When people first try to reduce their carbs, they find it hard to give up the convenience of all those grains. What do you eat instead of sandwiches for lunch? How do you give up pasta or rice as a dinner-time staple? What do you eat instead of cereal or muffins or pancakes for breakfast? Or, they can’t imagine giving up their sweet tooth. How do you go without dessert????!!!
If any of that describes you, then this post is for you. This is the culmination of all the Real Food low-carb advice I’ve given to folks over the years — the definitive guide of handy tips to help you with your adjustment.
For the record, I’m not currently on a true low-carb diet. I eat somewhere between 100-150 grams of carbs per day. To someone still addicted to eating starches or grains at every meal, that probably does seem low-carb. Trust me, it’s not. If you want to lose weight and use up your fat stores, check out the info in yesterday’s post on how to safely enter ketosis on a diet consisting of 50-80 grams of carbs per day.
Everyone will do this a bit differently, but here are the tips the most people I’ve talked to have found the most useful when trying to get down to that fat-burning range:
Low-Carb Breakfast Tips
1) Eggs are your friends. They taste great with extra fat on them (butter & bacon grease are my morning favorites), and they cook fast! Get creative:
- Eggs can be scrambled with onions, peppers, & tomatoes, but they can also be scrambled with spinach or kale.
- Omelets are fun. I make mine with leftover meats or cheese.
- Use herbs! Salt & pepper are good as far as they go, but try an omelet or a baked egg made with rosemary & basil.
- Take them “to-go” by making them portable. Bake a batch in muffin-tins. Pre-fill the tins with grated cheese, chopped veggies, and bits of bacon or other left over meats, then pour the stirred eggs on top. Bake them in the tins, let cool, remove, and PRESTO! You’ve got portable breakfasts.
- Poach them in your leftovers — stews, sauces, broths. So yummy!
- Eat the yolks raw in smoothies. For lower-carb smoothie options, use coconut milk, kefir, or yogurt for the liquid and be sure to add in a low-sugar fruit like berries instead of something super-sweet like bananas or pineapples. Blend in avocados, nut butters, cocoa or vanilla extract.
2) Go coconut! Coconut flour is low in carbs and makes excellent waffles, pancakes, and muffins. Use low-sugar fruits like berries to make your “syrup” or sweeten up your muffins. Check out this cookbook full of coconut-flour recipes.
Low-Carb Lunch Tips
1) Leftovers make life easy! It can be as simple as eating the same thing you ate for dinner the night before, or you can get creative. Keep your meats & veggies separate when you cook them for dinner, mixing them only on your dinner plates as you serve them. Then store them separately in your fridge. After a few days of doing this, you’ll have a variety of meats and cooked vegetables. Mix & match your leftovers with different sauces and it’s like eating a whole new meal.
2) Eat salads. Big ones. Pile them with whatever vegetables turn you on and top with a source of protein. That can be leftover taco meat, leftover bits of diced steak, leftover pulled chicken, leftover diced pork chops, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, tuna, nuts, you get the picture. Dress the salad with something REALLY fattening. I make all my own salad dressings on-the-go with whatever inspires me. Sour cream or enzyme-rich mayonnaise mixed with healthy oils make for a tasty, creamy base to which you can add various herbs or spices. Check out this Bacon, Avocado, & Egg Salad to see what I’m talking about.
Low-Carb Dinner Tips
1) Replace rice with grated cauliflower! It cooks in a lot less time, has almost no carbs, and serves well to replace rice in 95% of recipes.
2) You love pasta because of the SAUCES. So keep eating all those sauces, but pour them over your meat & veggies instead of over the pasta.
3) The same thing is true for tacos, fajitas, burritos, and everything else you put in a tortilla. You love it because of what’s INSIDE it, so put the insides in a bowl and enjoy it without the extra carbs.
4) Use “pasta” that’s made from vegetables. Asian markets sell a kelp/seaweed pasta and a mushroom pasta. Or you could use spaghetti squash or stringed zucchini to get your “pasta” fix.
5) Get a good cookbook to jog your creative juices. Most low-carb cookbooks aren’t into Real Food, but The PaleoGrub Cookbook does!
6) What about pizza? How can you give that up? There are quite a few recipes out there for decent cauliflower crusts, or you can do what I do: make pizza soup! All the ingredients I love in my pizza, but with extra “sauce” serving as the soup base.
1) You’ll need to kick your sweet tooth, and it’s best to do that cold-turkey. I promise it only takes a week (two at most)! See How To Cure A Sugar Fiend.
2) If you find yourself craving sweets, eat fat! Cook those eggs in extra butter, drizzle your steamed veggies with bacon grease, stir coconut oil or full-fat raw cream into your hot tea or coffee. Eating more fat will clear your foggy-headed brain and make that carb craving disappear.
1) Pick snack foods you actually like.
3) Explore other cultures. Asian markets have a slew of inexpensive, interesting snack-ish foods that are quite nutrient-dense — everything from dried anchovies (taste like little chips!) to kelp chips fried in palm or coconut oil.
4) Fry your own snacks! Fry cheese in coconut oil or bacon grease. WOW. Fry veggies (I like fried onions & peppers) in coconut oil or lard until crisp.
For recipes and practical instructions for eating this way (also known as “Paleo” eating), I highly recommend the PaleoGrubs Cookbook.
It’s the simplest way to get started, and it includes every kind of recipe you’ll ever need (more than 470 of them!).
Final Notes on Low-Carb Eating
1) Stick to eating Real Food. Don’t buy into the low-carb “alternatives” to things like pre-prackaged snack bars or Splenda.
2) Check out these tips for eating Real Food on a budget.
3) Source your foods well. Check out this series on Healthy Foods: What to Buy. It’s got the low-down on the best options for buying quality meats, eggs, cheeses, seafood, etc.
4) If raw milk is too high in carbs for your low-carb diet, check out these recipes for Healthy Milk Substitutes.
What about all you old pros at eating low-carb? What are the things you wish you had known that would have made the transition easier?