As you may have noticed, almost all-natural food contains at least a small amount of carbohydrate or carbs.
The only foods that technically have zero carbs are fats, oils, and a variety of meats (1).
To ensure adequate nutrients and a wide variety of foods, many people also include very low carb food choices into their meal plan (2).
All in all, there are plenty of foods that can fit into a very low carb diet, you just have to know where and how to look.
For anyone looking to avoid carbs, it’s important to read nutrition labels.
A few key things to remember when reading labels are (3):
Check Serving Sizes
A serving size is what the whole label is based on. On the label, total carbs are listed based on one portion size.
For example, if you are eating food with 0.5 grams of total carbs, but you eat 4 servings, you are actually consuming 2 grams of total carbohydrates.
It’s important to note serving sizes when meal planning.
Look For Total Carbohydrates
Check out the total carbohydrates in food by checking the label.
This is how you can be totally sure you are sticking within your carb limits.
Check The Ingredient List
Ingredient lists can show sources of hidden sugars.
Although the food label is the best place to look for total carbs, it can be surprising to learn where some sources of hidden sugar lurk.
Zero-Carb Food List
Below you’ll find a list of zero carb foods, broken up by category (4).
Seasonings & Spices
A good way to add flavor and variety to dishes while staying very low carb is to use seasonings, spices.
Different combinations of seasonings and herbs can create a wide range of flavors to keep meals interesting.
Because most herbs and spices are consumed in very small quantities, virtually all are carb-free.
Here are just a few:
- Salt & pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
Another easy way to change up flavors is by using condiments.
It’s important to double-check labels on many of your favorite condiments.
Sometimes manufacturers add sugar to enhance flavor.
All of these are safe zero carb choices, as long as there is no sugar added:
- Hot sauce
Of course, drinking water is important for overall health.
But you may want to mix up your routine with something else every now and then.
Here are a few good choices:
- Plain water
- Unsweetened, naturally flavored, and sparkling water
- Soda water
- Sugar-free soda alternatives
- Keto-friendly, no-carb beverages*
*As the keto diet becomes more popular, there are more no-carb beverages being developed.
Always check the food label to ensure the total carbs fall within your diet plan.
Fats & Oils
Often considered the “bread and butter” of many zero carb eating plans, fats and oils are almost always a safe bet.
- Olive oil
- Butter and ghee
- Coconut oil
- Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
- Avocado oil
Meats & Protein
Be careful with processed meats such as deli slices.
Sometimes these processed foods can contain hidden sugars or carbs.
Some food manufacturers will add sugars and flavorings that can increase the carb count (5).
To avoid these hidden carbs check the food label for total carbohydrates.
- Deli meats
Fish & Seafood
This high protein option is also often high in healthy fats.
Some groups of people (for example pregnant and immunocompromised people), need to avoid certain fish and seafood.
Check with your healthcare provider before including fish in your diet.
In general, fish and seafood are a good bet for low and zero carb meals.
*These foods don’t necessarily have zero carbs, but they contain very, very small amounts of carbohydrates. They are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients.
Net carbs are the number of carbs in food after subtracting fiber.
Fiber can be thought of as indigestible carbs.
These are subtracted from total carbs because the body cannot fully break down and use these carbs.
Very Low Carb Foods List
Using this method, there are a range of foods that fall into the very low carb category (6).
Very Low Carb Vegetables
While vegetables are mostly made up of carbohydrates, they are also very high in dietary fiber.
- Bell peppers
Very Low Carb Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great choice for healthy fats and protein.
Additionally, they provide a good source of dietary fiber.
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seed
Very Low Carb Dairy Products
While dairy does contain some carbs, certain products often have very small amounts.
Dairy products naturally contain lactose, which falls into the category of carbohydrates.
Depending on the processing, some items fall into the “very low carb” or even “zero-carb” category (7).
Typically, harder cheeses are lower in carbs.
But this doesn’t mean all soft cheeses are best avoided.
It’s important to check the label and do some research before hitting the grocery store.
As always, be sure to check food labels as some of these foods can have hidden sugars.
- Heavy cream
- Cream cheese*
- Sour cream*
- Asiago cheese
- Blue cheese
- Goat cheese
- Colby jack cheese
- Havarti cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
*These are considered very low and zero carb when in small amounts. One ounce of cream cheese has only 1 gram of carbs.