Low-carbohydrate diets sound scary and intimidating for a beginner. At first thought, it seems like you have to give up every food in the world. If you’re the average American, you’re probably eating some lousy carbs at every meal. Snacking is probably also a habit you have developed. Chips, carbonated drinks, cookies, donuts, fancy coffee beverages and ice cream are some of the staples of this terrible habit. Unfortunately this habit, the longer it goes on, becomes harder to break, just like an addiction.
- Know what foods to reduce and which foods to increase
- Start slow!
- Stay close to your original diet, but tweak every week
- Stay simple. Don’t get involved in counting grams
- Use sugar-free dessert snacks, nuts and diet drinks to fight cravings
- It’s not a race! Reduce carbs gradually over time, but make it a conscious effort. Don’t plateau!
- Ketosis is cool, but isn’t necessary
- Don’t judge yourself. Motivate yourself!
So what is there to eat on a low carb diet?
Beef, pork, lamb, seafood, vegetables*, fruits*, nuts, cheese, cream, butter, wild game, poultry, dark chocolate and all the salt and spices you desire! You want to eat anything that has fat. Now that’s a lot of food! I’m sure there are plenty of recipes out there for foods listed above, you can even invent your own. That sounds sweet, but the problem here is that the average American is not use to eating any of the above without grains.
There’s this notion that unless you have a starch or grain along with your food, you can’t get “full”. Unfortunately, some have mistaken a bloated feeling for being full. The bloated feeling brings satisfaction to those who have been use to it since childhood. They identify it as full. It’s all about breaking bad habits at this point. Think of being “full” as not being hungry anymore, instead of bloated. When you start going low carb, this might feel weird, but you’ll quickly be able to tell the difference of the two and feel better about it.
So what can’t you eat on a low carb diet?
Bread, rice, pasta, cake, cookies, chips, ice cream, candy, grains, pancakes, cereal, potatoes and sugary drinks. If you like drinking soda, try diet soda instead. Iced tea, coconut milk, almond milk and diet soda is acceptable. Be careful of sauces too. Avoid products with any ingredients that end in “ose”. That’s a sign of sugar. BBQ sauce, ketchup and the likes can have a ton of sugar and will add up if you’re not careful.
Where to start
A low carb diet isn’t necessarily a “no” carb diet. Keep that in mind and start slow. Believe it or not, if you cut carbs cold-turkey, you most likely will suffer from withdrawals. Hypoglycemia, headaches, loss of appetite, brain fog, fatigue, and a lot of sugar cravings! Start slow. Here are a few tricks. If you’re use to having rice with your chicken, try adding a little more chicken and a little less rice at each meal. If you don’t mind brown rice, replace the white rice for a while (brown rice still sucks, but its the lesser of two evil). Adding vegetables or butter to your chicken or meat can also help fill you up, instead of solely relying on rice. Instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower. Try eating your burger with one bun instead of two. Replace your coke with diet coke.
Remember, adapting a new habit is all about comfort. Ease into it as comfortably as possible. A cold-turkey approach can leave you with a bad experience and ward you off from trying low carb again. Take your time and don’t feel guilty about eating grains or sugar. Take your time, but keep your goal in mind. Try to eat less and less carbs every week. Set goals for yourself, but don’t get too carried away with counting grams, etc. Don’t worry about all that in the beginning. Don’t judge yourself, motivate yourself!
This is a tough one. Sugar/carb cravings can be extreme. The first week or two on a low carb diet are the hardest. One of the symptoms of withdrawal is extreme cravings. A good way to deal with them if to eat fiber dense vegetables or sugar free snacks like sugar free jello or some dark chocolate. Coffee has also been known to help carb cravings. Hell, throw some splenda into the coffee. If you can, get your hands on some bamboo shoots. They’re full of fiber and great for low carb diets. Some soup with bamboo shoots can mimic noodle soup. Try your best to keep your meals as similar to your original diet as possible, but tweak them every week by adding a little more fat and reducing the carbs or adding better carbs.
*Most vegetables are fine, but be weary of high sugar or starchy vegetables like carrots, peas, potatoes, and most root vegetables.
*Some fruit is okay, but be careful and only eat them in moderation. Berries, kiwi, lemon, lime, and coconut are the safest. Be careful with the rest.