Carb Counting? Don’t Count On It
If you’re new to the ketogenic diet, preparing a meal plan and figuring out where to obtain low-carb and no-carb meals can be overwhelming. Many newcomers to the keto diet eat a lot of low-carb vegetables like kale, spinach, and other leafy greens, as well as full-fat dairy like cheddar and blue cheese. While these selections clearly adhere to the keto diet’s rules, a zero carb food list eliminates the need for guesswork when it comes to carb counting.
List of Low-Carb Foods
Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods. While this zero carb food list helps, memorizing which foods are high in carbs and which contain only traces of carbs will be very helpful in the long run. Especially because there are a few foods that have no carbs at all — these are the golden geese of your grocery list! On the ketogenic diet, these foods can often serve as fail-safes during a last minute dinner or snack. The following tables detail the best options on the zero carb food list for each food group.
Carbohydrates and Food Labels
To be featured on a nutrition label as “zero carbs,” a food must contain less than 1 gram of total carbohydrates per serving. Trace carbs can be found in any food except oil (which is 100 percent fat). Carbohydrates can be found in even animal products in modest proportions. As a result, foods on the no-carb foods list have less than one carb per serving. It’s also worth remembering that there are four characteristics of a food that might be classified as carbohydrates when reading a food label: total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, total sugars, and added sugars.
For Whom Is This List Intended?
It’s almost like learning a new language when it comes to starting a keto diet. Even a seasoned keto dieter could benefit from this handy list of keto safe meals if his or her body’s biochemistry depends on keeping carb consumption below a specific threshold.Taking the guesswork out of food selections is a terrific way to free up mental resources for more important tasks.Here’s your ultimate list of no-carb foods, without further ado.
Fats & Oils With No Carbs
The only true zero-carb options are fats and oils used in cooking. These foods are excellent providers of nutrients on the keto diet, but they must be of high quality. Here are some low-carb, high-quality healthy fat and oil options:
- Olive oil
- Butter made from 100 percent grass-fed cows
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- MCT oil
Keep An Eye Out For…
While all oils and fats will be 100% fat and contain no carbohydrates, not all fats are created equal. Some oils are processed using additives, or the fatty acid profile is not optimum. Most vegetable oils, for example, are strong in omega-6 fatty acids, which, when ingested in excess, can cause inflammation. Other fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may be inhibited by these fats’ anti-inflammatory activity. As a result, it’s advised to stay away from oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as
- Oil from soy beans
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Peanut oil
Another factor to consider is the quality of fat derived from animal products. When purchasing lard, butter, or ghee, search for organic, 100 percent grass-fed, or pastured options. Not only will these products have fewer hormones and antibiotics, but they may also have a better fatty acid profile.
A true shining star of the zero carb food list. Almost all fresh meat, whether it’s a lean, low-fat protein or a marbleized, high-fat protein, will fall into the no-carb group. Meat is high in protein and fat, thus it should be a part of your keto diet. It’s critical to get your meat from healthy animals that are grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild, just as it is with the animal fats listed above. Because you’re eating so much meat on the keto diet, this guideline is very crucial. You want to eat high-quality foods as your main source of calories. Here’s a rundown of some of the most frequent zero-carb fresh meat options
- Meat that has been freshly prepared
- Meats from the organs (kidney, heart, tongue)
Fresh meat is excellent, but you may need to combine it with processed meat options at times. These dishes are frequently pre-cooked, making it easy to fill your stomach.
- Hot dogs
- Meat that has been smoked
- Meat from a deli (turkey, ham, chicken, roast beef)
- Corned beef
Keep An Eye Out For…
There are a few exceptions to the meat category. When purchasing meat, keep an eye out for the following:
- Sneaky hidden carbs
Quality is crucial when it comes to animal products. If you’re unsure, go with organic. Processed meats may contain additives that enhance the shelf life of the product. The biggest cause is nitrates, which most food firms avoid by labeling their products with a “nitrate-free” label. Keep a watch out for hidden carb components in processed meats. Many food makers will increase the carb amount by adding sugar, spices, and flavorings. Check the nutrient breakdown on the food label to prevent additional carbs. You should also be on the lookout for liver. It’s a great source of nutrients, but it can include more carbohydrates than you think. 4 grams of carbs are found in one serving of liver (about 100 grams). This isn’t enough to knock you out of ketosis, but it does keep liver off the “no-carb” list, despite the fact that it has numerous health benefits.
Seafood is another high-protein food option. Fortunately, there is a plethora of seafood in the no-carb category:
Seafood with Low Carbohydrates
There are a few seafood options that aren’t zero-carb but still provide an excellent low-carb option.
Keep An Eye Out For…
Purchasing seafood can be difficult. There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing wild-caught or farm-raised fish. First, make sure the canned fish is BPA-free. Many companies provide BPA-free packaging, so look for that claim on the label. BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical found in food and beverage storage containers. There is growing concern that the BPA used to line cans will leach into your food, effectively giving you a dose of chemicals you didn’t ask for. Second, be mindful of the amount of large fish you consume. Large fish eat smaller fish, and the smallest fish eat algae in the ocean. Because large fish bioaccumulate what all the smaller fish eat, large fish have higher concentrations of mercury and other potential toxins. Given the state of our oceans, it’s difficult to predict what kinds of toxins fish may be exposed to. Because larger fish eat smaller fish, they are more likely to be toxic. This is also true for higher mercury levels.
Water is essential for a healthy body, but it’s nice to mix it up every now and then. Fortunately, there are a plethora of low-carb beverage options:
- Unsweetened, naturally flavored sparkling water
- Still water with natural flavors (Flow)
- Soda water
- Soda without sugar (Zevia)
Keep An Eye Out For…
As the keto diet gains popularity, more low-carb and no-carb beverages are hitting the market. While this is fantastic, it is critical to understand where the flavors of these beverages come from. Diet Coke, for example, has no carbs but gets its sweet flavor from a chemical sweetener called aspartame. Aspartame has been identified as a possible carcinogen and should be avoided when following a ketogenic diet
Sugar, Spices & Condiments
There are a few sugar substitutes that are acceptable on a keto diet. After all, you have earned the right to have your keto cake and eat it as well.The sugar substitutes listed below are derived from natural sources and should have no effect on your blood sugar.
- Extract of stevia (can be found in liquid form or powder)
- The monk fruit (can be found in liquid form or powder)
- Erythritol (a sugar alcohol — see below for more information)
- Swerve ( a mix of stevia and erythritol)
Keep An Eye Out For…
Sugar alcohols can be great keto diet allies if you know what to look for and how to use them. The sugar alcohol maltitol, for example, may cause digestive discomfort and diarrhea. As mentioned in the beverages section, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose should be avoided. These two sugar substitutes can be found in many low-quality sugar-free foods and can pose serious health risks.
Playing around with different herbs and spices is an excellent way to diversify the flavors in your low-carb diet. Because most herbs are used in small amounts, they fall into the no-carb category. The following are some no-carb, keto-friendly herbs and spices:
- Pinch of black pepper
- Chipotle powder
Keep An Eye Out For…
Sugar is added to some seasoning blends to enhance the sweet flavor. Single herbs are usually a safe bet, but watch out for blends that don’t list all of their ingredients.
- Hot sauce(check the label)
- Mayonnaise without sugar
As long as no sugars are added, all of the above options are safe bets. Unfortunately, many companies will add sugar to condiments to improve flavor, so always read the ingredients label. Avoid canola oil-based mayonnaise in favor of avocado oil-based or olive oil-based mayonnaise if you’re looking for the healthiest mayonnaise options.
What Is the Difference Between Low-Carb and Low-Net-Carb Diets?
The food lists above are a foolproof guide to keto-friendly, zero-carb foods. However, there is also the issue of net carbs to consider. The number of carbohydrates in food after subtracting any indigestible carbohydrates from the total carbs is referred to as net carbs. Because your body cannot fully break down dietary fiber on its own, it is an indigestible carbohydrate. Sugar alcohols are yet another type of indigestible carb. However, this is where things become complicated. Sugar alcohols do not all behave the same way in your body. To calculate your net carbs, some experts recommend subtracting half of the sugar alcohols. Here’s an illustration.
A protein bar contains the following ingredients:
- 20g total carbs
- 10g dietary fiber
- 8g sugary alcohol
The net carb count would be 20 – 10 (grams of fiber) – 4 (8 grams of sugar alcohol / 2) = 6 grams.
Foods with Very Low Carbohydrate Content
Dietary fiber creates a class of foods that can be classified as very low-carb. These are foods that, in the absence of indigestible carbs, may provide significant carbs. However, when net carbs are calculated, these are quite low.
Vegetables with Very Low Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates make up the majority of vegetables. There are, however, many low-carb vegetables that are high in dietary fiber:
- Cauliflower with
- bell peppers
- Shoots of bamboo
- Chard (Swiss)
- Bok choy
Nuts and seeds with a low carbohydrate content
Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of fiber. Here are some excellent very low-carb alternatives:
- Macadamia nut
- Chia seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Hemp seedlings
- Sunflower seedlings
- Pumpkin seeds
Eggs and Dairy Products with Very Low Carbohydrates
While eggs and dairy contain some carbohydrates, the carbohydrate content of dairy can vary greatly depending on how it is processed. Aged cheeses are less likely to contain lactose (milk sugar) and thus contain fewer carbohydrates than fresh brie. Some low-carb eggs and dairy products include:
- Sour cream
- Asiago cheese
- Blue cheese
- Goat cheese
- Colby jack cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Provolone cheese
As you can see, there are many low carb options available in a variety of food categories. While a zero carb food list can be an absolute life saver, there are, however, a few things to consider as you fill your grocery cart. Because the world is full of sneaky sugars and carbs, get into good habits like reading food labels and memorizing zero carb and low carb options.
Examine Your Nutrition Labels
This is especially true for packaged foods, but if your fresh meats or dairy are packaged, make sure to check them as well. Keep in mind that total carbs are calculated per serving. If you consume four servings of food labeled zero carbs but contains 0.5 grams of carbs, you will consume an additional 2 grams of carbs. Before you eat that bag of low-carb almond crackers, make sure it only contains one serving; otherwise, you could be eating a lot more carbs than you expected.
Always read the labels on packaged foods. This is where hidden sugars frequently appear. You might be surprised by the added sugars and other carbohydrate sources that aren’t obvious from the front of the package or the nutrition label. Carbohydrates in total: Check the total carbohydrates after looking at the ingredients to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
Concentrate on Low-Carb and No-Carb Foods
This may seem obvious, but planning meals around no-carb foods will help you stay within your carbohydrate budget. Remember that leafy greens are necessary for the keto diet. So eat as much salad and kale as you can.
Understand Net Carbohydrates
Understanding net carbs can be a significant barrier to achieving proper macronutrient balance on the keto diet. Because everyone’s body works differently, you’ll have to experiment to find your own threshold.Remember that the goal is to stay in ketosis rather than to have a specific carb count every day
The Bottom Line
There are many low-carb and no-carb foods available; you just need to know where to look and how to determine which ones are right for you. Quality is extremely important in the keto diet, particularly when it comes to healthy fats and animal products. If you want to reap the health benefits of a ketogenic diet, you must prioritize high-quality food. Make sure to read nutrition labels to determine which foods are best for your body. To that end, make sure to keep this zero carb food list with you next time you hit the grocery store!