Healthy Low-Carb Foods to Eat

If you’re eating a low-carb diet or just looking to cut back on carbs, you may be wondering what foods you can eat. Another common question people eating low carb diets often have is regarding the number of carbs in certain foods like quinoa and oatmeal—healthy whole grains that still have carbs, but also pack in a lot of nutrition. And what kind of vegetables, fruits and proteins can you eat—and how many carbs do those foods have?

Regardless of what diet you’re following, the key to not feeling deprived is to consume a variety of foods from all the food groups—including grains.

At EatingWell, we recommend that on a low-carb diet you get about 40 percent of your calories from carbs—or at least 120 grams of carbs total per day. That amount optimizes brain and nervous cell function, and helps to satisfy nutrient needs as long as the carbs are coming from healthy foods. It’s also more doable and less restrictive than following super-low-carb diets, like the ketogenic diet.

1. Quinoa

1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 18 g carbohydrates

Quinoa is one of the grains with the biggest fanfare, thanks to its protein and fiber content—8 and 5 grams respectively per cup, according to the USDA. But remember, just because it’s a higher-protein grain doesn’t mean it’s super low in carbs. A 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa has 18 grams of carbohydrates, so make sure to plan that into your day.


2. Oatmeal

1 cup of cooked oatmeal = 28 g carbohydrates

If you’re going to have a big bowl of carbs—even on a low-carb diet—make it oatmeal. Oats contain beta-glucan, which helps slow digestion and improve blood cholesterol levels, according to a 2019 review in Nutrients.

Whether you’re going for a serving of old-fashioned, quick-cooking or steel-cut oats, they all contain about 27 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup dry. Make sure you buy plain versions rather than flavored instant oats, which come with a lot of added sugar.