Being on a low carb diet is great. Being on a low carb diet while choosing wholesome, real food and avoiding low-carb processed junk is even better.
A low carb diet is very different than calorie counting. On a low carb diet, you’re (mostly) unconcerned with calories. Your main goal is to limit carbs. On a low calorie diet, in contrast, you’re not too concerned with your food macros – protein, fat, carbs – you just try to stay below a predetermined caloric threshold.
But there’s one important aspect in which a low carb diet and a low calorie diet are very similar. In both, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not caring about the quality of your food, as long as you stay below a certain carb/calorie limit.
Low Carb is Better, Even with Junk
I do believe that a low carb diet is healthy, even if you don’t make the best food choices. The very reduction of carbs lowers blood sugar and insulin, reduces inflammation, and allows your overwhelmed body to start healing.
So even if all you do is lower your carb intake, while still eating low-carb junk, I suspect that for most people who are overweight and insulin resistant, this will bring some improvement.
But why would you eat junk?
Embarking on a low carb diet means that you have decided to take care of yourself. To stop the craziness of constant hunger brought on by a high-carb diet. You want to lose weight, lower your blood sugar, have more energy.
You want to feel better!
So it makes sense to not just lower your carbs, but to also try for a wholesome diet of real food.
Low carb foods that you should eliminate
1. Processed low carb foods. I would suggest avoiding highly processed foods, even if they are low carb. Have you looked at the ingredients list on some of the low-carb bars, shakes and frozen meals? Scary. These are highly processed items that are very low in actual nutrition and will not satiate you.
2. Artificial sweeteners. Many of these processed items contain large amounts of artificial sweeteners. While I’m not opposed to the occasional use of artificial sweeteners (especially natural ones such as erythritol and stevia), they should be consumed only occasionally and as a treat.
The ideal low carb diet minimizes sweet tastes, because research tells us that when we taste something sweet, even if it’s non-caloric, our insulin levels still rise. High insulin levels are very unhealthy.
A good low carb diet focuses on meat, fish, eggs, hard cheeses, nuts, healthy fats (saturated and monounsaturated), non starchy veggies and berries. Try to wean yourself off the habit of “needing” something sweet at the end of each meal. If you must, a square of 85% chocolate is a good choice.
3. Grains. Many people on a low carb diet choose to eat low carb bread, low carb tortillas and low carb crackers. As I said, choosing these items over similar high-carb items is already a big improvements. And these low-carb grain-based foods can be a good transitional item as you get used to a low carb diet.
However, long term, it’s best to try and wean yourself off grains, since many of them are highly inflammatory. I was one of those who just “had” to have bread at every meal. It took me a long time to wean myself off bread, but now I don’t even miss it, and it seems like a completely unnecessary filler.
I’d much rather have two delicious bunless burger patties, than have one patty sandwiched in a spongy bun.
4. Vegetable oils. Soybean oil, corn oil, even canola oil – those are highly processed, unstable, easily oxidized and extremely inflammatory.
Stick with saturated fat (tallow, lard, butter, coconut oil and heavy cream) and with monounsaturated fats such as olive oil.
Make your low carb diet the best it can be
Have you started a low carb diet? Wonderful! You took an important first step towards improving your health. As soon as you get accustomed to your new diet, start working on making it a whole foods diet as well. The best low carb diet is also a diet that focuses on real, wholesome food.