On a low-carb diet, you don’t always have time to sit down to a leisurely prepared breakfast like a vegetable and cheese omelet or a lunch of grilled steak with steamed asparagus. You may find yourself between meetings or on the road, with few choices but high-carb chain restaurants that tempt you with biscuits and fries. When you know you’ll be on the move, create portable meals in advance to bring with you so you don’t blow your carb allowance and derail your diet.
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With low-carb diets, you focus on counting carbs instead of calories. The goal is to take in far fewer carbs than you do protein and fat, so your body begins to burn fat for fuel. Technically, to be low-carb, a diet would need to have fewer than 130 grams of carbs a day.
When you’re counting, you generally don’t tally carbs from fiber or sugar alcohols, because your body doesn’t digest them. Deducting indigestible carbs from your total carb count brings you to what the Atkins diet calls “net carbs.” The many low-carb diet plans on the market allow you different thresholds of net carbs during different phases. On the classic Atkins diet, you progress from 20 to 100 grams a day, while the Atkins 40 starts you at 40 grams a day and adds 10-gram carb increments as you approach your weight-loss goal. If you aren’t following a specific plan, you’ll probably find the best carb count by trial and error.
A really easy low-carb breakfast for your busy schedule is hard-boiled eggs. Boil two eggs the night before to tote with you – each has less than half a gram of net carbs plus a satisfying 6 grams of protein. Pair your eggs with 1/2 cup of raw red bell pepper for a breakfast with just 4 grams of net carbs. Or go for a high-protein meal that will keep you satisfied until lunch by complementing your eggs with 6 ounces of sliced baked ham rolled and stuffed with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese; this portable breakfast has roughly 5 grams of net carbs.
Taking time to roast a chicken or turkey on the weekend can pay off big during the week by furnishing you with multiple meals, especially if you’re on the go. Wrap a big leaf of romaine lettuce around 6 ounces of chicken or turkey breast and an ounce of cheddar cheese for less than 1 gram of net carbohydrate. Add a quarter-inch slice of fresh tomato for an additional gram. Pack 1/2 cup of raw jicama for a crunchy side that only sets you back 3 grams of net carbs.
You could also toss a salad together in a container, topping a cup of raw, chopped spinach with 6 ounces of cooked or canned salmon, 1/2 cup of fresh sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts for a net carb count of 8 grams. Two tablespoons of a sugar-free vinaigrette give you 1 additional gram.
When you need a snack to stay satisfied between meals, there are plenty of options that fit the low-carb profile and also travel well. Twenty-four whole raw almonds have just 3 grams of net carbs, while 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter on two stalks of raw celery provide 6 grams of net carbs. Or try 1/2 cup of unsweetened whole-milk Greek yogurt; one popular brand has just 5 grams of net carbs. Top with 2 tablespoons of roasted sesame or sunflower seeds for 2 additional grams. Each ounce of highly portable string cheese has just 1 more gram.