A low-carb meal contains very few carbohydrates and is instead made up mostly of protein and fats.

A low-carb diet can help people with diabetes manage their condition or help people lose or maintain weight more effectively.

Examples of low-carb foods include:

  • meat and poultry
  • fish
  • nonstarchy vegetables, including leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • fats, including oils, butter, and avocado

If a diet provides fewer than 50 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day, it can cause ketosis. Ketosis is a regular metabolic process that the body performs when it does not have enough carbohydrates to use for energy, so it starts burning fat instead.

A lower intake of carbs can help reduce the amount of insulin that the body produces. It may also help prevent hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and, possibly, some cancers.

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According to the Obesity Medicine Association, people typically consider 20–50 g of carbohydrates each day to be a “moderate” low-carb diet.

Below are some examples of healthful low-carb meals for any time of day.

Breakfast

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Total carbohydrates per serving: 10 g

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Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • onion
  • zucchini
  • cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper
  • plum tomatoes
  • eggs (1 per serving)
  • feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh cilantro or basil

Preparation:

  • Sauté the chopped onions and zucchini in a frying pan.
  • Add the garlic, then the spices and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer until the mixture thickens.
  • Add the feta cheese slowly, stirring.
  • Add the eggs, arranging them evenly.
  • Place the pan in the oven to bake until the eggs have just cooked.
  • Season with the herbs and serve it right away.

Spinach and tomato baked eggs

Spinach and tomato baked eggs

Total carbohydrates per serving: 1 g

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • finely chopped fresh spinach
  • diced tomato
  • fat-free feta cheese
  • fresh oregano
  • eggs (1 per serving)

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • Thinly coat one ramekin per serving with cooking spray.
  • Mix the spinach, tomato, feta, and oregano and pour into the ramekins.
  • Crack an egg over the mixture.
  • Bake until the egg whites cook, but the yolks should be soft.

Berry and spinach smoothie

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-2.jpg" alt="Berry and spinach smoothie“>

Total carbohydrates per serving: 25 g

Ingredients:

  • frozen unsweetened strawberries
  • blueberries
  • chopped banana
  • sliced kiwi
  • fresh spinach
  • ice cubes
  • fat-free dairy or nondairy milk
  • 100-percent apple juice

Preparation:

  • In a blender, combine the ingredients and mix until smooth.

Lunch

Cauliflower rice

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-3.jpg" alt="Cauliflower rice“>

Total carbohydrates per serving: 8 g

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • chopped green onions
  • low-salt soy sauce
  • low-salt vegetable stock
  • ground ginger
  • chopped carrots
  • chopped cauliflower
  • black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a food processor, blitz the cauliflower until it has a consistency similar to rice.
  • Sauté the green onions and carrots in an oiled pan.
  • Add the cauliflower and the rest of the ingredients.
  • Cook until the cauliflower is tender but not too soft.

Chickpea salad

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-4.jpg" alt="Chickpea salad“>
Chickpea salad

Total carbohydrates per serving: 11 g

Ingredients:

  • cooked or canned and drained chickpeas
  • diced green bell pepper
  • peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • diced tomato
  • dill
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  • Mix the ingredients.
  • Refrigerate the salad for a few hours to bring out the flavors.
  • Serve the salad on its own or on romaine lettuce leaves.

Black bean miso soup

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-5.jpg" alt="Black bean miso soup“>

Total carbohydrates per serving: 34 g

Ingredients:

  • canola or olive oil
  • chopped yellow onion
  • chopped carrot
  • minced garlic
  • grated ginger
  • black beans
  • low-salt vegetable stock or water
  • red miso paste
  • lemon juice
  • chopped cilantro
  • thinly sliced ginger root

Preparation:

  • Sauté the carrot and onion in an oiled pan until soft.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the stock and the beans.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Drain one-quarter cup of the liquid, then combine with the miso paste.
  • Add the lemon juice and make any seasoning adjustments.
  • Mash the beans and vegetables to thicken the soup.
  • Add the cilantro and sliced ginger before serving.

Dinner

Spinach, tomato, and walnut quinoa

Spinach, tomato, and walnut quinoa

Total carbohydrates per serving: 30 g

Ingredients:

  • quinoa
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • water or low-salt stock
  • fresh spinach
  • grape tomatoes
  • raw walnut pieces
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
  • fresh basil leaves

Preparation:

  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and add it to an oiled pan
  • Over medium heat, cook, and stir the quinoa until it is golden.
  • Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute
  • Add the water, and bring it to a boil
  • Reduce the heat, cover the quinoa, and let it cook until it absorbs the water.
  • Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook until the spinach almost wilts.
  • Stir in the walnuts and then the cheese if using.
  • Add the basil leaves to each serving.

Grilled salmon salad

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-7.jpg" alt="Grilled salmon salad“>

Total carbohydrates per serving: 10 g

Ingredients:

  • salmon fillets
  • olive oil
  • low- or no-salt grill seasoning
  • chopped romaine lettuce
  • chopped red onion
  • sliced cucumber
  • sliced avocado
  • lime juice
  • Dijon mustard
  • sweetener
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  • Season and grill the salmon fillets until they just cook.
  • Mix the lettuce, onion, cucumber, and avocado to make the salad.
  • To make the dressing, combine the remaining ingredients.
  • Add the salmon and dressing to the salad.

Teriyaki chicken salad

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-8.jpg" alt="Teriyaki chicken salad“>

Total carbohydrates per serving: 9 g

Ingredients:

  • low-salt soy sauce
  • water
  • honey
  • grated or minced garlic
  • low-fat mayonnaise
  • plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • cooked and shredded chicken breasts
  • diced celery
  • grated carrot
  • toasted almond slivers
  • lettuce leaves

Preparation:

  • Mix the soy sauce, water, honey, and garlic in a pan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until it reduces.
  • After it has cooled, mix in the mayonnaise and yogurt.
  • Stir in the chicken, celery, carrot, and almonds.
  • Serve the mixture on the lettuce leaves.

Snacks

Black bean dip

Black bean dip

Total carbohydrates per serving: 8 g

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • tahini
  • cumin
  • black beans
  • garlic powder
  • water

Preparation:

  • Blend the ingredients in a food processor.
  • Add water if the dip is too thick.
  • Serve with vegetables, such as celery, cucumber, and bell pepper sticks.

Stuffed mushrooms

<img src="http://www.medicationjunction.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/which-meals-are-low-in-carbs-10.jpg" alt="Stuffed mushrooms“>

Total carbohydrates per serving: 4 g

Ingredients:

  • quartered grape tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • dried basil
  • mozzarella cheese with 2 percent fat
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • large mushrooms with the stems removed
  • balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  • Sauté the garlic in an oiled pan for 1 minute.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking for 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the basil and cheese.
  • Fill the mushrooms with the tomato mixture and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Drizzle the mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and serve.

Spiced trail mix

Total carbohydrates per serving: 5 g

Ingredients:

  • curry powder
  • cooking spray
  • sunflower seeds
  • coconut flakes
  • chocolate chips
  • whole roasted almonds
  • unsalted peanuts

Preparation:

  • Place the seeds, nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut flakes in a container with a lid.
  • Lightly cover the mixture in cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle it with curry powder.
  • Cover the container and shake it well until everything is evenly coated.

Summary

A low-carb diet may support overall health and help a person maintain a healthy weight. People with diabetes, for example, may find that this type of diet helps with managing the condition.

The body needs some carbs to stay healthy, however. A diet that contains too few carbohydrates can lead to nutrient deficiencies and health problems, such as constipation and high cholesterol levels.

Also, a diet that has very high levels of protein and saturated fats can cause problems for the kidneys and heart. It is essential to include a healthful balance of fruit and vegetables in any diet.

If a person is concerned about the number of carbs in their diet, or the effects of a low-carb diet on a specific health issue, they should consult their doctor or another healthcare professional.