While it is almost impossible to follow a no-carb diet, and likely not a nutritionally sound choice, you may need to reduce them for medical reasons or because you're following a weight-loss diet. But living without bread, pasta or potatoes makes meal planning difficult. To help maintain your diet even on the craziest days, arm yourself with ideas for quick, low-carb lunches and dinners.
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While you can certainly grab boiled eggs or cheese sticks anywhere, you can also raid your fridge for easy lunches that offer a more complete meal with variety. Roll up roasted or grilled meats in large lettuce leaves, along with roasted peppers and shredded cheese. After dinner, chop up leftover meats and vegetables then layer in medium resealable bowls or mason jars with lemon juice and olive oil on the bottom to make a "shaker salad."
While beans and nuts have some carbs, they're complex carbs and are generally considered a good choice. Try tossing edamame or black beans with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers and vinaigrette for a colorful, vegetarian lunch. Peanut butter mixed with soy sauce and lime juice makes a quick, protein-packed dip for vegetable sticks and leftover grilled chicken.
Lower carbohydrate lunches are not limited to vegetable sticks and salads. When comfort food is in order, soups and stews, such as chicken vegetable, chili or bean soups, which contain sources of protein and no potatoes or pasta, are filling and just need a zap in the microwave at the office. Rotisserie chicken layered with salsa and cheese fills in nicely for a Mexican food fix. Frozen vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower, topped with cooked meat or canned tuna and shredded cheese will be thawed by the time you need to warm it all together for a quick single-serve casserole.
Whether eating alone, feeding your family or entertaining guests, there are plenty of lower-carb options for dinner. Salade Nicoise, without the potatoes, takes only minutes to assemble from simple ingredients and refined enough for a dinner party. Cooked shrimp mixed with store-bought pico de gallo and served with jicama slices produces a fast take on Mexican-style shrimp cocktail. Cold rolls of roast beef or turkey that have been spread with a mixture of horseradish, mayonnaise and Swiss or Parmesan cheese and cut into pinwheels make a playful partner to a simple spinach salad.
Like black beans or peanuts, lentils have a few more carbs than animal protein sources, but are a good source of protein. Combine cooked green lentils with arugula, bacon, blue cheese, toasted walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette for a salad with enough flavor and finesse to serve with a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Low-carb diets bring to mind juicy, thick steaks or piping-hot roasts, but when time is tight, this is not an option. To quell the red meat craving, try thinly sliced steaks; with only a three- to four-minute cook time on the grill, they are a quick start to a satisfying steak dinner. Also cooking in about four minutes, chicken cutlets with a pan sauce can be on the table in less than 25 minutes. Low-carb vegetables, such as cauliflower, peppers, onions or asparagus can be quickly roasted in 20 minutes or less to accompany your protein of choice. For a dinner that is faster than takeout, stir-fry bagged vegetables with large shrimp then season with sesame oil, soy sauce and chili-garlic sauce.