A low carb diet typically has you limit bread, sweets, and starchy vegetables. Certain types of fruit may also be high in carbs.
Carbs are an important source of energy and one of the three main macronutrients in our diets, along with fat and protein.
Not only do carbohydrates fuel your brain and cells throughout your body, but they also regulate digestive health, appetite, cholesterol levels, and more.
Still, many people choose to limit their carb intake. Researchers have
Your total daily carb target determines whether you need to limit some of these foods or avoid them altogether. Low carb diets typically contain
Keep reading to learn which foods to limit and avoid on a low carb diet.
Counting net carbs
When counting carbs on a low carb eating plan, nutritionists typically recommend counting net carbs rather than total carbs. To find the net carbs, you can subtract the fiber from the total carbohydrates listed under a food’s nutritional information, since fiber is not digested.
Here are 14 foods to limit on a low carb diet.
Bread is a staple food in many cultures but is typically high in carbs.
Although exact counts vary by ingredients and portion size, bread made from whole grains typically has a lower amount of carbs when compared to those made from refined flour. It also contains more beneficial nutrients, including fiber. Whole grain products
The amount of carbs in whole grain products can vary by product and portion size.
To reduce the number of carbs you’re eating, you can manage the amount of bread and grains you eat. You can try making some whole grain swaps, like:
- whole wheat bread instead of white bread:
- brown or purple rice instead of white rice
- whole wheat tortillas, flatbread, or pita instead of varieties made from refined flour
You can also make your own low carb bread with these recipes.
You can also include other whole grains in your eating plan, such as:
On a low carb diet, you may want to limit your intake of some bread and grains. Try whole-grain varieties instead, as they contain more fiber and fewer net carbs.
While fruits can be high in carbs, many are high in fiber as well. This reduces the number of net carbs.
Some low carb swaps may include:
- whole peaches, plums, and nectarines instead of varieties canned in syrup
- a half-cup of fresh berries or cut apples instead of dried and sweetened cranberries
Berries are lower in sugar and higher in fiber than other fruits. This makes berries suitable for low carb diets. Other low carb fruits can include:
You can also try adding fruits that are high in healthy fats to your diet. This may include:
You may want to limit some fruits, including sweetened, dried fruits, and fruits canned in syrup, on a low carb diet. Berries and other whole fruits typically contain fiber and other beneficial nutrients and can be enjoyed on a low carb diet.
Most diets allow an unlimited intake of vegetables.
Plus, many veggies are very high in fiber,
Starchy vegetables contain more digestible carbs than fiber. On a low carb diet, you may want to enjoy them in moderation. Here are the carb counts for 100 grams of some cooked starchy vegetables:
- Sweet corn:
75 grams(59 grams net)
22 grams( 20 grams net)
- Sweet potatoes:
18 grams(15 grams net)
25 grams(16 grams net)
- Butternut squash: 11 grams (8 grams net)
Notably, you can enjoy many low carb vegetables on a low carb diet. Here are the carb counts for 100 grams of some low carb vegetables:
- Bell peppers:
5 grams(4 grams net)
4 grams(2 grams net)
5 grams(3 grams net)
- Baby spinach:
2 grams(1 gram net)
Although many vegetables are low in carbs, a few are quite high. It’s best to choose mostly non-starchy, high fiber vegetables when limiting your carb intake.
Though pasta is versatile and inexpensive, it’s also high in carbs. Choosing a whole wheat variety is typically lower in carbs.
You can also look for pasta that isn’t made of wheat. Many versions contain high amounts of fiber and result in a reduced amount of net carbs. These numbers can vary by product. Low carb pasta alternatives can include:
- spiralized vegetables, such as zucchini
- spaghetti squash
- chickpea pasta
- veggie pasta
- lentil pasta
- shirataki noodles
You can also substitute rice for pasta in some instances. Opt for brown or purple rice instead of white rice, as they have more fiber and are less processed. Here are the carb counts for 100 grams of rice (or around 1/2 cup uncooked, which makes between 1-1 1/2 cups cooked):
- brown rice:
77 gramsof carbs (74 grams net carbs)
- purple rice:
76 gramsof carbs (72 grams net carbs)
- white rice:
83 gramsof carbs (83 grams net carbs)
You can reduce your carb counts when eating pasta by opting for whole wheat noodles, spiralized vegetables, and other low carb pasta alternatives.
It’s well known that sugary breakfast cereals contain a lot of carbs. They also contain a lot of added sugar.
But if you choose options that are also high in fiber and control your portion size, some cereals can be included as part of a low carb diet.
- Cooked instant oats (1 cup cooked):
27 gramsof carbs (23 grams net carbs)
- Steel-cut oats (1/4 cup dry):
28 gramsof carbs (23 grams net carbs)
- Granola (1/2 cup):
41 gramsof carbs (36 grams net carbs)
You’ll want to avoid sugary breakfast cereals on a low carb diet. But high fiber breakfast options such as oatmeal and homemade granola may fit within your carb allowance.
If you’re drinking hard liquors, mixers can be a source of sugar and carbs. This can make the carbs add up quickly.
Dry wine and spirits are better alcohol options on a low carb diet than beer and sweet wine.
Many people tend to eat fruit-flavored, sweetened yogurt varieties, which often contain as many carbs as desserts.
Instead, it’s best to opt for unsweetened, plain yogurt when possible and add your favorite low carb toppings. For instance, 1/2 cup (123 grams) of
Sweetened low fat or nonfat yogurt often contains as many carbs as ice cream and other desserts. Plain yogurt paired with low carb toppings, such as berries, may be a better choice if you’re on a low carb diet.
Although it contains some valuable vitamins and minerals, juice is high in carbs and low in fiber, which can make it challenging to fit into a low carb diet. Many varieties also contain added sugar.
- Apple juice (12 ounces, 355 mL):
42 gramsof carbs
- Grape juice (12 ounces, 355 mL):
55 gramsof carbs
- Vegetable juice (12 ounces, 355 mL):
23 gramsof carbs (19 net carbs)
You may want to watch your juice intake on a low carb diet. Instead of juice and other sugary drinks, you may be able to make your own low carb smoothies or opt for water or tea.
Juice is high in carbs and low in fiber, which may make it difficult to include on a low carb diet. You can swap juice for low carb beverages.
You can eat a wide variety of salads on a low carb diet.
But commercial dressings — especially low fat and fat-free varieties — can add more carbs than you might expect.
For example, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of fat-free French dressing contain 10 grams of carbs while an equal portion of fat-free ranch dressing has 7 grams (
To minimize carbs, dress your salad with a creamy, full-fat dressing. Or, make your own homemade vinaigrette using a splash of vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, which is
Limit your intake of fat-free and low fat salad dressings, which are typically high in carbs, and opt for creamy dressings or make a homemade vinaigrette instead.
While they’re high in carbs, they also contain a fair amount of fiber.
Here are the carb counts for 1 cup (160–200 grams) of cooked beans and legumes:
39 grams(23 grams net)
25 grams(16 grams net)
- Black beans:
41 grams(26 grams net)
- Pinto beans:
45 grams(30 grams net)
45 grams(32 grams net)
- Kidney beans:
40 grams(27 grams net)
Beans and legumes are healthy, high fiber foods. You can eat them on a low carb diet depending on your daily carb limit.
You’re probably well aware that foods high in refined white sugar, such as cookies, candy, and cake, should be limited on a low carb diet.
Natural forms of sugar can have as many carbs, if not more.They also typically have very little to no fiber.
Here are the carb counts per 1 tablespoon (13–21 grams) of several types of sugar:
Many sweeteners provide little to no nutritional value. When limiting your carb intake, it’s important to choose nutritious, high fiber carb sources.
If you’re on a low carb diet, you should limit your intake of sugar, honey, maple syrup, and other forms of sugar, which are high in carbs but low in important nutrients.
Just 1 ounce (28 grams) of tortilla chips — or 10–15 average-sized chips — contains
Most people eat processed snack foods in large quantities, so you should limit them if you’re on a low carb diet.
You can try making veggie chips at home or shopping for less processed alternatives, which are usually made from ingredients like:
You can also swap ultra-processed snack foods for hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, or nuts.
Most commercial chips, crackers, and other processed, grain-based snack foods are high in carbs. Try making veggie chips or look for less processed snacks that are low in carbs.
Milk is an excellent source of several nutrients, including calcium, potassium, and several B vitamins.
However, it’s also fairly high in carbs. If you’re only using 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) in coffee each day, you may be able to include small amounts of milk in your low carb diet. Or, you could opt for creamer.
low fat, and skimmilk (8 ounces, 240 mL): 2–13 gramsof carbs
- Cream (1 ounce, 30 mL):
1 gramof carbs
- Half-and-half (1 ounce, 30 mL):
1 gramof carbs
- Unsweetened almond milk (8 ounces, 240 mL):
3 gramsof carbs
- Sweetened vanilla almond milk (8 ounces, 240 mL):
16 gramsof carbs (15 grams net carbs)
- Unsweetened coconut milk (8 ounces, 240 mL):
6 gramsof carbs
Sweetened plant-based milk can contain more carbs than dairy milk.
If you enjoy drinking milk by the glass or use it to make lattes or smoothies, consider unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead.
You can typically add a small amount of milk to coffee once per day on many low carb diets. A milk alternative like unsweetened almond or coconut milk may be better if you drink large amounts.
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Some people with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders must avoid gluten to manage digestive symptoms and prevent intestinal damage.
Gluten-free bread, muffins, and other baked goods aren’t typically low in carbs. In fact, they often boast even more carbs than their gluten-containing counterparts.
What’s more, the flour used to make these foods is typically made from starches and grains that tend to raise blood sugar rapidly (
If you’re limiting your carb intake, stick to whole foods or use almond or coconut flour to make your own low carb baked goods rather than eating processed gluten-free foods.
Gluten-free breads and muffins can be as high in carbs as traditional baked goods. They’re also often made with carb sources that raise blood sugar quickly.
Although a low carb diet isn’t right for everyone, people may choose to reduce their carb intake for many reasons.
For example, research shows that low carb diets may support weight loss as effectively as other popular eating patterns, such as low fat diets. All the same, low carb diets may have limited efficacy over the long term (
Low carb or carb-controlled diets are also often recommended to treat diabetes. In fact, one review of nine studies reported that a low carb diet helped improve long-term blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes (
What’s more, one study found that low carb diets may help reduce the effects of metabolic syndrome — a group of risk factors that may increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes — in people with obesity (
Low carb diets may help increase weight loss, improve blood sugar control, and help prevent metabolic syndrome.
Low carb diets can be healthy and can have health benefits, especially for weight management and blood sugar control. A well-planned low carb diet can include a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients, including:
- high fiber fruits
Some types of low carb diets, like keto and Atkins, may be overly restrictive and unsustainable in the long run.
Very low carb diets
- pregnant people
- people with certain chronic health conditions
Also, the quality of the low carb food matters.
Eating more plant-based fats and proteins while lowering your intake of refined carbs and sugar can reduce your diabetes risk. But low carb diets emphasizing animal protein and minimizing whole grains
That’s why it’s best to talk with a doctor or dietitian before lowering your carb intake drastically.
Low carb diets may have health benefits. But very low carb diets can be overly restrictive and contribute to adverse effects if followed long-term.
Can I eat beans on a low-carb diet?
You may be able to eat a small amount of beans on a low carb diet, depending on your daily carb limit. While beans are high in carbohydrates, they also contain fiber and protein.
What beans are best for low-carb diet?
You can eat a small amount of beans on a low carb diet. The exact amount may depend on your set carb limit. Beans that are lower in carbs can include peas, green beans, lima beans, and soybeans.
Are beans a protein or a carb?
Beans contain both carbohydrates and protein. While they are high in carbs, they also offer beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and protein.
When following a low carb diet, it’s important to choose foods that are highly nutritious but low in carbs.
Eating more plant-based fats and proteins while lowering your intake of refined carbs and sugar can benefit your health.
Just one thing
Try this today: For a simple way to get started on a low carb diet, check out this meal plan, which includes a sample menu, shopping list, and detailed guide for which foods to eat and avoid.