When you're limited to 20 grams of carbs a day, you may wonder what you'll be eating. While bread and fruit may be out, you can create a number of simple and tasty meals that fit your plan with meats, cheese, eggs, low-carb plant proteins, fats and veggies. You'll use "net" carbs to track your daily carb needs. Net carbs are the digestible carbs that affect blood sugar and are determined by subtracting fiber grams from the total carb count. Due to potential side effects when limiting your carbs to 20 grams a day, consult your doctor first to discuss benefits and risks.
Breakfast on a 20-Gram Carb Plan
Carefully track your carb intake at each meal to help you stay within your limits throughout the day. For an almost carb-free breakfast, you might consider scrambled eggs with bacon and half of a sliced Haas avocado for 1 gram of net carbohydrate. Mix up a batch of low-carb pancakes using coconut flour, eggs, unsweetened almond milk and artificial sweetener; top with butter and serve with cooked ham for a breakfast with 4 grams of net carbs. A 1/2-cup serving of cottage cheese mixed with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds also fits into a low-carb meal plan, supplying 4 grams of net carbs.
Low-Carb Lunch Ideas
Determine what carb-free protein you want to eat for lunch and build a meal around that to help you stay within your 20-gram daily carb restriction. For example, if you have canned tuna in the house, mix it with mayo, toss in diced celery and onion and serve on top of a small tomato or in a lettuce leaf, for a dish with 4 to 5 grams of net carbs. Make a stir-fry with chicken, 1 cup of bok choy, 1 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of mung bean sprouts, sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and ginger for a lunch with 5 grams of net carbs.
You don't have to eat meat at every meal. Cook up soy meatless crumbles with your favorite taco seasoning mix and serve in a low-carb tortilla with 1 ounce of shredded cheddar cheese. With 1/2 cup of the meatless taco filling, this meal has 4 grams of net carbs. Baked tofu seasoned with a tablespoon of tamari sauce, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic and ginger makes a good low-carb protein with 2 grams of net carbs per cups. Serve with a cup of mixed greens topped with 1/2 cup of sliced cucumbers and a tablespoon of ranch dressing to add 5 grams of net carbs to this lunch meal.
Dinner for Your Meal Plan
Keep your kitchen stocked with protein and low-carb veggies to make dinner a breeze to put together. Spicy chicken wings with 1 cup of green beans keeps carb intake low at dinner with just 6 grams of net carbs. For a meatless low-carb meal, spread 1/4 cup of whole-fat ricotta cheese evenly between three thin slices of eggplant. Roll and top each with a thin slice of tomato and cover with 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese. Then bake the layered cuisine in the oven until the eggplant is soft and cheese is melted. This meat-free low-carb dinner has 5 grams of net carbs. Broil up a pork loin and serve with 1 cup of roasted turnips and 1/2 cup of roasted broccoli, providing 7 grams of net carbs. Grilled salmon with 1½ cups of sauteed spinach topped with 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds also fits with a very-low-carb plan with 4 grams of carbs.
Low-Carb Snacks and Drinks
Snacking curbs appetite and provides an opportunity to up the nutritional quality of your diet with healthy choices. Go for carb-free snacks like boiled shrimp, hard-cooked eggs or a cup of chicken or beef broth. Rolled roast beef with mayonnaise, an ounce of cheddar cheese or five green olives also make good carb-free snacks.
If you have a couple of net carbs to spend, 19 pecans or ham and Swiss cheese rolls work. A cup of lettuce topped with 2 tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese and 2 tablespoons of Caesar dressing also has 2 grams of net carbs. If you're craving a warm snack and have access to an oven, bake an egg in half of a Haas avocado for 2 grams of net carbs.
Don't waste your carbs on drinks, if you can help it. Water, seltzer and decaf tea and coffee are carb-free beverage choices. Use artificial sweeteners to add a touch of sweetness. Unsweetened almond milk is also carb-free and makes a creamy drink option or a liquid base for a low-carb smoothie.
- Atkins: Carb Counter
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism
- Atkins: Phase One List of Acceptable Foods
- All Day I Dream About Food: Coconut Flour Pancakes
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Cottage Cheese, Chia Seeds, Tofu
- Bob's Red Mill: Chia Seeds
- Mission: Mission Fajita Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas
- Atkins: What Are Net Carbs?
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Ricotta Cheese, Pecans
- Morning Star Farms: Grillers Crumbles