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What Are Diabetes-Friendly Bread Substitutes?

Diet and Nutrition

April 30, 2024

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Photography by Nadine Greeff/Stocksy United

Photography by Nadine Greeff/Stocksy United

by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Imashi Fernando, MS, RDN, CDCES


by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Imashi Fernando, MS, RDN, CDCES


With these bread substitutes, you can still enjoy your favorite meals with type 2 diabetes.

Living with type 2 diabetes means being aware of what you eat and how it affects you. Carbs — particularly simple ones — tend to rapidly raise blood sugar levels, making it more difficult to maintain a consistent level.

Bread can still be part of a healthy diet as long as it fits within your total daily carb goal and you choose breads that are made with whole grains, such as sprouted whole grain breads. However, many store-bought breads contain large amounts of sugar and other simple carbohydrates.

Finding a replacement can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. You might even find that you enjoy different ways to prepare some of your favorite meals and snacks. Let’s take a look at some options.

Lettuce wraps

A lettuce wrap is a simple replacement for just about any sandwich — even some hot ones.

Lettuce wraps use one or two large leaves of lettuce in place of bread. You can add your favorite protein, such as turkey or roast chicken salad.

For example, one large raw iceberg lettuce leaf has about 0.5 grams (g) of carbs. Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce have few carbs and a minimal impact on blood sugar.

Comparably, white sandwich bread contains highly processed carbohydrates, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). This type of bread has a high glycemic index, which will cause your blood sugar to spike rapidly, making it harder to manage.

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Portobello mushroom buns

Portobello mushrooms are large, bun-shaped mushrooms that can act as a good bread substitute.

One whole portobello mushroom contains 3.25 g of carbs. Mushrooms also offer several B vitamins and other nutrients, such as potassium and phosphorus.

You can use mushroom caps to hold just about any type of sandwich, including a chicken or beef burger. For added flavor, you can try lightly grilling the bottom of the cap with a small amount of olive oil, some garlic powder, and a bit of pepper.

Cucumbers (two options)

Sliced cucumbers are about the same size and shape as your favorite crackers. You can slice rounds thick enough to scoop up a healthy dip or place a small amount of chicken salad on top of a slice for a low carb snack option.

Alternatively, you can slice a cucumber in half lengthwise and use the two halves to make a sub with low sodium turkey slices, cheese, lettuce, and other ingredients. But be mindful of what you use to fill the cucumber sub — not all ingredients add up to a balanced meal.

Cucumbers offer many nutrients, and a whole cucumber has about 11 g of carbs. In comparison with crackers or bread, cucumbers will have minimal impact on blood sugar levels after the meal.

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Bell pepper halves

Bell peppers have a large cavity when cut in half, so they’re a great choice for a handheld meal.

One medium red bell pepper contains 7.18 g of carbs and 2.5 g of fiber.

You can fill bell peppers with your favorite lean proteins, cheeses, lettuce, and other toppings. But, as with any of these bread substitutes, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re putting in the bell pepper.

Bread made with almond flour

Bread made with almond flour offers one of the closest textures to traditional bread while allowing you to limit your carb intake. This flour is made from ground almonds.

One ounce (28 g) of almond flour has 5.6 g of carbs. A bonus is that it’s readily available in most stores due to the increase in demand among people with gluten sensitivities. But it’s important to read the nutrition label when choosing an almond-based bread at the grocery store — some may have added sugars.

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Low carb tortillas

Due to the popularity of low carb food options, low carb tortillas or wraps are available in many grocery stores across the United States. Wraps can hold the same sandwich ingredients as traditional bread but often have fewer carbs per serving.

A word of caution here: Read the labels carefully. If you’re counting your carbs, check to see how many grams a wrap has. Differences in size, brand, and serving size can all affect how good of an alternative a low carb wrap is.

Keto-friendly breads and buns

If you want to cut carbs but still want to feel like you’re eating traditional bread, keto-friendly options may work well for you. These products do not necessarily offer additional health benefits, but they often have a taste and texture similar to those of traditional bread.

“Keto-friendly” refers to the keto diet, which involves limiting carb intake. The popularity of this diet — and of low carb eating in general — means you should be able to find keto-friendly breads in most grocery stores.

To be clear, keto-friendly bread may not offer additional health benefits and may be just as nutritionally lacking as regular white bread. The benefit comes from reducing your total carb intake, which may help you manage your blood sugar levels when combined with a diabetes-friendly diet and lifestyle habits.

The ADA suggests limiting the amount of highly processed foods you eat, and that category includes keto-friendly bread.

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What to look for in bread alternatives

The ADA recommends paying attention to these carb facts:

  1. Types of carbs: Sugars and other simple carbs spike your blood sugar levels quickly and offer fewer nutritional benefits.
  2. Fiber: High fiber foods can help regulate your blood sugar levels and promote heart health.
  3. Glycemic index: A low glycemic index means that a food produces a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar levels after you eat it. This helps keep your blood sugar level consistent.


Diabetes-friendly bread substitutes offer fewer carbs and, sometimes, better nutritional value than traditional bread. In general, the closer a bread substitute is to traditional white bread, the more processed the product is.

Bread isn’t completely off-limits as long as it fits within your total daily carb goal and you choose breads made with whole grains, such as sprouted whole grain bread. But keep in mind that many store-bought breads contain added sugar and other simple carbohydrates.

If you’re trying to eat fewer carbs, switching out your bread for a healthier or lower carb alternative can make the change a bit easier to manage.

Medically reviewed on April 30, 2024

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About the author

Jenna Fletcher

Jenna Fletcher is a freelance writer and content creator. She writes extensively about health and wellness. As a mother of one stillborn twin, she has a personal interest in writing about overcoming grief and postpartum depression and anxiety, and reducing the stigma surrounding child loss and mental healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College.

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