Cookbook editor and writer Fran McCullough struggled for many years to lose weight, and she's shared her solution: a low-carb diet.
In her book, Living Low-Carb, McCullough sums up low-carb diet plans, from Atkins to Paleo, and explains how each can help you lose weight. She also includes a collection of recipes to make low-carb living easier.
What You Can Eat
If you want to go low-carb, McCullough suggests doing this:
- Limit carbs to between 0 and 30 grams a day. How low you go depends on how much weight you want to lose.
- Avoid white foods. That includes potatoes, rice, bread, flour, and sugar.
- Make protein part of every meal. Eat about half a gram of protein for every pound of your ideal body weight daily. That works out to about 60 to 85 grams for an average-sized person.
- Drink 8 to 12 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to flush toxins from your body.
- Eat whole foods -- organic and raw, if possible.
- Choose healthy fats. Olive oil, avocado, and nuts are smarter choices than butter and cheese.
Level of Effort: Medium to high
Following McCullough’s recipes and suggestions will make it easier to stick to a low-carb way of eating, but you will still need to count carbs and protein.
Limitations: If you don't want to give up every slice of white toast or baked potato, you’ll struggle with this approach. McCullough admits it's not for everyone. Anyone with kidney damage shouldn't do this diet, since eating too much protein can overwork the kidneys.
Cooking and shopping: Living Low-Carb has tips to help you navigate the supermarket, and 175 recipes for meal planning.
Packaged foods or meals: No.
In-person meetings: No.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Vegetarians and vegans: The diet is already restrictive, so vegetarians, and especially vegans, will need to make an extra effort to find enough foods to eat because fruits, vegetables, and grains are all generally high in carbohydrates.
Gluten-free: Going low-carb isn't necessarily the same as going gluten-free. You would need to read food labels to look for possible sources of gluten.
What Else You Should Know
Cost: None apart from your food.
Support: You do this diet on your own.
Side effects: A low carb diet may have side effects which include:
- Bad breath
- Constipation or diarrhea
What Brunilda Nazario, MD, Says:
Does It Work?
Yes, both low-carb and low-fat diets have been shown to be effective at weight loss.
Studies have shown that diets that are higher in protein can make you feel fuller.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
Also talk to your doctor if you take diuretics ("water pills"). Any high-protein diet can lead to an increase in ketones or ketosis and a well-known side-effect, bad breath. It can also spark a flare-up of gout.
The Final Word
This diet can help you lose weight, but it's not a comprehensive approach to weight management. As with any restrictive diet, if you choose this approach it should only be used short term with your doctor’s OK. To keep the weight off, you also need to make other lifestyle changes.
The upside to this approach is that it's simple. But like any diet, it may be more challenging if you live with people who aren't on the same plan.