Weight Loss & Diet

Reduced Carb Diets

Carbohydrates serve very little purpose besides providing energy, or calories. So, reduced carb carb diets can help you cut calories and lose weight.
Reduced Carb Diets
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

How many carbs should I eat?

Reduced-Carb Diets

The principle: Starches and sugars are carbohydrates that provide 4 calories per gram. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found that these carbohydrates contribute about 50% of calories to the average American diet. Furthermore, carbohydrates serve very little purpose besides providing energy, or calories. So, cutting out some carbs can help you cut calories and lose weight.

Most low-carbohydrate diets limit or exclude high-carbohydrate foods, such as some or all of the following:

  • Grains, such as wheat (including couscous and farro), barley, rice, and oats.
  • Grain products, such as bread, crackers, pasta, and breakfast cereal.
  • Flour-containing baked goods, such as cookies, cake, and pie.
  • Starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, and corn.
  • Sugary foods, such as desserts, candies, and processed foods with sugar, such as certain types of yogurt and sweetened cereal.
  • Juices, and sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
  • Fruit, especially dried fruit and higher-sugar types.
  • Beans, peas, and lentils.

Your reduced-carb diet is likely to include:

  • Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.
  • Non-starchy vegetables.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Fats, such as avocados and olive oil.
  • Lower-sugar fruits (foods with a low glycemic index), such as strawberries.

There are many diet plans that reduce carbohydrates. Some are stricter and minimize carbohydrates. Others emphasize a controlled intake of nutritious carbohydrates. These are some popular approaches.

  • South Beach. This diet starts only low-carbohydrate foods, but progresses to include nutritious carbs, such as whole grains and fruit.
  • Atkins. This diet starts with severe carbohydrate restriction, and you gradually reintroduce carbohydrates as you lose and then maintain weight.
  • Ketogenic diet. Your carbohydrate intake is so severely restricted (to 30 grams or less per day) that your body must use fat or protein for fuel, called ketosis.

Saturated fat: bad for small dense LDL

If you need help managing the amount of carbs per serving-size, read our latest guide!

South Beach

Other Diets That Restrict Food Groups: Paleo and Plant-Based

Pretty much any meal plan that cuts out or severely restricts entire food groups is likely to help you lose weight. Paleo and plant-based diets are sample patterns that could help you lose weight.

A paleo diet is based on a caveman’s way of eating!


Commercial Diets: Prepared Meals and Meal Replacements

If you have trouble figuring out what to eat, or you dislike grocery shopping and cooking, you might look into a diet plan that delivers prepared meals. Nutrisystem is a popular example, but there are many other companies that offer meal delivery, with or without nutritional support. You are likely to get up to 3 meals and 2 snacks per day on a reduced-calorie plan that may also let you specify preferences such as low-carbohydrate or vegetarian.

There are several potential benefits to meal delivery services.

  • You can lose weight if you follow them.
  • Your A1C, a measure of your long-term blood sugar control, can drop within to 6 months. A1C is the glycated hemoglobin found in red blood cells.
  • They are often customized so you can choose from options such as vegetarian or reduced-carbohydrate.

There are drawbacks, too. For example:

  • In many cases, you still need to go grocery shopping to supplement your diet with fresh, healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and nuts.
  • You might get bored with the variety of meals offered and the program may be unsustainable for your lifestyle.
  • You may not learn the skills you need to keep the weight off after you stop using the program.
  • The meals can be expensive.
  • The meals are for an individual – you – and your family will still need to eat… something.

The problem: not sustainable


Lowered A1C up to 1.0% over 3 to 6 months

Jenny Craig

Caution: Meal Replacement Programs

The theory behind meal replacements sounds good: replace 1, 2, or 3 daily meals with a bar, shake, or even a special cookie, and you will lose weight. It is true that cutting calories will help you lose weight, but it is usually best to be wary of these programs.

  • It is hard to stick to them. A bar, shake, or cookie may not fill you up, so to satisfy hunger, you might add foods that are not on the plan.
  • They may not be nutritionally adequate or optimal. Even if you do get your essential vitamins and minerals, you might miss out on important “extras” such as antioxidants and fiber found in plant-based foods.
  • They can be boring. A few weeks of shakes and bars may be tolerable, but it could take months or over a year to hit your weight loss goal.
  • It can be hard to keep the weight off. Once you stop following the plan, you might go back to your old eating habits since you did not learn new, healthy habits while on the plan.

Slim-Fast and the Cookie Diet are examples of meal replacement diets.


What exactly is the Mediterranean diet? Actually, it is not the Mediterranean diet. It is a Mediterranean-style diet pattern. It’s a type of diet that is characteristic of traditional eating patterns of people around the Mediterranean. If you know your geography, you know that includes a wide range of people from Italians to Greeks to Spaniards to Moroccans. 

If you know your culinary history, you know that these cultures have quite a range of signature dishes. Consider Greek salad, Syrian hummus, Spanish paella, and Moroccan tagine. Still, these traditional diets tend to have some similarities that make them healthy.

  • High intakes of nutritious olive oil, seafood, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and nuts.
  • Regular intake of seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy.
  • Low intake of red and processed meats, butter, and sweets.

Looking to follow a Mediterranean diet? Follow our guide to help you get started!

Best weight loss health coach app

You are putting in the work, so you deserve to maximize the benefits. A weight loss health coach app can help you do just that. A health coach app serves all the functions of a regular coach: informing, motivating, guiding, cheering, and organizing. The best weight loss health coach app:

  • Informs you about healthy ways to lose weight and incorporate healthy behaviors into your lifestyle.
  • Motivates you to keep setting and chasing new goals.
  • Guides you through your weight loss journey in your own way.
  • Cheers your successes, your efforts, and, should you fall short of your goals for a time, your renewed dedication.
  • Organizes by encouraging you to log your food, activity and weight, and storing that information.

Lark Health Coach serves all of those roles, and then some. Lark is available 24/7 to be your coach and friend. Your health coach automatically customizes your program for you.

Lark even learns your patterns and coaches around them. Do you prefer a gluten-free or dairy-free lifestyle? You’ll get tips on healthy ways to get your nutrients without eating gluten or dairy products. Do you normally take an afternoon walk? Then do not be surprised if Lark gives you a gentle nudge if you forget to take it one day.