Most Effective Low-Carb Diet Meal Plan

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Many people have tried the low-carb diet in recent years, particularly with the rise in popularity of the Atkins diet and other low-carb options. There is some debate on whether a low-carb diet is better than a low-fat diet, but both can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. Before embarking on any new diet, it is important to understand the details of the diet, its potential effects on your body, and the best ways to successfully shift your nutrient balance.

Low-carb Diet Meal Plan

The low-carb diet meal plan consists of lowering your overall carbohydrate intake, which is a primary source of energy for the body. However, there are other ways of getting energy for the body that can be even more efficient, such as the energy from fat. Therefore, a low-carb, high-fat diet, provided you are eating healthy fats, can be a very good choice. For decades, there has been a dietary war on fats, but many people don’t realize how important they are for our body, nor how powerful a source of energy they can be. [1]

An excess of carbohydrates, particularly those that are considered simple sugars, can lead to excess fat deposition and storage when that energy isn’t immediately needed by the body. A high intake of carbs has also been linked to an elevated risk of diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. As with any diet, a balance of nutrients is required. Cutting down on carbs and increasing healthy fats, vegetables, grains, fruits, and dairy products can be an effective way of losing weight and ensuring your body gets the nutrients it needs.

A plate of salad with lettuce leaves, tomatoes, olives and cucumbers, and cheese cubes on a wooden surface.

A fresh and crisp salad. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Foods to Avoid

If you are going on a low-carb diet, there are certain foods that you should avoid, including grains, certain high-carb fruits, pasta, cereal, beans, sugar, and milk, among others. While these foods aren’t necessarily bad for you, they are not appropriate in a low-carb diet.

Grains – These are some of the primary sources of carbs in the diet, particularly white bread, which is packed with empty calories. Foods like whole-wheat bread, bagels, and tortillas can be a major contributor to your carb totals. [2]

High-Carb Fruit – Certain fruits are low in carbs, but those that are high in sugar, such as bananas, pears, dates, and raisins, should be avoided on a low-carb diet.

Milk – Despite being a good source of minerals and vitamins, milk is also high in carbohydrates, regardless of whether you are drinking full-fat or fat-free milk. [3]

Sugar – You should avoid foods that are high in sugar, including desserts, cakes, cookies, muffins, candy, and sugary soft drinks. [4]

Beans – Foods like beans, lentils, and chickpeas may be a good source of protein, but they are also very high in carbs, so it is best to get protein from other food sources. [5]

Cereal – Although cereal is the main part of many breakfast routines, oatmeal and other whole-grain cereals can often have more than 35 grams of carbohydrates in a single serving. [6]

Pasta – A single cup of pasta represents more than 40 grams of carbohydrates in your day, and is a significant source of calories that you should do your best to eliminate.

How to Start a Low-carb Diet?

Some of the best tips to begin a low-carb diet include purging your pantry, choosing the right diet, staying hydrated and seeking out high-protein foods.

Pantry Purge

Before starting on a low-carb diet, eliminate anything that could be potentially tempting, such as those old boxes of pasta, bags of potato chips, candy, bread, and starchy vegetables. Without having these foods in your house, you are far more likely to stay strong with your new dietary choices.

Plan Your Meals

Rather than eating out at restaurants and having to seek out a low-carb option, do your shopping for the week with all of your meals planned out. Ensure that you have the right ingredients to make your low-carb diet work. [7]

Choose Wisely

There are many types of low-carb diets, ranging from the Atkins and Mediterranean diets to the Paleo diet and ketogenic diets. Speak with a nutritionist or your doctor about your health goals and do your research on which low-carb option you want to pursue. If your goals align with the results you see, it will be far more motivating and effective. [8]

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is very important during a low-carb diet and any other dietary strategy. It can provide a feeling of satiation in the body that can prevent those cravings for afternoon snacks, which are often high in carbohydrates.

High-protein Foods

Protein sources tend to be high in fat and low in carbs, which is precisely what you want in a low-carb meal plan. Fats can also be turned into usable energy, while the protein will help your muscles grow and boost your metabolism. [9]

Benefits of a Low-carb Diet

There are many benefits of a low-carb diet, including reduced hunger, weight loss, lowered diabetes risk and may help in reducing the risk of cancer, among others.

Anticancer Potential

A 2011 report published in the Nutrition and Metabolism Journal, have linked low-carb meal plans to a reduced risk of cancer. Highly refined and processed foods will increase free radical activity and damage within the body, which can actually speed up the spread of cancer. [10]

Controls Appetite

A high-protein diet that has plenty of healthy fats is an excellent way to satisfy hunger. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates are metabolized quickly, resulting in the familiar “sugar crash”. Therefore, a low-carb diet is able to suppress hunger and prevent overeating and unnecessary snacking. [11]

Weight Loss

When you are on a low-carb diet, you will have less sugar in the body, which will require less insulin production in the pancreas. Lower levels of insulin mean that less fat is being stored by the body. And this, in turn, promotes weight loss. [12]

Manage Diabetes

A low-carb diet could help people with diabetes manage their conditions. According to a 2014 study, someone with type 2 diabetes could manage their predisposal towards atherosclerosis better with this diet. Another research paper published in the Diabetes journal cites this as a way of reducing hyperglycemia without pharmacological intervention. [13] [14]

Improves Cognition

High levels of good fats help improve cognition, and those healthy fats are in high supply for most low-carb diets. The ketones released when fats are metabolized are also considered “brain food” and can benefit your memory power and concentration levels, while also preventing neurodegenerative diseases. [15]

Heart Health

Research has found that low-carb diets will reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and lead to a lower risk of heart diseases. This is contingent on eating healthy fats and maintaining a proper cholesterol balance. [16]

As Effective As Low-fat Diet

According to a study, there is no significant difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet. Thus, a low-carb diet is as effective as a low-fat diet. [17]

Low-carb Food List

The best low-carb foods that you need to add to your weekly food regimen include grass-fed meats, healthy fats, avocados, leafy greens, and some seafood, among others.

Grass-fed Meat

Beef, pork, chicken, and lamb are great options in a low-carb diet, particularly grass-fed varieties, as they are high in fats, protein, and essential minerals.

Leafy Green Vegetables

Low in carbs and high in minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber, vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, along with carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, should all be added to a low-carb meal plan. [18]


Add oily fish to your meal plan, as they provide beneficial fats, as well as protein. [19]

Healthy Fat Food

Coconut oil, olive oil, butter lard, and other high-fat substances can all be used on a low-carb diet. However, try to use those that have high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than trans and saturated fats. [20]


These are some of the only fruits that are highly recommended on a low-carb diet, as they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other unique compounds.

Low-carb Drinks

The beverages you consume can’t be ignored when you’re counting your carbs. Stick to liquids like water, coffee and tea, wine and coconut water.

Coffee & Tea

These two beverages provide no carbohydrates, unlike juice or milk, while also providing caffeine, a natural stimulant that can improve metabolic speed and increase calorie burning. [21]


This zero-calorie and zero-carb beverage are also essential for helping us feel full, which can prevent overeating and the need to snack between meals.

Coconut Water

One serving of coconut water provides 9 grams of carbs which are less than many other beverage options. Coconut water also provides essential minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants to our bodies. [22]


Rather than reaching for a beer, drink a glass of wine, as it has far fewer carbohydrates and provides certain tannins and organic compounds that are good for overall health. [23]

Low-carb Breakfasts

  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Salmon
  • Breakfast Sausages
  • Bacon
  • Avocados

Healthy Low-carb Snacks & Desserts

  • Beef Jerky
  • Cheese
  • Olives
  • Hardboiled Eggs
  • Coconut Bark
  • Peanut Butter Truffles

Low-carb Lunch & Dinner

  • Shrimp Salad
  • BLT Rolls
  • Avocado Salad
  • Stir Fry
  • Portobello Burgers
  • Strip Steak Salad
  • Pork Chops
  • Grilled Chicken Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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