If you are wanting to start a low-carb diet but don’t really know how to get started, look no further! I have put together an entire week’s worth of menu ideas for low-carb eating. It is made up of some of my favorite dishes that I have made myself since starting low-carb. I tried to keep the daily count under 20 NET carbs. This gives you a little room to add some snacks of your choice. At the bottom of this page, I listed some low-carb snacks you could try, if you need them. Just try not to go over 20 net carbs per day. People who keep their carb count at 20 or below each day have the most success with losing weight on a low-carb diet.
- NOTE: To calculate net carbs, look at the food label. Subtract fiber and sugar alcohols (not sugar) from total carb count. That will give you the NET carb count.
For some awesome links I have shared before that explain why I have chosen a low-carb lifestyle, along with some practical tips, please see these previous blog posts:
A Week of Low-Carb Menus (dinner menus only)
Also, for some ideas for packing low-carb lunches, click here:
First a few notes…
When you begin low-carbing, you will probably crave high-carb, high-sugar foods in the beginning, like sweets, breads, or pasta. I craved potatoes! The best way to fight your cravings is to always have low-carb options on hand to fill up on, and well…some will-power. :) After a few days, the cravings will magically disappear. Give it time!
If you find that you feel sick and weak–almost like you have the flu–that is also common. It never happened to me, but it did with my husband.
- Here is the reason: you are no longer getting as much salt as you did on a standard American diet (SAD).
- Here is the simple solution: drink 1-2 cups chicken broth made with chicken bouillon. It will give you immediate relief. Keep those little bouillon cubes on hand and make yourself a cup anytime you feel sick. Take a thermos of it to work with you. You won’t have to keep doing this while low-carbing, just in the initial stage while your body adjusts.
Don’t cheat! When you start eating low-carb, you are training your body to burn fat by no longer consuming an overabundance of carbohydrates. It is this transition that can be a little difficult. Once you get over this hump, you’ll feel great–I promise! But if you cheat and go over your carb count for the day, you’ll be back at square 1. Don’t undo all your hard work! Once you reach your goal weight, you can indulge in some carby foods every now and then–but you may not even have the desire to do so by that point.
After a week on a low-carb diet, you will find that you feel full much longer than ever before. You probably won’t need to snack anymore, and you may find that you only need 2 meals a day. This is because your body is learning to use fat as its main source of fuel, instead of carbohydrates! I usually only eat a late breakfast and then dinner because I’m just not hungry. And I rarely snack anymore!
As for drinks, try to drink water with every meal. Enjoy carb-free, calorie-free beverages like unsweetened iced tea, black coffee, diet soda, and Crystal Lite (yum). Feel free to add heavy whipping cream to your coffee, but limit yourself and keep up with the carb count, which is about 0.4 carbs per tablespoon. (Don’t use milk, as it is too high in carbs.) If you like milk, try Silk unsweetened almond milk, which is less than 1 carb per 8-ounce glass.
Okay, let’s get started. Click links for recipes–some are mine, some go to other websites. The number after each item is the estimated net carb count.
- Cream cheese pancakes (0.5 each)
- 2 strawberries, sliced (2)
- 2 Tbsp whipped cream (1)
- 2-3 slices bacon (>1)
- Greek-inspired chopped salad (5)
- Chop the following ingredients in small, bite-size pieces: Romaine lettuce, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. Toss.
- Add Greek olives.
- Sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
- Season with dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Jalapeno Jack Chicken (2)
- Pan-roasted zucchini (2)
- Cut 2 zucchini into thick slices. Heat 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp-tender. Sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to serve. Makes 4 servings.
- 8 slices smoked nitrite-free deli ham (0.5) rolled with 2 ounces sliced sharp cheddar cheese (0.5); then slice to make “ham & cheese pinwheels”
- One-half green bell pepper, cut into strips (2)
- 2 Tbsp chipotle mayonnaise for dipping pinwheels and peppers (1)
- Low-carb Texas Chili topped with sliced green onions, cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream (8.5)
- Save a little chili and freeze to use in Saturday’s low-carb nachos
- 1 recipe of low-carb pumpkin bread (2.5), cut and each slice spread with 1 tablespoon cream cheese (1)
- Lettuce wraps: Lay two large leaves of Romaine or iceberg lettuce on a plate, slightly overlapping. Down the center of the leaves, place 4-6 thin slices of deli turkey, 1 slice cheddar or Swiss cheese, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and banana peppers. Top with mayonnaise. Wrap leaves completely around filling and enjoy! (5-8, depending on how many vegetables used. Be sure to check the label on the deli meat–it should be >1)
- To pack, make the wraps without mayonnaise and pack the mayonnaise separately. This should keep the wrap from becoming soggy. Add mayonnaise just before eating.
- Salmon with red peppers (4)
- Steamed broccoli drizzled with melted butter (4)
- Baked Italian Eggs (2-4, depending on sauce used)
- Low-carb PBJ sandwich made with one-minute bread, 2 Tbsp natural, unsweetened peanut butter, and 1 Tbsp sugar-free jelly (6)
- 2 cups chopped salad made with Romaine lettuce and diced Roma tomatoes, tossed with low-carb Italian or ranch dressing. (4)
- Roasted chicken (0)
- Use leftover roast chicken for tomorrow’s chicken salad
- Spicy Texas Green Beans (4)
- 1 recipe of one-minute bread, sliced into 2 and each slice spread with 1 tablespoon natural, sugar-free peanut butter (4)
- 2 cups chopped lettuce topped with 1 cup homemade chicken salad (5)
- ½ ounce spicy pork rinds (>1)
- Choose one of these recipes:
- Bell pepper strips (4) and Ranch dip (>1)
- Do ahead: Transfer leftover chili (from Tuesday) from freezer to fridge tonight, to use for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Omelet made with 2 eggs, 1/4 cup chopped peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (3)
- Low-carb “nachos” using leftover chili from Tuesday in place of taco meat (6)
- NOTE: If you are packing your lunch, assemble the peppers, chili and cheese. Pack the green onions, avocado or sour cream, and cilantro separately. At lunch time, microwave the assembled peppers until cheese melts (about 30-45 seconds), and then top with the onions, cilantro, avocado, and/or sour cream.
- Mushroom Wine Chicken (2)
- Cauliflower “rice” (These directions for making “cauli-rice” are the best I have found. Follow them!) (2)
- Tex-Mex Eggs: 2 fried eggs cooked in butter and topped with 1 ounce of shredded cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon sugar-free salsa (3)
- Pulled pork BBQ with homemade Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce (4)
- Coleslaw (4)
- Whisk together 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1/3 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon grated onion, fresh-ground pepper, celery salt (to taste), and 1-3 packets sugar substitute, depending on your taste preference. Add one bag of shredded cabbage and mix well. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Tastes great made a day ahead!
- A few slices of onions and pickles (0-2)
LOW-CARB SNACKS/TREATS TO CHOSE FROM: Be sure to always check carb count first, and measure out your portion size! Remember to keep your total NET carb count under 20 for the entire day.
- Cheese chips with homemade salsa (cheese chips are >1 per serving; salsa is about 1 carb per teaspoon)
- Bacon chips with guacamole (If you love bacon, then you’re in luck. Bacon is usually >0.5 carbs per serving–and a “serving” is 2-3 slices! Check label; 1/2 avocado is about 1.5 net carbs)
- SlimJims (check label–most flavors are >1)
- Deli meat (check label–carb count should be 0-1 per serving)
- Hardboiled eggs (0 carbs)
- Pork rinds (plain ones are 0 carbs; flavored ones add a trace of carbs, so check label)
- String cheese (1 carb each)
- Cubed sharp cheddar cheese (>1 carb per ounce)
- Strawberries topped with whipped cream (1 strawberry has 0.7 net carbs; whipped cream has >1)
- This recipe of miniature caramel-pecan cheesecakes is one of my favorites!!! It’s amazing!
- Pieces of roasted chicken straight from the fridge (0 carbs)–one of my favorite grab ‘n go snacks
- Cucumber sticks (1 cucumber has about 1.6 net carbs) with Ranch dressing for dipping (>1 per 2 tablespoons)
- Zucchini fries (this recipe is really awesome if you are craving french fries–1 medium zucchini has about 4 net carbs) with Ranch dressing for dipping (>1 carb)
- Sugar-free Reese’s peanut butter cups, sugar-free Hershey’s bars, and various Russell Stovers candies. These are unbelievably good–they don’t taste “sugar-free” at all and really satisfy my husband’s sweet tooth. Net carb counts vary from less than one to 2 per serving. (Subtract sugar alcohols and fiber from total carb count.)
- Just be careful–some people think that eating sweets like this may trigger sugar cravings and cause you to indulge. Limit yourself to a couple of pieces per day, and don’t have any at all if you think it will trigger cravings. If you have a really bad sweet tooth, it might be better to go completely “cold turkey” from sweets.
- Sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues with some people–so start out slowly at first to see how much you handle.