Cheat Sheet

Low-Carb Dieting For Dummies

From Low-Carb Dieting For Dummies by Katherine B. Chauncey, Ph.D., R.D.

Low-carb dieting is a matter of choosing foods and strategies that put you on the path to success. Eating low-carb means knowing how to estimate portion sizes, choosing the right snack foods, and stocking your pantry with low-carb items. Not sure how to maintain your low-carb approach to food? This Cheat Sheet shows you how.

How to Eat the Low-Carb Way

Eating the low-carb way means building your diet around lean proteins along with vegetables and fruits prepared fairly simply. If you were a meat-and-potatoes eater, focus on the meat more than the carb-heavy potatoes. The tips in the following list offer advice on what foods to choose:

  • Build your meals around fruits, vegetables, and lean protein food sources.

  • Choose whole grains or legumes for your daily carb choices. Minimize your intake of processed foods.

  • Choose very low-fat milk and dairy foods.

  • Choose monounsaturated rather than saturated fats.

  • Eat three or four meals per day. Never starve yourself and never skip meals. If you eat between meals, eat healthy foods that are also filling, such as apples or oranges.

  • Do not eat a full meal right before bedtime. A bedtime snack such as nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit is okay.

  • Drink plenty of water — eight glasses a day

  • Exercise moderately 30 to 60 minutes at least five times a week.

  • Practice the 90-percent/10-percent rule: Follow this plan 90 percent of the time, and treat yourself to a favorite food 10 percent of the time.

How to Stick with a Low-Carb Diet

Sticking with your low-carb diet is much easier if you set yourself up for success and prepare yourself and your kitchen for a low-carb lifestyle. The tips in the following list can help you realize your goals:

  • Set your kitchen up for success. Always have low-carb-friendly foods on hand ready to eat. Remove as many irresistible temptations as possible.

  • Avoid excessive hunger. Eat before you're starving. When you're ravenous, it's tougher to make a healthy choice.

  • Prepare snacks in grab-and-go sizes. Make prepackaged snacks from cut-up veggies and whole wheat crackers in resealable plastic bags. Fresh fruit is already prepackaged for your convenience so carry some wherever you go.

  • Eat a variety of foods. Make sure you eat a variety of foods for better nutrition.

  • Find activities and exercises that you enjoy. If you find something you really enjoy, you're more apt to do it every day. If you're social, find friends to walk with. If you look forward to exercise as your “alone time,” plan times when you can work out alone. Make your workout personal.

  • Forgive yourself when you fail. Everyone experiences a setback from time to time. Don't use it as an excuse to give up completely. Figure out where you went wrong and get going again!

How to Estimate Portion Sizes for a Low-Carb Diet

A low-carb diet relies on knowing portion sizes to help you eat the proper quantities of the proper foods. To determine the number of low-carb servings you're eating, you need to estimate portion sizes. You may be surprised to see that normal portion sizes are a lot smaller than you think, as the comparisons in the following table show:

Measurement Size
1/2 cup About the size of a cupcake wrapper
1 cup About the size of a tight fist or a tennis ball
1 medium fruit About the size of a tight fist or tennis ball
1 medium potato About the size of a computer mouse
1 ounce cheese About the size of your thumb or a pair of dice
3 ounces meat About the size of the palm of a woman's hand or a deck of cards
2 tablespoons reduced-fat salad dressing About the size of a Ping-Pong ball
1 teaspoon oil or butter About the size of the tip of a thumb

Approved Snacks for a Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb snacks are a good choice no matter which diet you're following because they're mostly fruits and vegetables. When choosing a low-carb snack, consider the ones in the following list first:

A juicy orange A handful of raisins
A bunch of grapes A big green or red apple
An 8-ounce container of low-fat yogurt Raw vegetables (baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, green beans, pepper strips, radishes, celery, cucumber) with low-fat salad dressing
A can of unsweetened applesauce, diced peaches, or mixed fruit Sliced turkey rolled up in a lettuce leaf
A glass of skim, 1/2%, or 1% milk Boiled shrimp with zesty cocktail sauce
Dried apricots Skim-milk mozzarella string cheese

Must-Haves for the Low-Carb Pantry

If you're dieting the low-carb way, stock up on low-carb essentials so that when you have a need to eat, you can find healthy, low-carb ingredients. The following list contains recommended items to keep on hand:

Canned or Bottled Foods: Grains:
Canned tuna, salmon, or sardines (in water) Whole-grain pasta, long-grain rice, wild rice
Canned vegetables (asparagus, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, and so on) Whole-grain flours and cornmeal
Canned fruit packed in light syrup or juice Oatmeal
100-percent fruit preserves High-fiber, no-sugar cereals
Canned chicken or beef bouillon Low-sugar granola or homemade granola
Canned tomatoes and tomato paste Quinoa
Salsa Roasted soynuts
Ketchup Seasonings:
Canned or dried beans such as pinto, navy, kidney, limas, garbanzo, peas Salt-free seasonings
Fat-free refried beans Garlic and onion, minced and powder
Natural or low-sugar peanut butter Bouillon cubes or sprinkles
Sun-dried tomatoes Reduced-sodium soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
Artichoke hearts Sugar substitutes
Olives Oils and Vinegars:
Capers Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Marinated vegetables (okra, beans) Healthy oils (olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or light combination oils)
Roasted peppers
Pickles and pickle relish
Horseradish, Dijon, spicy, or plain mustard
Red and white table wine (for cooking)
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