Cutting out carbs from your diet may seem daunting at first. If you're on a 20 grams of carbs a day meal plan, you have to get creative with your food choices. Cooking at home or using a meal prep service are the best options.
Very Low-Carbohydrate Diets
There's a difference between a low-carbohydrate diet and a very low-carbohydrate diet. To give you an idea of how low 20 grams per day is, the recommended intake of carbs is 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake, according to Harvard Health Publishing. That's roughly half of your food for the day.
There's no defined cutoff for where a low-carb diet begins, so anything below the recommended daily amount falls in that range. Basically, you could eat 100 grams of carbs per day and still be considered "low." However, some diets call for even lower intakes.
The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular examples of a very low-carb diet. On this plan, you typically eat less than 50 grams of carbs per day, sometimes going as low as 20, points out Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As you cut back on carbs, it's necessary to increase the amount of fat consumed and aim for a moderate protein intake.
While on the keto diet, you're forcing your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When you don't have enough carbs in your system, your body relies on fat for energy. One way to determine whether or not you're in ketosis is to measure the ketone bodies in your blood. Ketone bodies are produced when you use fat for fuel, so their levels should increase.
Risks of the Keto Diet
There are some risks associated with the keto diet and other similar plans. Keep in mind that fruits, legumes and whole grains consist mostly of carbs, so these foods are often off-limits for keto dieters. This may lead to nutrient deficiencies and deprive your body of antioxidants and fiber. Furthermore, ketogenic diets are typically high in saturated fat.
A diet rich in saturated fat may increase your risk of developing heart disease, so try to eat mostly unsaturated fats. As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns, ketogenic diets are not for everyone. For example, those with thyroid problems, pancreatic disease or liver problems should avoid it.
Athletes should also be wary when it comes to this kind of diet. A January 2020 review published in SportMont analyzed several studies, concluding that low-carbohydrate diets fail to improve performance in endurance athletes. Carbohydrate-rich diets appear to be more beneficial from this perspective.
Health Benefits of Cutting Carbs
When it comes to weight loss, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains that this kind of diet may not work for everyone. You can try it to see how it affects your body, but keep in mind that it simply might not be the best thing for your health.
Low-carbohydrate diets may help individuals with diabetes by improving blood sugar levels and metabolic health, reports a May 2019 review featured in Nutrients. However, their long-term safety and efficacy in type I diabetes management are controversial and require further research.
If you are taking medications for diabetes, a low-carb diet may not be dangerous. Insulin shots, for example, help lower your blood sugar, so you may experience hypoglycemia if you drastically reduce your carb intake. It's best to consult a medical professional before starting the keto diet.
Now that you know the potential drawbacks of a ketogenic diet, you can decide for yourself whether or not it's right for you. If you decide to pursue it, you'll want some guidance. Creating a meal plan on your own can be tricky, especially if you're trying to limit your carb intake to 20 grams per day.
20 Grams of Carbs a Day Meal Plan
Ketogenic diets are not your only option. The Atkins diet, for instance, is a popular low-carb high-fat diet developed by Dr. Atkins. He created several diet plans, but Atkins 20 has the lowest net carbs (total carbs minus the amount of fiber).
During the first phase of the diet, the average amount of net carbs per day is 22 grams. While this isn't a meal service that ships foods to your door, they do offer a free meal plan with recipes.
On Atkins 20, you'll be using products like their branded shakes and chocolate bars to make meal prep easier. About 12 to 15 grams of your daily net carbs should come from vegetables during phase one.
Based on the Atkins diet, the Diet to Go meal plan gives you roughly 30 grams of carbs per day. Instead of having meals shipped to your house, they offer pick-up locations in a few major cities where you can collect your food.
The chefs take care of everything, including the condiments, and try to make the meals as tasty as possible. They run on a five-week rotation of different meals, so you shouldn't get bored from eating the same thing every day.
Read more: What Vegetables Can You Eat on No-Carb Diet?
If you get hungry between meals, this diet plan offers tips for low-carb-friendly snacking, such as cheese sticks. Meal plans like this one are easier to follow because they track your calories and carbs and reduce the need to cook.
Keto Diet Meal Plan
The Trifecta meal service offers fresh foods. You can choose their keto diet plan, which includes meals made with organic ingredients, wild-caught fish and grass-fed meat. With an animal welfare rating of 5, the company prides itself on minimal environmental impact.
If you find that the keto diet isn't working for you, there are other options from this company. You could switch to their vegan, clean, paleo or classic meal plans, depending on your preferences. For keto, the meals include eggs, seafood, meat and a small amount of vegetables.
Services like this one rely heavily on animal foods, which means that vegans and vegetarians will need to look for alternative meal plans. While it's more difficult to follow a 20 grams of carbs a day meal plan if you're vegetarian or vegan, it's still possible. There are meat-free versions of the ketogenic diet available. Plus, you can always re-create your favorite keto recipes using vegan ingredients.
- Trifecta Nutrition: "Keto Meal Plan"
- Diet to Go: "Low-Carb Diet Meal Plan"
- Atkins: "Atkins 20"
- Atkins: "Atkins 20®: A Low Carb Ketogenic Diet"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What Is the Ketogenic Diet?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should You Try the Keto Diet?"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Smart Way to Look at Carbohydrates"
- SportMont: "Ketogenic Diet and Sport Performance"
- Nutrients: "Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes"