Starting a low-carb diet: 5 steps for success

  • 4 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Whether you are starting a low-carb diet for weight loss or blood sugar lowering, MyNetDiary is here to help. Follow these five steps to maximize your success.

Starting a low-carb diet

If you are starting a low-carb diet, check out these 5 steps for success:

1. Set your low-carb health goals

What is your goal for starting low-carb, and how will you measure your success on the plan? Your goal may be solely weight loss, or you might be looking to improve other areas of your health, such as blood sugar lowering. Setting your goals early will help you stay focused and minimize downsides.

If you have diabetes

You may choose a low-carb diet to improve your blood sugar. If you take diabetes medicine, talk to your doctor before you begin this plan. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can be dangerous.

Your doctor may recommend that you decrease your diabetes medicine to avoid low blood sugar. You may need to monitor your blood sugar more often, and have your medicine changed if your blood sugar goes too low on a low-carb diet.

If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure

While your blood cholesterol levels may not change (and may even improve) after you start a low-carb diet, some people may see an increase in their numbers. Ask your doctor if you should have your cholesterol or other labs tested after starting the diet.

Talk to your doctor if you take blood pressure medicine. Significant weight loss (on any diet plan) can lower blood pressure. While this is a desired result, you may need to decrease your blood pressure medicine to avoid your blood pressure dropping too low.

2. Set your nutrition targets

Carb targets

Setting a carbohydrate target is an essential step for starting a low-carb diet. While there is no official definition of low-carb, My NetDiary uses 30% calories from carb as a default for a moderately low-carb plan. With a premium MyNetDiary membership, you can customize your carb target by setting a percent carb or carb gram goal in My Plan.

Going very low carb? Consider selecting keto diet in My Plan. A keto diet is high in fat and typically contains 5-10% calories from carb.

Decide if you will track total carb or net carb. Net carb is total carb minus fiber. For example, 12 almonds have about three grams of total carb and two grams of fiber. Subtract two grams of fiber from three grams of total carb to get one gram of net carb. Tracking net carb will allow you to include more high-fiber vegetables, nuts, and seeds in your plan.

Protein targets

MyNetDiary Premium low-carb plan will help you set your individual protein goal. The default plan provides 30% of calories from protein. Getting enough protein helps minimize muscle loss and can help you feel more full.

Other nutrients

You may choose to monitor other nutrients in your MyNetDiary tracker, including calories, fiber, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

3. Stock your kitchen

You may feel a bit overwhelmed before starting a low-carb diet. Take some time to plan for your new lifestyle. To increase your success, move tempting high-carb items from the kitchen to stay on track, and stock your kitchen with healthy and tasty low-carb foods.

Tip: Use our Low-Carb Food Grade to find the best low-carb foods.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Non-starchy Vegetables Leafy green veggies such as spinach, lettuce, and kale are very low in carb and packed with nutrients. Asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini are examples of low-carb veggies to include. Avocados and tomatoes are technically fruits and are allowed on a low-carb diet.
Meat and Protein Foods Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, eggs, and soy products are rich protein sources. Choose lean and fresh meats, poultry, and fish more often than processed meats (such as sausage and bacon).
Fats and Oils Include olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil for heart-healthy options.
Fruit Fruit contains carb from natural sugar, but is a wise choice to work into your carb budget. Choose whole fruit over fruit juices.
Dairy and Dairy Substitutes Milk and yogurt contain carb due to natural sugar (lactose). Many flavored yogurts can be high in added sugar, so choose plain varieties or read the Nutrition Facts label to find a lower carb option.
Cheese, coconut milk, and unsweetened almond milk are low-carb options. Some provide a good source of calcium.
Nuts and seeds Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and important minerals and are an excellent snack option.
Grains and Starchy Vegetables Limit your portions as grains are high in carb. Focus on small portions of whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and whole wheat for maximum nutrition. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash. They are high in carb compared to other vegetables.
Spices and Seasonings Use herbs and spices for flavor and health benefits. Watch for hidden carbs in condiments and dressings.
Beverages Keep well-hydrated with water, sparkling water, coffee, tea, and other unsweetened beverages.

Looking for some great meal and snack ideas? MyNetDiary’s Premium Recipe collection contains hundreds of low-carb recipes.

4. Punch up your nutrition

Choose your fats and oils wisely

A low-carb diet contains a higher proportion of calories from fat. Heart-healthy sources of fat include olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, nuts, and seeds.

Focus on fiber

Low-carb diets can be low in fiber, due to the limits on fiber-containing carbs. Choose your carbs wisely to focus on beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds within your carb allowance, and include chia and flaxseed as low-carb fiber boosters.

Consider a multivitamin/mineral supplement

Even a well-planned low-carb diet can be low in certain vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. This is especially true if you are limiting your calorie intake. Tracking in MyNetDiary will help you know for sure if you are meeting your vitamin and mineral needs.

5. Find Support

A solid support system can make all the difference in your success. Let your friends and family know your goals and how they can support you. Engage with our MyNetDiary community on Facebook or our Community Forum. We have a team of Registered Dietitians to help answer any questions you may have.

Start a low-carb diet the right way!

Starting a low-carb diet the right way will increase your success and maximize your nutrition. MyNetDiary has the tools to help!

Other articles you may find helpful:

Carbohydrates: Sugar, Starch, and Fiber

Low-Carb Food Grade

20 Carb-counted snacks from a dietitian’s kitchen

Diabetes Basics

Reviewed and updated by Brenda Braslow on May 30, 2023.

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Diabetes->Carbs & Carb Counting Weight Loss->Diets
Jun 9, 2023
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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