Great foods for a low-carb diet (part 1): almonds, avocados, macadamias

Raw almonds, roasted macadamias, and fresh avocado halves. Photo by Jim Anderson.

If you’re like me (which you probably aren’t, but let’s pretend), you may find your food tastes expanding as you adapt to a low carb way of eating.  Over the last few months, I have added several foods to my dietary repertoire, and I have eaten more of some other great foods than I ever did in the past.   In general, I eat more whole foods now than processed/ packaged foods.  Nuts, seeds, berries and fish are classes of foods that I always liked, but eat significantly more of on my low-carb plan.

Of course, I eat somewhat more meat, cheese and eggs now than in my high-carb days, but that is a predictable, quantitative change. In this post, I’ll take a look at three foods that I have added to my low-carb diet — two nuts (almonds, macadamias) and a fruit/vegetable (avocados).  In future posts, I’ll examine several more.

1. Almonds

Sure, I’ve eaten slivers of almonds on salads or fish for years, but until going low-carb, I never bought them by the bag or can to use as a snack.  You can buy them just about anyway you want them — raw, roasted, lightly salted, flavored or spicy.

Roasting will add some fat, and even alter the net carbs (total carbs – fiber) per serving. For instance, looking at two packages of a store-brand sold in my area, one of raw almonds and the other of roasted almonds, I see that a one-ounce serving of the raw almonds has 160 calories, 14g fat, 6g protein, 6g total carbs, and 3g fiber; a one-ounce serving of the roasted almonds has 170 calories, 16g fat, 6g protein, 5g total carbs, and 3g fiber. Almonds are a source of calcium and iron.  (These nutrition facts are consistent with those provided by the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.)

Almonds are easy to transport and have on hand when you need a nutritious, low-carb snack.  I have taken a bag to meetings and shared with people who aren’t low-carbing but enjoy a good nut.  (Also see Almonds for Health and Nutrition at

2. Macadamias

I’ve read that macadamias were Dr. Robert Atkins favorite snack.  Apparently, he carried some with him wherever he went.  In low-carb circles, that’s as strong a recommendation as you will get.

Macadamias a pricey nut, costing almost twice as much per serving as almonds.  They have a mild flavor (at least that’s true of the one brand I’ve tried so far).  A one-ounce serving of roasted macadamia nuts has 210 calories, 23g fat, 2g protein, 4g total carbs, and 2g fiber.  The macadamia is relatively low in protein compared to almonds and other nuts, and it contains much more mono-unsaturated fat. The lower protein is an advantage for anyone eating a low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet.

I like macadamias, but probably won’t buy them much for myself.  (Update: I buy them all the time!) The less expensive almonds or peanuts are just fine for me.  (Update: nothing beats macadamias!) If I’m a good boy, maybe Santa will put a couple cans of macadamias in my Christmas stocking. (Update: Santa has come through, but I don’t wait for him.)

The Atkins web site has a recipe for Chile Roasted Macadamia Nuts. No doubt Dr. Atkins would approve.

(I’ve discovered that the main problem with macadamias is that it is too easy to eat a lot of them; see my post “Going nuts on a low-carb diet.“)

3. Avocados

I was in my mid-twenties when I first encountered this seductive fruit.  Like most Americans, I encountered it as guacamole.

(Update: see my recent posts about eating avocado and avacado mayo, and avocado in the morning.)

It was 1978, and a young woman named Ellen invited me to dinner at her apartment.  I went, not knowing what to expect in terms of food — or otherwise.  She had made guacamole, assuming that a man-of-the-world like me would appreciate the culinary gesture.  The truth is, it was my first time eating avocado in any form, but I didn’t let on. Between a man and a woman, some things are better left unspoken.  Anyway, I’ve always been partial to dips.

After dinner, Ellen looked at me with her big brown eyes and said, “Jim, there’s something I want to suggest, but I’m worried it’s too soon.”

I leaned in, and assured her in my deep, man-of-the-world voice that no, it was not too soon.

Ellen smiled. “Well,” she said, “I have this older sister.”

Flash-forward more than three decades.  I’m still eating avocados, but not just in the form of guacamole.  It wasn’t until going low-carb that I bought my first avocado and learned how to open it up.  The process is fairly easy.  You just cut around the middle with a sharp knife, and then pry apart the halves.  There will be a huge seed embedded in the center of one of the halves that you’ll need to dispose of.  Dig it out with a spoon, or maybe just your fingers.  Then you are left with lots of creamy green avocado flesh to have your way with.  You can put sliced avocado in a salad, or mashed avocado in scrambled eggs.  Or you can make guacamole.  One whole California avocado (minus the thick, dark-green skin and the big seed) has about 230 calories, 12g total carbs, and 9g fiber. Avocados are a great source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium.

I’m not sure if avocados are properly classified as fruit or vegetable. They grow in trees, and look like pears, so I’m leaning toward fruit. But don’t take my word for it when you can google it. (Yes, I could google it, too, but I’m not the one who cares.)

Oh, and regarding Ellen’s older sister, Anita — she and I have been married over thirty years.

Also see Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5 of this series.

Last updated May 6, 2015.

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  1. cavenewt says

    To open an avocado: Slice around the middle, as described. But then no need to pry or dig: just unscrew the two halves apart. With a heavy knife, slap the sharp edge of the blade into the seed. This makes a handle which lets you simply twist the seed out of the flesh. I used to attempt to peel the skin off in wedges. That’s too messy and too much work, unless you’re creating a culinary masterpiece where appearances matter. Just scoop out spoonfuls instead.

    One way I like to eat avo is to simply halve it, remove the seed, fill up the void with appropriate salad dressing, and eat with a spoon.

    • Tansy Lynne says

      Just as a guideline for those who are interested, everything that holds a pip, seed, stone ect, is a fruit, including tomatoes, marrows, pea-pods, cucumber…everything that doesn’t, ie potatoes, celery, cabbage, leafy greens or root veg is,… you guessed it …. a vegetable!. :)