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If you want to get a handle this year on your weight and blood sugar, a low-carb diet may be your best bet. That's because reducing carbohydrates in your diet helps to take away the reliance on insulin, a hormone that, when used too much, may increase the risk for obesity and other components of metabolic syndrome.
This diet may also be useful in managing and perhaps reversing type 2 diabetes (or pre-diabetes) as well, a condition plaguing more than 100 million Americans. The key is doing it in a way where you don’t feel hungry or deprived, but perhaps the most critical factor is being able to stick with it. Many people embark on a low-carb journey only to fall off the wagon a week later because they cut too many carbs.
The TODAY low-carb plan outlined below avoids these barriers by keeping the foods that fill (and fuel) you (like high-fiber roasted cruciferous vegetables and higher fat snack options like mixed nuts) so that you’re not left feeling irritable and starving. This plan is all whole foods and all delicious. Make this year your year of health by trying a smart-carb approach!
Here are a few important things to remember:
- This is not a calorie counting plan.
- Eat until you're no longer hungry, not until you're full.
- Snacks are options — not mandatory.
- Keep your drinks void of sugar of any kind (no cola, juice, etc.) and avoid artificial sweeteners that will only make your cravings for sweet (and high carb) options even harder to ignore.
If low carb is new for you, expect the first two days to be a bit challenging. Stick with it, and your body will adjust!
1. Crustless quiche cups: With a handful of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries)
2. Cinnamon toast: One piece of whole-grain sprouted toast topped with no added sugar almond butter, coconut flakes and cinnamon
3. One cup of plain yogurt: With chopped almonds or walnuts and ground flax seed
4. Soft-boiled egg: With sliced avocado drizzled with olive oil
6. Protein smoothie: Two scoops of any no-added sugar, organic, plant-based protein powder, one cup unsweetened almond milk, two tablespoons pure cocoa powder and ice for consistency
1. Grilled wild salmon salad: With two or more cups arugula with a mix of olive oil and lemon juice. Top with tomatoes and shredded Parmesan cheese
2. Turkey chili: One pound of ground turkey mixed with diced tomatoes, no added sugar tomato sauce, cinnamon and chili powder. You can add in green peppers. Top with cheddar cheese and, to pack an even more nutrient dense punch, throw in a bag of riced broccoli.
3. Chicken or salmon salad: Mix canned chicken or salmon with organic mayo, add in herbs, salt and pepper and chopped onions and celery. Put salad on top of two rice cakes (100 percent whole-grain).
4. Shaved Brussels sprout salad: With tempeh strips
6. Salmon cakes
7. Avocado boats: Take half an avocado and season with salt and pepper, crack an egg in the middle and bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees — top with cheese in the last few minutes.
1. Bowl of black bean pasta: With pesto sauce and steamed broccoli mixed in.
2. Zucchini noodles with grilled chicken: Add a flavored infused olive oil like garlic or lemon, and you can top the dish with with herbs and lemon zest.
3. Cauliflower pizza crust topped with cheese, grilled vegetables and tomato sauce: Add a side salad with grated carrots, chopped walnuts and an olive oil and balsamic mix.
4. Garlicky tofu bowl: Mixed with cauliflower rice and steamed spinach.
5. Burger with portobello mushroom bun: Place grilled grass-fed burger patty in between two grilled portobello mushroom caps and top with tomato, lettuce and onion.
6. Spinach chicken or turkey meatballs: Simmer in tomato sauce with a simple side salad.
7. Wild shrimp Swiss chard tacos: Grill or sautée wild shrimp and roll in steamed Swiss chard leaves topped with chopped cilantro, cubed avocado and fresh lime.
1. Freeze dried or baked cheese balls and cheese discs
2. Peanut butter balls: Mix half a cup of crunchy peanut butter with two tablespoons of ground flax seeds. Form into balls and store in freezer.
3. Mixed nuts
4. Celery with almond butter and cinnamon
5. Roasted chick peas
6. Tofu, turkey or salmon jerky
7. Turkey rolled around string cheese stick
8. Kale chips
9. Handful of berries or one small apple
10. One square of raw pure cocoa
11. Guacamole or salsa with paleo nut type crackers
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of "Skinny Liver." Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat. For more diet and fitness advice, sign up for our Start TODAY newsletter.