Many individuals are still quite hesitant in consuming low-carb diets despite the fact that this way of eating has been associated with several health benefits. This is particularly true for people who desire to lose some weight or break bad sugar habits for the betterment of their health. The main reason for this fear is having to give up numerous foods that are supposedly delicious. Their main concern is whether low-carb foods taste good or not.
It is still very possible to enjoy all manner of delicious recipes while adhering to a nutritious low-carb diet. There are many low-carb recipes that range from grass-fed burgers to veggies and slow cooker chicken. There are also good recipes for travel-friendly snacks and low-carb breakfasts, these can comprise of the following:
- Protein shakes or green smoothies. Read my ultimate green juice guide.
- Low-carb desserts that have prepared using almond flour or coconut.
- 1-2 cage-free eggs that have been hard-boiled.
- New varieties of nutritious grass-fed beef jerky.
A low carbohydrate diet might not be very effective with regard to sustaining weight loss, but it can be very helpful to individuals who want to decrease their intake added sugars as well as carbs. It can also be of significant help for those who only desire to temporarily decrease their intake of carbs and sugar. This might be because they are keen on breaking their addiction to sugar or just want to commence a much healthier diet that has low quantities of processed foods. In fact, such people tend to experience the benefits of low-carb foods relatively fast.
Some of the essential dietary changes that people have to make for their bodies to secrete less insulin include the removal of foods such as:
- Starchy veggies
- Whole grains
- Processed dairy
- Sweetened drinks
Once these are eliminated from the diet, there will be a positive response from the body. Some of the notable benefits of such changes are reduced cravings, balanced levels of blood sugar, increased weight loss, decreased risk for diabetes and heart disease and a clear head once you get accustomed to the changes.
When foods that are rich in carbohydrates are replaced with low-carb foods such as high-quality proteins, healthy fats and non-starchy veggies, there are additional benefits. This is because consumers will experience reduced hunger, it might help in reversing some nutrient deficiencies and makes one feel satisfied.
What is Low Carb Food?
It is important to know exactly what carbs are so as to know how to effectively avoid them. This is because a low-carb diet may be interpreted differently by various individuals. However, generally, a low-carb diet is one that provides you with approximately 20%-30% (could be less) of your daily calorie intake but from carbohydrate sources like starchy veggies, fruit, grains or added sugars. Ultimately, this should be around 50 grams –100 grams of carbohydrates or much less. People who are on a ketogenic diet plan consume much less i.e. a daily intake of approximately 20 grams –50 grams. This is because it is a high-fat, low-carb diet also known as a LCHF diet. This is what stimulates ketosis i.e. burning fat for energy instead of carbs/glucose.
Supposing your aim was to consume net carbs of approximately 100 grams on a daily basis, this amount being subdivided into 3 meals, a net carb of 30–35 grams would be in each of the low carb meals. But what are these net carbs? These can be described as the number of carbs that are left over when all fiber carbs are removed from the total quantity of carbs.
This means that fiber does not constitute the net carbohydrates since fiber cannot be digested after consumption. Furthermore, fiber does not spike the levels of blood sugar, unlike glucose. This is the main reason as to why individuals on an extremely low-carb diet still eat foods that are rich in fiber like certain nuts/seeds and non-starchy veggies.
People on ketogenic diets that is characterized by very low-carbs (maintaining the number of carbs to approximately 20–30 net grams on a daily basis or less) can still consume all non-starchy veggies that they desire. This is because they are rich in fiber, have a high water content, are filling, are low in calories and are rich in nutrients.
Many people wonder how a low-carb meal that contains a net carb of 30–35 grams would look like.
Example of a Low Carb Meal
The following is a good example of a meal that is low in carbohydrates.
A 3-ounce serving of protein like chicken breast, 2-cups of non-starchy vegetables such as peppers and broccoli, 1 side salad + mixed greens as well as 1 – 2 tablespoon of oil or even dressing. Such a meal is even much less than the 35 grams of net carbs.
If a vegetable that is a bit starchier like turnips or beets was added, then it would result in a higher consumption of carbohydrates but not by a significant extent. For a meal to be termed as high carb or moderate carb then fruit, grains or sweeteners like potatoes or honey would have to be added. A serving of this has about 20–25 grams of carbs or even more.
Other examples of low-carb meals are listed below:
- Cauliflower crust pizza.
- Salmon burgers or chicken.
- Collard wrap or lettuce cups that are filled with shredded chicken, sesame dressing and veggies.
- Fajitas that have been prepared with a lot of vegetables and a protein of choice.
- Quesadillas or empanadas that are filled with cheese and grass-fed beef and made with coconut flour crust or an almond.
- Other viable options are crockpot recipes, casseroles, and smoothies.
Healthy low-carb foods and unhealthy low-carb foods
Many people think that simply because a food is low in carbohydrates that it is healthy for consumption. This is very incorrect. In fact, the quality of carbs that is consumed is more important compared to the quantity. It is good practice to avoid low-carb packaged foods, at least for those who wish to eliminate synthetic/processed ingredients from their diet. These are things like commercial meal replacement shakes and protein bars. This is because they might provide protein and fat and have low carbs and sugar but still fail to be beneficial to health. These have artificial sweeteners, refined oils and processed protein powders.
If you are interested in taking healthy low-carb snack with you, an ideal option is to make your own. There is an array of low-carb snacks that you can easily prepare in the comfort of your home using the following items:
• Low-carb sweets such as donuts, muffins and cookies.
• Cauliflower tots.
• Cocoa energy bites.
• Protein powders such as bone broth or whey.
• Coconut oil or coconut flour.
• Low-carb protein shake recipes, these are the quickest to prepare.
It is advisable to completely avoid foods commonly referred to as light or diet foods even as you strive to clean-up your diet and attempt a few new low-carb recipes. This is because they are filled with artificial ingredients and low or reduced fats. In order to make for the fats that have been lost, these products are prepared using artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, thickeners and extra carbs or flour. It is good to avoid any foods prepared using hydrogenated oils or trans-fats despite the fact that they might not be high in cane sugar or carbs. Foods made using hydrogenated oils are like fast/fried foods, packaged foods or junk foods.
Related: Low-Carb marzipan star wars cupcakes
50 Best Low Carb Foods
The following are 50 of the best low-carb foods that you can incorporate into your diet:
The following are some low-carb vegetables that you can add to your diet:
5. Brussel sprouts
7. Carrots (this is a moderate-carb)
9. Collard greens or chard
10. Green beans
13. Onions or leeks
Eggs and dairy
18. Cage-free eggs
19. Hard cheese, heavy cream and sour cream (all of which should be low in carbs)
20. Kefir or full-fat unsweetened yogurt
21. Raw whole milk
Whenever possible have organic dairy or grass-fed dairy that is prepared from raw milk. The low-carb variety cheeses are asiago, parmesan, Swiss, feta, goat, cheddar cheese and blue cheese.
Meat and seafood
Each food that is listed below has zero carbs. It should be noted that wild-caught fish is highly recommended compared to shellfish like shrimp. This is because they have high concentrations of heavy metals such as mercury. Other foods to include are cage-free eggs, poultry, fatty red meat such as lamb and grass-fed beef. There are certain low-carb ketogenic diets that advocate for pork as well as processed meats such as bacon. However, it is not advisable to eat these unhealthy meats.
23. Cod or tuna but these should be consumed in moderation.
Nuts and seeds
31. Brazil nuts and cashews
32. Chia seeds
33. Flax seeds
34. Hemp seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds
Oils and fats
All of these have zero carbs:
36. Avocado oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, olive oil or coconut oil
37. Ghee or butter
39. Palm oil
Spices, herbs and condiments
40. Apple cider vinegar as well as other kinds of vinegar but in little quantities i.e. red, white, balsamic etc.
41. Bone broth regardless of whether it is to utilize in recipes or just drink
42. Cocoa powder should be unsweetened or raw
43. Coconut aminos, tamari or soy sauce
44. Herbs such as pepper, real sea salt, basil, rosemary, oregano, ginger, turmeric etc
45. Hot sauces
46. Mustard but should not be high in sugar such as honey mustard
48. Fresh pressed green smoothies or vegetable juices
49. Herbal teas like chai, peppermint, honeybush, chamomile, ginger etc.
50. Teas such as white, oolong, black and green.
Fruit, beans, and starchy vegetables in low-carb recipes
There are different ways of identifying vegetables that are non-starchy hence low in carbs is. Most vegetables that grow above ground are non-starchy such as cabbage, chard, peppers, leafy greens and broccoli. There are certain squashes that are considered to be non-starchy like zucchini and spaghetti squash.
Vegetables that grow below ground also known as root veggies are richer in carbs and starch like beets, turnips and potatoes.
This rule of thumb is not applicable in all cases because pumpkins are grown above ground but are still high in carbs.
Fruits and root vegetables believed to be low in carbs are nutrient-rich and generally have low sugars hence should be included in the diet. Root vegetables and fruits that have been cooked, shredded or pureed can effectively substitute grains or added sweeteners in numerous recipes. For instance, cauliflower rice.
The same applies to certain beans or legumes like chickpeas because they can be prepared into hummus or flour to act as creamy additions to various low-carb recipes. In fact, these foods are rich in antioxidants, provide sugar and fiber. This helps in eliminating cravings for cane sugar. This is why the following starchy vegetables and fruits should be added to your diet:
• Berries – These are raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or strawberries.
• Purple or sweet potatoes
• Citrus fruits
• Tart cherries
• Legumes and beans – These include adzuki beans, mung beans, black beans, chickpeas etc. These may not necessarily be low-carb but are healthy when consumed in moderation. People who wish to eat grains or legumes should soak and sprout them first then cook. This is beneficial because it assists in releasing additional minerals, vitamin and proteins. It also makes their digestion much easier.
There are numerous health benefits that are associated with a low-carb diet. One does not have to completely give up whole-food sources of carbohydrates, simply reducing added sugars, processed foods and grains can promote the following:
i. Faster weight loss and easy maintenance of a healthy weight.
ii. Increased satiety from meals, decreased cravings and reduced hunger for sweets and foods that are rich in carbs.
iii. Normalized levels of blood sugar
iv. Enhanced cognitive performance and neuroprotective effects
v. Improved hormonal balance
vi. Reduced osteoporosis or bone loss
vii. Favorable changes in body compositions and mass
viii. Lower risk of metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular disease
Foods to avoid
There are certain types of foods that people on a low-carb diet should avoid because of the added carbs and sugars. They include the following:
• Avoid all grains i.e. rice, oats, barley, wheat etc.
• Foods prepared with grain flour such as pasta, muffins, cereal, chips, biscuits, cakes, bread etc.
• Foods and sugars with added sweeteners or artificial sweeteners i.e. cane sugar, coconut sugar, honey etc.
• Fruit juices and commercial fruits except for lemon juice or lime
• Packet mixes, sauces or pre-made condiments
• Soda, alcohol or sweetened drinks
Individuals who are too keen to reduce carbs such as those on a ketogenic diet should avoid dairy products like cottage cheese, ricotta, yogurt, milk. However, they can include low-carb, high-fat cheeses.
The aim should always be to decrease the intake of processed ingredients and consume whole and real foods. It is fine to experiment with a low-carb diet for some time but maintaining it calls for the inclusion of an array of foods from various plants that have some carbs.
In order to sustain a long-term healing diet, it is good to fully understand the number of carbs that your body can comfortably tolerate without weight gain or developing health complications.
Must Read: Top 10 Low-Carb Dutch Recipes
Low-carb diets are good for various reasons such as weight loss, improving some health conditions such as fatigue, brain fog, sugar dependence and risk factors for diabetes etc.
Some low-carb foods are eggs, seafood, meat, hard cheeses, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, non-starchy veggies. Moderate sources of carbohydrates are starchier veggies, legumes, beans, seeds, and nuts.
It is never a good idea to completely avoid eating healthy sources of carbohydrates in moderation, but this is a factor of one’s goals and overall health. There are certain cases where soaked or sprouted legume and grains can be incorporated into a low-carb diet.