A low-carb diet can help you lose weight and control diabetes and other conditions.
Some high-carb foods obviously need to be avoided, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, cake, and candy.
Yet, figuring out which staple foods to limit is more challenging. Some of these foods are even relatively healthy — just unsuitable for a low-carb diet due to their high number of carbs.
Your total daily carb target determines whether you need to limit some of these foods or avoid them altogether. Low-carb diets typically contain 20–100 grams of carbs per day, based on personal tolerance.
5 foods to avoid or limit on a low-carb diet
1. Bread and grains
Bread is a staple food in many cultures. It comes in various forms, including loaves, rolls, bagels, and flatbreads, such as tortillas.
However, all of these are high in carbs. This is true for whole-grain varieties as well as those made from refined flour.
Although carb counts vary based on ingredients and portion sizes, here are the average counts for popular breads:
- White bread (1 slice): 14 grams of carbs, 1 of which is fiber
- Whole-wheat bread (1 slice): 17 grams of carbs, 2 of which are fiber
- Flour tortilla (10-inch): 36 grams of carbs, 2 of which are fiber
- Bagel (3-inch): 29 grams of carbs, 1 of which is fiber
Depending on your personal carb tolerance, eating a sandwich, burrito, or bagel could put you near or over your daily limit.
If you still want to enjoy bread, make your own low-carb loaves at home.
Most grains, including rice, wheat, and oats, are also high in carbs and need to be limited or avoided on a low-carb diet.
2. Some fruit
A high intake of fruits and vegetables has consistently been linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease.
However, many fruits are high in carbs and may not be suitable for low-carb diets.
A typical serving of fruit is 1 cup (120 grams) or 1 small piece. For instance, a small apple contains 21 grams of carbs, 4 of which come from fiber.
On a very-low-carb diet, it’s probably a good idea to avoid some fruits, especially sweet and dried fruits, which have high carb counts.
- Banana (1 medium): 27 grams of carbs, 3 of which are fiber
- Raisins (1 ounce / 28 grams): 22 grams of carbs, 1 of which is fiber
- Dates (2 large): 36 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber
- Mango, sliced (1 cup / 165 grams): 28 grams of carbs, 3 of which are fiber
Berries are lower in sugar and higher in fiber than other fruits. Therefore, small amounts — around 1/2 cup (50 grams) — can be enjoyed even on very-low-carb diets.
3. Starchy vegetables
Most diets allow an unlimited intake of low-starch vegetables.
Many vegetables are very high in fiber, which can aid weight loss and blood sugar control (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
However, some high-starch vegetables contain more digestible carbs than fiber and should be limited on a low-carb diet.
What’s more, if you’re following a very-low-carb diet, your best choice is to avoid these starchy vegetables altogether (17, 18, 19, 20):
Corn (1 cup / 175 grams): 41 grams of carbs, 5 of which are fiber
Potato (1 medium): 37 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber
Sweet potato/yam (1 medium): 24 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber
Beets, cooked (1 cup / 150 grams): 16 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber
Notably, you can enjoy several low-carb vegetables on a low-carb diet.
Pasta is a versatile and inexpensive staple but very high in carbs.
One cup (250 grams) of cooked pasta contains 43 grams of carbs, only 3 of which are fiber (21).
The same amount of whole-wheat pasta is only a slightly better option at 37 grams of carbs, including 6 grams of fiber (22).
On a low-carb diet, eating spaghetti or other types of pasta isn’t a good idea unless you consume a very small portion, which isn’t realistic for most people.
If you’re craving pasta but don’t want to go over your carb limit, try making spiralized vegetables or shirataki noodles instead.
It’s well known that sugary breakfast cereals contain a lot of carbs.
However, you may be surprised at the carb counts of healthy cereals.
For instance, 1 cup (90 grams) of cooked regular or instant oatmeal provides 32 grams of carbs, only 4 of which are fiber (23).
Steel-cut oats are less processed than other types of oatmeal and generally considered healthier. However, a mere 1/2 cup (45 grams) of cooked steel-cut oats has 29 grams of carbs, including 5 grams of fiber (24).
Whole-grain cereals tend to pack even more. A 1/2 cup (61 grams) of granola harbors 37 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fiber, while the same amount of Grape Nuts packs a whopping 46 grams of carbs with 5 grams of fiber (25, 26).
Depending on your personal carb goal, a bowl of cereal could easily put you over your total carb limit — even before milk is added.
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