Have you just started a low-carb diet? Do you wonder about which foods you can eat?
Carb counting can be a bit daunting in the beginning. But don’t worry, you will get to know it all quickly. This quick guide is a good place to start, to see where all major food groups fit on the carb content scale.
This list is for general guidance only. If your diet requires you to count the precise number of carbs you consume, get a carb counter and check every product for its exact carb content.
There are many carb counters available – as pocket books, phone apps and online databases. Although it may seem tedious at first, you will quickly get to know the carb count of your favourite foods, and won’t have to consult your counter all the time.
When looking up a food in the carb counter, please remember that foods are usually referenced in their fresh and whole form. If you buy processed or packaged foods, always check the label for the number of carbs – it can vary widely depending on the manufacturer.
Zero carb foods – eat as much as you like
- All meat: beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison, rabbit
- All poultry: chicken, duck, pheasant, turkey, quail, goose
- All fish: salmon, tuna, sole, trout, herring, sardines
- All fat: butter, olive oil, vegetable oils
Very low carb foods – eat plenty, but start counting the carbs
- Green leafy vegetables
- Salad vegetables
- Hard cheeses
- Nuts (except cashews and peanuts)
- Seafood and shellfish
- Offal meats (liver, kidneys)
- Cream and full-fat dairy
- Zero-calorie sugar substitutes and sugar-free diet drinks*
Low to moderate carb – eat occasionally, and watch the carb content closely
- Soft cheeses
- Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
- Low-starch root vegetables (celeriac, turnips, daikon)
- Fresh berries
- Low-sugar citrus fruit (lemons, limes, white grapefruit)
- Low-carb flours (almond flour, coconut flour)
- Sugar-free chocolate and cocoa powder
High carb foods – avoid completely
- Any food that contains sugar or grains (e.g. wheat, rye, oats, rice)
- Bread and crackers
- Pizza, pasta, pies, any other dough-based food
- Biscuits and cakes
- Breakfast cereals
- Chocolate and sweets
- Fizzy soda drinks (except diet versions)
- Fresh fruit, fruit juices, dried and tinned fruit
- Potatoes in all variations
* Artificial sweeteners and sugar-free products are technically low in carbs. However, some people find that using artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to their progress, leading to strong sugar cravings and other issues. Be cautious with this type of food – it is not as good as natural low-carb foods.
Checking food for net carbs
USDA Food Database
The official food databse from US Department of Agriculture. Mostly includes whole foods, plus a few popular food brands. Net carbs not provided – use the formula “Total Carbs – Fibre = Net Carbs” to calculate.
SELF Nutrition Data
The data also comes from USDA, but the interface is a bit more user-friendly.
Atkins Net Carbs Counter – Free PDF
Very basic, but covers many popular foods. Not interactive.
Food tracking apps with net carb counts