Photo courtesy Live Eat Learn.
Eating fewer carbs—particularly processed and simple carbs like sugar—is a great way to reduce blood sugar spikes and improve metabolic health. At the same time, decreasing the amount of carbohydrates in what you eat is often easier said than done, especially when it comes to dinner. After a long day of work, you may turn to speedy, carb-based dishes like pasta or order takeout, which can be loaded with hidden sugars, processed carbs, and inflammatory oils.
But low-carb dinner recipes can be quick, simple, loaded with flavor—and packed with nutrients to support metabolic health. To help keep your weeknight workload to a minimum, we rounded up some of the best and easiest low-carb dinner recipes. All contain a max of 10 grams of net carbs (that’s the total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols) per serving.
4 Tips for Cutting Carbs at Dinnertime
Beyond reducing your unhealthy carb intake, these tips will help you add protein, healthy fats, and fiber to your evening meal. All of these macronutrients slow the speed of digestion, promoting more gradual rises in blood sugar.
1. Swap grains for veggies
Pasta alternatives from zucchini noodles to spaghetti squash to shirataki noodles may not be exactly like the real thing, but add your favorite sauce and a protein, and you have a filling meal to satisfy your craving. Cauliflower rice also makes a good substitute for white rice.
2. Top salads wisely
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND, author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide, Second Edition, suggests using nuts or dry-roasted chickpeas or edamame in place of croutons to top salads and soups. You get the same kind of crunch with more protein.
3. Discover new sandwich holders
A hastily thrown-together sandwich is sometimes the only thing you have the energy to make after a long day. Weisenberger’s favorite way to cut carbs here is to use a sturdy, sliceable vegetable as the bun. “Instead of bread to hold tuna salad or burgers, use bell pepper halves, grilled eggplant slices, or lettuce leaves,” she says.
4. Coat with nuts
Ditch breadcrumbs. Instead, coat chicken or fish with crushed nuts, which add fiber, protein, and crunch. Just about any nut will do.
Low-Carb Chicken Dinners
Despite what some people think, chicken is far from boring. The number of ways you can prepare it and flavor it—while keeping the carb count low—will keep your taste buds entertained for weeks.
Nutrition info per serving: 11g total carbs; 8 g net carbs; 3 g fiber; 47 g protein; 18 g fat;
This sheet-pan dinner offers 47 grams of protein per serving, and the oven preparation makes for easy clean-up. Zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers add color and antioxidants, and mozzarella delivers a savory, cheesy flavor.
These air-fried chicken tenders use minimal oil, and a “breadcrumb” coating is made from almond flour (which delivers more protein than white or whole-wheat flour). Grate your own parmesan cheese for the coating—pre-grated cheese often contains additives like carrageenan, which animal studies suggest may contribute to gut inflammation.
These kebabs are ready in about 30 minutes and full of flavor thanks to red wine vinegar, garlic powder, dijon mustard, and oregano. Feel free to swap the bell pepper and onion for other veggies like eggplant, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and tomatoes. We like to serve them with Good Foods Plant-Based Tzatziki Style Dip—it’s made from cauliflower, cashews, and almonds instead of dairy.
Marinating chicken overnight makes dinner a breeze. While the meat grills, mix up the salsa. The avocado adds inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fats and blood-glucose-stabilizing fiber. Just omit the honey in the marinade, and the salsa—the strawberries add enough sweetness.
Low-Carb Beef Dinners
Lean cuts of beef, such as sirloin, provide protein and iron, which supports muscle metabolism, some hormone development, neurological development, and more. Go beyond meat and potatoes with these low-carb ideas.
You don’t need beans to make chili. This dish is all about the beef, veggies, and spices, making it suitable for keto, Paleo, and Whole30 followers. Serve it over a bed of cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles for a bit of extra fiber and anti-inflammatory vitamin C.
Saute steak, onions, and peppers, then add a cheesy mix and stuff it all into roasted portobello caps for a nutritious take on cheesesteak. Use an avocado-oil-based mayo in this dish. Traditional mayo contains soybean or canola oil, both of which are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
This dish is a bit like lasagna, thanks to ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese. To keep the carb count low, rather than layering noodles, build a base of shredded zucchini and top that with the other ingredients.
Beef, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage make for a hearty stew unlikely to spike blood sugar. Even better, you put all the ingredients in your slow cooker and let that do the work while you go about your day.
Low-Carb Fish and Seafood Dinners
When possible, choose wild-caught fish for these meals. It typically has more protein and fewer contaminants than farmed fish.
Ready in 30 minutes, this dinner is loaded with flavor from ginger, Thai curry paste, coconut aminos, and a touch of cayenne (feel free to add more if you like spice). Serve it over cauliflower rice or zoodles.
Mild tilapia is easy to prepare, especially when you bake it with a mix of paprika, thyme, oregano, garlic, and lemon. Try it with mashed cauliflower and steamed green beans for a complete low-carb dinner.
Salmon is low in mercury and rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe is perfect for weeknights because it only requires four ingredients—salmon, coconut oil, dijon mustard, and orange zest. Eat it with a side of roasted or sauteed veggies.
This salad calls for leftover salmon, but you can also use well-drained canned salmon. Mix with crisp lettuce, pepper, cucumber, red onions, and creamy avocado. Then drizzle on the olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette and have a colorful meal in 10 minutes.
Low-Carb Pasta Dinners
These dishes prove that pasta alternatives can be just as satisfying as the real thing with the right sauce and toppings.
Although dairy can increase insulin response, it can work for many in moderation—like the heavy cream in this recipe. That rich, creamy sauce is what makes this zucchini noodle dish so satisfying.
One of the best things about shrimp? It cooks in minutes. This entire dinner is ready in just 15. The recipe calls for zoodles, but you can put the shrimp and red sauce—with capers, red pepper flakes, and parsley for tang, heat, and freshness—on any pasta alternative.
Most of this dinner cooks in the oven, so there’s less clean up. Roasting a head of garlic deepens the flavor and adds a touch of natural sweetness. Blend it with cashews, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice for a creamy sauce you won’t believe is dairy-free.
This Thai-inspired zucchini noodle casserole uses ingredients like fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest, and bird’s eye chili pepper to give the dish an authentic flavor. Skip the recommended brown sugar to avoid glucose spikes.
Low-Carb Vegetarian and Vegan Dinners
Although many popular low-carb recipes contain meat or fish, plant-based eaters can also manage their blood sugar and eat well by cutting back on carbs.
With onion, tomato, bell pepper, chile pepper, zucchini, kale, eggplant, and cauliflower, this curry is loaded with antioxidants and 7 grams of fiber per serving. Consider adding a protein, like tempeh or edamame, to make it more satisfying.
Cauliflower rice is the secret to this low-carb fried rice that can be made with frozen or fresh vegetables. We recommend topping it with a protein like scrambled eggs or scrambled tofu.
In 20 minutes, you can have a satiating dinner with only 6 net carbs and 18 grams of protein per serving. Eggs support metabolic health thanks to nutrients like choline (needed for cellular metabolism and structural integrity of cells), protein, and several vitamins and minerals. Tip: Save any leftovers for breakfast.
Shakshuka is a North African classic consisting of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. Though it usually contains a cheese like feta, this recipe shares how to marinate tofu in apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and oregano to create dairy-free feta.
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