If you’re following a low-carb diet, it’s not just the number of grams of carbohydrates that counts. For the healthiest diet, you’re going to have to pay attention to where those carbs are coming from. This includes whole grains, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruits, which all contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Depending on what type of low-carb diet you’re on, you’ll have varying amounts of carbs available to you each day. In turn, that influences what sources you consume. For instance, beans are too carb-rich to fit on very low-carb diets, like keto, while non-starchy veggies will likely be a better fit.
Regardless of which eating style you follow, there are ways to maximize nutrition while hitting your macros on a low-carb diet:
Very few people eat enough fibre. It is a nutrient that helps keep cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels in a healthy range. So focysing on fiber-rich carbs (e.g., avocado, raspberries, artichokes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts) naturally improves diet quality to provide more stable blood sugar, consistent energy levels and enhanced mental and physical performance.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for 8–10 grams of fiber with each meal.
2 Net Carbs
If you have a tight carb goal or range you’re looking to stay in, you might’ve thought to yourself: this is impossible. That’s why the concept of “net carbs” can be your friend.
To calculate net carbs, take the grams of total carbs and subtract the grams of fibre and sugar alcohols. (If the sugar alcohols are over 5 grams, you subtract half.)
Fibre and sugar alcohols are the parts of the food that are undigested, which is why they seemingly get a free pass. This is just another reason to eat high-fibre carbs (snacking on nuts instead of chips, for instance), since as the net carbs go down as the fibre goes up.
You’ll still want to stick to whole foods as much as possible. There are many high-fibre or sugar-free packaged foods that advertise low net carbs on the label. These bars, snack foods, or desserts might not add a lot of carbs to your diet, but they’re also largely devoid of nutrients.
3 Portion Control
You don’t have to completely shun sweet potatoes, beans or whole-wheat pasta. Yes, they do have more carbohydrates compared to non-starchy sources. A cup (150g) of black beans, for example, has 23.1 grams of net carbs.
However, you can still include them if you limit portion sizes. By minimizing portion sizes instead of completely eliminating these foods from your diet, it makes sticking with low-carb more sustainable and enjoyable.
Non-starchy veggies are low-calorie nutritional powerhouses and naturally low-carb. Things like leafy greens, bok choy, spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, snap peas, celery, cherry tomatoes and onions should make up half of your plate.
Depending on how low your low-carb diet is, you may have to count these carefully and be strategic with which ones you focus on.
5 Choose Fruit Wisely
Completely removing fruit from your diet because you’re low-carb isn’t necessary. In fact, fruit is nature’s candy, so take advantage of that.
Fruits are high-quality carbohydrates with a lot of nutritional value and good fibre content, too. You can’t replace the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre, such as pectin, in fruits. Just avoid those that are high in sugar, like dried fruit, grapes and overripe fruits (like brownish bananas), and go for lower-sugar options like berries.