Many low-carb diets say it's OK for you to eat bacon and butter. But if you're trying to eat better and improve your health, you might be looking for foods that are not only low in carbs, but low in fat, too. That means a diet filled with lean meats, fish and cottage cheese, plus veggies and lower-carb fruits. If you're eating only low-fat, low-carb foods, it's a good idea to see a dietitian for help in designing a meal plan that meets all of your nutrient needs.
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Since poultry and meats are virtually carb-free, it may not come as too much of a surprise that chicken and turkey breast make the list of healthy low-fat, low-carb foods. Poultry cooks quickly and goes well with a variety of other healthy low-carb foods such as spinach, peppers and broccoli. To keep fat low, grill or broil your chicken breasts. Turkey breast is slightly lower in fat than chicken with 2 grams of fat, compared to 4 grams of fat in a 3 ounce serving.
Lean red meat also works when you're trying to cut fat and carbs. Lean beef cuts include bottom round, eye of round and 95-percent lean ground beef. Each has less than 5 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving. For pork, tenderloin is lowest in fat with 3 grams per 3 ounces, with chops and pork roast coming in at 5 and 6 grams, respectively, for the same serving size. To keep fat low, trim away any visible fat before cooking red meat. Eggs meet the low-fat, low-carb criteria, too, with less than half a gram of carbohydrate and only 5 grams of fat per large egg.
Seafood makes the list not only because it's carb-free and low in fat, but because fish is a source of omega-3s, which are essential fats that reduce inflammation and may lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 fats are so healthy, it's counterproductive to limit yourself to only the lowest-fat fish.
Haddock is a very low-fat choice, with 1 gram of total fat per 3-ounce serving, but it only has 0.2 gram of omega-3 fats. To get more omega-3s, try canned white tuna packed in water, which has 3 grams of total fat and 0.8 gram of omega-3s. Other healthy seafood options for your eating plan include flounder with 2 grams of fat and 0.4 gram of omega-3s per 3-ounces, and shrimp and scallops with 1 gram of fat per serving. Shrimp and scallops also contain a small amount of omega-3s in a 3-ounce serving, with 0.1 gram in shrimp and 0.2 gram in scallops.
The fat and carbs in different types of cottage cheese vary, but can help you get more calcium in your diet. If fat is your main concern, you may prefer the nonfat cottage cheese, which has almost no fat, 10 grams of carbs and meets 12 percent of the daily value for calcium per cup. Although choosing low-fat cottage cheese gives you a little more fat, it's only 2 grams per cup. On the upside, low-fat cottage cheese only has 6 grams of carbs and contains a bit more calcium, meeting 14 percent of the daily value.
Low in carbs and naturally fat-free, non-starchy vegetables are nutrient-rich and contain fiber. Eating more veggies may improve heart health, lower risk of certain types of cancer and help you get to your goal weight. Non-starchy veggies, including broccoli, spinach, radishes, kale, tomatoes and cabbage, are also good sources of fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C.
Raw bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, has 2 grams of carbs per cup. You can't go wrong with radishes or raw spinach, each have about 4 grams of carbs per cup. And raw tomatoes or broccoli contain about 7 grams of carbs per cup. Higher in carbs, but rich in nutrients, raw kale comes in at 9 grams of carb per cup.
You might overlook fruit as an option on your low-carb diet given that most of the calories in fruit come from carbohydrates. But like veggies, fruit is naturally fat-free, a good way to get more fiber, and some are lower in carbs. Up your fiber intake with raspberries, which have 15 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fiber per cup. If you count net carbs -- total carbs minus fiber -- the carb value for raspberries drops to 7 grams. Also a low-carb fruit high in fiber, pumpkin has 12 grams of total carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 9 grams of net carbs per cup. Although not as high in fiber as raspberries, both watermelon and strawberries make good low-carb choices for your healthy diet plan, each with 12 grams of carbs per cup.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Turkey, Chicken, Flounder
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Canned Tuna, Shrimp and Haddock
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Cottage Cheese and Scallops
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Spinach, Kale and Broccoli
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Bok Choy, Tomatoes and Radishes
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: ChooseMyPlate.gov: Why Is It Important to Eat Vegetables?
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Raspberries, Strawberries and Watermelon
- Atkins: What Are Net Carbs?
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences: Look for These Lean and Extra Lean Cuts of Meat
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Pumpkin