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September 28, 2019

Simple Ways to Start a Low-Carb Diet

Remember the original Atkins diet? Everyone jumped on the wagon! They ate their burgers and hot dogs without buns and chowed down low-sugar / low-carb cookies - these changes did initially help them lose weight. Unfortunately a lot of the early adopters of low-carbohydrate dieting missed the mark on what actually leads to sustained weight loss, as well as overall health and wellness. 

There are a number of new diet plans that encourage lowering the intake of carbohydrates to lose weight and support better health. But how do you know if a low-carb diet is right for you? 

Some popular low-carb diet plans are:

  • The Mediterranean Diet
    Includes: plenty of veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans), whole grains (in low amounts), fish & seafood, and healthy fats. Include a moderation of chicken, eggs, and dairy products - very low red meat. No: processed foods, sugars, or refined grains (like white bread or pasta). 
  • The Keto Diet
    Includes: meat and fatty fish, grass-fed dairy products / unprocessed cheese, nuts & seeds, healthy oils, low-carb vegetables, eggs. No: wheat or grains, beans or legumes, fruits (due to high sugar content, with the exception of small amounts of berries), root vegetables (potatoes and other starchy veggies), and low-fat products (high in sugar). 
  • The Atkins Diet
    Includes: healthy meats & seafood, eggs, leafy green vegetables, full-fat dairy products, nuts & seeds, healthy fats and oils. No: grains (wheat, rice, pasta), vegetable oils, sugary / starchy vegetables, high-sugar fruits (bananas, grapes), processed sugars, legumes. 
  • Paleo
    Includes: meat, fish, and seafood, eggs, plenty of fruits and vegetables (including root vegetables), healthy fats and oils, certain nuts and seeds, fresh herbs. No: sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sugars, grains (all kinds), legumes (beans / lentils), dairy (aside from some full-fat butters or cheeses). 
  • Whole30
    Includes: meat, fish & seafood, eggs, fresh or dried fruit, all vegetables, nuts & seeds, healthy fats & oils. No: sugar and artificial sweeteners, alcohol, grains (including wheat, corn, oats, rice), beans & legumes, soy & soy products, dairy. 

A common thread that runs throughout these diets is that every single one includes reducing or completely removing these items from your diet: refined grains, processed foods, sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages, and artificial sweeteners

What are some simple ways to start a low-carb diet? 

Start slow, and start substituting. 
You don’t have to go cold-turkey when reducing your carbohydrate intake. Don’t think of eating a low-carb diet as removing foods from your life, think of it as a way to add more healthy, delicious, and nutritious foods in.

Make these healthy substitutes to make the transition to a low-carb diet easier: 

  • Use finely chopped cauliflower in place of rice. 
  • Instead of tortillas or wraps, use butter lettuce or thinly sliced sandwich meat. 
  • Use zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash in place of pasta. 
  • Start with a bed of greens instead of a bed of grains for every meal. 
  • Substitute crunchy vegetables in place of chips or crackers. 
  • Use cauliflower crust for homemade pizza. 
  • Make hearty vegetables, like acorn or butternut squash, or sweet potatoes as the base for meals in place of grains. 

Remember that fats are your friend! 
Carbohydrates are a fast-burning energy source, like the kindling to a fire. Protein is a better source of energy, as it acts like the smaller logs in the fire - it takes them a little longer to burn off. The best sustaining source of energy though? FAT. Fat is the big log, the one that takes all night to burn on the fire. When on a low-carb diet, eat plenty of healthy fats like raw nuts, avocados, healthy oils (such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil), and fish. You’ll feel satiated for much longer after your meals, and your energy will be maintained throughout the day. 

Increase vegetables = lower carbohydrates. 
When you add more healthy foods into your diet you won’t feel like you’re missing anything. Another bonus of increasing your vegetable intake and reducing carbohydrates? You will get full faster, and have more sustained energy after meals. Since vegetables also contain high amounts of water, they will also provide an added boost to hydration.  

No matter why you’re considering a low-carb diet, choosing to lower your intake of processed grains and incorporate more nutritious whole foods into your life will do wonders for your health and weight loss goals. 

[Migala, Jessica. “10 Popular Low-Carb Diets, and Their Pros and Cons.” Everyday Health.]

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