Pasta, rice, cupcakes and bread are well-known as high-carbohydrate foods. Hundreds of other foods contain carbohydrates, too, and should be on your radar when you're following a low-carb eating plan to manage a medical condition or to lose weight. No official definition of a low-carb diet exists -- it can range from 5 to 45 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates -- or from 30 and 100 grams of carbs daily -- according to Today's Dietitian in 2013. Consult with your doctor to determine a smart amount of carbs for you to eat daily to meet your needs. Following a low-carb diet limits your food choices, but many foods are low enough in carbs to be a part of most carbohydrate-limited plans.
Plain meat, poultry and fish are all carbohydrate free. Do be careful of some deli meats that have added sugar or fillers, which could raise their carb count slightly. Eggs also contain less than 1 gram of carbohydrates each. Whey protein is also a good low-carb source of complete protein, meaning it contains all the amino acids your body cannot produce. Mix it into water, rather than juice or milk, both of which can add considerable carbohydrates.
Low-carb vegetarian sources of protein include soft tofu, which comes in at 4.5 grams per 1 cup of cubes, and cooked tempeh with 9.4 grams per 3.5 ounces. Beans and legumes are quality sources of vegetarian protein but contain upwards of 40 grams of carbohydrates per cup.
Vegetables and Fruits
Watery vegetables, especially leafy greens, are generally quite low in carbohydrates. Spinach, kale, collard greens, watercress, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, chicory, celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, lettuce, fennel, bell peppers, eggplant, bok choy, green beans, scallions and spaghetti squash are just a few examples.
Olives, tomatoes and avocados, technically fruits, are also low-carb foods. If you're keeping your carbohydrate intake at an extremely low level, you may avoid sweet fruits altogether. But, if you're sticking to 45 to 60 grams per meal, as recommended by the American Diabetes Association, you can afford some fruit servings. Choose berries, which are some of the lowest-carb fruit options. Blueberries contain 21 grams of carbohydrates per cup, while raspberries contain 15 grams of carbs per cup, and blackberries, 14 grams a cup.
Dairy and Fats
Dairy provides protein and essential nutrients, including vitamin D and calcium. On extremely low-calorie diets, such as the first phase of the Atkins diet plan, most dairy is not permitted because it has too many carbohydrates. But most people can include several servings daily without consuming too many carbs. Avoid sweetened dairy products, such as flavored yogurt or chocolate milk, which contain added carbohydrates from sugar and fruit.
A cup of 1 percent milk contains 12 grams of carbs, a cup of plain yogurt contains 11 grams, and an ounce of cheddar cheese contains less than 1 gram.
Oils used for cooking and salad dressings, such as olive or sunflower, contain no carbohydrates. Bottled salad dressings and sauces often have carbohydrates from added sugar, flavorings or other ingredients. Use a squeeze of citrus juice, a splash of vinegar and oil or fresh herbs to flavor foods with minimal carbohydrates.
Snack foods often contain extra carbohydrates. Instead of processed snacks, such as bite-sized cheese-flavored crackers, which contain 19 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup, or potato chips with 15 grams of carbs in a 1-ounce serving, opt for cut-up celery and bell peppers. Air-popped popcorn is relatively low in carbohydrates, with just 6 grams per cup. Still, you have to be careful to stick to limited servings. Nuts, in moderation, can also be a low-carb snack. A 1-ounce serving of almonds contains 6 grams of carbs, cashews have 9 grams per ounce, and pistachios 8 grams per ounce.
- Healthaliciousness: Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries
- Healthaliciousness: Milk, Yogurt, Cheddar Cheese
- Atkins: Phase One Overview
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrate Counting
- Healthaliciousness: Egg hard-boiled, egg poached
- Healthaliciousness: Tofu, Tempeh and Black Beans
- Healthaliciousness: Popcorn, Cheese Crackers, Potato Chips
- Healthaliciousness: Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews
- Today's Dietitian: Low-Carb Diets — Research Shows They May Be More Beneficial Than Other Dietary Patterns