A Low-Carb Diet for Beginners

Do you want weight loss without hunger? Or type 2 diabetes reversal and other health benefits? Then it can be a great choice to try a low-carb diet, and this is the perfect place to start.1

On low carb you can eat all you need to feel satisfied – there’s no calorie counting required. No products. No obsolete fear of natural fats. No pills. No surgery. Just real food.

A low-carb diet restricts sugary foods and starches like pasta or bread. Instead, you’ll eat delicious real foods, including protein, natural fats and vegetables.

Low-carb diets just work. They’ve been used for over 150 years and just about everyone knows someone who has successfully tried it. Scientific studies now prove that compared to other diets, low carb is more effective.2

Here you can learn how to use low carb to achieve your personal goals. Choose a section or keep reading below.

 





 

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.

Most importantly, you minimize your intake of sugar and starches. You can eat other delicious foods until you are satisfied – and still lose weight.

There are solid scientific reasons why low-carb diets works. When you avoid sugar and starches, your blood sugar stabilizes and 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.3

Many high-quality scientific studies show that a low-carb diet makes it easier both to lose weight and to control your blood sugar, among .

 

The basics

  • 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’s that simple. You do not need to count calories or weigh your food. And just forget about industrially produced low-fat products.

Here are examples of what you could eat:

All low-carb recipes

 

checklistWho should NOT do a strict low-carb diet?

Most people can safely start any kind of low-carb diet right away. But in the following three situations you may need additional preparation or adaptation:

If you’re not in any of these groups, you’re good to go. Great!

Getting started fast

Do you want to get going right away? Make low carb 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 want 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:

Low-carb diet foods: Natural fats (butter, olive oil); Meat; Fish and seafood; Eggs; Cheese; Vegetables that grow above ground

 
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:
Foods to avoid on low carb: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit, beer, soda, juice, candy

 
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

Low-carb drinks

So what do you drink on low carb? Water is perfect, and so is coffee or tea. Ideally, use no sweeteners, and a modest amount of milk or cream if you like (beware of caffe latte!).

The occasional glass of wine is fine too (low-carb alcohol guide).
 
Full guide to low-carb drinks

 

Visual low-carb guides

Here are more detailed visual guides to the amount of carbs in common foods. Is a specific food item low or high in carbs? Click to find out:

 

Recipes

We have more than 300 low-carb recipes.

You can also find our recipes by using the “Recipes” link in the top grey menu. Here are a few popular recipes:

 

Meal plans

14-day low-carb meal plan

Get lots of weekly low-carb meal plans, complete with shopping lists and everything, with our amazing premium meal planner tool (free trial).

 

How low is low carb?

The fewer carbohydrates you eat, the bigger the effects on weight and blood sugar will be. We recommend following the dietary advice as strictly as you can. When you’re happy with your weight and health, you may carefully try eating more liberally (if you want to).

Here are three examples of what a low-carb meal can look like, depending on how many carbs you eat per day:

 
 
A strict low-carb diet is often called a ketogenic (or “keto”) diet.
 

 

Video course

How to Eat Low-Carb, High-Fat Video Course

Here’s a high-quality 11-minute video course on how to eat low carb, high fat. Sign up for our free newsletter for instant access to it:

Our weekly newsletter gives you the top low-carb news, recipes and tips without ads or industry influence. Your email is kept 100% private. To cancel press “unsubscribe” at the bottom of any newsletter.

 

Get started

For everything you need to get started – meal plans, shopping lists, daily tips and troubleshooting – just sign up for our free 2-week keto low-carb challenge:

challenge_pic2

 

countries3Advice on low carb in 39 languages

We have written advice on a low-carb, high-fat diet in 39 languages. Just press this small grey note symbol to choose:4

Do you have another translation or a significant improvement of one of the earlier ones? E-mail me (more info).

 
 



3. Potential Benefits of Low Carb

Why would you consider eating fewer carbs? There are many potential benefits, proven by science and experience, like these four:

 

Low carb and weight lossLose weight

Most people start eating fewer carbs to lose weight, a well-known and often highly effective method. Learn more about how to do it

However, the reason many people keep eating low carb is more often the powerful health effects, like the following ones.

 

Low carb and diabetes reversalReverse type 2 diabetes

Low-carb diets can normalize blood sugar and thus potentially reverse type 2 diabetes

Low carb can also be very helpful in managing type 1 diabetes

 

Low carb and a calmer stomachCalm your stomach

Low carb can result in a calmer stomach, less (or no) gas, less cramps and pains, etc.

For quite a few people this is the top benefit, and it usually only takes a day or two to experience it. Learn more

 

Reduce sugar cravings with low carbReduce sugar cravings

Are you struggling to stay away from sweet foods, even though you try to eat them in “moderation”? Tons of people do.

Low carb usually reduces and sometimes even eliminates cravings for sweets

 

More common benefits

The four benefits above are the extremely common ones. But there are others that are potentially even more surprising and – at least for some people – lifechanging.

Did you know that low carb often can normalize blood pressure result in less acne, control migraine and epilepsy, and much else?

Follow the links below for more knowledge, stories and science:

 

All low-carb benefits

 

Success stories

We’ve been sent hundreds, if not thousands, of low-carb success stories, and get more every day. Here are a few, and links to all of them sorted by categories:

 


 

 

Top success story videos

     

     


    4. Low-Carb Tips and Guides

    To make low carb truly simple and enjoyable requires a few new skills. For example, how do you cook low-carb breakfasts that you love? How do you eat more fat? And what’s important to think about when dining out?

    Here are all the guides you need.

     

    breakfast-800-roundedBreakfast

    Breakfast is a great time to eat low carb. Who doesn’t love bacon and eggs? In the unlikely event that you answered “I”, there are even great options with no eggs at all.

    Another strong option is to just have a cup of coffee, as many people get less hungry on a low-carb, high-fat diet and don’t really need breakfast at all. This potentially saves you tons of time.

    There are many other options – both delicious and fast

     

    meals-800-roundedMeals

    So, what’s for lunch and dinner? You could for example have meat, fish or chicken dishes with vegetables and a rich full-fat sauce. There are a million alternatives.

    Check out this guide to learn to cook amazing low­-carb meals

     

    instead-800-roundedInstead of potatoes, pasta and rice

    Who needs starchy sides when you can have cauliflower mash or cauliflower rice instead? Not to mention butter-fried green cabbage, yum!

    In short, there are lots of great low­-carb alternatives to carb­-rich foods that are both tastier and healthier

     

    dining-out-800-rounded-ffDining out

    How do you eat low carb at buffets, at a friend’s house or at fast­-food restaurants? The basic idea is to avoid the starchy foods (like bread or pasta) and instead ask for additional natural fat, like butter or olive oil (so you’ll still be satisfied).

    There are many more helpful things to know. This guide explains it all

     

    snacks-800-roundedSnacks

    You probably don’t need to snack as much on low carb, as you’ll feel satisfied longer.

    However, if you want something right away you could have cheese, nuts, cold cuts or even an egg. There are lots of amazing options

     

    bread-800-roundedBread

    Do you have a hard time living without bread?

    There are good and bad low-carb options. Spoiler: you’ll probably want to stay away from “low­-carb” bread from the grocery store! Here’s why, and what to do instead

     

    fat-rounded800How to eat more fat

    Fat is filling and an amazing flavor enhancer. But how do you get in enough of it in your diet? And how much fat should you really eat? Hint: enough to feel satisfied and not hungry.

    Learn all about it in this guide

     

    cheap-800-rounded-1Avoiding special products

    Another common mistake on a low-carb diet is being fooled by the creative marketing of special “low-carb” products. Remember: An effective low-carb diet for weight loss should be based on real food.

    Low-carb products like chocolate, candy, pasta and bread often use all kinds of deceptive marketing, while really being junk food – including carbs – in disguise. Learn more

    (Picture credit: KetoDiet)

     

    cheap-800-rounded-1How to make low carb cheap

    Low carb doesn’t have to be expensive. In this guide, you’ll learn how to make it super cheap.

    With a little planning and preparation you could save a ton of money

     

    low-carb cheatingLow-carb cheating

    To cheat or not to cheat? This guide will help you decide, and if you do decide to cheat, it will help you do it smarter

     

    More guides

    Do you want more low-carb guides? We have more low-carb guides!


     

     

    Top videos about low-carb basics

    Here are a few of our hundreds of low-carb TV videos, these ones are focussed on low-carb basics:






       

      5. Potential Side Effects on Low Carb

      If you stop eating sugar and starch cold turkey (recommended) you may experience some side effects as your body adjusts. For most people these side effects tend to be mild and last a just few days. There are also ways to minimize them.

      Another option is to decrease the intake of carbohydrates slowly, over a few weeks, to minimize side effects. But the “Nike way” (Just Do It) is probably the best choice for most people. Removing most sugar and starch often results in several pounds lost on the scale within a few days. This may be mostly fluids, but it’s great for motivation.

      Here are side effects that may occur when you suddenly start a strict low-carb diet.

       

      cheap-800-rounded-1Induction flu

      By far the most common side effect is called the induction flu. It’s what makes some people feel really poorly 2-3 days after starting low carb.

      Here are the common symptoms:

      • Headache
      • Fatigue
      • Dizziness
      • Light nausea
      • Irritability

      These side effects rapidly subside as your body adapts and your fat burning increases. Within a week, they are usually gone.

      The reason for this is that carbohydrate-rich foods may increase water retention in your body. When you stop eating high-carb foods you’ll lose excess water through your kidneys. This can result in dehydration and a lack of salt during the first week, before the body has adapted, resulting in the symptoms above.

      You can minimize the induction flu by drinking more fluids and by temporarily increasing your salt intake. A good option is to drink a cup of bouillon/broth one or two times a day. This usually keeps the induction flu minor or even non-existant.

      Alternatively, drink a few extra glasses of water and put more salt on your food.

      Learn more about induction flu and how to treat it


       

      Other common issues on low carb

      Beyond the induction flu, there are five more relatively common side effects. Many of them can also be mostly avoided by getting enough fluid and salt.5

      There are also more things you can do to minimize any problems, click to read more if you’ve experienced one of these issues:


       

      Less common issues

      These are less commonly noticed issues, that generally only affect a minority of people:



      All low-carb side effects and how to cure them

       

      Low-carb myths

      Beyond the usually minor and transient side effects that may occur (see above) there are tons of myths and fears that simply don’t hold up to closer scrutiny. For example, your brain is supposed to stop working unless you eat carbs. We’ll, that’s simply wrong.

      There are many more unfounded fears about low carb, that are mostly based on myths and misunderstandings. Read all about them on our low-carb myths page, or choose a specific topic below:






       

      6. Learn More

      Here’s the sixth and final section of this low-carb page. Do you want to truly understand low carb, and get answers to your remaining questions? Or do you want extra inspiration for yourself or for people you’re trying to help?

      Find it here, and start becoming a low-carb expert.
       

      Low-carb TVLow-carb TV

      Get insight, enjoyment and inspiration to help you succeed, from the top low-carb channel on the planet.

      Select from hundreds of awesome videos – and we’re adding several more every week. Enjoy!

      Join free for a month

       

      Low-carb TVHow low carb works

      What are you designed to eat, and why can sugar and starch be a problem? Essentially, how does low carb work?

      Learn how low carb works

      Scientific studies on low carb

       

      Low-carb TVQuestions and answers

      Are you having problems on low carb? Are you not losing weight like you want to? How many carbs should you eat?

      Get answers to your low-carb questions

       

      Low-carb TVWhy fat is your friend

      A lot of people still fear natural fat. But really, the whole idea that we should fear fat is based on a scientific mistake, and most open-minded experts now admit it.

      Just witness the recent TIME cover to the right, with the text “Eat Butter. Scientists labelled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.”

      Learn more about cholesterol and why fat is your friend

       

      The Food Revolution

      Do you want a summary of the ongoing food revolution? From failed low-fat diets and an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, through a growing realization of our mistakes, and towards a potential health revolution.

      Watch this talk by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, the founder of Diet Doctor:

       

      Next

      You’ve reached the end of this page (congratulations!). Keep reading about what to eat on a low-carb diet


       

       

      Improve this page

      Do you have any suggestion – big or small – to improve this page?
      Anything that you’d like added or changed?
       
      Comment below or e-mail us at andreas@dietdoctor.com.

      1. Here at Diet Doctor our goal is to make low carb simple. It’s the world’s #1 low-carb site as measured by traffic (200,000 daily visits).

        Learn more about Diet Doctor

      2. Here are two of the top studies showing more weight loss and improvements in risk factors on low carb:

        Similar results have been found in meta-analyses of all studies, for example this recent analysis:

        PLOS ONE 2015: Dietary Intervention for Overweight and Obese Adults: Comparison of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets. A Meta-Analysis

        For many more studies on the topic, have a look at our low-carb science page:

        The Science of Low Carb

      3. Does this sound too good to be true? Many people think so initially, and then they experience it for themselves.

        Our weight is hormonally regulated. Eating fewer carbohydrates lowers blood glucose, lowering the fat-storing hormone insulin. This often makes it way easier to access and burn excess body fat, without hunger or calorie counting.

        Learn how low carb works

        Scientific studies on low carb


      4. Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, (pdf) (another version), Chinese, Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Danish (Word), Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian (pdf), Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish (pdf), Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish (Word), Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian and Uzbek.

      5. E.g. one or two cups of bouillon per day.

      4,356 Comments

      1. Hi Vanessa!

        I understand that it can be confusing. :)

        My best suggestion to avoid confuseness is to primarily follow our best tips for weight-loss.
        https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight

        I find this site confusing. On one page it says that it's not about the calories but then introduces and strongly encourages fasting. Which is a form of calorie restriction. Then one page says to not fear fat, but then another says that if you are fat and eat fat, you will store fat. But then, you are supposed to eat enough fat to feel full??????
        Contradicting info anywhere. Is this perhaps a new public experiment? I am annoyed and confused,

      2. Linda
        Where is the chart that shows the carbs allowed on the individual diet levels, i.e. Keto, low-moderate...
      3. Victor
        I recently joined, but can't seem to get the videos to work. What am I doing wrong?
        Vic Leone
      4. Youness Bermime
        This is so much interesting to read. All those benefits of the low carb diet are pretty interesting. There are also many misconception and myths that I am glad that you have tackled in the article.

        I just wanted to share another list of goodies and it is about the full low carb food list that will definitely help other people put together great recipes by themselves if they are good in the kitchen.

        The list includes everything from vegetables, to fruits as well as high protein food like meat. So everything that anyone needs to know about which foods are healthy and low carb and which are not so much. It even includes a percentage of carbs in each food on the list.

        https://thelowcarbstyle.com/low-carb-foods-list-vegetables-fruits-mea...

        Thanks again for the amazing article! It's a great read. Hopefully you can find the time to update it as more research is done on low carb diets.

      5. James Crowson
        What do you think about Alzheimer's disease? What is the cause? Let's say in the beginning as a youth the blood is pure so the brain is functioning perfectly yet the brain is polluted after years of consuming sugary foods that pollutes the blood in return damages the brain cells.
        Reply: #4406
      6. James Crowson
        Can you prove me different?
      7. Ida
        Hi Doctor!
        I been on the diet for 4 weeks now and I've lost weight and I feel amazing!
        Question for you. Am I aloud to eat Tofu?

        Thanks!

        Ida

      8. Tri Vody Malinovo
        CHEWING GUM ?! Am I allowed to chew on the chewing gum when on LCHF?
      9. Tri Vody Malinovo
        Hello, I have the same question. Did you get the answer already? Thank you.
      10. 1 comment removed
      11. Carol
        Hello,
        Thank you for all the information. I feel much more equipped now.
        My question is about MIO, the water flavor enhancer(?). I know it is sugar-free, but is it okay to use in the water I drink? The water we have is not pleasant to drink at all, but if I add MIO, it masks the taste of the water. With MIO, I am currently drinking 64-80 oz/day.
        Thank you again.
      12. Ernesto
        To much reading.
        Should be broken down in sections.
        Just a thought.
        Reply: #4413
      13. True, we've just updated it.
      14. 1 comment removed
      15. Ugochi
        Thank u for d information. But my question is can someone with fibroid issue eat all this low crabs food. Help pls
      16. 1 comment removed
      17. Maeve
        Is this Diet suitable for vegetarians, if so do you have meal plans and recipes?
        Thank you
        Reply: #4418
      18. Hi Maeve!

        We think that LCHF can be a bit problematic for vegans but for vegetarians who eat eggs and diaries we think it works fine! :)

        We have several vegetarian meal plans for members and a lot of vegetarian recipes for free.
        https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/recipes?s=&st=recipe&kd...

        Is this Diet suitable for vegetarians, if so do you have meal plans and recipes?
        Thank you

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