Carb count: 8 grams per 2 fruits
Bob Dylan famously sang, "Everybody must get stoned." If he was referring to eating the stone fruit apricots as a lower-sugar option, he definitely had the right idea. Enjoy as an out-of-hand snack, or slice and add to yogurt, oatmeal, and even salad for natural sweetness.
Nutrition Bonus: The orange-tinged flesh of the apricot is a tipoff that it contains high amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that has been linked to improved brain functioning.3
Carb count: 8 grams per 1/2 avocado
Unlike most of its counterparts in the fruit world—yes, it's a fruit—avocado is virtually free of sugar. In fact, 75 percent of its carbs come from nondigestible fiber.
Nutrition Bonus: Fatty in a good way, avocados are plush in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Carb count: 11 grams per cup
Among berries, strawberries supply the least sugar, making them a great option to satisfy a sweet tooth. If you're concerned about possible pesticide exposure, opt for strawberries labelled "organic."
Nutrition Bonus: Strawberries are a stellar source of vitamin C, which may help regular gym-goers avoid coming down with the sniffles.4
Carb count: 9 grams per 1/2 fruit
Time to pucker up to this lower-carbohydrate fruit option, which supplies about 20 percent less sugar than that found in an orange. Just don't try to tame its sour power by coating it in sugar.
Nutrition Bonus: You can count on grapefruit for an added dose of immune-boosting vitamin C.
OTHER LOW-CARB FRUITS
- Star fruit
LOW-CARB MEATS AND FISH
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces
More flavorful than tilapia, farmed catfish is an inexpensive way to load up your muscles with pure high-quality protein. American-farmed catfish is also considered a sustainable option from the fish counter. Fillets are great steamed, grilled, oven-roasted, or pan-seared.
Nutrition Bonus: This swimmer is a good source of vitamin B12, which your nervous system needs in order to function properly.
Canned Pink Salmon
Carb count: 0 grams per 1/2 can
The canned-fish aisle is a great place to locate virtually carb-free protein. Pink salmon is an economical option with lower levels of toxins such as mercury than what's found in most canned tuna.
Nutrition Bonus: Canned salmon is a good way to reel in plenty of the omega-3 fats that have been shown to reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.5
While go-to chicken breasts can be as exciting as C-SPAN, budget-friendly drumsticks have richer flavor and their juicy meat is less prone to drying out during cooking. Leave the skin on during cooking for even more flavor, but if you're concerned about the extra fat calories it delivers, strip it off before eating.
Nutrition Bonus: Beyond a protein payload (24 grams in each 3-ounce serving), drumsticks supply selenium, an antioxidant that may help ease exercise-induced oxidative stress.6
Inexpensive and ubiquitous, ground turkey is an easy way to infuse your meals with carb-free protein. Use it for burgers and meat sauces. To trim fat calories, look for packages made with ground white meat.
Nutrition Bonus: As with other poultry, turkey contains a full arsenal of the essential amino acids that can pump up your muscles.
When not overcooked, the "other white meat" has good juicy flavor and a much less painful price tag than its beef counterpart. It also provides a stellar 6:1 protein-to-fat ratio. Look for unseasoned pork tenderloin to avoid excess salt and other questionable ingredients that may be in the seasonings.
Nutrition Bonus: On top of plenty of muscle-friendly protein, pork tenderloin is a good source of thiamine, a B vitamin needed to make the energy you use to toss around the iron on the gym floor.
Top Sirloin Steak
This cut of beef is one of the leaner options at the supermarket, making it a smart way to get your fill of protein with zero carbohydrate cost. It takes particularly well to marinades, which serve to tenderize the meat further. You can up the nutritional ante by splurging for steak sourced from grass-fed cattle.
Nutrition Bonus: Red meat like sirloin beef are a natural source of creatine, that much-beloved compound that can help you show off feats of strength at the gym.
Carb count: 0 grams per 2 ounces
For the most part, deli-style roast beef is spared the sugars that can be added to turkey and other lunchmeats. Surprisingly, it's also one of the leaner options at the deli counter.
For a low-carb lunch option, try wrapping a few slices of roast beef and roasted red pepper, a smear of Dijon mustard, and some cheese or avocado in large Swiss chard or collard leaves.
Nutrition Bonus: The highly absorbable form of iron in beef can help jazz up your muscles during those suffer-fests in the squat rack.