30 Healthy Low-Carb Foods to Eat
If you're eating a low-carb diet or just looking to cut back on carbs, you may be wondering what foods you can eat. Or, how many carbs are in certain foods like quinoa and oatmeal—healthy whole grains that still have carbs, but also pack a lot of nutrition in? Not to mention, what kind of vegetables, fruits and proteins can you eat and how many carbs do those foods have?
The key to not feeling deprived is to consume a variety of foods from all the food groups—even grains can fit nicely into low-carb eating.
At EatingWell, we recommend that on a low-carb diet you get about 40 percent of your calories from carbs, or at least 120 grams of carbs total per day. That amount helps you maintain a balanced diet and get all your nutrients in. It's also more doable and less restrictive than following super-low-carb diets, like the ketogenic diet. Read on to find out our top 30 healthy low-carb foods to eat.
Pictured Recipe: Quinoa Lasagna
1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 18 g carbohydrates
Quinoa's one of the grains with the biggest fanfare, thanks to its protein content (8 grams per cup) and fiber (5 grams per cup). But remember, just because it's a higher-protein grain doesn't mean it's super low in carbs. 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa has 18 grams of carbohydrates, so make sure to plan that into your day and stick to a 1/2 cup serving.
Not sure how to cook quinoa? Check out our best quinoa cooking tips and nutrition facts.
Pictured Recipe: Old-Fashioned Oatmeal
1 cup of cooked oatmeal = 27 g carbohydrates
If you're going to have a big bowl of carbs-even on a low-carb diet, make it oatmeal. Oats contain beta-glucan, which helps slow digestion. Whether you're going for a serving of old-fashioned or quick oats, they both contain 27 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup dry. Make sure you buy plain versions rather than flavored instant oats, which come with a lot of added sugar. You can make delicious homemade oatmeal with our five tips.
Pictured Recipe: Creamy Polenta
1 cup cooked polenta = 30 g carbohydrates
Made from cornmeal, polenta is a staple of Italian cooking. You can whip it up at home or buy ready-to-eat polenta in rolls that you slice. A 3.5-ounce portion (one-fifth of the roll) contains only 15 grams of carbs compared to other grains. Polenta is also a good choice if you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity that requires you to follow a gluten-free diet.
Most proteins are low in carbs, especially animal proteins. The following is a list of healthy proteins you can eat and their carb counts.
Pictured Recipe: Parmesan Cloud Eggs
One large egg = 0.5 g carbohydrates
One large egg packs 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 0 gram of carbs all in a nice 72-calorie package. Eat the yolk: research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that while eggs contain cholesterol, they don't increase your risk of heart disease, even if you have a gene that makes you more sensitive to dietary cholesterol. They also pack important nutrients, including vitamin D, lutein and choline.
Pictured Recipe: Garlic-Rosemary Roast Beef with Horseradish Sauce
4 ounce beef, round, top round (raw) = 0 g carbohydrate
Meat is fair game because it's all protein and no carbs. (Keep in mind, while it has a good amount of vitamins and minerals, meat also contains no fiber. Translation: Include a proportional size of meat on your plate, about one-quarter of it. Make sure to include whole grains, fruits and vegetables that add fiber to your diet.) You know chicken is a lean source of protein, but 20 cuts of beef are also considered "lean" or "extra lean" by the USDA. Smart choices include eye of round roast, sirloin tip side steak, bottom round roast and top sirloin steak.
6. Hemp Seeds
3 tablespoons hemp seeds = 2.6 g carbohydrates
The best thing about these tiny seeds is that you can sprinkle hemp on foods like yogurt, salads or oatmeal to add a nutty crunch and good source of vegetarian protein. A 3-tablespoon serving contains 9 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber and 166 calories. Plus, they're a rich source of iron, magnesium and zinc.
Pictured Recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp
3-ounce shrimp (cooked) = 0.17 g carbohydrates
These crustaceans are great to add to meals, especially if you're looking to lose weight. Three ounces of shrimp offers a whopping 20 grams of protein for only 84 calories. Make sure to prep them grilled or lightly sautéed-breading—frying adds unnecessary calories. Browse our collection of Healthy Shrimp Recipes for meal ideas and inspiration.
Pictured Recipe: Thai Coconut Curry Soup
3-ounce extra-firm tofu = 2 grams carbohydrates
Whether it's edamame, tofu or soymilk, soy is a good choice when you need ample protein for little carbs. A 3-ounce serving of extra-firm tofu packs 13 grams of protein and only 2 grams of carbohydrate. A cup of edamame has 18 grams of protein and is a little higher in carbs with 14 grams. One cup of soymilk has 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbs. If you go for soymilk, make sure you're drinking unsweetened—sweetened versions pack more than twice the carbs because of the added sugar.
Pictured Recipe: Dan Dan Noodles with Seitan, Shiitake Mushrooms & Napa Cabbage
3 ounces = 5 g carbohydrates
You might think you have to stay away from seitan—a vegetarian meat substitute made from wheat gluten because, well, it's made from wheat. However, a 3-ounce serving offers just 2 grams of carbs and an impressive 12 grams of protein. You can also make your own seitan with our recipe.
10. Peanut Butter
Pictured Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter
2 tablespoons peanut butter = 7 g carbohydrates
Peanuts are technically a legume (the same family as beans), so they do have 7 grams of carbs per serving. But 2 tablespoons of peanut butter pack 7 grams of protein and 16 grams of healthy, satiating fats. Many brands of peanut butter are flavored with sugar, including honey and maple syrup. To limit sugar (and carbs), choose those made with only peanuts. Other nut butters, like almond butter, cashew butter and pistachio butter are also great choices.
Pictured Recipe: Everything-Seasoned Almonds
1 package (50 g) = 10.5 g carbohydrates
Think almonds (23 whole ones offer 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbs), walnuts (14 halves pack 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbs) or pistachios (49 nuts have 6 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbs). The great thing about nuts is that they're also a stellar source of fiber, another nutrient that gives your meals and snacks staying power. These choices all supply 2 to 4 grams of fiber per serving. (Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day and men should aim for 38 grams per day.)
12. String Cheese
One mozzarella stick (28 g) = 1.3 g carbohydrates
An easily portable serving of protein, one cheese stick contains just 80 calories for 7 grams of protein and about 1 gram of carbohydrate. Plus, a recent study in the Current Nutrition & Food Science found that eating cheese may deliver good bacteria that keep your gut healthy.
Pictured Recipe: Sicilian Marinated Olives
1/4 cup olives = 2 g carbohydrates
There's a reason you may be served a small dish of olives (rather than bread) in countries like Spain and Portugal before your meal: they're bursting with flavor. Olives are also brimming with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. And a quarter cup is just 40 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate, plus 1 gram of fiber. Now you can find these in handy snack packs for conveniently toting around.
1-ounce beef jerky = 3 g carbohydrates
Jerky recently got a gourmet makeover, and is now available with ingredients like responsibly raised turkey, chicken, beef and bison in inventive flavors (like herbs, citrus and teriyaki). With about 10 grams of protein and just 3 grams of carbs per 1-ounce stick, this is a great way to stave off mid-afternoon munchies without reaching for chips. Just try to find a brand with the least sodium.
15. Hummus and Crudités
Pictured Recipe: Classic Hummus
2 tablespoons = 6 g carbohydrates
Non-starchy crunchy veggies like cucumbers and celery are great picks for dipping into hummus. The chickpeas in hummus provide 4 grams of protein per two tablespoons and ample B vitamins, which are vital for helping your body convert food into fuel. Let our collection of Healthy Hummus Recipes inspire you to create delicious meals and snacks with hummus. Want another dip? Try salsa or mix Greek yogurt with lemon juice, garlic and herbs.
Pictured Recipe: Cauliflower Pizza Crust
1 cup raw = 5.5 g carbohydrates
This brassica is having a moment as a popular veggie. Low carbers will appreciate it because it can be mashed like potatoes. Or throw it into the food processor to make "cauliflower rice," which can then be used in "rice" bowls and stir-fries. Some grocery stores even sell packaged cauliflower rice for easy kitchen prep. Check out our Healthy Cauliflower Recipes for other meal ideas.
Pictured Recipe: Spiralized Zucchini & Summer Squash Casserole
1 cup raw = 3.6 g carbohydrates
We love zucchini because it's so versatile. Using a vegetable peeler or a handy spiralizer, zucchini can be transformed into spaghetti- or linguini-like "noodles" as a low-carb substitute for pasta. Don't miss our veggie noodle recipes including zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash and more!
18. Spaghetti Squash
Pictured Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes, Beans & Almond Pesto
1 cup cooked = 10 g carbohydrates
Another great pick, spaghetti squash can be baked or roasted and then, using a fork, the "squash noodles" pulled out. Like zucchini noodles, you can top them with pasta sauce. Or, bake these into casseroles or lasagna-the squash is great at taking on whatever flavors it's paired with. See our delicious spaghetti squash recipes for inspiration.
19. Sweet Potatoes
Pictured Recipe: Sweet Potato Skins with Guacamole
1 medium (150 g) = 25 g carbohydrates
All taters are starchy veggies (along with others like corn and peas), so they have more carbs. A medium sweet spud contains 25 grams of carbohydrates, so pair it with baked chicken or fish and a green veggie like broccoli for a well-rounded meal. The fiber (4 grams) helps slow digestion and sweet potatoes are bursting with disease-busting antioxidants called carotenoids. Browse our collection of recipes for inspiration.
Get our list of fruits ranked from lowest carb to highest carb.
1 cup mixed berries = 15 g carbohydrates
Berries are winners because they're lower in sugar and high in fiber, so they keep your body on an even energy keel. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are all good picks when you're hankering for fruit. One cup of blueberries delivers 84 calories and 22 grams of carbs, a cup of blackberries has 65 calories and 14 grams of carbs, one cup of strawberries deliver 48 calories and 12 grams of carbs per cup and raspberries have 78 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup. Enjoy them as they are or add them to a variety of dishes—browse our collection of recipes for inspiration.
Pictured Recipe: Cantaloupe Salad with Lime, Pepitas & Cotija
1 cup = 13 g carbohydrates
Super-refreshing, this melon ranks lower on the calorie scale of fruits, with just 50 calories per cup of cubes, and 13 grams of carbs. Enjoy the fruit alone, or add it to salads and smoothies.
Pictured Recipe: Purple Fruit Salad
1 fruit = 9 g carbohydrates
These are great because they're usually on the smaller end, so they have built-in portion control. One fruit contains only 35 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber. Plus, these are also portable for on-the-go eating.
23. Fresh Fruit
No matter what type of fruit you're eating, choose fresh or frozen more often. While juice a refreshing beverage, it has little to no fiber and contains more sugar than a whole fruit—your blood sugar can spike more quickly as a result of drinking juice instead of eating fruit. Dried fruit is also considered a nutritious snack choice, but they generally contain four times the calories and carbs of a whole fruit. So, you may want to enjoy a small handful instead of indulging a large portion.
24. Greek Yogurt
Pictured Recipe: Strawberry-Chocolate Greek Yogurt Bark
6-ounce (170 g) = 6 g carbohydrates
Dairy isn't out just because you're low carb. Greek yogurt has a higher protein content compared to regular yogurt. One 6-ounce container offers 17 grams of protein and only 6 grams of carbs, plus it's a good source of bone-maintaining calcium. It's a low-carb choice only if you go plain, though. Fruit blends pack a few teaspoons of added sugar and three times the amount of carbs. Make your own with our DIY recipe for Greek yogurt.
Pictured Recipe: Berry-Kefir Smoothie
1 cup = 18 g carbohydrates
While kefir, a tangy fermented milk drink contains just as many carbs as milk, it's got the added benefit of probiotics, which help improve your gut health. It's also low in lactose, so if you have trouble stomaching regular milk, kefir can be a good way to get protein (1 cup provides 9 grams), vitamin D (one-quarter of your daily quota) and calcium (nearly one-third of what you need in a day).
26. Non-Dairy Milks
Pictured Recipe: Blueberry Almond Chia Pudding
1 cup almond milk = 3.2 g carbohydrates
If you're looking for a non-dairy alternative to cow's milk, keep in mind that they're not all equal when it comes to nutrition.Soy milk provides similar amount of carbs to cow's milk, offering 10 grams of carbs per cup. Low-carb choices include nut (like almond) and coconut milk. Rice and oat milk have more carbs than cow's milk and soy milk, delivering 20 grams of carbs per cup. For all non-dairy milk, watch out for added sugars as added sugars will pile on extra carbs and calories.
27. Cottage Cheese
1 cup = 9 g carbohydrates
Don't forget about cottage cheese. It's a protein powerhouse rivaling Greek yogurt, with 23 grams per cup. Turn to cottage cheese when you want to switch up your breakfast routine. You can also enjoy it as a salad for lunch or a quick snack topped with cinnamon and berries.
28. Whipped Coconut Milk and Berries
Pictured Recipe: Coconut Whipped Cream
1/3 cup lite coconut milk = 0.8 g carbohydrates
We're talking about the stuff from a can (not the nondairy milk substitute). One-third of a cup of "lite" coconut milk contains 20 calories and almost 1 gram of carb. Scoop out the thick, custard-like milk up top and whip it into a nondairy whipped cream to top berries for a low-carb dessert.
29. Almond-Flour Baked Treats
Pictured Recipe: Oatmeal-Almond Protein Pancakes
1/3 cup almond flour = 5 g carbohydrates
Next time you're baking a dessert, swap out some regular flour for almond flour (also called almond meal). Made from finely ground almonds, the flour adds vitamin E, belly-slimming monounsaturated fats and some extra protein to waffles, cookies, cakes and sweet breads.
Pictured Recipe: Chocomole Pudding
1 fruit (150 g) = 13 g carbohydrates
You can make avocado pudding by whirling together nut milk, avocado and flavorings like cocoa powder in a food processor. Avocado may be a fruit, but it's a rich source of good-for-you fats. Despite one whole avocado containing about 240 calories, it is packed with 10 grams of filling fiber and a respectable 3 grams of protein. Check out our collection of avocado recipes for additional low-carb inspirations.