Plenty of low-carb diet trends have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, from the Atkins diet to the keto diet. But people have reportedly been using low-carb diets in hopes of achieving their health goals for centuries. In fact, ancient Greek Olympians might have adhered to low-carb high-protein diets for training, according to an article published in the American Journal of Cardiology.
Whether you’ve adopted a popular low-carb diet or a general low-carb style of eating, it’s helpful to have a lineup of reliable low-carb snacks that can keep your energy up throughout the day. Need some inspiration? Here’s everything you need to know about choosing healthy low-carb snacks, plus some low-carb snack ideas to get you started.
The Advantages of Choosing Low-Carb Snacks
As mentioned, choosing low-carb snacks can help you stay on target if you’re trying to follow a low-carb diet. But it bears mentioning that low-carb diets aren’t optimal for everyone, and that your body requires carbs to function. “You consume foods that contain carbohydrates and convert them into glucose [blood sugar] which you use for energy for everything from breathing, to exercise, to thinking and moving,” says Amy Shapiro MS, RD, a registered dietitian and the founder of Real Nutrition.
That said, consuming carbs can have negative implications at times. When you eat carbs, your blood sugar rises, and eating carbs (especially simple carbs such as candy and fruit juice) on their own can cause your blood sugar to rapidly spike and crash, as shape previously reported. “When you eat foods with low carbohydrates you tend to manage your blood glucose better,” says Shapiro. “This can lead to more even energy, fewer blood sugar dips, and over time fewer cravings.”
With that in mind, following a low-carb diet — through food choices such as low-carb snacks — make sense for some people. “[A low carb diet] is ideal for anyone who wants more even energy levels and is beneficial for those who have diabetes or hyperglycemia,” says Shapiro. (That’s because both are marked by high blood sugar.) There isn’t a definitive limit to how many carbs you can consume on a low-carb diet, but generally dieters consume 50 to 100 grams of carbs a day versus the standard recommendation of a daily intake of 225 to 325 grams, says Shapiro.
BTW, even if you have no intention of following a low-carb diet, it can be helpful to choose a low-carb snack when you won’t be eating for more than a few hours, says Shapiro. Your body digests foods that contain fat or protein alongside carbs more slowly than foods with carbs alone.
How to Choose the Best Low-Carb Snacks
For a low-carb option, look for snacks with 10 grams of carbs or less, says Shapiro. You can go with whole foods such as non-starchy vegetables and nuts or choose from the many packaged snacks available. “If you are buying a packaged snack that claims to be ‘low-carb,’ make sure to read the ingredients,” advises Shapiro. “It often will contain artificial sweeteners and/or sugar alcohols which can be bad for you and may cause GI distress and upset.”
If you’re ready to stock up your fridge and pantry, you can find some of Shapiro’s favorite low-carb snacks below.
Best Low-Carb Snacks to Buy
Vermont Smoke & Cure Original Beef and Pork Sticks
If you’re looking to stock up on high-protein low-carb snacks, consider making room in your pantry for jerky. With 80 calories, zero grams of carbs, and six grams of protein per serving, these sticks are a tasty way to stave off hunger.
Mini Babybel Original Semisoft Cheese
Most kinds of cheese are low in carbs, including these Babybel Original Semisoft Cheeses. The chunks of cheese are individually wrapped, making them a convenient grab-and-go snack. They contain zero carbs, five grams of protein, and 10 percent of the daily recommendation of calcium.
Chobani Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt is another high-protein snack with no added sugar. Both non-fat and whole milk varieties are low in carbs, with five grams and six grams per six ounces, respectively. If you’re not a big fan of the taste of plain yogurt, you can dress it up with your favorite low-carb toppings, such as berries or pecans.
Good & Gather Unsalted Raw Mixed Nuts
Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats and nutrients such as magnesium and potassium, and the foods have a low carb content, notes Shapiro. There are six grams of carbs in these these nutty snack packs, which combine almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios.
GimMe Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack Sea Salt
Don’t overlook seaweed as a healthy snack option. It’s a great source of vitamin C (not intended) as well as iodine, magnesium, and zinc. With 25 calories per serving, and one gram of carbohydrates, this seaweed pack is a tasty low-carb tea for light snacking.
RX Nut Butter Vanilla Almond Butter Spread
This vanilla-flavored almond but spread has nine grams of carbs per two tablespoons. For a filling, low-carb snack combo, spread the almond butter along stalks of celery, which is low in calories and carbs.
Even on a strict low-carb diet such as the keto diet, it’s not necessary to completely eliminate fruits, which provide important nutrients. Berries are fruits with some of the lowest carb contents, so you’ll probably want to consider giving them a place in your diet. To give you an idea, strawberries have eight grams of carbs per 100 grams of berries.