– 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
So what does low-carb food look like when it’s cooked and ready to eat? Feel free to check out our low-carb recipes for 500+ examples. Below are a few popular options.
You decide when the time is right. Your weight loss could slow down a bit.
- Alcohol: Dry wine (regular red or dry white wine), champagne, whisky, brandy, vodka and cocktails without sugar. Full low-carb alcohol guide
- Dark chocolate: Above 70% cocoa, preferably just a bit. Full low-carb snacks guide
Avoid these 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
- Starch: Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, French fries, potato chips, porridge, muesli and so on. Wholegrain products are just less bad. Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are high in carbs. Moderate amounts of root vegetables may be OK (unless you’re eating extremely low carb).
- Beer: Liquid bread. Full of rapidly absorbed carbs. But there are a few lower-carb beers
- Fruit: Very sweet, lots of sugar. Eat once in a while. Treat fruit as a natural form of candy. 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 industrially produced imitated butter with unnaturally high content of omega-6 fat. It has no health benefits and tastes bad. It’s also statistically linked to asthma, allergies and other inflammatory diseases.
Eat real food
How low carb is low carb?
It’s called Low carb, not no carb. So how much of carbs can you eat in a day?
The answer is that it depends. But as a rough guide stay under 20 grams per day for maximum effect, and everyone who wants some benefits of low-carb eating (like effortless weight loss) should probably aim for at least staying under 100 grams of carbs per day.
Below are three examples of how a low-carb meal can look, depending on how many carbs you eat per day. Learn about how many carbs can be appropriate 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:
Low carb needs to be high fat
A proper low-carb diet always means you get a lot more energy from natural fat (like butter or olive oil, etc.).
This is why some smart people call low-carb diets “LCHF” (low carb, high fat).
How much fat should you eat? As much as you need to feel satisfied. Whatever else the body burns, it will take from your fat stores, as you lose weight. Eat more fat than you need to feel great, and it will slow down your fat loss. Eat too little fat, and you’ll feel tired and hungry.
So how much fat should you eat? As much as you need to feel satisfied and great. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are satisfied. Then repeat. It’s that simple.
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
Will you have a hard time living without bread? There are good low-carb options, unfortunately it’s hard to find them in stores. “Low carb” bread from stores tends to be either (A) not even remotely low carb, or (B) chock-full of gluten:
- 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.
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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