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30 Healthy Low-Carb Foods to Eat – EatingWell

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If you’re eating a low-carb diet or just looking to cut back on carbs, you may be wondering what foods you can eat. Another common question people eating low carb diets often have is regarding the number of carbs in certain foods like quinoa and oatmeal—healthy whole grains that still have carbs, but also pack in a lot of nutrition. And what kind of vegetables, fruits and proteins can you eat—and how many carbs do those foods have?

Regardless of what diet you’re following, the key to not feeling deprived is to consume a variety of foods from all the food groups—including grains.

At EatingWell, we recommend that on a low-carb diet you get about 40 percent of your calories from carbs—or at least 120 grams of carbs total per day. That amount optimizes brain and nervous cell function, and helps to satisfy nutrient needs as long as the carbs are coming from healthy foods. It’s also more doable and less restrictive than following super-low-carb diets, like the ketogenic diet.

Read on to find out our top 30 healthy low-carb foods to eat. All carbohydrate amounts and other nutrition values are based on the USDA’s FoodData Central database.

Low-Carb Grains

1. Quinoa

Pictured Recipe: Quinoa Lasagna

1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 18 g carbohydrates

Quinoa is one of the grains with the biggest fanfare, thanks to its protein and fiber content—8 and 5 grams respectively per cup, according to the USDA. But remember, just because it’s a higher-protein grain doesn’t mean it’s super low in carbs. A 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa has 18 grams of carbohydrates, so make sure to plan that into your day.

2. Oatmeal

Sonia Bozzo

Pictured Recipe: Old-Fashioned Oatmeal

1 cup of cooked oatmeal = 28 g carbohydrates

If you’re going to have a big bowl of carbs—even on a low-carb diet—make it oatmeal. Oats contain beta-glucan, which helps slow digestion and improve blood cholesterol levels, according to a 2019 review in Nutrients.

Whether you’re going for a serving of old-fashioned, quick-cooking or steel-cut oats, they all contain about 27 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup dry. Make sure you buy plain versions rather than flavored instant oats, which come with a lot of added sugar.

3. Polenta

https://static.onecms.io/wp-content/uploads/sites/44/2019/01/27195439/37569631.jpg.

Pictured Recipe: Creamy Polenta

1 cup cooked polenta = 30 g carbohydrates

Made from cornmeal, polenta has a consistency similar to Cream of Wheat. You can whip it up at home or buy ready-to-eat polenta in rolls that you slice. A 1/2 cup portion contains only 15 grams of carbs. Since polenta is gluten-free, it’s a good choice if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity that requires you to follow a gluten-free or low-gluten diet.

Low-Carb Proteins

Most proteins are low in carbs, especially animal proteins. The following is a list of healthy proteins you can eat on a low-carb diet, along with their carb counts.

4. Eggs

Pictured Recipe: Parmesan Cloud Eggs

One large egg = 0.5 g carbohydrates

One large egg packs 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and just about 0 grams of carbs all in a nice 72-calorie package, per the USDA. While you may have been led to believe that all the protein in an egg is contained in the egg white, the truth is, the yolk contains almost half of an egg’s protein, according to a 2022 review in Nutrients. And if you fear that eating the yolk will increase your cholesterol levels and cause health problems, 2019 research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that while eggs do contain cholesterol, they didn’t increase the risk of stroke, even in people with have a gene that makes them more sensitive to dietary cholesterol. Eggs also pack important nutrients, including vitamin D, lutein and choline.

5. Beef

Pictured Recipe: Garlic-Rosemary Roast Beef with Horseradish Sauce

4 ounce beef, round, top round (raw) = 0 g carbohydrate

Meat is fair game because it’s all protein and no carbs (or fiber). While chicken is a well-known lean source of protein, there are many cuts of beef that are also considered “lean” or “extra lean” by the USDA. Smart choices include eye of round roast, top round roast, bottom round roast and top sirloin steak.

6. Hemp Seeds

3 tablespoons hemp seeds = 2.6 g carbohydrates

The best thing about these tiny seeds is that you can sprinkle hemp on foods like yogurt, salads or oatmeal to add a nutty crunch and a good source of vegetarian protein. A 3-tablespoon serving contains 9.5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber and 166 calories, per the USDA. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds are also an excellent source of magnesium and zinc.

7. Shrimp

Pictured Recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp

3-ounce shrimp (cooked) = 0.17 g carbohydrates

These crustaceans are great to add to meals, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. Three ounces of shrimp offers a whopping 20 grams of satisfying protein for only 84 calories, according to the USDA. Make sure to prep them grilled or lightly sautéed—breading and frying add unnecessary calories. Browse our collection of Healthy Shrimp Recipes for meal ideas and inspiration.

8. Soy

Pictured Recipe: Thai Coconut Curry Soup

3-ounce extra-firm tofu = 2 g carbohydrates

Whether it’s edamame, tofu or soymilk, soy is a good choice when you need ample protein with little carbs. According to the USDA, a 3-ounce serving of extra-firm tofu packs 13 grams of protein and only 2 grams of carbohydrates. A cup of shelled edamame has 18.5 grams of protein and is a little higher in carbs, clocking in at 14 grams. One cup of unsweetened soymilk has 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbs. If you go for soymilk, make sure you’re drinking unsweetened, as sweetened versions may pack more than twice the carbs because of the added sugar.

9. Seitan

Pictured Recipe: Dan Dan Noodles with Seitan, Shiitake Mushrooms & Napa Cabbage

3 ounces = 5 g carbohydrates

You might think you have to stay away from seitan—a vegetarian meat substitute made from wheat gluten because, well, it’s made from wheat and wheat has carbs. However, a 3-ounce serving offers just 5 grams of carbs and an impressive 21 grams of protein, per the USDA. Whether you buy it or make your own, you can dress seitan up to taste like meat.

10. Peanut Butter

Pictured Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter

2 tablespoons peanut butter = 7 g carbohydrates

Peanuts are technically a legume (the same family as beans), so they do have carbohydrates—in this case, 7 grams of carbs per serving. But 2 tablespoons of peanut butter also pack 7 grams of protein and 16 grams of healthy, satiating fats, per the USDA. Many brands of peanut butter are flavored with sugar, including honey and maple syrup. To limit sugar (and carbs), choose those made with only peanuts. Other plain nut butters, like almond butter, cashew butter and pistachio butter, are also great lower-carb choices.

Low-Carb Snacks

11. Nuts

Jennifer Causey

Pictured Recipe: Everything-Seasoned Almonds

1 package mixed nuts (50 g) = 10.5 g carbohydrates

When considering nuts, a 1-ounce serving serves up a lot of nutrition. Think almonds (23 whole ones offer 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbs), walnuts (14 halves pack 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbs) or pistachios (49 nuts have 6 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbs).

The great thing about nuts is that they also offer fiber, another nutrient that gives your meals and snacks staying power. These choices all supply 2 to 4 grams of fiber per serving. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming about 28 grams of fiber on a 2,000-calorie eating plan. A 1-ounce serving of almonds, walnuts or pistachios provides 7% to 14% of your daily fiber intake.

12. Mozzarella Sticks

BRETT STEVENS/Getty Images

One mozzarella stick (28 g) = 1.3 g carbohydrates

An easily portable serving of protein, one cheese stick contains just 85 calories with 7 grams of protein and about 1.3 grams of carbohydrates. Plus, a 2020 review in Current Nutrition & Food Science found that eating cheese may deliver good bacteria that keep your gut healthy.

13. Olives

Pictured Recipe: Sicilian Marinated Olives

1/4 cup olives = 2 g carbohydrates

There’s a reason you may be served a small dish of olives (rather than bread) in countries like Spain and Portugal before your meal—they’re bursting with flavor. Olives are also brimming with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. And a quarter cup is just 40 calories, per the USDA. You can even find olives in handy snack packs for a convenient on-the-go snack.

14. Beef Jerky

1 ounce beef jerky = 3 g carbohydrates

Jerky has had a gourmet makeover and is now available with ingredients like responsibly raised turkey, chicken, beef and bison in inventive flavors that include herbs, citrus and teriyaki. With about 9 grams of protein and just 3 grams of carbs per 1 ounce of beef jerky, this is a great way to stave off mid-afternoon munchies without reaching for high-carb chips. Just try to find a brand with the least amount of sodium.

15. Hummus and Crudités

Pictured Recipe: Classic Hummus

2 tablespoons = 6 g carbohydrates

Non-starchy crunchy veggies like cucumbers and celery are great picks for dipping into hummus. The chickpeas in hummus provide about 2.5 grams of protein for two tablespoons according to the USDA and an array of B vitamins, which are vital for helping your body convert food into fuel. Let our collection of Healthy Hummus Recipes inspire you to create delicious meals and snacks with hummus.

Low-Carb Vegetables

16. Cauliflower

Pictured Recipe: EatingWell Cauliflower Pizza Crust

1 cup raw = 5.5 g carbohydrates

People eating a low-carb diet can appreciate this cruciferous vegetable because it can be mashed like potatoes or thrown into the food processor to make “cauliflower rice“—which can then be used in “rice” bowls and stir-fries. Some grocery stores even sell packaged cauliflower rice for easy kitchen prep. Check out our Healthy Cauliflower Recipes for other meal ideas.

17. Zucchini

Pictured Recipe: Spiralized Zucchini & Summer Squash Casserole

1 cup raw = 3.6 g carbohydrates

We love zucchini because it’s so versatile. Using a vegetable peeler or a handy spiralizer, zucchini can be transformed into spaghetti- or linguini-like “noodles” as a low-carb substitute for pasta.

18. Spaghetti Squash

Pictured Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes, Beans & Almond Pesto

1 cup cooked = 10 g carbohydrates

Another great pick, spaghetti squash can be baked or roasted, and then, using a fork, pull the “squash noodles” out. Like zucchini noodles, you can top them with pasta sauce. Or, bake these into casseroles or lasagna—the squash is great at taking on whatever flavors it’s paired with.

19. Sweet Potatoes

Pictured Recipe: Sweet Potato Skins with Guacamole

1 medium (150 g) = 25 g carbohydrates

All taters are starchy veggies (along with others like corn and peas), so they have more carbs. A medium sweet spud contains 25 grams of carbohydrates, so pair it with baked chicken or fish and a green veggie like broccoli for a well-rounded meal. The fiber (4 grams) helps slow digestion and sweet potatoes are bursting with disease-busting antioxidants called carotenoids.

Low-Carb Fruits

20. Berries

Getty Images / Glasshouse Images

1 cup mixed berries = 15 g carbohydrates

Berries are winners because they’re lower in sugar and high in fiber, so they keep your body on an even energy keel. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are all good picks when you’re hankering for fruit. One cup of blueberries delivers 86 calories and 22 grams of carbs, a cup of blackberries has 65 calories and 14 grams of carbs, one cup of strawberries deliver 48 calories and 12 grams of carbs per cup and raspberries have 78 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup. Enjoy them as they are or add them to a variety of dishes.

21. Cantaloupe

Jennifer Causey

Pictured Recipe: Cantaloupe Salad with Lime, Pepitas & Cotija

1 cup = 13 g carbohydrates

Super-refreshing, this melon ranks lower on the calorie scale of fruits, with just 53 calories per cup of cubes, and 13 grams of carbs. Enjoy cantaloupe alone or in salads. Cantaloupe is also delicious in smoothies.

22. Plums

Pictured Recipe: Purple Fruit Salad

1 fruit = 9 g carbohydrates

Plums are great because they’re usually on the smaller end, so they have built-in portion control—and are portable for on-the-go eating. One fruit contains only 35 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber, per the USDA. Not sure what to do with this fruit other than eat it raw? Check out our Healthy Plum Recipes.

23. Fresh Fruit

No matter what type of fruit you’re eating, choose fresh or frozen more often. While juice can be a refreshing beverage, it has little to no fiber and contains more sugar than whole fruit. Drinking juice can result in your blood sugar spiking more quickly compared to eating whole fruit.

Dried fruit is also considered a nutritious snack choice, but dried fruits contain many more calories and carbs compared to whole fruit (because they’re more concentrated). For example, 1/2 cup of dried apricots has 157 calories and 41 g carbs according to the USDA who also says that 1/2 cup of fresh apricots has 75 calories and 17 g carbohydrate.

If you’re hankering for dried fruit, have a small handful of it and add some nuts for added low-carb nutrition and staying power.

Low-Carb Dairy

24. Greek Yogurt

Pictured Recipe: Strawberry-Chocolate Greek Yogurt Bark

1 cup non-fat plain = 9 g carbohydrates

Dairy isn’t out just because you’re eating a low-carb diet. Greek yogurt has a higher protein content compared to regular yogurt. One cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt offers 25 grams of protein and only 9 grams of carbs, plus it’s rich in bone-maintaining calcium, per the USDA.

Of note: Yogurt is a low-carb choice only if you go plain. Some fruit blend varieties pack a few teaspoons of added sugar and upwards of three times the amount of carbs.

25. Kefir

Pictured Recipe: Berry-Kefir Smoothie

1 cup = 18 g carbohydrates

While kefir, a tangy fermented milk drink contains just as many carbs as milk, it’s got the added benefit of probiotics, which help support your gut health. It’s also low in lactose, so if you have trouble stomaching regular milk, kefir can be a good way to get protein—one cup provides 9 grams, as well as 12% of the Daily Value for vitamin D and nearly one-quarter of your daily calcium needs. Use kefir in place of yogurt in your smoothies.

26. Non-Dairy Milks

Pictured Recipe: Blueberry Almond Chia Pudding

1 cup unsweetened almond milk = 3.2 g the carbohydrates

If you’re looking for a non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk, keep in mind that they’re not all equal when it comes to nutrition. Soy milk provides a similar amount of carbs to cow’s milk, offering 10 grams of carbs per cup per the USDA. Low-carb choices include nut milk (like almond milk) and coconut milk.

Of note: Certain plant milks can have more carbs than dairy milk or soy milk. For example, 1 cup of rice milk has more than 20 grams of carbs per cup, according to the USDA. For all non-dairy milk, watch out for added sugars, which will add extra carbs and calories.

27. Cottage Cheese

1 cup 2% reduced-fat = 9 g carbohydrates

Cottage cheese is a protein powerhouse rivaling Greek yogurt, with 23 grams in a cup of the 2% reduced-fat kind. Turn to cottage cheese when you want to switch up your breakfast routine. You can also enjoy it as a salad for lunch or a quick snack topped with cinnamon and berries.

Low-Carb Desserts

28. Whipped Coconut Milk and Berries

Pictured Recipe: Coconut Whipped Cream

1/3 cup lite coconut milk = 1 g carbohydrate

We’re talking about the stuff from a can (not the nondairy milk substitute). One-third of a cup of “lite” coconut milk contains 56 calories and about 1 gram of carb according to the USDA. Scoop out the thick, custard-like milk up top and whip it into a nondairy whipped cream to top berries for a low-carb dessert.

29. Almond-Flour Baked Treats

Pictured Recipe: Oatmeal-Almond Protein Pancakes

1/4 cup almond flour = 4 g carbohydrates

The next time you’re baking a dessert, swap out some (or all) of the regular flour for almond flour (also called almond meal). Made from finely ground almonds, the flour adds vital nutrients, including magnesium and potassium, as well as some extra protein to waffles, cookies, cakes and sweet breads.

30. Avocado

Pictured Recipe: Chocomole Pudding

1 fruit (150 g) = 13 g carbohydrates

You can make avocado pudding by whirling together dairy or plant milk, avocado and flavorings like cocoa powder in a food processor. Avocado may be a fruit, but it’s a rich source of good-for-you fats. Despite one whole avocado containing about 240 calories, it is packed with 10 grams of filling fiber and a respectable 3 grams of protein, per the USDA.

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