A low-carb diet can be quite beneficial in shedding excess fat. It is, hence, no surprise that it has become one of the most popular diet fads in recent years. Since it eliminates foods we tend to overeat, a low-carb diet helps us save calories. It is also known to help reduce the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
While there is no denying that this diet has numerous benefits, it is also not wise to believe that carbohydrates are the dietary culprit making you fat. Reducing the carbs from your diet won’t just magically get rid of your belly fat. People forget that carbohydrates are some of the healthiest types of food you can eat since they are found in fruit, vegetables, and grains. Yes, getting rid of refined carbohydrates like sugars and white flour is good. But then there are more fibrous complex carbs present in fruit and whole grains that your body needs, too. Thus, you can indeed eat your carb and also remain healthy.
A low-carb diet gives priority to protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables and can help you reduce weight. However, if it isn’t done properly it can also have adverse effects. Follow this list to understand the mistakes you must avoid while following a low-carb diet.
1. Eating too much processed meat
Processed meats include deli meats, bacon, sausage, salami, jerky, and hot dogs. While they may feel super tasty, you must know they contain nitrates and nitrites. These are preservatives that are connected to a higher risk of stomach cancer. That’s why you must try and focus on eating minimally-processed meats like fresh chicken, fish, and beef when you are on a low-carb diet. Even if you are desperately craving some processed meat, look for options that don’t have nitrates and nitrites. Remember, your diet plan should include as much unprocessed and fresh foods as possible otherwise the whole effort would become counterproductive.
2. Depriving yourself too much
Often, when we start a low-carb diet, we tend to deprive ourselves of all kinds of food to achieve faster results. Yes, getting rid of refined carbohydrates like sugars and white flour from your diet is a great way to boost weight loss as these carbs can increase your blood sugar and make your body store excess glucose as fat. That being said, completely depriving yourself of some treats and your favorite foods may cause you more harm than good.
"When people eliminate them from their diets, they tend to crave them more over time," says dietitian Jim White. "This leads people to go back to eating them and failing their low carb diet attempts."
When you do this regularly, it may lead to a harmful cycle of cravings and then binging. According to health experts, it would be better instead to treat yourself with 150 calories at the end of the day of your favorite food item.
3. Not adding enough sodium to your diet
You must have heard that cutting down on salt is essential to maintain a proper diet. However, not replenishing your sodium can be harmful, too. When you are on a low-carb diet your insulin levels might go down and your body can then start shedding excess sodium along with water. That’s why many people suffer from excessive bloating in the first few weeks of their low-carb diet.
However, do remember that sodium is an important electrolyte and lack of it may lead to problems. This is the reason that people on low-carb diets can often have side-effects like lightheadedness, fatigue, headaches, and even constipation. Thus, make sure you add a decent amount of sodium to your diet. A little bit of salt added to your cooking or having some broth each day would work well. Also, ensure you drink sufficient water every day to remain hydrated.
4. Eating too much unhealthy fat
While we mentioned earlier that it isn’t a good idea to deprive yourself of all your favorite foods when you are on a low-carb diet, that shouldn’t mean that you can consume unhealthy fat as much as you like. Items like bacon, sausage, cream, lard, butter, and cheese are all loaded with unhealthy saturated fat and you shouldn't eat them regularly. There’s no way you will lose weight after having sausage and blocks of cheese every second day.
So what do you do if you crave them badly? An ideal solution is to use them prudently as flavor enhancers. This will increase your enjoyment of the meal while not harming your diet either. Also, if you have to use foods with unhealthy saturated fat then you should balance it out by having more heart-healthy fats from foods like oily fish, whole eggs, avocados, olive oil, chia seeds, and macadamia nuts.
5. Eating the same meals repeatedly
When we follow a low-carb diet too strictly, a lot of us tend to stick to only one meal plan. Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, chicken, salads. Over and over again. That can get boring after a while, right? That is why it is crucial to keep your diet interesting and not let it become monotonous. Because if you do, then chances are that you might slip and end up binging on some unhealthy snack sooner or later.
Be creative and try some new recipes for your diet. An eggplant lasagna or Thai coconut curry chicken can be quite tasty and perfect for this diet. Some of the other simple low-carb recipes you can try are eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil, grilled chicken wings with greens and salsa, blackened chicken, low-carb egg in a basket, and avocado salad.
6. Skipping vegetables
Many people who follow a diet lower in carbohydrates often complain about not feeling good. It’s later found that they are not eating enough vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, artichoke, beans, mushrooms, peppers, kale, asparagus, carrots, and cucumber are an important part of any diet. These vegetables have anti-aging antioxidants and phytochemicals that are extremely beneficial. In fact, both starchy and non-starchy vegetables contain carbohydrates that you will need to include in your meals.
Vegetables can also be great substitutes for higher-carb grains. Having a large salad with a variety of colorful vegetables at least once a day in your low-carb meal plan would be extremely fruitful. Simply put, you should be eating more vegetables than any other food group if you are on a low-carb or any other diet.
7. Not calculating net carbs
Limiting your total carbs but ignoring your net carbs isn’t the ideal way to go. If you don’t know already, net carbs are carbs that are absorbed by the body. To calculate it in whole foods, subtract the fiber from the total number of carbs. For processed foods, subtract the fiber and a portion of the sugar alcohols. By calculating your carbs this way, you will be able to identify the carbs that can that raise your blood sugar. Furthermore, it can also help you track your intake of dietary fiber.
8. Forgetting fiber
When we are on a low-carb diet, we tend to focus too much on protein and fat and often forget fiber. Health experts say that our body needs at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day for good digestive health. Furthermore, it also helps prevent colorectal cancer. The best way to ensure this is to eat a variety of vegetables and include fiber-rich options like asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes. Another great option is avocados as they are rich in fiber.
Alternatively, you can also add fiber-packed seeds such as chia, hemp, and flax in your diet. This will not just boost the fiber in your body but will also be great for adding more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your diet.
9. Going overboard with the low-carb shakes
With the rise of smoothies, protein shakes, protein bars, and other processed products, many people are including them in their carb-restricted diets. These shakes and bars do have their benefits but it would be harmful to go overboard with them. Experts say that many of these products include potentially-harmful ingredients and have misleading information regarding their “net carb” content.
One of the most common sweeteners used in sugar-free products, for instance, is maltitol. It’s a sugar substitute that our body can only partially digest. Moreover, maltitol is also sugar alcohol and its glycemic index (GI) is higher than most. This means that it has a greater effect on your blood sugar levels and must be used in moderation. It is also worth noting that packaged foods that contain maltitol may also hold other carbs. Research also suggests that these low-carb products contain a processed fiber variety known as isomaltooligosaccharides that may raise blood sugar levels.
10. Believing low-carb food labels blindly
A very simple and overlooked mistake we make while following a low-carb diet is to blindly believe the low-carb food labels. You might be having low-carb cereal for weeks and yet you notice that you haven’t lost any weight. This is because there might be more ingredients in it that you might have missed. If a food says it’s a lower carb option on the package, you shouldn’t trust it blindly. ALWAYS closely check the 'Nutrition Facts' part of the food label. The food could have more carbs than you want despite being healthy and it may end up harming your diet plan.
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