How to Get Started on a Low Carb Diet

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Low-carb diets are great for losing weight, but starting a low-carb diet can be overwhelming. You may need to make a drastic change to your eating habits, and it can be difficult to know how to get started. Start slow by transitioning from simple carbs and refined sugars to complex carbs and then to low-carb swaps. You can also keep yourself feeling full and satisfied by making smart meal choices. If you plan to stick with a low-carb diet long-term, then choose a specific diet plan and access some helpful tools and people for support.

EditSteps

EditReducing Carbs in Your Diet

  1. Cut out refined sugars and simple carbohydrates. A great first step towards a low-carb lifestyle is to cut out all of the major carbohydrate culprits. You don’t need to cut them all at once. You can cut them out 1 at a time to make it more manageable, such as by replacing sodas and other sugary drinks with water and sugar-free beverages. Some common sources of refined sugars and simple carbs include:[1]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • Candy
    • Cookies, cake, and other sweet baked goods
    • Sugar sweetened sodas and other beverages
    • White bread
    • Pasta
    • White rice
    • Potatoes
  2. Switch to whole grains as you transition away from carbohydrates. Before you go full low-carb, you may want to replace your carbohydrates with some better carbohydrate options, such as whole grains. Start slow and just replace 1 serving of your usual carbohydrate foods with 1 serving of a whole grain alternative each day or week. After a week or 2, you will be eating fewer simple carbs and more complex carbohydrates, which will reduce your overall carbohydrate intake and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Some good complex carbohydrate options include:[2]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • Whole wheat pasta
    • Brown rice
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Steel cut oatmeal
    • High-fiber, low-sugar cereal
  3. Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes or other root veggies. White potatoes are another major source of simple carbs, so replacing them will help you in your transition to a low-carb lifestyle. You can bake and use a sweet potato or other root veggie similar to how you use white potatoes. Some good options include:[3]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • Baked sweet potatoes or yams
    • Roasted carrots, kohlrabi, or beets
    • Mashed turnips or rutabaga
    • Celery root or daikon radish fries[4]
  4. Try some simple swaps to reduce your carb intake. When you are ready to start transitioning to a low-carb diet, start making simple swaps by replacing your carbohydrates with low-carb alternatives. Some easy swaps you can make include:[5]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • Cauliflower “rice” in place of rice
    • Zucchini “noodles” or baked spaghetti squash to replace pasta
    • Nuts or raw veggies in place of potato chips
    • Scrambled eggs or cottage cheese in place of oatmeal or cereal
    • Berries instead of other types of fruit or sweets

EditStaying Full and Satisfied

  1. Make proteins the focus of your meals. Choosing lean proteins while following a low-carb diet may help to reduce the chances of increasing your cholesterol, so consider doing this. Lean proteins are those that have a lower fat content, such as:[6]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • Skinless chicken
    • Ground turkey
    • Lean ground beef
    • Canned tuna in water
    • Egg whites
    • Low-fat cottage cheese
    • Tofu
  2. Fill up on non-starchy vegetables. You can eat unlimited non-starchy vegetables on most low carb diets, which will help to keep you feeling full. Some non-starchy vegetable options include:[7]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • Cucumbers
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Spinach
    • Zucchini
    • Peppers
    • Eggplant
    • Cabbage
  3. Stock your fridge and pantry with low-carb snacks. Stocking your fridge and pantry with low-carb snacks will help to keep you feeling satisfied.[8] Some easy low-carb snacks options include:
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • Celery, broccoli, peppers and other fresh cut veggies
    • Boiled and peeled eggs
    • Beef jerky
    • Raw almonds
    • Plain Greek yogurt
  4. Drink water and other unsweetened beverages. Staying hydrated on a low-carb diet will help to keep you feeling full and it can also help to reduce the possibility of negative side-effects, such as dehydration. Avoid drinking sugar-free sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages because these may trigger your sweet-tooth.[9] Stick to water and other unsweetened beverages instead. Some other good low-carb drink options include:
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • Unsweetened tea (hot or iced)
    • Coffee (decaf or regular)
    • Sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime

EditChoosing a Diet to Follow Long-Term

  1. Select the Atkins diet for a classic low-carb diet. If you want to try a low-carb diet that has been around for a while, then the Atkins diet is a great choice. This diet also claims that it will help you lose in the first 2 weeks, so Atkins is a great plan if you are hoping to drop a large amount of weight quickly.[10]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 9 Version 2.jpg
    • The Atkins plan requires dropping your carbohydrate intake to 20 grams per day for the first 2 weeks and eating protein with every meal. You cut out simple carbs and refined sugars completely and also abstain from fruits, starchy-veggies, nuts, and whole grains, then slowly add these back into your diet in moderation.
    • You may also benefit from the Atkins program if you have a condition such as metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Following the Atkins diet may help to improve your condition, or possibly even reverse it.
  2. Choose the South Beach diet to develop healthier eating habits. The South Beach diet was developed by a cardiologist and it claims to help you develop a healthier way of eating while also promoting weight loss. Also, the South Beach diet does not restrict carbs as intensely as some other diets, so it may be easier to follow and stick with it.[11]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 10 Version 2.jpg
    • The South Beach diet is done in 3 phases. In phase 1, you cut all carbs. Then after 2 weeks, you can add a serving or 2 of healthy carbs back into your daily intake. In the third and final phase, you can enjoy carbohydrates in moderation.
    • The South Beach diet teaches you to choose carbohydrates that have a low-glycemic index because they help to keep your blood sugar and hunger stable. This diet also encourages you to choose monounsaturated fats, which are healthier for your heart. You will also get to enjoy lots of lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits (in moderation).
  3. Try the Ketogenic diet for a high-fat, satisfying meal plan. This diet plan focuses on getting your daily intake to 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. This will force your body to use fat for energy and promote quick weight loss.
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 11.jpg
    • A ketogenic diet has long been known as beneficial for people with epilepsy. However, following the diet may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s, stroke, dementia, and traumatic brain injury.[12]
    • Some people experience negative side effects as they transition to a very low-carb diet, such as brain fog, fatigue, and moodiness.
  4. Do the Dukan diet if you like structure. The Dukan diet is one of the most structured low-carb diets, which some people find helpful. In the first 10 days of this diet, you only eat lean protein, oat bran, and water. After that you can include non-starchy veggies, a serving of fruit, a serving of whole grain, and hard cheeses. You may lose or more in the first couple of weeks, and then about to pounds after that.[13]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 12.jpg
    • Keep in mind that any time a diet has a lot of restrictions, you are at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
  5. Opt for the Paleo diet if you want to emphasize whole foods. You cannot have any dairy, grains, potatoes, or processed foods on this diet, but you can eat lots of meat, veggies, roots, fruits, and nuts. The whole foods approach of this diet is healthy and you will get to eat plenty of food to stay full and satisfied.[14]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 13.jpg
    • The goal of the Paleo diet attributes many of the health issues people have today, including obesity, with the modern agricultural diet that includes dairy and grains.

EditStaying Healthy and Motivated

  1. Talk to your doctor before starting any diet. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any weight-loss program. This is especially important to do if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. Your doctor can tell you if following a low-carb diet is safe for you and they can also advise you about the best type of low-carb diet for your situation.[15]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 14.jpg
    • If you have diabetes, then cutting out carbs altogether might not be safe. Instead, your doctor might advise you to choose healthy carbs, such as whole grains and fruit.
    • If you have high cholesterol, then eating foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol may increase your cholesterol even more. Instead, your doctor may advise you to choose lean proteins, such as skinless poultry, low-fat cottage cheese, and egg whites.
  2. Download a tracking app to keep track of your carbohydrate intake. If you need to stay under a certain number of carbs each day or balance your macros, then using a tracker app can be helpful. Download an app to use on your phone or tablet. Log all of your food into the app each day to keep track of your carbohydrate intake and other macronutrients, such as fat and protein. You can also use an app to plan meals, make grocery lists, and store recipes.[16]
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 15.jpg
    • MyFitnessPal is a popular food tracking app that is available for free.
    • If you prefer to write things down, then get a journal and write down everything you eat each day. Use food labels to find the nutritional information. You can also look up the carbohydrates, fat, protein, and calories in a nutrition guidebook or by searching online.
  3. Prep your meals for the week to stay on track. Planning out your meals for the week and spending a few hours 1 day per week to do meal prep can help to set you up for success all week long.[17] Choose a day when you have a few hours of free time and look up low-carb recipes and meal suggestions. Use this time to put together some or all of your meals for the week. Some things you can do include:
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    • Chopping vegetables and portioning them out for cooking, such as a Ziploc sandwich bag filled with chopped peppers and onions for fajitas.
    • Cooking your proteins, such as boiling eggs, grilling chicken, or baking salmon.
    • Putting together portioned out meals in plastic containers, such as 4 ounces (35 grams) of skinless grilled chicken with 1 cup (91 grams) of steamed broccoli, and 1 cup (150 grams) of baked zucchini.
  4. Connect with other people who are following the diet. Keep yourself on track by joining a network of people who are also following a low-carb diet. You can turn to them with questions about starting or sticking with your diet.[18] Look for online communities for low-carb dieting, such as a Facebook group or sub-Reddit. Join the group and get involved.
    Get Started on a Low Carb Diet Step 17.jpg
    • Introduce yourself when you join the group and let people know you are just starting the diet.
    • Ask group members for help when you struggle with the diet. For example, if you are craving sweets, ask what other group members have done to overcome these cravings.

EditTips

  • Always eat breakfast and avoid skipping any of your other meals during the day.

EditSources and Citations

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