that tend to be high in carbs. But, snacks of hard-boiled eggs, diced cheese and deli turkey leave you wanting that satisfying crunch. A few low-carb foods may help address your craving, depending on what degree of carb restriction you're following.

Naturally Low-Carb Crunchy Foods

Nuts and seeds offer a crunchy change of pace from steak, chicken, cheese and broccoli. If you're on an extremely low-carb plan, such as 20 grams per day, the small amount of net carbs in nuts and seeds makes them a very occasional treat. "Net" carbs are those that impact your blood sugar and are relevant to carb counting. You find net carbs by subtracting a food's fiber grams from its total carbohydrate grams. Of all nuts, raw cashews offer the most net carbs with 8 grams per 2 tablespoons.

Almost all nuts have about 2 to 3 net carb grams per 2-tablespoon serving. For example, roasted almonds have about 3 grams of net carbs per 24 whole nuts; macadamia nuts offer 2 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons; and oil-roasted mixed nuts contain 3 grams per 2 tablespoons. Seeds are another crunchy option, especially if you've got a nut allergy. Munch on hulled sunflower seeds or sprinkle them on a salad for 2 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons, or choose roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds, which have 1.2 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons.

Crunchy, Low-Carb Vegetables

The classic crunchy raw vegetable, the carrot, contains 8 grams of net carbs per cup of coins -- making it too carb-rich for many low-carb plans. Instead, reach for celery sticks, which offer just 1 gram of net carbs per stalk. Add a spread of almond butter for 3 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons.

Raw, crispy lettuces, such as endive and romaine, offer just trace amounts of carbs. Use them to scoop up dips made with cream cheese, sour cream or mayonnaise and herbs. A tablespoon of these dips adds about 1 gram of carbs. Dip crisp, raw strips of red or yellow bell pepper into salsa, which usually has just 1 to 2 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons.

Kale chips, made with leaves of the green vegetable cooked at a low temperature until crispy, contain about 6 grams of net carbs per ounce. Purchase bags of kale chips flavored with hot pepper or cheese, too.

Crunchy Commercial Snacks

If your low-carb lifestyle has you missing tortilla chips or munchable snack crackers, you might enjoy pork rinds. You can enjoy them right out of the bag to satisfy a hankering for something salty and crunchy. They're fried pork fat and have no carbs, but the do contain hefty amounts of saturated fat and sodium -- so use them as a treat.

Some specialty grocery stores carry low-carb crackers made with flax, soy or cheese. Check labels to determine the exact carbohydrate count. Some claim to be "low-carb" but still have 8 to 10 grams of net carbs per serving, so they're low in carbs compared to original versions but may not fit into your plan.

Homemade Snacks

Traditional low-carb foods can be made crunchy with just a little help from your oven. Place tablespoons of shredded Parmesan, aged cheddar or Asiago on parchment paper, and bake in a 375-degree oven for six to eight minutes. The cheese will spread into a flat, browned crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool; they become crunchy at room temperature.

Use a similar technique to make pepperoni chips. Spread a single layer of pepperoni rounds on a baking sheet and season, if you like, with Italian spices. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to blot up excess grease, then return to the heat for another two to three minutes until crisp.

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