What to eat on a high protein low carb diet?

by Naomi Tupper on May 22, 2012 · 33 comments

protein weight loss

What is considered a healthy high protein diet?

High protein, low carbohydrate diets are all the rage at the moment, with literally hundreds of different diets promoting this concept.   However, there is a huge amount of variation in the amounts of protein, carbs and other foods included from diet to diet, with some recommending high protein meal replacements, others excluding all forms of carbs including fruit and some that recommend certain combinations of carbs and protein.  With such variation between diets, it is understandably confusing as to what we should really be eating on a healthy high protein diet.

Who can follow a high protein, low carb diet?

A high protein, low carb diet is not for everybody and is by no means proven as the best way to lose weight.  However, studies have suggested that for some people, this type of diet is an effective way to reduce fat and weight, particularly to kick start weight loss in those who are morbidly obese.  High protein diets may contribute to weight loss in a variety of ways, for example it has been suggested that by reducing carbohydrates, the brain may receive less hunger stimulating hormones, resulting in a reduced appetite.

Hint: Try the CalorieSecrets Diet (1200 calories balanced diet)

High protein diets work because…

High protein diets have been shown to increase satiety, and result in the consumption of less calories in followers, which in turn leads to weight loss.  Initial weight loss on a low carb diet may be due to water loss, which can be caused by a high protein intake.  In many people, weight loss may also be seen simply due to a reduction in calories when carbohydrates are eliminated from the diet.  Often people do not replace carbohydrate parts of a meal, but simply skip them, which of course results in a lower calorie intake.  This can be a substantial reduction, as high carb foods such as pasta, potatoes and rice are often eaten in large portion sizes.

How much protein do we need?

Most people have no problem achieving sufficient protein in their diet.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams for women, values that the majority of Americans already exceed.  For weight loss benefit however, it is thought that around 120g of protein should be eaten daily.  For best results, consult with a health professional as to your individual needs and how protein fits into your daily energy requirements.

Low carb doesn’t mean no carb

There are many diets that totally eliminate carbohydrates in all their forms and others that suggest a reduction to dangerously low levels.  It is important to remember that carbohydrates do have a function in our body and are essential in a healthy diet.  Carbohydrates are necessary for energy in the body, particularly for those doing a lot of exercise.  A carbohydrate dense fruit such as a banana can give you the fuel you need to increase the intensity of your workout, hence burning more calories.  Carbohydrates, particularly whole grain varieties, also provide valuable nutrients such as B vitamins, so those who reduce carbohydrate intake to very low levels are at risk of deficiencies. See also: Carb cycling for weight loss

Reduce your portion sizes

Carbohydrate foods are often overeaten and most people would benefit by reducing portion sizes.  A high protein, low carb diet can be a healthy option, if you are still eating enough carbs to obtain the nutrients you need and fuel your body.  When choosing your low carb diet, it is best to consult with a dietician to determine what your energy requirements are and what level it is safe to reduce carbohydrate intake to.

Healthy proteins

When embarking on a high protein diet, it is important to obtain your protein from healthy sources.  Some high protein diets, most notably the Atkins diet, promote a diet that is high in protein and low in carbs, but also very high in saturated fat.  There is no doubt that saturated fat should be limited in our diets as it has been shown to have a variety of negative effects on the body, including increasing the risk of heart disease, raising blood pressure, increasing risk of diabetes and causing weight gain.

It is therefore important to choose protein sources that are low in saturated fat for the healthiest high protein diet.

Good low fat, high protein foods include

  • Lean red meat with visible fat removed
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Chicken (not the skin)
  • Low fat dairy such as milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Legumes and beans such as lentils, kidney beans, peas and soy beans
  • Soy products such as tofu and soy milk
  • Nuts, for example almonds, walnuts, cashews and peanuts
  • Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and flax

It is also important to cook protein sources in a healthy way to avoid adding excess fat and calories to food.  Good methods include poaching, dry frying, grilling or roasting with a little olive oil.

Fruit and vegetables

In order to ensure that you’re high protein low carb diet is balanced and gives you all the nutrition you need, fruit and vegetable should be part of most of your meals.  The majority of fruit and vegetables are low in calories and fat, making them the ideal way to fill up without adding much energy to your diet.  Most vegetables are low in carbs, but if you are on a strict diet you may wish to avoid vegetables that are higher in carbohydrate such as potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, squashes, parsnips, sweet potatoes and corn.

Fruit is generally higher in sugar and therefore carbs, than vegetables.  The best options for a low carb diet include lemons, limes and berries (except cherries).  Dried fruit is particularly high in sugar and should be avoided.

Choose carbs wisely

If you are choosing to eat less carbs, it is important to make the carbs you do eat as nutritious as possible.  Try to choose whole grain varieties of bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice for maximum fibre and nutrients.  Fibre intake can be a problem on a very low carb diet, so it is important to include as many high fibre foods as you can.  Avoid foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, (with the exception of fruit), as these generally have little nutritional value and should therefore be the first carbs you eliminate from your diet.  Cutting out cakes, candy and white bread will not have a great effect in terms of nutrients, but a big effect in regards to carbohydrate and fat.

Low GI carbohydrate foods are also the best option, as these will give you longer lasting energy and keep blood sugar levels stable.  This also helps to control hunger levels and prevent cravings for sweet foods.


Although a high fat diet can lead to weight gain, it is essential to have some fats in our diets for the body to function correctly.  Any high protein diet should also be rich in poly and mono unsaturated fatty acids, which protect against heart disease and other lifestyle diseases.  By choosing high protein foods that are low in saturated fats and higher in unsaturated fats, you will improve the nutritional value of your diet.  Fish, (particularly oily ones such as sardines), seeds and nuts are both excellent sources of both protein and healthy fats.

A healthy balanced diet

Whilst a low carb, high protein diet may reduce intake of certain foods, it is still essential to follow the principles of a healthy balanced diet, low in saturated fat and high in vitamins, minerals and fibre for optimal health and weight loss.

References used in this article

Naomi Tupper
About the author

Naomi studied Nutrition and Dietetics and Biotechnology. She is a certified dietician with experience in Type 2 diabetes and menu planning for weight loss. Naomi is a contributor for our Diet and Nutrition sections. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashish December 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

Am a 30 year old guy from India and height is 5.5 ft and weight 85kg, I want to be on protein dite to loose weight and my daily dite includes
1)Morning 7am a glass of milk with iso pure 0carb supplement half Scoope.then breakfast at 9am mainly consist of white bread and legumes,potatoes and a cup of tea with milk and sugar
2)I have my lunch by 1.30 pm this consist mainly of salads and cooked boneless chicken around 150gms
3)In evening at 5have tea and some salads or nuts if feel hungry afterward.
4) At 7.30pm i go to gym and do moderate exercise and little bit of weight training.
5)At 9pm i have half scoope iso pure whey protein with water or almost after gym.
6))At 10pm have my dinner which is chicken and whole wheat Indian bread.

Still am not able to reduce weight kindly advice where am going wrong.

Ashish Sur

yster7 December 28, 2012 at 11:50 am

My God bro, you’ve got it all wrong!
Firstly and this is the most important, NEVER eat so late! 10pm is way too late to be eating because you’ll be going to bed soon and you won’t need that food in your belly. Think of food as fuel.. You wouldn’t fill your car up once you arrived at your destination, would you? No! You fill up before you leave.. I personally don’t eat after 6pm at the latest.
Secondly, loose the white bread and simple carbs, ie. anything that’s processed. Stick to whole wheat etc.. Personally I’m not a big fan of bread..
You may want to try this: Eat oats porridge for breakfast, two meals of chicken and sweet potato/brown rice (at roughly 11am and 3pm), try to cook the chicken with no oil (non stick pan works best) and with no sources, only spice! Also try to get 3 pieces of fruit – banana, apple..
Then gym, work hard and once you’re done enjoy a whey protein shake with water.
That’s all you need.
You may also want to switch your regular tea for green tea! And try to drink 2 liters of water during the day.
Give that a try for a month and see what happens.

Phil January 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm

What yster7 just said there is what a gym trainer told me nearly exactly.

Breakfast – porridge or something with slow release carbs.
Gym – a couple of hours later if possible. Do you have a gym routine that’s planned specifically for you? If not ask the gym trainer to help you establish a routine. As soon as you’re gym routine is done have a protein shake or piece of fruit to keep blood sugar levels from dropping.
Dinner – 1-2 hrs later after your gym workout have your main meal. Carbs & protein mix. Brown (or wholewheat of any of the following) rice, spaghetti, jacket potato, pasta is v good.
Supper – protein only. No carbs. So chicken, fish, tuna, vegetables. Important bit is carbs and protein.

I too need to lose weight Ashish and this is the plan I was placed on by a gym trainer.

2 litres of water per day so you don’t get dehydrated and if possible green tea instead of normal.

Phil January 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Edit for the above:

“Important bit is carbs and protein” should be for dinner or your mail mean. I pasted that into wrong line. Supper (later at night) is protein only.

Jessica Avalos April 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm

question: I’m a female at 159.5 and 5’6 i’m trying to lose some belly. Currently i’m working out to the best of my potential 3 times a week. I jog 1.3 miles and i sprint the .3 of it, i get home do 2- 30 sec wall sits and end with a 1 minute wall sit, i follow manny pacquio doing sit ups probably 200+ varied types of sit ups, and i conclude my work out with 100 squats and a video work out for my butt. I’ve been eating healthy. No junk food. I work at Subway and eat either an over roasted chicken, turkey, or veggie on Honey Oak without mayo, oil or salt with all veggies except olives and pickles and extra spinach and avocado. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies. I drink a cup of cold water every morning and i currently started drinking green tea. I’ve been at it for about a month and ive noticed a nicer butt, i’ve lost 5.5 pounds, and i feel much more energize but, that’s about it. Is their something i need to improve or change to better quicken results? Any suggestions are welcomed:)!!

julie April 26, 2013 at 1:42 am

Hello ,Ashish , the first thing u wanna do is cut out the breads anything white ,potatoes white flour white breads and pasta. Cut out sugar and drink water a lot of water. Also don’t eat after 7 pm or no closer then 2 hours before bed.

Skye Church May 10, 2013 at 10:47 am

Your work-out sounds great! Just eliminate bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Eat less fruit and more veggies. Focus on protein: fish, chicken, turkey, lean beef, fat free milk, fat free cottage cheese and eggs (no mayo, no cooking oil). The weight will fall off.

LB May 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm

You are eating too late in the evening. You need to eat earlier, possibly before your workout if you can. There’s an old rule to not eat dinner later than 7pm, but typically you shouldn’t eat within 2 hours of going to bed. Your body cannot break down the food the same way when you are sleeping as when you’re awake. If you can eat before the gym and then have some source of protein after the gym, that would be ideal.

Ben June 1, 2013 at 7:06 am

Jessica, you are toning up and developing muscle, remember with that volume of exercise you do need some carbohydrates. build up your run distance as slower long runs burn fat as fuel

Kelly June 7, 2013 at 1:41 am

I am a 39 yo female. Trying to lose weight. I am 5’4 and weigh 230lbs. This is what I am eating. Am I doing it right??
For breakfast I drink a protein shake (30g protein and 7 grams carbs n the scoop).with 1 1/2 cups of skim milk and 1 cup of frozen fruit in it, usually salad with 4oz of tuna and. Tbsp light dressing and 1 slice of sugar free wheat bread for lunch, dinner is 4oz of meat, fist size amount of sweet potatoes and veggies or a salad, and 2 snacks a day either a light yogust (with less than 10g sugar) and a piece of fruit, or a cheese stick and a piece of fruit. No soda, only water, and sugar free tea to drink. 1 coffee a day with skim milk and splenda

Jay June 19, 2013 at 7:06 am

Well, need your advise here.

i’m 24 and height 5’5, currently weiging 76 kgs.

i do intense workout’s daily – includes a daily tredmill run of 3+kms, weight training and some effective exercise like burpee, jumping jacks, weighted squats etc.

My eating scedule is as follows:
Break-fast: Fruit-plate (1banana, & portion of melon, watermelon, papaya, apple) / Sprouts with 1 glass mixed fruit juice.
Lunch: Normal rice & 2 chapatti’s with lots of curd & salad’s
Evening: A tea usually with biscuits.
Night: Normal 3 chapatti’s with Sabzi.

i’m looking forward to further reduce my weight to 70 – 72, what amendment should i make in my exercise pattern/eating habbits ?


Michele July 23, 2013 at 6:50 pm

It doesn’t matter what time you eat because the body doesn’t have a clock. Yes, most people are apt to sit around mostly after 7:00 pm but if you’re increasing your protein intake don’t worry about it. Protein burns fat naturally.

hayley christie July 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Hi, i’d like to add a comment to those trying to lose weight. I go to the gym every 2 days I alternate cardio with abs and weights. So I do one day cardio if you just starting I would advise treadmill for 15mins at gradient 3.0-4.0 and difficulty at 3.5-4.5 as you need to get your heart rate to a rate that you are burning fat, it is no good just walking on the treadmill as you won’t burn much. Then do 15mins on the bike at gradient 4.0 and difficulty 3-0-4.5 same as treadmill need to feel it to burn calories. Then what I did was the 1,2,3 go on the track if your gym has one start on number 1 pos on track, do walking pace in 1, then marching pace making your strides as long as possible in 2, then speed walking in 3 and so on. this will get you out of breath and enough to drop weight. as for abs and weights kettle bells is good and upper and lower reps at between 15-30kg at first for few weeks until u find it easy then up it. Follow this up with a high protein low carb diet and it will drop off. In the 1st weeks of doing this programme I lost 1st 2lb. If you stick to this advice I promise you the weight will come off, just cut out as all said above and eat your last meal b4 7pm you will see the change 🙂

hayley christie July 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Just adding to my comment above the 15-30kg is on upper and lower weight machines not kettle bells, if you are using kettle bells start with 2.5kg to see if you can manage that with 10-15 repsx5 each side then if you find it easier raise the weight of the kettle bell. good luck to any that follow this programme. If you are not quite sure what I put just copy it and hand to a gym instructor and they will explain it to you 🙂

Rev. Rita Miller August 7, 2013 at 2:17 am

I eat for breakfast protein drink with skim milk and 1/2 cup fruit (Unjury medical brand protein is very good. about 21 grams of protein each shake.)
The lunch: same as breakfast, Protein drink with skim milk and small fruit or 1/2 cup fruit.
Dinner, 3-6 oz. lean meat, fish, with one small potato or 1/2 cup rice or whole grain noodles as my only carbohydrate and all the vegetables I want like a large salad. I have 2 snacks daily usually a small fruit or Greek Yogart or frozen Greek Yogurt. each snack no more than 100 calories and high in protein. I drink plenty of water and my exercise consists with walking or doing Qigong/TiChi. I had an accident at work and am unable to do more physical exercise than that. I am losing an average of 2 pounds a week. Because of so much protein and low carbs, I am never hungry. I do mot eat after 7pm either. Good Luck and God Bless you all on your journey.

Krish August 29, 2013 at 8:26 am

I’m 16 male, Indian
50 kg weight
i ofcourse don’t want to loose weight but i also dont want chubby body & wants to grow taller
so i do streching, running etc & i’ve recently started gym too
my trainer not to run alot because body needs carbs!
So i’ve decided to get more protein and balance carbs, i usually have 2 glass banana shake with egg daily morning @7 after workout & some wheats @9 and @3 sallad, soy beans, other beans with flour wheat and @8 veggies with flour wheat!
Yea its true i do have alot of wheat 😀
& i’m eggitarien cuz i just take egg, not any other non veg
i’d be thankful of u if u’d tell me a proper diet to increase weight, height and also a healthy diet
& oye tell me the right diet, i don’t wanna mess with my height

Rusty September 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Generally eating as late as 10 o’clock does not give your body time to process any nutrients that you have supplied it with. When you are sleeping it’s your bodies time to process it’s day and put everything right ready to go again for the morning. If you are eating as late at night you are forcing your metabolism to try and burn off any food you are supplying it with whilst you sleep. This can lead to a restless sleep which, added to your early wake up, in turn releases cortosol into the blood stream as the body is under stress. This is your worst nightmare if you are looking to lose weight as it stops the body from burning fat as effectively and can reduce your mood significantly.

In my opinion the diet overall is good, avoid the carb intake in the morning for your first two weeks from now and start eating earlier at night no later than 8 and ensure that this is a balanced meal. This should help automatically. Also maybe look into varying the foods you are eating, if it becomes repetitive your body will start to slow down remember the tastier the food the quicker it is digested so eat tasty foods whilst keeping it healthy.

A little note to remember that I don’t think anyone has picked up on, if you are doing weight training keep in mind that muscle is heavier than fat. Your weight may not be dropping but you may be developing more muscle especially if you are doing weight training 4 or more times per week. You may already be on track but just don’t know it yet so be mindful of changes in your bodies apperance as well as the number on your scales!

Good luck

sue October 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hi Kelly. I think your diet sounds great…You really should be releasing weight on that. Have you lost any yet? How long have you been on this diet? What is the frozen fruit you add to your shake? If what you listed is all you are eating and you aren’t losing weight….have you considered that for some reason you have a low metabolism…for instance underactive thyroid function?

Sonni December 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm


Anyone got any good vegetarian diets high in protein and for my partner no fish or eggs although I eat both?

iBoy January 6, 2014 at 6:19 am

Since everyone else is presenting their info like this, I’ll do the same- I’m a 15 year old male who weighs 145 pounds; as of last week I started working out 5-6 days a week for at least 30 minutes a day on a weight set. I know that teens proces food differently than adults, so I was wondering what effective food intake would look like for me; I’m trying to gain a little muscle while losing some unnecessary fat.

kanika January 9, 2014 at 5:04 pm

I am 37 years old .my weight is 180lb .I want to loose my weight.
8.00am drink coffee with bagel or sometime oatmeal.
@12 I take some snack
@2 I eat lunch everyday different foods
@4 I drink coffee again with snack
@8 I eat dinner
@11 I eat snack drink milk

Pete January 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

I’ve been doing the Tim Ferriss 4 Hour Body diet for 4 months now and I’ve lost just over 16kgs (35lbs). Basically you eat only protein, legumes and green vegetables, eat a high protein breakfast within 30 mins of waking up, try to eat the same thing every day, drink lots of water (4pts a day), no fruit and one day a week you can go wild and pig out on anything you want (This spikes your metabolism and keeps you sane). You never feel hungry and you look forward to your treat day so no need to obsess over things you can’t eat. It’s the easiest diet I’ve ever been on. In fact I don’t even call it a diet any more as it’s just what I do and can’t see me ever changing it. After a month or so, I also found I didn’t want lots of carbs and sugar on my treat day and now just have a few treats that I really enjoy. Highly recommended.

dave January 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm

I work 3 shifts and changing eating habits from late shift to night shift is a nightmare, i always find myself eating more at night than i would on the other two shifts. I am now trying a low carb and high protein diet and doing 20 mins of exercise before i go to bed.I will be doing this for one month to see if i’m losing weight.Keeping my fingers crossed.

Alex January 24, 2014 at 5:21 am

Hi, my name is Alex and I am a 20 year old female. I am very short, 4 feet 10 inches, and I am currently 153 pounds. I have been trying to loose weight for years and have recently started a high protein diet. Just to get an idea of what I have been doing, I get up and for breakfast I have a banana with peanut butter and about 8 oz. of water. After this I run for 35-45 minutes and sprint about 1/4 of that. I do this every other day just because I’m very new to it and don’t want to hurt myself, but I plan on running longer at a higher intensity. When I get home I immediately drink more water and have two eggs scrambled with maybe some spinach or mushrooms mixed in. Then for lunch I’ll have about 3 oz. of lean chicken, steak, rabbit, quail (really any kind of lean meat) a baked sweet potato and spinach or baby bok choy and of course more water. For dinner around 5-6 I’ll have something a little lighter like oatmeal or some whole wheat pasta with maybe some shrimp, chicken, or mushrooms mixed in. I love to cook so I’m constantly thinking about what I need to fuel myself when picking ingredients. Am I doing this right? I’ve always been worried about portion sizes because I’m so tiny, but I also don’t want to take in low amounts of nutrients and hurt myself. I feel really great and energized but I’m not loosing as much weight as I had hoped.

janie January 28, 2014 at 10:41 pm

i am 43 years old i weigh 136 height is 5’4 i have lost 5 pounds. i am doing a high protein low carb diet.
7am- whey protein shake
9am – 3 boiled eggs only eat two egg whites
handful almonds 1/3 sweet potato
11am- 48 grams albacore tuna, cup of spinach plain half avocado
3pm – 24 grams albacore tuna, other half avocado and 1/3 sweet potato
6pm – chicken breasts skinless or lean meat or fish till your full
baby spinach with balsamic vingerette olive oil and feta cheese.
8pm portein shake.

Ruchika March 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I am 28 year old female..height 5.4 weight 76kg..
6 am wake up
7 am break fast 2 multi grain bread slice and one egg omellete
8 am green tea
9 am one orange
12.30 pm two whole grain bread with veggie
3 pm green tea
4.30 almonds
6 pm one fruit
7 soya milk or lentil soup

can you suggest what can i add in my deit as i am veggitarian(eggitarin technically)

shell May 1, 2014 at 10:40 pm

hi. i am 33 years old female and i m a thyroid patient with 100kgs weight. i have knees problem as well. i cant bend my knees properly and my legs are not strong enough to carry my weight which stops me from work out as well. kindly suggest a diet that suits me and help me to fight against my thyroid.

Mike February 13, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Hi. I’m a 60 year man looking to regain as much of my health as I can. I’m 5ft 9in. 193 lbs. I have gerd and asthma. I’m looking a safe low carb high protein diet that will help me lose about 30 lbs. I’m old school and totally confused.

Bill June 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm

I have been on a LCHF diet for quite some time, my doctor loves my progress and my 60+ pounds weight loss over the past 6 months. Some of the information in your article is outdated thinking and there are clinical studies that prove it, like you mention eating fat makes you fat, that is so far from the truth, I eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, I cook everything either in lard or bacon grease, I consume the healthy fats and try to keep them around 70 to 80% of my daily intake, I keep carbs below 15% and protein fills the gap of the two and I try to have a bit more protein so I take from the carb % and a bit from the fat %.
All my blood tests are great, my fasting glucose is around 80mg, the Dr is happy so I am happy. There are so many sites still hating fats, butter, lard, bacon, they are all good fats and I have been keeping them in the high range and it works for me.

Amandeep Singh March 23, 2016 at 7:50 am

Many people here suggesting that do not eat after 7 pm or something like that, i would like to say that eat whenever you want as long as your are burning it in gym or may be some other activities. Main thing is to avoid carbs at night if you are on losing weight side. After workout never go empty stomach eat something (rich in protein and some carbs if not on losing side ) to fuel your muscles.

i finish my workout around 9 pm so according to the people above i should not eat anything but thats not right i have to fuel my body which i used so time doesn’t matter just don’t go direct to bed after eating give some time that’s it.

at last work hard stay fit stay healthy …….

Aanchal Mehta April 6, 2016 at 8:48 am

Thanks Naomi for sharing a wonderful piece of information on high protein diet.I am 29 years old and I want to loose fat from belly.Please suggest me some tips.

Ally April 14, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Hi I love fitness and need motivation Really need a training partner I live in Perth Australia Cottesloe can anyone help !

Tim May 4, 2016 at 2:58 am

when you first start the protein diet weight will drop off like crazy. This is mostly water weight. I didn’t start working out until i dropped 40lbs in 3 months. Look at labels you will be surprised almost everything has carbs…..Intermittent fasting is good 1 time a week. Started at 210lbs at 158 now. working on weights now so i’m packing on the muscle and keeping a 32″ wast. For people say it will not work for them i’m 49 years old and in better shape now then i was at 30. Make your mind up and do it…

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