When you're on a low-carb diet, you don't have to visit a specialty low-carb grocer to find foods for your menu plan. Some major grocers carry reduced-carb candy bars and frozen dinners, but these convenience foods are in no way tied to your success on a low-carb plan. Whether you're following a moderately low-carb plan with 100 to 150 grams of carbs per day or an extremely restrictive low-carb diet holding you to 50 grams or fewer daily, you can find foods to fit your diet at the perimeter of just about any conventional grocery store.
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Common Grocery Proteins
Animal proteins form the foundation for a low-carb diet plan. Visit the meat section of any grocery store to find numerous foods to fit your meal plan. Chicken, pork, beef and fish are all carb-free. Deli meats are also low in carbs, but watch for highly-processed versions, such as bologna or honey-roasted ham, that contain added sugars and fillers.
If you're looking for easy-to-prepare foods, pick up a rotisserie chicken or a can of water-packed tuna. Preformed, all-meat beef and turkey burger patties also make an easy meal. Skip breaded meats, such as fish sticks and chicken nuggets, which often contain fillers and add to the carb count with breading.
Fresh and Frozen Low-Carb Produce
The produce section of the grocery store is full of low-carb food choices. You're safe sticking to green, leafy vegetables, including spinach, lettuce, watercress and kale. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, contain 0 to 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2-cup serving. Summer squash, eggplant and mushrooms are items you could also enjoy roasted or tossed in a stir-fry. To figure net carbs in an item, subtract fiber grams from the total number of carbohydrate grams.
Steer away from starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, carrots and peas. While some of these are OK on a moderately low-carb plan, they contain up to 21 net carbs per 1/2-cup serving, and those counts can quickly add up.
Fruits are also higher in carbohydrates due to their natural sugar content. Berries are some of the most low-carb-friendly options. A 1/2-cup serving of fresh blackberries or raspberries has just 3 grams of net carbs. You may be able to afford 1/2 cup of sliced cantaloupe on some low-carb plans, with 5 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup.
Low-Carb Grocery Store Convenience Foods
Many grocery stores carry specially made low-carb foods marketed by specific diet plans and other manufacturers. A whole line of snack bars, frozen meals and candies are available. Sugar-free gelatin and ice pops might offer refreshing carb-free treats. These convenience foods may be helpful when you're in a hurry or just can't overcome a craving, but you're better off sticking to whole, unprocessed foods most of the time.
Many salad dressings and condiments are low-carb-approved. Always check labels, because certain brands may contain fillers or added sugar. Italian, blue cheese, Caesar and balsamic dressings are usually low in carbs with just 0 to 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon. Mayonnaise, cooking oils and cooking sprays are also low-carb-friendly. Mustard, soy sauce and horseradish can flavor plain meats and vegetables. Some pasta sauces, in small servings of 1/4 cup or less, are low in carbs and OK for your plan. Look for marinara, garlic and herb or Alfredo sauce that doesn't have added sugars in the form of fructose, honey, sucrose or maltodextrin.
Dairy, Eggs and Cheese
Eggs are a great meal or snack on a low-carb diet. One egg has less than a half-gram of carbs while egg substitute contains 2 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup scrambled.
Buy cream or half-and-half for your coffee -- both low-carb replacements for milk. Stick to a 1-tablespoon serving for less than a half-gram of carbs. Most hard cheese is quite low in carbs, including Parmesan, cheddar, Gouda and Muenster. Soft cheeses, such as goat, blue, feta and cream cheese, are also low in carbs with 0 to 1 gram of net carbs per ounce. Avoid cottage cheese, sweetened yogurt and milk substitutes, all of which have notable carb counts.