Consuming complex carbohydrates like fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, but eating lots of processed simple carbs like baked goods, sweet drinks, and refined grains can increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Typically low-carb foods are anything you can consume in moderation that won’t tip you over 135 grams for the day. Meanwhile, high-protein food is one that contains about 10 grams per serving, says Angie Asche, RDN, founder of Eleat Sports Nutrition.
Here are eight low-carb, high-protein foods:
1. Low-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt is creamy and has a slightly tangy or sour taste. You can enjoy it on its own with fruit and nuts or use it as a substitute for sour cream on tacos. Greek yogurt also makes a good base for dressings, smoothies, and other recipes requiring milk or cream, says Cesar Sauza, a registered dietitian with AltaMed Health Services.
One cup of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt contains:
Almonds may be high in calories, but they are also a great source of unsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol. Sprinkle them on top of oatmeal or pair them with cheese and raw vegetables for a snack.
One ounce of almonds contains:
- 164 calories
- 6 g of carbohydrates (2% DV)
- 6 g of protein (12% DV)
3. Sunflower Seeds
Like almonds, sunflower seeds are high in calories and rich in healthy fats, which makes them filling, Sauza says. They also add a crunchy texture to salads, yogurt, or sprinkled on top of fruit as a snack.
One-fourth cup of sunflower seeds contains:
- 208 calories
- 5 g of carbohydrates (1.8% DV)
- 6 g of protein (12% DV)
4. Canned Tuna
Tuna is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, Sauza says. Eat it with chopped vegetables, like tomato, onion, cilantro, and peppers, or by itself with a little bit of lime and salt.
One can of tuna contains:
- 121 calories
- 0.1 g of carbohydrates (0% DV)
- 27 g of protein (54% DV)
Salmon has essentially no carbohydrates and is also a good source of vitamin B12. Grill or oven-bake salmon and serve with roasted veggies for a hearty meal. Alternatively, you can buy smoked salmon at the store to eat plain or add to salads.
Three ounces of salmon contains:
- 108 calories
- 0 grams of carbohydrates (0% DV)
- 17 g of protein (34% DV)
Eggs are packed with nutrients and they’re incredibly versatile. Scramble them with veggies for breakfast or hard boil them to keep in the fridge for snacks.
One egg contains:
- 78 calories
- 0.5 g of carbohydrates (0% DV)
- 6 g of protein, which is about (12% DV)
String cheese is a great low-carb option to eat on the go. You can also pair cheese with meat or veggies for lunch or dinner.
One stick of mozzarella string cheese contains:
- 79 calories
- 0.9 g of carbohydrates (0% DV)
- 8 g of protein (16% DV)
Soy foods, like tofu and tempeh, are good sources of protein — especially for vegetarians. Stir-fry tofu with vegetables for a yummy lunch or dinner.
Three ounces of tofu contains:
- 71 calories
- 0.8 g of carbohydrates (0% DV)
- 9 g of protein (18% DV)
Eating a high protein, low-carb diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and manage blood sugar levels, but it isn’t for everyone, Sauza says. Excessive protein in the diet could damage your liver or kidneys if done long-term, and extreme low-carb diets like the keto diet should not be done without the supervision of a dietitian or medical professional.
While increasing your protein intake and limiting carbohydrates can be part of a healthy diet, eating nutrient-rich foods from all food groups is more likely to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need.