Avoid Or Limit These Foods If You’re On A Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb diets can aid weight loss, help your cholesterol, and reduce blood and insulin levels. But transitioning to a low-carb diet is hard. Depending on the diet, people can only eat up to 25 or 240 grams of carbohydrates per day!

If you haven’t monitored carbs before, you should know that they come from sneaky sources. Your sweeteners, dressings, and even healthy fruits may put you way over your determined carb limit. Here are the high-carb foods that you should either avoid or limit during your diet.

You May Have Options With Bread

A baker presents their bread slices at a contest.
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Avoiding bread comes as no surprise on a low-carb diet. When people think of carbs, they likely imagine bread. The amount of carbs in bread depends on which loaf you buy. If you eat white bread, a single slice comes out to 14 grams of carbs with little fiber. Whole-wheat bread has 17 grams of carbs but more fiber.

Fortunately for bread-lovers, there are recipes for low-carb bread out there. For instance, using coconut flour reduces the number of carbs and packs more fiber and protein. Eating flatbread instead of slices will reduce your carb intake, as well.

Bananas Won’t Cause Sugar Spikes

A child takes a piece of banana that a mother is holding.

Although bananas are healthy, they’re still high-carb foods. According to the USDA, bananas contain around 27 carbs and 12 grams of sugar. But the real amount depends on the size. Small bananas, for instance, have closer to 23 carbs. It’s still high, but available to eat in moderation.

It’s important to note that bananas provide complex carbohydrates. According to Registered Dietitian Molly Clearly, these carbs have larger molecules that digest more slowly. If you’re worried about blood sugar spikes, bananas likely won’t harm you (unless you eat a lot of them).

Honey Isn’t Much Better Than Sugar

Fresh honey is stored in bear-shaped jars at a local
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Many people know that sugary pastries are off-limits on low-carb diets. However, other forms of sugar–even natural ones–have more carbs than white sugar. This includes honey, which has a whopping 17 grams of carbs per tablespoon, 16 of which come from sugar.

If you measure your honey to one tablespoon per day, you can eat it on a low-carb diet. If you want to use another natural sweetener, opt for erythritol or stevia. But remember that honey offers anti-obesity and antidiabetic benefits, according to 2018 research in Nutrients.

Monitor Your Milk Consumption

A woman holds a bottle of milk from Japan.
Pinterest/Philips Lartey
Pinterest/Philips Lartey

Most dairy milk can pack on the carbohydrates. One cup of milk consists of 12 grams of carbs, whether it be 2%, low-fat, whole, or nonfat milk. You can fit milk into a low-carb diet if you monitor portions. This drink has the added benefit of providing vitamin D, calcium, and protein.

If you want to drink more milk, try nondairy alternatives. Unsweetened almond milk, for instance, only has one gram of carbs per cup. Hemp milk provides roughly the same amount of fat and creaminess, but with 1.3 grams of carbohydrates per cup.

Juice Is Worse Than Soda

A girl drinks orange juice at the beach.

Although juice supplies some nutrients, it’s mainly filled with sugar and carbs that make your blood sugar skyrocket. For instance, 12 ounces of apple juice contains 48 grams of carbohydrates–more than most sodas. The same amount of grape juice raises that amount to 60 grams.

Fortunately, there are diet and reduced sugar juices out there for low-carb diets. But even these can deceptively maintain high carbs, according to Nutritionist Mike Israetel. Before you indulge in these juices, read the nutrition label carefully. Or skip the juice altogether.

Fat-Free Salad Dressings Aren’t Carb-Free

Close-up view shows salad dressing getting poured onto a salad.
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Tom Kelley/Getty Images

If salad dressings are fat-free, that must mean that they’re low on carbs–right? Well, some dressings manage to sneak in heavy amounts of carbohydrates despite their label. Ten grams of carbs per two tablespoons of ranch may seem small, but if you don’t measure your fat-free ranch dressing, you’ll unknowingly exceed your carb limit.

The best choice for salad dressing is to stick with healthy oils such as olive oil. This oil can aid in weight loss and disease prevention. According to a 2014 study, consuming olive oil may lower one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

Oats May Not Fit In The Diet

Oats and walnuts are measured in 1/3 cups.
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Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although oats are a filling source of vitamin A and iron, they’re also packed with carbs. One cup of dry oats contains 58 grams! When these oats are cooked, their carbs lower to 27 grams. Still, it’s enough to have a low-carb dieter double-guess their oatmeal breakfast.

If you limit your portions, you can enjoy a bowl of hot oatmeal. Cooking 100 grams of oats comes out to only 14 grams of carbohydrates, but that’s more like a side dish for some people. Adding a teaspoon into smoothies can incorporate the health benefits of oats without loading up on carbs.

Quinoa May Be Healthy, But It’s Still A Carb

First Mess cookbook author Laura Wright pours quinoa into a pot.
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Quinoa is a seed that’s praised as a protein-filled, low-calorie rice substitute. But that doesn’t free it from calories. One cup of quinoa contains up to 39 grams of carbs. By providing all essential amino acids and fiber, quinoa is also a more nutrient-rich choice than rice.

If you want to fit quinoa into your low-carb diet, you’ll have to eat it strategically. Half a cup per day may be enough to fill you for a meal or two. In 2018, research in Nutrients stated that quinoa might prevent cardiovascular disease and regulate cholesterol. That’s yet another benefit of keeping it in your diet.

Grapes And Raisins–Yikes!

A farmer holds cut grapes from a harvest.
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Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Just because it’s fruit doesn’t mean that it’s low-carb! This holds especially true for grapes. One cup of red or green grapes can offer up to 27 grams of carbohydrates. Raisins are worse–34 grams of carbs per small box! That’s over 32 grams for every one-fourth cup of raisins.

Although low-carb dieters can eat grapes in moderation, they may benefit more from other fruits. Berries have far fewer carbohydrates than grapes and bananas. Melons are also fairly low in carbohydrates and can easily sweeten a dish.

Avoid (Or Substitute) Sweetened Yogurt

A customer shops for yogurt at a grocery store.
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Yes, yogurt is healthy. But sweetened yogurts–fruit-flavored ones with added sugars–may have as many carbs as a dessert. One cup of nonfat sweetened yogurt provides 47 carbs, more than a serving of ice cream. Even plain nonfat yogurt contains 13 grams of carbohydrates.

So which yogurt can you eat on a low-carb diet? Greek yogurt is usually your best bet with seven grams of carbs per six ounces. Some coconut yogurts have fewer carbs, depending on how they’re made. Check the nutrition label before diving into a container of flavored or unsweetened yogurt.

Are Granola Bars Worth The Snack?

No-bake granola bars are lined up on a wooden cutting board.
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Sure, granola bars are convenient as a quick snack. But if you’re monitoring your carbs, granola bars offer many letdowns with few gains. An average Nature Valley bar, for instance, contains 29 grams of carbs. On the healthier end, some granola bars may have 18 grams.

Plus, a half-cup of granola can have up to 16 grams of sugar, which contributes to weight gain. “The calories [in a bowl of granola] can easily add up to over 600 calories, just at breakfast,” Registered Dietitian Toby Amidor told The Healthy.

Potatoes Require Portions

A supermarket employee stacks potatoes for sale.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

White potatoes are some of the most carb-heavy foods out there. Depending on the size, a single potato can range from 30 grams to 64 grams of carbohydrates. Small potatoes are more likely to fit into a low-carb diet, while large potatoes might take up your entire carbohydrate range.

When it comes to blood sugar spikes, potatoes vary. Research in Food & Function suggests that the darker the potato, the less likely it is to increase blood glucose. These potatoes have more polyphenols to curb sugar in your blood. Still, portion control is key when consuming potatoes.

A Few Dates Go A Long Way

Dates sit in a white bowl.

Dates are one of the most carb-heavy fruits out there. A single date provides 18 grams of carbohydrates; eat three of these, and you’ll consume 54 carbs. If you want to enjoy dates during a low-carb diet, restrict them to one or two per day.

Remember that when you eat dates, you’re not consuming empty carbs. Dates offer a lot of vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Two dates provide 12% of your daily recommended fiber intake. Plus, they’re sweet enough to enjoy as a dessert.

Another High-Carb Sweetener: Maple Syrup

Barrel aged maple syrup sits on wooden shelves during Maple Sunday at Dunn Family Maple.
Joel Page/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Joel Page/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Like many sweeteners, maple syrup has quite a few carbohydrates: 13 grams per tablespoon. Since sugar is a carb, sweeteners like maple syrup should be monitored on a low-carb diet. On the flip-side, research from 2014 suggests that maple syrup may help blood sugar levels.

If you want a maple syrup alternative, try yacon syrup. Made from the root of a South American yacon plant, yacon syrup only has 11 grams of carbs per tablespoon. In 2013, a study in Nutrition & Diabetes found that yacon syrup may reduce blood glucose.

Watch The Corn!

A senior woman eats a roasted corn on the cob at the Miami International Agriculture and Cattle Show.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As a starchy vegetable, corn is filled with carbs. One ear of corn supplies 25 grams of carbohydrates, which is 19% of the total carb allowance on a standard diet. If you increase that amount to one cup, you’ll consume 41 grams of fiber.

Some of corn’s carbs include fiber. About 87% of it is insoluble fiber, which keeps your digestive tract moving. An ear of corn also supplies vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins. Although it’s possible to eat corn during a low-carb diet, you’ll need to manage your portions.

Beets Are Healthy, But Have A Lot Of Carbs

A pile of raw beets lies next to carrots.

Compared to other root vegetables, beets rake up the carbohydrates. A single cup of sliced beets has almost 13 grams of carbs. That’s eight grams per beet. Still, beets provide “good” complex carbs, fiber, and nutrients, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

While it may benefit low-carb diets to avoid beets, you may want to incorporate some for its health benefits. Researchers from the Barts London School of Medicine found that beet juice lowers blood pressure and helps the heart. If you eat beets, try to avoid packages with added sugar, such as Harvard beets.

No Need To Cook Kidney Beans

Bella English mashes canned kidney beans for an appetizer.
Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

All beans and legumes are carbohydrate-heavy, and kidney beans are no exception. One cup of dried kidney beans packs on 110 grams of carbs! If you were to cook those beans and dish out half a cup, you’d eat over 18 grams of carbohydrates.

If you want to eat beans on a low-carb diet, you have better options than kidney beans. Peas, soybeans, and legumes all have fewer carbs. However, Registered Nutritionist and Nutrition Director Kris Sollid claims that the fiber in beans reduces your net carbohydrate intake, which helps them fit into a low-carb diet in moderation.

Mango Can Easily Pack On Too Many Carbs

Imperfect mangoes with water droplets sit on the wooden surface of cutting board.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Of all the tropical fruits, mango is one of the most carb-dense. One cup of mango pieces supplies 25 grams of carbohydrates, and the whole fruit is double that amount. If you have dried mango, that’s even more carbs–40 grams for only four slices!

With this in mind, some people remove mangoes from their low-carb diets. If you do have mangoes, keep the serving under half a cup. Because the fruit is high in antioxidants and vitamin A, your small serving of mango won’t be empty calories.

Brown Rice Is Still Better Than White Rice

Bowl contains brown wholegrain rice and chopsticks
Tim Graham/Getty Images
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Health enthusiasts may know to avoid white rice since it offers carbs and calories with few nutrients. But if you’re on a low-carb diet, you may want to limit brown rice as well. Half a cup of brown rice has over 25 grams of carbs. If you eat an entire cup, you’ll receive 45 grams!

That said, brown rice is a “good carb” that supplies plenty of fiber, iron, and zinc. According to Harvard Health, it’s also a low-glycemic food that may keep your blood sugar balanced. If you’re going to eat rice on this diet, brown rice is by far the healthier choice.

Pears Have More Sugar Than Most Fruits

A boy holds up a pear.
Kuttigullstein bild via Getty Images
Kuttigullstein bild via Getty Images

A medium pear has around 28 grams of carbs, six of which are fiber. Of all fruits, pears contain the most levulose, the sweetest of all sugars. Overall, pears supply 17 grams of sugar, which is more than most other fruits and over half of their total carbs. But these measurements depend on the type of pear you buy.

It’s no wonder that some low-carb dieters choose to remove pears from their menu. If you decide to eat small portions of pears, you’ll receive some vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.