A low-carb diet is a diet that restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary foods, pasta and bread. It is high in protein, fat and healthy vegetables.

There are many different types of low-carb diets, and studies show that they can cause weight loss and improve health.

This is a detailed meal plan for a low-carb diet. It explains what to eat, what to avoid and includes a sample low-carb menu for one week.

Your food choices depend on a few things, including how healthy you are, how much you exercise and how much weight you have to lose.

Consider this meal plan as a general guideline, not something written in stone.

Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils and maybe even some tubers and non-gluten grains.

Don't eat: Sugar, HFCS, wheat, seed oils, trans fats, "diet" and low-fat products and highly processed foods.

You should avoid these six food groups and nutrients, in order of importance:

  • Sugar: Soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candy, ice cream and many other products that contain added sugar.
  • Refined grains: Wheat, rice, barley and rye, as well as bread, cereal and pasta.
  • Trans fats: Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Diet and low-fat products: Many dairy products, cereals or crackers are fat-reduced, but contain added sugar.
  • Highly processed foods: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don't eat it.
  • Starchy vegetables: It’s best to limit starchy vegetables in your diet if you’re following a very low-carb diet.

You must read ingredient lists even on foods labelled as health foods.

For more details, check out this article on 14 foods to avoid on a low-carb diet.

You should base your diet on these real, unprocessed, low-carb foods.

  • Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, chicken and others; grass-fed is best.
  • Fish: Salmon, trout, haddock and many others; wild-caught fish is best.
  • Eggs: Omega-3-enriched or pastured eggs are best.
  • Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and many others.
  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
  • High-fat dairy: Cheese, butter, heavy cream, yogurt.
  • Fats and oils: Coconut oil, butter, lard, olive oil and fish oil.

If you need to lose weight, be careful with cheese and nuts, as it’s easy to overeat on them. Don’t eat more than one piece of fruit per day.

Foods to Maybe Include

If you're healthy, active and don't need to lose weight, you can afford to eat a few more carbs.

  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes and some others.
  • Unrefined grains: Brown rice, oats, quinoa and many others.
  • Legumes: Lentils, black beans, pinto beans, etc. (if you can tolerate them).

What’s more, you can have the following in moderation, if you want:

  • Dark chocolate: Choose organic brands with at least 70% of cocoa.
  • Wine: Choose dry wines with no added sugar or carbs.

Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and may provide health benefits if you eat it in moderation. However, be aware that both dark chocolate and alcohol will hinder your progress if you eat/drink too much.

Beverages

This is a sample menu for one week on a low-carb diet plan.

It provides less than 50 grams of total carbs per day. However, if you’re healthy and active you can eat slightly more carbs.

Monday

  • Breakfast: Omelet with various vegetables, fried in butter or coconut oil.
  • Lunch: Grass-fed yogurt with blueberries and a handful of almonds.
  • Dinner: Bunless cheeseburger, served with vegetables and salsa sauce.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
  • Lunch: Leftover burgers and veggies from the previous night.
  • Dinner: Salmon with butter and vegetables.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, fried in butter or coconut oil.
  • Lunch: Shrimp salad with some olive oil.
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken with vegetables.

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Omelet with various vegetables, fried in butter or coconut oil.
  • Lunch: Smoothie with coconut milk, berries, almonds and protein powder.
  • Dinner: Steak and veggies.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with some olive oil.
  • Dinner: Pork chops with vegetables.

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Omelet with various veggies.
  • Lunch: Grass-fed yogurt with berries, coconut flakes and a handful of walnuts.
  • Dinner: Meatballs with vegetables.

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
  • Lunch: Smoothie with coconut milk, a dash of heavy cream, chocolate-flavored protein powder and berries.
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken wings with some raw spinach on the side.

Include plenty of low-carb vegetables in your diet. If your goal is to remain under 50 grams of carbs per day, there is room for plenty of veggies and one fruit per day.

If you want to see more examples of go-to meals, check out this article on 7 healthy low-carb meals in under 10 minutes.

Again, if you’re healthy, lean and active, you can add some tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes, as well as some healthy grains like oats.

Healthy, Low-Carb Snacks

There is no health reason to eat more than three meals per day, but if you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, easy-to-prepare, low-carb snacks that can fill you up:

  • A piece of fruit
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • One or two hard-boiled eggs
  • Baby carrots
  • Leftovers from the previous night
  • A handful of nuts
  • Some cheese and meat

At most restaurants, it’s fairly easy to make your meals low-carb friendly.

  1. Order a meat- or fish-based main dish.
  2. Drink plain water instead of sugary soda or fruit juice.
  3. Get extra vegetables instead of bread, potatoes or rice.

A good rule is to shop at the perimeter of the store, where the whole foods are more likely to be found.

Focusing on whole foods will make your diet a thousand times better than the standard Western diet.

Organic and grass-fed foods are also popular choices and often considered healthier, but they’re typically more expensive.

Try to choose the least processed option that still fits into your price range.

  • Meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, bacon)
  • Fish (fatty fish like salmon is best)
  • Eggs (choose omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs if you can)
  • Butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Lard
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese
  • Heavy cream
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt (full-fat, unsweetened)
  • Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Fresh vegetables (greens, peppers, onions, etc.)
  • Frozen vegetables (broccoli, carrots, various mixes)
  • Condiments (sea salt, pepper, garlic, mustard, etc.)

Clear your pantry of all unhealthy temptations if you can, such as chips, candy, ice cream, sodas, juices, breads, cereals and baking ingredients like refined flour and sugar.

Low-carb diets restrict carbs, such as those found in sugary and processed foods, pasta and bread. They're high in protein, fat and healthy vegetables.

Studies show that they can cause weight loss and improve health.

The above meal plan gives you the basics of healthy, low-carb eating.

If you need a comprehensive list of low-carb recipes that are both simple and delicious, check out this article on 101 healthy low-carb recipes that taste incredible.

Of course, you can also browse the Internet for even more low carb or paleo recipes.