What & How Much Can You Eat on a Low-Carb Diet to Lose Weight?

Low-carb diets claim that you can lose weight quickly while eating as much as you want of the foods on the “approved” list. For those who struggle with feelings of hunger while trying to lose weight, this sounds appealing. Removing all carbohydrates from your diet is almost impossible and not healthy, so you must learn what you can and cannot eat in order to find success on this diet plan.

Carbohydrate Limits 

According to the Mayo Clinic, most low-carbohydrate diet plans limit the dieter to 50 to 150 g of carbohydrates per day. To lose weight effectively, place yourself near the lower end of these limits. Some diet plans even limit carbohydrates more than this for a short period of time, known as the induction phase, which is when the dieter experiences the fastest weight loss. These limits can be as low as 20 g of net carbohydrates per day during the induction phase. Net carbohydrates refers to the number of carbohydrates in the food minus the fiber content.

Choosing Your Carbs

Since you cannot completely limit your carbohydrates, choose the ones you do eat carefully. The Diet Channel recommends choosing carbohydrates with a high fiber content, which is five g or more per serving. These have fewer net carbohydrates than low-fiber foods. High-fiber foods also promote a satisfied feeling and limit hunger and constipation problems. Most high-fiber, complex-carbohydrate foods are more nutrient dense than simple carbohydrates, which will promote your overall health while you lose weight.

Non-Carb Foods

On a low-carbohydrate diet plan, your diet consists of meat, cheese, poultry, eggs, fish and nonstarchy vegetables. You can eat an unlimited amount of most meats, but be careful with those that do contain carbohydrates, like shellfish and sugar-cured processed meats. You can also have 3 to 4 oz. of cheese daily. The majority of the limited carbs you do consume should be from nonstarchy vegetables. While most low-carbohydrate diet plans do not instruct you to avoid saturated fats, the Mayo Clinic warns against adding too many saturated fats to your diet, which increase heart disease and cancer risks.

How Weight Is Lost

The theory behind the low-carbohydrate diet involves placing the body in a state of ketosis. In the average carbohydrate-rich diet, the body relies on carbs to fuel its activities. When it is robbed of these carbohydrates, it enters into a state of ketosis or suppressed insulin production. This requires the body to use fat stores for energy needs. Vegetables and proteins provide nutrients, and a limited number of carbohydrates provide immediate energy, but the body must rely on its fat stores to function.


Medical experts with groups like the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association do not recommend low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss. First, these diets remove healthy foods, like fruit, from the diet, thus robbing the body of nutrients. Second, the high-fat foods often consumed on this diet can increase the risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer, even if the dieter does lose weight. Before entering into a low-carbohydrate diet plan for weight loss, talk to your doctor to make sure you do so safely.