Looking into new diets to lose weight? You may have tried them all: The Paleo Diet, the Gluten-Free Diet, the Low-Fat Diet, and even some of the crazier diets (1200 Calorie Diet, HCG Diet, etc.) out there.
Instead of going on a crash diet that deprives your body of calories, why not try something that only limits the nutrient most likely to cause weight gain? No, fat isn’t the nutrient we’re talking about. Fat doesn’t lead to weight gain as much as carbs do. The fast-acting carbs flood your body with excess glucose, which is then stored as fat for “later use”. Over time, a high-carb diet can lead to a lot of stored body fat.
Cutting carbs, then, encourages your body to do two important things:
- Burn more dietary fat. Seeing as most of your energy will be coming from the fat-based foods (no carbs), your body will become accustomed to turning that fat into energy.
- Burn more stored fat. As your body’s fat-burning mechanisms become more utilized over the course of the low-carb diet, you end up burning more stored fat as well as the fat you eat.
If you’re thinking about starting a low-carb diet plan for weight loss, here’s what you need to know:
What to Eat
For your low-carb diet, you need to focus on eating the following foods:
- Veggies – Veggies are a food you can eat in massive quantities. In fact, it’s encouraged to eat a lot of veggies (4 to 6 portions per day) because most veggies are low in carbs and high in fiber. There are a few higher-carb exceptions (like tomatoes or carrots), but unless you’re going on a no-carb diet, you can include pretty much all the veggies in your diet.
- Meat – Meat contains zero carbs, making it one of the best foods to include in your low-carb diet. Pork, beef, fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, lamb, and all the other animal-based proteins are good options to consider.
- Natural fats – Think olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, and other plant-based oils and fats. These natural fats will be your primary source of energy during the low-carb diet, so go ahead and use them in your meals!
However, you can’t live on meat and veggies alone! You need to include very limited portions of the following foods:
- Dairy –Dairy products are rich in proteins and fats, but they also contain carbs (lactose, the milk-based sugar). Dairy products like Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese are the best choice for your low carb diet.
- Seeds and Nuts – Both nuts and seeds are loaded with natural fats, which make them hugely important for your low-carb diet. However, some contain carbs, which are bad for your diet. Limit yourself to a serving or two of seeds and/or nuts throughout the day.
- Legumes – Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) are rich in protein but also contain some carbs. Try to limit yourself to two or three servings of legumes per week.
What Not to Eat
The list of foods you CAN’T eat is actually a lot longer than the foods you can eat! Here are the no-no foods:
- Sugar – Sugar is absolutely a no-no in any and all of its forms! Artificial sugars are definitely off the table, as is table sugar, brown sugar, even raw natural sugar. Sugar is pure carbs, and it’s a food you need to stay well away from in order to make the diet work!
- Grains – Any food made from grains is a no-no! That means corn and flour tortillas, baked goods, breads, noodles, and rice are all off the menu. Avoid quinoa, barley, bulgur, and spelt as well. These grains are rich in carbs, so they’re off limits during your low carb diet.
- Alcohol – Alcohol contains carbs in two forms: the sugar and the alcohol. Beer, whiskey, mixed drinks, and pretty much everything else (except, perhaps, wine) should be avoided during your low-carb diet. They’re empty calories and useless carbs your body doesn’t need.
- Sugar-rich anything – If it has sugar in any form, it’s off-limits. That means sugary soft drinks, fruit juice, sweetened teas, candy, cookies, diet products, and even condiments like BBQ sauce or ketchup.
- Fruit – Though fruit is very healthy and loaded with antioxidants, they’re also one of the primary sources of carbs (via the natural sugar, fructose). You’ll have to get your vitamins and antioxidants through either vegetable alternatives or taking a vitamin supplement.
The Basic Structure of Your Low Carb Diet
To be healthy on the low-carb diet, here’s what you need to know:
- Eat a lot of veggies – Make sure that your meals consist of at least 60% veggies. That means you’re going to be eating a lot of salads, raw veggies, and steamed/fried/sautéed greens. Mix things up and include as much color as possible in order to get all the nutrients and vitamins you normally get via fruits.
- Enjoy your meat and fats – Your body is going to rely on fats for energy, so don’t skimp on the natural plant-based fats when cooking and preparing your food. You also need meat in order to increase muscle-building. If you deprive your body of protein, it will eat away at the muscles for energy rather than using stored fat.
- Don’t restrict calories – You want your body to have a lot of available energy, as that will encourage it to BURN more energy as well. As your low-carb, high-fat diet activates your fat-burning mechanisms, your body will become more efficient at burning the fat you have stored. Enjoy a normal calorie intake, just make sure those calories are fats and proteins instead of carbs.
The beauty of a low-carb diet is that you are ONLY restricting your carb consumption. You can still eat plenty of food, provided it’s rich in fiber, protein, and fat. You can enjoy delicious meals—both out and at home—without making too drastic a change to the way you eat!
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