If you are thinking about starting a low carb diet, first you need to know that carbohydrates are one of the three major types of chemical compounds that humans consume in large quantities.
The three major chemical compounds (also called macronutrients) are carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Low carb or low carbohydrate diets restrict the consumption of carbohydrates to help lose weight. So, while foods such as bread and pasta are restricted or eliminated, foods such as meat, eggs, fish, cheese and nuts which have protein and fat are consumed.
How Do Low Carb Diets Work
The idea of a low carb diet is that when you consume less carbs, you reduce the amount of glucose in your system and after you body uses up the small amount of glucose for fuel, it starts burning fat as the energy source, resulting in weight loss. When this is taken to an extreme, in other words, if your body is constantly using fat as the energy source, you enter a state called ketosis.
Low carb diet programs are broad in concept and encompass many different diets. Some try to limit carbs to a specific amount (such as to –grams) while others try to limit to a specific percentage (such as to –% of your total food consumption). Among these diets, there are also differences in how MUCH they restrict carbohydrates. Some restrict it to as low as 5% and others up to 45%. The US Dietary Guidelines suggest that 50% to 65% of your calories come from carbohydrates, so any diet plan that restricts carbs to less than 50% is typically regarded as a low carb diet plan.
Below is a list of popular low carb diet plans:
- Atkins Diet
- Paleo Diet – Caveman Diet
- Protein Power
- Sonoma Diet
- South Beach Diet
- Sugar Busters!
- Zone Diet
- The Dukan Diet
Starting a Low Carb Diet
When starting a low carb diet, keep in mind that basically you are trying to eliminate or drastically reduce starchy and sugary foods. Here is a list of popular food items you should eliminate or drastically reduce.
What NOT To Eat On A Low Carb Diet
- Baked Goods
Naturally, in place of these foods, you will be eating more meat, fish, cheeses, nuts, vegetables (except potatoes), and fruits. It is recommended that you eat cheeses and nuts in moderation, for weight loss. Once you start getting used to eliminating the above foods, you can refine it even more by choosing lower carb, lower calorie vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and nuts. However the above list is a great start, and for some people the only thing they need to do to achieve their individual goal.
Substitutes for High Carb Foods
Here are some ideas of substitute foods when switching to a low-carb diet.
In place of cereal, bread, muffins or bagels, eat eggs. You can also add an apple or a handful of fresh strawberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries.
For bread, rice, or potatoes
Steamed, mashed cauliflower with butter is a delicious substitute for bread, rice, or potatoes. Not only do they look like mashed potatoes, they don’t taste too differently either. You will be surprised how much they leave you feeling full.
Steamed broccoli or carrots with butter, whole or mashed, are other great options.
Flour and baked goods
Coconut flour and almond flour are popular and delicious alternatives to regular flour. They can be used to make most baked goods as well. Xylitol can be used as a sugar substitute for baking in moderation (it still has two thirds of calories as sugar!). Just don’t feed Xylitol to your pet as it can be deadly!
However, you should eat baked foods in moderation, as these tend to have more calories than fresh vegetables and fruits.
Stevia is a natural sweetener with zero calories that can be best used as a sugar substitute in liquid or semi-liquid foods/drinks such as for sauces, coffee/tea, and yogurt. You can try using Stevia in baked goods as well, but some people may find the aftertaste to be too bitter.
What to Expect When Starting a Low Carb Diet
In the beginning you may experience extreme hunger as the body craves for the carbs it once used to have all the time in abundance. You may also feel weak. Eat lots of vegetables to reduce feelings of hunger and drink lots of liquids. After a while, you should be feeling better as your body adjusts, and best of all, you will start losing weight!