One of the first steps in starting a low-carb diet is revamping your pantry. It's out with the old high-carb items and in with the new low-carb alternatives. Choosing what you fill your pantry with is an important step because this sets the tone for what type of low-carb diet you're going to follow.
While there are plenty of low-carb options out there, some are high-quality and nutrient-rich, while others are lower quality and may even be harmful to your health.
In this guide, we'll walk you through which foods to stock up on and provide tips on what to avoid to keep your low-carb diet both nutritious and delicious.
Before we dive in, you may be asking yourself, "what are low-carb foods?" Generally speaking, for a food to be considered low-carb, its macronutrient ratio should weigh heavier on the fat and protein side and lower on the carbohydrates.
One exception to this is low-carb fruit and vegetables, which are primarily made up of carbs but are so low in calories that they'll still work in your low-carb diet.
To get started, let's discuss how to decide what should go in your low-carb pantry.
Deciding What Goes Into Your Low Carb Pantry
How do you decide which items to stock your pantry with?
Do a Pantry Overhaul
The first step in your pantry overhaul is to eliminate the obvious high-carb items like wheat flour, sugar, and sauces that are high in carbohydrates. Once these items are removed, you can start to look for one-to-one replacements.
For example, once you toss your wheat flour, you could choose to replace it with low-carb flour like coconut or almond flour. As you begin to clear out your pantry, make a list of items you want to replace, so you're not left empty-handed.
Look for Low-Carb Recipes
Another way to assess what your low-carb pantry might be missing is to find low-carb recipes online that you may be interested in making. Check out the ingredients list, and take note of any pantry items you don't already have. This is going to be especially helpful for the types of meals you enjoy cooking often.
You'll likely find that creative chefs have found low-carb replacements for most of your staples.
Make Sure to Check Ingredient Labels
When you're at the store or online searching for low-carb pantry items, always make sure to check the ingredient label. You may see marketing that says "low-carb" or "keto," but these words hold no weight when it comes to the quality of the food.
If the item you chose is full of ingredients that you can't pronounce, it's likely more chemical-based than food-based. Although there may be some ingredients that are new to you when going low-carb, generally speaking, you should be able to identify the majority of ingredients on the label.
Also, whether you're looking at a low-carb product or not, do your best to avoid artificial ingredients like artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
Check Total Carbohydrates and Fiber
Along the same lines as assessing your product's ingredients, you'll also want to get very familiar with the nutrition label, which gives you information about the macronutrient composition of the product.
The number one place your eyes should also go to is the total carbohydrate line on the nutrition label. This will let you know exactly how many carbohydrates are in your product. In general, aiming for 5 grams of carbs or less per serving is a good target. However, this number can become flexible depending on the item itself and how much of it you'll be using.
In addition to total carbohydrates, you'll also want to factor in fiber content. This is important because fiber can be subtracted from the total carbs to give you the net carbs. Since most fiber moves through your digestive tract unabsorbed, the net carb count is the number of carbohydrates in the product that are actually digestible.
For example, if your item contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, but 10 of those carbs come from fiber, your net carb count is only 5 grams.
Picking the Right Low Carb Food Items
Below is a list of some of the most popular pantry items that low-carb dieters like to stock up on. Many of these items can be swapped out for alternatives, but this is a great place to start.
You may find flours labeled "paleo" that are 100% grain-free but are still higher in carbohydrates. Be sure to always check the labels before making assumptions about the carb content.
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Oils and Fat
Steer clear of lower-quality vegetable oils like canola or soybean oil.
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
Canned or Bottled Foods
Make sure that when you purchase canned foods, they come in a BPA-free container. It should say "BPA-free," right on the label.
- Olives and Artichokes
- Canned Tuna, Salmon, or Sardines (in water)
- Canned Vegetables
Pretty much any seasoning you can think of will fit in your low-carb diet. The only exception would be seasoning mixes that have added sweeteners. Here are just a handful of seasonings to choose from:
- Sea salt
Nuts and Seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
Beware of artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame. Although these items are sugar-free, they are not natural and may be linked to health issues. Instead, stick to the more natural alternatives such as:
- Monk fruit
Where To Buy Low-Carb Pantry Items
Many of the low-carb pantry items listed above can be found at your local grocery store. Some of the more specialty items may take a bit more digging, but there isn't anything you can't find online.
Here are some general guidelines to help you locate your low-carb pantry items:
All common grocery stores will have low-carb items to choose from. With that being said, specialty stores like Whole Foods, Gelson's, and others may have more options.
Some stores even have sections labeled "low-carb," making things even easier. When in doubt, always as a sales clerk for assistance.
As the low-carb diet has become more popular retail stores like Walmart, Tj Maxx, and Target have begun carrying low-carb specialty foods. Since these stores don't necessarily specialize in food, it may be more of a hit or miss, but getting to know what your local retail store carries can be helpful for your convenience.
If there is something you're looking for that you can't find at your local store, you'll always be able to find it online. Amazon is always a good go-to for smaller brands that are just getting started, and many companies sell directly from their website.
Keeping your pantry stocked with low-carb items is one of the best fail-safes you can have against falling off the wagon. There's nothing worse than coming home after a long day at work to find your refrigerator devoid of options.
With this in mind, it can be just as important to keep your pantry clear of tempting high-carb foods as it is to keep it stocked with low-carb choices. If you share a pantry space with a roommate or family members, keep your section clear of high-carb temptations.
Revamping your kitchen to become more low-carb friendly can significantly impact how well you're able to maintain your diet, so take your pantry overhaul seriously and enjoy all the new offerings you're providing for yourself.