Low-carb foods – what to eat

1. Low-carb foods list

 

Foods to eat

  • Meat: Any type: Beef, pork, lamb, game, poultry, etc.
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     Feel free to eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the chicken.
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     You may want to choose organic or grass-fed meats.
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     Top meat recipes 
  • Fish and seafood: All kinds: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring are great, and might even have health benefits due to high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
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     Avoid breading. Top fish recipes 
  • Eggs: All kinds: Boiled, fried, scrambled, omelets, etc. You may want to choose organic eggs, if possible.
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     Top egg recipes 
  • Natural fats and high-fat sauces: Using butter and cream for cooking can make your low-carb foods taste better and can make you feel more satisfied. Try a Béarnaise or Hollandaise sauce. If purchased pre-made, check the ingredients for starches and vegetable oils. Better yet, make it yourself. Coconut fat or olive oil are also good options. These are all healthy fats.
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     Learn more 
  • Vegetables that grow above ground: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, other kinds of leafy greens etc. These are lowest in net carbs and can be enjoyed at all levels of carb restriction. However, if you are following a keto diet (< 20 grams of carbs per day), you may need to limit your portions for certain types, like bell peppers and Brussels sprouts. Low-carb vegetables guide 
  • Dairy products: Feel free to choose full-fat options like real butter, cream (40% fat), sour cream, Greek/Turkish yogurt and high-fat cheeses, which can help you stay full and satisfied.
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     Be careful with regular milk, reduced fat and skim milk as they contain a lot of milk sugar.
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     Avoid flavored, sugary and low-fat products.
  • Nuts: Great for a treat (in moderation) instead of popcorn, candy or chips.
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     Learn more 
  • Berries: Okay in moderation, if you do not need to be super strict with carbs. Great with whipped creamLearn more 

Low carb foods

Read the nutrition label in the grocery store.
No more than 5% of carbohydrates in any food item is a good rule of thumb.

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Keto drinks

Drink

  • Water – Try to make this your drink of choice, flavored or sparkling water is fine too, but be sure to read the ingredients list to check for added sugars. Alternatively look at the carbs section on the nutrition label.
  • Coffee – Black or with small amounts of milk or cream is ideal for weight loss.
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    Beware of adding lots of milk or cream, especially if you drink coffee regularly throughout the day, even when you’re not hungry.
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     But if you are hungry feel free to use full-fat cream. Or try it with coconut oil and butter – “Bulletproof coffee”.
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  • Tea – The information for coffee above applies to tea too.
  • More options in our full low-carb drinks guide 
 

Recipes

For ideas and inspiration for appetizing meals that we think you and your family will love, take a look at our more than 700 low-carb recipes. Every week, we add more. Some of the most popular recipes you will find below, but we have recipes to suit almost every taste.

Learn About 2 week no carbs diet

Shopping lists and meal plans

Do you want to make shopping for low-carb foods simple? Sign up for the free 2-week low-carb challenge or our low-carb meal plan service (free one month). Personalized shopping lists are included.
 
 
Alternatively, simply use our free 14-day low-carb meal plan.
 
 
 
 

Keto alcoholSpecial events

Invited out? Celebrating? You don’t have to derail your diet. While too much celebrating can slow down weight loss, after a special event, just get right back to the diet and progress will resume.

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    • Alcohol: You can drink in moderation dry wine, champagne or sparkling wine (extra dry or brut), whisky, brandy, vodka and gin.
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       Vodka and soda water with a wedge of lime makes a great crisp drink. See our guide to alcoholic beverages.
    • Dark chocolate: Above 70% cocoa, preferably only in small amounts.
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       Full low-carb snacks guide 
 

different types of chocolate


 

2. Do not eat high-carb foods

 
  • keto-avoid-starchStarch:

    Flour, wheat products or other refined cereal grains, even if labelled “gluten free.”

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     This means bread, buns, pasta, crackers, porridge, muesli. Whole grainsare included here too – on a low-carb diet they are just less bad.
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     Also potatoes (sweet potatoes too), potato chips, French fries, corn products and popped corn, rice. Do check out, however, some of the low-carb versions of these foods:
    – Low-carb bread
    – Low-carb “mashed potatoes”
    – Low-carb “rice”
    – Low-carb porridge
    – Low-carb “pasta”

    Beans and lentils are also relatively high in carbs, so they’re not good low-carb options. Moderate amounts of certain root vegetables may be OK (unless you’re eating extremely low carb).

  • Beer: Made from fermented grain and hops, beer is basically bread in liquid form. Avoid. Lower-carb beers (typically called “lite beer” in the US) are available, but keep in mind that they still contain more carbs than dry wine or pure liquor.
  • Fruit: While berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are fine in small to moderate amounts, be careful with other fruit. They are fairly high in carbs and sugar, which can raise blood sugar, may slow down weight loss and can possibly worsen metabolic issues.
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     Consider it nature’s candy: fine for a special treat, but probably not something to consume daily on a low-carb diet.
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     Learn more 
 
View list of things you may want to clean out from your pantry 
 

Watch out

Be very skeptical of special “low-carb” products, such as pasta or chocolate. Unfortunately these products often work poorly and may have prevented weight loss for many people. They’re often full of carbs once you see through the creative marketing.

Bad FoodThere are many companies that use deceptive advertising to entice you into buying their “low carb” products that are full of starch, flour, sugar alcohols and other sweeteners, and strange additives.

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One of the largest of such companies was fined 8 million dollars for lying about the carb content of their products.

Two simple rules to avoid this junk:

  1. Don’t eat “low carb” versions of high-carb stuff – like cookies, bars, chocolate, bread, pasta or ice cream – unless you are SURE of the ingredients (ideally by making it yourself).
  2. Avoid products with the words “net carbs” on them. That’s usually just a way to fool you, and they are rarely good low-carb foods.

Read more about fake low-carb products 

Also, preferably avoid margarine. It’s a solid form of industrial seed and vegetable oils. Why eat imitation butter when real butter is probably tastier and better for you?

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 Like industrial vegetable oils, margarine contains high amounts of omega-6 fat, which have been linked to inflammation in some studies.
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Learn more about vegetable oils 

 
 
 
 
 

3. Make it real

Low-carb foods

Eat high-quality, minimally-processed real low-carb foods.

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 Shop the rim of the store and avoid packaged goods. Buy at local farmers’ markets. No list of ingredients? Great. That means it’s not processed.

A good strategy is to eat only low-carb foods that were available hundreds or even thousands of years ago. If it has a long list of ingredients and words on its label you’ve never heard of, don’t eat it.
 

Handy brochure

Take this simple print-out-guide of which low-carb foods to eat and which to avoid to the store, or give it to interested family and friends.

Keto-for-beginners_folder_181214b
 

How low to go?

How many grams of carbs can you eat in a day and still be low carb? Many people on the Standard American Diet (SAD) consume more than 250 to 350 grams of carbs a day.

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 So when you adopt a low-carb diet, anything below about 100 grams a day — especially if you cut out added sugars — may reap weight loss and metabolic benefits.

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However, the more weight you want to lose, or the more your health has suffered on the SAD way of eating, the fewer carbs you may want to consume at the start of the low-carb, high-fat diet.

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 If you stay under 20 grams of carbs a day, you will be eating a very low-carb diet or ketogenic diet, in which your body converts from burning carbs (glucose) to burning fat (ketones) for fuel.

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 Ketogenic diets can also suppress appetite, so you end up eating less without getting hungry.

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Learn more about the ketogenic diet.

Some people can do very well consuming slightly more carbs — about 30 to 50 grams a day — as long as those come from healthy real low-carb foods, devoid of added sugars or refined carbohydrates. As well, once people reach their weight loss or health goals, some find they can add a few more carbs back into their diet from time to time.

You may need to experiment to see where you feel your best and are able to easily maintain your weight and control cravings.

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 Many people find that if they add back in carbs, their cravings for higher carbohydrate foods return.

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Here are three visual examples of various levels of carbs on a dinner plate. Learn more about how to determine the right amount of carbs for you.