To follow a low carb diet, you must reduce the number of carbohydrate grams you eat in a day. That is an obvious statement, but what does that look like, and what can you eat? In this post, I share a full day of eating a low carb diet for those who are just getting started.
Low Carb Diet for Beginners – At-A-Glance
- Breakfast: A smoothie made with low-sugar fruits (i.e., avocado and strawberries)
- Lunch: A low-carb/high-fat salad
- Dinner: Chicken stir fry with homemade sauce
- Dessert: Full-fat yogurt with berries
Starting Low Carb? Eat This Today! [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- How many carbs can you eat on a low-carb or keto diet?
- 4 low-carb recipes for beginners!
- Low-carb beginners dos and don’ts.
How Many Carbs for Low Carb or Keto?
Many things can cause confusion when you start a low carb diet. One of the main issues is how many grams of carbs to eat? There is low carb dieting, and there is keto dieting. The difference between low carb and keto is the level of carbs. While the cut-off points are not fully agreed upon, you can think of a low carb diet as a day of eating that does not contain more than 125 total grams of carbohydrates.
To be in the keto range, you need to drop your carb grams to no more than 50 total carbs for the day. For this post, I am going to show you a daily diet that splits those values. The recipes that make up this full day of eating add up to 75 total grams of carbohydrates.
Low Carb Breakfast for Beginners
One way to start your low carb day of eating is with a smoothie that contains low-sugar fruits with a good fiber-to-carb ratio. Avocado and strawberries fit those criteria. For instance, you can whip up a smoothie by placing half of an avocado and a half cup of frozen strawberries into a blender along with a cup of almond milk, a handful of spinach, and a tablespoon of almond butter.
This drink contains 23 grams of carbs, but almost 10 of those carbs are from fiber. That is a good fiber to carb ratio. That fiber is going to slow the absorption of the smoothie, keeping hunger away longer.
The slow absorption will also prevent the blood sugar and insulin spike you get when you eat something refined for breakfast, like a muffin. When insulin is high, it prevents the release of fat from the fat cells. So, right from the start of the day, you have a convenient food that tastes good and keeps your blood sugar steady.
Low Carb Lunch for Beginners
As you are stepping into your low carb lifestyle, there is no better meal to include than a salad, and there are a couple of great reasons for that. For one, salad greens are low in carbs but provide a lot of hunger-satisfying volume. For instance, the four cups of greens in this salad contain only six carbs, four of which are fiber.
Also, a salad provides you with the perfect vehicle to bring healthy fats into your daily diet. One of the biggest mental hurdles you’ll face when you shift to low carb eating is allowing yourself to increase the amount of fat you eat.
We were told for a year that eating fat makes you fat, and it is hard to get away from that mindset. However, adding healthy, high-quality fats to your diet helps your body transition away from a primarily carb-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism.
This salad is topped with many healthy fats, including the other half of the avocado from breakfast, a hard-boiled egg, feta cheese crumbles, walnuts, and a full-fat salad dressing made with avocado oil.
That adds up to 36 grams of fat. The salad also contains a few slices of apple that provide a crunch and a bit of sweetness. The apple and greens contribute most of the 22 grams of carbohydrates and 9 grams of fiber in this lunch.
Low Carb Dinner for Beginners
For dinner, stir fry is a quick and easy choice for beginners, especially if you utilize frozen stir fry vegetables and a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. To make stir fry, cooked a bag of frozen vegetables in a tablespoon of avocado oil, add the pre-cooked chicken and a quick homemade sauce.
One thing that may surprise you when you start a low carb diet is that many sauces and condiments contain sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Those simple carbs can sabotage your weight loss. Fortunately, you can often whip up a homemade, low-carb version. For instance, the stir fry sauce in this example menu contains a ¼ cup of chicken broth, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
Low Carb Dessert for Beginners
As you transition to a low carb lifestyle, yogurt can be enjoyed as a dessert or snack. However, you need to choose yogurt carefully. The vast majority of single-serve yogurts in the dairy aisle of your grocery store are low in fat. When they removed the fat, they removed the flavor, which they replace with sugar or sweeteners.
To support your low carb lifestyle, you’ll want to choose plain, full-fat yogurt and then add your own ingredients at home. Higher milk fat yogurt may only be available in larger containers, but they keep well in your refrigerator, even after opening.
Calories and Macros
The meals shared in this post add up to just over 1,200 calories, which will be low for some. This works well for demonstration purposes because it is easier to add low-carb/high-fat items rather than subtract them. When we break down the macros for this day of eating, we see that it contains 75 total grams of carbohydrates, making up 25% of the daily calories with another 25% coming from protein and just over 50% of the day’s calories coming from healthy fats.
Many low carb beginners will find this macronutrient breakdown a comfortable starting place when coming from a high-carb lifestyle. It allows you to step into a low carb diet rather than dive into a very low carb/keto diet. When you start this way, you may still experience some fatigue as your body adapts but lessen many of the “keto-flu” symptoms that result from a more dramatic change.
Low-Carb Beginner Do’s and Don’ts
This full day of low carb eating contains three small fruit servings: blueberries, strawberries, and apple slices. When you are just getting started on your low carb lifestyle, you may find that your body tolerates some fruit. However, everyone’s tolerance for fruit is different, so you be happiest with your long-term results if you limit your fruit intake.
The sample menu does not contain bread items like toast or a bagel. A slice of whole-wheat toast contains about 16 carbohydrates. If you’re looking to bring your carb intake below the upper threshold of 125 grams, you could technically include a piece of toast in your low-carb diet.
However, bread is refined, so it will quickly get absorbed into your bloodstream, causing the blood sugar and insulin spikes that encourage fat storage. There are breads that are advertised as low-carb or no-carb. This is accomplished by manipulating the ingredients to reduce the net carb count. On paper, that seems ideal.
However, these processed foods tend to be absorbed into the body quickly and, depending on what has been added, may cause an increase in blood sugar and insulin. When processed foods are utilized, counting net carbs rather than total carbs can easily become a trap that derails your weight loss. That is why I am sharing the total carb content for this low carb menu.
Some whole foods are higher in carbs but can be worked into a beginner’s low carb diet due to their high content of fiber and micronutrients. Beans are a good example. Beans are whole, nutrient-dense foods, but they also contain a fair amount of carbohydrates.
To give you an idea, a half cup of black beans contains about 22 grams of carbs and nine grams of fiber. If you account for those carbohydrates and you enjoy beans, you can work them into your overall daily diet as you transition away from a high-carb lifestyle.
A low-carb diet made up of whole foods is enjoyable and effective for weight loss. In this post, I provided a full day’s menu that contains a variety of acceptable food choices. There are many more healthy low-carb foods to keep you feeling satisfied. I have a list of 100 low carb foods displayed on a single pdf that you can download and print for free from my blog post titled, “What Can I Eat on a Low Carb Diet.”
Thank you for reading and have a great week!
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.