If you’re following a low-carb diet to lose weight, you’ve probably figured out that not all foods low in carbohydrates are created equal.
In other words, eating a low-carb diet doesn’t always provide fast and sustainable weight loss. If your version of low-carb includes large servings of high-fat animal products, processed meats and adding butter or coconut oil to your coffee, your food choices could be doing more harm than good.
When it comes to eating fewer carbs for weight loss, it’s wise to focus on lean proteins and vegetables that are low in carbs and high in fiber to keep, which will keep you feeling full and provide other added benefits.
Here are some of the best low-carb foods for losing weight.
Salmon is an excellent zero-carb choice; it provides heart-healthy fats and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, which are a type of unsaturated fatty acid, may help decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and decrease your risk of heart failure or stroke, per the Mayo Clinic.
A 3-ounce piece of cooked salmon packs nearly 22 grams of protein in 196 calories, per the USDA. Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients (the other two being carbs and fat), so a protein-packed choice like salmon helps you feel full longer (without the saturated fat you’d get from proteins like red meat).
Chicken breast has zero carbohydrates and is an excellent source of protein. One medium chicken breast provides 193 calories and 36 grams of protein, per the USDA.
Research shows that protein plays a major role in weight loss. An April 2015 review in Clinical Nutrition found that eating a higher-protein diet — containing between 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of a person’s body weight per day — provided improvements in body weight and appetite.
A kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds. So, a person who weighed 180 pounds, for example, would want to aim for between 98 and 130 grams of daily protein.
Too much math? There’s a simpler solution: The analysis found that eating 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal provided similar effects.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula can add volume and flavor to your meals without adding many calories or carbohydrates. Leafy greens are a great pick because they allow you to add more food to meals to spark benefits, instead of taking food away.
Studies have found that doing just this — adding voluminous veggies to meals — can help people lose weight. When you break down the nutrition profile of greens, it’s easy to see how they can provide so much good: One cup of raw spinach, for example, contains just 6 calories and less than 1 gram of carbohydrates — with more than half of the carbohydrates coming from fiber, per the USDA.
Eggs are a versatile low-carb pick. For an easy grab-and-go option, hardboil a batch and eat a couple for breakfast or one as a snack. Don’t forget to look beyond breakfast, too: Eggs can make a delicious addition to salads, avocado toasts and even zucchini noodles.
One large egg contains 70 calories, 6 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, per the USDA.
Beyond protein, eggs are a healthy source of vitamin D, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Because of their stellar nutrition profile, they’re a great option for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Brussels sprouts are considered nonstarchy vegetables, per the American Diabetes Association. These veggies are naturally low in carbs and calories — 8 grams of carbs and 39 calories per cup, per the USDA — which makes them an excellent addition to any weight-loss plan.
Other examples of nonstarchy veggies include cauliflower, celery, carrots, cabbage and zucchini. Like leafy greens, these veggies can be piled on your plate to add volume; they’ll increase your satiety and provide essential vitamins and minerals without adding many calories, carbs or fat.
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, offering fiber and antioxidants with very few carbohydrates. One 3-ounce serving of broccoli contains 25 calories, 4 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber, per the USDA.
The majority of its carbohydrates are part of broccoli’s fiber content, which make it a great choice. Fiber is the indigestible part of a plant food that doesn’t get absorbed by the body, so it fills us up but doesn’t stick around.
Enjoy this versatile veggie as a side or make it the meal’s main attraction — there is truly no wrong way!
Like chicken breast, roasted turkey breast is an excellent source of protein (26 grams in a 3-ounce serving, per the USDA) with zero carbohydrates and only 125 calories.
Swap in turkey for recipes that call for ground beef and you’ll cut down on both calories and fat while still getting your protein fix.
When trying to lose weight, it’s best to bake, broil, grill or steam lean sources of protein like turkey. This will help limit calories from fat that add up in cooking methods that rely on oil.