Here's Everything You Can Eat on a Low-Carb Diet, According to a Dietitian

POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

The low-carb trend isn't going away anytime soon — research has shown that cutting carbs is effective for weight loss, and many find that eliminating things like sugar from their diets just helps them feel better. But limiting your daily intake of carbohydrates doesn't have to be as painful or extreme as you probably imagine it to be.

We asked Carly Johnston, MS, RDN, LDN, owner and founder of New England Nutrition Advisors in Atkinson, NH, exactly what you can eat on a low-carb diet, and the list is extensive. (Spoiler: the right carbs are key.) Keep reading for her picks, and talk to your doctor or a dietitian to determine how many grams of carbs you should eat a day, based on your goals.

Animal-Based Protein
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Animal-Based Protein

When buying fish and meat, be sure to always choose fresh, lean cuts. Johnston recommends keeping red meat to one to two servings per week (at most) to protect your heart.

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Ground meat, including beef, turkey, and chicken
  • Eggs
Plant-Based Protein
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Plant-Based Protein

If you're vegetarian or vegan, or simply trying to follow a more plant-based diet, reach for the following proteins:

  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Lentils
  • Edamame
  • Hummus
  • Soy nuts
  • Nuts and nut butters, including almond, cashew, and peanut
Nonstarchy Vegetables
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Nonstarchy Vegetables

Aim to fill at least half your plate at every meal with nonstarchy vegetables.

  • Leafy greens
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Okra
  • Artichoke
  • Cabbage
  • Daikon
Whole Grains
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Whole Grains

"As a general rule, I recommend not more than one serving of grains at each meal," Johnston said. "For example, keep rice to one half-cup serving and bread to one slice, and when these items are eaten, choose a whole grain." Naturally, this means you should stay away from cakes, cookies, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods that are heavily processed.

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Farro
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread
  • Popcorn
Healthy Fats
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Healthy Fats

When choosing healthy fats, liquid fats are ideal. "Limit your intake of solid fats, such as butter, lard, and shortening, as these have high amounts of saturated fat," Johnston noted. She also suggests keeping coconut oil to a minimum for the same reason.

  • Oils, including olive oil, avocado oil, and walnut oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts, including walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts
In Moderation: Starchy Vegetables
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In Moderation: Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables, such as those listed below, aren't off limits as long as you eat them in small amounts. Johnston suggests no more than half a serving per day.

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green peas
  • Corn
  • Butternut squash
  • Acorn squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Plantain
  • Parsnip
In Moderation: Fruit
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In Moderation: Fruit

Fruit is OK in moderation, but make sure you're aware of just how many carbs and sugars are in the fruits you choose. "Keep fruit to two whole pieces or half-cup servings per day," Johnston told POPSUGAR. Here are some suggestions.

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Lemon
  • Lime
In Moderation: Dairy
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In Moderation: Dairy

Although you can have dairy, always check the label to see how many carbs it contains per serving. "All dairy has naturally occurring milk sugars, so these foods will have some carbohydrates in them," Johnston told POPSUGAR. "For this reason, I would limit yourself to one serving per day of a low-carb dairy option, such as plain Greek yogurt. Also try to avoid chocolate and other flavored milks, sugar-sweetened yogurts, and ice cream," she said.

  • Cow's milk
  • Cheeses, including cheddar, goat, and brie
  • Greek yogurt
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio