Doctors may recommend that their patients try a low carbohydrate diet for many reasons. Not only can a restricted carb intake help with weight loss, but it can also be used as a technique to manage some health conditions, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Depending on a patient’s specific health goals, a person on a low carb diet may limit their daily intake to as many as 100 grams or as few as 20 grams of carbohydrates. When trying to restrict carbohydrate consumption so severely, it’s helpful to know which high carb foods to avoid eating.
If you’ve tried a low carb diet before, you may feel that sticking to it can be difficult. The list of high carb foods contains not only a lot of indulgent favorites, but also quite a few common items that may have previously been a staple of your diet. Many go-to meals and snacks may now be off limits if you want to achieve your goals. Knowing which foods to eat and which ones to cut back on can help you plan your meals and make healthier decisions. The following list contains six types of high carb foods to avoid, along with suggestions for lower carb alternatives you can use in their place.
1. Sugary Foods
Most people already think of many of the foods in this category as unhealthy treats. Candy, soft drinks, and sweet desserts such as cake, chocolate, and ice cream are all expected entries on a list of carbs to avoid to lose weight. But sugar can sneak its way into surprising places. Fruit juice, sports drinks, and many breakfast cereals are also high in added sugars and should be avoided when on a low carbohydrate diet.
Those with a sweet tooth can still satisfy their dessert cravings while reducing their carb intake. Instead of typical dessert food, have a piece of fruit after dinner. Just remember that fruit is also high in natural sugars, so limit yourself to one piece per day.
2. Bread, Grains, and Pasta
Both white and whole wheat bread contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, as do pasta, rice, and grains such as oats. It’s best to limit consumption of these foods as much as possible when on a low carb diet.
Cutting bread, grains, and pasta out of your diet may sound intimidating, since these foods form the base of a typical meal for many people. Eating oatmeal for breakfast, packing a sandwich for lunch, and cooking spaghetti for a quick weeknight dinner can be hard habits to break. Luckily, plenty of recipe websites and cookbooks have been created for people who are trying to meet their carbohydrate goals. Your doctor or nutritionist can also make helpful suggestions on how to structure low carb meals.
3. Starchy Vegetables
Vegetables are generally a good choice for those on a low carb diet. Their high fiber content can help with weight loss and aid digestion. However, corn and root vegetables like potatoes, yams, and beets have a high starch content and are best avoided. Choose non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, squash, bell peppers, and asparagus to get your fill of fiber and other nutrients while still moderating your intake of carbs.
4. Beans and Legumes
The inclusion of beans on this list proves that there are plenty of healthy high carb foods out there. Packed with protein and fiber, beans are a nutritious choice for people on most kinds of diets. However, they and other legumes such as chickpeas and lentils are also high in carbohydrates. Eat them in moderation when on a low carb diet. Animal products such as meat, eggs, and fish can be used to supplement your daily protein intake, while avocados, nuts, and vegetables like broccoli and artichokes should be eaten to ensure that you’re getting enough fiber.
5. Fat-Free Salad Dressings
Salad, the stereotypical health food, is generally a great choice on a low carb diet. Nutritious vegetables and proteins like eggs, chicken, and nuts can be used to make delicious meals that are low in carbs. Low-fat or fat-free salad dressings sound like they should be healthier than the full-fat varieties. But as it turns out, they are actually higher in carbohydrates, containing around 10 grams in just two tablespoons. Dress your salad in creamy, full-fat dressing to minimize your carbohydrate intake. Alternately, mix olive oil and vinegar together for a healthy and flavorful alternative.
Beer isn’t called “liquid bread” for nothing. An average can contains 13 grams of carbohydrates, which is comparable to a slice of white bread. Additionally, consuming carbs in liquid form makes weight gain more likely. This is because eating solid food prompts a person to compensate for the food intake by eating less later in the day. Liquids elicit a weaker compensatory response, meaning more calories are consumed overall.
Although beer should be avoided, people on a low carb diet can still enjoy alcoholic beverages. Dry wines are very low in carbohydrates. Liquor is carb free, so a mixer with a low sugar content can be used to make a low carb cocktail.
Milk is another healthy high carbohydrate food. Although it contains nutrients like calcium and Vitamin B, milk is also high in sugar. A little milk in a cup of coffee is unlikely to pose a problem except for those on the strictest of diets, but you can use cream or half-and-half as low carb alternatives. Those who enjoy drinking milk by the glass or who use it to make smoothies should try dairy-free milk substitutes, like almond milk or coconut milk, instead.
Remember, it’s important to talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your diet. With a network of over 700 specialist and primary care physicians, Meritage Medical Network provides excellent health care to our patients in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa counties. Our doctors are passionate about helping you improve your wellness, whether that means altering your diet or making other lifestyle changes to reach a healthy weight. Diabetic patients may also benefit from our individual nutrition counseling services.