At first glance, low-carb eating seems like hard work. The modern diet is rich in carbohydrates and this can make it hard to figure out where to start when you decide to cut back on your carbs.
However, eating fewer carbs gives you a boost in energy, is great for a sense of overall wellbeing, and can help with weight loss or maintenance.
So it’s worth a closer look.
Understand Which Foods are Carb-Rich
Danger foods include some vegetables, so they’re not all your friends. The ones to watch out for include potatoes and beets. Low-carb veg includes broccoli and cauliflower, which is available as pre-prepared vegetable rice, very convenient when you’re super busy.
Bread, pasta, rice and oats are all rich in carbs, and even some fruit is best avoided if you’re eating a low-carb diet to lose weight. These include bananas, mangos and dates.
What else can you eat that’s low-carb? Look for:
- Lean meat.
- Strawberries, blueberries and apples.
- Plain yoghurt and cream, or any unsweetened dairy.
There are lots more, of course, but even in that short list there is a big range of variety in low-carb foods.
Go Slow and Make it Easy
Changing eating habits involves a lot more than simply making alternative diet choices. While choosing healthier options is important, so is taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing.
We’re creatures of habit, and when we force too big a change or too many changes all at once, the mind rebels. Especially if you start feeling deprived, and craving favorite foods you’re trying to cut back on.
So small changes at first is the best way forward. Try these strategies:
- Choose one part of your daily diet and see if you can reduce your consumption. Maybe you love fizzy beverages or flavored milks? Just focus on having fewer of those, replacing some with water, tea or coffee without sugar. Try almond or coconut milk instead of dairy.
- When you’ve had some success with that, tackle something else. Maybe confectionery is your weakness? Reduce how many cakes and pastries you eat and satisfy the need to nibble with an apple or some nuts and dried fruit.
- Move on when you’re comfortable with those changes. Try replacing some carb-rich staples in daily meals such as replacing potato mash with cauliflower mash. If you use riced cauliflower for the mash it’s even quicker and easier than traditional mashed potato.
The general idea is not to try and change a carb rich diet all at once. Remember, you’re not just changing your eating habits for today, you’re hopefully going to make it a lifelong lifestyle change, so take all the time you need to form new eating habits.
Planning for meals is a great help, not just when you’re trying to make diet changes but for any other time too. When you know what you’re going to eat through the week, you can make sure you buy everything you need in one shopping trip, saving time and money by not running to the shops every day for top ups.
Decide what you’ll eat each day for family meals and work or school lunch snacks, figure out what ingredients you need, make a list and get it all at once. If inspiration fails, search online for tasty low-carb meal ideas.
You can factor in time savers and make sure you have them in the cupboard ready to go.
Get Familiar with Ingredient Lists
Ingredient lists on the back of packaged food are the best guide to carbohydrate levels. You’ll get more accurate information from the small print on the back than you will from the marketing message on the front of the package.
Look for the total carbohydrate content of the package for a quick guide. But also look for sugar content, since sugar tends to be high in carbs. Not all sugar is labeled as sugar, so watch out for names such as fructose, dextrose and lactose. They’re all sugars.
Some packaged, pre-prepared foods are specifically designed to be low-carb. Riced broccoli, riced cauliflower or riced sweet potato is just veg, with nothing added. These products are also really versatile since you can add them to salads or combine with rice to make side dishes that are lower in carbs but also tasty.
If you want to give it a go, just make a small start. Take it easy, one step at a time, making small changes. And don’t beat yourself up for backtracking. No one is saying you can never eat another cake or enjoy some mashed potato. Carbs are an important part of a balance diet, but too many are not a good thing.