Low-Carb Recipes


Many meals can be included in a low-carb meal plan, simply by following the pattern of:

  1. Choose a protein (e.g. chicken, turkey, salmon or beef).
  2. Add ½ a plate of non-starchy vegetables (e.g. peppers, spinach or brussels sprouts).
  3. Include a small portion of healthy fats (e.g. avocado, seeds/nuts or olive oil).

Example of a low-carb balanced plate.

Note. Protein substitutes can be made for vegetarians, such as soy products, eggs or pulses. Beans, legumes, and pulses provide carbohydrate as well as protein, so be mindful of this – you may need to reduce the amount of other carbohydrates you choose in a meal with these.

Devised by qualified dietitians and nutritionists, here are some easy low-carb meal ideas. All of these meals are naturally gluten-free and without refined substitutes. For full recipes and instruction videos, click on the images.

Best low-carb recipes
BREAKFAST Mini omelettesTray of mini Omelettes. Shakshuka (baked eggs)Baked eggs. 200g Greek yoghurt with
berries and almondsBowl of yoghurt and berries.
LUNCH Pesto chicken salad
with butternut squashPesto chicken and butternut squash salad.
Beef and broccoli stir fryBeef and broccoli stir fry on a plate. Warm lamb saladLamb salad.
DINNER Cajun salmon and salsaCajun salmon with sweetcorn and tomato salsa. Chicken fajitas bakeChicken fajita bake with red peppers. Meatballs in chilli
tomato sauce
Meatballs in chilli tomato sauce on top of spiralised courgette.
VEGETARIAN Cheesy auberginesFour cheesy aubergines. Coconut dahlLarge pot of coconut and lentil dahl with spinach added. Moroccan stewMorrocan pumpkin vegetarian stew.

Easy swaps to make your favourite meals low-carb

Eating low-carb doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the meals you love. As with anything in life, slow and steady wins the race. If you start by making small changes you are more likely to stick with these changes in the long-term.

Making simple swaps for the carbohydrate element of your meal to low-carb foods is a good way to keep enjoying the food you love, while still reducing the carb content.

Rice Cauliflower Rice
Spaghetti Courgetti (spiralised courgette)
Mashed potato Cauliflower mash
Noodles Zoodles (also spiralised courgette)
Chips Celeriac chips
Tortilla wraps Lettuce wraps
Couscous Quinoa
Roast potatoes Roast carrots
Crisps Kale crisps

Difference between low-carb and keto

Although many of the recipes above can be used as keto recipes, a low-carbohydrate diet is not to be confused for a ketogenic (keto) diet. The more extreme keto diet almost eliminates carbs rather than aiming to reduce them.

This process deprives the body of its primary source of fuel, glucose. As a result, the body has no choice but to create new metabolic pathways and start burning fat (or more accurately, ketones produced from the breakdown of fats) for energy instead. This is called ketosis.

This may sound ideal, but while eating keto does burn fat, it is very difficult to follow effectively in the long term, as one slip up will take you out of ketosis.

There is no official definition of a ‘low’ or ‘lower’ carb diet. Research often uses many different classifications, but as a general overview, a lower carb diet is around 30% of your overall daily energy intake from carbs. This is roughly <100g of carbs (total) per day.

Practical tips on how to eat low-carb

When you do eat carbs, you should opt for complex carbohydrates (for example, sweet potato, oats, or wholewheat pasta). These have a larger molecular structure than simple carbohydrates (for example, white rice, white bread, or white pasta) and contain more fibre. Fibre makes us feel fuller for longer, and has many other health benefits.

If you are following a low-carb, balanced diet aim to have 1-3 servings of complex carbohydrates per day.

The following examples are one serving of complex carbohydrates and contain roughly 15g of carbohydrate:

  • 80g cooked or 1⁄2 uncooked medium potato or sweet potato.
  • 1 thin slice of wholemeal or wholegrain bread.
  • 1⁄2 wholemeal pitta bread or bread roll.
  • 1⁄2 wholemeal wrap.
  • 20g uncooked or 50g (roughly 1⁄2 cup) cooked brown rice or wholewheat pasta.
  • 20g raw wholegrain cereal, oats, or shredded wheat (approx. 1/3 cup); or 1 wheat biscuit.

Low-carb and weight loss

Carbohydrates are a large source of energy for our bodies and provide our cells with food (in the form of glucose). For those who are very active, eating plenty of carbohydrates is fine, but the majority of us live relatively sedentary lives.
This is a graph from a study comparing the effects of a low-carb, low-fat and Mediterranean diet on weight loss.

Graph depicting weight loss over 2 years for a low-fat, low-carb and Mediterranean diets.

Cutting down on carbs resulted in the most weight loss out of all three groups. The significant difference in weight loss between the low-fat and low-carb groups was sustained 2 years on.
Low-carb diets contain more healthy fats and protein. We digest both fats and proteins more slowly than carbohydrates, which generally explains why they make us feel fuller for longer. This reduces the likelihood of snacking and feeling deprived.

By increasing protein and healthy fat intake and swapping some carbs for non-starchy vegetables, you will probably feel fuller while still consuming fewer calories.

Take home message

  • Eating low-carb can be easy and doesn’t mean sacrificing the foods you love.
  • Low-carb is different from a keto diet, which almost eliminates carbs completely.
  • To eat low-carb you should aim for maximum 1-3 15g servings of carbs per day.
  • Low-carb diets are very effective for weight loss.

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Write a response

Jeana Mccullagh
30 April, 2020

I have been eating zero carb meals for 7 days. I need some ideas. Jeana

Beverley Nicholson
13 September, 2019

I am on the Second Nature plan but there is no way around it, this is a restricted diet and absolutely does mean giving up the things I love. That is just a fact of life. I can’t drink wine or eat ice cream or lovely warm crusty bread. Cauliflower rice is not as nice as basmati and there is nothing quite like a potato crisp – kale crisp does not cut it. This is a diet that cannot for me become a habit. There is always the threat of falling off the wagon and I am fat because I don’t see most of the things you advocate to eat as food. I don’t want to eat fish and chips all the time and I do enjoy a salad but vegetables are a chore to eat and I do want to eat fish and chips occasionally. Second Nature along with any eating plan designed to reduce weight is a path of misery that we have to take to get thinner but it is definitely not enjoyable or easy to get used to.

Susan Trevena
16 October, 2019

Hi Beverley. I can totally understand how you feel. It’s true about the ice-cream and the wine and the crisps, but you can make lovely tasty meals using the prescribed foods and quantities and in so doing it actually removes cravings for those things, which means you don’t have them often, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have them at all. I have abstained from all those things since starting with OP, and my weight loss has certainly not reflected that, on the contrary it is quite insignificant, which is disappointing to say the least. However, I still feel positive because I know that it is definitely healthy and will be doing good things for me overall and I do feel that in time the effort will pay off. I should tell you that I got really annoyed at the lack of loss and so decided to have some biscuits with my late night tea and the week after that I grabbed half a kitkat and half a twix. In both instances my scale tale revealed a loss. So, not sure how to explain that, but possibly being too strict can make your body rebel and hang on to it’s fat, and, being too strict can simply make you want to rebel and make you view the lifestyle as a regime rather than a potential way of life. Balance it out. Have things that you enjoy, but make it a rare treat and savour the moment when you do. Quality is far better than quantity. Keep going 👍💚

Tamara Willner
17 September, 2019

Hi Beverley, thank you for sharing your reflections on the programme! Although Second Nature provides recommendations on foods to choose and how to balance your plate, we would never suggest that you couldn’t eat the foods you love again. A big part of our programme is eating mindfully and taking away strict ‘rules’ around food and eating. We strongly believe building a positive relationship with food is more important than any number on the scales. Your mentor on the programme can be really helpful to tailor the nutrition recommendations to suit your preferences. We’d recommend reaching out to them to let them know how you’re feeling.