A low-carb diet is low in carbohydrates, primarily found in sugary foods, pasta and bread. Instead, you eat real foods including protein, natural fats and vegetables.Studies show that low-carb diets result in weight loss and improved health markers, and these diets have been in common use for decades.
1. Introduction to low carb
A low-carb diet means that you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of fat. This can also be called a low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF) or a keto diet.
For decades we’ve been told that fat is detrimental to our health. Meanwhile low-fat “diet” products, often full of sugar, have flooded supermarket shelves. This has most likely been a major mistake, that coincided with the start of the obesity epidemic.
Studies now show that there’s no reason to fear natural fats.
Fat is your friend (here’s why). On a low-carb diet, you can eat all the fat you need to feel satisfied and, instead, you minimize your intake of sugar and starches. Most people can eat delicious foods until they are satisfied – and still lose weight.How does it work? When you avoid sugar and starches, your blood sugar tends to stabilize and the levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin drop.
This increases fat burning and makes you feel more satiated, reducing food intake and causing weight loss.Studies show that a low-carb diet can make it easier to lose weight and to control your blood sugar, among other benefits.
- Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground and natural fats (like butter).
- Avoid: Sugar and starchy foods (like bread, pasta, rice, beans and potatoes).
Eat when you’re hungry, until you’re satisfied. It can be that simple. You do not need to count calories or weigh your food.
And just forget about industrially produced low-fat products.Below are examples of what you could eat, alternatively check out our 600+ low-carb recipes.
Keto meat pie
Duck breast with butternut puree and gravy
Keto BLT with cloud bread
Keto frittata with fresh spinach
Keto hamburger patties with creamy tomato sauce and fried cabbage
Keto pesto chicken casserole with feta cheese and olives
Low-carb cauliflower hash browns
Chorizo with creamed green cabbage
Keto mushroom omelet
Keto Tex-Mex casserole
Broccoli and cauliflower gratin with sausage
Who should NOT do a strict low-carb diet?
Most people can safely start a low-carb diet.
But in these three situations you may need some preparation or adaptation:
- Are you taking medication for diabetes, e.g. insulin? Learn more
- Are you taking medication for high blood pressure? Learn more
- Are you currently breastfeeding? Learn more
If you’re not in any of these groups, you’re good to go!
Disclaimer: While a low-carb diet has many proven benefits, it’s still controversial. The main potential danger regards medications, especially for diabetes, where doses may need to be adapted (see above). Discuss any changes in medication and relevant lifestyle changes with your doctor. Full disclaimer This guide is written for adults with health issues, including obesity, that could benefit from a low-carb diet.
Controversial topics related to a low-carb diet, and our take on them, include saturated fats, cholesterol, whole grains, red meat and restricting calories for weight loss.
Getting started fast
Do you want to get going with low carb right away? Make it truly simple by signing up for our free two-week low-carb challenge. Or get unlimited meal plans, shopping lists and much else with a free membership trial.
In 60 seconds
Does low carb still seem complicated? Check out our visual low-carb in 60 seconds guide
2. What to eat on a low-carb diet
In this section you can learn exactly what to eat on low carb, whether you prefer visual guides, detailed food lists, delicious recipes or a simple get started guide.
Let’s start with a quick visual guide to low carb. Here are the basic food groups you can eat all you like of, until you’re satisfied:
The numbers above are grams of digestible carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces). Fiber is not counted, you can eat all the fiber you want.
All foods above are below 5% carbs. Sticking to these foods will make it relatively easy to stay on a strict low-carb diet, with less than 20 grams of carbs per day.
Detailed low-carb foods list
Try to avoid
Here’s what you should not eat on low carb – foods full of sugar and starch. These foods are much higher in carbs.
The numbers are grams of digestible carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), unless otherwise noted.
Detailed list of foods to avoid
What to drink
What drinks are good on a low-carb diet? Water is perfect, and so is coffee or tea. Preferably use no sweeteners.
A modest amount of milk or cream is OK in coffee or tea (but beware of caffe latte!).
The occasional glass of wine is fine too.
For more, check out our complete guides to low-carb drinks and low-carb alcohol.