On this page, you can learn how to make low carb simple. You get a guide to what to eat and what to avoid. You can also use our 1,000+ awesome low-carb recipes and our free 2-week get started challenge. This guide is for adults with health issues, including obesity, that could benefit from a low-carb diet. Read the nutrition label in the grocery store.
– what to eat
Visual low-carb guides
1. Low-carb foods list
Foods to eat
No more than 5% of carbohydrates in any food item is a good rule of thumb.
On this page, you can learn how to make low carb simple. You get a guide to what to eat and what to avoid. You can also use our 1,000+ awesome low-carb recipes and our free 2-week get started challenge.
This guide is for adults with health issues, including obesity, that could benefit from a low-carb diet.
Read the nutrition label in the grocery store.
For ideas and inspiration for appetizing meals that we think you and your family will love, take a look at our more than 1,000 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.15
- Alcohol: You can drink in moderation dry wine, champagne or sparkling wine (extra dry or brut), whisky, brandy, vodka and gin.16 Vodka and soda water with a wedge of lime makes a great crisp drink. See our guide to alcoholic beverages.
- Dark chocolate: Above 70% cocoa, preferably only in small amounts.17 Full low-carb snacks guide
2. Do not eat high-carb foods
- Sugar: The worst choice, period.18 Soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, ice cream, breakfast cereals – avoid them all. Although controversial based on scientific definitions, many find sugar to have addictive properties. Read our complete guide to sugar
Preferably avoid or limit artificial sweeteners as well19 (here’s why). Check out our full low-carb sweeteners guide
Flour, wheat products or other refined cereal grains, even if labelled “gluten free.”20 This means bread, buns, pasta, crackers, porridge, muesli. Whole grains are included here too – on a low-carb diet they are just less bad.21 Also potatoes (sweet potatoes too), potato chips, French fries, 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 basically bread in liquid form. We recommend avoiding it altogether. Lower-carb beers (typically called “lite beer” in the US) are available, but keep in mind that they still contain more carbs than dry wine or pure liquor.
- Fruit: While berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are fine in small to moderate amounts, be careful with other fruit. They are fairly high in carbs and sugar, which can raise blood sugar, may slow down weight loss and can possibly worsen metabolic issues.22 Consider it nature’s candy: fine for a special treat, but probably not something to consume daily on a low-carb diet.23 Learn more
Be very skeptical of special “low-carb” products, such as pasta or chocolate. Unfortunately these products often work poorly and may have prevented weight loss for many people.24 They’re often full of carbs once you see through the creative marketing.
There are many companies that use deceptive advertising to entice you into buying their “low carb” products that are full of starch, flour, sugar alcohols and other sweeteners, and strange additives.25
One of the largest of such companies was fined 8 million dollars for 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 (ideally by making it yourself).
- Avoid products with the words “net carbs” on them. That’s usually just a way to fool you, and they are rarely good low-carb foods.
Also, preferably avoid margarine. It’s a solid form of industrial seed and vegetable oils that contains trans fats. Why eat imitation butter when real butter is probably tastier and better for you?26
3. Make it real
Eat high-quality, minimally-processed low-carb foods.27 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 strategy is to eat only low-carb foods that were available hundreds or even thousands of years ago. If it has a long list of ingredients and words on its label you’ve never heard of, don’t eat it.
Take this simple print-out-guide of which low-carb foods to eat and which to avoid to the store, or give it 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? Many people on the Standard American Diet (SAD) consume more than 250 to 350 grams of carbs a day.28 So when you adopt a low-carb diet, anything below about 100 grams a day — especially if you cut out added sugars — may reap weight loss and metabolic benefits.29
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 may want to consume at the start of the low-carb, high-fat diet.30 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 and ketones for fuel.31 Ketogenic diets can also suppress appetite, so you end up eating less without getting hungry.32
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 low-carb 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.33
You may need to experiment to see where you feel your best and are able to easily maintain your weight and control cravings.34 Many people find that if they add back in carbs, their cravings for higher carbohydrate foods return.35
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.
Important: Don’t fear 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 more fat. A low-carb diet needs fat, especially in the begining. Fat adds taste and calories. Get it from using butter, coconut oil, high fat cheese, olive oil, avocado oil, even beef and bacon fat. Just don’t overdo it, since eating too much fat can prevent you from burning your stored body fat. Here are 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) fats.37 When you are no longer consuming a lot of carbs, the body’s engine will convert to burning fats.38 It will either burn the fat you have eaten or the fat stored on your body in your adipose tissue (e.g. belly fat).
The body will only switch to fat as the primary fuel when its carb supply is low. The diet is sometimes called the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet – because that is exactly how you eat. The exception could be when you’re trying to lose a lot of weight. Then instead of eating a lot of fat, you might not have to eat high fat as your body will be using its stored fat for energy, instead of a lot of dietary fat.
How do you know how much fat you should eat? Add enough to enjoy your food. If you enjoy your food and you’re not hungry, you probably don’t need to eat more fat.
At the start, do not deny yourself fat. Eat enough so that you are satisfied and you do not feel hungry. Redcing the carbs is what helps you become “fat adapted” — burning fat for fuel efficiently. Eating fat helps you make the transition without being hungry or having intense cravings.39 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) that can accompany a high carb diet.40
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.41 This can help you lose weight. If at any time you feel deprived, unsatisfied, or have cravings, you can add fat back into your diet. Listen to your body. If you consume more fat than your body needs, it may slow down your fat loss. If you eat too little fat, however, you may feel tired, grumpy, or have cravings. Your body will tell you what it needs. Learn to listen to its cues again.
4. Low-carb breakfasts
Breakfast is a great time to eat low-carb foods. Who doesn’t love bacon & eggs? And there are so many more options – delicious, fast or both.
Here are some of our low-carb breakfast favorites, followed by other fantastic options:
Other 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
Do you NEED breakfast on a low-carb diet? No.44
On a low-carb, high-fat diet you’re likely not as hungry and you don’t need to eat as often.45 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 speed up weight loss… and likely type 2 diabetes reversal.46 As a bonus you can save time and money.
Are you feeling brave enough to skip breakfast?
5. 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. Or check out our full low-carb recipe site.
- Drink water with your meal or (occasionally) a glass of wine.