– what to eat
It’s possible to eat great, amazing food until you are satisfied… and still lose weight. On this page you can learn how to make low carb simple – you get a guide to what to eat, what to avoid, hundreds of awesome low-carb recipes and our free 2-week get started challenge.
Visual low-carb guides
Low-carb foods list
Foods to eat
- Meat: Any type: Beef, pork, lamb, game, poultry, etc. Feel free to eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the chicken. If possible try to choose organic or grass-fed meats. Top recipes
- Fish and seafood: All kinds: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring are great. Avoid breading. Top fish recipes
- Eggs: All kinds: Boiled, fried, scrambled, omelets, etc. Preferably organic eggs. Top egg recipes
- Natural fat, high-fat sauces: Using butter and cream for cooking can make your food taste better and make you feel more satisfied. Try a Béarnaise or Hollandaise sauce, check the ingredients or make it yourself. Coconut fat or olive oil are also good options. Learn more
- Vegetables that grow above ground: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes etc. Low-carb vegetables guide
- Dairy products: Always select full-fat options like real butter, cream (40% fat), sour cream, Greek/Turkish yogurt and high-fat cheeses. Be careful with regular milk, reduced fat and skim milk as they contain a lot of milk sugar. Avoid flavored, sugary and low-fat products.
- Nuts: Great for a treat (in moderation) instead of popcorn, candy or chips. Learn more
- Berries: Okay in moderation, if you are not super strict or sensitive. Great with whipped cream. Learn more
Read the nutrition label in the grocery store.
No more than 5% of carbohydrates in any food item is a good rule of thumb.
- Water – Try to make this your drink of choice, flavored or sparkling water is fine too.
- Coffee – Black or with small amounts of milk or cream is ideal for weight loss. Beware of adding lots of milk or cream, especially if you drink coffee regularly throughout the day, even when you’re not hungry. But if you are hungry feel free to use full-fat cream. Or try it with coconut oil and butter – “Bulletproof coffee“.
- More options in our full low-carb drinks guide
For ideas and step-by-step instructions for appetizing meals that you and your family will love, take a look at our more than 500 low-carb recipes. Every week, we add more. Some of the most popular recipes you will find below, but we have recipes to suit almost every taste.
Invited out? Celebrating? You don’t have to derail your diet. While too much celebrating can slow down weight loss, after a special event, just get right back to the diet and progress will resume.
- Alcohol: Alcohol: You can drink in moderation dry wine (regular red or dry white wine), champagne, whisky, brandy, vodka and gin. Vodka and soda with a wedge of lime make a great crisp drink. See our guide to alcoholic beverages.
- Dark chocolate: Above 70% cocoa, preferably just a bit. Full low-carb snacks guide
Do not eat high-carb foods
- Sugar: The worst. Soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, ice cream, breakfast cereals.
Preferably avoid artificial sweeteners as well (here’s why). Full low-carb sweeteners guide
Flour, wheat products or other refined cereal grains, even if labelled “gluten free.” This means bread, buns, pasta, crackers, porridge, muesili. Whole grains too (they are just less bad). Also potatoes (sweet potatoes too), potato chips, French fries etc. Corn products and popped corn. Rice. Do check out, however, some of the low-carb versions of these foods:
– Low-carb bread
– Low-carb “mashed potatoes”
– Low-carb rice
– Low-carb porridge
– Low-carb pasta
- Beer: Made from fermented grain and hops, beer is bread in liquid form. Avoid. A few lower carb beers are now available.
- Fruit: While berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are fine from time-to-time, be careful with other fruit. Full of sugar and fructose, which can contribute to blood sugar issues and fatty liver, excess fruit can slow weight loss and worsen metabolic issues. Consider it Nature’s candy: fine for a special treat; do not consume daily. Learn more
Be very skeptical of special “low-carb” products, such as pasta or chocolate. Unfortunately these products usually work poorly. They have prevented weight loss for loads of people. They’re commonly full of carbs once you see through the creative marketing.
One of the largest such companies was recently fined 8 million dollars for shamelessly lying about the carb content of their products.
Two simple rules to avoid this junk:
- Don’t eat “low carb” versions of high carb stuff, like cookies, bars, chocolate, bread, pasta or ice cream – unless you are SURE of the ingredients (perhaps from making it yourself).
- Avoid products with the words “net carbs” on them. That’s usually just a way to fool you.
Also, preferably avoid margarine. It’s a solid form of industrial seed and vegetable oils. Why eat imitation butter when real butter is so much tastier and better for you? Margarine, too, like industrial oils has high amounts of omega-6 fat, linked to inflammation and inflammatory diseases.
Make it real
Eat high-quality, minimally-processed real food. Shop the rim of the store and avoid packaged goods. Buy at local farmers’ markets. No list of ingredients? Great. That means it’s not processed. A good trick: eat only foods available hundreds or even thousands of years ago. If it has a long list of ingredients and words on its label you don’t know, don’t eat it.
Take this simple print-out-guide of what to eat and what to avoid to the store, or give to interested family and friends.
How low to go?
How many grams of carbs can you eat in a day and still be low carb? Most people on the Standard American Diet (SAD) consume more than 250 to 350 grams of carbs a day. So when you adopt a low carb diet, anything below 100 grams a day — especially if you cut out added sugars — may reap weight loss and metabolic benefits.
However, the more weight you want to lose, or the more your health has suffered on the SAD way of eating, the fewer carbs you should consume at the start of the low carb high fat diet. If you stay under 20 grams of carbs a day, you will be eating a very low carb diet or ketogenic diet, in which your body converts from burning carbs (glucose) to burning fat (ketones) for fuel. Learn more about the ketogenic diet.
Some people can do very well consuming slightly more carbs — about 30 to 50 grams a day — as long as those come from healthy real foods, devoid of added sugars or refined carbohydrates. As well, once people reach their weight loss or health goals, some find they can add a few more carbs back into their diet from time-to-time.
You may need to experiment to see where feel your best and are able to easily maintain your weight and control cravings. Many people find that if they add back in carbs, their cravings for higher carbohydrate foods return.
Here are three visual examples of various levels of carbs on a dinner plate. Learn more about how to determine the right amount of carbs for you.
Do you want to watch a high-quality 11-minute video course on how to eat low carb, high fat (LCHF)? Sign up for our free newsletter1 and you’ll get instant access to it:
Important: It’s low carb HIGH FAT
After years of being told to avoid fat and eat low fat foods, many people find the hardest part of adopting the diet is adding back in lots of fat. A low-carb diet needs the fat. Get it from using butter, coconut oil, high fat cheese, olive oil, avocado oil, even beef and bacon fat. Here’s some easy tips.
Like a hybrid car engine, the body can burn two fuels for its energy needs. 1) Glucose from the breakdown of carbohydrates and 2) ketones, from the breakdown of fats. When you are no longer consuming a lot of carbs, the body’s engine will convert to burning fats. It will either burn the fat you have eaten or the fat stored on your body in your adipose tissue.
The body will only start burning fat when its carb supply is low. This is why the diet is called the low carb high fat (LCHF) diet – because that is exactly how you must eat.
At the start, do not deny yourself fat. Eat enough so that you are satisfied and you do not feel hungry. That way you will soon become what is called “fat adapted” —burning fat for fuel efficiently. You will know that you are fat adapted when you do not need to eat every few hours and you no longer feel the highs and lows (hangry episodes) of the blood sugar roller coaster.
Once your body is fat adapted, you can then consume a little less fat at every meal and let your body burn what it needs for energy from your fat stores. This will help you lose weight. If at any time you feel deprived, unsatisfied or have cravings, add fat back into your diet. Listen to your body. If you consume more fat than your body needs it will slow down your fat loss. If you eat too little fat, however, you will feel tired, grumpy and hungry. Your body will tell you what it needs. Learn to listen to its cues again.
In short eat as much fat and low carb food as you need to feel satisfied, healthy and full. You don’t need to count calories. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full. Easy peasy!
Here are some of our low-carb breakfast favorites, followed by even more fantastic options:
More basic low-carb breakfasts
- Leftovers from last night’s dinner
- Coffee with cream
- A can of mackerel and boiled eggs
- Avocado, salmon and sour cream
- Cheese with butter
- Boiled eggs mashed with butter, chopped chives, salt and pepper
- A piece of brie cheese and some ham or salami (or a full breakfast tapas plate)
- High-fat yoghurt with nuts and seeds (and perhaps berries)
The no-breakfast option
On a low-carb, high-fat diet you’re likely not as hungry and you don’t need to eat as often. Skipping breakfast is perfectly fine if you’re not hungry. Perhaps you’ll only have a cup of coffee.
In fact skipping breakfast is a popular version of intermittent fasting. This can really speed up weight loss… and type 2 diabetes reversal. As a bonus you’ll save time and money.
Are you feeling brave enough to skip breakfast?
Low-carb lunches and dinners
- Meat, fish or chicken dishes with vegetables and a rich full-fat sauce. There are many alternatives to potatoes, such as mashed cauliflower.
- Stews, soups or casseroles with low-carb ingredients.
- You can use most recipes in cookbooks if you avoid the carbohydrate-rich ingredients. It’s often a good idea to add fat (e.g. butter, cream) to the recipe. Or check out our full low-carb recipe site.
- Drink water with your meal or (occasionally) a glass of wine.
Instead of potatoes, rice and pasta
There are many ways to replace potatoes, pasta and rice that result in far fewer carbs. Here are a few of the most popular options.
Other simple sides
- Salads made from above-ground vegetables, perhaps with some kind of cheese. Try out different kinds.
- Boiled broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts.
- Vegetables au gratin: Fry squash, aubergine and fennel (or other vegetables you like) in butter. Add salt and pepper. Put in baking dish and add grated cheese. Bake at 225° C (450° F) until the cheese melts and turns golden.
- Vegetables stewed in cream, e.g. cabbage or spinach.
- Vegetable spaghetti can be used instead of pasta. Try it
Dining out or meals with friends
- Restaurants: Usually not a big problem. You can ask to have potatoes/fries switched for a salad. Ask for extra butter.
- Fast food: Doner kebab can be a decent option (avoid the bread). At hamburger chains the hamburgers are usually the least bad option. Avoid soft drinks and fries, obviously. Drink water. Pizza toppings are usually OK, and the stricter you are the less of the pizza crust you will eat.
- Nuts or cheese are good “emergency food” when there are no other adequate options to be found.
- If you eat strictly everyday it’s less of a problem to make a few exceptions when you are invited out. If you’re not sure what will be served you can eat something at home before you leave.
Low-carb snacks and desserts
If you always get hungry between meals you’re probably not eating enough fat. Don’t fear fat. Eat more fat until you feel satisfied.
Here are quick options if you want to eat something right away:
- Rolled-up cheese or ham with a vegetable (some people even spread butter on cheese)
- A piece of cheese
- A boiled egg from the refrigerator
- Canned mackerel in tomato sauce
- Babybel cheese
Olives and nuts may replace potato chips as snacks. Here are more options:
- Mixed nuts Learn more
- Sausage: Cut it in pieces, add a piece of cheese and stick a toothpick through them.
- Vegetables with dip, Try cucumber sticks, red, yellow or green peppers, cauliflower, etc. More
- Cream cheese rolls: Roll some cream cheese in a piece of salami, prosciutto/cold cuts or a long slice of cucumber.
- Parmesan cheese crisps: On a baking tray, form small piles of grated Parmesan cheese. Heat in oven at 225°C (450°F). Let them melt and get a nice color (be careful – they burn easily). Serve as chips, perhaps with some dip.
Visual low-carb guides
Please note that eating when you are not hungry – e.g. when snacking if front of the TV – will slow down weight loss. The options above are simply less bad for your weight than regular high carb snacks.
Learn more about the benefits of only eating when hungry
Do you miss bread? There are good low-carb options, but unfortunately it’s hard to find them in stores. “Low carb” bread from stores are often either (A) far from low carb, or (B) full of gluten, that may have other negative health consequences:
- The problem with low-carb bread
- Another low-carb bread company lying through their teeth
- Why you should never trust a low-carb label
Low-carb bread is fairly easy to do at home though. Here are our top options.
Here are common questions about low-carb foods. For other low-carb questions, feel free to use our full low-carb FAQ.
I don’t eat meat, or I don’t eat dairy. Can I still eat low carb?
Can I eat fruit on a low-carb diet?
Perhaps, at least a bit, but your best bet is berries. Fruit contains quite some sugar (it’s nature’s candy).
How much fruit you can eat mainly depends on how many carbs your aiming for. If you’re targeting below 20 grams daily, for a strict low-carb diet (the most effective version), fruit will have to be something to be enjoyed in smaller amounts and only occasionally.
On a more moderate or liberal low-carb diet, let’s say 75 grams of carbs per day, you could eat a fruit or two most days. Learn more in our full low-carb fruits guide
Can I drink alcohol on a low-carb diet?
Yes. But make sure to drink low-carb things, like wine or whiskey. Full low-carb alcohol guide
Advice on low carb in 40 languages
We have written advice on a low-carb, high-fat diet in 40 languages. Note especially that we have two more Diet Doctor sites in other languages, with this guide in Spanish or Swedish. Just press this small grey note symbol to choose between other languages:2
Low carb at Diet Doctor’s
Keep reading about how low carb works
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