If you've always been the type to enjoy meat and vegetables more than pasta and bread, then a low-carb diet might be an effective weight-loss option for you. Just like any other weight-loss plan, however, it's more effective if you plan out your meals to avoid the temptation of cravings or convenience foods. Talk to your doctor about going on a low-carb diet; according to FamilyDoctor.org, you could experience side effects such as dizziness, headaches, sleeping problems, constipation or diarrhea.
Lowdown on Low-Carb
Low-carb diets vary depending on the particular program a person is following, as well as the comfort level of the dieter himself. One thing they have in common, though, is that you often consume between 50 and 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. As you decrease your net carbohydrates -- which is the number of total carbohydrate grams in a food minus the grams of fiber -- by eating less bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals and fruit, you increase your intake of protein and fat. So you're mainly eating nonstarchy vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, eggs and nuts. According to FamilyDoctor.org, low-carb diets typically work better than low-fat diets for weight loss in the first six month; after that, there's no difference in total weight loss.
Some traditional breakfast foods such as bagels, cereals, toast and muffins are all off-limits on a low-carb diet. But other classic options, such as eggs, are just right for this weight-loss plan. To avoid getting bored, plan your menu around fixing eggs in different ways -- scrambled with cheese one day, a veggie omelette the next and a frittata -- or a crustless quiche -- the third day. Other low-carb breakfast options include Greek yogurt, either on its own or blended into a smoothie, and lean proteins such as chicken or turkey sausage or turkey bacon, suggests the Atkins Diet website. If you choose an option that includes fruit, such as a smoothie, pick options that are low on the glycemic index, including berries, grapefruit and apples. Foods low on the glycemic index have a smaller impact on your blood sugar.
A bed of leafy greens topped with lean protein makes for a nutritious low-carb lunch that can be planned in a variety of ways. On one day, pack an egg salad made with plain yogurt and reduced-fat mayo, as well as crunchy vegetables like cucumbers, suggests "Eating Well." For another day, switch to chicken salad spiced with tarragon. If a salad isn't your ideal lunch, consider small crab cakes -- made without breadcrumbs -- and pair it with coleslaw, prepared without any added sugar. If you usually supplement your lunch with a midday cola jolt, switch to sugar-free iced tea or seltzer water with a squeeze of lemon to avoid the extra sugar.
When planning the centerpiece of your dinner, pick lean meats or fish rather than cuts of meat that are high in saturated fat. Seafood is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, brain and nerve cells; smart options include mackerel, tuna and salmon. If you're a vegetarian, choose eggs or soy-based protein options such as tofu or soybeans. "Diabetic Living" suggests a dinner of sauteed shrimp, mushrooms and garlic with bok choy, a low-carb green leafy vegetable. When planning your low-carb diet menu, always pair your protein with a variety of nonstarchy vegetables to keep your fiber intake up. If you're used to serving your dinners with a side of pasta or potatoes, look for low-carb substitutes -- for example, steamed cauliflower can be mashed to simulate mashed potatoes, while spaghetti squash can be roasted and shredded for mock pasta.
- FamilyDoctor.org: Nutrition for Weight Loss: Is a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Right for Me?
- Atkins: Healthy Breakfasts: Easy Low Carb Breakfast Ideas
- Eating Well: Low-Carb Lunch Recipes
- Diabetic Living: Delicious Low-Carb Meals
- Better Homes and Gardens: 12 Steps to Start a Low-Carb Diet
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism