If you’re new to low-carbohydrate eating, you may find it confusing to walk into the grocery store and figure out what you should be shopping for first. Avoiding carbohydrates can be frustrating because practically everything in the grocery store has carbohydrates in it, and sometimes those carbohydrates are hidden. Knowing where to look, and which carbohydrates are safe, is part of the trip. Before you start, it can be a good idea to take a class like this one in healthy eating.
The thing to remember about grocery shopping is that going with a list is probably the safest way to avoid the foods you’re trying not to eat, while making sure you’re well supplied with all of the foods you need to have in your kitchen in order to make cooking and eating low carbohydrate foods easier. Everybody’s list will be different, but there are a number of staples that you should have in mind every time you go to the grocery store if you’re eating a low-carb way. These are the things that are going to go bad quickly, the things you’re going to run out of fastest, and the things you may not be used to having on hand.
Varieties of Low Carbohydrate Foods
The first thing everybody thinks of when they’re talking about a low carbohydrate diet is meat. And it’s true, meat will be a large proportion of your grocery bill. You should focus on fresh meats, and don’t limit yourself to lean cuts. The fat is actually quite healthy for you, as long as you’re not eating it in the context of carbohydrate-rich foods. However, it’s important to limit processed meats such as sandwich meats, salami, or overly salted sliced deli meats. That doesn’t mean you have to cut out bacon as part of a low carbohydrate diet, but it does mean that it shouldn’t be a staple. Typically when shopping for the week, I like to keep a variety of meats on hand, so my meals don’t get boring. Learning about the foods and cooking techniques recommended on a Paleo Diet can also open your mind to new cooking ideas.
The most important item to buy every time you go grocery shopping for low-carb foods is a healthy selection of vegetables. If you go with the technical definition, vegetables are primarily carbohydrates. But vegetables contain other nutrients, as well as fiber, and you’re going to need that to keep yourself healthy and regular. The fiber in most fresh vegetables balances out the carbohydrates. Focus on leafy green vegetables, and vegetables that grow above the ground. Avoid root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Those generally have a higher amount of starch and sugar, which can derail your efforts to eat a low carbohydrate way. Taking a class like this one about vegetarian cooking can help you become more creative with your vegetables.
I can’t say enough good things about eggs. They’re versatile, delicious, and contain an excellent balance of fat and protein. there are popular myths about the cholesterol in eggs, but science has demonstrated to my satisfaction that dietary cholesterol has very little to do with blood serum cholesterol, if anything. There’s no reason to avoid eggs in a low carbohydrate diet. Not only can they be used as a main dish, they can enhance a variety of dishes, and act as a stabilizer for baking with low carbohydrate flour alternatives.
On some low carbohydrate diets, it is recommended that you avoid dairy products completely. It’s true that a large percentage of the population is not able to process the lactose in milk, which makes it a bad choice not only for low carbohydrate eating, but for eating in general. If you can process lactose, you should avoid it anyway on a low carbohydrate diet because lactose is a sugar. Focus on dairy products that are aged, so the lactose is a ready been digested, or that are high-fat, with a much lower proportion of lactose. Rich aged cheeses, heavy cream, and some fresh cheeses are excellent choices.
You should also be shopping for fats and spreads such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and peanut butter, as well as nuts and seeds such as almonds and pecans. On other types of diets, you may have had to avoid these foods because of their high calorie content, but on a low carbohydrate diet it’s more important to get adequate fat to keep you feeling satisfied, and to keep your body functioning well. Remember that nuts do have some carbohydrates, so don’t eat too many, try to eat them raw or lightly salted and processed, and avoid them if they trigger you to binge. If you have blood pressure issues, a class like this one can help you learn to make the right choices when considering nuts and salty foods.
Other items you might want to have in your pantry that you won’t necessarily need to buy on a regular basis are artificial sweeteners such as stevia and liquid Splenda, low carbohydrate flour alternatives such as coconut flour or almond flour, and herbs and spices such as oregano, cinnamon, and paprika. Be sure to avoid spice mixes that have added sugar.
A Low Carbohydrate Grocery Shopping List
For easy reference, here’s a list of typical foods I might find my grocery cart when I go shopping for the week. The amount you buy will depend on the number of people you’re trying to feed. If there are foods here that you’re unfamiliar with, it’s worth looking up how to cook them. Most of these are pretty ordinary foods that you should be able to find any grocery store, and you’re likely familiar with how to cook most of them. Just remember that how you prepare your food is just as important as the type of food you’re eating, so don’t fall back on recipes that call for flour, cornstarch, sugar, or other high carbohydrate ingredients.
_ Cabbage (always cook it, because our bodies don't process raw cabbage well) _ Broccoli (an excellent side dish for almost any meal, steamed or stir-fried) _ Celery (try it with peanut butter as a snack) _ Lettuce (use it for salads and to wrap sandwich fillings) _ Cucumber (surprisingly sweet when you're avoiding sugars) _ Cauliflower (steam and mash it with butter and cream as a potato substitute) _ Kale (one of the healthiest vegetables on the market, raw or cooked) _ Chicken Thighs (full of healthy saturated fat and very versatile) _ Ground Beef (can be used for sauces, loafs, as well as burgers) _ Pork Shoulder (spice it and put it in a slow cooker for healthy pulled pork) _ Bacon (keep it on hand to flavor dishes and add fat, but don't use it as a staple) _ Skirt Steak (a very flavorful cut, excellent marinated and broiled) _ Eggs (brown or white, fertile or not, chicken or whatever you prefer) _ Heavy Cream (your coffee will never taste better than when you use real cream in it) _ Cottage Cheese (a good breakfast food, but be careful of the carbohydrates) _ Cheddar Cheese (like any hard cheese, a good source of protein and saturated fat) _ Plain Yogurt (be careful not to get the sweetened flavored ones, and read the label) _ Butter (real butter is much healthier for you than artificial margarine) _ Olive Oil (use this healthy oil in sauces, stir-fried dishes, and salad dressings) _ Coconut Oil (one of the healthiest and most underappreciated fats on the market) _ Almonds (raw or lightly toasted, the fiber and crunch are a welcome addition) _ Peanut Butter (get the most natural kind you can, and avoid added sugars)
If you’re ready to embrace low carbohydrate eating, eggs are a great place to start. Take a class in how to make a perfect omelet, and take it from there!