Low carb in a nutshell
As the name suggests, this diet is all about eating less carbohydrates, or carbs for short. There is no unified definition of what constitutes a low carb diet, but in general, most people that consider themselves low carb eat between 20-130 grams of carbs per day. For comparison, a regular diet nowadays might include around 300 grams of carbs.
This diet is famous mainly because it can be very effective at helping you lose weight. Studies also show that low carb can be a useful tool for those trying to manage diabetes. But a lot of people keep eating this way because they find it helps them reduce sugar cravings, ease digestive issues, and they simply feel better.
Now let’s take a look at what kind of foods you should eat and avoid if you want to reduce carbohydrate intake.
Foods to eat on a low carb diet
The following list includes foods that fit well into a low carb diet because their carbohydrate content is lower than 10 g per 100g and in most cases close to zero.
- Nuts and seeds
- Fish, meat, and seafood
- Green and colourful vegetables, mushrooms
- Dairy products including cheese, cream, or yogurt
- Oils and fats including butter
Low carb fruit
You may have noticed that the list above didn’t include many fruits. That’s because most fruits contain too many carbs per typical serving. However, there are a few types of fruits that you can have on a low carb diet. We added the net carbs per 100 g next to each fruit. If you want to know how to calculate net carbs check out our previous article.
- Avocado (1,8 g)
- Blackberries (4,3 g)
- Raspberries (5,4 g)
- Strawberries (5,7 g)
- Lemon (6 g)
- Cantaloupe (7,2 g)
- Watermelon (7,5 g)
- Peach (8 g)
- Kiwi (8,2 g)
- Blueberries (9 g)
- Plums (10 g)
Low carb vegetables
With vegetables you have a much more choice because most types are naturally low in digestible carbs and rich in fibre. Here are some popular low carb veggies.
- Iceberg lettuce
- Bell peppers
Low carb snacks
Here are a few tips for low carb snacks that take almost no preparation time.
- Olives – Try them with a piece of cheese or as they are. They only have around 4 g of carbs per 100 g.
- Vegetables sticks and dips – Try a variety of dips like nut butters, cream cheese, guacamole, tzatziki, or hummus with veggies cut up in the shape of sticks.
- Berries and whipped cream – This can be a super delicious snack, make sure to only have s small bowl so you don’t overeat.
- Dark chocolate – Aim for high-cocoa chocolate (70%+). And again, don’t overdo it!
For more low carb snack ideas check out our blog post.
Foods to avoid on a low carb diet
The most important category of foods to avoid on a low carb diet are sugary foods and drinks. These foods are not only high in carbs but their excessive consumption is also bad for your health.
- Candy, chocolate bars
- Cakes, biscuits, pastries
- Ice cream
- Soft drinks, fruit juices
- Beer, sweet wine, cocktails
The second most important group are starchy foods. These foods contain too many carbs to fit into the low carb diet.
- Wheat (including bread, crackers, pasta, etc.)
The last group you should be careful about are fruits. You saw above that some fruits are ok but you should avoid the high sugar ones such as these.
What are the benefits of low carb?
Following the low carb diet can have several benefits. If you’re interested in one of them more you can read about it in more detail in our other blog posts.
- Weight loss and maintenance
- Reduced feelings of hunger
- Sport and active lifestyle performance
- Diabetes management
What are the arguments against low carb?
Eating a well-formulated low carb diet that consists of good foods mentioned in this article is well tolerated by most. It’s common that in the beginning, especially if you’re changing from a very high carb diet, you might experience the so-called "low-carb flu". This can manifest as tiredness, headaches, or irritability but goes away within a few days.
The main reason for this may be that carb-rich foods increase water retention in your body. When you stop them, you’ll lose this excess water. This can result in dehydration and a lack of salt during the first week, before the body has adapted. Some people even experience leg cramps or constipation. It’s advisable to temporarily increase water and salt intake before your body adapts. Also, make sure you get enough fibre by eating plenty of vegetables.
One last issue that people are worried about with low carb is that it will be too restrictive and they won’t be able to enjoy their favourite foods. Thanks to Lizza that changes because of the flaxseed-based low carb pasta, bread, pizza, and muesli. Check out our low carb recipes for inspiration.
How many carbs should you eat per day?
This is a very hard question to answer since low carb doesn’t have one definition and we are all different. But in general, there are three approaches.
- Less than 50 g - Stay in this range if you want to maximize weight loss and improvements in health markers. Be ready for a very restrictive diet, say good bye to fruits.
- Between 50 g and 90 g - This is the middle of the road approach. It will give you more options including some berries but results might be slower.
- Between 90 g and 130 g - This range is best for weight maintenance and for those who do more high intensity exercise. It gives you the largest amount of food choices.
If you want to know whether you would do better on a very strict keto diet or a more liberal low carb approach, check out our previous blog post on the topic.
5-day low carb meal plan
Are you ready to try low carb? You can start with our 5-day meal plan that includes a low carb breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner for every day of the week. And it’s not just any low carb meal plan. This one allows you to enjoy delicious meals such as pizza, pasta, burgers, or muesli. Start living low carb today!