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People often use low carb diets to promote weight loss and stabilize blood sugar levels. Though guidelines can vary, low carb diets typically limit foods high in carbs or added sugar.

A low carb diet restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in pasta, bread, and sugary foods. It’s high in protein, fat, and vegetables.

There are many different types of low carb diets.

This is a detailed meal plan for a low carb diet. It explains what to eat and what to limit. It also includes a sample low carb menu for 3 days.

Low carb diets have been associated with several health benefits. People often use them to support weight loss and manage blood sugar levels.

There are several types of low carb diets, and they differ based on the amount of carbs permitted each day. A typical low carb diet usually contains less than 26% of total daily calories from carbs. For those following a 2000-calorie diet, this equals fewer than 130 grams (g) of carbs per day.

Generally, low carb diets limit foods high in carbs or added sugar, including sweets, starches, and refined grains.

However, the foods you’re permitted on a low carb diet can vary depending on your daily carb allotment. Even higher carb foods like fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains can fit into some low carb diets in moderation.

What is an example of a low carb diet?

Here are a few of the most popular low carb eating patterns:

  • Ketogenic (keto) diet: This low carb, high fat eating pattern limits daily carb intake to less than 5-10% of total calories, or around 20–50 g of carbs.
  • Atkins diet: During the first phase of this diet, carb intake is limited to about 20 g per day, depending on which plan you choose. Over the duration of the diet, your intake gradually increases but typically doesn’t exceed 100 g per day.
  • South Beach diet: Besides reducing carb intake, this diet encourages you to eat lean meats and heart-healthy fats. During the initial phase, grains and fruits are also off-limits.
  • Paleo diet: This diet mimics the eating patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and is naturally low in carbs.
  • Dukan diet:The diet restricts carbs while being high in protein and low in fat. It’s divided into four phases to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Here are some of the foods to eat on a low carb diet:

  • Meat: beef, lamb, pork, chicken
  • Fish: salmon, trout, haddock, tuna
  • Eggs: whole eggs, egg whites, egg yolks
  • Non-starchy vegetables: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, tomatoes
  • Lower carb fruits: oranges, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pistachios
  • High-fat dairy: cheese, butter, heavy cream, Greek yogurt
  • Fats and oils: lard, avocados, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil

Foods to include in moderation

Unless you’re following a very low carb or keto diet, you may also want to include small amounts of these foods:

  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, peas, corn
  • Higher-carb fruits: bananas, pineapples, mango, and many others
  • Whole grains: brown rice, oats, quinoa
  • Legumes: lentils, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas
  • Higher-carb dairy: milk and full-fat yogurt

Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and may benefit your health if you eat it in moderation. Choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.

In addition, you can drink dry wines with no added sugar or carbs. Just be aware that both dark chocolate and alcohol may hinder weight management if you eat or drink too much.

Because many beverages can be high in carbs and calories, consider choosing drinks free of added sugar whenever possible such as coffee, tea, or sugar-free sparkling water.

Depending on your daily carb allowance, you might need to limit or avoid the following foods:

  • Sweet snacks: candy, ice cream, baked goods, other products that contain added sugar
  • Refined grains: white rice, white pasta, tortillas, crackers
  • Diet and low fat products: including dairy products, cereals, or crackers that are low in fat but contain added sugar
  • Highly processed foods: convenience meals, fast food, cookies, chips, pretzels
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, energy drinks

Be sure to check the ingredient labels of foods to find options that fit into your diet.

This is a sample menu for 3 days on a low carb diet plan.

That said, ask a doctor or dietitian what carbohydrate allowance works best for you based on your health goals and personal preferences.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: 2 slices sprouted Ezekiel bread with 1/2 avocado, salt, and pepper. Total carbs: 36.5 g.
  • Lunch: 3 ounces (oz) (85 g) grilled chicken with 2 cups (340 g) zucchini noodles made with 1 clove of garlic, butter, and 1 oz (28 g) Parmesan. Total carbs: 17 g.
  • Dinner: bunless burger with a slice of Cheddar cheese, served with 1/2 cup (78 g) cooked broccoli and 2 tablespoons (35.7 g) of salsa. Total carbs: 8.5 g.
  • Total carbs for the day: 62 g

Day 2

Day 3

  • Breakfast: breakfast bowl with 2 large hard-boiled eggs, 1 tomato, and 1 cup cubed avocado. Total carbs: 19 g.
  • Lunch: 2.5 cups (244 g) shrimp garden salad with shrimp, lettuce, eggs, tomato, and carrots, with 2 tablespoons (tbsp), or 30 milliliters (mL), olive oil vinaigrette. Total carbs: 10.5 g.
  • Dinner: 3 oz (85 g) grilled chicken with 1/2 cup (78 g) roasted Brussels sprouts and 1/2 cup (93 g) cooked quinoa. Total carbs: 25.2 g.
  • Total carbs for the day: 54.7 g

Healthy low carb snacks

If you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, easy-to-prepare, low carb snacks that can fill you up:

Following a low carb diet while dining out can be challenging. Not only are the portion sizes often very large, but some restaurant foods are served with condiments, sauces, or side dishes that are high in added sugar or carbs.

Still, at most restaurants, making your meals low carb is fairly easy.

Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Opt for a meat- or fish-based main dish.
  2. Choose plain water instead of sugary soda or fruit juice.
  3. Get extra vegetables or a side salad instead of bread, potatoes, or rice.
  4. Check the menu beforehand to find options that fit your daily carb allowance.
  5. Ask for sauces, condiments, or dressings on the side so you can control your portion sizes.
  6. Consider taking half of your meal “to go” to reduce the amount of carbs during your restaurant meal.

What should I eat on a no-carb day?

If you’re avoiding carbs entirely, focus on eating animal and plant-based proteins and plenty of vegetables and fruit. That said, your body does need some carbs, so avoiding them entirely, unless directed by your doctor, may not be the best for your health. It’s also less sustainable than including a small amount in moderation.

Learn about the zero-carb diet.

How do I stay under 20 carbs a day?

To stay under 20 grams of carbs a day, fill yourself up with lots of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats.

What’s a good low carb diet plan for a vegetarian?

You can follow a low carb diet as a vegetarian, but it can be more challenging because most plant-based protein foods also contain carbs. It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough calories and nutrients, so consulting with your doctor or a registered dietician is a good idea.

Learn more about how to eat low carb as a vegetarian or vegan.

What’s a good low carb diet plan for diabetes?

Research shows that following a low carb diet while living with diabetes can help you manage the disease. Eating low carb with diabetes is similar to eating low carb without diabetes. You can generally eat and avoid the same foods. That said, you’ll need to track your blood sugar and follow the diabetes treatment prescribed by your doctor.

Here’s a guide to healthy low carb eating with diabetes.

There are several types of low carb diets, which vary in terms of the amount of carbs permitted per day.

Generally, low carb diets limit your intake of carbs, such as those found in sugary and processed foods, pasta, and bread. Instead, they encourage a variety of non-starchy vegetables and foods high in protein and fat.

For some people, low carb diets may help support weight loss and improve blood sugar control.

The above meal plan gives you the basics of healthy, low carb eating and can be adjusted based on your dietary needs and preferences.



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