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Flat Tummy Tip – Reducing Carbs

how to get a flat tummy

Over the last week I have been really trying to regain the flat tummy of the Educogym days (which I am returning to, by the way, just as soon as I finish off my five gazillion bits of writing for various people!) and so I have been cutting out a lot of my usual carbs. Mr AMR would laugh a lot about that, as he has watched me chomp through toast, weetabix and porridge (not all at once) in the mornings, but for the rest of the day I have been really trying not to lazily reach for the bread or pasta to quick-fix my meals. I’m upping my lean proteins and eating lots of fish (ugh) shellfish (yum) and chicken and serving them alongside some of the substitution ideas below!

Some good substitutions for bread, pasta, potatoes and rice:

1) Salad. Don’t groan! I’m talking beautifully-dressed, in-season, fresh salad. Gorgeous juicy tomatoes, colourful peppers and peppery rocket leaves. If you want ideas on how to make amazing salads (and they will fill you up, believe me!) then buy a few good cookbooks – I like Thomasina Miers’ Mexican book and anything by Jamie Oliver. Simple ingredients, quick methods, just what you need. Serve with grilled fish or chicken.

2) Puy Lentils. My most amazing food trick of this year! I love big, saucy meals like homemade curries and pasta dishes, but obviously if I’m trying to cut down on carbs then these will just not do! So this is what I have started doing: I chuck in a tin of puy lentils at the end of the cooking time to make the dish into a type of one-pot stew! It’s amazing! You can get puy lentils from most supermarkets – they are about £1.50 for a tin of them at Waitrose and Sainsburys from a company called ‘Merchant Gourmet.’ So far I have had them in a chicken curry, a French fish stew and most recently, I have jazzed the lentils up with lemon and garlic and herbs and then served pan-fried scallops and asparagus on top of them! (Dying of hunger now, absolutely dying.) Lentils have a carbohydrate content, so they’re not ‘carb-free’ but if you’re looking to cut out wheat and add protein then these are a brilliant way of doing so.

3) Low-fat, natural greek yoghurt. (Total 0% to be precise.) I have been swapping ‘cereal and milk’ for a huge dollop of yoghurt with berries. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. I don’t usually advocate ‘reduced fat’ foods, as they are often pumped full of sugar and salt to compensate for lack of flavour, but in this case (as I am eating a shed-load of yoghurt more than usual!) I think that it’s necessary. Anyway, Total doesn’t have any nasties added, so it’s fine.

4) Cauliflower. (I haven’t gone mad, here.) If you simmer cauliflower florets in a bit of milk, and once they’re soft blend them up with a load of salt and pepper, they make rather a nice substitution for mashed potato! I have this with seared scallops on top and a bit of pan-fried parma ham. (Again, cauliflower has a carb content, but i’s not quite as starchy as potato, so I think it’s a good alternative. Especially with Sunday roast!)

My tummy is so flat at the moment – and I’m sure that it’s just from these little changes! I’m not advocating these substitutions for every meal – (I’m having the odd pasta dish or bit of bread when I really need to) – but as ideas to fall back on when you want to avoid too many carbs then I think you might find them useful.

(Q: What’s the problem with carbs?

A: No problem whatsoever if you eat them in sensible proportions, but some people eat toast for breakfast, a huge sarnie for lunch and then curry with rice and naan for dinner! Carbs are great for a quick-fix of energy (the body burns them easily and so chooses them first over fats and proteins) but they aren’t, believe it or not, essential nutrients for the human body. Fats and proteins are. I’m not going to go into depth here, because it would go on for pages, but there’s nothing wrong with eating carbs  – they can provide essential dietary fibre for a start! – we just need to eat them sensibly. They make our bloody sugar go haywire (because they are, or quickly get converted into, sugars) and they can leave us feeling hungry very, very quickly. So, just be a little bit ‘carb aware’ – things like white bread especially should be eaten infrequently. There’s no real nutritional benefit and although it’s a ‘fat free’ food, you have to get your head around the fact that IT WILL MAKE YOU FAT if you eat loads of it and little else! Don’t make processed, ‘easy’ carbs your staple – a plate full of rice is just a filler, try swapping it for a plate full of beautifully crunchy stir-fried vegetables instead! Mmmm. Also – and this is important – if you reduce your carbs, make sure that you’re getting enough protein. We want to build muscle people! Not waste away – healthy, toned bods, that’s the aim!)


  1. Interesting post, enjoyed reading it. The tips are great, so thanks for sharing. I’m on a mission to tone up before a holiday in September – not long left now!x

  2. I do agree with the fact that carbs need to be consumed in a sensible way, and I have noticed too that eating less of them made my tummy much more flat!

    However, it’s not true to say that the body don’t need them. And, for instance, the only “carburant” your brain can use is SUGAR. Plain sugar. Not kilos of them of course, but you NEED some, and you need some carbs.
    Of course, eat too much of them and you’ll get fat. But that’s true with any food :)

    • @Musing on Beauty actually, that you can live without carbs is accurate – they aren’t an essential ‘building block’ at all, as fats and proteins can be converted into sugars via gluconeogenesis, just in a slower way. You could probably get all you need from the less starchy carbs – fresh veg for example, without ever having to touch bread and potatoes. Some people live like that all the time – although personally I think that it would be a little extreme! And yes, your brain would be on total go-slow. x

  3. Great advice Ruth, and very inspirational. I find that if I don’t eat carbs past 6pm I wake up the next morning flat(ish). I need my toast in the morning though :)

  4. Great post! Couldn’t have come at a more perfect need-to-sort-my-life-out-and-stop-eating-so-many-carbs-time. One of my favourite recipes when I’m trying to be good is a salmon and coriander dahl. Yay for lentils! x

  5. Thanks for the tips! I really need em in time for formal!!

  6. Thanks Ruth, this is really helpful! I definitely eat too many carbs, but am never sure what to replace them with, except a (boring) salad, which is never as appealing as pasta. If you have any more tips like this it would be great to keep getting them every now and again!

  7. It’s nice to hear that you don’t really need to eat carbs to be healthy; the amounts recommended always seem so much! That being said, I know they should never be cut to 0%, ever, but I need to do some more research on this.

    I wanted to share a simple recipe that seems to be suitable for the educogym diet. Tuna with mashed avocados (which replaces mayonnaise). It’s something I came up with this year when starting to use avocados in my cooking, since I don’t really like using mayonnaise.

    Put the tuna in a bowl, slices of ripe avocado and mash it all together with a fork. Add salt, pepper or whatever seasonings you want. I also add lime juice sometimes. Or turn it into a salad by adding cucumbers and lettuce. Whatever you want really. Makes a good sandwich filler too (when you’re not on a diet).

    This is my lazy go-to meal (or rather, snack) when I haven’t eaten dinner and it’s too late for a full meal. Something else I tried recently, adding fresh basil to scrambled eggs makes it so good!

    Sorry this was so long! Anyway, I like your sensible approach to these health articles. Keep up the good work!

  8. Tip for eating porridge if you can’t live without it: soak it in water (the same amount as you would cook it in) overnight, then top up with a bit more before you cook it. This breaks down some of the bloating factor in the porridge and makes it easier for your body to digest. Add butter (just a little! And the real stuff, none of that fake butter substitute lark) and the good fats in the butter actually help your body absorb the nutrients properly:-)

  9. I nearly dropped my spoon as I was reading this while having my morning bowl of shredded wheat. I love the lentil substitution suggestion. Have you ever tried Bikram yoga? I just started, but I swear I can already see the difference. It seems like it would be exactly the type of exercise to give you that supermodel body — long lean muscle, and since you sweat a massive amount of toxins and water, you end up with glowing, toned skin. It’s really intense, but you feel like a goddess afterwards.

    Thanks for the tips. I love Jamie Oliver too.

  10. I accidentally have majorly cut down on carbs lately – specially bread – and I definitely see a different. I eat a lot of pasta though so I am cutting down to once a week with meat and veg (simple meals) the rest of the week! I need to up my veg portions seriously!

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