Low-carb diets have been around for a while now thanks to the many benefits they have to offer. Low carb foods can help you lose weight, reduce your sugar intake, and improve several areas of your overall health. However, many are reluctant to start this type of diet because, well, it isn’t easy to give up your favorite foods!
If you already follow the dietary guidelines surrounding a low carb foods diet, then you probably know that it opens the door to delicious, healthy foods and recipes. While many foci on the lack of bread, they forget that recipes like slow cooker chicken and grass-fed burgers all qualify for this diet. There are numerous desserts and snacks, too.
Whether you’re considering this diet as a way to lose weight and reduce your sugar intake, or you’ve already started and want to try out different foods, then this article is for you. We’ve rounded up 50 absolutely delicious items to put on your plate while still reaping the health benefits of eating low-carb.
Eating low carb foods is simple. You just cut out the bread, right? Well, sticking with this diet isn’t always quite that simple. Low-carb diets can be defined in numerous ways, depending on who you ask.
In general, reducing your carbohydrate intake to 20-30 percent, or even less, of your daily caloric intake, is considered eating low-carb. That goes for sugars, grains, fruit, and even starchy vegetables. People on a low-carb diet typically eat 50 grams of carbohydrates or less.
You might find individuals eating a ketogenic, or low-carb high-fat, a diet that reduces their amount to around 20 grams each day. Others aim for approximately 100 grams a day, usually consuming a little over 30 grams each meal. Others might count net carbs (what is left over after subtracting fiber grams), while some might count total carbs.
While everyone works to cut carbs out of their diet as much as possible, people do so in different ways. Regardless, they all find themselves eating alternatives to classic favorites. A cauliflower crust pizza or lettuce wrapped burger are excellent examples.
What’s Healthy, What’s Not?
Whether you limit yourself to 100 carbs or 20, not everything with a low carbohydrate count is necessarily healthy. Veterans of this diet will tell you that it’s all about quality over quantity when it comes to the carbohydrates you choose to eat.
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Packaged foods with bright labels screaming “low-carb,” for instance, tend to be over processed and include a host of synthetic ingredients that are better off to avoid. These include commercial protein bars, meal replacement shakes, and marketed snacks. While they do provide the fats and protein you need, their refined oils and artificial sweeteners are only hurting your attempt at better quality health.
You should also try to avoid anything marketed as a “diet” or “light” food with reduced fat on the label. These are also packed full of artificial ingredients and incorporate more carbs to make up for the lack of fat. While the count is still low, it can cause you to exceed your daily limit.
For this list, we focused on wholesome and healthy options only. Each items’ carb count had to be as low as possible, come in an organic variety when possible, and be a single ingredient as opposed to coming in a processed package.
50 Best and Delicious Low Carb Foods
We’ve separated these low carb foods into categories for you to add some much-needed organization to an otherwise large list of items. Since they are all individual items, you can use your imagination to craft scrumptious, healthy meals!
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- Chard/collard greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Green Beans
Dairy Products and Egg Options
- Raw whole milk
- Full-fat, unsweetened yogurt
- Hard cheese (blue, cheddar, goat, feta, swiss, asiago, and parmesan)
- Cage-free eggs
Meat and Fish
Seeds and Nuts
- Chia seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Walnuts (and any other seeds or nuts you can think of)
Zero Carb Fats and Oils
- Lard and butter
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil
- Hemp, avocado, and olive oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Bone broths
- Raw, unsweetened cocoa powder
- Mustard, excluding honey mustard
- Hot sauce
- Any herbs (turmeric, ginger, oregano, etc.)
Zero Carb Drinks
- Coffee (no sugar!)
- Any unsweetened, unflavored tea
- Herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, and chai
- Green smoothies/fresh pressed vegetable juices
Wait, What About Starchy Vegetables and Fruits?
It isn’t always easy to look at a vegetable or fruit and say, “Yup! That’s a starchy one!” Most people starting out on a low-carb diet have a difficult time remembering which ones are okay to eat and which to avoid at first. There’s a simple rule of thumb you can follow until you’re more familiar with non-starchy varieties.
The majority of vegetables grown above ground contain significantly less starch, including spaghetti and zucchini. Root vegetables, or those grown below ground, are often rich in both starch and carbs. The potato is an excellent example, as are turnips and beets.
While that rule isn’t 100% accurate, it can help you determine which items to put on your plate. Pumpkins, for instance, are an exception. While they do grow above ground, only their seeds remain low in carbohydrates.
Keep in mind that some root vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients, despite their somewhat higher carb count. As long as you take the time to count the carbs, different veggies can provide low sugar, high nutrient choices for your meals.
There also beans and legumes higher in starch that you can whip up into flour or hummus. Chickpeas are a popular option, which provides an ample amount of antioxidants and fiber. They’re also naturally sweet, which can help you fight off sugar cravings.
Consider these starchier options, remembering to count your calories carefully when including them:
- Berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries)
- Tart cherries
- Sweet or purple potatoes
- Citrus fruits
- Black beans, mung beans, and adzuki beans
What Not to Eat
Avoiding grains is the simple aspect of eating a low-carb diet, but there are other things you’ll need to avoid. Some find that this diet works best when eliminating one item at a time, so start with grains. This includes wheat, barley, oats, and other whole grains.
Next, focus on eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet. That includes items like honey and coconut sugar, not just the white kind or Splenda.
Commercial fruit juices are the next thing to go. These contain high amounts of sugar and plenty of other unhealthy artificial ingredients. Lemon juice, however, is fine.
Afterward, check the labels on your condiments. These are also typically high in sugar. Look at all of your pre-made bottles, sauces, and packet mixes.
The next one is hard, but eliminating soda and alcohol is essential to eating a low-carb diet. The same goes for any sweetened drinks including sweet tea and commercial drinks often found in gas stations.
Finally, you want to consider avoiding most dairy products. While some are okay to eat, the majority of milk and cheeses are higher in carbs than you might think. Stick with anything high in fat, but low in carbs, making sure to read labels before buying anything.
Benefits of Eating Low Carb Foods
People have debated on what diets are the healthiest for decades now, with some being proponents of a low-carb diet and others taking a stance against it. However, research shows that a large number of individuals can reap numerous health benefits from eating this way.
Everyone is different, which means that drastically cutting down on carbs might work better for some than others. Eliminating sugars, grains, and processed foods from your diet, on the other hand, is beneficial to everyone.
This change in diet helps with weight loss as well as maintaining a healthier weight. As the body eliminates the glucose it was once used for energy, it starts to use stored fat instead as well as the fats and proteins you consume. Many also experience decreased cravings and more satisfaction from their meals a short while after making the switch.
Low carb foods can help to normalize your blood sugar levels by providing your body better control over insulin production. This allows your body to suppress blood sugar spikes, which is critical to pre-diabetics and those who already have diabetes.
Without the rush of sugar to your brain, cognitive functions are increased. This can eliminate fatigue, improve your memory, and even reduce the symptoms of epilepsy. Low-carb foods also decrease your risk of osteoporosis.
Eliminating processed foods can also lower cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar. Combined, this change significantly decreases your chance of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.