A low carbohydrate diet is one that is low in carbs, and high in protein and fat. Instead of eating carb filled foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, baked goods, bread, etc, you focus on eating lean meats, eggs, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, and vegetables instead.
A commonly thrown around phrase that you might have heard in the past is “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.” This is so far from the truth!
Fat is good for us, and not only that – it’s absolutely vital for our overall health and well-being.
Anyone can start a low carb diet and see if it’s right for them. However, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or if you are breastfeeding, a low carb diet might not be the best option for you. Talk to a nutritionist or your general health care practitioner first to see how this diet will affect your health.
The Biggest Benefits of a Low Carb Diet
Low carb diets work wonders in terms of the benefits they provide. Some of these benefits include weight loss, reduced sugar cravings, better digestion, type 2 diabetes treatment, reduced acne, and more!
Here’s a more in depth explanation of each of the benefits listed above.
One of the main reasons you lose weight while following a low carb diet is because you cut out a lot of empty and unnecessary calories from your diet.
Carbs are very high in calories, and when you limit the amount of carbs that you eat, you naturally have a lower caloric intake.
This means that you can lose weight effortlessly, without having to calorie restrict! Another factor that contributes to why you lose weight on a low carb diet is that all of the protein and fat that you consume keeps you full for longer periods of time. Therefore, you are less likely to overeat.
Reduced Sugar Cravings
A low carb diet can get rid of sugar cravings. When you consume carbs, especially simple carbohydrates, you get sugar highs.
A low carb diet provides you with stable energy throughout the day, so you no longer have to experience sugar highs and crashes. Also the satisfaction you receive from protein and fat naturally reduces sugar cravings.
When people eat low carb diets, they tend to consume more whole foods than usual. Instead of consuming a diet high in processed carbs, you switch your focus to proteins and fat.
The addition of vegetables is what truly improves the digestion of people who follow this diet.
Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are full of fiber which helps keep the bowels healthy and keeps things regular.
Prevent/Treat Type 2 Diabetes
The reason why low carb diets have the potential to prevent type 2 diabetes is because low carb diets restrict the number of high glycemic index foods you consume. Meaning no cookies, donuts, cakes, other baked goods, or simple carbs such as pasta, white rice, sugary cereal, potatoes, and so on that can spike your blood sugar.
Since you avoid all these foods on a low carb diet, you will also avoid any large spikes in your blood sugar level which is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
Many people notice that when they switch to a low carb diet, their skin improves. They are able to see changes in their acne, and this isn’t a coincidence.
There are quite a few studies that show the connection between high glycemic diets and acne. Therefore, it makes sense that when you limit the amount of high carb foods you eat, your acne will improve.
Another reason that acne improves with a low carb diet is that the focus is more on whole foods instead of processed foods which often contain chemicals that contribute to the formation of acne.
The Best Foods To Eat And Drink On A Beginners Low Carb Diet
When you follow a low carb diet, it doesn’t mean you must cut out carbs completely. It just means that you greatly limit your consumption of them. There are two main types of carbohydrates: naturally occurring carbohydrates, and refined carbohydrates. Naturally occurring carbs can be eaten in moderation. These include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Setting a daily limit of 60-130 grams of carbohydrates a day is advised when you follow a low carb diet. So, the main foods that you should be eating are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, and other non-starchy vegetables. The best drink to consume is water. Water is calorie free and carb free too.
What Foods and Drinks to Avoid on a Low Carb Diet
The main types of food you want to avoid on a low carb diet are refined carbohydrates. These foods include white bread, white pasta, cookies, cake, candy, white potatoes, white rice, sugar, etc.
Sodas and sweetened fruit juices should also be avoided. Other foods to avoid include processed foods that are marketed as “low carb.” Just because something has a low carb label on it, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy!
Many companies will try to market their products to you, and consumers buy them without realizing how much processing and chemicals went into that product to make it low carb in the first place.
They are generally very expensive too. It’s always better to make your own low carb substitutes yourself.
For example, if you are craving bread, you can find recipes online to make low carb tortillas and bread using specific low carb flour blends.
The Best Meals to Eat on a Low Carb Diet
Here are some quick meal ideas for foods and recipes that you can make and eat for each of your meals. The combinations and opportunities are endless!
If something sounds good to you, look online and you will find countless recipes using ingredients that you likely already have on hand.
- Bacon and eggs
- Scrambled eggs with vegetables
- Cream cheese pancakes
- Coconut chia seed pudding
- Egg, avocado, and tomato salad
- Avocado stuffed with a fried egg
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Low carb waffles
- Green smoothie
Lunch and/or Dinner
- Grilled chicken with spinach
- Tuna salad in lettuce wraps
- Zucchini noodles with roasted tomatoes and pesto
- Garlic chicken cutlets with broccoli
- Stuffed Portobello mushrooms
- Eggplant parmesan halves
- Broccoli and cheese soup
- Red pepper and caramelized onion frittata
- Turkey and quinoa stuffed bell peppers
- Swedish meatballs with gravy and zucchini noodles
- Cheeseburger salad
- Fried salmon with salad
- blt spring rolls
- Shrimp and cauliflower salad
- California sushi rolls with cauliflower rice
- Spaghetti squash quiche
- Shrimp salad served in cabbage cups
- Nuts (cashews, pistachios, peanuts, brazil nuts, almonds)
- Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
- Vegetables dipped in guacamole
- Crackers made out of seeds with a cheese spread
- Celery with peanut butter
- Hard boiled eggs
- Low carb trail mix
How To Order Food At A Restaurant On A Low Carb Diet
The biggest tip that will give you success when at restaurants and trying to follow a low carb diet is to avoid the starchy foods.
If a meal comes with bread, pasta, potatoes, or rice, ask if they can substitute the starch for extra veggies or a salad. If you are ordering a sandwich or burger, ask if the bread can be substituted with lettuce wraps.
If you are ordering a salad, ask for some extra olive oil on the side. Drizzle this healthy fat onto your salad to make your meal more filling and satisfying.
In terms of drinks, always avoid alcohol (full of carbs and empty calories) and pop. Instead, go for the water, sparkling water, or tea.
If you really want an alcoholic beverage, the best ones to go with would be champagne, dry wine, or light beer.
How to Save Money on a Low Carb Diet
Just because you are starting this new low carb diet doesn’t mean you need to spend a bunch of money to do so! The number one thing you can do to save money is plan what foods and meals you will be eating in advance.
This way, you will know exactly what foods and ingredients you need when you’re at the grocery store. Also, before going to the grocery store, try to plan meals around the ingredients that you already have available in your house.
Another tip to save money is to always bring a grocery list with you! Planning the meals you are going to make is great, but what good is that if you don’t write the ingredients that you need down on a grocery list?
Bringing a grocery list to the store with you will prevent you from making any unnecessary impulse purchases.
You don’t need to buy organic in order to eat low carb. Yes, organic food has fewer pesticides and is overall healthier. However, it can also cost a fortune.
If you can’t afford all organic, it’s no big deal to just buy conventional produce instead! Buy foods that are in season, and foods that are in bulk too.
Cheat Days on a Low Carb Diet
Cheat days aren’t really recommended for any diet. However, there are instances when it’s appropriate to be lenient with your diet, and other occasions where it’s unnecessary and will do more harm than good.
For example – you should never cheat on your diet just to impress friends or family. When attending a dinner at a family or friends house, many people feel obligated to eat something because they fear it would be rude not to.
This doesn’t have to be the case! You can simply choose to pile up on the low carb options that are served.
One instance where it’s more acceptable to give yourself some leniency is when traveling. For example, if you are in a completely new country and really want to try a traditional dish but it’s a bit higher in carbs, you should still eat that dish for the experience of it.
Or when your all-time favorite dessert is served at a family gathering that occurs once a year. Overall, cheat days generally aren’t recommended, but there are occasions where it’s acceptable to be more lenient.
Side Effects of the Low Carb Diet
You might experience some side effects in the beginning stages of a low carb diet. These are only because your body is adjusting to this new way of eating. They are generally very mild.
One way to minimize your risk of experiencing side effects is to lower your intake of carbohydrates slowly over the course of a few weeks. However, most people prefer to just jump right into it.
These people might experience something called “induction flu”. The symptoms of this can include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, and nausea. They normally don’t last more than a week.
The induction flu normally happens because your body loses a lot of water retention during the first week, which means you will lose extra water through your kidneys. The best way to avoid this is to drink more water than usual and put more salt on your food.
Following a low-carb diet is a good way to start eating healthier while losing weight in the process.