Long and Low // How To Get Started
How to Get Started on a Low Carb Diet
Low-carb diets are great for losing weight, but starting a low-carb diet can be overwhelming. You may need to make a drastic change to your eating habits, and it can be difficult to know how to get started. Start slow by transitioning from simple carbs and refined sugars to complex carbs and then to low-carb swaps. You can also keep yourself feeling full and satisfied by making smart meal choices. If you plan to stick with a low-carb diet long-term, then choose a specific diet plan and access some helpful tools and people for support.
List of Foods to Avoid, Eat, and Substitute
Reducing Carbs in Your Diet
Cut out refined sugars and simple carbohydrates.A great first step towards a low-carb lifestyle is to cut out all of the major carbohydrate culprits. You don’t need to cut them all at once. You can cut them out 1 at a time to make it more manageable, such as by replacing sodas and other sugary drinks with water and sugar-free beverages. Some common sources of refined sugars and simple carbs include:
Foods to Avoid:
Cookies, cake, and other sweet baked goods
Sweetened beverages like soda
Switch to whole grains as you transition away from carbohydrates.Before you go full low-carb, you may want to replace your carbohydrates with some better carbohydrate options, such as whole grains. Start slow and just replace 1 serving of your usual carbohydrate foods with 1 serving of a whole grain alternative each day or week. After a week or 2, you will be eating fewer simple carbs and more complex carbohydrates, which will reduce your overall carbohydrate intake and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Some good complex carbohydrate options include:
Whole Grains To Try:
Whole wheat pasta and bread
Steel cut oatmeal
High-fiber, low-sugar cereal
Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes or other root veggies.White potatoes are another major source of simple carbs, so replacing them will help you in your transition to a low-carb lifestyle.You can bake and use a sweet potato or other root veggie similar to how you use white potatoes.Some good options include:
- Baked sweet potatoes or yams
- Roasted carrots, kohlrabi, or beets
- Mashed turnips or rutabaga
- Celery root or daikon radish fries
Try some simple swaps to reduce your carb intake.When you are ready to start transitioning to a low-carb diet, start making simple swaps by replacing your carbohydrates with low-carb alternatives.
Trying Easy Swaps:
Switch rice with cauliflower rice.If you have a food processor or a box grater, try shredding up a head of cauliflower into small, rice-like chunks. Cook it by microwaving for 3-4 minutes, then add it to any dish that requires rice!
Switch pasta with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.You can cut zucchini into skinny, noodle-like strips with a mandoline or veggie peeler, or bake a spaghetti squash, scoop out the seeds and scrape out the strands. Add your favorite pasta sauce and enjoy.
Munch on nuts or raw veggies instead of potato chips.Sometimes you just need a crunchy snack. Instead of reaching for the empty carbs in a bag of fried potato chips, grab a handful of salted nuts or fresh carrots or celery.
Try berries instead of sweets.Berries are full of good nutrients, low in carbs, and make as sweet of a snack as candy. Try a handful of strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Staying Full and Satisfied
Make proteins the focus of your meals.Choosing lean proteins while following a low-carb diet may help to reduce the chances of increasing your cholesterol, so consider doing this. Lean proteins are those that have a lower fat content, such as:
- Skinless chicken
- Ground turkey
- Lean ground beef
- Canned tuna in water
- Egg whites
- Low-fat cottage cheese
Fill up on non-starchy vegetables.You can eat unlimited non-starchy vegetables on most low carb diets, which will help to keep you feeling full.Some non-starchy vegetable options include:
Stock your fridge and pantry with low-carb snacks.Stocking your fridge and pantry with low-carb snacks will help to keep you feeling satisfied.Some easy low-carb snacks options include:
- Celery, broccoli, peppers and other fresh cut veggies
- Boiled and peeled eggs
- Beef jerky
- Raw almonds
- Plain Greek yogurt
Drink water and other unsweetened beverages.Staying hydrated on a low-carb diet will help to keep you feeling full and it can also help to reduce the possibility of negative side-effects, such as dehydration.Avoid drinking sugar-free sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages because these may trigger your sweet-tooth.Stick to water and other unsweetened beverages instead. Some other good low-carb drink options include:
- Unsweetened tea (hot or iced)
- Coffee (decaf or regular)
- Sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime
Choosing a Diet to Follow Long-Term
Select the Atkins diet for a classic low-carb diet.If you want to try a low-carb diet that has been around for a while, then the Atkins diet is a great choice. This diet also claims that it will help you lose 15 pounds (6.8 kg) in the first 2 weeks, so Atkins is a great plan if you are hoping to drop a large amount of weight quickly.
Trying the Atkins Plan
First 2 weeks: cut down to 20 grams of carbs a day.You’ll also be cutting out simple carbs and refined sugars completely, plus fruits, starchy veggies like potatoes, broccoli, and corn, nuts, and whole grains. As you follow the plan, you’ll slowly add these back in.
Eat protein with every meal.Keep your Atkins diet interesting by trying new kinds of protein every few nights. Experiment with chicken, fish, turkey, and even tofu for healthy, tasty meals.
Consider Atkins if you have some health conditions.The Atkins program can benefit people who have metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Atkins might improve your condition and in some cases even reverse it.
Choose the South Beach diet to develop healthier eating habits.The South Beach diet was developed by a cardiologist and it claims to help you develop a healthier way of eating while also promoting weight loss. Also, the South Beach diet does not restrict carbs as intensely as some other diets, so it may be easier to follow and stick with it.
South Beach Diet Phases
First phase:Cut all carbs.
Second phase:Reintroduce 1-2 servings of healthy carbs into your daily diet.
Third phase:Add carbs back, in moderation.
What you’ll learn:This diet helps you choose carbs with a low glycemic index, which stabilizes your blood sugar and hunger. It also encourages you to eat monosaturated fats, which are better for your heart, as well as lean proteins, veggies, and fruit in moderation.
Try the Ketogenic diet for a high-fat, satisfying meal plan.This diet plan focuses ongetting your daily intake to 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.This will force your body to use fat for energy and promote quick weight loss.
- A ketogenic diet has long been known as beneficial for people with epilepsy. However, following the diet may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s, stroke, dementia, and traumatic brain injury.
- Some people experience negative side effects as they transition to a very low-carb diet, such as brain fog, fatigue, and moodiness.
Do the Dukan diet if you like structure.The Dukan diet isone of the most structured low-carb diets, which some people find helpful.In the first 10 days of this diet, you only eat lean protein, oat bran, and water. After that you can include non-starchy veggies, a serving of fruit, a serving of whole grain, and hard cheeses. You may lose 10 pounds (4.5 kg) or more in the first couple of weeks, and then about 2 pounds (0.91 kg) to 4 pounds (1.8 kg) pounds after that.
- Keep in mind that any time a diet has a lot of restrictions, you are at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Opt for the Paleo diet if you want to emphasize whole foods.You cannot have any dairy, grains, potatoes, or processed foods on this diet, but you can eat lots of meat, veggies, roots, fruits, and nuts.The whole foods approach of this diet is healthy and you will get to eat plenty of food to stay full and satisfied.
- The goal of the Paleo diet attributes many of the health issues people have today, including obesity, with the modern agricultural diet that includes dairy and grains.
Staying Healthy and Motivated
Talk to your doctor before starting any diet.It is a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any weight-loss program. This isespecially important to do if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease.Your doctor can tell you if following a low-carb diet is safe for you and they can also advise you about the best type of low-carb diet for your situation.
If you have diabetes, then cutting out carbs altogether might not be safe.Instead, your doctor might advise you to choose healthy carbs, such as whole grains and fruit.
- If you have high cholesterol, then eating foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol may increase your cholesterol even more. Instead, your doctor may advise you to choose lean proteins, such as skinless poultry, low-fat cottage cheese, and egg whites.
Download a tracking app to keep track of your carbohydrate intake.If you need to stay under a certain number of carbs each day or balance your macros, then using a tracker app can be helpful. Download an app to use on your phone or tablet. Log all of your food into the app each day to keep track of your carbohydrate intake and other macronutrients, such as fat and protein. You can also use an app to plan meals, make grocery lists, and store recipes.
- MyFitnessPal is a popular food tracking app that is available for free.
- If you prefer to write things down, then get a journal and write down everything you eat each day. Use food labels to find the nutritional information. You can also look up the carbohydrates, fat, protein, and calories in a nutrition guidebook or by searching online.
Prep your meals for the week to stay on track.Planning out your meals for the week and spending a few hours 1 day per week to do meal prep can help to set you up for success all week long.Choose a day when you have a few hours of free time and look up low-carb recipes and meal suggestions. Use this time to put together some or all of your meals for the week.
Meal Prep Tips
Prep ingredients.Chop up any vegetables you’ll need for cooking throughout the week. Measure them and portion them out for cooking in small containers or Ziploc bags.
Cook your proteins early.If you can, cook your protein so you just have to heat it up when you’re ready to eat. You can boil eggs, grill chicken, bake salmon, and more.
Portion out your meals.Measure your meals out into the proper proportions and set them aside in plastic containers that you can grab on the go. Try 4 ounces (35 grams) of skinless grilled chicken with 1 cup (91 grams) of steamed broccoli, and 1 cup (150 grams) of baked zucchini.
Connect with other people who are following the diet.Keep yourself on track by joining a network of people who are also following a low-carb diet. You can turn to them with questions about starting or sticking with your diet.Look for online communities for low-carb dieting, such as a Facebook group or sub-Reddit. Join the group and get involved.
- Introduce yourself when you join the group and let people know you are just starting the diet.
- Ask group members for help when you struggle with the diet. For example, if you are craving sweets, ask what other group members have done to overcome these cravings.
QuestionIs it fine for me to still eat rice? My mother is Asian and it is the base of what we eat.Community AnswerRice is full of carbohydrates, but that does not mean you have to stop eating rice unless you are following a very low-carb diet. Keeping portion sizes smaller will help.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I deal with all types of cravings?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhenever you are craving junk food, tear your mind away from it and eat a fruit or vegetable that you like a lot in place of it. This way you'll be fuller and won't crave the junk food as much if at all. Drink plenty of water, and don't go near places that have foods you know will tempt you, if you have the choice. Rid your house of junk food and fill it with healthy food. Also, tell someone you know that you are trying to eat healthier- it helps, trust me. Lastly, it is okay to give in every once in a while and indulge.Thanks!
What if I am 16 and weigh 41 kilograms, and I go on a low-carbohydrate diet?
This is a dangerous diet for health, why are you promoting this
What can I do besides diet?
As a 76 year old male with diabetes, where can I find my daily amount of carbs? Is corn bread allowed?
To get started on a low carb diet, start by replacing refined sugars and carbohydrates with healthier options. For instance, you could drink water instead of soda, and you could try making whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. Try starting out by replacing 1 serving a day with a whole grain option, then gradually work up to more. To make sure you stay full, eat plenty of lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish, and include leafy greens, nuts, and other low-carb foods in your diet.
- Always eat breakfast and avoid skipping any of your other meals during the day.
Sources and Citations
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