Low Carb

What to Eat on a Low Carb Diet

Max Carmody, MSc

On a low carb diet, you should be eating lots of lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, berries, unsaturated fats, and carby food substitutes like low-carb tortillas if you’re really craving carbs.

Carbohydrates, AKA carbs, are a type of macronutrient. Macronutrients are the types of nutrients that your body needs in large quantities that it cannot make itself. The other types of macronutrients are protein, and fat. Carbs are made up of sugars, fibers, and starches. They are primarily found in grains, vegetables, fruits, and milk products. Your digestive system breaks down carbs into glucose, or blood sugar. Your bloodstream absorbs glucose and uses it as energy to fuel your body. There are different types of carbs. Simple carbs are in things like table sugar, and some fruits. They provide short bursts of energy for your body. Complex carbs are in things like whole grains. They take longer for your body to break down, and are a longer lasting energy source. 

Low carb diets essentially are just diets where you reduce the amount of carbs you are eating. A low carb diet is typically under 130 grams of carbs per day. Some low carb diets can go as low as 50 or even 20 grams of carbs a day, however, the keto diet especially is known for this. When you reduce carbs, you need to make it up from another food group. So on low carb diets people end up eating either more protein, or more fat, or both. There is not one single type of low carb diet, many different types of diets, some commercial and some not, fall under the low carb umbrella. So what do you eat when you’re on a low carb diet? You can also find out here what you should NOT eat on a low carb diet, in this article that I wrote.

Protein

On a standard low carb diet (not keto) you’re going to be eating more protein than usual. Lean proteins are especially good. Lean protein is a source of protein that’s low in saturated fat. Due to this fact, it is also low in calories. Skinless chicken, grilled, is a good one. I went through a period recently where I was eating skinless chicken breasts, about 200 grams worth, for lunch every day, and I lost quite a bit of weight doing it. I like to put a little bit of garlic salt, and onion powder on my chicken breasts, to spice it up. Tuna is also a great one. And it’s quite handy for lunch. I keep lots of packets of tuna in the house. And kind will work, but I like the Starkist brand, Tuna creations. They have them for sale at the supermarket near me for only a dollar a packet a lot of the time. And there are so many different flavors, lemon pepper, hot buffalo, sriracha.

Cottage cheese is another great protein source. A cup of cottage cheese has 25 grams of protein. The way that I like to eat cottage cheese is with some salt and pepper, and either dried chives, or fresh chives from the garden. To find out if you can eat other types of cheese on a low carb diet, you can read this article here that I wrote on the topic. Turkey is also a good source of protein. Some very restrictive low carb diets do not allow for beans, like the “diet of hope” that I’ve been doing lately. But beans and lentils are another good source of protein, that are probably ok to eat, they’re quite healthy. And of course, you can eat fattier meats too, like pork or steak, as long as they’re consumed in moderation. Steak, and especially prime rib, is one of my favorite foods, I’ve been eating a lot of that lately.

Vegetables and Berries

Pretty much everyone should be eating lots of vegetables, it’s hard to go wrong with them. On a low carb diet, you’ll want to avoid too many starchy vegetables though. These are vegetables that grow below the ground usually. A good rule of thumb is : eat vegetables that grow above the ground, not those that grow below the ground. They’re ok in moderation of course, as are most things, but you don’t want to be eating too many of them.

Starchy vegetables tend to be higher in calories than other types of vegetables. Some starchy vegetables are corn, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, beets, acorn and butternut squash, turnips, and carrots. Non starchy vegetables are generally higher in fiber and lower in sugar than starchy vegetables.  Some non-starchy vegetables, the kinds that you want to be eating, are eggplant, arugula, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, celery, cabbage, red peppers, tomatoes, and summer squash. I especially like to have, for a little treat, a nice fancy heirloom tomato, sliced thinly, with some salt and pepper and chives, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.


Fruits are an important part of a balanced diet. For somebody who is not on a low carb diet, I would recommend any type of fruits. However, for somebody who is trying to do low carb pretty strictly, I would recommend sticking to berries. Bananas, apples, and grapes have the highest amount of carbs of the fruits. A serving of bananas has 27 grams of carbs, a serving of grapes has 28 grams of carbs, and an apple has 25 gram of carbs. Raspberries, on the other hand, have only 7 grams of carbs per a half cup, which is probably how much you’d be eating, so they, along with blackberries and strawberries, are a good choice. Blueberries have more carbs however, so although they are incredibly healthy and have lots of benefits for your brain, they are not as good of a choice. To find out more about the best foods that you can eat on a low carb diet, you can read this article that I wrote here.

Carby Food Substitutes

If you are feeling a bit deprived of the carbs, than you can eat some substitutes. There are many different types of low carb tortillas. La tortilla factory has a line of low-carb tortillas that 3 to 10 grams of net carbs (total carbs subtracting fiber). There are also some types of low carb breads out there. Low carb bread is typically made with a lot of dietary fiber, and sometimes nut flours. Thinslim brand has a lot of different breads that have 0 net carbs. Of course, they’ll taste a bit different from normal bread, but they’ll still be pretty decent if you’re just craving some carbs.

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