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The Best Ways to Start a No-Carb Diet

author image Melodie Anne
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.
The Best Ways to Start a No-Carb Diet
Close-up of a roasted pork tenderloin. Photo Credit: janzwolinski/iStock/Getty Images

No-carb diets typically limit your food intake to lots of meat, seafood, fish, eggs and certain cheeses. These diets aren’t designed to be followed for long periods of time -- usually you go through short phases of very low carb intakes. Before you get started, it’s best to know how many carbs you can have, how to calculate net carbs and to stock up on what you can eat. You’ll also want to check in with your doctor to see if this type of diet plan is ideal for your needs.

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Know Your Daily Allowance and Spread It Out

Your no-carb diet plan will likely have different phases. Make sure you know how many carbs you can have during each phase and spread them out accordingly throughout the day. You will get some carbs each day, even during the no-carb parts, although you generally have to keep your total net carb intake down to 20 grams of net carbs or less. Net carbs are the types that make your blood sugar go up and down significantly -- usually sugar and starch. When you know exactly how many net carbs you’re allowed to have, spread them out throughout your meals. Have a third of your allowance at breakfast, another third at lunch, then the final third at dinner, for example.

Calculate Net Carbs After Fiber

Proponents of no-carb diets contend that blood sugar spikes can lead to weight gain. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t cause drastic fluctuations in your blood sugar because it isn’t converted to glucose. Depending on the specifics of your diet, you can usually subtract some of the fiber. If the food label lists grams of insoluble fiber, subtract those from the total fiber and carbohydrate grams. Then if you have more than 5 fiber grams leftover, subtract half from the total carbs. It’ll look like this: If a food has a total of 20 grams of carbs, including 1 gram of insoluble fiber and 9 grams of total fiber, subtract 1 from the total carbs and from the fiber grams. You’re left with 8 grams of fiber. Deduct 4 of those grams from the total carbs. In the end, you get 15 grams of net carbs.

Account for Sugar Alcohols

Artificial sweeteners can still impact your blood sugar, although the effects are often minimal. Read the nutrition facts label and check for sugar alcohols -- they’re often hidden in sugar-free candies and low-carb drinks, yogurts or desserts. If a serving of the food has at least 5 grams of sugar alcohol, you can subtract half of that amount from the total carbs. As an example, if a cup of low-carb pudding has 10 grams of carbs, including 5 grams of sugar alcohols, you’ll get a total of 7.5 grams of net carbs.

Pick the Leanest Proteins

Just because you’re supposed to focus on eating more protein-based foods while you’re no-carb dieting doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want. Having a porterhouse steak for dinner every night probably fits within your diet’s parameters, but it isn’t healthy. Opt for the leanest proteins out there: skinless chicken or turkey breast, fish, shrimp, beef sirloin, pork tenderloin and egg whites, to name a few. You’ll keep your saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intake down this way. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 7 percent of your calories come from saturated fat -- 16 grams max for a 2,000-calorie diet. Also keep your cholesterol intake down to less than 300 milligrams a day.

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