A Complete Guide to Low-Carb Snacks

Low-Carb and No-Carb Snack Lists, Tips, and Recipes

Slimming down on a low carb diet? Perhaps you're adopting a paleo or keto eating plan. Or you might simply be cutting back on your carbohydrate intake to manage a health condition or boost wellness. Shifting to a low-carb lifestyle brings with it a host of challenges and finding healthy low carb snacks is one of them.

It's not unusual to be out running errands or stuck in the office and suddenly be hit with hunger pangs. When this happens, your first instinct may be to grab something for a quick boost of energy, such as a muffin, cookie, or candy bar. But those foods—and so many other quick foods—can send your carb counts through the roof.

Whether you're at home with time to cook, shopping for healthy food at the grocery store, or searching for a snack on the go, this low-carb snack list will help you to keep your eating plan on track.

Fruit

Many low-carb eaters avoid fruit because they assume that it contains too much sugar. It's true that even naturally-occurring sugar (such as the fructose found in fruit) can be problematic for someone who is watching their sugar intake. But fruit can be part of a healthy low carbohydrate eating plan.

Fruit is naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories and it is a smart source of key nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and folic acid.

What to look for: Fiber-rich fruits will be your best bet. Berries, apricot, and kiwi are smart choices as well as some types of melon. Even though the carb count is higher for some of these fruits, the net carbs might be lower.

Also keep in mind that some low-carb fruits are those that you might typically add sugar to, such as grapefruit, cranberries, and rhubarb. If you add sugar, you'll have to add those additional grams of carbohydrate to your total. For that reason, if you're trying to manage a sugar craving, it is sometimes smarter to grab fruits that are naturally sweeter, even though the carb count for the fruit is slightly higher.

Low carb snack fruits include:

  • Blackberries (13.8 grams carbohydrate, 7.6 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar per cup)
  • Strawberries (11.7 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 7.4 grams sugar per cup)
  • Raspberries (14.7 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 5.4 grams sugar per cup)
  • Rhubarb (5.5 grams carbohydrate, 2.2 grams fiber, 1.3 grams sugar per cup)
  • Cantaloupe (14.4 grams carbohydrate, 1.6 grams fiber, 13.9 grams sugar per cup)
  • Apricot (3.8 grams carbohydrate, 0.7 grams fiber, 3.2 grams sugar per fruit)
  • Grapefruit (13 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 8.5 grams sugar per cup)
  • Cranberries (12 grams carbohydrate, 4.6 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar per cup)
  • Guava (8 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 4.9 grams sugar per fruit)
  • Kiwi (10 grams carbohydrate, 2.1 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar per cup)
  • Avocado (12 grams carbohydrate, 9.2 grams fiber, 2.7 grams sugar per fruit)

Fruits to limit include any dried fruit, including raisins, dates, figs, and more. Also bananas and pears are higher in carbohydrate (but also provide sweetness with fiber), as are other tropical fruits such as pineapple, pomegranate, and mango.

Vegetables

Healthy veggies are the cornerstone of a smart low-carb diet plan. Vegetables are not only naturally low in calories, sodium, and fat but they also provide healthy nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Diets that are higher in plant-based foods—like vegetables—are also associated with a lower risk of diabetes and other conditions such as cardiovascular disease. And the fiber in many of these vegetables will help you to satisfy cravings for savory, crunchy foods while helping you stay fuller longer after eating.

What to look for: Most health experts will suggest that you eat the rainbow when planning low-carb veggie snacks. That means that you'll want to choose veggies in a wide range of colors, like red peppers, yellow tomatoes, or purple eggplant. As a healthy low-carb eater, you'll want to focus on the color green. Green leafy vegetables (like spinach and kale) are generally highest in overall nutritional and lowest in calories and carbs. But leafy greens can be hard to consume as a snack, so you might want to look for cruciferous vegetables or other selections that are easy to pack and carry instead.

Low carb snack vegetables include:

  • Celery (1.2 grams carbohydrate, 0.6 grams fiber, 0.5 grams sugar per stalk)
  • Radishes (0.2 grams carbohydrate, 0.1 grams fiber, 0.1 grams sugar per radish)
  • Cherry tomatoes (0.7 grams carbohydrate, 0.2 grams fiber, 0.5 grams sugar per tomato)
  • Carrots (6 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar per carrot)
  • Broccoli (6 grams carbohydrate, 2.6 grams fiber, 1.5 grams sugar per cup)
  • Asparagus (3.7 grams carbohydrate, 1.8 grams fiber, 1.2 grams sugar per half cup)
  • Cauliflower (5 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar per cup, raw)
  • Zucchini (3 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2.5 grams sugar per 3/4 cup)
  • Cucumber (1.9 grams carbohydrate, 0.3 grams fiber, 0.9 grams sugar per half cup)
  • Brussels sprouts (11 grams carbohydrate, 4.1 grams fiber, 2.7 grams sugar per cup)
  • Bell peppers (9 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar per cup)

Veggies to limit are mostly vegetables that you wouldn't eat as snacks because they are harder to carry. They include corn (which is technically a grain but often considered a vegetable), squash (such as butternut squash), pumpkin, and plantains.

Nuts and Seeds

If you're going low-carb, nuts and seeds are your friends. In most cases, they provide healthy poly or monounsaturated fats bundled with hunger-busting protein and fiber to keep your cravings at bay. Nuts and seeds are also easy to carry and consume so they make a convenient low-carb snack for times when you are on the go.

What to look for: Nuts and seeds are easy to overeat, especially if you keep them in a bowl or dish on your counter. You might not want to buy these low-carb snacks in bulk. If you do, package them into single-serving containers so they are easy to grab and go.

Tip: Keep a single serving scoop (usually two tablespoons) inside a container of nuts so you only eat a single portion

Low carb nuts to eat as snacks:

  • Peanuts (6 grams carbohydrate, 2.3 grams fiber, 1.2 grams sugar per ounce)
  • Pecans (4 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar per ounce)
  • Macadamia nuts (3.9 grams carbohydrate, 2.4 grams fiber, 1.3 grams sugar per ounce)
  • Walnuts (3.8 grams carbohydrate, 1.9 grams fiber, 0.7 grams sugar per ounce)
  • Pine nuts (3.7 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram sugar per ounce)
  • Almonds (6 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber, 1.2 grams sugar per ounce)
  • Sunflower seeds (7 grams carbohydrate, 3.9 grams fiber, 0.9 grams sugar per 1/4 cup)
  • Pumpkin seeds (15 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber per ounce)

Nuts and seeds to limit: Cashews are starchier delivering 22 grams of carbs per ounce. Pistachios are also higher in carbs delivering 15 grams of carb per serving. Also, avoid flavored nuts and nut mixes because many of them (even the savory blends) contain added sugars and high levels of sodium. Go with the plain or raw nuts, if possible.

Dairy Snacks

The dairy aisle can be a tricky part of the market to navigate when you are living a low-carb lifestyle. But dairy products can be a nutritious and important part of your healthy eating plan. Most dairy products increase your calcium intake for healthy bones and teeth. Many dairy products also boost your potassium and vitamin D intake.

What to look for: Many dairy foods and snacks are naturally low in carbohydrate and relatively low in sugar but include added ingredients that change the nutrition facts. Some yogurt products, for example, are high in carbs because of the added fruit and sugars. Similarly, flavored cottage cheese may include ingredients that boost the carb count. Always check the Nutrition Facts label.

Low carb dairy snack ideas:

  • Cottage cheese (4.1 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 4.1 grams sugar per serving)
  • Plain yogurt (11.4 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 11.4 grams sugar per serving)
  • Provolone cheese (0.6 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0.2 grams sugar per slice)
  • Swiss cheese (1.5 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0.4 grams sugar per serving)
  • String cheese (0.5 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per serving)
  • Cream cheese (0.6 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0.5 grams sugar per serving)

Low carb dairy snacks to limit: Processed cheese foods may not only include unhealthy forms of fat but may also contain sugar. In addition, frozen dairy products are also often higher in sugar. So while plain yogurt might be a healthy low-carb snack, frozen yogurt is likely to be very high in carbs.

Protein Snacks

Muscle building protein snacks will help you to feel satisfied between meals when you're on a low carb diet. Protein snacks provide nutrients that are the building blocks for strong bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, enzymes, and hormones. When you consume protein snacks you'll also likely boost your intake of B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

What to look for: Many protein foods are not easy to carry so they can be tricky if you need a low-carb snack for on the go. Sliced meats are usually easier. Or you might grab sashimi at the local sushi bar. Additionally, it is important to remember that a single serving of protein is about three ounces. A snack sized portion might be half of that.

Low carb protein snack ideas:

  • Hard boiled egg (0.6 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0.6 grams sugar per egg)
  • Turkey (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per serving)
  • Chicken breast (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per serving)
  • Tuna (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per serving)
  • Salmon (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per serving)
  • Shrimp (1 gram carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per serving)
  • Firm tofu (1.8 grams carbohydrate, 0.5 grams fiber, 0.3 grams sugar per serving)
  • Peanut butter (8 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar per serving)
  • Edamame (15 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 3.4 grams sugar per serving)

Low carb protein snacks to limit: Processed meats, such as bologna, pepperoni, or salami, are higher in saturated fat and calories. They are also higher in sodium and some may even include added sugars. Beef or turkey jerky and Slim Jims are also commonly mentioned as low-carb protein snacks, but again, these may be very high in sodium or sugar.

Beverages

It is not uncommon to search for a beverage when you're hungry for a snack. Coffee blends, sports drinks, juice smoothies, and other beverages are easy to carry and can fill you up quickly. But many beverages are high in calories and sugar.

A smart beverage boosts your hydration and can help you to stay energized. The smartest low-carb beverage is water. But if you are looking for something with more flavor, there are a few other options.

What to look for: Always read ingredients labels on the beverage that you buy. Many beverages are made with ingredients (like fruit juice) that you wouldn't expect. Also, if you choose almond milk (or another nut-based milk) check the label for added sugar. Many of the flavored varieties are higher in carbs.

  • Tea (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per cup)
  • Coffee (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per cup)
  • Sparkling mineral water (0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per cup)
  • Almond milk (1 grams carbohydrate, <1 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar per cup)
  • Lowfat milk (12 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 12 grams sugar per cup)
  • Celery juice (9 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar per cup)
  • Coconut water (8.9 grams carbohydrate, 2.6 grams fiber, 6.3 grams sugar per cup)

Low carb beverages to limit include those that use artificial sweeteners. For example, diet sodas are no-carb drinks but the sweetness provided by the artificial ingredients may cause you to crave sweet treats more often. Also, protein smoothies sound like a smart option, but many of them are made with fruit juice and are higher in carbs than you might imagine.

Prepackaged Foods

Processed or packaged foods are an option if you are looking for a low-carb snack, but they are not always a smart choice. Many grab-and-go snacks include crackers, baked goods, or sweet treats that will increase your carbohydrate intake. They are also more likely to include processed meats.

Snack packs of raw vegetables are becoming far more common in convenience stores. Look for the brands that include a low-carb dipping sauce like hummus or peanut butter. Some packs also come with a slice of cheese or some nuts.

Another trendy option is kale chips. Kale chips are not only becoming commonplace on convenience store shelves, but they can also be surprisingly low in carbs. While some brands are clearly better than others, kale chips can provide less than ten net carbs per serving.

Lastly, you might consider a snack bar if you are looking for a low-carb snack. Many are high in protein which might lead you to believe that they are low in carbs. But many snack bars are simply high in overall calories—so they are high in protein, high in carbs, and sometimes even high in fat. Read the Nutrition Facts label before you buy.

No-Carb Snacks

Believe it or not, there are some snack foods that provide zero carbohydrates. The healthiest choices are those that are not processed. To keep your diet healthy, you may want to avoid zero-carb snacks like pork rinds and processed meats.

Consider some of these healthier no-carb snack ideas:

  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Seaweed
  • Celery
  • Shirataki noodles
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nut packs
  • Canned tuna

Low Carb Snack Recipes and Ideas

The best way to enjoy your low carb snack is to combine some of the choices above. Use any of these low carb recipes or snack ideas to keep your eating program on track between meals.

Low-Carb Snack Combos

Combine savory and sweet or creamy and crunchy low-carb foods for a satisfying snack.

  • Plain yogurt with cinnamon, chia seeds, or flax seed
  • Lettuce wraps with lean turkey and vegetables
  • Hard boiled egg filled with hummus
  • Veggie sticks with guacamole
  • Celery and peanut butter
  • Bell pepper slices with cream cheese
  • Strawberries with blue cheese
  • Ricotta with raspberries
  • Radishes with spinach dip
  • String cheese and almonds
  • Walnuts and apricot slices
  • Low-Carb Snack Recipes

Make a batch or two of these low carb snacks and keep them on hand for healthy munching between meals.

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Article Sources

  1. Ludwig DS, Hu FB, Tappy L, Brand-miller J. Dietary carbohydrates: role of quality and quantity in chronic disease. BMJ. 2018;361:k2340. doi:10.1136/bmj.k2340

  2. Choosing Non-Starchy Vegetables. American Diabetes Association

  3. Dairy: Tips for carb counters. American Diabetes Association