If you think that fruits don’t belong on a low-carb diet, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Berries, melons, cherries and apples are among the fruits that are low enough in net carbs to fit into most low-carb plans. You may need to limit fruit if you're on a restrictive low-carb diet. Otherwise, be sure to include them on the menu so you don't miss out on their health benefits. Fruits may lower the risk for heart disease, and they’re good sources of fiber, antioxidants and potassium.
Berries: The Best Low-Carb Fruits
The three fruits at the top of the list -- blackberries, raspberries and strawberries -- are low in net carbs, which are total carbs minus fiber. You'll get 3 grams of net carbs in 1/2 cup of blackberries, while the same portion of raspberries has 4 grams and strawberries come in at 5 grams.
The first phase of the Atkins Diet allows about 20 grams of net carbs daily. Twelve to 15 grams should come from vegetables, leaving just 5 to 8 grams of net carbs to be filled with other types of foods. Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are all great choices for filling your carb quota -- as long as fruits are allowed on the diet you follow. With about 30 calories per 1/2 cup, the berries won't blow your daily calorie budget, and they are packed with vitamin C, which keeps your immune system running at full steam.
Fruits With Moderate Net Carbs
A number of favorite fruits have 6 to 9 grams of net carbs, but you'll have to limit your portion size to 1/2 cup, or a small or medium piece of fruit.
You'll get 6 grams of net carbs in 1/2 cup of watermelon, loganberries and cantaloupe. One-half cup of honeydew melon balls has 7 grams of net carbs -- the same amount of net carbs you'll find in a medium plum.
Enjoy one kiwi fruit or 1/2 cup of sour cherries for 8 grams of net carbs. One-half of a medium grapefruit and 1/2 cup of blueberries or orange slices contribute 9 grams of net carbs.
Be Careful With Whole, Frozen and Canned Fruits
Eating whole fruit out of hand makes it easy to get more carbs than your diet allows. Apples are a good example of the difference in carbs based on fruit size. One-half of an apple has a moderate 8 grams of net carbs. But if you grab a whole large apple for a snack, net carbs could jump up to 25 grams.
You also need to be careful with oranges, grapes and pears. Even though 1/2 cup of orange slices only has 9 grams of net carbs, you’ll get 13 grams from a whole medium orange. One-half cup of purple concord grapes has a reasonable 8 grams of net carbs. But most people eat green or red seedless grapes, and they contain 13 grams. If your grocery store stocks Asian pears, you can enjoy 1 medium pear and consume 9 grams of net carbs. All other types of pears deliver 20 grams or more.
Watch out for frozen and canned fruits that have been sweetened or packed in syrup. Blueberries morph into a carb-busting choice -- 25 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup -- if they’re canned in heavy syrup. Frozen blueberries that are sweetened aren’t as bad, but with 10 grams, they’re still significantly higher in net carbs than fresh blueberries.
Including Fruits in a Low-Carb Diet
The next time you cook skinless chicken, fish or pork chops, try topping them with a raspberry salsa. To make the salsa, chop cilantro, onions and jalapeno peppers to taste, then mix them with raspberries, a touch of cumin and olive oil. Grilled fruit can be a side dish or dessert. Marinate cubes of cantaloupe and honeydew in a little lime juice and fresh ginger, put them on skewers and grill or broil until they're brown.
It's easy to eat fruit and keep it low in carbs by adding sliced strawberries or apples to leafy greens. For example, a cup of fresh spinach, 1/2 cup of strawberries and a homemade vinaigrette of red wine vinegar and olive oil only has 7 grams of net carbs. You could also toss together a salad of your favorite vegetables, then use fruit in the dressing -- just toss strawberries, white wine vinegar and olive oil into a blender and process until well mixed.