When following a low-carb diet, finding meals that are quick to prepare and require no cooking may initially seem like a struggle. A no- or very low-carb diet doesn't have to mean only eating foods with zero carbohydrates, though. According to the Department of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University, net carbohydrate refers to when you take the dietary fiber and sugar alcohol away from the total carb content. Look to make meals as close to zero net carbohydrates as possible, rather than with no carbohydrate whatsoever.
Most of the carbs in vegetables and salad ingredients come from fiber, so the net carb count is extremely low. Stick to leaves such as different types of lettuce, cabbage, kale and spinach to make your base, then add other low-carb vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, cucumber and pickles. To make your salad a little more interesting, Taste.com.au suggests a Mediterranean salad, made with romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, red wine vinegar and canned tuna.
Bring on Breakfast
Breakfast can be stumbling block in the quest for no-cook, no-carb meals, as traditional low-carb breakfasts usually involve eggs. You can sidestep this, however, by going for a continental-style breakfast using low-sodium, low-nitrate deli meats with slices of reduced-fat cheese. Just skip the croissants and bread rolls. Alternatively, try a protein shake, containing a low-carb protein powder, a dash of almond or coconut milk and some crushed nuts, for an extra quick on-the-go breakfast.
Fun with Fish
To get extra protein without resorting to cooking, consider canned fish. You've got a few different choices with tinned fish. You can either go with a low-fat option such as tuna, or switch to an oily fish like mackerel or sardines. These oily fish have the benefit of being rich in omega-3 fats, which may improve heart health. Make this into a meal by serving your fish with some raw vegetables like carrots, celery and cucumber sticks.
Meat Without the Heat
While you certainly don't want raw meat, you could pick meat already cooked for you. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating traditional processed meats such as bacon and salami can raise your risk of heart disease. Rather than avoiding these altogether though, dietitian Christy Maskeroni recommends making better choices by picking fresh pre-cooked meats from the deli counter and looking for nitrate- and MSG-free organic meats. While you may not want to make a habit of this, some healthier pre-cooked meats combined with a slice or two of low-fat cheese, or a few salad items can make a no-cook, no-carb, high-protein meal once a week.
- Kansas State University: Net Carbs, Impact Carbs, Zero Carbs that Count – What Does It Mean?
- Taste: Mediterranean Tuna Salad
- American Heart Association: Frequently Asked Questions About "Better" Fats
- Harvard School of Public Health: Eating Processed Meats, But Not Unprocessed Red Meats, May Raise Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
- Built Lean: Deli Meat 101: What’s Really In Your Sandwich?