Weight Loss & Diet

Are Low-Carb Diets Good for Weight Loss? (Sample Menu Included)

Are Low-Carb Diets Good for Weight Loss?
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

In this article:

  • There are many types of low-carb diets. Some may be better for lasting weight loss than others. Some may be healthier than others.
  • Certain foods are allowed on a low-carb diet. Other foods are discouraged.
  • The sample menu here has nutritious choices.
  • Lark supports a reduced-carbohydrate diet. Lark’s weight loss coaching encourages small portions of healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and fruit.

Do you want to lose weight? Then you may be wondering about a low-carbohydrate diet. It is one of the best-known diet plans around. But what is a low-carb diet? Does it help you lose weight? Is it safe? How do you follow one?

Here is the info on low-carb diets. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider before starting any new diet program.

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Number of Carbs on a Low-Carb Diet

First, what is a low-carb diet? The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says it can be one of a number of eating patterns.

  • Lower in carbs than the typical American diet. The average American gets 47% of calories from carbohydrates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
  • Low enough in carbs to cause ketosis. This might include about 20 to 40 grams of carbohydrates per day, or around 5 to 10% of total calories from carbs.
  • Somewhere in between.

Some low-carb diets are very high in fat. Ketogenic diets are usually high-fat. Others, such as the Dukan Diet, are very high in protein. The Atkins Diet is a famous plan that can be high in both.

Does a Low-Carb Diet Work for Weight Loss?

A low-carb diet is likely good for short-term weight loss. 

The ADA says that moderately low-carb diets can have these additional benefits. 

These benefits are linked to diets with 26 to 45% of calories from carbohydrates. That means about 65 to 135 grams of carbs on a 1,200-calorie diet, or 125 to 225 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Is a Low-Carb Diet Safe?

A moderately low-carb diet is probably safe for most people. Be sure to check with your doctor first. To keep it safer, consider the following tips.

  • Plant-based oils, such as olive and canola, are healthier than butter and cream.
  • Trimming fat off of meat and skin from poultry can lower healthy fats.
  • High-fiber carbohydrates are the best choices. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, and nuts provide fiber.
  • Vegetables, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and avocado may be the main parts of your diet.

Very low-carb diets may be less healthy. They may be high in unhealthy fats. And too much animal protein may lead to liver or kidney trouble over time. 

US News and World Reports says low-carb diets may be okay for weight loss in the short term. But they may be hard to follow for long. They exclude many foods. And they can get pricey. 

What Do You Eat on a Low-Carbohydrate Diet?

Mayo Clinic identifies some foods on a low-carbohydrate diet. It is likely to include the following foods.

Zero-Carb Foods Very Low-Carb Foods Moderate-Carb Foods
  • Pure fats, such as oil, butter, margarine, and shortening
  • Meat, fish, poultry
  • Most shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Spices
  • Lettuce and leafy green vegetables
  • Most non-starchy vegetables, such as eggplant, mushrooms, bell peppers, celery, and cucumber
  • Hard and soft cheeses
  • Heavy cream, sour cream, whipped cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Avocado
  • Berries
  • Turnips, carrots, onions, zucchini
  • Nuts and peanuts
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cantaloupe and watermelon
  • Tangerines
  • Plain yogurt
  • Salad dressing

These are some foods to limit on a low-carb diet. As you can see, some are nutritious. Others are not.

High-Carb Nutritious Foods High-Carb Less-Nutritious Foods
  • Whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta
  • Sweet potatoes, winter squash, yams, corn, peas, and parsnips
  • Bananas, mangos, apples, pears, and many types of fruit
  • Beans, lentils, and split peas
  • Oats and plain oatmeal
  • Whole-grain unsweetened cereal
  • Fruit drinks and juice
  • Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Desserts, such as cake, cookies, pie, ice cream, custard, and candy
  • White bread, white pasta, white rice
  • Sugar-sweetened yogurt, cereal, oatmeal
  • Fried potatoes
  • Fried and battered chicken, fish, onion rings, and other foods

Sample Meal Plan for a Low-Carb Diet

Ask your healthcare provider before trying a new meal plan.

Sample Day 1 Sample Day 2 Sample Day 3
Veggie Scrambled Eggs

1 egg and 2 egg whites scrambled with mushrooms, spinach, and 1 ounce of low-fat swiss cheese, served with ½ apple, sliced, spread with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl

½ cup of cottage cheese with ¾ cup of sliced strawberries and ¼ cup of chopped walnuts
Southwestern Breakfast Bowl

1 hard-boiled or soft-cooked egg, ½ cup of low-sodium black beans, 1 ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese, 2 slices of avocado, salsa, plain Greek yogurt, cilantro
Cheeseburger Salad

Bed of mixed greens with 3-ounce lean ground turkey patty (or veggie burger), 2 slices of fat-free cheese singles, ½ cup chopped tomato, onion rings, 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, and dressing with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, yellow mustard, and dash of vinegar
Egg Salad

1 hard-boiled egg and 2 egg whites mixed ¼ cup of mashed ripe avocado, 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon of diced onion, dijon mustard, garlic powder, paprika, diced celery, and ½ cup of chopped red pepper.

Served on 1 slice of whole-grain bread
Tuna Salad

3 ounces of canned tuna mixed with ½ cup of cannellini or other beans, ½ chopped pear, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, diced green onion, dried basil, and chopped tomatoes served on a bed of spinach or romaine
Salmon with Riced Cauliflower

3 ounces of grilled or baked salmon (optionally with lemon juice and/or garlic), served with 1 cup of steamed broccoli and ½ cup of riced cauliflower mixed with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese, and garlic and onion powder.
Zoodles and Meat Sauce

1 cup of spiralized zucchini (“zoodles”) mixed with ½ cup of pasta sauce (low in sugar), 3 ounces of cooked ground turkey with Italian seasoning, and ½ cup of cooked sliced mushrooms or other vegetables

Salad with mixed greens, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, cucumber, and mushroom slices

1 cup of cut fruit
Chicken, Feta, and Pasta Bake

3 ounces of cooked chicken breast tossed with 1.5 ounces of feta cheese, ⅓ cup of cooked whole-grain pasta, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves, and 1 cup of cooked green beans, seasoned with black pepper, lemon juice, oregano, and thyme, all baked together.

You can add snacks if needed. You might consider these foods.

  • Canned tuna or cooked chicken or fish
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Cheese
  • Nuts or peanuts
  • Raw vegetables with hummus, guacamole, or tzatziki

There are tons of snack ideas here, too!

Bottom Line on a Low-Carb Diet: Moderation and Healthy Choices are Key

Low-carb diets may help with weight loss. They can help lower high blood sugar. But very low-carb and ketogenic diets may increase health risks. 

That is why Lark takes a moderately low-carb approach. The plan includes small portions of nutritious carbohydrates.

  • The plan limits low-nutrient, high-carb foods. Examples include sweets, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, fried potatoes, and refined grains such as white bread, rice, and pasta.
  • Lark encourages small portions of high-fiber carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruit, beans, and starchy vegetables.
  • Lark promotes healthy fats and lean proteins.

No Cost Health Kit to Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

Free Health Kit
Weight 160lbs
Height 64

Losing weight can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and that’s not all. When you lose a few extra pounds, energy levels can increase, cholesterol and blood pressure can improve, and clothes fit better. Best of all is that Lark makes weight loss simple!

Lark doesn’t just know which choices can lead to weight loss. Lark coaches you on how to make good choices that can become habits. With small changes that fit right into your lifestyle, you can drop pounds and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Your personal coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, physical activity, and weight loss. 

The entire program may be available at no cost to you if your health insurer covers it. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

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