With all the food restrictions that come with plans like the Atkins Diet or South Beach Diet, low-carbohydrate dieters often experience confusion about just what they can eat. Many foods are naturally low in carbohydrates. Use this list as a reference as you embark on your low-carbohydrate diet plan.
In compiling a list of low-carbohydrate foods, it is important to keep in mind that not all nutritionists recommend a strictly low-carbohydrate diet as a healthy way to lose weight. Check with your doctor for underlying health issues, and make sure you educate yourself about the basics of low-carbohydrate eating before undertaking a low-carbohydrate diet.
The printable of the low-carbohydrate food list can be helpful. If you need help downloading the printable, check out these helpful tips.
Self Nutrition Data lists the carb counts of the low-carb foods listed below in their searchable database.
Unprocessed Animal Proteins
Most unprocessed proteins come from animal sources and are extremely low in carbohydrates, containing one gram of carbohydrates per three ounce serving or fewer.
It's important to exercise some care in choosing processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages. Try to select processed meats with no added sugar and less than two grams of carbohydrates per serving, and overall try to limit intake of processed meats.
The following unprocessed meats contain one gram of carb or less per three ounce serving:
- Pork products
- Game meat
Eggs are a naturally low-carbohydrate food. Per egg, they contain two grams of carbs or less.
Processed Animal Proteins
As previously mentioned, processed animal proteins may contain some carbohydrates. How many depends largely on the recipe the meat processor uses, as well as how much sugar is in the meat. Therefore, when selecting processed meats (such as ham, sausage, salami, and bacon) it is important to read the manufacturer's labels to determine the level of carbohydrates they contain.
Most full-fat dairy is low in carbohydrates; however, you should limit quantities to one to two ounces daily. Choose the following full-fat dairy products.
|Product||Serving Size||Carbs Per Serving|
|Heavy cream||1 ounce||1 gram|
|Butter||1 tablespoon||0 grams|
|Hard cheese (cheddar, Swiss, etc.)||1 ounce||0 to 2 grams|
|Soft cheese (cream cheese, brie, etc.)||1 ounce||1 gram|
|Sour cream||2 tablespoons||1 gram|
|Cottage cheese||4 ounces||4 grams|
|Plain unsweetened yogurt||1 cup||11 grams|
You can eat most vegetables in relatively unlimited amounts on a low-carbohydrate diet plan. It's best to avoid or minimize starchier vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, beets, peas and corn.
|Vegetable||Serving Size||Carbs per Serving||Vegetable||Serving Size||Carbs per Serving||Vegetable|| Serving |
|Carbs per Serving|
|Alfalfa Sprouts||1 cup||1.2 grams||Eggplant||1 cup||5 grams||Spaghetti Squash||1 cup cubes||7 grams|
|Cucumber||1 medium||4 grams||Cauliflower||1 cup||5 grams||Jicama||1 cup slices||11 grams|
|Artichoke Hearts||1/2 medium||7 grams||Summer Squash||1 cup chopped||4 grams||Tomatoes||1 medium fruit||5 grams|
|Bok Choy||1 cup, shredded||1.5 grams||Sauerkraut||1 cup||6 grams||Fennel||1 cup sliced||6 grams|
|Celery||1 stalk||2 grams||Okra||1 cup||7 grams||Brussels Sprouts||1 cup||8 grams|
|Mushrooms||1 cup||2 grams||Asparagus||1 cup||5 grams||Onions||1/2 cup chopped||7.5 grams|
|Radishes||1 cup, sliced||4 grams||Turnips||1 cup||8 grams||Peppers||1 cup chopped||9 grams|
|Leeks||1/2 cup||6.5 grams||Bamboo Shoots||1 cup||8 grams||Celeriac||1/2 cup chopped||7 grams|
|Broccoli||1 cup||6 grams||Spinach||2 cups||2 grams||Lettuce||2 cups||2 grams|
Other vegetables, like salad greens, spinach and green onions, also are very low in carbohydrates. You can eat a huge salad without worrying about consuming too many carbs.
Limited amounts of fruit can be part of a healthy low-carb diet plan. However, some fruits are often restricted on low-carb eating plans because they are high in sugar, a form of simple carbohydrate. These include things like pineapple (4.8 carbs) and grapes (7.9 carbs). Other fruits are very high in carbohydrates, such as mangos (35.2 carbs) or dried fruit (63.6 carbs). Follow your plan carefully with respect to these items.
|Fruit||Serving Size||Carbs per Serving||Fruit||Serving Size||Carbs per Serving|
|Strawberries||1/2 cups of halves||6 grams||Limes||1 fruit||7 grams|
|Rhubarb||1 cup diced||6 grams||Plums||1 fruit||8 grams|
|Watermelon||1/2 cup of balls||6 grams||Peaches||1 small||13 grams|
|Cranberries||1/2 cup||6.5 grams||Grapefruit||1/2 fruit||13 grams|
|Cantaloupe||1/2 cup of balls||8 grams||Guava||1 fruit||8 grams|
|Raspberries||1/2 cup||7.5 grams||Sweet Cherries||1/2 cup||11 grams|
|Apricots||1 fruit||4 grams||Avocados||1/2 fruit||6 grams|
|Honeydew||1/2 cup of balls||8 grams||Nectarine||1 small||15 grams|
|Blackberries||1/2 cup||7.5 grams||Apple||1 small||21 grams|
|Blueberries||1/2 cup||10.5 grams||Pear||1 small||23 grams|
|Lemons||1 fruit||12 grams||Papaya||1 small||15 grams|
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great snack foods for low-carb diet plans; however, quantity matters. Limit daily intake to one to two ounces unless indicated otherwise. All nuts should be either raw or dry roasted, and beware of honey-roasted products or those that contain other added sugar.
|Nut/Seed||Serving Size||Carbs per Serving|
|Flaxseed||2 tablespoons||6 grams|
|Chia seeds||1 ounce||12 grams|
|Sunflower seeds||1 ounce||7 grams|
|Cashews||1 ounce||9 grams|
|Macadamia nuts||1 ounce||4 grams|
|Almonds||1 ounce||5 grams|
|Coconut flakes||1 ounce||4 grams|
|Coconut milk (unsweetened)||1/2 cup||3 grams|
|Walnuts||1 ounce||3 grams|
|Pecans||1 ounce||4 grams|
|Pine nuts||1 ounce||4 grams|
|Pistachios||1 ounce||8 grams|
|Almond butter||1 tablespoon||3 grams|
|Peanut butter||1 tablespoon||3.5 grams|
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are generally low-carbohydrate foods. Limit to one or two tablespoons. Below is a partial list of low-carbohydrate herbs and spices:
- Chili powder
Pure fats contain no carbohydrates. Consider one of these options:
- Olive oil
- Walnut oil
- Coconut oil
- Fish oil
Sauces and Condiments
If you use them in limited amounts, a number of jarred sauces can be part of a low-carbohydrate diet. Check for added sugar and avoid those that have sugar in any form. While these are general estimates, be sure to read labels for carb counts for specific brands.
|Salsa||1/4 cup||4 grams|
|Marinara sauce||1/4 cup||9 grams|
|Hot sauce||2 teaspoons||0 grams|
|Broth||2 cups||2 grams|
|Mayonnaise||2 tablespoons||0 grams|
| Ranch dressing |
(or similar creamy dressing)
|2 tablespoons||1-2 grams|
|Vinaigrette||2 tablespoons||4 grams|
|Mustard||2 teaspoons||1 gram|
|Tartar sauce||2 tablespoons||4 grams|
|Vinegar (white, red wine)||2 tablespoons||0 grams|
|Balsamic vinegar||2 tablespoons||3 grams|
|Apple cider vinegar||2 tablespoons||0 grams|
Limited amounts of alcoholic beverages can be part of a low-carbohydrate diet. It is important to note that the body processes alcohol differently than other nutrients, and this can cause blood sugar to be erratic. Beware of mixers, which often contain high levels of sugar and carbohydrates.
Limit alcohol intake to occasional drinks, and limit quantities as suggested below.
- Dry white wine (three ounces) - 3 grams
- Dry red wine (three ounces) - 3 grams
- Low-carbohydrate beer such as Michelob Ultra (one beer) - 2.6 grams
- Hard liquor such as whiskey or vodka (one shot) - 0 grams
It is possible to eat a healthy, low-carbohydrate diet. By choosing a variety of proteins, vegetables and fruits from the list of low-carbohydrate foods above and working closely with your doctor, you may be able to experience better health through low-carbohydrate eating.