Want to know how to start a low carb diet? Make sure you follow these tips for long term success….
So you want to hop on the low carb bandwagon?
Are you sure that’s what you want to do?
There’s a chance you might feel awful for at least a little while. Are you really ready to fall down the low carb rabbit hole?
It’s going to take discipline. And commitment. Moreover, you’re not going to melt pounds of body fat overnight. And the benefits of better digestion, more energy and mental clarity, too, won’t happen right away.
Still want to go low carb? Ready for a radical transformation? Read on….
How to start a low carb diet the healthy way
Reduce Carb Intake Gradually
How healthy your diet is now will determine how well you adjust to a low carb diet. Eating lots of sugar now? Then you might have a more difficult time switching to a low carb diet. On the other hand, starting a low carb diet will be easier if you’re already limiting sugar, starchy carbs and processed food. And here’s why….
Yeast feeds on sugar. Everybody has yeast in their gut. It’s when there’s too much yeast that it becomes a problem. You’re probably familiar with candida. Candida is an overgrowth of yeast.
If you have excess Candida albicans fungus (fungus is a yeast) and suddenly reduce your carb intake, those yeast aren’t going to be happy. In fact, some of the yeast colony in your gut will die when you go low carb. While this might sound like a good thing, the die-off releases toxins. And when those toxins are released, you’re going to feel lousy. It’s as if the yeast are starving and so are you.
In light of this, if you’re wondering how to start a low carb diet, start slowly.
For example, does a typical day for you now look like this?:
- Cereal for breakfast
- Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with chips for lunch
- Pasta for dinner
Then all three of your meals contain high carb foods. Cutting down cold turkey (not the turkey, but the carbs) will likely result in a bad case of “Keto Flu.” To avoid feeling potentially depressed, sluggish and anxious, lower your carb intake gradually.
Instead of that cereal for breakfast, have some eggs, cottage cheese and one piece of high-fiber toast. After a few days, you can then reduce the amount of carbs you normally have for lunch. Same with dinner a few days after that.
2. Take it easy
Your body is used to burning carbs for energy. If you suddenly switch fuels (your stored body fat) it’s like pouring diesel into a gasoline engine. Your car would be in shock. And so will your body for a few days or so until it gets used to burning ketones for fuel if you reach a state of ketosis.
Ketosis is when your body is primarily burning fatty acids instead of carbs for energy and brain function. If you’re starting a low carb diet, one of the worst things you can do is exercise.
Sure, go for leisurely walks. However, it’s best to avoid strenuous exercise for the first couple weeks of your low carb diet. Doing high intensity cardio or weight training will be a shock to your body while you’re starting a low carb diet. Furthermore, you probably won’t have the energy to power through a hardcore workout while you’re first getting used to a low carb diet.
3. Fill your belly with fiber
Low carb doesn’t mean no carb. The best strategy for learning how to start a low carb diet is ditching all carbs that cause inflammation. Anything with added sugar is inflammatory.
Thankfully, it’s now easy to eliminate any packaged food with added sugars. That’s because labels now require companies to include the amount of added sugars under where the label says ‘total carbohydrates.’ You can cut these carbs out right away or gradually.
Eliminate all beverages with sugar. That includes fruit juice. Obviously, regular soda is a no-no on a low carb diet.
When reading up on how to start a low carb diet, don’t assume you need to quickly eliminate all grains. Some grains convert slowly into sugar, which is the type of carbs you want to keep eating even while on a low carb diet. Furthermore, some grains like oat fiber have zero net carbs. But, if you want to go grain free, it’s better to do it gradually.
But the biggest source of fiber and the healthiest carb you should still eat every day are vegetables. Strive for eating two cups of vegetables a day. Especially, eat green, leafy veggies and cruciferous ones.
One cup of broccoli contains only about 5 grams of carbs. Want to restrict your carb intake to the low end of the spectrum to make sure you get into ketosis? That means you can have roughly 30-50 grams of carbs. However, do the easy math. Having two or three cups of veggies plus a small portion of wild rice or quinoa may keep you in ketosis.
As for fruit, don’t be scared of it. Low-carb fruits like berries contain antioxidants and fiber. Just don’t go overboard as they do contain natural fruit sugar.
In short, eat carbs that were around several generations ago. Veggies, fruits and wild grains all contain fiber. And, there are benefits to consuming fiber. So now that we have a good feel for how to start a low carb diet, let’s take a look at why you need to include smart fats.
4. Eat smart fats
Despite the abundance of information online, there are still far too many people who believe some healthy fats are bad for you. In particular, saturated fat. But keep in mind virtually all foods with fat contain some saturated fat. Even olive oil, one of the healthiest foods on the planet contains saturated fat.
Saturated fat is only bad for you if it becomes spoiled. Any fat that gets spoiled is bad for you, not just saturated fat. How does saturated fat go bad? Cooking meat for too long (blackened or charred meat) is one common example. Saturated fat, if it comes from an all-natural source (not from heavily-processed food) will not cause heart disease. Need proof?
In learning how to start a low carb diet, you might have to adjust your mindset about your relationship with fat. Eating fat will not make you fat. On the contrary, if you’re going low carb, you’ll quickly melt your own body fat.
Through trial and error, you’ll discover the best ratio at each meal. This means that for breakfast, you might do best on a meal that’s 75% fat. In other words, three-quarters of your plate should consist of natural fat. For lunch, it might be 50% and dinner also 50%.
Which brings us to the next two tips for learning how to start a low carb diet….
5. Time your carb intake
The earlier you eat your carbs, the more time you’ll have to burn them off. Many people don’t eat enough during the day and then indulge with a carb-heavy meal at dinner to make up for the caloric deficit. Thus, make sure you’re eating enough carbs at breakfast and lunch so you won’t binge at night.
6. Keep a food journal
One of the best ways to start a low carb diet is by keeping a food journal. With apps these days, it’s very easy to do it. If you’re a data junky, many of the apps will even count calories and carbs for you to keep track. But do and try to enjoy each meal without obsessing about net carbs. You can try an app like Senza which is available on Google Play and iTunes. It was created for those on a ketogenic diet.
If you keep a food journal, you’ll eventually learn when you should eat, what you should eat and how much of each food you should eat. You’ll learn the ideal macronutrient ratio of each meal. After a few weeks, you’ll be able to prepare meals with the best percentage of fat, protein and carbs. For most people on a low carb diet, dietary fat will be the leading macronutrient. Second most is protein and third, of course, will be carbs.
The primary thing you need to learn when looking at how to start a low carb diet is what foods are allowed on the plan. At first, it can be confusing, so let’s go over some basics.
Low carb diet foods
Eat lots of fat. Avocados, walnuts, wild salmon, sardines, organic or raw cheese and high fat dairy. Grass-fed beef. Pasture-raised chicken. Lots of California extra virgin olive, preferably certified by the California Olive Oil Council. Other wild or sustainably-raised fish. Other nuts and seeds. Coconut oil. Desserts with coconut flour or almond flour.
And remember, veggies are great low carb diet foods as well. Try to eat seasonally. In fall and winter, pumpkin and squash will keep you satisfied on a low carb diet. If you don’t eat enough low carb vegetables, you won’t be getting enough minerals in your diet. You can’t burn fat effectively without adequate mineral intake. And that’s one of the best things about being on a low carb diet.
It’s recommended to stay away from legumes (beans) and grains like quinoa and wild rice when discussing how to start a low carb diet. The carb content of these foods can potentially knock you out of ketosis. However you might be able to have small amounts as long as you keep net carbs low enough to meet your goals. Although some legumes like peanuts, can be lower in carbs, may choose to avoid them completely on a keto diet.
For example, quinoa contains 17 grams of net carbs. There are 20 grams of total carbs, three of which come from fiber, hence 17 net carbs. This amount is for one-half cup. If you’re trying to stay under 50 grams of carbs, that half cup of quinoa will consume most of your carbs. And, it’s generally recommended to stick at or below 10g net carbs to prevent a blood sugar spike.
Low carb diet recipes
When you think of recipes, you might think Italian. And when you think Italian, you think pasta. But there’s tons of low carb recipes that don’t sacrifice taste despite ditching most of the net carbs. Consider pasta. Many low carb recipes use spaghetti squash as a carb surrogate.
Even noodle soup has a miracle low carb alternative. Or, you can learn how to make zoodles zucchini noodles work for recipes like this low carb chicken noodle soup.
Virtually any recipe normally with lots of carbs can be substituted for one of the many low carb recipes here at Low Carb Yum. Learning how to start a low carb diet requires becoming familiar with alternatives to high-starch and high-sugar carbs. Be patient, you’ll quickly learn low carb versions.
Low carb diet weight loss
If you want to know how to get started on low carb and lose lots of weight, heed this warning. First, you’ll likely be ecstatic. You’ll probably lose lots of weight in the beginning. However, once your body adjusts to burning ketones for fuel, your weight loss will taper off.
If you want to break the weight loss plateau, some have found a low carb diet cheat day can help. Don’t go crazy and eat huge bowlfuls of pasta. Instead, eat more healthy grains or high-fiber bread than usual. Then, a couple of hours after eating a higher-carb meal, go for a brisk hike or do some interval training exercise. This often helps smash through your weight loss plateau and helps you to feel great.
How to start a low carb diet ultimately depends on your goals and your personality. If you’re a type-A personality, perhaps you’ll thrive by paying attention to metrics such as total daily net carbs. However, if your goal is just general health, ditching bread, pasta, beer, all foods with added sugar will likely be all it takes to have you eating low carb and reduce your chances for developing chronic disease.