Low Carb Shopping List: the Best Foods For An LCHF Diet

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In recent times, there’s a lot of interest in low carb diets, and more people are starting them every day.

However, for some people, it’s tough knowing what a low carb shopping list should look like.

Over this article, we’ll take a look at the best foods to eat on an LCHF diet, and also some information on how to optimize health.

But first, the basics.

What is a Low Carb Diet?

Picture of some low carb food - low carb shopping list

Put simply; a low carb diet is an eating plan that emphasizes whole, real foods and attempts to limit starches and sugars.

The first thing to remember is that the focus should be on low carb, healthy fat (LCHF). In other words, healthy fats such as cheese, meat, and avocados should replace sugars and starch.

When it comes to carbohydrate, the LCHF diet is not just some low sugar diet plan, though.

In reality, it’s about choosing the most nutrient-dense forms of carbohydrate (e.g., avocado, nuts, and spinach).

Which Carbohydrates to Avoid?

In contrast, we should restrict the carbohydrates that are higher in energy density and not as nutritious. For instance, foods such as rice, bread, and pasta.

If you can’t face up to giving up sandwiches, then cloud bread is a convenient option.

LCHF diets have a broad range of beneficial effects on our health, from reducing triglyceride and blood sugar levels to sustainable weight loss (1, 2, 3, 4).

Also, a key point to hammer home is that low carb is not the same as no carb. Low carb diets can be anything up to about 150g carbohydrate per day.

The most important thing is the source; fibrous carbs from green vegetables and nuts is so much better for you than sugary foods and flours.

Key Point: Low carb diets place higher focus on healthy fats and restrict less nutritious forms of carbohydrate such as bread and rice.

What to Eat on a Low Carb Diet?

Picture of healthy foods - meats and vegetables

While many people feel a low carb diet is restrictive in options, there are so many foods you can eat.

Best of all, the majority of these foods are both healthy and super tasty.

In general, these are the foods that we should prioritize on a low carb diet:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fruit – preferably emphasize low-sugar fruits.
  • Fats and oils – naturally occurring fats—avoid the manufactured stuff.
  • Fish and seafood in general
  • Meat – all different varieties
  • Vegetables – any kind, but don’t go overboard with starchy vegetables.
Key Point: A healthy low carb shopping list should include a range of nutritious foods from each group.

Low Carb Shopping List

Here are some great foods to put on your low carb shopping list:

A Low Carb Shopping List For an LCHF Diet

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Firstly, this grocery list is to demonstrate all the different options – you don’t have to buy all of it!

Let’s now take a look at each of the sections, with some explanations as to the why.

Dairy Products

Picture of low carb dairy - cheese, milk, cream

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Cheese
  • Clotted Cream (UK)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream / Double Cream / Whipping Cream
  • Créme Fraíche
  • Ghee
  • Kefir
  • Milk (whole milk)
  • Quark 
  • Sour cream
  • Whey protein (OK, but try to emphasize real foods)
  • Yogurt

Dairy is certainly a great food group for a low carb diet; many of the foods are low in carbs and extremely nutritious.

Despite this, it’s important to realize that milk contains the sugar lactose.

While some milk is no problem, glasses and glasses of the stuff will quickly put you into higher carb territory.

The Truth: Dairy Fat is Healthy

After the decades-long fear of fat, it’s interesting to see recent studies supporting cheese and dairy fat as a heart-healthy food:

  • Higher consumption of cheese has an association with higher HDL, and also lower CVD risk (5).
  • Based on the results of numerous meta-analyses, most studies show either no association or an inverse association between high-fat dairy and CVD (6).

Up to the present time, cheese has been a dietary villain in the eyes of many.

However, it belongs in any healthy diet.

Key Point: In contrast to conventional thought, high fat dairy products are nutritious foods that belong on your low carb shopping list.

Eggs

Picture of eggs - low carb shopping list

  • Pastured eggs

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods in the world, containing a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

Regarding the type of eggs, it’s always better to choose eggs from hens who can graze on pasture. Studies show that eggs from hens raised on their natural diet offer a higher amount of beneficial nutrients (7).

However, if you are on a tight budget, then any eggs are better than none.

For more information on eggs, please see here.

Key Point: Eggs should be one of the first things on your low carb shopping list. Ideally, you should try get eggs from pastured hens.

Fish and Seafood

Picture of seafood - lots of fish and shellfish

Seafood is an incredibly important source of omega-3, and consequently, it’s an essential on your low carb shopping list.

If you plan to eat a heart-protective diet, then including some fish is a must.

  • Anchovy (*)
  • Bream
  • Cod
  • Eel
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Herring (*)
  • Mackerel (*)
  • Salmon (*)
  • Sardines (*)
  • Sea Bass
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna (**)

(*) Denotes high in omega-3 content and also low in mercury; these are the best options for your low carb shopping list.

(**) High in omega-3, but also high in mercury.

Shellfish are also exceptionally nutritious, high in protein, and help regarding sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals.

  • Abalone
  • Cockle
  • Crab
  • Crayfish
  • Cuttlefish
  • Lobster
  • Loco
  • Mussel
  • Octopus
  • Oyster
  • Periwinkle
  • Scallop
  • Sea urchin
  • Shrimp 
  • Squid
Key Point: Seafood is an incredibly healthy food group, particularly fatty fish should be on your shopping list due to the omega-3 on offer.

Fruit

Picture of fruit - berries with some leaves

Provided below are some of the best fruits for a low carb diet.

  • Avocados
  • Bilberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Cranberries
  • Olives
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

Many people treat fruit as black or white. While some view it as a beacon of optimal health, others feel it is little more than sugar with few vitamins and minerals.

In reality, the truth lays somewhere in between.

A Summary on Fruit

First, vegetables are so much more nutrient-dense than fruit. Therefore, despite what you may have heard, fruit is entirely unnecessary for vitamins and minerals.

However, fruit—especially berries—is also a significant contributor of phytonutrients to the average diet. And our scientific understanding of phytonutrients found in food is only very basic at this time.

For instance, the discovery of phytonutrients didn’t even happen until the 1990s. Before this period, we lacked an understanding of precisely how certain foods had protective effects on our health (8).

Generally speaking, whole food is so much more than the sum of its isolated nutrients. And then there’s this question: how many more useful compounds are we yet to discover in food?

Should Fruit Be Part of a Low Carb Diet?

On the whole, including a little fruit is likely beneficial to any low carb diet.

That said, I think that we should emphasize nutrient-dense fruits rather than those high in fructose. For this reason, various berries dominate the fruit choices on the low carb shopping list.

Other fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges can fit into a low carb diet. But they are relatively high in fructose and should be used in moderation if you want to eat them.

Avoid Fruit Juice

Another key point regarding fruit is that fruit juice is not the same as whole fruit.

While whole fruit consumption has an association with reduced type 2 diabetes risk, fruit juice increases risk (9).

Key Point: While fruit is not the most nutritious food in the world, it still offers positives. Add it to your grocery list but remember to enjoy it in sensible portions.

Meat

Picture of various grilled meats

It comes as a surprise to many, but meat is incredibly nutrient dense.

Here are some of the best meats for your low carb shopping list:

  • Bacon (ideally traditionally cured)
  • Beef
  • Bison
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Goat
  • Ham
  • Lamb
  • Mutton
  • Organ Meats
  • Pork
  • Sausages (real meat, not hot dog style!)
  • Turkey

Although people often think meat is just protein, it’s full of a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

Eating some beef gives you more vitamins than a piece of fruit does!

Eat the Whole Animal

It’s important not only to eat lean cuts of meat.

You should also include some fatty meat, as well as gelatinous and bone-in cuts.

Traditional human diets used to contain these foods, but consumption is very low in modern times.

The result is that we have widespread fat-soluble vitamin and glycine deficiencies, both of which are harmful to human health (10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

Key Point: Meat is incredibly high in micronutrients and it is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the human diet. Make sure it’s on your grocery list.

Oils and Fat

Picture of yellow butter

Choosing healthy fats is key to a low-carb diet.

If you’re not sure what a healthy fat is, then reading this guide to dietary fat will help.

In any event, you should focus on naturally occurring fats from plants and animals and stay away from manufactured fats.

Here are some great oils and fats to put on your low carb shopping list:

  • Avocado Oil
  • Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flaxseed Oil (not for cooking)
  • Ghee
  • Lard
  • Macadamia Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Palm Oil (ideally sustainably sourced)
  • Tallow

As for me, my personal favorites on here are butter, lard, and olive oil.

It is important to realize that many different fatty acids come together to form a fat, rather than just one single fatty acid (15, 16).

Interestingly, the primary fatty acid in lard is oleic acid – the very same fatty acid that is the main component of olive oil.

In short, using natural sources of fat in your cooking isn’t anything to fear.

Key Point: These fats and oils are all excellent additions to your low carb shopping list. However, try to get most of your calories from whole food sources of fat for better nutrition.

Vegetables

Picture of children collecting some low carb vegetables from a field

Unfortunately, the media imagery of low-carb diets often shows cavemen eating piles of meat.

While I certainly have nothing against meat, it’s good to include some vegetables in the diet too. Generally speaking, most vegetables are nutritious and valuable for meeting your micronutrient needs.

It is better to primarily focus on leafy greens, as they tend to be the most nutrient-dense vegetables.

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Beets (Beetroot)
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chives
  • Collard Greens
  • Eggplant (Aubergine)
  • Garlic
  • Green Onion (Spring Onion)
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard Greens
  • Onion
  • Parsnip *
  • Peppers
  • Potato *
  • Rutabaga (Swede)
  • Shallot
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato *
  • Turnip
  • Zucchini (Courgette)

* While parsnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are a little higher in starch, they can play a role in a relaxed low carb diet.

However, if you have any issues with weight or high blood sugar, then it’s best to adopt a stricter low-carb diet. In this case, it is better to avoid the foods with a star.

Key Point: Try buy a wide variety of fresh produce – especially leafy greens as they provide large amounts of nutrients.

Others

Picture of chocolate broken into pieces

  • 100% Cacao/Cocoa powder
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Nuts

It’s okay to add chocolate to your low carb shopping list! However, if you plan to eat it then ideally opt for 85% or more cacao content.

At this ratio, not only is the sugar content very low, but the nutrient value is also high.

While some people might be surprised to hear this, chocolate should be considered a health food.

For instance, it’s one of the best foods for magnesium, and it’s also a very high source of potassium.

Additionally, cacao is one of the biggest suppliers of health-protective antioxidants in the world (17, 18, 19, 20).

Good Chocolate, Bad Chocolate

Consuming chocolate in cocoa powder form is also extremely nutritious.

Nevertheless, watch out for products labeled as “hot chocolate” or “drinking chocolate.”

These products are not pure cocoa powder, so they contain massive amounts of sugar.

Nuts

Nuts are also an excellent choice for overall health. However, they are very energy dense so just a handful will suffice.

Key Point: Low carb diets let you keep your sanity. Enjoy a cup of coffee with a few pieces of dark chocolate – no calorie counting necessary!

Final Thoughts

LCHF diets are extremely healthy if implemented well, so I hope this low carb shopping list can help you in some way.

The biggest key is to focus on nutrient density; there is no such thing as essential foods, but there are many crucial nutrients.

If you are unsure of anything or have any questions, just leave a comment below, and I’ll try to help you out.

2 COMMENTS

    • Not at this time! Sorry – I would keep it similar except add in a bit more dairy, and some fermented soy products rather than the more processed ones. For example Miso and Cheonggukjang (both available from Asian markets).

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