Getting started with a low-carb diet is easier than you think. All you need do is master a few simple principles and you'll be enjoying the benefits of a low-carb diet before you know it.
In a nutshell, you'll begin by reducing your intake of sugar and starchy carbohydrates such as grains (wheat, rice) and potatoes and begin to increase the amount of vegetables and fats in your diet. Depending on your current diet, your protein intake may or may not change.
While this initially might seem daunting, I think you'll find that once your palate and body begin to adjust to a lower carbohydrate diet, the benefits you'll reap will begin to outweigh any food cravings you may have.
Also keep in mind, that you wont have to count any calories - and in the 21st century we have an ever increasing number of sugar and other food substitutes that can really help ease your transition to a low-carb lifestyle.
The Basics - What to Eat - A Different Kind of Pyramid
As you begin low-carb you'll want to try to cut down on sugars and starchy foods such that your total intake of carbohydrates falls into one of the ranges below. Note, that the typical American eats something close to 250, or more, grams of carbohydrate per day.
Transitional low-carb - 100-150 grams carbohydrate/day Moderate low carb - 50-100 grams carbohydrate/day Strict low-carb - 20-50 grams of carbohydrate/day Ketogenic diet - less than 20 grams of carbohydrate/day
While this may seem like a lot of "counting" it's really all you'll need to worry about when you're on a low-carb diet, since you won't have to keep track of calories and you can typically let your other macronutrients fall where they may.
One note about protein. People often characterize low-carb diets as being meat-rich diets. However, this shouldn't be the case in a well-implemented low-carb regimen. There are a couple of important reasons for this. First, about a third of all of the protein you eat gets turned into carbohydrate in the body, so a very high protein diet will cause your total carbohydrate level to go up (even though protein is not included in one's daily carb count). Second, high levels of protein (more than 33%) can become toxic for the body if eaten over long periods. Early settlers learned this the hard way when they became ill after weeks of eating only very lean game. Third, protein is also a relatively "acidic" food (due to it's constituents) so to keep blood pH balanced, it's a good idea to counter this by eating a good amount of "basic" vegetables when on a low-carb diet.
What to eat VEGETABLES
As you reduce your carbohydrate levels one of the best ways to fill in those missing "gaps" on the dinner plate is with vegetables. While all vegetables are healthy, some will fit more easily into a low-carb diet than others. As a general rule, those vegetables that grow above the ground are much less starchy, and hence more low-carb diet friendly, than those that grow underground. Below is a list of many of the vegetables that can serve as great carb substitutes and form an important foundation for a low-carb lifestyle.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals - and nearly every study has found them to be associated with improved health and longevity. Hence these "superfoods" should become a staple of your daily diet.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are another family of superfoods. Like green leafy vegetables, they are packed with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, and they have been found to be cancer-preventive in many research studies. These vegetables are filling, and staples like cauliflower can be transformed into delicious faux mashed potatoes. Be sure to include them in your diet on a regular basis.