Low-Carb Meat List - Seafood, Eggs, Soy

Protein Foods on a Low-Carb Diet

high-protein foods
Lots of different foods can contribute to your protein requirement. Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

On most of the popular low-carb diets, most meats, fish, and seafood are acceptable, as most contain no carbohydrate. There are some exceptions, as well as rules to follow.

General Rules Regarding Meats and Protein Foods on a Low-Carb Diet

  1. Don't eat breaded meats or seafood (e.g. fish sticks, fried chicken, chicken-fried steaks, almost anything deep-fried).
  2. Remember that most sauces are made with a fair amount of starch and/or sugar. Be sure to check if you're not sure.  (See: Low-Carb Sauces and Marinades and Low-Carb Condiments)
  1. Processed meats (ham, bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, hot dogs, etc.) often have added sugars.
  2. Anything in a jar or can may have carbs added, e.g. pickled herring has a surprising amount of sugar. Read labels carefully.

Shellfish - an Exception to Zero-Carb Meats and Seafood

Unlike most fish and meats, the meat of mollusks contains a little carbohydrate (however, these shellfish are so good for us, it would be a shame to eliminate them entirely).

  • 6 medium oysters contain between 3 and 5 grams of carbohydrate, depending on the species
  • 1/4 cup canned clams generally contains about 2 grams of carb
  • A medium mussel contains about half a gram of carb
  • 3 ounces of scallops contain about 2 grams of carb,
  • Other shellfish (abalone, conch, etc.) contains similar amounts of carbohydrate.

Organ Meats

Many organ meats are super-nutritious (and emphasized on diets such as the Paleo Diet and Weston Price), but depending on what phase of a diet you're in, you may need to pay attention to portion size, as some organ meats contain carbohydrate (Atkins recommends limiting them to 4 oz.

per day). One ounce of raw beef liver has about 1 gram of carbohydrate - one ounce cooked has 1.4 grams. Chicken liver has less carb - about a gram for every 3 ounces.

Soy Beans and Tofu

If you aren't sensitive to soy, it can be a great source of protein with not very much carbohydrate.

Soybeans - I'm especially fond of black soybeans because the flavor is milder than the yellow ones.

Half a cup of cooked soybeans has about 4 grams of net (effective) carb, plus about 6 grams of fiber.

Tofu - The amount of carbohydrate and protein in tofu varies a little depending on the brand and how it is made. Half a cup of tofu generally has about 1-3 grams of net carb with about a gram of fiber.

Tempeh - Go by what it says on the package -- it's not that easy to find a standard amount of carbohydrate and fiber for tempeh (the USDA database doesn't list fiber), but it fairly low in net carbs.

A Note on Saturated Fats

Some popular low-carb diets (e.g. South Beach, Zone) limit the intake of saturated fats. The general rule is to avoid the fattier meats, including the dark meat and skin of poultry. Check out this list of cuts of meat low in saturated fat

Some plans, such as the Zone, limit egg yolks (though I can't resist saying that I think this is a bad idea, as egg yolks are highly nutritious).

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