A diet without carbohydrates causes the body to undergo ketosis, which is a process of using stored-up body fat to fuel the body’s energy needs. This makes a no carb or low carb diet popular with people who want to lose weight. Choosing the right ingredients allows for safe, tasty zero carb meals.
Foods with Zero Carbs
The following foods contain zero carbs:
- Meat such as beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey and duck
- Processed, pre-packaged and deli meats may contain sugar, salt or seasoning blends that add carbohydrates. Read the package labels to make sure.
- Organ meats such as brains, livers and kidneys
- Fish such as salmon, trout and halibut
- Shellfish such as crab, shrimp and lobster
- Mollusks such as oysters, mussels and clams
- Game meats such as venison and elk
- Exotic meats such as ostrich and emu
- Beverages such as water, coffee, tea, diet soda and distilled alcohol. (Alcohol has other harmful effects, though.)
- Condiments such as salt and sugar substitutes such as aspartame, and stevia
- Some brands of margarine and shortening
Rice ranks high on the list of carbohydrate foods with a cup of white rice providing 151 grams of carbohydrates. Virtually all common fruits, vegetables, dairy products and seasonings contain carbohydrates in varying levels.
Among vegetables, sprouts such as bean and alfalfa, greens such as lettuce and spinach, herbs such as parsley, basil, rosemary and thyme, celery, mushrooms and most sea vegetables are low in carbs. In regards to fruits, olives, lemons, cranberries, rhubarb, raspberries and blackberries are low in carbs.
Quick Meal Options
Zero or low carb meals are part of the common diet and hence easy to prepare. Some tips to follow include:
- Roll up a slice of roast beef, turkey or chicken around a marble mozzarella cheese stick, which though not totally carb free would contain less than one gram of carbs. Add olives or other low carb fruits and vegetables as side dishes.
- Mix tuna fish with oil-and-vinegar, mayo and spices, and cook
- Cook shrimp with cocktail sauce or salmon with white sauce
- Try eggs fried, in an omelet or hard-boiled with bacon and pepper
- Eat hamburgers and chicken burgers with the bun removed. A slice of bread has about 15 grams of carbohydrates
- Among ready to consume foods, opt for Atkins or low carb shakes and low carb soups
All natural meat, fish and egg-based recipes usually make for tasty zero carb meals. Some simple no or very low carb recipes follow:
- Grilled chicken: Sprinkle chicken breasts with a suitable blend of spices, and then with canola oil to allow the spice to stick. Grill on low heat for about two hours.
- Baked chicken: Take a piece of chicken thigh, leg or breast with the skin removed. Marinate with chopped onion, crushed garlic cloves, a cup of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper or herbs. Bake for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve with an egg salad.
- Chicken in wine: Marinate a chicken breast (skin removed) with a quarter cup each of chardonnay and oil, one-third cup soy sauce, a tablespoon of water and low carb brown sugar mixed with one-fourth teaspoon oregano. Cook for an hour and a half in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve with steamed broccoli
Pan-fried Swiss chard: Chop four slices of bacon and place in a skillet over medium heat and cook until the fat separates from the meat. Add two tablespoons of butter and heat until the butter melts. Stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice and a pinch of garlic paste. Add a bunch of Swiss chard with the stems removed and leaves cut into one-inch pieces to the mixture. Increase heat to medium-high under the skillet, and cook for about four minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Salads make good zero carbs meals either as a main dish or as a side. Try these two ideas:
- Mix sliced chicken, ham or cheese and low carb veggies such as greens in equal quantities. Add salt and seasonings to taste and garnish with a hard-boiled egg on top.
- Make egg salad with olives as follows. Hard-boil six eggs, and then cool, peel and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add one-third cup mayonnaise, half a tablespoon of onion flakes, a teaspoon of parsley flakes, five drops hot chili oil, salt and lemon pepper to taste. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Add olives if desired. Adjust seasonings to taste.
A truly zero carb meal may be very difficult and in fact dangerous as the body would not obtain enough energy to fulfill its needs. Grass fed meat, for instance, contains a few grams of carbohydrates inbuilt from the plants that the animals feed on. Some food packaging labels list foods containing less than one gram of carbohydrates as containing zero carbohydrates. Therefore, very few diet plans recommend an absolute zero carbohydrate diet. Most low-carbohydrate diets recommend the consumption of 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Disclaimer: A zero carb diet carries some risks. It may not be tasty, it is impractical, unnecessary, and if not done just right, dangerous. Many health professionals express concerns about the health effects of low-carbohydrate dieting, so it is always best to check with your doctor before pursuing such a diet.
- Shea, Lisa. “10 Great Low Carb Office Lunch Tips.” http://www.bellaonline.org/articles/art13376.asp
- Chud, Deborah. (1999) “The Gourmet Prescription: High Flavor Recipes for Lower Carbohydrate Diets.” Bay Books, CA. 0912333812, 978-0912333816