Eating low carb most of the time really helps me manage my blood sugar levels. Here’s a little list to give you a basis of what foods to eat and which ones to avoid when you’re focusing on reducing your carbs.
Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) are all low in sugar and high in antioxidants and other goodies and are my favourite low carb fruits. Berries and Greek yoghurt is a common breakfast of mine when I’m eating low carb.
Lemons and limes are great and add lots of flavour to dishes such as stir fries or salads with avocado, and to low carb desserts such as key lime pie and lemon slice.
Avocado is my go-to in most salads. This wonderful fruit is high in fat, low in carbs, full of good things, and fill you right up. You can even make chocolate mousse with avocado, giving it a beautifully smooth texture.
Coconut, melon, plums, peaches, cherries and kiwi fruit are all medium in sugar so you can still enjoy but in moderation. Oranges, mandarins, watermelon, apples, pears, mangoes and pineapple are getting to the higher level of sugar but you can eat small amounts of these in moderation. Just try not to eat too much in one sitting. A few cherries with some yoghurt or a kiwifruit in your low carb granola is perfectly fine.
Grapes and bananas are high in sugar and I tend to avoid when I’m trying to eat low carb unless I need a sugar hit when by BGLs are low.
Avoid all dried fruits, including dates and raisins.
All non-starchy vegetables that grow above ground are great and should be eaten in abundance.
Some of my favourites are zucchini (courgette), eggplant (aubergine), capsicums (peppers), tomatoes (still confused about whether this is a fruit or vegetable), spinach, kale, all salad leaves, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, green beans, Chinese greens, artichokes, celery, and asparagus.
Enjoy deli foods such as olives, grilled artichokes, roasted capsicum, and grilled eggplant.
Add lots of herbs to your dishes.
Pumpkin and carrots are fine in moderation but contain some carbs.
Even though below ground vegetables such as sweet potato, parsnip, potato, and beetroot are nutritious, be aware that they are also high in carbs.
Eat lots of hearty salads bulked up with protein and good fats. Enjoy courgetti with lots of different sauces such as pesto, tomato, creamy bacon and mushroom, or add to a ramen broth (without the noodles). Enjoy lots of healthy soups and experiment with different ingredients and flavours. Make roasted veggies and pasta-free lasagne made with zucchini slices. Puree cauliflower or grate to make into cauliflower rice to serve alongside stews.
Olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado oil and macadamia nut oil are all good, healthy choices.
Fat from avocado and nuts are good. Throw in some nuts into a salad and cut up an avocado to go with your shaksuka.
You can eat cheese in any form if you can take dairy. Full fat Greek yoghurt is also good. Make a creamy salad dressing by mixing a few tablespoons of full fat Greek yoghurt with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1/2 a teaspoon of mustard. Choose full fat milk as skim milk is higher in lactose sugars, and cream is fine. Cream cheese and cottage cheese are good.
Some dips are good but not all – guacamole, tzatziki and babaganoush and all good but avoid hummus as chickpeas are high in carbs. Watch out for dips that have sunflower oil or canola (rapeseed oil) – these should be avoided. Try to find dips made with olive oil, or make your own.
All nuts are good in moderation, but we aware that cashews and pistachios are higher in carbs so should be eaten in smaller quantities. Nut butters such as peanut butter and almond butter are all good and can be eaten on their own or added to baking as well as dishes such as low carb satay.
Eggs, eggs, eggs. Make frittata, omelettes many ways, simple boiled eggs, fried eggs with bacon, tomato, mushrooms, spinach and avocado, bake an avocado half with an egg, or crack an egg into some leftover mince or veg chilli to make shakshuka.
All meats (try to eat organs as well) and fish.
Nuts also contain protein as does nut milk.
Avoid too many beans, legumes and peas as they are higher in carbs.
Tea, quality coffee (preferably black or with just a dash of cream or milk) and herbal tea are all good.
Lots of water.
Nut milks (unsweetened) and full fat milk.
For something fizzy go for soda water or sparkling mineral water with some slices of fresh lemon, lime, mint or cucumber. Or go for a glass of kombucha.
For alcoholic drinks, stick to spirits such as vodka or gin with soda and fresh lime, or wine (red or dry white), or prosecco/champagne. Tonic is high in sugar and should be avoided as is rum.
Avoid sugary drinks, including juices. It’s not often you can find even a low sugar green juice, unless it doesn’t contain any fruits such as apples (and most of them do).
Try to limit the amount of diets sodas you have. Even though they are low in carbs they are still not a healthy option. One every now and then won’t hurt but don’t make it a daily habit.
If you are craving a little something while you’re on low carb, try some of these options:
Low carb bread or low carb seed crackers with some avocado, butter, sliced tomatoes, nut butter, or cheese…
70% or higher dark chocolate or good quality sugar free chocolate preferably sweetened with stevia.
Low carb and sugar free cookies, cakes, slices made with sweetener (erythritol, stevia, xylitol) and no flour.
Low carb ice cream.
Low carb pancakes or waffles.
Berries with cream or Greek yoghurt is a good go-to that’s quick and easy to whip up.
Beware of ‘no sugar added’ or ‘natural sweeteners only’ on health food labels as these usually have honey, maple syrup, agave, fruit sugars and usually flours added.
A NOTE ON BEANS, PEAS, LENTILS, GRAINS
Peas, beans, legumes, lentils are all still fairly high in carbs, even though they are healthy foods. Quinoa, oats, corn (maize) are still all fairly high in carbs. If I’m not being too strict I might still eat small amounts, such as some oats or quinoa or peas, but definitely not large bowls of it.
WHAT NOT TO HAVE
Chocolate (unless it is sugar free or 70% cocoa or more)
Cocktails (usually quite high in sugar and fruit juices)
Bread in all varieties (unless it’s low carb bread you’ve made yourself)
Pastries, including pies, sausage rolls, croissants
Sugar – this includes honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar
Honey, maple syrup, agave, and other ‘natural’ sweeteners
LOW CARB SUBSTITUTES
When you really, really feel like some toast or pizza or a stack of pancakes…
…you can generally always find a low carb alternative.
You can still eat low carb pizza (try fat head pizza, cauliflower pizza, or zucchini pizza).
Low carb tortillas and breads.
Low carb granola.
Coconut flour or almond flour pancakes. Keto waffles.
Burger without the bun. Or use a portobello mushroom or lettuce leaf instead.
Cakes, biscuits, slices, cheesecake, ice cream… you name it, you can find a low carb version.
Google is your friend. There is a whole low carb community out there and plenty of amazing food bloggers sharing some pretty damn good recipes. Go searching and make yourself an amazing low carb, sugar free carrot cake with lashings of cream cheese frosting before you sink your teeth into that ungratifying, sugar laden, disgusting donut.