When you want to lose weight and get healthy, adopting a low-carb diet can be a smart choice. Learn what to eat and what to avoid on a low-carb diet and find out how to get the most out of your healthy eating plan.

Why Consider a Low-Carb Diet

True to its name, a low-carb diet is a meal plan that keeps your daily carbohydrate intake low. This type of meal plan doesn’t eliminate carbs entirely and doesn’t consider carbs to be the enemy. After all, healthy carbs are essential to a balanced diet. Instead, a low-carb diet prioritizes removing many of the unhealthiest and most processed carbs from your meal plan, as consuming a lot of these can lead to poor health and weight gain.

Over the long term, a low-carb diet can offer a range of positive effects. One of the biggest benefits is that sticking to a low-carb diet plan helps your blood sugar level even out. This, in turn, prompts your insulin levels to decrease, which encourages your body to burn fat instead of storing it. Most people who adopt a low-carb diet end up losing weight, ingesting fewer calories, changing their eating habits, and decreasing those persistent sugar cravings.

What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet Plan

Although a low-carb diet plan doesn’t eliminate carbs, starches, or sugars entirely, you’ll prioritize most other food groups over this one. Most low-carb guides encourage you to focus on the following types of foods:

  • Lean Meats: Make chicken, fish, seafood, pork, turkey, lamb, and other lean cuts of meat the star of your meals. If it fits your budget, opt for grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish and seafood, as they tend to be healthier picks.
  • Healthy Proteins: Eggs, yogurt, nuts, and seeds are all excellent protein sources. Keep in mind that some of these foods can be high in fat, so aim to consume in moderation.
  • Fruits: Fresh and frozen fruits are all on the table. Apples, oranges, berries, and other fruits make great snacks and can satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Vegetables: Stick to vegetables that grow above the ground. Focus on leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, and squash.
  • Natural Fats: While fats shouldn’t be the core of your meals, they can certainly play supporting roles. Butter, cream, cheese, olive oil, and coconut milk are all smart options.

While a low-carb diet plan does require you to eliminate a few foods, try not to view it as a restrictive diet. Strive to eat a healthy mix of all of these foods, making sure to get a full range of vitamins and nutrients. Need some inspiration? Try these meal ideas:

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, omelets, or coconut flour waffles with berries.
  • Lunch: Protein-packed salad with steak, chicken, or smoked salmon and homemade dressing.
  • Dinner: Pasta sauce over sautéed vegetables and meat or a rice-free burrito bowl.
  • Snack: One hard-boiled egg or a handful of nuts.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated, either. Drinking water regularly is ideal if you’re on a low-carb diet, but you can also drink other unsweetened beverages, too. Black coffee and green tea are good picks, as is unflavored sparkling water.

What to Avoid on a Low-Carb Diet Plan

Although a low-carb diet has plenty of options, there are several foods you should avoid. Maximize your low-carb diet by skipping the following types of foods:

  • Grains and Starch: Foods like bread, pasta, rice, and cereal are high in sugars that break down quickly and can cause your blood pressure to spike.
  • High-Sugar Fruits and Vegetables: While most fruits and vegetables are great for a low-carb diet, potatoes and other root vegetables tend to be high in starch. You should also avoid all fruit juices and some high-sugar fruits like bananas.
  • Candy and Soda: These will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth, but they’re completely off-limits on a low-carb diet plan. Avoid all added sugars, whether they’re natural or artificial, including ice cream, pastries, and sweet drinks.
  • Beer: Most types of beer are packed with sugars, so it’s best to avoid them. Dry wines and some straight liquors could work with a low-carb diet plan, though.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Low-Carb Diet

If you’re planning to commit to a low-carb diet plan, there are a few ways you can make the most of your new healthy eating strategy. First, understand that the first two weeks will be pretty challenging, especially if you’re used to eating processed foods, sugary treats, and convenience foods. You might feel totally drained of energy as your body starts burning fat instead of relying on your usual intake of starchy carbs. Make it a goal to get through the first two weeks, after which you’re likely to start feeling normal again.

Next, plan your carb intake wisely. You’ll get better results from your gym sessions if you eat a mix of protein and carbs both before and after your workout. That doesn’t mean you should eat a sugary protein bar, but you can eat balanced foods like yogurt with fresh fruit or a handful of homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds, and berries. After your workout, try a sweet potato topped with your favorite natural fat or sit down for a complete meal like a high-protein salad.

Always make sure you’re drinking enough water, even if you don’t have strenuous physical activity planned for the day. Drinking water can improve your performance no matter what you’re doing, and it can also help stave off sugar cravings by making you feel full. Plus, water helps fuel the fat-burning process, which you’ll certainly want to encourage.

As you start your low-carb diet, keep in mind that some outlets promise fast results and immediate weight loss. While you may notice encouraging improvements right away, it’s best to commit to this type of diet plan for an extended period of time. When you’re in it for the long term, you’re more likely to get your blood sugar under control, sustain your weight loss, and change your eating habits for the better.

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