How Can I Stay Under 50 Grams of Carbs a Day?
Max Carmody, MSc
To stay under 50 grams of carbs a day, read nutritional labels for foods when you’re unsure of their carbohydrate content, things like store bought tomato or vegetable soup can contain a surprisingly high amount of carbs. Focus on eating foods like non starchy vegetables such as lettuce or mushrooms, eggs, meat, and cheese, which all have almost 0 grams of carbs.
What are Carbs?
Carbohydrates, or cabs as they are commonly known, are a type of macronutrient. The other types of macronutrients are protein, and fat. Macronutrients are nutrients that we need to consume in larger quantities that provide us with energy, as opposed to micronutrients, which we consume in small amounts and are mostly minerals and vitamins. Carbs are made up of sugars, starches, and fibers. They are found in many types of foods, and in large quantities in vegetables, grains, fruit, and milk products. There are different types of carbs. Two of the main types are simple carbs, and complex carbs. Both types of carbs give you energy, but simple carbs give you short bursts of energy, and complex carbs take longer for your body to break down and tend to be a longer lasting energy source. Simple carbs are things like fruit and dairy products and table sugars, and complex carbs are things like whole grains and legumes and vegetables.
Low Carb Diet
A low carb diet involves restricting your daily carbohydrate intake. Typically, anything under about 130 grams of carbs a day is considered to be a low carb diet. However, some types of low carb diets involve eating under 50 carbs a day, or even as low as 20 carbs a day. Because on a low carb diet you are eating fewer carbs, you have to make them up with the other macronutrients, and eat more fat, or more protein, or both. There is not one type of low carb diet, but rather many different types of low carb diets that exist.
Because we’re talking about eating under 50 grams of carbs a day, we’ll discuss the keto diet. On a keto diet, you eat under 50 grams of carbs a day, and sometimes as low as 20 grams of carbs. The Keto Diet is very low carb, and high fat. You drastically increase carbohydrate intake, and replace it with fat. The standard Keto macronutrient ratio is about 20% protein, 80% fat, and 10% carbs, although it can vary a bit. The whole point of the Keto diet is that it puts your body into “ketosis”. This is a metabolic state that occurs when you drastically reduce carbs and replace them with fat. In ketosis, your body becomes very efficient at burning fat for energy. It starts turning fat into ketones in the liver, which can then supply energy for the brain.
A standard low carb diet is a bit more lenient, as it can allow you to eat up to 130 grams of carbs a day. I tried one diet where I was eating about 100 carbs a day, and I could even have cereal for breakfast, and a little bit of rice for dinner on it. However a more extreme low carb diet, whether Keto or not, is going to be much more restrictive in terms of carbs. You’re going to want to completely avoid things like rice and cereal, because a large serving of rice alone, could put you over your daily carb limit. You’re going to want to really make sure that all the foods you’re consuming have a low amount of carbs, there is no exact right figure, but as a rule of thumb I would say probably 10 grams of carbs or so should be the max. You’re going to want to especially be looking out for foods with 0, or close to 0 carbs, and make sure that a large part of your diet consists of those. If you would like to read an article about foods with 0 carbs, you can find one here that I wrote. We’ll go over some good types of foods to focus on, now.
Filling Non-Starchy Vegetables
You can group vegetables into two different categories: starchy, and non starchy ones. Starchy ones generally occur below ground, and have more carbs in them. Non-starchy vegetables generally grow above the ground, and have fewer carbs. Vegetables are extremely healthy, everyone, no matter what type of diet they are on, should be eating more vegetables. But they are also a great way to fill yourself up, while consuming very few carbs, and calories. Mushrooms are extremely low in carbs, they only have 2 grams of carbs in an entire raw cup of them. Lettuce is one of the lowest carb vegetables. One entire cup only has 2 grams of carbs. There are plenty of other relatively low carb vegetables that you could eat, including cucumbers at 4 grams of carbs a cup.
Eggs are a great way to fill yourself up with almost no carbs. If you have cereal or toast for breakfast, I would recommend substituting that with eggs. I have eggs for breakfast almost every morning. I like eating them with some chopped up chipotles, or some black truffle hot sauce. Eggs only contain about .2 grams of carbs each, virtually nothing. And they have tons of other health benefits. They are really good for you. I have 2 or 3 of them for breakfast, with some berries, and they keep me filled up until lunch.
Meat and Seafood
Meat and seafood keep you very filled up, because of all the protein that they pack in. And although they contain very small traces of carbs, it is pretty close to 0 for all practical purposes. If you’re trying to stay under 50 carbs a day, meats are probably going to be one of your main staples, when I’m on a low carb diet I eat a lot more meat than I usually do. I’m all for vegetarianism, but if you’re trying to eat under 50 carbs a day it’s extremely difficult to do it while being a vegetarian, low carb or Keto probably isn’t the diet for you.
Eating a lot of cheese is frowned upon on some low carb diets that are more moderate fat, because it contains a lot of saturated fat usually, but on the Keto diet it seems to be highly encouraged. I tried that diet for a bit, and my favorite part of it was that I got to eat tons of cheese, which I loved. Keto didn’t lead to quite as much weight loss for me as standard low carb, with all the cheese and bacon, but I think it works differently for everyone, and I definitely did lose some weight. Cheddar is an especially good type of cheese to eat on a low carb diet, a slice of it only contains .4 grams of carbs.
Read the Nutritional Labels on Foods You’re Unsure of
If you’re just trying to do standard low carb, and stay below 130 grams of carbs, this won’t be so important. But if you’re really trying to go hardcore and do under 50 grams a day, you’re going to want to read those labels. A good example would be store bought tomato soup. I was going to have tomato soup for my lunch the other day, but I checked the nutritional label, and it had almost FIFTY carbs for the can. Like, what’s in that stuff? I thought it was just supposed to be tomato. Another example is milk, which a lot of people don’t realize even has carbs. But a cup of milk has 12 grams of carbs. It is ok to have a splash of it with your coffee or tea now and then, but if you’re drinking 10 cups of tea or coffee a day with a lot of milk, those carbs are going to add up if you’re really trying to go low.
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