You can select from a variety of popular diets these days. Most focus on the consumption of foods that are lower in carbohydrates or lower in fat. Or you may just be looking for a few healthy low-fat, low-carb options to include in your current diet. Some examples of these are salad greens, lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products.
Read more: 21 Foods That Sound Healthy, But Are Not!
Low-Carb, Low-Fat Diets
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the average person following a 2,000-calorie diet should consume about:
This means that the majority of the calories recommended for most people to eat come from carbohydrates and fat. Low-carb, low-fat diets aren't too common; reducing both of these means you're eliminating two of the three main macronutrients from your diet. It also means that, in order to sustain yourself, you'd have to get most of your calories from protein.
Diets that focus on protein consumption, like the carnivore diet, eliminate carbohydrates altogether. Adhering to this type of diet doesn't just mean eliminating sugar or bread — it also means eliminating fruits and vegetables, which are an important part of your diet.
However, there are also high-protein diets that are more balanced. Many people, like athletes or people with diabetes, can benefit from high-protein, low-carb diets. These types of diets involve 35 to 46 percent of daily calories coming from protein and reduced carbohydrate consumption between 30 and 45 percent, with the remaining calories coming from fat.
Healthy Consumption of Fat
Fats get a bad rap because of their association with heart disease, high cholesterol and other health problems. Not all fats are bad, though — certain fats are actually essential for your body's good health.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered to be healthy fats. These fats are found in foods like avocados, eggs, nuts, vegetable oils and seafood. Saturated and trans fats are unhealthy fats that should be consumed in moderation and are found in fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, fried foods and baked goods. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day for the average person on a 2,000-calorie diet and eliminating intake of trans fat altogether, if possible.
Most people eating a 2,000-calorie diet should consume about 65 grams of fat per day. This amount includes healthy fats, like omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, as well as unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fat.
If you're consuming a diet with less fat, you should reduce your saturated fat and make sure you're still consuming monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It's possible to consume as little as 6 percent of your daily calories from fat, but people who do this usually consume a diet that's rich in carbohydrates to get enough calories each day.
Healthy Consumption of Carbohydrates
There are many foods in the average Western diet that are filled with refined and processed carbs -- one of the reasons carbs have been on the "bad" food list. However, carbohydrates are found in all sorts of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products.
It's generally recommended that 50 to 60 percent of your calories come for carbohydrates. According to the Mayo Clinic, this translates to 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates each day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
However, you can also eat far fewer carbohydrates safely. For example, people on ketogenic diets often consume just 20 grams of carbohydrates each day. Other popular low-carbohydrate diets, like the Atkins diet, also recommend consuming between 20 and 100 carbohydrates each day. However, in order to consume so few carbohydrates, people need to increase their fat intake.
Low-Fat, Low-Carb Foods From Plants
Most foods contain some carbohydrates, which include fiber, sugars and starches. Fiber is important for the function of your digestive system, and most people should consume 25 grams a day. Keep in mind that when you're looking for low-carb foods, you don't count carbs from fiber, just carbs from sugar.
Most low-fat, low-carb foods are vegetables, which are typically rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. These include:
- Bean sprouts
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Broccoli, broccolini and broccoli rabe
- Brussels sprouts
- Onions, scallions and shallots
- Salad greens, including watercress, arugula, lettuce and chicory greens
- Squash, including yellow squash and spaghetti squash
Some fruits are also low in carbohydrates and fats. These are good sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and include:
- Berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cranberries, gooseberries and strawberries
- Lemons and lines
- Melon, including honeydew melon and cantaloupe
Legumes are good sources of plant-based protein but are often rich in carbohydrates. Low-carbohydrate legumes include lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans and black beans.
Nuts and seeds supply carbohydrates, fats and protein, unlike many other plant-based foods. Nuts often differ widely from one another; cashews and pistachios are rich in carbs, for instance, while Brazil nuts and macadamias are rich in fats. Some nuts that are good sources of protein but low in fat and carbs include walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds.
Animal-Based Low-Fat, Low-Carb Foods
Meats typically lack carbohydrates and are good sources of protein. However, they can be rich in fats. This means that finding low-carbohydrate meats is easy, but low-fat meats can be challenging. Low-fat proteins include:
- Eggs, like chicken eggs, duck eggs and quail eggs. These are good sources of protein and are rich in many different vitamins and minerals.
- Seafood, including fish, shellfish and mollusks. These food products are typically rich in healthy fats, like omega fatty acids, and are low in saturated fat.
- Skinless poultry, such as chicken, duck, goose and turkey. The skin from these birds is where most of their fat content lies; removing it yields low-fat, high-protein foods.
- Lean cuts of meat (like loin or lean ground meat), which come from beef, pork, lamb, game and other animals.
You should stay away from products such as lard, margarine, mayonnaise, sweetened yogurts and many types of cheese if you're looking for low-fat, low-carb animal products. However, many dairy products are available that are low in fat and carbs. Low-fat (1 percent) and fat-free dairy products are the best options and include:
- Low-fat or fat-free milk
- Low-fat yogurt (without added sugars) and Greek yogurt
- Light and fat-free cheese products, including cream cheese, American cheese and cheddar
- Food and Drug Administration: Total Carbohydrates
- Food and Drug Administration: Total Fat
- Food and Drug Administration: Protein
- Independent: Carnivore Diet: New Social Media Trend Criticized by Nutritionists as Very Damaging
- Culinary Nutrition: The Science and Practice of Healthy Cooking: Chapter 10 - Weight Management: Finding the Healthy Balance: Practical Applications for Nutrition, Food Science and Culinary Professionals
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: The Effects of Consuming a High Protein Diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on Body Composition in Resistance-Trained Individuals
- Food and Drug Administration: Dietary Fiber
- Atkins: List of Low Carb Foods for Atkins 20, Phase 1
- Atkins: List of Low Carb Foods for Atkins 20, Phase 2
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fat
- Age and Ageing: New Horizons: Dietary Protein, Ageing and the Okinawan Ratio
- Mayo Clinic: Carbohydrates: How Carbs Fit Into a Healthy Diet
- Journal of Clinical Neurology: Efficacy of and Patient Compliance With a Ketogenic Diet in Adults With Intractable Epilepsy: A Meta-Analysis
- Atkins: Compare Low Carb Diet Plans: Atkins 20®, Atkins 40® & Atkins 100™
- American Heart Association: Trans Fat
- 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