So you’ve made a decision to try out a low carb lifestyle. You’re not sure if it’s for you or how to get started. No fear, we’ve outlined a few tips that will set you up for low carb success!
The usual go-to labels to sell ‘healthy’ snacks are usually “Fat-Free” or “Low Fat”. The word Fat has always been associated with unhealthiness. But it’s an outdated dietary guideline that the food industry has pushed onto us. Demonising an entire food group is not a healthy or balanced way to eat.
If you are interested in knowing more, it is worth noting that a low carb diet has been used as a weight-loss method for at least 150 years and modern studies1,2 confirm that it is more effective than other diets.
Focus on what you CAN eat, and not on what you CAN’T
It might be hard to take the first steps in reducing your carbohydrate intake and finding the right substitutes but it’s a process that will ultimately lead to a healthier lifestyle and set you up for success long term.
You may think it sounds fairly straightforward to just avoid all carbs, but how do you do that? Where are they all hiding? Instead of focusing on all the food you can’t eat, focus on what you CAN eat instead.
The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short‐term dietary changes. A healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a variety of whole foods you may not have considered before.
Here are 9 helpful tips for low carb success to make your lifestyle healthier by incorporating a low carb diet:
Tip 1. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet
Don’t think of your change in eating habits as a diet. Diets are restrictive, short term and stressful and usually do not work. If you are looking to start a low carb diet for quick weight loss, you’ll find the weight will all come back as soon as you go back to your old eating habits. Some people actually gain back more weight than they started with.
Focus on changing your old eating habits and replacing them with new ones that have fewer carbohydrates and more natural fats and proteins. With a lifestyle change, it isn’t about overnight perfection. It’s about sustainably changing your eating habits and making progressive changes toward your goals.
It’s difficult to go cold turkey and cut out all carbs at once. Most people find it helps to cut one thing at a time. For example, start with removing excess sugar from sources such as soft drinks and sweet treats, then move onto removing bread. Once your body adjusts, you can continue removing grains, pasta, and other processed foods.
Tip 2. Plan your meals
As with anything in life, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
That applies to meal planning as well! It is super stressful to find yourself hungry and then realise that you have nothing planned. Instead of standing in front of your fridge or pantry deciding what to quickly fix for yourself, you can have your healthy meal ready in minutes.
Careful meal planning is essential to every successful diet. Consider your meal plan as a general guideline, not something set in stone. Make a list of foods you like and dislike which will help you stick to your meal plan. With meal planning, you can buy items in bulk, which is a huge money saver. Make a list and stick to it to avoid any impulse buys at the grocery store.
Tip 3. Familiarise yourself with low carb foods
One of the biggest tips for low carb success is knowing what you are eating. Knowledge is by far the most important tool in your arsenal – knowing what foods contain carbs and sugar will help you make informed, healthy choices without endless research.
When in doubt, opt for whole foods such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and high-fat dairy. These are all low carb. If you know which foods are lower in carbs it is a lot easier to navigate the supermarket aisles and the restaurant menus.
Tip 4. Don’t starve yourself
We’ll keep repeating this over and over again until it sinks in: This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!
Take it from us, you will never stick to an eating plan that keeps you hungry. Find the right low carb foods that work for you. Fortunately, a low carb lifestyle is high in healthy fats that keep you fuller for longer.
- Fats have a positive effect on satiety and also help the body absorb other nutrients.
- Fibre-rich foods add bulk to your diet and make you feel full faster.
Tip: Less is more! Carbohydrates and protein contain four calories per gram. Fat contains NINE calories per gram. This means you can feel fuller eating less of them!
Tip 5. Smart snacks
It always helps to have some low carb snacks handy. If you do find yourself needing a snack, go for smart healthy options such as:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter on celery sticks
- Greek yogurt with berries
Aside from their convenience factor, these snacks are loaded with protein and fat to help you feel satiated and have enough energy to power through your day.
Although, a word of caution – it’s not ideal to be munching and eating mindlessly throughout the day. It is important to regulate portion sized snacks to avoid overeating. In line with your meal planning, take the time to prep high-quality snacks for yourself, and reap the rewards.
Tip 6. Eating out
Prepping your meals may seem like a chore and that’s alright, we get it! Eating out once in a while should never be off the table.
Remember that sugar is hidden in all sorts of foods that you may order. Avoid anything that says things like honey-roasted, caramelised, or has a rich sauce. Instead, opt for meals rich in protein such as steak or fish and make sure you don’t forget your veggies!
To stick to your low carb lifestyle, even with eating out, get into the habit of planning ahead. If you know that you’ll be dining out, go ahead and check the restaurant’s website to see if they have the menu available online. This way you can determine your course of action when you get to the restaurant. Read more on individual cuisines in our Eating Out Cheat Sheet.
If you’re invited to a party, offer to take a plate of food so there is at least one thing you know you’ll be able to eat.
Tip 7. Drink lots of water
Another important tip for low carb success is to drink lots of water. Water is so important for hydration, but it’s also a primary transporter of nutrients throughout the body. It helps flush out toxins and is essential to keep your body systems running smoothly.
Even mild dehydration can affect your memory, reasoning, and cognitive function3, and it causes unnecessary fatigue – all in all, you’ll feel pretty lousy.
So along with a meal plan, we suggest having a hydration plan. Water is crucial for weight loss, it boosts your metabolism and prevents you from mistaking feelings of thirst for being hungry.
Tip 8. Don’t drink your carbs
It is important to be mindful of the choices you make while picking your drinks. Soft drinks, fruit juice, beer, and fruit smoothies all contain sugar which is a simple carbohydrate.
The problem with these drinks is that you are getting a hit of sugar without any of the fibre that comes with food. So your liver gets a massive dose of sugar all at once instead of having it slowly absorbed over time if you had eaten the same amount of sugar or carbs in a piece of food.
Take a glass of orange juice for example. It would take 3-4 oranges, squeezed to make up a glass of juice. It’s easy to drink that juice quickly but could you eat that many oranges in one sitting?
Tip 9. Track your progress
While educating yourself on low carb content food, creating meal plans and focusing on your diet is important, it is just as important to track your progress. This is a step that we often neglect.
When you start out, it’s important to record what you eat to see where your carbs are coming from. There are plenty of free food diary or food tracking apps to make this process much easier. Fat Secret and My Fitness Pal are just two.
Your weight fluctuates constantly, you can gain or lose a few pounds of water weight in a day. So don’t go about weighing yourself everyday to see if anything has changed. Use a tape measure instead and keep track of your measurements. You’ll be able to feel the difference, and more tangibly, you’ll be able to see the difference in the way your clothes fit.
By taking ‘before and after’ photos, you will be able to visually track your progress. This is an extremely gratifying process. It keeps you motivated, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and is a great indicator that you’re on the right track!
The Bottom Line
A low carb diet will improve your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. It also reduces your appetite, boosts weight loss, and lowers your triglycerides. So if you’re looking for your diet to accomplish all this, consider implementing these tips for low carb success for a much healthier life.