Weight Management: Low Carbohydrate Diet

Weight Management: Low-Carbohydrate Diet

Following a low-carbohydrate (carb) diet can help you lose weight, maintain weight loss, and improve your overall health. It can also help to lessen sugar cravings and improve your energy.

A low-carb Mediterranean diet combines two popular eating patterns: reducing unhealthy carbs and including the fresh foods found in the Mediterranean region. It limits sugar, processed foods (e.g. white bread, pasta, rice, etc.), potatoes, and high-sugar fruit. It includes some healthy, plant-based carbohydrates, including whole, unrefined grains; legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, etc.), and low-sugar fruit (e.g. berries and nectarines).

How Does A Low-Carb Diet Work?

When you avoid sugars and starches:

You feel fuller, decrease your overall food intake, and are better able to lose weight.

Low-Carb Diet

There is usually no need to count calories or buy special foods or products. Instead, you'll focus on eating whole foods (foods with little to no processing) for a complete, nutritious, and filling diet.

Any carbohydrates in your diet should be complex carbohydrates. They are digested more slowly and provide fiber, so they are more filling. They are also less likely to cause rapid changes in blood sugar levels compared to refined carbohydrates (like pastry and white bread).

Healthy fats and quality proteins are also important in managing your weight.

The overall goal is to have whole, nutrient-dense, low-carb foods that provide lasting energy.

Low-Carb Meal & Snack Ideas

To get started, here are some suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks, including smoothies.

Breakfast:

  • Choose: scrambled or hard-boiled eggs. Ideas: add spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, and smoked salmon to eggs. Or, put eggs on low-carb toast and top with avocado slices.

    • Tip: Avoid tossing the yolk and just eating the whites.

  • Choose: Berries, orange, melon (low sugar fruits). Ideas: add to yogurt or cottage cheese and top with low-carb granola.

    • Tip: Avoid eating more than 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Watch out for the highest carb fruits (bananas and grapes).

  • Choose: Lower carb dairy (feta, parmesan, cottage cheese, unsweetened plain Greek yogurt, etc.). Idea: make a Mediterranean plate with feta or parmesan cheese with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives.

    • Tip: Avoid sweetened or light fruit-flavored yogurt

  • Choose: Nuts, seeds (chia, flax, etc.), or coconut. Ideas: Roast flaked coconut, almonds, and chia or flax seeds to make low-carb granola. Top with berries and yogurt.

    • Tip: Avoid high-carb cereals.

  • More quick and easy breakfast options:

    • 2 hard-boiled eggs with 1/2 avocado

    • 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal with 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen) and 2 Tbsp of flaxseed meal or chia seeds

    • 1 cup of cottage cheese with small handful of raw nuts and 1/2 cup berries

    • 1 cup plan, unsweetened Greek yogurt with 1 tsp of unsweetened peanut butter and 1/2 cup berries (fresh or frozen)

    • Smoothie: 1 scoop of unsweetened protein powder, 1 Tbsp almond or peanut butter, 1 Tbsp chia seeds, handful of raw spinach, 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1-2 cups unsweetened almond milk (for desired thickness)

Lunch and Dinner:

  • Choose: Lean, good quality protein like lean beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, or salmon. Ideas: Scramble eggs with low-carb vegetables for lunch or dinner. Make chicken and low-carb vegetable soup. Stir-fry shrimp with low-carb vegetables.

    • Tip: Avoid fatty beef, deli meats, and hot dogs.

  • Choose: Low-carb vegetables like artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, kale, green beans, mushrooms, spinach, Swiss chard, etc. Ideas: Add more leafy greens in your grain bowl instead of rice or noodles. Add vegetables to stews, chili, soups, eggs, and stir-fry.

    • Tip: Be aware of high-carb vegetables like potatoes, corn, green peas, and winter squashes.

  • Choose: Vegetable pasta made from zucchini, cabbage, etc., whole-grain pasta, low-carb pasta made with oat fiber, or protein pasta made from lentils or chickpeas. Idea: Use a spiral slicer/spiralizer to make veggie pasta; sauté it in olive oil with cooked vegetables.

    • Tip: Avoid refined white pasta.

  • Choose: Cauliflower or broccoli rice; brown, red, or wild rice; quinoa, farro, or buckwheat. Idea: Add cauliflower or broccoli rice to a quarter-portion of quinoa or brown rice to increase volume without increasing carbs.

    • Tip: Avoid white rice.

  • Choose: Low-carb bread; lettuce, chard, or collards; dried seaweed (Nori) sheets. Use these items as substitutes for wraps, buns, tortillas, etc.

    • Tip: Avoid bread and tortillas

  • Choose: High omega-3 oils (walnut and flax); Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, olives, avocado, and nuts). Ideas: Use avocado oil when cooking at high temperatures. Keep olive oil for salads, low-temperature cooking, and to drizzle on steamed vegetables. Opt for raw and unsalted nuts instead of salted & roasted.

    • Tip: Avoid canola, corn, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, and safflower oils. Avoid margarine.

  • More quick and easy lunch/dinner options:

    • Heat any non-starchy frozen vegetables in microwave or cook in air fryer for a side dish. Have at least two sides of vegetables for both lunch and dinner.

    • Use pre-made rotisserie chicken throughout the week. Season with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, garam masala, cinnamon, paprika, etc. Add to a salad or make a chicken fajita bowl with bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

    • Bake shrimp in the oven/air fryer (they last a few days in the fridge). Add to a salad or use as a main dish.

    • Cook quinoa or brown rice and store it in the fridge. Use as a side dish or add to a salad.

    • Put together leafy greens, a hard-boiled egg, canned tuna in water (drained), and olives with 2 tsp (10 mL) of olive oil and lemon juice.

    • Use ready-mix salad with cabbage, kale, etc. for a stir-fry. Add chicken or shrimp.

    • Ready-mix salad recipe: Choose spinach, arugula, or kale as your base. Add 1/4 cup (40 g) cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup (80 g) canned chickpeas (drained) or 3 slices of smoked salmon, 1/2 avocado, 1 Tbsp (15 mL) crumbled feta cheese, and 1 Tbsp olive oil (can add lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, dried herbs, etc.)

Snacks

  • Choose: Hot-air or avocado oil popcorn. Idea: Add nutritional yeast, a complete protein, for a cheesy, nutty flavor.

    • Tip: Avoid microwave and premade/bagged popcorn.

  • Choose: Baked kale or seaweed crisps. Idea: If you're baking kale chips at home, change the flavor with ingredients like sesame oil, crushed almonds, chili/cayenne powder, or mustard.

    • Tip: Avoid pretzels.

  • Choose: Cheese crisps. Idea: Cheese crisps can also be crushed and sprinkled on top of salads or roasted vegetables for extra protein.

    • Tip: Avoid potato chips.

  • Choose: Dark chocolate. Note: Not all dark chocolate is the same! Choose dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. Watch for added sugar, e.g. caramel, nougat, or honey.

    • Tip: Avoid milk and white chocolate.

  • More quick and easy snack options:

    • 3 squares of 70% dark chocolate with small handful of raw almonds (about 10 nuts)

    • 1 cup (240 mL) cooked edamame (can heat in microwave)

    • 1 whole apple, sliced with 1 tsp (5 mL) of unsweetened peanut butter

Low-Carb Drinks:

  • Coffee (caffeinated or decaf, hot or iced) and espresso

  • Tea (caffeinated or decaf)

  • Herbal tea without added sugar

  • Unsweetened sparkling water

  • Tips: Drink 8-12 cups (roughly 2-3 L) of water every day. Pure filtered water is the best choice. Water can help you feel more energized. It also helps with digestion.

Smoothies:

  • Low-Carb Strawberry Smoothie

    • To make: Combine 1 3/4 cup (420 mL) unsweetened coconut milk (or any non-dairy alternative) with 5 oz (140 g) fresh strawberries, 1 Tbsp (15 mL) lime juice, and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract. Mix in a blender until smooth.

  • High-Protein Chocolate Almond Smoothie

    • To make: Combine 3/4 cup (180 mL) unsweetened almond milk, 2 Tbsp (20 mL) almond butter (or any nut butter), 1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) vanilla extract, 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsweetened protein powder, 1/2 Tbsp (7.5 mL) cocoa powder, 3/4 cup (180 mL) ice cubes, and a dash of cinnamon to taste. Mix in a blender until smooth.