The very low carb keto diet is super popular right now. People have found some weight loss success with it. You could do it and probably lose weight. But you most likely won’t keep the it weight off. Because realistically you won’t follow it forever and you’ll sneak carbs back into your diet. Because most people who lose weight gain it all back (and then some) within 1 year!
So why not use a simple approach for weight loss that you can maintain forever? And avoid the nasty keto flu along with it? I’d be game. Follow these simple guidelines to go low carb the healthy way.
Low Carb Meal Plan Basics
The plan is to follow the plate method of eating and limit your carbohydrates to 30-45 grams of carbohydrates at your meals. This will keep your blood glucose steady and supply adequate fuel to your body without making it rely on ketones and suffer the negative effects of an very low carbohydrate diet. Why a range of 30-45? That’s just a starting point and you many need to adjust based on your experience. Typically I recommended 30 grams for women who typically are at a lower calorie intake and 45 for men at a higher intake. However, if someone is extremely active they could increase based on their needs. I believe once you have the tools and knowledge you can listen to your body and feed it what it needs.
This is a great example of the plate method. You can go here to read more about their healthy eating plate philosophy. In the image below fruit and whole grains are the 2 food categories that contain carbohydrate. Be aware that for this low carb plan that beans and legumes and starchy vegetables would also be in the same part of the plate as the whole grains because of their starch content.
Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu.
Low Carb Foods
Animal proteins, fats, and cheeses don’t contain any significant amount of carbohydrate. These are “free” of carbohydrate but still should not be eaten in unlimited amounts when trying to lose weight. This is where Atkins and Keto diets get things wrong. They don’t pay as much attention to the quality of proteins and fats as they should. What type of protein and fat you consume still matters if you want to be healthy and keep weight off long-term. Low carb and healthy should not be considered two separate goals!
Non-starchy vegetables are also extremely low in digestible carbohydrates. I don’t typically count the carbohydrates of these foods when counseling clients on reducing carbohydrates but if you use a tracking app it will probably count all your carbohydrates. If that’s the case, subtract your total dietary fiber from your total carbohydrate intake to get your net carbs. AKA the actual carbohydrates your body can digest. Because fiber is non-digestible it shouldn’t be counted against your carbohydrate count for the day/meal. So even though all vegetables are technically carbohydrates; non-starchy vegetables are still considered low carb.
High Carb Foods
Fruit, grains, legumes, milk, and yogurts all contain carbohydrate. These foods need to be monitored in a low carb meal plan. Additionally sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages also contain carbs. I recommend against sugary beverages, including fruit juice, completely and reducing your sweet intake to about once per week or very tiny portions a few times per week when trying to lose weight. It’s hard to maintain a low carb meal plan and eat a lot of sweets. Sweets are nearly all carbs or they’re carbs and less healthy fats; either way they are empty calories that will hinder your weight loss goals!
Below I have a list of foods that contain carbohydrates in 15 gram carbohydrate portion sizes. Choose 2-3 options below per meal and 1 option at snacks. You can mix and match any way you prefer. Making a smoothie? Pick 2 fruits and a yogurt serving and add a protein powder (sugarless) to balance the meal. Having pasta for dinner? Make all 3 options as pasta (3 x 1/3 cup = 1 cup) with a side salad and meatballs to balance the plate. These will keep you low carb and balanced at your meals.
15 Gram Carbohydrate Serving Sizes: Pick 2-3 per meal for low carb eating
For items not listed, read the label. Figure our how many carbohydrates it contains per serving and do the math. You can have 30-45 grams per meal so adjust as needed. This is a great starting point for most people who want to lose weight, and bonus: manage their diabetes or prevent diabetes. But like always consult your personal physician or health care professionals before making any dietary changes. Carbohydrates per serving size above were obtained from the glycemic Index or by searching Calorie King.
Low Carb Foods to Eat More Often
What makes my low carb plan a little different than keto or Atkins? Because it’s a little higher in carbohydrates, the protein and fat amounts are more moderate. You shouldn’t go into ketosis on this diet and if you already have diabetes or prediabetes this plan is a lot safer for you than keto. The type of protein and fat also matters. Yes bacon is low in carbs but it isn’t healthy for you!!
The foods below are all low carb and can be eaten in quantities that you decide. They won’t contribute much or any carbs to your intake but you should still be mindful of overall calories and portion sizes. Also, vegetables are technically carbohydrates; but since they only contribute a couple of carbohydrates per serving and are rich in fiber they don’t count against you on this eating plan. There is NO reason to limit non-starchy vegetables.
Foods to Limit to Stay Low Carb and Healthy
Finally, we have foods you should eat less often. This is where a lot of people disagree, feel deprived, or begin to cheat. There are foods that we should NOT eat on a daily basis. We use the phrase “everything in moderation” and believe that one cup of ice cream per day counts as moderation. I have a different view. I am not saying my opinion is 100% correct but it will help you lose weight by reducing the calories you eat and keep your body healthy at the same time. Losing weight on an Atkins type diet won’t do you much good if your cholesterol goes up and you have a heart attack. So the foods below should be limited. Not avoided. Just eaten less often.
Now you have to tools to go low carb the healthy way. It’s up to you to utilize these tools and start losing weight. Please share these resources with others so they can learn how to obtain a healthy weight without drastic fad diets. Stay in touch to get more information about healthy eating, weight loss, anti-inflammatory foods, and other healthy lifestyle information.
In case you were wondering. You can follow the anti-inflammatory meal plan and go low carb at the same time with AMAZING health benefits! Check out my Ultimate Guide to the Anti-inflammatory Diet for more information.