A low carb diet is one of the easiest, most efficient ways to lose weight.
There are tons of blogs posts with ideas about low carb lunch suggestions, how to be low carb at work, and how to do low carb if you’re diabetic. You can find out how to do low carb when you’re pregnant, and the best way to trick your spouse and kids into eating low carb meals.
But something that’s harder to come by? Tips on staying low carb when your family isn’t. Real tips, for real people with real struggles with food.
Don’t let excuses get the best of you
It’s really easy to give in and cheat on your diet when you’re the only one on a low carb diet. Being the only one in the house on a diet is conducive to lots of excuses. These are some of the most common excuses I hear:
There is no accountability.
If you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. It’s easier when you’re dieting as a family, because everyone is counting on each other and holding one another accountable. But when you’re the only one, it’s easy to push those feelings of guilt and shame away, and cheat.
It makes you feel more deprived.
Being the only low carb eater in a house full of people eating pizza, pancakes, and popcorn right in front of you can leave you feeling deprived and cheated. It’s one thing to turn down food when it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” But when you can’t avoid the candy drawers and bread box, it makes it even harder. (Have you ever smelled microwave popcorn and not craved it?)
You have to eat different meals.
Meal time is often family time, and it’s isolating when everyone else is sitting down to enjoy one meal, while you’re stuck eating something completely different. Part of what makes family time so nice is enjoying a meal together. Having to have a separate meal can make you feel left out.
It sometimes means cooking two dinners.
Who wants to do that? I’ve seen lots of people give up on low carb because it means they’ll have to cook one meal for themselves, and an entirely separate meal for their spouse or children. If you’re cooking two separate dinners every day, it can quickly become overwhelming.
If you’ve said any of those things before, you’re in the right place now!
Fortunately, I’ve been there and figured it out for you. I’ve eaten a ketogenic diet since 2013, and I’m the only one in a house of four that does. Needless to say, I know how to make it work in a way that can keep you consistent.
Trust me, I’ve been where you are. But those excuses up above are just that – excuses. Let’s talk about why they don’t fly:
Here’s the thing – sticking to any diet takes willpower. Sure, when you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. But think about how far you’ve already come, and how far you could be setting yourself back. Is that cookie/piece of cake/plate of spaghetti really worth it? Probably not.
Part of your plan here should be to change the way you think. Maybe you can’t join in and have that pizza, but you can eat the toppings. There are recipes for low carb pancakes. There are even low(ish) carb brands of popcorn, like Boom Chicka Pop (only 3.75 net carbs per cup!). See this as an opportunity to try new things.
You have to eat different meals?
Not necessarily. One of the things I’ll discuss in this post is ways to make almost any food low carb or keto friendly. Hang in there.
Cooking two dinners?
Stop. Seriously, just stop. There’s no reason for that. Your spouse and kids can eat low carb and not even realize it’s what they’re doing. Substitute caulimash for their mashed potatoes; chances are, the kids won’t even notice.
Don’t let excuses sabotage you. Stay strong!
Change your mindset, change your body
One of the most important things you have to do is change the way you look at your diet. Telling yourself that you have to be on a diet because you’re too fat is an awful way to speak to yourself.
You don’t have to eat this way, you get to eat this way. You’re able to eat tons of fresh vegetables, juicy meats, and pretty much all the cheese. You can have bacon and eggs every day! Enjoy the opportunity to experiment with foods you might not have tried before.
Remember that you’re not being forced to eat cauliflower instead of potatoes; you are making a choice to do what is right for your body by fueling it with better sources of energy and vitamins.
Let’s talk food
For pretty much any meal your family cooks, I’ve got a way you can modify it to make it low carb or keto friendly. Let’s look at some common family meals, and explore how you can make them low carb or keto friendly.
Burgers and fries
This is such a simple meal to modify for yourself! While the burgers and fries are cooking, whip up a side salad. Get rid of your bun and replace the fries with the salad. You’re all set! (Bonus: serving your kids salad in addition to fries means they’re eating fewer potatoes, which isn’t a bad thing!)
Spaghetti and meatballs
You actually have a couple of options here. First, you could use a spiralizer to make your own low carb noodles with zucchini, or use shirataki noodles (zero carbs!). Your meal will basically be the same as everyone else’s but you’ve just made it low carb! Alternatively, you could simply skip the pasta altogether, and have the meat and sauce.
Hot dogs and french fries
Another meal that’s easy to modify. Get rid of the bun, add a salad. Most brands of hot dog chili are pretty low carb, or you could make your own!
If you’re making homemade pizzas, spend about ten minutes ahead of time making a low carb crust, either with cauliflower or using an almond flour recipe. If you’re getting takeout, scrape the toppings off a few slices, and pair it with a side salad. Skip the breadsticks (obviously).
Fried chicken is one of my mom’s favorite foods, so it was crucial that I figure out a way to make it keto friendly. My first solution was to bread it with almond flour instead of white flour. It works well for pan frying or deep frying. An even simpler solution? You don’t have to bread your chicken. Just fry the chicken with plenty of seasoning, and you won’t even miss the breading. (Pork rinds make a great crunchy breading, too.)
Because of the nature of this dish, it is something that will take a little more work to modify. (I suppose you could just pull out the pasta layers once it’s cooked, but who wants to do that?) There are a couple of solutions I’ve found for lasagna night. First, you could make it with eggplant instead of pasta. Eggplant has a pretty mellow flavor and fills in for the pasta nicely. (Use a mandoline slicer to get even slices of eggplant.) Another option? Use zucchini slices. As with the spaghetti, zucchini doesn’t flavor the dish too much, so you’ll still have a dish with a very similar flavor.
Breakfast for dinner
This actually requires no substitutions, but it’s a sneaky way to not have to cook separate meals! For some reason, kids often get a kick out of having breakfast foods at dinner time, so once in a while, indulge them! (Although if you’re a southerner like me, make sure you skip the grits!) I enjoy using egg rings to fry my eggs, then I top them with bacon and cheese and eat them on cloud bread for an easy breakfast sandwich.
It’s super easy to turn meatloaf low carb. Simply take out the breadcrumbs or slices of bread and replace them with either almond flour or pork rinds. Or don’t. I’ve found that meatloaf actually doesn’t need the bread products to hold it together as much as I thought it did, so don’t be afraid to leave them out.
One of the easiest low carb meals to make, roast doesn’t really need much in the way of modifications. Pretty much any meat you’re going to use in a roast will be carb free (unless you add certain spices to it), and you can deliberately choose low carb vegetables to go with it. One of my family’s favorite meals is pot roast with carrots and potatoes. On days that we have it, I don’t mind chopping cauliflower and broccoli for myself and roasting those separately. (An Instant Pot makes it super easy to cook meals like roasts.)
Steak and baked potatoes
As long as you skip the steak sauce (replace it with Kerrygold butter instead!), your steak doesn’t really need any modifications. Of course, you shouldn’t eat the baked potato, but it’s easy to cook some low carb vegetables and make a salad to complete your meal.
Sandwiches and chips
It’s hot outside, you don’t feel like cooking, so sandwiches it is, right? Turn your sandwich into a salad. You’re probably putting lettuce on it anyway, so toss it in a bowl and make a big chef salad. If you plan ahead, you can hard boil some eggs and even fry some bacon to up your fat content and fill you up. (Lettuce wraps are always an option too, or you could use a low carb tortilla.)
What if you’re getting takeout?
You’re out at a little league game and no one wants to cook, so you decide to grab fast food on the way home. Sound familiar? Let’s look at some fast food options and figure out how to make them low carb friendly.
McDonalds, Burger King, Hardee’s, A&W
Burger places are usually incredibly accommodating when it comes to low carb dieting. Order you bun wrapped in lettuce (or if that isn’t an option, remove the bun yourself, and eat it with a fork). Most burger places also have salads to consider as well.
Ask for whatever taco or burrito you’d like “without the shell.” They’ll actually dump the contents into a bowl for you! (Consider ordering a few more than you normally would; eating just the contents of the taco leaves your meal looking a little skimpy.) You could also order each item as a side, and put it all together yourself.
IHOP, Waffle House, Huddle House, Dennys
Bacon and eggs are always good, low carb choices. (Sometimes the scrambled eggs and omelets have pancake batter mixed in to make them fluffy, so keep that in mind if you’re doing keto. If you mention it, most places will make you an order of eggs without the batter.) Most of these places also serve burgers and salads. You could also try a grilled chicken sandwich (without the bun).
As mentioned above, scrape the toppings off a few slices and add a side salad. Should fill you right up! Our local Pizza Hut has one of the best salad bars I’ve seen, so keep an eye out at your local restaurant, too.
A few generic tips…
Limit carb-filled snacks at home
Try to keep the number of carb-filled snacks in your home to a minimum. Whether you’re doing low carb to lose weight, or to get healthy, it’s a healthier way for everyone to eat. The less you’re faced with these “treats,” the easier it will be to avoid them.
Make healthy snacks the default
Encourage your kids (and spouse!) to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables instead of cookies and chips. It’ll make dieting easier for you, and it’s much healthier for them.
Keep low carb snacks on hand
Keep low carb snacks on hand in case you need something on-the-go. It’s always a good idea to keep low carb nuts on hand. You might also want to look into Quest Bars and Atkins products; they’re great to have around as a go-to when you’re running late or need a quick pick-me-up.
Balance your electrolytes
Manage your electrolytes to avoid the “keto flu” when you’re first starting. There are lots and lots of resources out there for dealing with your electrolytes; keep them balanced.
Drink plenty of water. The more water you drink, the better your body will respond to a low carb diet. Try to constantly sip throughout the day to stay hydrated and to avoid cravings. Smartwater has magnesium and potassium added in, which might help you meet those electrolyte needs.
Focus on what matters
Finally, remember that you’re not dieting as punishment. You’re dieting because you care about yourself, and you want to take care of your body. Remember that the way you think about your diet will ultimately determine your success!