So what is a low carb diet?
A low-carb diet plan involves focusing on foods low in carbohydrates but high in other essential food nutrients – proteins veggies, and natural fats.
Carbohydrate-rich foods such as white bread, pasta, candy, and processed foods have to be avoided when on a low-carb diet plan.
Focusing on low-carb foods in your diet plan is known to help improve or promote good health and weight loss. Anyone that has tried a no-carb diet plan knows precisely how this works.
The best thing about sticking to a low-carb diet plan is you never have to count calories or depend on fad diet plans. There still is a lot of controversy on how effective this diet plan is.
This article outlines what is a low carb diet, how this diet plan works, what it entails, and how to make the most out of it.
1) Introduction to low-carb diet plans
In layman’s language, a low-carb diet generally involves eating foods low in carbohydrates but with a higher natural fat content. It can also be termed as a keto diet or a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet, or even paleo diet.
For centuries, we have been told (or know) how fats are bad for our health. One thing you, however, need to know is that there are two types of fats, good and bad fats (commonly known as trans fats).
Although most foods sold in supermarkets today are labeled as safe, most of the low-fat foods on supermarket counters are loaded with simple sugars. The high-calorie count in these foods is one of the reasons many people are obese or overweight today.
As long as you can avoid foods loaded with trans fats and calories, and go for foods rich in natural fats and low in carbs, your health won’t be at risk.
You also need to reduce your intake or starches and sugars to benefit fully from this diet plan. This is to say, you can still have a sumptuous meal and lose weight still.
Make sure to check our iHerb savings code page to buy healthy fats for your low-carb diet.
2) What is a low carb diet and how does it work?
Having a meal low in carbs helps lower blood sugar. This in return causes insulin levels to drop hence reducing the rate at which glucose is converted into body fats.
The decline in insulin levels and blood sugar triggers increased respiration rates while making you feel satiated for longer. This translates to fewer cravings for food, hence weight loss in the long run.
Numerous studies have proved how effective low-carb diets are in promoting weight loss as well as help regulate blood sugar naturally.
The basics of a low carb diet:
- Eat: Eggs, Fish, lean red meat, white meat, vegetables, and natural fats;
- Avoid: Starchy and sugar-rich foods (e.g., white bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, etc.);
- Only: eat when hungry.
Although simple, following this simple diet plan will help you stay satiated and tone down naturally.
In addition to this, you get to have a healthier body while spending less. You also need to avoid factory manufactured foods as well to be on the safe side.
Who shouldn’t follow a strict low-carb diet plan?
Almost everyone can follow a low-carb diet plan without putting her life in danger. You, however, shouldn’t stick to the diet plan if:
- You are on diabetes treatment or drugs;
- Are hypertensive and taking high blood pressure drugs;
- Are breastfeeding.
Anyone with the conditions mentioned above shouldn’t be on a strict low carb diet.
3) Foods to eat on a low carb diet plan
This section outlines/discusses some of the best and healthy foods low in carbohydrates. You can use these foods to play around with your recipe to prepare something delicious for your family.
First, these are the primary food groups you need to know and understand before diving into the other stuff. Remember to go for organic, natural, and unprocessed foods for your health’s sake.
- Meat: Lamb, beef, chicken, pork, turkey, and others: go for grass-fed sources of meat;
- Fish: Wild Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, haddock, etc.;
- Eggs: pastured or Omega-3 enriched eggs;
- Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.;
- Fruits: Oranges, pears, apples, strawberries, blueberries;
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds;
- High-fat dairy: Butter, cheese, yogurt, heavy cream;
- Oils and fats: Butter, coconut oil, olive oil, lard, cod liver fish oil.
If working on losing weight, try to avoid nuts and cheese for they are loaded with fats (healthy). If you have to, then limit the number of nuts to one per day.
4) Foods to avoid on a low carb diet plan
Some of the foods you ought to avoid include:
- Sugar: Processed fruit juices, soft drinks, candy, agave, ice-cream, etc.;
- Gluten-rich foods: Spelt, wheat, rye, and barley. This includes pasta and bread;
- Trans fats: Partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils;
- High omega-6 seed and vegetable oils: Soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, and canola oils;
- Artificial sweeteners: Saccharin, aspartame, cyclamates, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. Stevia is safe to use;
- Diary processed foods: Anything that was prepared in the factory, or looks like it should be avoided.
Be keen to read the fine print and list of ingredients when shopping for foods in the supermarket. Some foods may be labeled as healthy when they aren’t.
5) Foods you can try (but with precaution)
If you aren’t looking for a way to lose weight, have a healthy body, and lead an active life, then these foods won’t do any harm to your body.
Some of these have a little more carbs than the otherwise labeled low-carb foods.
- Tubers: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, cassava, etc.;
- Non-gluten grains: Oats, rice, quinoa, etc.;
- Legumes: Black beans, lentils, pinto beans;
- Dark chocolate: Go for chocolates with 70% cocoa, preferably organic;
- Wine: Dry wines are considerably safer than those with added sweeteners.
Dark chocolate is a rich source of potent antioxidants. Antioxidants play a vital role in expunging toxins and toxic materials from body cells.
You, however, should eat dark chocolate in moderation for it contains considerable amounts of calories.
6) Safe drinks
- Tea, green tea;
- Sparkling water and sugar-free carbonated beverages.
7) Benefits of having a low carb diet plan
Having a low carb meal, or a diet plan for that matter is far more beneficial to your body than meals loaded with calories. Outlined below are 4 of the scientifically proven health benefits of having low carb meals.
Promotes weight loss
Foods low in carbohydrates have very few calories. Sticking to a low-carb diet plan has been proven to induce weight loss naturally. It is one of the most effective ways to tone down without giving up most of the foods you like.
Reverses type 2 diabetes
As mentioned earlier, a low-carb meal lowers blood sugar levels to stable levels. Doing this frequently can help reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes. You can also stick to this plan to manage type 1 diabetes as well.
Good for your stomach
Having a low-carb meal means a calmer. Foods with fewer carbohydrates are less likely to ferment hence no gas, pains, and more infrequent cramps.
Reduces sugar cravings
Anyone with a sweet tooth will find this diet plan quite fulfilling. Low carb meals are known to induce satiation hence fewer cravings for candy and sweets.
Aside from the four common health benefits of having a low-carb meal plan, your body benefits even more from these foods. For instance, you get to have a smooth skin free of acne and suffer from fewer migraines and epilepsy.
8) Tips and guides for a low carb diet plan
Some creativity coupled with a few skills is needed to enjoy a low carb meal plan truly. It all starts with how well you prepare and cook your foods, and especially the breakfast.
Planning carefully can see you enjoy every bite of your meals. Here are a few tips on how to enjoy your meals.
The breakfast is the first and the most important meal of the day. Almost everyone loves to have bacon and eggs, as well as cereals for breakfast. You can still opt for a ‘no eggs’ breakfast with plenty of alternatives out there.
A simple cup of coffee can also do the trick as well. As long as it is prepared just right, low in sugars and with high-fat content. This can save you lots of time and frustration in the morning.
For lunch and dinner, try something like fish, meat and chicken dishes with a rich full-fat source and vegetables. Go for cauliflower rice or cauliflower mash or for side dishes. Butter-fried green cabbage is another excellent alternative for pasta, rice, and potatoes.
If dining out
How do you stick to a low-fat diet while at a friend’s house or eating out? You can still enjoy the evening by avoiding starchy foods and instead, ask for natural fat-rich foods instead. Olive oil and buttered foods are a safe bet.
You’ll probably not need a snack when on a low carb diet plan. Should you need one, then go for an egg, raw nuts, nuts, or cheese.
Many people struggle living without bread. You can, however, opt for low-carb bread options such as brown bread. You, however, should stay away from ‘low-carb’ labeled bread in supermarkets and grocery stores.
Fats play an essential role in our bodies. You, however, need to stick to natural fats and oils to be safe.
9) Possible side effects of low-carb diet plans
Many people will struggle at first on embracing a low-carb meal plan. Some of these difficulties are experienced as the body tries to adjust to what you are feeding it.
The good news, however, is that most of these side effects are mild and only last a few days.
To avoid suffering any side effects, consider decreasing your intake of carbs gradually over several weeks.
The other ‘safe’ way to do it is by removing starchy and sugar-rich foods from your diet plan. This can be in the form of drinks and foods with higher carbohydrate content.
10) Examples of low-carb meals
- A 3 ounce serving of chicken breast (protein), 2 cups of broccoli and peppers (veggies), side salad made of mixed greens, two tablespoons of dressing or oil. This meal plan equates to at least 35 grams of carbs. Adding starchier veggies (turnips or beets) would add more carbs to the meal. If you, however, are looking for a moderate meal, you can then add foods such as fruits, grains, potatoes, and natural sweeteners. These should add approximately 25 grams of carbs;
- Collard wrap filled with shredded chicken, sesame dressing, and vegetables;
- Fajitas made with lots of veggies and proteins;
- Salmon or chicken burger;
- Quesadillas or empanadas filled with cheese, grass-fed beef. It can be made with coconut flour crust or almond;
- Cauliflower crust pizza.
11) Meal plans made of low-carb foods
This is a classic Mexican dish made of eggs, ground beef, and spices. It can be served with avocado, fresh tomato, and cilantro served on a tortilla. Although a simple meal, it should leave your body energized for the rest of the day.
- 47 grams of proteins
- 10 grams of fat
- 1.6 grams of sugar
- 151 calories
Cauliflower fried rice
This is a healthy and quick alternative to fried rice. Just chop up some cauliflower and add it to a food processor or blender to create the rice. You can then add gee, onions, eggs, and garlic.
Nutrition per serving in 1 cup
- 9 grams of protein
- 108 calories
- A gram sugar
- 3 grams of fat
Pecan Pesto Salmon
This recipe takes only 25 minutes to prepare. You can make it with pecan pesto salmon and leafy greens as a side dish. The meal is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy dose of high-quality proteins.
- 17 grams of proteins
- 5 grams of fat
- 2 grams of sugar
- 140 calories
- Embracing a low-carb diet plan can help you shed off the excess pounds in weight, and promote a healthy body. It also frees you from certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, and brain fog.
- Low-carb foods are mainly made of non-starchy highly nutritious foods. You can enjoy a hearty meal prepared with cruciferous veggies, green leafy veggies, healthy fats (olive or coconut oil), meat, eggs, and seafood. You could also try moderate carb sources such as beans, seeds, nuts, legumes, and potatoes.
- You don’t necessarily have to avoid healthy sources of carbohydrates. Carbs are the primary source of energy needed in your body. You can, therefore, enjoy a meal made of soaked grains, legumes, sprouted grains, etch for a healthier and well-balanced diet.
Low carb foods are generally foods that come without artificial sweeteners, refined grains, and added sugars.
Some of the best meals to start off with include slow-cooker recipes, salads, smoothies, protein shakes, meatballs, healthy burgers, and several others.