Selecting low-carb menus and choosing recommended foods helps to streamline the transition from your previous eating style to a low-carb lifestyle. Low-carb cookbooks and the major reduced-carbohydrate diets, including Atkins, the Carbohydrate Addict's Diet and the South Beach Diet offer tested recipes with carb counts calculated for you. You know which kinds of foods satisfy you the most. Use that knowledge to pick a variety of meals you'll find satisfying.
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Unless your doctor advises otherwise, most low-carb diets allow whole eggs and a range of meats and cheeses. Breakfast options include omelets, bacon and eggs, quiche without crust, peppers, asparagus, spinach and tomatoes in moderation. Cold plates with vegetables, smoked salmon, seafood, poultry or cold cuts provide variety for a warm-weather breakfast or brunch. You can also make your own pancakes and muffins from low-carb baking mixes.
Smoothies made with whey powder provide a change from eggs and meats. Fruits with the lowest carbs include strawberries, blueberries and cantaloupe. Adding these sparingly to smoothies provides flavor and variety to low-carb breakfasts. Protein smoothies offer a convenient option when you're on the go, or if you don't like breakfast.
Roll-ups made in strong lettuce leaves, such as Romaine or butter lettuce, offer an alternative to sandwiches made of bread. These work well for an at-home or take-along lunch. Securing them with toothpicks or a napkin helps make them convenient to eat by hand.
Any low-carb filling, such as tuna, cashew chicken salad, roast beef, shrimp salad, egg salad or sauteed mixed non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini and red peppers, works well in a roll-up to provide you with a wrap sandwich on the go. Adding humus, olives or avocado to a vegetarian wrap helps to make it more filling.
Green salads with your choice of protein make a healthy low-carb lunch choice. Keeping the salad low-carb means skipping croutons and starchy vegetables, such as carrots, corn, peas and potatoes. It's also important to check and count the carbohydrates in salad dressings. Some dressing choices may have too much sugar to work well with your low-carb goals. Creamy dressings such as Goddess, ranch and bleu cheese generally have lower carbs and less sugar.
A quick low-carb dinner involves grilled protein, such as fish, meat or poultry, and a small salad and a side of low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as asparagus, zucchini or artichokes.
Grilled top sirloin with served with mashed cauliflower as a mashed potato substitute and sauteed spinach with almonds creates an attractive and satisfying dinner that's good enough to share with someone who isn't on a low-carb diet.
A grilled chicken breast with salsa served over a salad with strips of jicama, a sweet, crunchy root vegetable, makes a spicy taco salad substitute.
"The Everything Low-Carb Cookbook" includes seared tuna steaks with sauce made of coconut milk and wasabi, a type of hot horseradish. For a complete meal, it pairs well with shredded cabbage, dressed with rice vinegar, while steamed broccoli with a tamari-ginger sauce gives a variety of flavors for a dinner on the light side. Tamari, a soy-based sauce, combined with fresh lemon juice and grated or powdered ginger gives a tangy flavor.
Snacks and Sweets
Low-carb snack bars make a convenient choice. Read the labels, as some low-carb products contain sugar alcohols such as malitol that can have a laxative affect and may cause bloating, gas and other discomforts for some people.
Dr. Robert C. Atkins recommended macadamia nuts for an Atkins snack--the Atkins diet allows nuts after the initial two-week induction phase. Almonds and walnuts also work well for low-carb snacks. Nuts help satisfy the appetite due to the protein and fat content. It's important to count all snacks and the exact number of nuts and keep track, or snacking can derail your low-carb progress.
The South Beach Diet offers low-carb dessert recipes based on ricotta cheese. Unsweetened cocoa powder, lemon or flavor extracts mixed with ricotta cheese and artificial sweetener combines well for a low-carb dessert. These deserts make an appealing treat served chilled in individual dessert glasses.