Numerous studies have confirmed that low carb diets are more effective than low fat diets and even more effective than simply reducing calories (1, 2, 3, 4). There are many explanations for this; the fact that energy from fat takes longer to be absorbed (thus reducing the amount of fluctuations in insulin), the fact that fat helps us to feel fuller, the fact that fat aids the absorption of other foods and the fact that we conventionally eat so many carbs to begin with all being popular culprits.
Either way though, it seems that lowering your intake of carbs, or switching to mostly slower low-GI carbs, can help you to lose weight more effectively than eating lots of ‘fat free’ meals. Even if low carb diets work best only because they provide an easier way to eat fewer calories and even if the jury is still out, it’s still likely that a low carb diet is the current best bet you have when looking for an effective way to lose weight.
The problem? Eating low carb is difficult. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our diet these days consists of carbohydrates, which makes it very hard to simply cut them out of our routines. You could say that carbs are the bread and butter of our diet – or the bread at least!
Here are the top tips that should give you an edge on going low carb diet…
Do Eat Carbs
This is the number one piece of advice: a low carb diet should be a low carb diet, not a no carb diet. Every food group is important and no food group should be ignored entirely.
Apart from anything else, completely removing carbs from your diet is impractical and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. So aim to lower your carbs, and remember that even if just one meal that day is lower than it normally would be, you’ve made progress. Don’t beat yourself up.
The Breadless Sandwich
For someone on a low carb diet, bread will be the number one nemesis. Bread is a high-GI carb, meaning that it releases glucose particularly quickly into the bloodstream and meaning that it’s one of the worst types of carb (especially white bread without whole grains). Unfortunately though, bread is also pretty much ubiquitous and provides a big part of many of our meals. If you’re eating toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, this can be tricky to adapt to.
The solution? The breadless sandwich! This is simply a sandwich that substitutes the bread for something else, popular options being mushroom tops, slices of sweet potato (which is a slow carb) rice cakes or even slices of cucumber (great with tuna fish). Even two thick slices of ham can be used to create a sandwich.
Learn to Love Salads
The other alternative is to replace your lunch-time sandwich with a lunch-time salad. Increase the amount of protein in your salad to make it nice and filling and leave out the croutons. It’s fine to add a little mayonnaise to your tuna but keep the amount relatively small so it’s just enough to add the flavor without upping the calories hugely.
Eggs are your friend if you’re trying to eat low-carb because they’re very satiating as well as being highly versatile. Scrambled eggs are delicious for breakfast and likewise they’re great boiled, made into omelets (with some ham and cheese), fried, poached… etc. Poached eggs on spinach are surprisingly tasty and very healthy.
Understand Your Cravings
Our body is designed to crave sweet after savory and vice versa. If you eat a meal of tuna and egg then, you’re going to find yourself craving something sweet next. This is where people will end up ruining their low carb diet by eating a ton of ice cream or chocolate.
To avoid this happening, satiate your desire for sweet with something small instead. A small teaspoon of peanut butter can be enough to satisfy that urge and is actually very high in protein and low in carbs!
Don’t Binge on Fruit
We’ve been brought up to believe that fruits are healthy – and they are, seeing as they contain large amounts of micronutrients and antioxidants. Unfortunately though, fruits are also carbs and high in sugar. If you eat too many apples or bananas, this can be just as bad in terms of weight gain as eating too much desert. So don’t overdo those bananas!
Eat Lots of Protein
Protein is highly satiating (meaning it keeps you full) and is what’s going to make your meals ‘satisfying’ in the absence of carbs. At the same time, protein consumption raises your metabolism and it aids with muscle building – which also increases metabolism.
All this might be starting to sound a little complicated and in all honesty it can be. You’re going to be essentially changing the way you eat and that means you’ll need to rethink every single meal you consume. This takes time and commitment and sometimes when you’re struggling to think of something you end up being forced to cheat.
To make life easier for yourself then, sit down one evening and plan your meals in advance. Then buy in the supplies you’ll need and prepare as many meals as possible so that you can freeze them and reheat them later on. This will greatly increase your chances of adhering to your new diet.
When planning the meals you’ll eat regularly, it’s crucial to think not only about how well they fit in with your diet, but also how likely you are to stick to them. In short, it’s no good coming up with a list of perfect meals if each one takes ten hours to prepare and costs you a small fortune. To make life easier for yourself, choose meals that are quick to make, tasty and cheap. And remember the prep and clean-up too – everyone loves telling you how easy it is to make soup in a blender, but forgets just how stressful it is to wash said blender afterwards.
Learn to Read Labels
Most food items you buy in supermarkets should have labels containing nutritional information. This information should include the grams of protein, carbs and fats that you’ll be getting, so you can thereby find some surprisingly healthy foods that you might otherwise have passed up on. Get used to checking the label to see just how many grams of carbs versus protein are in each of your usual purchases.
Follow these tips and you should find that sticking to a low carb diet is entirely possible. And when you manage that, you’ll be on track to start making good progress in changing your body composition.