Carb-Counting as a Way to Plan Meals

Carb-counting is one way to make sure that your meals fit into your plan of choice. This is a practical option to ensure that you include the right amount of nutrients in your meals.

Benefits for Dieters

Once dieters learn how to count carbohydrates, it is easy to find and fit different products into their plan. Thus they can include a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables by checking the nutrition label. Another benefit is that dieters can control their glucose levels and readings. This is especially important for patients with diabetes. Moreover, it allows you to plan your meals in advance and ensure that you have a balanced menu.

Slow vs. Quick Acting Carbs

children-snacksThere is a difference between simple and complex carbohydrates, and the main one is their glycemic index value. Examples of low GI foods include porridge, oat bran, whole wheat, mushrooms, cabbage, and others. Foods with a high GI are parsnip, pumpkin, dates, instant mashed potatoes, and French fries. Products with a high glycemic index value cause spikes in insulin levels. Foods that are high in protein and fat do not have the same negative effect on glucose levels. This is why carb counting is important. It helps dieters to control their blood sugar levels, lose weight, and fight diseases such as heart problems, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and others.

How to Count Carbohydrates

One option is to check the amount of dietary fiber and carbohydrates on the nutrition label. If a product has 5 grams of dietary fiber and 18 grams of carbs, it contains 13 grams of net carbs. Check the nutrition label for sugar alcohols as well because they are more difficult to absorb. To make sure that your menu fits into your diet, you may want to consume more foundation vegetables such as asparagus, cauliflower, and hearty greens. Then have some high-fat foods such as cream and hard cheeses. If you find all this time consuming, there are other methods to try.

Online Tools

You can use online calculators, charts, tables, and other tools. The first thing to do is to calculate your daily recommended intake. There are calculators that help you to do this. Just enter your activity level, weight, height, sex, and age. For example, if you are a 32-year old female who is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weigh 180 pounds, your daily intake is 2051 calories to maintain your current weight. The amount of carbohydrates to consume depends on your plan of choice. If you are on the Zone Diet, for example, some 40 percent of your calories should be in the form of carbohydrates. Some plans also come with printable and downloadable food lists and carb counters to make it easier for dieters to track their daily intake. Other tools include a comprehensive database and allow you to find foods by total amount of saturated and monounsaturated fat, amount of carbohydrates, trans fat, cholesterol, and so on. You can choose between 200-gram and 100-gram servings. Another option is to base you search on a certain category, for example, sweets, snacks, oils and fats, legumes, seed and nut products, and others. The tool allows you to find foods that are lowest or highest in certain nutrients. Regardless of the tool or method of choice, the daily intake depends on whether you are on the Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Low GI, or any other plan. The most important thing is to limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates.

Online Resources

Low Carb Meals That Most Restaurants Offer

Many restaurants offer meals that are considered low carb-friendly or will gladly modify a meal to fit into your menu. Whether a chain, local restaurant or a fast food joint, there are options for low carbers.

Popular Choices
Many restaurants offer chicken with green beans and side salads. This is a good choice but avoid breaded chicken. Most restaurants also offer tasty omelets. Just skip the hash browns and toast and have steamed vegetables or salad greens instead. If you go with steak, ask if it has added sugar. Restaurants that offer salad bars are usually low carb-friendly. You can have grilled lamb chops with salad on the side. If you love seafood, many seafood restaurants offer grilled shrimp, grilled lobster, crab legs, and shrimp scampi.

Chicken wings, grilled chicken, chicken strips, Buffalo wings, and char grilled chicken are also popular choices. Many restaurants offer chicken, steak, and chops. Chicken fillet or steak with steamed vegetables is a great choice for your lunch menu. Many restaurants offer this option. Some restaurants offer popular meals such as carved roast turkey, baked fish, carved salmon and ham, hot wings, and taco meat. Other options are baked chicken, roast beef, beef patties, and more.

Low carb-friendly salads are also offered by many restaurants, for example, cob salad, Caesar salad, and others. Any salad that includes a protein source is a good choice (luncheon meat, cheese, etc.) Spring greens and tossed green salad, for example, are good options.  Opt for salads with low carb dressings with no added sugar. Choose dressings such as raspberry vinaigrette, creamy Italian dressing, salsa, and blue cheese dressing. Caesar dressing is very low in carbs (less than 1 gram per portion) while blue cheese contains about 2.5 grams.

The Salad Bar

While many restaurants offer diet-friendly options, avoid sugary and starchy foods such as pancakes, French toast, French fries, and hash browns. The salad bar is your best bet, and some restaurants and chains offer the option to build your own salad. You choose from spring mix, iceberg, and Romaine lettuce and different toppings, including protein sources such as tofu, turkey chicken breast, and ham. Other toppings include artichoke hearts, blue cheese crumbles, and feta, parmesan, and shredded cheese. Many chains offer a large selection of toppings for your salad, including oranges, green bell peppers, sliced egg, pineapple, dried cranberries, mushrooms, olives, and bacon bits. Basically, you choose your base, toppings, filling, and dressing. Some restaurants even offer homemade coleslaw. There are classic choices as well, for example, house salad with cream, coleslaw, sweet corn,  celery, tomatoes, cucumber, roast ham, and lettuce. The Italian salad is a great choice – a combination of celery, roast pepper, sun dried tomatoes, cucumber, olives, mozzarella, pesto, and of course, extra virgin olive oil. Or you can build your own salad and order cheese and bacon, spicy chicken breast, grilled salmon steak, or anything else that fits into a carbohydrate-controlled menu. Be careful with the dressings, toppings, and sauces because many contain hidden sugar and other carbohydrates.

Greek, Japanese, and Other Restaurants

While it is not difficult to pick a meal or salad in many Western-style restaurants, if you are going Japanese, for example, you may want to pass on meals that contain rice. Opt for fish and miso soup. Greek restaurants are an excellent choice for people on a low carb diet. You can have Greek salad, pan fried goat cheese, cucumber, yogurt, and garlic dip, garlic prawns, deep fried calamari, and other meals, salads, and appetizers that are diet-friendly.


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The Cheapest Low Carb Ingredients for a Healthy Meal

There are inexpensive low carb recipes and budget-friendly ingredients for those who are on a diet. Non-meat protein sources, frozen vegetables, and other products are inexpensive and healthy.

Non-meat Protein: Soybeans, Dairies, and Eggs

Vegetarian protein sources such as tofu, eggs, soy-based protein, and dairies are less expensive than meat protein. Soybean, for instance, is high in manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, and protein, and fiber. There are many soybean products to include in your diet, for example, soy nuts, soymilk, edamame, and others. Whole soybeans, textured soy protein, and tempeh are also high in fiber and protein. Tofu is also a great inexpensive option to grill or add to soups and stir-fries. There are plenty of tofu recipes to try, for example, tofu steaks, peanut-crusted tofu, tempura tofu with vegetables, and many others. You can also use it for salads, stir fries, and other dishes. Customers can choose from fermented and unfermented soy ingredients, and the latter are used to make soy milk, pressed bean curd, and tofu. Dairies and eggs are also affordable alternatives to meat protein. There are plenty of egg recipes to try while on a low carb diet. Eggs are rich in saturated fat, selenium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and other essential nutrients. You can make snacks and dishes such as pickled, hard-cooked, scotch, breaded, and hard-boiled eggs. Other meal ideas to try include mushroom and egg salad, tea eggs, and tarragon egg salad. The egg and mushroom salad is a great choice for a light meal. You will need onion, parsley, sour cream, mushrooms, and hard-cooked eggs. meal

Dairy products are also a safe choice and inexpensive alternative to meat. You can have cheese, milk, cream, butter, and other dairies. Retailers offer an assortment of cheeses, including domestic and imported. There is a selection of cheeses from different parts of the world, including farmer cheese, cream cheese, Monterey Jack, Tomme de Savoie, Brie de Meaux, Brie de Bourgogne, and many others. While some varieties are expensive, there are cheaper options such as tetilla, St. Andre, morbier, Irish cheddar, and others. You can choose from different types of cheese made from pasteurized goat, sheep, and cow milk. There are other dairy products for your diet, including clotted cream, butter milk, condensed milk, custard, curd, cottage cheese, and others.

Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are less expensive compared to organic produce. You can have green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet peas, Brussels sprouts, chopped spinach and cut leaf spinach, and other types of frozen vegetables. You can also use mixed vegetables.

Other Low Carb Options That Are Budget-Friendly

You can have roasts or buy chicken and bake or cook it in a crock pot. Other cheap options include white fish, canned tuna, ground turkey, and chicken. You can have fish such as perch, tilapia, haddock, and Pollock. Pork loin roast is also inexpensive. Other budget-friendly foods include avocados, peanut butter, and pickles. Even if some foods are not within your budget, you may consider buying in bulk. You will find nuts, spices, and other products at many health food and grocery stores. Check for sales as well. You can always buy in bulk and store in the freezer and fridge. Another idea is to check local markets (for example, the Mexican and local farmers markets) and buy vegetables and marinated meats. There is plenty of choice when it comes to inexpensive food. Seafood is another low carb option. You can include shrimp and halibut in your menu.


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Restaurants Join the Low-Carb Revolution

While some restaurants and fast food chains offer few or no low-carb options, an increasing number of chains feature a selection of tasty and healthy options. They offer high-protein menus to dieters and diabetics to increase their customer base.

A Selection of Delicious Meals and Nutritional Informationpitcher

Many restaurants offer specialties from the Cuban, Mexican, Irish, and other cuisines to attract low-carbers. There are healthy options to choose from, including rib-eye with spinach, mushroom jack fajitas, Kobe beef skirt steaks, and grilled lamb chops. Some restaurants also offer chef’s seasonal menus with dishes such as heirloom tomato salad, yellowfin tuna with beans and baby arugula, and lemongrass chicken with peanuts, celery root, and julienne carrots. All meals can be served cooked, undercooked, or raw, depending on the customer’s requirements. There are vegetarian and spicy versions as well. Restaurants that offer gluten-free meals use ingredients that are modified or made to be gluten-free.
Many restaurants use fresh ingredients to prepare all-natural beef, chicken, veggie, and other meal options. Many restaurants also follow emerging drink and food trends to improve their menus and services. They also cater to customers with special dietary requirements and are happy to accommodate their requests for vegan and vegetarian meals. Some restaurants even work with chefs, nutritional experts and mixologists to create healthy menus and meals. While there are restaurants that offer a few meals, others feature a comprehensive selection of over 30 or 40 low-carb dishes together with nutritional information about each meal. They provide information such as total fat, fiber, protein, sodium, carbohydrates, trans and saturated fats, and calories. Nutritional information is offered for all starters, appetizers, meals, soups, salad dressings and salads, sides, desserts, and even drinks and non-alcoholic beverages. Some restaurants even provide nutritional information for meals and drinks that are included in their kids’ menu. To offer accurate information, many restaurants cooperate with laboratories, nutritional experts, consultants, suppliers, and dietitians. There are some differences between chains and local restaurants, however. With chains, some items may vary slightly from one location to another.

Allergens and Healthy Food Choices

In addition to comprehensive information, some restaurants also offer information on foods that contain allergens, for example, shellfish, peanuts, soy, wheat, and others. This information is useful if you have gluten sensitivity or other allergies. Foods that contain allergens also include shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, and crab, as well as fish such as flounder, cod, and bass. Eggs and nuts also cause allergies, including walnuts, cashews, almonds, and peanuts. There are other trends in the food industry. Low carb-friendly restaurants are going green. They use only products that contain no additives, growth hormones, preservatives, and artificial flavors and coloring.

Best Practices

Not only this, but many restaurants adopt good practices to make it easier for customers to stick to their diet. Some restaurants, for example, offer carb-counter cards that allow customers to check the carb content of meals. Customers can check the nutritional value of meals on the websites of some restaurants. For example, creamed spinach contains 10 grams of protein and 18 grams of carbs while filet mignon has no carbohydrates. Stuffed chicken breast has 3 grams and Hollandaise sauce – 1 gram. Some restaurants also offer low-carb survival guides on their websites to make it easier for customers to stick to their diet while dining out. Some restaurants also offer South Beach or Atkins approved menus to attract customers who follow a certain diet and help them with their meal selection. They also feature daily menus to help customers diversify their menu and avoid diet boredom.

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Making Wise Low Carb Choices when Dining Out

Sticking to a low carb diet is more difficult when dining out, especially if you are going to your favorite restaurant. Of course, it all depends on whether you are out with friends on a special occasion or business dinner, whether you love Indian, Italian, Mexican, Greek, or any other cuisine. Some restaurants offer plenty of choice when it comes to low carb meals, while others offer mostly carb-heavy meals.

Italian Restaurants

Even if you love pizza and spaghetti, they are not the best choices. The problem with Italian food is that bread, pastas, and pizzas are loaded with carbohydrates. Still you can choose from a selection of meals when dining out. Order dishes with lean meat, seafood, and fresh herbs, vegetables, and seasonings. There are some don’ts as well, including eggplant parmesan, breaded foods, crostini, bruschetta, polenta, risotto, and others. The foods to avoid also depend on the plan you follow. If you are in the induction phase of the Atkins Diet, for example, you should avoid foods that contain bread crumbs. The good news is that many antipasti contain a mix of vegetables, seafood, and lean meats. Antipasto platters include a selection of marinated vegetables, different cheeses, and salami and are suitable for a low carb diet.

Mexican Restaurants

There is a world of meals you can try at a Mexican restaurant. Mexican cuisine is not only about tamales, enchiladas, and tacos. You can have Fajitas, grilled vegetables and meats, and seafood. Mexicans also use mole – this a sauce made of chocolate, seeds, spices, and chili. Breakfast foods are also low carb. The traditional breakfast includes vegetables, beef, and eggs. Of course, there are some foods to avoid, including chimichangas, enchiladas, and quesadillas. They are packed with carbohydrates. You can have the filling, however. Other foods to avoid include burritos, nachos, taquitos, and tacos. You can have low carb tortillas if offered.

Chinese Restaurants

The Chinese cuisine is healthy and tasty, but there are plenty of high-carb meals to be avoided. The list of banned foods includes eggs rolls, steamed and fried rice, and breaded meats. Other dishes to avoid include deep fried wontons and noodles. Some sauces are loaded with or contain sugar. Examples include oyster sauce, plum sauce, and sweet and sour sauce. You can have some, but try to limit consumption. As a rule, thick sauces and soups contain corn starch. The good news is that there are plenty of safe meals to choose from, including barbeque, walnut chicken, and stir fried dishes. Veggie and meat combinations are also safe choices.

Regardless of whether you love Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Indian, or Moroccan food, there are safe choices and meals to avoid. If unsure about the ingredients, you can always ask the waiter or request that certain ingredients are not used when preparing your salad or meal.