Low-carb diet plan
Mumsnetter BIWI, tireless champion of the low-carb diet on Mumsnet Talk, has written a handy guide to how to put together an effective low-carb diet plan.
What should you eat on a low-carb diet?
According to Dr John Briffa, in his book Escape the Diet Trap, adults need around 100g of carbohydrate a day. However, most of us have little idea how much carbohydrate is in the food we eat.
You can get a clearer picture by analysing three meals consumed during a 'typical' day (see box).
Without counting milk (in tea and coffee), or any snacks you might consume, the meals eaten during this typical day add up to 172g carbohydrates - almost twice as much as you need for your daily energy requirements. The surplus will be stored by your body as fat.
The emphasis in your low-carb diet should be on eating natural and unprocessed foods. Cooking from scratch is always better, because in that way you can control the amount of carbohydrate you are consuming.
1 slice Hovis (medium) wholemeal toast with butter/margarine
1 serving of Special K (30g + 125ml semi-skimmed milk)
1 x 250ml glass of orange juice
Sandwich, made with two slices of wholemeal bread, with butter/margarine, and ham/tuna/cheese
1 packet Walkers Cheese & Onion crisps
1 x 2 finger Kit Kat
Spaghetti Bolognese, made with 50g Sainsbury's spaghetti (a small portion) and a serving of Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce
This equates to 172g of carbohydrate - almost double your daily energy requirement
(Carb counts taken from Sainsbury's online)
Processed and pre-prepared foods often contain surprisingly high amounts of carbohydrate, often because they add sugars, or use starches to thicken sauces.
The type and amount of foods you can eat will depend on how strict your low-carb diet is, and what stage of the diet you have reached.
As you lose weight and reach your target, you will be able to start including higher amounts of carbohydrate.
What you can eat on a low-carb diet
- Meat and fish (as long as they aren't processed) and eggs can be eaten in any quantity
- Most vegetables and salads - potatoes are a definite exception here
- Butter - any amount - for frying and adding to cooked vegetables
- Oil - for frying and for use in salad dressings
- Up to 100g of cheese a day
- Cream (in moderate quantities) and full-fat yoghurt
Foods to avoid on a low-carb diet (particularly in the early, strict phase)
- Other grains
- Sugar/honey/syrup/maple syrup
- Legumes, eg lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans
As you reach your target weight, and start to look to maintain it, you can gradually include some of the foods in this list again - in moderation.
The idea is that you very gradually add more carbs to your diet until you start to gain weight. By doing it gradually, you learn which foods you can tolerate, as well as the quantities of carbs you can eat without gaining weight.
Two useful low-carb cookbooks are:
- The Idiot-Proof Diet Cookbook by Bee Rawslinson, India Knight and Neris Thomas
- The Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet Cookbook by Rose Elliot
All these recipes demonstrate how easy it is to follow a low-carb diet and, importantly, how easy it is to cook lovely, tasty food that all the family can enjoy. You won't feel like you're on a diet at all - not one iota of deprivation will be required to lose weight if you eat this way. Honest.
Hopefully, you will stay there. But if you see reaching your target as the green light to re-introduce all the carbs you were eating before, then the weight will just pile back on.
Although you should be able to eat more carbs, and may be able to eat bread, potatoes, rice and/or pasta occasionally, these are still the carbs that have to be eaten in moderation, because of their impact on your blood sugar levels.
Dr Atkins has a pre-maintenance phase in his diet, where he recommends that you aim for very, very slow weight loss as you reach your target weight - less than a pound a week, for a period of up to three months. This is achieved by gradually increasing the carbs in your diet, again. The thinking is that this will help you adjust to a level of carbohydrates and a style of eating you can adopt for the rest of your life.
Once you reach your target weight, you need to remain vigilant about what you are eating, and recognise that you are in control of your food - not the other way round.
You will be able to indulge in higher carb meals, and treats, but need to be very careful that these don't trigger carb cravings again.
To help keep you on the 'straight and narrow', Dr Atkins suggests you weigh yourself once a week, and have a 5lb maximum gain over your target weight. If your weight goes back up, then it's time to cut the carbs you're eating until you have returned to your acceptable weight range.
Assuming your children are a healthy weight, there's no need to consider restricting their carbohydrate intake - children need lots of energy. But it's worth looking at the type of carbohydrates they eat. Too much cereal, white bread, pasta and sugary treats isn't healthy in the long term, so you need to try to ensure your children are getting plenty of their carbs from vegetables and salads. And fruit, while healthier than a biscuit or a bar of chocolate, is still high in sugar, so vegetables are a healthier choice.
If your child is overweight, you could consider reducing their carbohydrate intake, but discuss it with their GP first.
Disclaimer: The information on our diet and fitness pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Mumsnet would urge you to consult your GP before you begin any diet if you're concerned about your weight, have existing health conditions and/or are taking medication.