How to Choose the Right Nutritious Food on a Low-Carb Diet

Salmon cutlet on salad

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A common criticism of low-carb diets is that it’s difficult to get adequate nutrients when restricting carbohydrates. However, other than a short-term induction phase such as with the two-week Atkins induction, that is not usually the case. You can cover all of your nutritional bases on a low-carb diet if you pay attention to these principles.

Eat Plenty of Vegetables

The wide base of a low-carb pyramid is vegetables. This is because non-starchy vegetables are very high in nutrients while being low in carbohydrates. Additionally, those carbs are usually packaged inside so much fiber that they do not enter our bloodstream quickly. It is recommended to enjoy vegetables from the low-carb vegetable list

Take vitamin C as an example. You might think that oranges are at the top of the list for providing vitamin C, but look at a list of vegetables and you will note red bell peppers are almost twice as vitamin-C packed. Sixty milligrams of vitamin C is the recommended daily intake for most.

1 cup of fruit or vegetable Vitamin C value, carbs, and calories
Oranges 95 milligrams of vitamin C, 16 grams of usable carbs, 85 calories
Red Bell Pepper 190 milligrams of vitamin C, 6 grams of usable carbs, 31 calories
Broccoli 81 milligrams of vitamin C, 4 grams of usable carbs, 31 calories
Cauliflower 47 milligrams of vitamin C, 2 grams of usable carbs, 25 calories
Cabbage 33 milligrams of vitamin C, 3 grams of usable carbs, 22 calories

Go for Color

When choosing which vegetables and low-sugar fruits to eat, the ones with the most color are often the highest in nutrients. This is especially true when it comes to antioxidants and other phytonutrients.

Eating a rainbow of colors can help guide you in getting a variety of these valuable substances. For example, eating leafy greens, red peppers, pumpkin, blueberries, and cauliflower would cover a variety of nutrients, including antioxidants.

Snack on Nuts and Seeds

Grains, such as bread or rice, contain a lot of starch, so they do not play a large role in a low-carb diet. However, it turns out that grains are not very dense in nutrients when compared with many other food groups.

Small amounts of nuts and seeds can fill in the same nutrients as larger amounts of whole grains. Nuts have been found to be heart-healthy as well, and most nuts and seeds are low in carbohydrates. 

Eat Nutrient-Rich Meats, Fish, and Eggs

Meats are usually thought of a high-protein source, which is true, but they have much more to offer.

Depending on the type and cut, these foods are often high in B vitamins, iron, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Egg yolks are particularly packed with nutrients. 

Choose Dairy Products Wisely

Dairy foods are the easiest way to get calcium and a smattering of other nutrients, but milk has about 11 to 12 grams of carbohydrate per cup. This is too much for some people who are carb-sensitive.

Some low-carb options are cottage cheese (3 grams of carbohydrate per half-cup), ricotta cheese (4 grams per half cup), and regular cheese (which is the most minimal), but the softer cheeses like mozzarella can be up to 1 gram per ounce. If you choose carefully, you can find yogurt or kefir, a fermented milk drink that contains about 6 to 8 grams of carbs per cup.

Try Legumes for Your Carb Intake

Beans and lentils are high in carbohydrates. But for most people, these carbohydrates are more slowly absorbed than carbs from other sources, and some are never converted into glucose at all. These are called resistant starches.

Beans are high in fiber, contain lots of minerals, such as iron and potassium, as well as phytonutrients. Soybeans have the least carbohydrates in the legume family. For variety, try black soybeans.

Eat a Variety

Whatever the category of foods, eat a variety. Choose different meats throughout the week. Try a new fish. Mix up your nuts. Get out of your salad rut and buy some new greens.

Each food has its own constellation of nutrients to contribute to your health. By eating a variety, you can maximize the nutrition you are packing into each and every gram of carbohydrate that you eat.

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