Tips for eating a low carb diet
Written by Tony Berardo
on April 28, 2022
Depending on what you read, carbohydrates, or carbs, can be painted as the enemy of a healthy diet. However, carbs, along with protein and fat, are one of the three main food groups that the body needs to function properly.
As great as this sounds, it doesn’t mean that we can eat pasta and bread every night. Carbohydrates are a micronutrient which means your body uses them to produce energy that fuels your muscles, brain and lungs, as well as other vital processes, so they should also not be cut out completely.
Without careful planning, a low-carb diet could decrease amounts of dietary fiber, calcium and other important nutrients that our bodies need.
To get things started, we wanted to provide a few tips that could help get you on the right track when starting a low-carb diet.
- KNOWING WHAT FOODS ARE LOW-CARB
Sometimes when people think about low-carb diets, they assume they have to follow a strict regimen of protein shakes and powdered foods. However, there are actually a lot of great tasting, healthy low carb foods out there to try.
For example, lean meats like sirloin steak, chicken breast and pork are all low in carbohydrates. Other great examples include fish, eggs and unsweetened dairy products like Greek yogurt. Leafy vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli are also low in carbs and packed with vital nutrients.
- NOT ALL CARBS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Carbohydrates come in different forms. “Simple carbs” include refined and processed carbs like white bread, white flour and sugar. “Complex carbs” include more nutrient-rich foods like beans, whole grains and fiber-rich fruits.
When starting a low-carb diet, you should try to avoid simple carbs, as they don’t have much nutritional value. Complex carbs are a much better bet as they have more nutrients as well as an added benefit of helping us feel full, which in turn helps keep us from overeating.
- CARRY LOW CARB SNACKS
We all know that when traveling, going to the movies or hitting the gym, there’s a lot of temptation to stray from our diet. It’s important to make sure that you always have low-carb, high protein snacks to keep you on track and satisfy your hunger.
Some great examples of low-carb snacks include:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Carrots, cucumbers or celery
- A handful of nuts
- Nut Butter
- EXERCISE APPROPRIATELY
Exercise is an extremely important part of our overall health regardless of what diet you follow. While people should avoid a sedentary lifestyle, they should also refrain from excessive exercising. It’s hard to believe but it is a real thing!
When exercising, rest and recovery are just as important as the actual workout. Your body knows what’s best for you, so be sure to listen to it.
Many studies recommend moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, with a minimum of 10 minutes per session for adults. For the best results, the CDC recommends over 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, which can include weights and strength training exercises to improve overall health.
- THINK OF ALTERNATIVES
It can be scary to think about cutting out white bread, pasta and other delicious high carb foods. However, there are plenty of delicious alternatives that just need proper seasoning and love to be turned into great low carb meals!
Some low-carb substitutions might include:
- Zucchini ribbons instead of pasta
- Lettuce leaves instead of taco shells
- Portobello mushroom caps instead of buns
- Baked butternut squash fries cooked in an airfryer
- Eggplant lasagna or spaghetti squash
- Cauliflower pizza crust
- Shredded mushrooms instead of pork or chicken
- CARB CYCLING
Carb cycling involves eating very low carb foods for a certain number of days, followed by one day of eating higher carb meals. This helps the body avoid fat burning plateaus that can develop after weeks of low carb dieting.
However, carb cycling is not for everybody and if you’re considering trying it, you should talk to a doctor or nutritionist first.
- CHEAT MEALS
In theory, cheat meals seem like a great idea: who wouldn’t enjoy eating a box of doughnuts or 4 slices of pizza. Although cheat meals can be beneficial, shocking the body with extra carbs and calories can be dangerous.
You should be careful if you’re going to have a cheat meal. Make sure that it’s not everyday. Instead, have one cheat meal at the end of the week. Eat what you love and indulge a little bit, but remember that eating healthy is a lifestyle so take care of your body and try not to go crazy.
Planning is very important when you want to have a cheat meal on a low-carb diet. You should plan out the day that you want to have your cheat meal. Working out in the morning will boost your metabolism and limiting your calories during the day will help prepare your body for your cheat meal.
- EATING OUT LESS
One of the hardest parts of being on a diet is going out to eat with friends or family. You could always order a salad or something else low-carb, but when you factor in the free bread, appetizers and a few cocktails, it is very easy to go over your carb limit for that meal.
The best way to solve these dilemmas? Just don't eat out! Although the social aspect of eating out is enticing, you can cook for your friends at home with better ingredients and save everyone money while you’re at it!
Studies show that the average American eats 5 meals out per week. People who live in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston don’t cook at home very frequently.
Not only are we consuming more processed and refined carbs when we go out to eat, it also costs us a lot of money. The average American spends close to $125 per week eating out. That’s $500 a month that is spent on food we aren’t even cooking! Eating at home will save both your diet and your wallet.
Many people consider a low-carb diet in hopes of losing weight or controlling portions in each meal, both of which can have many long-term benefits.
However, a low-carb diet is not right for everybody. When switching up your diet or your fitness routine, you should always speak with a nutritionist or healthcare provider first.
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Written by Tony Berardo