Eating better: 6 steps down the carb mountain
We’ve got six easy steps toward a healthier diet and a healthier you. Anyone — even a fast food lover — can try these. Take them one at a time, and see how you feel! They’ll help you find your own personal path down the carb mountain — travel only as far down as you want or need to go.
Step 1: Buh-bye, sugary drinks
It’s a no-brainer: don’t drink sugar! The best thing you can do right now — today — is to give up sugary drinks. They are heavily marketed to us (by the big beverage companies who want your money) as an essential part of enjoying life, but don’t fall for that. Just say NO!
Stop drinking soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonade, chocolate milk, sweetened tea and coffee, and yes, even fruit juice… anything with sugar in it. What’s the best replacement? Water. Every mammal on this planet drinks water, and you are a mammal. Water is readily available, often cheap, and it’s usually all you need.
Is water boring? Maybe, but it’s the kind of boring that it pays to embrace. Plus, you can switch it up with our recipes for flavored water. Or buy bubbly water like club soda.
For a little more variety, we have recipes for tasty drinks like iced tea, strawberry smoothies, pumpkin spice latte, keto hot chocolate, and even coffee with whipped cream on our site, all perfect for special occasions or just a change of pace.
For most people, sweet drinks are just a bad habit. But what if you are addicted to soda? (Sounds extreme, but it does happen to some people.) Try switching to diet soda until you can work your way off of that, too. But remember, sweeteners of any kind can feed a sugar addiction. For a more permanent solution, why not take a look at our video series on sugar addiction? It contains tips and advice to help you break your sugar habit for good:
Ridding yourself of the unwanted sugar in your beverages is a critical first step. You can do it!! Even if you stop right there and descend the carb mountain no further, you will have reduced your risk of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Are you ready for the next giant step down?
Step 2: Farewell, dessert for breakfast
Breakfast should not taste like dessert. Period.
Cereal, pastries, muffins, scones, flour-y pancakes with syrup, sweetened yogurt, sweet smoothies — they are all variations on a terrible way to start your day.
At the epicenter of all the carbs at our breakfast tables is cereal. All cereals, even the low-sugar varieties, are full of processed starch. “High-fiber bran flakes” , “heart-healthy oatmeal” , “whole-grain granola.” It doesn’t matter what they call it. They are all full of refined starch and are varying levels of bad processed carbs.
Want a better way to start your day? Find a protein-rich, savory experience. Try eggs, ham, sausage, nuts, cheese, plain full-fat Greek yogurt with a few berries, or whole-food leftovers from your dinner. Don’t worry if it isn’t “breakfast food.” Instead, find your way back to real, unrefined food for breakfast, starting with a good serving of protein.
Popular low-carb breakfasts
New breakfast habits can be delicious. (Eggs and bacon!) They can be easy. (Cheese or nuts.) They can be dirt-cheap. (Coffee and nothing else.) If you want ideas, we have dozens of delicious breakfast recipes for you to scroll through. So find your way to a more balanced start to the day that suits your tastes and lifestyle.
This giant step down the carb mountain of not eating dessert for breakfast will set you up for less hunger throughout the day. Give it a try for a week and see how you feel. You will be amazed!
Step 3: So long, packaged snacks
Remember, way back, when adults didn’t snack between meals? Hopefully, your first two steps down the carb mountain will help you reach into that snack drawer less often. (And Step 5 will help, too.) But when you do need some food to tide you over, choose real food over processed snack products.
Chips. Crackers. Pretzels. Cookies. Energy bars. These are all highly processed carbs. If it comes in a foil cellophane package, beware.
Sure, snack packs are convenient and found everywhere, but so are some whole-food snacks, like nuts and no-sugar beef jerky. In fact, we have a great guide to healthier snack choices. Find a few that suit you. (If you really want packaged, dippable crunch, reach for Parmesan chips. They’re delicious.)
Moving away from processed products toward whole foods is always a big step in the right direction. So why not commit to doing it at snack time? It is totally achievable, and it will help you blaze your path down the carb mountain. Onward, if you dare!
Low-carb snacks – the best and the worst
Step 4: Adios, super-sized sweet treats
For those who have a sweet tooth, this step is a big one: reduce the amount of dessert in your life.
There are several ways to cut back on sugary treats; find the way that works best for you:
- Make a low-carb dessert. (We have dozens of delicious recipes.)
- Have a smaller serving.
- Have dessert less often.
Many find combining all three of the above approaches, to varying levels of strictness, suits them well. It is a key part of finding your individual path off of the carb mountain.
For some, very dark chocolate (>80% cacao) is an easy and satisfying substitute for dessert. It is ready-made, comes in small pieces, is low in sugar, but still feels like a treat. It might take you a while to work up to the darkest version, but over time, as you have less sugar in your life, your taste buds adjust. Note that for others, dark chocolate triggers cravings for sweets and should be avoided. Listen to your body’s signals and see what works for you.
Step 5: Won’t even miss ya, low-fat and fat-free products
What does fat have to do with the carb mountain?
Well, you have to eat something. And if you are not eating fat, you are probably eating carbs. To make low-fat or non-fat grocery items somewhat palatable, chances are the food manufacturer making them has replaced the fat with sugar and/or starch.
But let’s be honest: who even likes reduced-fat products? Give yourself a break, and just forget the whole category, from fat-free coffee creamer (what the heck?) to low-fat salad dressing. Give yourself permission to buy the full-fat sour cream. Eat the fat that comes with good quality protein like that ribeye steak or fuller-fat plain Greek yogurt. This step is really awesome!
One more thing… When you eat the full-fat, unaltered version of something like salad dressing, you should feel more satisfied by your salad and less in need of a snack two hours later. Which can help with step 3, above.
Whew! That was an easy one.
Step 6: Toodeloo, big servings of starch
Face facts: that gratuitous pile of starch on your plate is just filler. Maybe it’s tasty, but maybe it’s pretty plain and uninspiring. Usually, it is a shade of beige. Regardless, you don’t have to eat so much of it.
Yes, we are talking about some of the fixtures we are used to seeing on our lunch and dinner plates. That scoop of rice. The pile of pasta. The basket of bread. And the always popular potato. You want to try to eat less of these. Even though they aren’t sweet, they spike your blood sugar just like sweets and don’t deliver much in the way of nutrition other than extra calories.
You don’t have to completely ‘banish the beige.’ Just cut back for now. Get out of the habit of eating a large portion of these ever-present fillers. Here are some ideas:
- Skip the dinner roll, or enjoy half a roll.
- Go topless — discard the top half of the bun or the top slice of bread on your hamburger or sandwich. (Naked — no bread at all — is also an option. Sub in a lettuce wrap for easy eating!)
- Enjoy your stir-fry or burrito with sautéed shredded cabbage or just a small scoop of rice. Cauliflower rice is also an option.
- Make pasta a side dish, not the main course. Or try zoodles!
- Back away from those French fries! (Or if you can do moderation just have a few…)
This doesn’t mean going hungry. Eat a little more of everything else instead — namely protein and veggies. Our guide, Higher-satiety eating: What it is and how to get started, has some tasty ideas for how to feel full and satisfied without the heaping side of beige.
You did it! Six big steps down the carb mountain means you are six giant steps closer to a healthier you!
Use this guide to help you be your own guide and teacher. Forge your personal path as far down the carb mountain as you see fit. Great health awaits those who make it down far enough to rest at a spot below their personal carb threshold. It is there — with less sugar and refined starch — where wellness resides.
Did you complete all six steps? Congratulations! You’ve made amazing headway on your journey away from sugar and refined starch and back to whole foods! We hope you feel better and notice that you are more satisfied by your meals.
If you think you might do even better by removing more carbs from your diet, consider our beginners guides to a low-carb or ketogenic (very low-carb) diet. By completing these six steps, you have set yourself up for an easier transition into full-fledged low-carb eating. Our numerous guides (for things like dining out, traveling, or eating on a budget) can reveal the remaining path to a truly low-carb lifestyle. And our extensive collection of tasty recipes will illuminate your way and help you to your destination!
Why not begin your journey today?!