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What to Eat on a Carb-Free Diet

By Andrea Cespedes

Carbohydrates are a nutrient that your body needs in large quantities to promote energy. Foods high in carbohydrates often contain other important nutrients, too, so banning all of them is an extreme step that you should take only under the advisement of a doctor. If you are on a carb-free diet, the content of your meals will be extremely limited, as you'll be consuming pretty much all proteins and fats.

No-Carb Proteins

Most animal proteins are free of carbohydrates. This includes chicken, steak, turkey, pork and fish. Experiment with other less-commonly consumed meats too, such as venison, buffalo, duck, goose and pheasant. A carb-free diet doesn't limit you to lean cuts of these meats either -- go for thighs, ribeyes and fatty cold-water fish such as salmon.

Do avoid calves' liver, which has 9 grams of carbohydrates per 6-ounce serving. And use caution with processed meats, such as sausage, Canadian bacon, hot dogs and luncheon meats. Some of these contain some carbs from added fillers, sugars and preservatives, so check the nutrition facts labels and ingredients list before you buy. Certain seafoods are also off the menu, including clams, lobster, shrimp and oysters -- even if they aren't battered and fried.

Carb-Free Dairy and Eggs

Milk, yogurt and some cheeses, including cottage and ricotta, contain carbohydrates, so they're not allowed on your carb-free diet. But, butter and ghee, or clarified butter, are acceptable as they have just a trace of carbs. Because they contain less than a gram of carbohydrate per serving, many cheeses are included on a carb-free menu. An ounce of parmesan, sliced provolone, mozzarella, Monterey Jack or fontina, crumbled blue cheese and chunks of cheddar, goat and asiago are all OK. You may also enjoy a tablespoon of plain cream cheese on occasion. Use sour cream as a condiment, and feel free to put full cream or half-and-half in your coffee.

Eggs of all varieties are carb-free. Cook them in butter or olive oil with a carb-free cheese and herbs. Egg substitutes often have added carbs, though, so check the label before using them.

Side Dishes and Dessert

Side dishes consist mostly of leafy greens. Stick to about 1/2 cup at meals because they do contain trace amounts of carbohydrates. Among your best choices are bok choy, broccoli florets, broccoli rabe, Chinese cabbage, endive, watercress, boston lettuce, romaine, mustard greens and daikon radishes. For a spicy low-carb bite, chop a jalapeno pepper and stir-fry with your veggies.

If you'd like to make these greens into a salad, flavor it with fresh herbs, alfalfa sprouts, olive oil, red- or white-wine vinegar, hearts of palm and a few olives. Read labels on commercial dressings, as some blue cheese versions are carb-free. Chopped egg and shredded cheese also up the flavor ante without adding carbs.

When you crave something sweet, sugar-free gelatin is one of your only options. You may also be able to indulge in sugar-free frozen pops if you make them yourself from certain artificially sweetened, carb-free drink mixes. Some sugar-free hard candies and syrups also have no carbs. Fruits as well as dairy- and grain-based sweets are off-limits.

No-Carb Condiments, Oils, Drinks, Snacks and Seasoning

Use dried spices, such as oregano, cumin, rosemary and cinnamon, freely to season meat and homemade olive oil dressings. Seasoning mixes may have added starches as fillers, so check their labels. All oils are also carb-free; experiment with coconut oil for searing meats, flax seed oil for drizzling on steamed vegetables and walnut oil for salad dressings.

Pork rinds are a carb-free commercial snack; other snacks you may enjoy include hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky and deli turkey.

Spicy brown mustard and Chinese mustard can add flavor to roasted meats without adding carbs. Some sugar-free barbecue sauces, horseradish and hot pepper sauce may also enhance foods' flavor -- be sure to check the label to verify they are carb-free.

Coffee, tea, diet soda and sparkling water make for carb-free drinks.

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