Our reasons for dieting can vary, but one trick remains the same – high protein low carb foods. Some of us surely want to lose fat and cut our weight to get healthier. Others will be looking to tone and sculpt a leaner fitter body. Whether you are a bodybuilder after the perfect physique, or a dieter looking to reduce the waistline, there are similarities in dietary regimes. Both camps can benefit from a diet that is protein dense low carb. This means 56g of protein each day for men, 46g for women, and minimizing high-carb foods. This will prevent fat storing, promote muscle mass and lead to some impressive changes.
Related: Making the switch to low carb diets
Protein rich low carb foods are plentiful and great substitutes for common staples that catch us out. This guide will look at some of the best meats and vegetables for a nutritious, low-carb meal – as well as some vegetarian options. Then there are some great fruits, snacks, drinks and other treats for a high protein low carb approach. A few small changes from this list could set a diet in motion. Some long-term, drastic changes can lead to significant gains.
A great place to start is with some low carb meat and fish.
1) Chicken legs:
Meat is the best place to get some protein in a balanced meal. Where possible, it helps to find the leanest, healthiest form of meat with a low carb rating. Both drumsticks and thighs are great when cooking chicken in a low carb diet. Of course, the method of cooking and the accompaniments will make a difference to the diet. A grilled drumstick with some salad is always going to work better than a fried drumstick with some fries.
2) Ground turkey:
We have included ground turkey in this list of protein-rich low carb foods because it is a little different. Ground, minced meat is a great source of protein for meals such as Italian ragus and burger. Turkey is another lean poultry meat, and some would argue that it tastes even better than chicken. Diversify a weekly menu with some turkey and try my low carb turkey meatloaf you will love it.
This is where we really throw a bit of a curved ball in regard to the types of meat on offer with a protein dense low carb diet. Some people are a little unsure of using bison meat, but others are more adventurous and will give it a shot. This high protein, low-fat meat is a great addition to a meal. It is also a versatile as other red meats.
Now we come onto the fish. Fish are a great protein source for those that want a healthier diet. They provide lean protein, great oils and minerals and are great for low carb diets. Sardines are a great starting point, even if they may seem old-fashioned now. This oily fish is rich in omega 3, which promotes brain health.
Salmon is also a good source of omega 3 and protein. This is a fish that we can all get behind because it is common, tasty and versatile. In fact, it is one of the most commonly-bought fish products in the US. This meaty fish is great for different occasions and works well with different vegetables and sauces.
Fish-focused diets are great for protein dense low carb diets because of their nutritional content, but also their green credentials. There is a little bit of a backlash against meat due to industrial farming. Fish is a great substitute when caught responsibly. This means many people want to fish interesting, alternative fish products. Catfish, sometimes called basa, is a delicious, meaty, high protein, low carb option.
What about the vegetarians and vegans that don’t touch meat or fish?
Tofu may seem like a bit of an obvious starting point. It is the immediate food item that comes to mind when we think of vegetarian diets. Still, there is more to this product than a substitute for meat. This is a great source of protein, but also a low carb food. There are just 3 grams of carbohydrate per 3 ounces with tofu. Therefore, those that want to cut out meat entirely will find success with this product.
Tempah perhaps doesn’t spring to mind quite as quickly as tofu when considering high protein low carb foods – or vegetarian foods at all. Yet, this protein source, from fermented soybeans, offers a healthy, interesting alternative to tofu. The carbohydrate count is higher, at 9 grams per 3 ounces, but there is still great potential here.
Seitan might not be that well known outside of vegetarian circles, but it is a great alternative to tofu. This protein source comes from wheat gluten and is low in carbohydrate and high in protein. In fact, there are 21 grams of protein per 3 ounce portion. This makes it a great meat substitute. It is also a great protein source in Asian dishes.
A good high protein dinner needs the right vegetable.
Why not start the list of vegetables with a current restaurant favorite. This high protein low carb vegetable is everywhere – from roasted heads to fermented pieces and purees. This is great news for foodies and those looking to cut carbs. Why not recreate these dishes at home and see how versatile cauliflower can be.
It can seem like a bit of an easy option to use mushrooms as a meat substitute in vegetarian diets. Yet, this protein rich, dense and delicious vegetable is perfect for all kinds of diets. The umami flavor and versatility make them a must-have item in the kitchen. This is more than just a pizza topping, which is great because those pizza dough bases are no good in a high protein low carb diet.
Then there is zucchini, courgette or whatever else you want to you it. Either way, there is no denying that this is a pretty versatile piece of veg. We can slice it, dice and do a lot with it. A great trend right now is to create ribbons that mimic pasta. Play about with it and see how it can transform a diet.
Squashes are a great, filling source of protein and vitamins, particularly vitamin C. Like the Zucchini above, this vegetable works brilliantly as a protein rich low carb substitute for pasta and potato. Thin strips of squash work brilliantly in fritter and faux hash browns. The sweet taste also helps those cutting down on sugar as well as carbs.
14) Bok Choy:
This is a protein dense low carb vegetable that may go under the radar a little in comparison to something like spinach, chard or other typical sources. Bok choy is a staple in Asian cuisine, and therefore the perfect option for those that favor Eastern flavors. This vegetable is great as a replacement for rice and noodles in low-carb diets.
15) Bell pepper:
This is another vegetable that is versatile, tasty and helpful, but might get overlooked. This is one to keep in mind because it so good raw as a salad vegetable or a snack. Many of the others need fun tricks and substitution in recipes. The bell pepper is instant and ready to go.
What about some fruit for dessert or as a snack?
There are lots of berries that class as high protein low carb foods. Strawberries are a great place to start here because they are such a crowd-pleaser. They work brilliantly on their own or with cream, ice-cream or other desserts. Obviously, the nutritional value of the dessert will depend on the accompaniment. Still, you can be sure of a low-carb fruit and great source of vitamin C.
The avocado has had something of a resurgence in recent years. Many people have begun to realize the potential of this oily fruit, especially when it accompanies some lean chicken. The great thing about avocado is that it is low carb, high protein and a good source of fat and fiber. The bad news is that it is still a pain in the neck to prepare.
Rhubarb is something of a love it or hate it fruit. Some people love the taste when cooked up in crumbles and other desserts. Others feel it is far too sharp unless sweetened considerably with sugar. The potential of this low carb fruit depends on the recipe. Consider what you are using to make the crumble or pastry.
A balanced diet needs some dairy for calcium, fat and other minerals.
Obviously, those with dairy intolerance are excused from adding dairy to their diet. This isn’t something that you need to bring into a diet in order to get the best high protein low carb diet. Still, these food stuffs won’t hurt when eaten moderately. Cheese is a great source of calcium, fat and other minerals. Plus, it adds flavor to all sorts of dishes. Pick a favorite and play around with it. As long as it doesn’t come from a can, it should be fine.
20) Goat’s milk and cheese:
When we say cheese above, most people will think of cheese from cow’s milk. Simple, everyday cheese and cheddars are a staple part of the diet. Some people get a little squeamish when it comes to anything related to a goat. Yet, goat products are very healthy and a quite alternative dairy source in this diet. This is also true of goat meat, should you get bored of those chicken legs and turkey burgers.
21) Greek yogurt:
Yogurt is a great source of dairy and another versatile option in protein rich low carb foods. This is also another great way to utilize some of those fruits mentioned above. Greek yogurt is even better. This source has as much as 23 grams of protein per cup compared to just 9 grams of carbs. This is a great ratio that dieters should take advantage of. It is also generally lower in calcium than standard yogurt too.
Forget all the old notions about eggs and bad cholesterol. There are so many positive points to eggs that they outweigh any potential drawbacks. First of all, they are a great protein source for dieters and bodybuilders – and that doesn’t mean downing raw egg whites. Cooked egg-based breakfasts help too. Combine them with some of the vegetables mentioned above, and a little cheese for a perfect frittata or omelet.
A few more low-carb healthy foods to boost a diet or add a little fun.
Nuts often come high in lists of top protein-rich foods. Therefore, they deserve a mention in this guide to protein rich low carb foods. Walnuts have been singled out here because they offer just 4 grams of carbohydrate per ounce. They also have the added benefit that they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Of course mixed nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans are also helpful. They are a great way of snacking during the day without turning to carb-heavy snacks or sweets.
24) Kale chips.
On that note of carb-heavy snacks, it can be difficult to find ways to satisfy urges to snack without turning to potato chips. That is where vegetable chips, especially kale chips, really come in handy. These snacks are much healthier, with just 8-12 grams per ounce in carbohydrate. They are also low in fat and full of vitamins. Another great bonus with these kale chips is that we can make them at home. Invest in a food dehydrator and play with different produce.
25) Tomato juice:
Finally, we need a healthy drink to wash down all these great high protein low carb foods. There are lots of great drinks to choose from here as most are low carb. Herbal teas and iced teas will always go down well. We have highlighted tomato juice for its additional benefits. This juice has 10 grams of carbohydrate per cup. It is also pretty high in antioxidants to boost health and gym recovery times. Just don’t start thinking that this is a great excuse for a Bloody Mary before a workout.