7 Tips for Low-Carb Diets in the Summer

When summer hits, it's time to leave the stodgier foods of winter behind. Healthy low-carb eating gets even easier in the summer thanks to fresh produce, outdoor cooking and eating, and a focus on simply prepared, delicious foods. There are so many reasons to enjoy low-carb summer eating, so let's look at a few.


Lots of Low-Carb Summer Vegetables

basket of summer vegetables
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In the winter, Mother Nature gives us vegetables that contain stored energy and last a long time. This is great if you're a homesteader getting through the winter on what you've got in the root cellar (potatoes, yams, beets, etc.). Yet, it's not so great for a diet low in starches and sugars.

In the spring and summer, it's just the opposite. Green leaves and shoots are designed to grow quickly, with not a lot of food stored in them. While they have to be eaten quicker, they're much lower on the carb count.

Leafy greens and asparagus are among the first to come forth and look forward to. The fruits of the plants (think eggplant and peppers) have a bit more carbohydrate, but still much less than winter vegetables. So the summer is a bonanza of colorful, nutritious, and low-carb vegetables for us to enjoy. 


Low-Carb Summer Fruits


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Many fruits available in the winter are higher in sugar than the ones we get in the summer. That means summer is a great time to enjoy a dish of berries or a juicy peach or apricot.

To give you an idea of just how little sugar is in these fruits, look at what you can expect from half a cup of these tasty and fresh treats.

Most of these are very reasonable for your low-carb diet. However, be aware of those cherries because they can add up fast.


Get Out the Grill!

Close-Up Of Meat On Barbecue Grill
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Gone are the casseroles and stews of the winter which often have extra carbs in the sauce. It's time for grilling meats and vegetables.

All you need to do is find the highest quality foods, add a little salt and spice, put them on the grill, and let them shine. As an extra bonus, you won't heat up the kitchen and clean-up is super easy.

Grill extra veggies. While you have the grill going, add a bunch of vegetables to the mix and use a special grill grate or vegetable basket so they don't fall through. Smear them with olive oil first or a high-heat, plant-based cooking oil. The salt and spices will season them better and they won't stick to the grill.

Store your grilled leftovers in the refrigerator and they'll be ready for use in salads or as snacks.
Find the best cheap grilled meats. Grilling meat doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Chicken is an excellent budget-friendly option for the barbecue and there are many ways to give it new life with spice. A Chinese Five-Spice Chicken recipe is a perfect example and you'll never know it's good for your diet.

Likewise, with a little forethought, you can buy some relatively inexpensive steaks if you know the best cuts to look for. Keep an eye out for deals on ribs as well. Tossing a few baby back ribs on the grill can be one of the easiest meals of the summer.

Don't forget the fish. There's no reason to reserve the grill for meat and veggies when fish is such a great option. Not only can it be delicious and simple, it also helps you stay on track with your diet.

Salmon is a fantastic grilled fish. Similarly, you can skewer a few shrimp and create a zesty glaze in a matter of minutes.


Summer Side Dishes

Bowl of coleslaw, elevated view, close up
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To go along with that grilled fare, you'll want some low-carb side dishes. Not only are these great for the main meal, but you can enjoy the leftovers for lunch or save them for the next dinner.

  • Cauliflower "Potato" Salad - This dish is perfect for dinner or to bring to a summer potluck or barbecue. It's a refreshing change from heavier potato salads.
  • Sugar-Free Cole Slaw - You wouldn't believe how much sugar is in most cole slaw. Of course, you can just leave that, but most people will not identify the result as "cole slaw"—it's more like a cabbage salad. This recipe takes care of both issues with a little artificial sweetener.
  • Broccoli Salad with Bacon - This is another summer classic that's typically packed with added sugar. With a simple tweak, you can create a delicious side that's also good for your diet.
  • BBQ Beans - Made with a sugar-free BBQ sauce and black soybeans, this is a recipe that will leave no one wondering where the sugar went.
  • Four-Bean Salad - With a careful selection of low-carb beans and the right herbs, you can transform a favorite dish into a diet-friendly summer delight.

Salads Galore

Green salad with strawberries
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Salads are a mainstay of low-carb diets all year round, but they are especially appealing in the summer. You can easily make a meal out of any of these and enjoy the best that summer has to offer.

  • Asian Chopped Chicken Salad - This can easily become your family's new favorite recipe. The dressing adds a nice zing to the salad and it couldn't be any easier to prepare.
  • Taco Salad - The average taco salad is filled with calories and fat. With a few simple changes, it can become a low-carb dream.
  • Chopped Salad - When you combine chicken, tomato, pepper, apple, and avocado with blue cheese and vinaigrette, a wonderful flavor is created.
  • Strawberry Chicken Salad - With just a few ingredients, you can create a fantastic summer salad that is nice and light. The strawberry vinaigrette is especially appealing as the temperatures rise.

Cold Meal and Snack Ideas

Close-Up Of Deviled Eggs In Plate
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Summer often has us on the go and when you need a super-easy meal or a quick snack, there are plenty of low-carb ideas. These also don't require cooking, so you can keep the kitchen nice and cool.

  • Wrap chicken, tuna, egg, or salmon salad in lettuce leaves or low-carb tortillas. If you like, add slivered raw vegetables as well.
  • Wrap low-sodium cold cuts around spinach dip, cole slaw, or raw vegetables for a quick, light lunch.
  • Hard-boiled eggs are a great snack and keep well in the refrigerator. When you feel like changing it up a bit, transform them into low-carb deviled eggs.
  • Enjoy your low fat cottage cheese or yogurt with berries, melon, or peaches, then add some nuts or seeds.
  • Protein shakes such as this berry protein shake are a great way to start the day or give yourself an afternoon energy boost.
  • Have an antipasto or cheese plate with cold lean meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables, or olives ready in the refrigerator.
  • Make up a cold blender soup like a cucumber melon soup.

Summer Desserts

Small fruit tarts on a cake stand
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There's no reason to skip dessert, you just have to make good choices. The great news is that summer fruits form a great foundation for lower-carb and sugar-free desserts.

  • Fresh Berry Pie - An almond pie crust and berry filling make this a perfect garden-fresh pie that won't break your diet.
  • Yogurt Chia Pudding With Blueberry Compote - Spend a few minutes making a fresh blueberry compote and a yogurt and chia seed mix. When you're ready for a treat, simply combine the two and enjoy.

By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.