The holidays are over and you're probably ready to cut back on high carbohydrate food. I ditched dieting a long time ago because it was easier for me to make good choices a lifestyle, rather than a short-term fix. But this year we ignored any dietary restrictions and enjoyed plenty of bread, cakes, candies to celebrate the season with our guests.
If (like me) you need to take off a few pounds, then one of the best ones to start is a low-carb plan. Here's how to start a low-carb diet.
What is a Low Carb Diet?
This is a diet that lowers the number of carbohydrates you consume in your meals and snacks. You’ll still be eating normal foods, but in a way that takes off the excess weight.
You can still eat many of your favorite foods, including steak, chicken, guacamole, and more – but you’ll prepare your meals so that the carb count is lowered in a way that helps you shed pounds more easily.
Types of Low Carb Diets
Ketogenic Diet – Mediterranean Diet – Diet Atkins Diet – South Beach Diet – Paleo Diet… these are all popular low-carb diets. The one thing they have in common is their focus on limiting carbs and boosting the amount of protein that’s eaten.
Some low-carb diets emphasize limiting the carbs, but not the fat. You can eat foods that are high in fat as long as it’s a good kind of fat, such as avocado or olive oil. These diets ask you to consume mostly meat, vegetables, and even dairy. Whole foods are favored and processed foods are eliminated.
The number of carbs you should get on any of these diets can range in number. It depends on which one you’re following.
How to Start a Low-Carb Diet
This diet is low in carbs but has an emphasis on protein.
It also focuses more on oils like olive oil – the extra virgin variety. With this type of olive oil, it means that it hasn’t undergone any heat treatment and it hasn’t been treated with chemicals, either.
On this diet, followers can eat fruits and vegetables, and of course, the fish or seafood that the diet focuses on. If it’s a refined food, then it shouldn’t be eaten on this low-carb diet.
That means you wouldn’t eat things like refined grains. No matter what the refined grain is in, you wouldn’t eat it. Some pasta contains refined grains, so you would have to study labels and ingredients to be able to avoid this.
You would also need to avoid processed foods, especially meats and any food where sugar was added to it. Your food choices are more along the line of the ones that are found in nature, which don’t contain any additives.
Getting Ready for a Low Carb Diet
Setting Yourself Up For Success
Essential Low Carb Kitchen Tools
What are Macros?
When it comes to low-carb dieting, you might have heard the term macros before. This comes from the word macronutrient. All it means is the types of nutrients you consume on a low-carb diet.
Macros focus on your carbs, proteins, and the fats that you eat. Any low-carb diet that says you need to be aware of the number of macros you’re getting just means you need to know how many grams you’re getting in each of those three main categories.
The number of macros involved in your carbs is going to depend on the number of carbs you’re aiming for in whatever low-carb diet you’re following. Not all low-carb diets are going to have the same number of carbs suggested.
Understanding the Number of Carbs You’re Consuming
There are some low-carb diets that call for a higher amount of grams because they take into consideration external factors that may call for more grams. For example, if you’re involved in a heavy exercise routine, you may need to have a higher carb count than someone who’s only exercising moderately or not at all.
So, it would still be considered low carb even though you were eating more. You might be someone who doesn’t like the idea of taking the weight off quickly, which is what can happen with a low-carb diet.
You might aim to have 100 grams a day. This would lead to weight loss from healthy eating and can also be coupled with exercise. If you want to choose to follow a low-carb diet that only calls for 50 grams, then you can still lose weight in a steady manner.
However, many people want to take the weight off faster than that. They lower their carbs to where it’s around or under the 20-50 gram mark. You can do that and still eat healthily.
Your focus would be more on meat, along with berry fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fats. You can still have high-fat dairy on a 50-gram low-carb diet. Just keep in mind that if you are more physically active, the lower amount of grams may not be suitable for you.
How Will You Feel on a Low-Carb Diet?
You’ll have to pay attention to how your body reacts. Anyone who’s eating low carb should study the glycemic index. This index can quickly show you how many carbs are in the foods that you plan to eat.
Paying attention to this is an easy way to be able to track your grams to keep you from going over or under. In addition to that, knowing the glycemic index of a food can determine how that food will impact your glucose level.
You’ll want to know this if you have a medical condition such as diabetes.
Some low-carb diets consist of eating less than 50 grams consistently to enter ketosis. There are test strips you may want to buy to determine whether your body has entered ketosis.
Getting on a low-carb diet may make you feel a bit lethargic in the very beginning. But a few days later, the energy returns and you feel better than ever and capable of committing to this way of life for the long haul or whenever you need it.
Benefits of the Ketogenic Low Carb Diet
The main gist of eating the keto way is to get your body to the point that it enters ketosis. When you go into ketosis, it means that your glucose levels are lowered. But it also means that your body stops using carbs for the fuel that it needs.
Instead, it’s using ketones to be able to function. Ketones occur in reaction to the fatty acids your body gives in response to the lowered number of carbs you take in. One of the reasons that many people choose to follow the keto diet is because it’s a quick way to shed pounds.
But it also helps the body drop fat. People who are on the diet see a lot of health benefits associated with weight loss. These are things like lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol levels, and lower glucose levels.
Following the Low Carb Lifestyle
Keeping Track of Carbs
You’ll want to pay close attention because the number of carbs that you would want to take in should be as little as 20 or under for each day. There are some well-known eating plans, like the Atkins 20, that you can follow to guide you so that you stick to that amount.
Remember that not all keto diets are the same. Some keto diets don’t focus on total carbs but are instead based on net carbs.
This means it’s the carb tally of whatever you’re eating, but you subtract however many grams of fiber and sugar alcohol that is in the food. The reason for this is that fiber doesn’t cause your body to react with the same food response that a true carb does, since you don’t digest it.
Because you’re eating such a low amount of carbs, you will lose weight following the keto under 20 plan, even if you’re not taking part in any type of exercise. Because of the lowered amount of carbs, what many dieters do to maintain success is they break eating up so that every couple of hours, they’re eating something.
If the thought of tracking your carbs, net carbs, and macros seems like a lot of work, there are Nutrition Logs with Macro Trackers to help you easily keep up with everything.
Dealing with Sugar Cravings
When you start following a diet, cravings can sometimes seem to intensify. There’s a good reason why that happens.
When you consume sugar, the body releases some feel-good hormones.
They make you happy and calm and this endorphin rush can be addicting. It’s no wonder why people struggle to break the sugar habit. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for dealing with sugar cravings.
You can successfully overcome them so that they don’t make you miserable or wreck your diet goals. A sugar craving can hit when you’re bored, but you may not necessarily have a true hunger for it. You just want the sweet taste because your body has been conditioned to have it.
Healthy Sugar Substitutes
What you can do instead is when a craving hits, suck on a sugar-free mint or hard candy. You’ll still get that sweet taste even though there’s no actual sugar in the ingredients.
This will fool your body and satisfy the craving. Sometimes, though, you may feel nothing can quiet your craving. That’s when you need to give in.
But this doesn’t mean you necessarily give your body the kind of sugar that can lead to weight gain.
Instead, you give it something natural. Have some fruit instead. The natural sugar that’s found in low-carb fruits like berries can help end the sugar craving and break a sugar habit as well.
Plus, you’ll get more nutritional value and health benefits from eating the fruit. Not all the fruit that you eat has to be fresh either. Having some fresh fruit might be more difficult if you’re on the go.
If that’s the case, you can have something like a low-carb Greek yogurt drink that you make at home. You’ll get the sweet taste without the high carb content and it’ll be enough to end the sugar craving.
Do You Have a Sweet Tooth for Chocolate?
It might surprise you, but on a low-carb diet, even one like keto, you can have dark chocolate. If the chocolate is 90% cocoa, it’s usually lower in carbs than chocolate such as milk chocolate.
You can find many dark chocolate bars that have just a few net carbs. My favorite brand is Lily's. It has an excellent creamy texture that melts in your mouth.
There are also many wonderful keto fat bombs you can make to satisfy your cravings. Some of them resemble delicious chocolate mousse or peanut butter cups, and you can’t tell much of a difference when it’s made from sugar substitutes.
Conclusion of How To Start a Low Carb Diet
You’ll be pleased knowing you can eat most of your favorite foods, and continue dropping pounds quickly and easily on a low-carb diet You can adjust your carb count whenever you see the scale stall to help you shake off a plateau. When you notice how amazing nutrient-rich food can make you feel, that's when the magic happens.