What Is Allowed on a Low Carb Diet?

What Is Allowed on a Low Carb Diet?

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Meat and nonstarchy veggies are staples on a low-carb diet.

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For an average 2,000-calorie diet, the publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" recommends getting as much as 45 percent to 65 percent of your calories from carbohydrates. When you're on a low-carb plan, though, in some cases, 10 percent or less of your calories can come from carbs. You'll have to limit or nix many of your favorite foods from your diet -- pasta, bread, fruits and other high-carb foods. But you still have plenty of foods you can eat, even veggies.

Fish and Shellfish

If you're a fan of food from the sea, you'll be happy to know that all fish and shellfish fit right in with your low-carb eating plan. Fish, including flounder, salmon, tuna, trout and cod, is naturally carb-free. Some other types of sea critters do have small amounts of carbohydrates, however. Mussels and oysters, for example, will add a few carb grams to your daily diet, so you'll want to limit your intake to around 4 ounces each day.

Meat and Poultry

Beef, veal, pork, lamb, turkey and chicken are just some of the meats and types of poultry allowed on a low-carb diet. Animal flesh doesn't have any carbohydrates. Just so you don't get too much heart-damaging saturated fat, always opt for lean cuts, trim away any visible fat and remove any skin from poultry meat. You can also have bacon, ham and deli meats, although you'll want to read the nutrition facts label carefully. Processed meats are sometimes cured in a sugary substance, making them somewhat high in carbs. Plus, processed meats tend to be high in sodium, so opt for low-sodium kinds.

Eggs and Cheese

No matter how you make them -- scrambled, hard-boiled, poached or fried -- your morning eggs can stay put as part of your daily routine. Up your protein intake, without getting more fat, by mixing one whole egg with two or three egg whites. Scramble them up or use them for an omelet for a low-carb breakfast meal. You can even have cheese, including cheddar, feta, goat, blue, Parmesan, Swiss and cream cheese. Because cheese does have as much as 1 gram of carbohydrate per ounce, though, you shouldn't have more than 3 to 4 ounces of cheese each day.


Don't skip out on your veggies while you're on your diet. You still need the fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that vegetables have to offer. Eat lettuce, spinach, carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, jicama, peppers, onions, celery, radishes and other types of nonstarchy vegetables. You'll want to avoid the veggies that are high in starch, such as potatoes, corn, squash, peas and yams. Even though nonstarchy veggies are lower in carbs than starch-filled varieties, they do still have carbohydrates. You'll need to measure out your portion carefully to fit within the parameters of your specific low-carb diet plan. Generally, you can have several 1-cup servings of raw nonstarchy vegetables each day.

Other Foods

While you're cooking, you'll probably need oil or butter. These are free of carbohydrates and suitable for your diet. You can also have mayonnaise and salad dressings that don't have any added sugars, although you should limit yourself to 1 or 2 tablespoons -- some dressings do have a few grams of carbs. Wash down your meals with plain water or soda water. Add a few squirts of lemon or lime juice for flavor, but since fruit juices add carbs, you shouldn't have more than 3 tablespoons each day. Or you can drink diet sodas, as long as they do not contain carbohydrates, or tea or coffee. Use heavy cream and an artificial sweetener, if need be, in your coffee and tea.

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