Choosing Snacks for Low Carb
There’s lots of confusion about how much carbohydrate per day is 'low carb', whether to 'snack' at all, and if so, how to choose snacks.
If you add up the typical serves suggested in the Australian Healthy Eating Guidelines for adults, you can total up to 240g carb per day. Of course this is not 'low carb'.
Many experts have suggested 'low carb' is less than 130g carb a day, some less than 100g and some less than 60g a day. When you move from 50g down to 20g, you’re really following a ketogenic diet. For some, this is the only diet that works, but for most, it’s not required for weight management and too restrictive. Your body may not need to go that low to lose and manage your weight.
And so, what’s low carb?
Well the best answer is “It depends on your body.” Here’s some general guidelines to consider.
1. Get Your Protein In
With any diet, it’s good to start by making sure that you’re consuming adequate protein in all meals and snacks. Experts argue about the minimum amount that we need and what’s the optimal amount. If you’re either exercising more or trying to manage your weight, a little extra protein may be helpful. It's physically difficult to eat to eat an excessive amount of protein that's deemed harmful.
We're not advocative a 'high-protein diet' but an 'optimal protein plan' where you make sure that every meal and snack has some quality (bioavailable) protein.
When it comes to how big a protein serve, we all tend to be self-regulating with protein-containing foods. To repeat, the trick is to ensure that there's enough protein in each meal or snack. (A medium apple has only 0.4g protein.)
If you have at least 10g protein at breakfast (from 2 eggs), 10g with a snack, 20g at lunch, 10g with a snack and 20g with dinner, that’s 70g protein for the day. Active people, and those trying to manage their weight may do better with a little more.
All the snacks from this site, Low Carb Snacks provide at least 10 g quality protein per serve. Having some protein in all meals and snacks is a great strategy to avoid (or minimise) hunger. Hunger is the enemy of weight management, and proactive hunger prevention makes weight management easier. Eating just a little protein at each meal and snack helps you stay ahead of hunger.
2. Stay Within Your Body’s Carb Limit
Just as we all vary in our sun tolerance (how many minutes sun each one of us can tolerate before burning), we all vary in our carbohydrate tolerance, from all and any sources including fresh food or processed food and snacks. Some people can achieve their weight and health goals eating 100g carb a day (less than half the amount yielded from the Healthy Eating Guidelines) but many do better with even less.
Hopefully your main meals are predominantly made up of a variety of fresh foods and quality sources of protein. These are typically high in nutrient density, especially micronutrients. Any deficit in micronutrients may stimulate appetite. It's difficult to eat too much green leafy vegetables.
We have some great low carb recipes on our Facebook page and more are coming.
The carb in the snacks on this site varies between 18g (Go Slim bars), 15g (half a ProCrunch bar - about the same amount of carb as a medium apple which has virtually no protein), 2.3g (Protein Cookies) and 1.9g (protein shakes).
Why are the cookies and shakes so much lower in carb than the bars?
They are sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners.
The ProCrunch bars have added vitamins and minerals so they can fit into a higher nutrient food category called Formulated Meal Replacement. Although you could, we don't recommend that you use them as a meal replacement. Eat mainly real, fresh and unprocessed food!
As with any whole food, when a food or meal that contains carbohydrate (including pure sugar) also has protein, fibre and/or some fat, the glycemic effect (how fast it releases glucose into the blood) is slowed down. This helps.
3. Use Basic Maths to Plan Your Snacks
If the carbohydrate from your main meals is mainly from green leafy vegetables, it’s pretty simple to keep the carb content of a meal under 10g or 15g.
If you’re eating 30g carb per day from three main meals and 5g per day from your snacks (say 1 protein shake with water and 1 Protein Cookie), that’s around 35g total carb a day.
If you’re eating 30g carb per day from three main meals and 30g per day from your snacks (say 1 ProCrunch bar divided into 2 snacks), that’s just 60g total carb a day. If you increased two of the main meals by 10g to 20g carb each (more variety), that would be just 80g carb a day in total - still very low carb for many people.
If your three main meals delivered 50g carb, and you had a Go Slim bar (18g) in the morning and a shake (2g) in the afternoon, you’d be down to 70g in total for the day.
Do You Have to Count Carbs and Calories?
The end game is to have a focus on quality fresh foods not nutrients, and achieve your health and weight goals. But to get there, you may have to be aware of the carb content of your meals and snacks, relative to your body's individual carb tolerance. Staying under your body's individual carb tolerance will facilitate you accessing your own stored excess fat for energy. This means that some of your energy will come from food and some from your own fat stores! This will enable you to naturally eat less calories (kilojoules) without feeling hungry. Calories do count - you just don't have to count them.
Many people on a ketogenic or low carb diet are actively trying to keep their insulin levels down to an optimal level. Where carbohydrate stimulates insulin (to do its job to normalise blood sugar), protein only does to a lesser extent (about 50%) and fat virtually stimulates no insulin response at all. Because of this, some people make the mistake of adding excess fat, which can create a calorie surplus that stops weight loss.
Keep a record to see what works for you
One of the best suggestions that we can make is that you keep a food diary and record everything that you eat and drink, and the time you eat it. Record the amounts as closely as you can. Your goal is to figure out a total food plan that works for your body. Experiment with different snacks to see which ones you like and which work best for you.
Need Extra Help or Accountability?
Click this link to see our growing list of coaches and dietitians who specialise in low carb lifestyle coaching. Here's a link for centres who specialise in low carb diet and exercise coaching. Some offer remote coaching via Skype.
If you have a specific health condition or take medications, you can always ask your doctor to refer you to a local APD (Accredited Practicing Dietitian).