People vary when it comes to diet change. Some are ready to plunge right in and make all kinds of changes. For others, it simply doesn’t work that way. Taking smaller steps works much better. When it comes to low-carb eating, people really start to feel the benefits when they get under their particular carb level. But you can still benefit your body by edging toward a lower-carb way of eating.
Here are seven steps you can take toward that goal:
1. Stop Drinking Sugary Beverages
For those who drink them, sugary beverages have a lot of negatives. Most sugary drinks have very little nutritional value, and they don’t do a good job of filling you up. For example, 100 calories from apple juice would leave you hungrier than if you ate 100 calories worth of an actual apple. Therefore, you may be inclined to consume more “empty calories.”
2. Start Eating More Vegetables
Surprised? Don’t be. People usually greatly increase the amount of vegetables they eat when they begin a low-carb way of eating. My recommendation is to start doing this first. Which vegetables? Not the starchy ones, such as corn and potatoes, but the non-starchy veggies, such as greens, cauliflower, avocado, mushrooms. In fact, most vegetables do not have much usable carbohydrate.
3. Start Eating More Fat
I can hear the cries of protest now, but hear me out! Yes, people who eat a diet that’s lower in carbohydrate usually eat more fats. But believe it or not, this is a good thing. Fats fill us up and make it less likely that we will overeat, especially in conjunction with consuming less carbohydrate (a diet that is very high in both carbs and fats is probably not a good idea). We need fats for our bodies to run smoothly. And there is absolutely no reason to think that adding fats to our diet is a bad thing. Even leaving the debate on saturated fats aside, you can add fats from such sources as olive oil, nuts, avocado, fatty fish, and flax seeds.
4. Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Protein
Check on your protein intake to be sure you are getting enough, and don’t be afraid to experiment with adding more. The National Academy of Science says we can safely eat up to 35 percent of our diet as protein, and truth be told, protein tends to be self-limiting. In other words, it’s really hard to eat too much.
5. Go for Quality Over Quantity
As you are increasing your vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, cut down on the portion sizes of your high carb foods. Did you know that in Italy people eat about a cup of al dente (slightly firm) pasta in a meal? Just because the restaurant down the street brings you a giant plate of pasta doesn’t mean that’s a good portion size. Half a cup of potatoes or rice is a standard serving size. Get out a measuring cup and become acquainted with how much a true portion is.
At the same time, don’t waste the carbs on boring or less-than-delicious food. Have a 2 x 2-inch piece of a really great cake, or a small scoop of premium ice cream. One square of really good chocolate can satisfy better than a big low-grade chocolate bar.
6. Choose Brown Over White
Select brown rice instead of white rice, and whole wheat bread instead of white. Also, when possible, eat your grains whole instead of ground up into flour. Some people find a “no white diet” to be an easy way to cut back on carbs—no potatoes, white rice, white sugar, or white flour.
7. Pull a Switcheroo
Start substituting lower-carb foods for high-carb counterparts. Try a high-fiber low-carb cereal. Cook some spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Have a package of nuts at the movies instead of popcorn. Try some low-carb recipes to replace high carb favorites.
As you make these changes, pay attention to how you feel. You may find you need less food or that you’re dropping a few pounds. You may find yourself with more physical energy or mental focus. These are signs that cutting carbs may work for you. In that case, you might want to check out the low-carb food pyramid and keep adjusting your diet until you find what helps you feel at your personal best.