We all love carbs. From pizza to baguettes and beyond, carbs make a strong contender for the best macronutrient. However, many of us have decided to steer away from carbs for a while in an attempt to shed some fat and re-focus our health. If this is you, you may have noticed that a lot of your favorite foods are carb-heavy. If you’re struggling to figure out how to stay satiated and not an irritated, hungry mess without your carbs, fear not. There are tons of healthy, nutrient-dense, low-carb food options out there that don’t make you feel like you’re dieting. The secret is to be selective in how you choose your food. With that in mind, below are 15 delicious, nutrient-dense foods that fit perfectly on a low-carb diet.
The most basic breakfast item out there is still one of the healthiest options, especially for a low carb diet. Eggs have a ton of protein and healthy fats, not to mention their high omega-3 content, which helps regulate brain function as well as cardiovascular health. Eggs are a super-basic building block for a huge variety of foods. The first that comes to mind is the infamous avocado toast, which can be made with a ket-friendly toast to keep the carbs low. Eggs can also be used for a variety of dinner options and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
2. Red Meat
This is a huge category of foods that offers a ton of variety. Meat’s high protein content makes it very satiating, which is crucial to succeeding on a low carb diet. Meats offer more than protein, though: They have a great variety of nutrients that are crucial to overall health and longevity. In particular, beef has a good amount of vitamin B12 and iron. Iron is essential to maintaining energy levels, which you’ll need more than ever without the “quick” energy that carbs usually provide. Other meats like lamb or bison vary but are all generally a mixture of good protein and mostly healthy fats, so they are all safe options.
Seafood is arguably the healthiest (in terms of nutrient content) foods out there. Seafood is particularly high in vitamin B-12 and Omega-3 fatty acids and, of course, contain virtually no carbs. Salmon, one of the best seafood options, is super high in good protein and fats as well. The best part about seafood is that it is virtually carb-free and always high in protein.
Most vegetables are super low in carbs, especially leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. Other vegetables like peppers or tomatoes are a bit higher in carbs, but not nearly high enough to be excluded from this list. Other vegetables like potatoes or plantains are pretty high in carbs. Brocolli is a great low carb option; it’s one of the best sources of vitamin C, and it has been found to have a variety of cancer-fighting properties. It can be added to a variety of dishes for a great nutrient boost.
While shellfish probably isn’t a common item on your plate, they are still worth considering as part of a healthy diet. Foods like crab or lobster closely match organ meats in their nutrient content. They contain a variety of nutrients that are lacking in most people’s diets, and of course, are essentially free of carbs. There are around 4-5 net grams of carbs per 100 grams of shellfish.
An eggplant is a great option for low carb diets because it retains a nice, carb-like structure without the presence of a lot of actual carbs. It can be chopped up and used in stir-fries in Asian dishes, along with a ton of other options. Eggplant can also be crusted with parmesan cheese for a very convincing bread-like cheesy dish. It is perhaps best prepared roasted to bring out the sweetness.
One of the best side dishes to pair with meat out there, asparagus is super high in both fiber and vitamin C. It is very high in protein for a vegetable, and also contains folates and vitamin K. Asparagus can be pan-roasted with plenty of olive oil and butter and topped with garlic and parmesan cheese. Served alongside steak or salmon, asparagus is a great side dish option for low carb diets.
Avocados have become the fruit in vogue in the past few years, and for good reason: They are a super satiating fruit that is high in nutrients without the presence of carbs. Plus, avocados are high in omega-3’s as well as potassium. They also contain plenty of fiber, which transforms carbs into net carbs, which means they are not digested or absorbed by the body. Avocados are always great served alongside eggs or meat.
Almonds are another option for a low carb diet that is high in fat and protein with very little carbs. Additionally, almonds have a ton of fiber and vitamin E. They also contain magnesium, a vital micronutrient that most people don’t get enough of in their daily diet. Because of their high protein and caloric content, they are super filling, which makes them a powerful food to include in a low carb diet. Almonds can be eaten by the handful, thrown on top of smoothie bowls, or included in salads.
10. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have become much more popular in the last few years among health and diet enthusiasts. These tiny seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense, and, because of their size, are extremely versatile when it comes to including them in your diet. Chia seeds can be mixed with water or almond milk to make a pudding, which can be topped with fruit and other healthy, high-protein foods. They can also be thrown in smoothies or sprinkled on top of just about anything.
If you can do dairy, cheese is a great high-protein and low carb diet option for you. Besides being one of the most satisfying and delicious foods on the planet, cheese contains plenty of good protein and fats. We probably don’t have to tell you to eat more of it, but just in case you need some ideas, you can bake it on top of meats, shred it on top of tacos with keto-friendly tortillas, or eat slices of it when cravings strike.
12. Full-fat yogurt
Yogurt, when purchased at big chain grocery stores, is most often found in “low fat” form. This is because, for years, popular health science has touted the benefits of low fat diets, assuming that consuming fat is what makes us fat. While this might sound like common sense to some, it’s really not the truth. For most people, excess sugar consumption is what makes them fat, not dietary fats. The problem with “low fat” yogurt is that it has lots of added sugar to replace the flavor it would normally get from fat. Because of this, look for full-fat yogurt to avoid the excess carbs. Full-fat yogurt has tons of protein: Just one cup has around 20 grams of protein.
While butter has historically been seen as the enemy, it’s really not detrimental to your health when consumed in a normal amount. We honestly can’t say enough good things about butter. It’s extremely satiating, has no carb content whatsoever, and makes everything taste incredible. It contains plenty of great nutrients, especially if you choose grass-fed butter, which we highly recommend. A super-popular option for a low carb diet is bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter and MCT oil blended in.) Fans claim that it can increase energy and help burn fat. While it might take a little getting used to, it’s actually quite good.
13. Coconut Oil
Another popular health food, coconut oil is a great alternative for other cooking oils. It has a unique (but very pleasant) taste and has plenty of medium-chain fatty acids that can work to boost your metabolism. Including fats like coconut oil in your diet can curb appetites and help you lose fat quickly.
Coffee, when taken black or with cream, has zero carbs. It has also been shown to help increase the body’s fat-burning ability. If you’re into intermittent fasting, it has also been shown to have the ability to curb appetites to help push your first meal back a little later in the day. Coffee is our secret weapon for fat burning and sticking to a low carb diet successfully.
15. Dark Chocolate
Surprise! Dark chocolate can be included in a low carb diet, with one stipulation: It has to be real dark chocolate. Look for chocolate that advertises over 70% cocoa content, and you should be safe. Make sure to check the nutrient facts section to make sure there isn’t excess sugar added in. Natural dark chocolate is packed with tons of great nutrients and is extremely satiating as a healthy dessert option. In addition, around 25% of carb content in chocolate is fiber, which means that the total net carbs are greatly reduced.