Eats that will help you lose weight without feeling deprived.
Jordi Lippe-McGraw 1 / 21
When you think of eating a low-carb diet, a lot of meat comes to mind. But, there's actually a plethora of foods (even dessert) you can chow down on in addition to grilled chicken and broccoli (though those healthy staples made it on our list too, of course!) Just keep in mind that not all carbs are evil and they're definitely not created equal. "While decreasing your carbohydrate consumption can be helpful, especially for weight loss," says celebrity nutritionist Cynthia Pasquella, "It’s really quality over quantity that matters." So, incorporating "good" carbs packed with vitamins, minerals, and even natural appetite suppressants will help to promote muscle growth while still losing weight.Still, there's no denying the weight loss encouraging perks of cutting a percentage of carbs from your diet and focusing on low-carb eats. "A lower carbohydrate eating pattern is the best diet to burn fat you have stored on your body," says Colette Heimowitz, Atkins VP of Nutrition and Education. Consuming [minimal] high fiber carbohydrates, healthy fats, and an optimal protein intake allows the body to be fortified with the nutrients it needs and keeps appetite in control, she says.So, add these foods to your low carb regimen to keep you satisfied while shedding the lbs. Bonus: there's even a couple of "pasta" dishes.Good Carbs: The 13 Best Whole Grain Foods >>>
"Dark, leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, spring mixes, kale, collard greens, and many others are good sources of fiber and they’re super nutritious and have little carbs," says Pasquella. Spinach for instance has 1 gram of carbs per 1-cup raw serving. Research has shown that their high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants helps to prevent hunger while protecting you from numerous health issues such as heart disease, cancer, and memory loss.
You can still enjoy at classic Italian dish by substituting “zoodles” for noodles. "Spiralize a zucchini or use a grater with the zucchini lengthwise to get nice long strands that will satisfy just as much as regular pasta, without too many carbs," says Heimowitz. A typical plate of spaghetti can have 100 to 150 grams of carbohydrates where as a zoodle is only 4.1 grams of net carbs per medium zuchinni.
When you think of fruit you typically think lots of sugar. But, like its fellow fruity sister avocado, it's actually a low sugar option. It adds some sweetness with only 8 grams of carbs per two pieces. In addition, the skin actually has high amounts of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which studies say helps with brain function.
These friendly fungi make a great choice for weight loss because they pack a lot of flavor for very few calories and carb. One half cup sliced or chopped raw white mushrooms has just 1 gram of net carbohydrates. "They actually have an amino acid called glutamic acid that is responsible for their strong flavor," notes Pasquella. Mushrooms are a perfect substitute for meat if you follow a plant-based diet because they add flavor and a hearty texture.
String cheese is a great on-the-go snack—way better than a bag of potato chips that’s filled with carbs. "An ounce of string cheese contains less than 3 grams of net carbs and provides high-quality dairy protein," notes Heimowitz. There's also a lot of bone-strengthening calcium to keep you strong from the inside out.
"Tomatoes are rich in phytochemicals that stimulate the production of carnitine, an amino acid," reveals Pasquella. Studies have shown that carnitine helps break down body fat so your body can use it as energy and also boosts the body’s fat-burning capability by one-third. A cup of diced tomatoes contains about 5.8 grams of total carbs, so you can fill up.
With 23 grams of protein per cup, you're getting a huge muscle boost while only having to take in 9 grams of carbs. "Greek yogurt is a great way to get adequate calcium to fortify bones and metabolism," adds Heimowitz. "Add some almonds for more protein and the sweet taste of berries that are naturally low in carbs." Just remember to stick to the plain versions, so you're not consuming too much sugar.
Who says you have to give up pasta when eating low carb? "When you’re looking to slim down and cut carbs, spaghetti squash is the obvious choice," adds Pasquella. "It contains about 20% as many calories as pasta, and about 25% as many carbohydrates. (To be exact, one cup of spaghetti squash has net carbs of 8g.) Plus, it’s filled with fat burning fiber."
"With 1.1g of protein, 2.6g of fat, 2.7g of net carbs, 0.7g of fiber, and 37 calories in a serving, kale chips are a low carb snack that’s satisfyingly crunchy," says Heimowitz. "Kale is also a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins A and C."
Salmon has exactly 0 net carbs, making it an obvious choice for a high-protein, low-carb diet. But, that's far from the only perk. "Wild salmon is high in omega-3s, a form of polyunsaturated fat or one of the good fats, which may help increase weight loss," says Pasquella. "It’s also low in calories but nutrient-dense, meaning that you can enjoy all the health benefits it brings, like niacin, vitamin B6, B12, selenium, and vitamin D, without overdoing your caloric intake." Not only do essential fatty acids promote heart health, but research has also shown that salmon might help decrease anxiety and stress.
"Avocados contain mono-unsaturated fat, which actually enables the body to break down and metabolize other fats," notes Pasquella. Research shows that eating good fats results in less weight gain by triggering fat burning rather than fat storage. More so, 19% of the calories are from carbs (4 grams per avocado), but they're almost all fiber.
"Broccoli contains phytonutrients that help the body eliminate more toxic compounds and free radicals to help you boost weight loss," explains Pasquella. 1/2 cup serving of chopped broccoli has 3 grams of carbohydrates. If that wasn’t enough, just one cup of broccoli bolsters the immune system with an extremely large dose of beta-carotene. Since broccoli is filled with a lot of fiber and water it actually fills you up for very few calories and carbs.10 Easy Ways to Eat More Whole Grains >>>
There's a reason Rocky chowed down on eggs: they're full of protein and have a minimal amount of carbohydrates. In fact, you only get about 1 gram of carbs per two large eggs. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner making them a versatile low carb option and also prevent heart disease and cancer, according to a study.
Walnuts are one of the nuts that have the fewest carbs along with pecans (11 walnut halves contain just 4g). They also boast the highest antioxidant activity of all nuts. "These little guys are great for protecting against chronic diseases," notes Pasquella. "They also contain healthy fats, which help to bust that frustrating belly fat."
Like eggs, chicken has an excellent protein/carb ratio. You get 24 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving with zero grams of carbs. They're also full of the antioxidant selenium, which has been said to help with everything from asthma and arthritis to dandruff and infertility.
Hemp seeds are amazing when it comes to fighting fat and has net 0 carbs. It has a slightly nutty, earthy flavor but will take on the flavor of whatever it’s combined with. "The fiber actually absorbs excess calories so they don’t end up being stored as fat," says Pasquella. "While the amazing balance of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids burn fat and nourish your skin and hair." Hemp also attracts oil-soluble toxins from the fatty tissues of the body and escorts them out!
Because of its texture, cauliflower makes for a great substitute for more traditional starchy dish. You can make healthier versions of mashed potatoes (sans potatoes of course), macaroni and cheese, pizza crust, rice, and creamy soup by simply blending the veggie in a food processor. All of that for only 5 grams of carbs per cup and the added bonus of antioxidants.
With only 5g of carbs per serving, 3g of which are fiber, almonds are a great low carb snack option. "Raw almonds also contain alpha-linolenic acid that helps to boost your metabolism and burn fat faster," explains Pasquella. One study found that those who ate an almond snack had a significantly reduced central abdominal fat mass, leg fat mass, and waist circumference.
Yes, you can even have this treat on a low carb diet. A 115-calorie serving (two squares) of Lindt 85% dark chocolate contains about 7 carbs, but also has the added benefits of high fiber and antioxidants. Studies say that it helps lower your blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, and reduce insulin resistance. Just beware. Chocolate can contain a lot of sugar, so look for ones with a 70-85% cocoa content.
You know beans are good for your heart. Well, they're also an excellent source of protein (12 grams per serving) with only 18 grams of carbs per ½ cup—the lowest of all the beans. They're also filled with another nutritional powerhouse: fiber. All of this combined keeps you full, helps build muscle and prevents blood sugar spikes.