People of all shapes and sizes are turning to low-carb and no-carb diet options to help them lose weight. These diets typically have very restrictive eating plans—reducing or eliminating carbohydrates from their menus. Many people try a no-carb diet menu, lose weight, and keep the weight off for quite some time. The plan does require careful attention to what is on your plate, though many different menu options are available for those looking to primarily cut fat, build muscle, or enjoy a combination of the two. A few no-carb diet menu ideas can help keep you on track during your diet.
No-Carb Low-Carb Basics
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. When you consume carbohydrates, a portion is converted to glucose in your bloodstream. A hormone called insulin carries the glucose to the body’s organs and cells to give them the fuel that they need. Excess glucose is stored away in the body as fat.
When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, it goes into a state of ketosis and begins to break down that stored fat to provide your body with the energy it needs. When there is no more body fat, it begins to break down muscle for fuel.
Carbohydrates are primary found in:
- Sugar and products containing added sugars and many sweeteners
- Milk and other dairy products
- Bread, cereals, baked goods, and grains
No-Carb Diet Menu Plan
A no-carb diet plan requires that you eliminate carbohydrates from your daily menu. The high-protein consumption that often accompanies a no-carb diet menu enables the body to quickly use up stored body fat while preventing it from consuming important muscle components to meet energy needs. Vegetables, meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood make up the bulk of a no-carb dieter’s selection. Breads, rolls, and most wheat or grain products are often prohibited, as are sugary fruits and alcohol. By limiting intake of foods that are high in carbohydrates, dieters also eliminate many high-calorie dining options, ensuring the plan can work to help dieters lose weight.
The No-Carb Diet Menu Week
The standard week for someone on one of these no-carb diets includes a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner devoid of carbohydrates. There is a focus on lean meats and seafood, and many participating in the diet plan choose to have a light breakfast and a heavier dinner. This may promote fullness in some people, but it is always best to listen to your body and schedule your eating and workout habits to match your specific needs. Some dieters may find that a hearty no-carb diet breakfast menu that supplies most of their protein needs for the day works well before a workout, and lean meats and vegetables offer a light alternative lunch option before another hearty meal at dinnertime. Snacks on the plan are limited and mainly consist of cut vegetables and cheese with herbal teas.
A typical day’s menu might include:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat and cooked egg whites
- Lunch: Grilled chicken or seafood, vegetables or salad (Read about the incredible health benefits of spinach)
- Dinner: Tuna salad or egg-white omelet, vegetables, side salad
- Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks: Carbohydrate-free whey protein and raw or cooked vegetables
- Evening snack: Protein shake
Hearty green vegetables deliver many of the nutrients unavailable through protein sources, and many vegetables have no effect on blood sugar levels. Spinach and other leafy greens make a great side to help jumpstart your day. Vegetarians looking for a hearty meal may try some of the low-carb or no-carb meat alternatives while paying close attention to the actual carb levels in these products.
No-Carb, No-Sugar Diet Menu
Along with elimination of carbohydrates, many diets also greatly restrict or strive to eliminate additional sugar intake. While the body converts carbohydrates into sugar in the bloodstream, consumption of excess carbohydrates, such as sugar, can lead to excess body fat. A standard selection from this menu includes a variety of lean meats, cheese processed without sugar or added carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, and many different leafy green vegetables. Fruit and alcohol are expressly forbidden due to their innate sugar contents. This diet is a good choice for those who are looking to primarily cut fat from their bodies instead of focusing on new muscle creation.
High-Protein, No-Carb Diet Menu
Bodybuilders and those looking to increase muscle mass while losing weight are likely to turn to a high-protein version of the no-carb diet. Unlike other diets, which rely on vegetables as ready sides and even main courses, the high-protein variety relies heavily on protein-rich nuts, seeds, and meats. These provide the protein necessary for exceptional muscle growth and deny the body access to carbohydrates that may otherwise be used for fuel instead of body fat.
A menu selection for high-protein, no-carb dieters should include many different fish, such as tuna and salmon, as well as lean meats such as chicken and turkey. Supplements and protein shakes may be consumed to maintain nutrition levels, and many leafy green vegetables are still allowed in small portions. The addition of fish can help promote muscle growth and lean body mass by adding essential oils for extra nutrition.
Low-Carb Diet and Atkins Diet Options
Small portions are one of the keys of the Atkins diet. This popular low-carb option for dieting does not deny dieters access to carbohydrates outright, but rather it allows only a small amount of foods that contain carbohydrates each day. Many other low-carb plans follow a similar setup. The plan revolves around net carbohydrates, the amount the body takes in after digestion, and allows twelve to fifteen grams of the substances during the early phases. Vegetables and meat are promoted heavily under these options as well as some dairy products such as cottage cheese and baked cheese varieties.
Methods of Cooking
The type of cooking method you use, as well as the temperature, cooking time, and amount of liquid used, can influence the sugar and carbohydrate levels in certain foods?particularly vegetables. Although the changes are usually negligible, you may find that vegetables that are boiled or steamed may contain less starch and sugar than those that are roasted or grilled.
Grilled, poached, and boiled foods are great for those on low-carb or no-carb diets. Breaded foods should be avoided as the outer coating is often made of cornstarch, flour, or other high-carbohydrate materials. This also applies to fried foods that have an outer coating. Similarly, foods cooked in heavy syrups or with sugar glazes typically add many additional carbohydrates to a diet. Spices of all sorts are allowed under most no-carb plans, allowing dieters to enhance flavor without introducing additional carbs.
Sample No-Carb Recipe: Skillet Dijon Chicken
This simple no-carb chicken dish uses just a handful of ingredients and cooks up in 20 minutes or less.
- 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 ounces white cooking wine (nonalcoholic)
- 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Place each piece of chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy frying pan until 1/2-inch thin or less. Place the olive oil in a fry pan over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken and cook until it is nicely browned on both sides, turning at least once.
Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. When the chicken is browned, reduce the heat to medium-low and pour the mixture over the chicken. Cook until the chicken is completely cooked through and the internal temperature has reached a minimum of 160 F. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken when serving.