Carbohydrates or carbs as we call them are one of three main food types or macronutrients that the body needs to function. Protein and fat are the other two. Carbs are not something to be scared of. It’s the highly processed foods full of sugar and processed flour that we need to steer away from. When we cut out processed foods and choose low carb clean eating we are eating carbs that won’t pack on the weight and deliver plenty of nutritious punch.
Your body uses carbs as energy immediately after eating them. Any left over that it doesn’t need is put into storage in muscles and your liver for use later. If later never comes and more carbs are eaten as immediate fuel, your body will turn the unused carbs into fat. In midlife that fat will mostly go on around your middle.
To complicate matters a little more there are healthy carbs and then there are, not so healthy carbs.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is simple. It’s eliminating highly processed foods in favour of foods straight from the source.
Generally it’s the highly processed foods that are also high in carbs which makes it pretty easy. Eat foods as close as you can to the source and you are most likely eating low carb and clean.
Just don’t go eating a bucket of potatoes or 300 gram steaks. Portion size is important too.
What Can You Eat On A Low Carb Clean Eating Diet?
Generally with a low carb diet you want to restrict the high GI carbs found in grains and sugars, and instead get carbs from healthy fats, protein, vegetables and fruits.
Restricting grains and sugars means not eating most of the delicious things most of us love such as cakes, pastries, bread, pasta, white rice and more.
On the other side of the coin. It’s not about what you don’t get to eat. It is more what you do get to eat and that list is huge and gives you the opportunity to make some truly delicious things.
There is a huge selection of healthy low carb foods to choose from:
Healthy Low Carb Clean Foods
- Meat (beef, lamb, chicken)
- Leafy greens
- Nuts (like almonds and walnuts)
- Nut butter
- Oil (olive, avocado, coconut)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Whole milk
- Plain Greek yogurt
High Carb Foods To Avoid
- Pasta, bread, rice
- Diet and low-fat products
- Processed foods
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes)
- Sugar (soda and sweets)
- Artificial ingredients
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While eating low carb you learn the foods you can substitue for your good old high carb staples such as:
- Cos lettuce in place of a taco
- Large mushroom as a hamburger bun
- Using veggie spirals or slices in place of pasta
- Cauliflower instead of rice and I use small florets instead of pasta
- Mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potato
Why Eat A Low Carb Clean Diet?
I started on a low carb diet that cut out grains and sugar when I was struggling perimenopause, with hot flashes that were leaving me feeling drained and belly fat that seemed to arrive out of nowhere and was not going away in a hurry. I was determined to lose some weight and improve my menopause symptoms. What I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly it happened.
After cutting as much sugar from my diet as I could and that included high sugar fruits, the hot flashes stopped within 2-3 weeks and I haven’t had them back.
As you start to head into menopause and on into midlife it becomes so much more important to eat as healthy as you can in order to keep on top of our changing bodies. In midlife generally you need less calories due to your body’s changing needs and your estrogen levels slowly decreasing. Continuing to eat as you always have is a recipe for weight gain and other health problems like diabetes and insulin resistence.
During my time eating low carb, then keto and now focusing on plant foods I’ve learnt a bit about what works and possibly more importantly what doesn’t work.
1. Learn to love coconut.
When I first started out on this low carb journey I avoided coconut like the plague. Unless it was coated in chocolate, then I was in boots ‘n all. Now not a day goes by when coconut is not included in my diet in some form or other and mostly minus a sugary coating.
It’s high in fat and low in carbs. Keeping your fat consumption up is imperative if you want to survive the distance.
Fat helps you feel fuller for longer which is what you need if you trying to loose weight. I’ve also found it helps grease the wheels of our digestion.
Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acid with far more health benefits than its evil cousins, vegetable and seed oils.
Coconut’s many guises; raw, flour, milk, cream, oil, desiccated, shredded, butter and flaked means it lends itself to many recipes, sweet and savoury.
Coconut sugar doesn’t make the list. Coconut sugar is made by boiling down the sap from the coconut flour and although it’s lower than sugar on the glycemic index it contains a similar amount of fructose and so has no place in a low carb diet.
The uses for coconut are only limited by your imagination but here are a few examples:
- Coconut milk yoghurt
- Use the flour in a coating for chicken nibbles, fish fillets, etc.
- Cook with the coconut oil, it imparts a lovely flavour and has a higher smoke point than olive oil.
- I use the butter, flour and shredded coconut in my protein balls.
2. Have an Avo every day
Avocados are also high in fat with about 2/3 of that being monounsaturated.
Monounsaturated fat is shown to contribute to lower risk of heart disease, reduce cholesterol levels, and help with weight loss. What’s not to like here.
I add them to salads; make guacamole, avocado sauce and my favourite, avocado and feta cream which we have with our bacon on Sundays. I have recently started adding avocado to desserts such as chocolate mousse and low carb chocolat fudge.
3. Use olive oil, extra virgin olive oil that is.
It is the most natural of oils; it doesn’t undergo any processes once it’s pressed from the fruit and so it still contains a lot of the natural goodness of the fruit itself.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and vitamin E.
Despite what you may have heard, as olive oil only contains 11% of the polyunsaturated fats which break down when exposed to heat it is fairly resistant to damage when used for cooking.
4. Listen to your body.
This is possibly the most difficult tip to follow. After the initial withdrawal, eating low carb should improve your wellbeing. We are all guilty of ignoring the warning signs our body sends out. If you feel, tired, grumpy, or lack energy you may be lacking in something. Heed the signs and make adjustments.
Make sure you are eating plenty of vegetables; in fact, most of your carbs should come from dark leafy veg or from veggies that grow above ground. They will help provide the essential nutrients you need.
One of the first problems I encountered was cramps. After asking Mr Google I found that perhaps we weren’t getting enough salt.
Eliminating processed food from your diet also cuts out a lot of dietary salt.
Add a 1/2 a chicken bouillon cube in hot water every morning for a delicious drink to compensate. Make sure to add salt to cooking. Vegemite is also a good source of salt, so become a “happy little vegemite” (an australian inside joke)
Magnesium will also possibly help with cramps.
Being hungry could mean you are consuming too many carbs somewhere. Check your labels and be careful not to eat too much fruit. Try sticking to low fructose fruit and watching for those hidden, added sugars.
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5. Keep away from low carb snack bars
You know the ones you see in the health food aisle at the supermarket. They usually contain sugar alcohols such as maltitol which besides its possible links to cancer can cause stomach upsets, diarrhoea and excessive gas and flatulence. Farting is not something I’m aiming to do more of. They can also be higher in carbs than you think. So it pays to check the label.
In a low carb diet, these sugar alcohols can still cause sugar spikes in your system.
They can also play with your brain, giving you that sugar taste but not the hit and so setting you up for the dreaded sugar cravings.
If you feel like a snack try a few nuts, a piece of in season apple with nut butter on it, a seed cracker with cheese a protein ball, or even a piece of dark chocolate.
A low-carb diet can be worthwhile especially to women in midlife who are struggling with putting on belly fat and dealing menopause symptoms. With some planning and healthy substitutions, most women can follow a low-carb diet. However, there are other ways to acheive good health without low carb dieting and it’s important that you do your research and choose your own path.
When following a low-carb diet, it is essential that you eat healthy wholefood and be careful not to overeat protein and saturated animal fat such as butter, cream and the fat on meat.
People looking to lose weight or considering going on a low-carb diet should speak to their doctor or nutritionist before making any significant diet changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What should you eat on a low carb diet?
Meat (beef, lamb, chicken), fish, eggs, leafy greens, nuts (like almonds and walnuts), seeds, nut butter, oil (olive, avocado, coconut), berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), whole milk, plain Greek yogurt,.
2. What shouldn’t you eat on a low carb diet?
Pasta, bread, rice, diet and low-fat 3, processed foods, starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes), sugar (soda and sweets), artificial ingredients.
3. What are the lowest carb snacks?
Nut butter, cream, cheese, hard boiled egg, seed cracker, seeds, nuts, low carb gaucomole and cucumber sticks, mayo made at home.