Want a weekly low carb meal plan that doesn't leave you hangry? Follow these 5 steps to craft a nutrient-dense meal plan and feel great.
Any time you're interested in changing the way you eat, a little meal planning goes a long way. It takes a conscious effort to change a habit and our eating habits are deeply ingrained.
This is particularly true when you're trying to transition to low carb eating. So many convenience foods are carbohydrate-based. This means that if you don't do at least a little meal planning, you'll likely have nothing to reach for when you get hungry!
Another challenge is the impact a sudden switch to low carb eating can have on your mood and the way you feel.
Have you tried low carb eating, but wound up with a terrible headache, low energy or muscle cramps? You are not alone! These unfortunate side effects are common when switching to a low carb diet. That doesn't mean you have to choose between going low carb and feeling terrible though.
Here's everything you need to know to craft a weekly low carb meal plan that will actually leave you feeling good.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You should always check with your doctor when you change the way you eat.
5 Steps to a Satisfying Weekly Low Carb Meal Plan
Creating and sticking to a meal plan is perhaps the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success when it comes to low carb eating.
While meal planning can seem like a lot of work if it's new to you, remember that any new habit takes time. If you stick to your low carb diet, it will become more intuitive and require less planning over time.
Follow these 5 steps to make sure your weekly low carb meal plan has all of the nutrients you need to leave you feeling good.
1. Make a Gradual Change
Once you've decided to make a change, it's hard to be patient. You likely want to dive right in, full speed ahead.
Remember the goal though. If you're looking for a long-term, lasting change in your diet and health, a gradual start may be more practical.
After all, a sudden and extreme reduction in carbs can leave you feeling pretty bad. These symptoms generally only last for a couple of weeks, but it can still be hard to stick to a new lifestyle when you have a pounding headache and no energy.
Consider proceeding more gradually to give your body time to adjust. Start by giving up all refined carbs, basically anything that comes in a box.
Then give up gluten, and perhaps grains, but continue eating a variety of produce including higher carb produce like sweet potatoes and apples.
Finally, if you wish to further reduce your carbs to reach a certain daily macro goal, you can do so. At this point, it won't be such a shock to your system and your new habits will already largely be in place.
2. Include Plenty of Healthy Fats
One risk of switching to low carb eating is not getting enough calories.
I know that might sound like a good thing if your goal is to lose weight, but you need to maintain a reasonable number of calories both to feel good and to support your metabolism.
Healthy fats are a great solution here. They are high in calories, but can also be quite high in nutrients. Further, healthy fats leave you feeling full and satisfied. Adding avocado to your salad or opting for chicken thighs over leaner chicken breast can make a big difference in your satiety at the end of a meal.
If you're a product of the '90s, I know thinking of dietary fat as a good thing can be quite a switch. But the truth is, consuming enough fat is important for vitamin absorption, healthy skin and balancing hormones. On a low carb diet, it's also important for maintaining adequate calorie intake.
Here are some low carb foods that are high in fats to include in your weekly low carb meal plan:
- Avocado (15 grams fat, 2 grams net carbs per 3.5 oz): Top a salad or burger with this incredibly nutrient-dense fruit or whip up a quick guacamole to eat with veggie sticks!
- Olive Oil (14 grams fat, 0 grams carbs per 1 T): Many consider olive oil to be one of the healthiest fats in the world. Drizzle it on cooked or raw veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also use olive oil to make delicious homemade vinaigrettes, or in a healthy dip like dairy-free pesto or chimichurri sauce.
- Olives (10.7 grams fat, 3.1 grams net carbs per 3.5 oz): Similar to olive oil, olives are an excellent source of healthy fat. Eat them as a snack or enjoy them as part of a dish such as my Pizza Soup, Greek Salad or Summer Zoodle Salad.
- Full Fat Dairy (Whole Milk Yogurt – 3.3 grams fat, 4.7 grams carbs per 3.5 oz): If you eat dairy, it can be another filling form of dietary fats. Enjoy plain yogurt with berries or include cheese cubes as part of a low carb snack.
- Macadamia Nuts (23 grams fat, 1 gram net carbs per 1 oz): Walnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts are also quite high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates. Enjoy nuts by themselves, atop a salad or in the nut butter form.
If you find your energy level plummeting when you switch to low carb eating, take a look at your low carb meal plan and make sure you're including enough healthy fats. You don't have to go hungry, no matter how low your daily carbs are!
3. Know Which Produce is Low in Carbs
It's not all about macros. You need the micronutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables to protect your long-term health and to feel your best.
While it's true that fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, they're not all created equal. You can and should include low carb fruits and veggies as a part of your meal plan. You just need to take a little time to learn which produce is the lowest in carbs.
What Are the Lowest Carb Fruits?
Which vegetables are low in carbs?
Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, spinach and zucchini are all low carb vegetables.
So you actually have quite a few choices for including veggies in your low carb diet. Just be careful of things like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash, which have higher carbohydrate content.
4. Don't Forget Low Carb Snacks
In my years of meal planning experience, I've found that forgetting about healthy snacks is a common downfall.
Even if you carefully plan out all of your low carb dinners, lunches and breakfasts, if you forget snacks it will be hard to stick to the plan.
This doesn't mean you need to snack every day, but if you do start to feel hungry in the afternoon, you'll need a healthy option available. Otherwise it's too easy to just grab whatever's there which can throw off your whole diet.
Keto Fat Bombs
You've likely heard of the Keto diet, which focuses on extremely low carbs and high fat intake.
Even if you're not keto though, including some “keto fat bombs” in your meal plan can keep you from getting too hungry.
A “fat bomb” is a high fat snack that helps people following the ketogenic diet eat enough fat to stay in ketosis. Keto fat bombs are a great choice for anyone trying to reduce carbs and they're super satisfying due to their high fat content.
Some examples of simple keto fat bombs are cucumber slices with pesto, dill pickles with cheddar cheese or green olives with salami. You can also have fun with it, making a low carb treat like our popular Low Carb Snickerdoodle Bars.
Check out my Keto Fat Bomb Recipe Roundup for all sorts of ideas!
5. Do some Quick Meal Prep
I'm obviously a huge fan of meal prep. It's what's made it possible for me to stick to my healthy eating habits even as life has gotten crazy busy with running my own business AND taking care of two tiny humans!
Meal prep is especially important when you're making a major diet change though. You're so much more likely to stick to your nutrition goals if you've prepped the food ahead. And it doesn't have to be all or nothing! Even a bit of quick meal prep like washing and chopping your produce and making a quick homemade dip or salad dressing goes a long way.
If you're looking for more though, Prep Dish offers weekly low carb meal plans (keto compliant) with all subscriptions. These meal plans include macro and nutrition information so you don't have to calculate yourself.
The best part? They're meal prep meal plans. This means each week, subscribers get an organized grocery list, a prep day plan telling you exactly what to do to prep healthy food for the week ahead, and a dish day plan with instructions for the day you serve each meal. If you'd like to give it a try, check out the free trial below!