Limiting carbohydrates -- carbs for short -- in your diet is one way to jump-start a weight-loss program. The first step in adopting a low-carb diet involves eliminating heavy starches such as pastas and breads, since most low-carb meals include protein with plenty of non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats. Poultry, game meats, beef, pork, fish and seafood are essentially carb-free and a good source of protein.
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Chicken and Other Poultry
Poultry refers to domestic fowl raised for their meat or eggs, including chicken, duck, turkey, goose, ostrich and pheasant. Each of these birds is naturally carb-free, yet some cooking methods add carbs. For example, 3 ounces of roasted chicken is carb-free, while the same size serving of fried chicken contains 8 grams of carbohydrates. This is because breading, batter or flour used to coat chicken before frying typically contains wheat or starch. Instead of frying, try roasting a couple of chicken breasts alongside a cup each of cherry tomatoes and cooked broccoli florets for a dinner with 10 grams of net carbs. "Net" carbs are the digestible carbohydrates -- total carbs minus the fiber grams. When purchasing poultry luncheon meats, avoid flavored varieties since these can contain added sweeteners or starches.
Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood -- another protein-rich and healthy addition to a balanced diet -- contain virtually zero carbohydrates. Bass, carp, catfish, cod, grouper, haddock, halibut, mahi-mahi, monk fish, orange roughy, perch, salmon, swordfish, tilapia and tuna are all carb-free when grilled or broiled. On the other hand, shellfish such as clams, oysters and mussels can have 3 to 6 grams of carbs in a 2-ounce serving. Similar to poultry, preparation methods impact carbs per serving. For example, one fillet of cooked cod is carb-free, yet just one prepared fish stick contains 6 carb grams.
Heading out for sushi? One-quarter cup of cooked white rice contains over 13 carb grams, so skip the sushi rolls made with rice. Instead, opt for rolls wrapped in cucumber or soy paper. Don't forget to try a few pieces of sashimi -- sushi without the rice.
Wild Game Meats
Game meats such as antelope, venison, moose, rabbit and squirrel are each a rich source of protein, yet free of carbohydrates. Not interested in hunting? Buy game meats online or from the freezer section of select health food stores. When choosing side dishes, select non-starchy vegetables such as greens -- mixed lettuces, Swiss chard, kale, spinach -- and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. If, for example, venison steak is in your dinner plan, pair it with mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. One cup of mashed potatoes contains 35 grams of net carbs, while the same size serving of mashed cauliflower contains only 4 grams.
Beef and Pork
All beef and ground cuts, including brisket, tenderloin, flank, sirloin, round and rib, are carb-free. Pork tenderloin and most pork products are also carb-free or very low in carb grams, although it's important to remember to check the labels for carb-containing fillers or additives. Bacon is another low-carb option; one serving of pork sausage or bacon with a fried egg together have about 1 carb gram. Both bacon and sausage should be eaten in moderation due to elevated fat and sodium content. Enjoy hamburgers, meatloaf or Italian meatballs on your low-carb diet, as long as bread crumbs or other starches are omitted from your recipes. Serve burgers wrapped in lettuce leaves or between grilled mushroom caps, instead of on a starchy bun.