Whether you're going low-carb to shed pounds or simply want to control your blood sugar, knowing which foods don't have carbohydrates is a must. While a wide variety of foods are low in carbohydrates, just a handful of food categories are carb-free.
Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
Some of your healthiest carb-free options are lean meats, poultry, and seafood -- as these foods are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Examples include:
- Beef: The amount of protein and fat content in beef varies depending on the cut you choose, but beef is a carb-free food. Three ounces of lean grilled top round steak provides 140 calories, 26 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, and zero carbohydrates.
- Pork: Pork is similar nutritionally to beef and is a carb-free alternative if beef isn't your thing.
- Chicken: Slightly lower in calories than beef, chicken is an excellent choice when you're seeking carb-free, nutrient-dense protein foods. A 3-ounce portion of chicken provides about 130 calories, 26 grams of protein, just under 3 grams of fat, and zero carbs.
- Turkey: Similar nutritionally to chicken, lean turkey is another excellent source of protein-rich, carb-free sustenance.
- Fish: Salmon, tilapia, cod, tuna, catfish, and many other types of fish are protein-rich and carb-free. However, steer clear of breaded fish, as the carbs in breading can add up quickly. Three ounces of grilled salmon provide you with about 130 calories, 23 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat (including omega-3 fatty acids), and no carbs.
- Shrimp: Another carb-free food, shrimp is a healthy option due to its high protein, vitamin, and mineral content. A 3-ounce portion of shrimp contains just 85 calories, 20 grams of protein, less than 1 grams of fat, and zero carbs.
- Lamb: Lamb is naturally carb-free, too and provides you with just over 20 grams of protein in each 3-ounce portion.
- Crab: Crab is another carb-free protein food, containing 15 grams of protein in each 3-ounce portion.
Eggs and Dairy Foods
Butter and eggs are also classified as carb-free foods. Many dairy foods are low-carb foods, but not carb-free. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese each contain about 5 grams of carbs per serving, and one large egg contains just 1/3 gram of carbs. Cheddar cheese provides just under 1 gram of carbs in each 1-ounce portion; so does 1 tablespoon of sour cream. Butter on the other hand, provides about 100 calories, 12 grams of fat, and no carbs in each one-tablespoon serving.
Fruits and vegetables contain carbs, so produce isn't really in a carb-free food category. However, leafy greens contain almost no carbs. For example, kale and spinach provide just one gram of carbs per cup.
Oils are naturally carb-free and contain no protein -- just 14 grams of fat per serving. Here is a list of some healthy, carb-free oils:
- Fish oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Walnut oil
- Pumpkinseed oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Hempseed oil
- Corn oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
Packaged Foods and Drinks
A variety of packaged foods and drinks are also carb-free. Such foods are often advertised as being beneficial for weight loss and healthy weight management. Examples of carb-free packaged food and drink items include:
- Sugar-free Jell-O: Replace your usual dessert with this carb-free sweet treat instead. Sweetened with carb- and calorie-free artificial sweetener, sugar-free Jell-O will curb your sweet tooth in no time.
- Coffee and Tea: If you need your morning caffeine fix but want to steer clear of carbs, you're in luck. Black coffee and tea both contain very few calories and no carbs. However, avoid putting sugar and milk in coffee or tea, which adds in carbs. Try calorie-free artificial sweetener instead.
- Unsweetened almond milk: Almond milk is a carb-free food as long as you choose unsweetened varieties. Pick protein-fortified almond milk to help fill you up.
- Crystal Light: A sugar-free drink, Crystal Light helps refresh you without the extra calories or carbs. Choose Crystal Light (or plain water) instead of sugary drinks when you need to shed pounds.
- Club Soda: This refreshing drink is both calorie- and carb-free, so drink your heart out with club soda when you need to cut calories.
- Vinegar: Try using vinegar as a way to flavor salads without adding carbs. Many types of vinegar (such as red wine vinegar, white distilled vinegar, and cider vinegar) are carb-free, but some balsamic vinegars may provide 2 to 3 grams of carbs per tablespoon. Flavored vinegars may also contain a few carbs, so check the nutrition facts label to be sure.
- Mayonnaise: Use mayonnaise when you need a no-carb way to flavor salads and sandwiches.
- Shortening: Pick shortening as a no-carb baking ingredient.
Using artificial sweeteners is an excellent way to sweeten food without the extra calories or carbs. Examples of carb-free sweeteners (containing less than 1 gram of carbs per packet) include:
- Stevia (contains 1 gram of carbs per packet)
- Monk fruit
Inulin (carbs are from fiber, which isn't digested)
Why Go Carb-Free?
Choosing carb-free foods is an excellent way to cut calories and carbs when you want to shed pounds or control blood sugar. However, keep in mind your body does require carbs on a daily basis to function properly -- at least 130 grams per day for kids and adults, suggests the Institute of Medicine.