Have you ever heard of the low-carb diet craze and wondered what it’s all about? Some are quick to judge its implications without doing their research. Some assume they will still be able to eat all the fruits and vegetables they want, which isn’t necessarily true. Doing a little research (which we have conveniently done for you, so keep on reading) will help you learn more about what this diet is really about.
Before you go on a low-carb diet, it is also important to know whether or not it is worth your time, energy and resources. Switching to low-carb isn’t just about cutting back on sugar, though that’s a major advantage. It is about completely changing your diet to replace less healthy foods with healthier ones.
Low-Carb Diet Review
We, in general, eat a lot of processed foods as a society that tend to be very high in sugar. Perhaps one idea behind the low-carb diet is that it helps cut back on the amount of sugar you might consume every day, especially added sugars like those found in soft drinks and store bought desserts.
Cutting back on the amount of sugar you eat can help you lose weight for several reasons. Mainly, low-carb diets are effective when people learn not only how to eat fewer carbs, but how to control their portions and choose healthier snacks when they get hungry throughout the day.
Low-Carb Diet Plan Basics and Rules
Normally, throughout a day we get at least half of our calories from carbohydrates, and most people consume anywhere from 50 to 150 grams of carbohydrates daily. The recommended daily amount is 130 grams of carbohydrates for adults. Therefore, someone who wants to cut carbs in order to lose weight will want to decrease their carbohydrate intake to about anywhere from 20 to 50 grams per day.
What does 20 grams of carbs look like?
As an example, a meal made up of 5 ounces of roasted pork tenderloin, ½ cup creamed spinach and ⅔ cup sweet potatoes comes out to about 20 grams of carbohydrates, and that’s just one meal. One serving of fruit or vegetables is about 15 grams of carbs; one serving of dairy comes out to about 15 grams of carbs at the absolute minimum.
So on this diet you will be eating very small amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains – four of the five recommended food groups. You will be eating mostly protein and fat, and no processed food as a result. If that is not something you are willing to do diet-wise, this diet might not be for you.
Is it possible to eat zero carbs?
No. And you really don’t want to try. Technically you could, if you wanted to eat only meat and drink only water, but you would not be able to do so healthfully. While low-carb diets are safe and it is possible to maintain your health while on them, cutting out carbs completely would deprive you of the nutrition you need to maintain normal body functions. A low-carb diet will still allow you to get adequate nutrients as long as you follow it correctly.
Foods that are considered low-carb
- Roast beef
- Cottage cheese
- Plain Greek yogurt
Foods to avoid on a low-carb diet
- Chips and crackers
- Pastas, breads and cereals
- Large amounts of fruit, vegetables and dairy
- Desserts, such as cake, pie and cookies
- Cream, such as coffee creamer and ice cream
- Frozen meals
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams)
How much protein should you eat on a low-carb diet?
In general, you can measure your intake by how hungry you are as a good measure of health. Your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues have been around long before people started measuring the nutritional value of food in numbers. Eating more protein will fill you up more than grains, starches and fruits will because protein takes longer for the body to digest and process than simple carbohydrates (found in chocolate, for example). Balancing out your protein intake with small amounts of carbohydrates is great for digestion, which is in turn helpful for effective weight loss.
If you really need a numeric estimate, though, you should aim to consume a moderate amount of protein so as not to overdo it, which is about 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 120 pounds, you should aim to eat about 108 grams, or a little less than four ounces, of protein per day.
Menu and Meal Planning
Limiting the number of carbs you eat per day and stretching that out between meals and snacks can be a big adjustment to make, especially if you are used to eating a plate full of a variety of foods at every meal. Foods high in protein are your best options, because being too hungry is often what makes many people trying to go on a new diet struggle to stick to it. A dose of healthy fat at each meal will also help keep your belly from grumbling.
Here is a sample three-meal and snack menu that can give you an idea of the kinds of meals and snacks you can expect to prepare for yourself throughout the day on a low-carb diet. This will seem like less food than what you are used to eating, but if you stick with healthy foods, you will get used to it in time.
- Full-fat yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Cubed cheese
- Fruit, such as an apple or handful of grapes
Grocery Shopping List
Shopping for low-carb foods is a lot easier once you do it a few times. Here is a general list of foods to look for to help guide you if you still aren’t sure what you should buy. Stick with fresh foods as much as possible, such as fresh vegetables and meat products.
- Cottage cheese, full-fat yogurt, cheese
- Beef and pork
- Nuts and seeds
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
Does the Low-Carb Diet Work?
Low-carb diets have been shown to be more effective for promoting weight loss than low fat diets, which have been proven widely ineffective. Diets lower in carbohydrates lower insulin levels in the body, which helps us lose weight.
You still have to know how to eat the right foods for this to work, though, as well as how much of those foods you should be eating. Lowering carbs alone does not lead to weight loss in the long term: changing your lifestyle habits, however, does.
Advantages of a low-carb diet
- Decreased appetite (because of all the protein)
- Few to no processed foods
- Limited intake of added sugars
- Reduction in excess calories, especially empty calories
- Loss of water weight
Disadvantages of a low-carb diet
- Restricting your intake to only consume a very low amount of carbs each day cuts out not only unhealthy carbs, but healthy ones as well. For example, you cannot eat very many fruits and vegetables on this diet, which goes against the general recommendations that half of each meal should contain fruits and veggies as part of a balanced diet.
- You will have to take a fiber supplement to compensate for the lack of fiber you will receive from whole foods on this diet.
- Weight loss in the beginning of a low carb diet is impressive, but this is mostly water weight and muscle tissue.
- It will slow down significantly shortly after starting.
- Cutting back on carbohydrate intake makes us crave sugar. A diet low in carbs is not effective if you “cheat,” so if you are not able to avoid giving in to sugar cravings, this diet may not work for you.
Reviews and Weight Loss Results
Giving up the bread and pizza may seem like a huge sacrifice but if it gives you these kinds of results and improves your health, maybe the payoff is worth it.
“I made a commitment to start a low carb diet on New Years day as a part of my New years resolution. January 1st 2016. My starting weight was 277lbs, and my current weight is 214. Inches are something I wish I would have measured when I started. I have no idea, but I can tell you I was a size 24 Plus/3x, AND NOW , I’m a 13/14/Large, in less than one year.
The most difficult aspect of the diet is social occasions, carbs/ refined sugars are everywhere, it’s especially difficult to visit a friend’s for dinner or a party. I always make sure to bring a plentiful snack of something I enjoy to share with the crowd.
The easiest thing about this diet, is sticking to it! Lots of great recipes to try, and it’s easy to stick to because you lose weight so quickly. My first week, I lost 7 pounds! It was very easy to stay motivated after that point.
It’s very important not to cheat, or drink alcohol for the first 6 weeks, that’s when your body learns to become “fat adapted” and burn your body fat by entering a state of ketosis, instead of glucose. Stick with it and the long term results are impressive. My energy has gone through the roof and I now run and lift weights, which was something I could not physically do before. This was a great life change!”
“I started the lchf (low carb high fat) way of eating on May 18, 2016. So, I’ve been doing it a little over 5 months.
I have lost a total of 26lbs and tons of inches! Now, I do regret not taking measurements because there would be weeks when the scale didn’t budge, but my clothes would steadily become more loose and I would end up having to go down a size. Although my weight loss isn’t as dramatic as some, the amazing amount of energy that I now have is almost unreal. Once my body adapted to this new way of eating, I started sleeping better as to where I used to take a sleep aid to help get a good night’s sleep. I use to get headaches weekly that would progress into migraines. Now, I don’t anymore. Simply amazing!
In the beginning, when I saw it as being a diet, the hardest thing was the cravings and wanting all the sugary deep fried goodies and breads I could find😂 But after 2 weeks of sticking it through and staying strictly lchf, the cravings weren’t as bad and I realized just how sustainable this “diet” is. After a month and feeling the best I’ve felt in a long time, I realized this wasn’t just a diet or a passing trend to me, but a complete lifestyle change.
What I’ve learned and am still learning is you have to do what works for you. No two people’s bodies are the same and although someone else is losing weight faster than you, it doesn’t mean to give up and quit! Sometimes I get frustrated when that scale isn’t saying what I feel like it should say and I’m doing everything right, then I quickly realize how far I’ve come and my quality of life is what is most important to me. Not a number! Then, I sit back, keep on going with my way of eating and out of no where, 2lbs are gone just like that! Also, I buy what is sustainable and affordable for my household! This way of eating is only expensive if you allow it to be. Yes, eventually I will transition into totally organic and grass fed, but not until I get all my children graduated and off to college😁 just know that if your butter is the store brand and not grass fed or if your coffee isn’t bulletproof, you can still achieve your goals with the lchf way of eating!”
Before and After Success Stories
“I started the diet on June 27, 2016. In approximately 4 months, I have lost 30 lbs and about 17 inches.
The most difficult part of the diet for myself is dealing with my extreme sweet tooth. But there are plenty of ketogenic recipes to keep myself on the keto path. The easiest part is still being able to make meals from so many food options. My meals keep me full for so long, which also makes it the easiest diet I have tried.
The rapid weightloss is not the only amazing benefit that came from transitioning to a ketogenic lifestyle. The mental clarity, increased energy, and exercise performance, are all more amazing benefits that come along with it!”
“I’ve eaten low carb, high fat off and on for ages. But this time I’ve stuck to it for 5 weeks so far, in which time I’ve lost 4kgs.
The first 3 days of no sugar/carbs is the worst! I get shaky, lightheaded and grumpy but after that it’s pretty easy.
Carbs are in everything, I use myfitnesspal to track macros of foods so I know I’m not eating any sneaky carbs.
Eating out can be challenging but once you get into the swing of things you know what you can and can’t have.
I buy ketostix from the chemist to check my body is in ketosis on a daily basis, I find this helpful.
I don’t have cravings any longer for sugars or starchy items.”
Going on a low carb diet to cut back on sugar and promote weight loss is a great starting point for learning how to eat better foods. Just keep in mind that carbs are not all bad – learning to eat a variety of foods by first reducing carbs might help you finally figure out how a more balanced diet can work for you.
Ready to go low carb? Lucky for you, many of these superfoods are low-carb friendly — and yummy!