Fairly Exhaustive Slow-Carb Food List
It’s no secret that the food list Tim Ferriss has in The 4-Hour Body is not very long. The trouble with it is that you get all these “purists” (as I call them) thinking you can’t eat anything outside of that list, and as a result people get bored with the foods.
Now, I can give you a slow-carb meal plan. I’ve created one you can sign up for if you don’t feel like planning your own meals. But you could also come up with them yourself.
The truth is you could make over 70 (an extremely generous number) totally unique meals, not including the spices that give it totally different flair, off of the small list he posted in the book. But 70 isn’t really that exciting.
How about 12,000+ unique meals?
I’ve put together a “matrix” of slow-carb foods that should help you put together meals for any occasion. I got the idea from Robb Wolf, who did this for one of his clients who said she was bored with eating Paleo.
Below you’ll see a chart of over 100 food items that are totally approved for consumption on the slow-carb diet. To make a meal, pick something from each column (the “Extras” column is optional), and throw it on a plate! The amount of preparation and presentation is up to you.
Mung bean sprouts
Peppers (all kinds)
Great Northern Beans
Herbs de Provance
Macadamia Nut Oil
Tamari (wheat free)
Notes about some of the foods
* These foods are dense carbohydrates and are fine to eat if you are just trying to maintain weight. They’re not to be consumed if your goal is fat loss.
** These foods are technically OK but are very easy to overdo. They should be limited to small snacks only.
How I came up with this list
There are a few different websites that are meant to be exhaustive lists of what you can and can’t eat on slow-carb. Some of them are decent, others are crap. For my list, I started with The 4-Hour Body, and then I compared the lists that Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf put out for their paleo/primal followers.
The proteins were a no-brainer. The veggies are where some of the contention can arise. For example, many people have perfectly fine success eating cucumbers and zucchini, but some respected slow-carb sites say cukes are fruits and therefore strictly prohibited.
I then looked through Tim’s Slow-Carb cookbook (offered here with permission) and noted the ones I didn’t have in my list.
In the remaining questionable cases, I literally searched Tim’s blog for references to the foods to see if they were slow-carb approved.
I’m 100% certain that this is an accurate list, and that if you eat only from this list you’ll be eating foods that promote fat loss.
Have been wondering about sprouts. Mung bean ok. What about other sprouts, lentil, sunflower, fenugreek, radish and alfalfa?
Stewart, I had no idea people even ate anything else sprouted. 🙂 Here’s my take: if it’s on the list, its sprouted version is Ok. The only sprout I know of that people commonly eat that wouldn’t be OK is quinoa since it’s technically a grain.
My best advice on this diet: Don’t be a hero. Cheat day is an essential part of the diet. Without it your weight loss will dwindle until you are barely losing weight at all no matter how much you conform to the diet.
I’m a big fan of peas like Crowder Peas, Field Peas and Purple Hull Peas. Although technically not the same as black-eyed peas, I think they are similar enough to fall into the same category.
Would you agree? My favorite brand is Allen’s so you can click here and look under peas: http://www.allens.com/iloveallens/products.php
I always thought fish in general was a safe Slow Carb choice for protein. Of course, listing every type of edible fish may dilute your list but I think a few notable fish are missing from your list. You also mentioned shellfish which includes all sorts of crustaceans. Did you list out the different fish to provide some options? Or are there some fish that should be avoided?
What do you think about adding Catfish, Grouper and Flounder? Deep sea fish like swordfish and even shark should be safe slow carb choices as well.
For shellfish you could list out the popular choices such as shrimp, crab, lobster and crawfish. Man, I wish I liked crawfish. It’s a BIG deal in the south when they’re in season. Too much work for me 😀
Oh! What about duck?
Any type of animal protein is fine, it’s true. I listed out the fish to provide options, and I like your suggestions as well since you can get them at most supermarkets.
As for your beans, I’m sure they’re OK. I’d never heard of them before, they are legumes and are therefore most likely just fine.
Thanks for the comments, Tedero!
Hi and thank you for the extensive food list! Just wondering about coconut.. If coconut milk is okay, I would imagine coconut flour might be allowable in small amounts since it’s just ground coconut flesh.
Thanks a ton!
Hi, Marie! I personally don’t have a problem with coconut, as long as it’s just coconut. It’s primarily a fat, and it’s carbohydrate load is more fiber than sugar. It’s got a ridiculously load glycemic load (meaning it doesn’t affect your blood sugar much), and it’s an anti-inflammatory food. I wouldn’t eat a ton of it, but it’s totally fine to use as a secondary ingredient or a garnish. Just don’t trick yourself into thinking because it’s a good food that coconut flour cookies are a free-for-all. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this comprehensive list. My gymmates swear by eating a tsp of roasted ground flax seeds every morning. Does this fit in slow carb?
Sure, flax is fine! 🙂
Thank you soooooo much for the list. I just started yesterday. I am very excited and hoping it works for me. I can’t thank you enough for posting this list. You are a great person to do that. It will help me tremendously when I go grocery shopping. God bless people like you!
Chicken broth, beef broth, iceberg lettuce, cashews? Any ideas for salad dressing? Country crock butter or I can’t believe it’s not butter spray?
Sure, the first four things are totally fine. Especially if you make the broth yourself! That way you can control the ingredients and sodium. Cashews are fine. For salad dressing, we usually just do some olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Maybe some spices if we’re feeling a certain influence. We’ve also used vinegar and mustard on occasion.
If you look at the ingredients in Country Crock and I Can’t Believe, you’ll see they have a lot of soy stuff, different kinds of oil that aren’t healthy for you, and coloring. ICB even has buttermilk in it. You’re way better off just using regular butter, since it’ll probably just be for cooking and flavor as opposed to spreading it on toast. There’s nothing wrong with a nice butter made from grass-fed cows. Kerrygold is my favorite and the one I always recommend.
Hey Jason, thanks very much for putting up this list! I was just looking at the Official 4-hour body cookbook, and there is a Tortilla Soup recipe that calls for corn (but he adds that it’s “optional”). I’m sure this is a giant no-no, right? I wonder why he even included it in the recipe book at all.
Hey Robin, thanks for the question. You’ll notice that from time to time in his books and such. He even talks about using salsa with corn or mixed veggies with corn. It seems like, for Tim (who didn’t really have a fat loss goal, other than leaning out a bit) corn wasn’t a big problem in small doses like that. For someone who is trying to be totally grain free (not just gluten free) or wants to lose a lot of fat, corn should be avoided. Except, of course, on cheat days. That’s why he marked it as “optional”.
Thanks, Jason. Makes sense if you’re not trying to lose… which I definitely am 😉
This seems like a dumb question to me but I’ve been doing some searching and find contradicting information. Lentil flour.. It simply ground up lentils I assume. The eslowcarbdiet.com says it’s not allowed. That just doesn’t seem right. What’s your opinion?
Not a dumb question at all. Think about it this way: the amount of whole lentils in a cup is way smaller than the amount of ground lentils in a cup. I wouldn’t say it’s not allowed, though, I’d just say proceed with caution. Hummus is a domino food, presumably for the same reason. I certainly wouldn’t make it part of my daily menu.
I was just looking for something to coat chicken in or maybe make a “bread” out of. I found a recipe for a bread that is just lentil flour water and salt in a greased pan. I thought it might be nice to get my serving of beans that way.
How do you feel about protien shakes for breakfast? After 3 weeks I got to the point I could not even swallow an egg so I had to try something. I’ve still been losing weight but I am still not sure if I should be doing this. The mix is low carb and low calorie but the flavor is chocolate peanut butter so it feels wrong.
In general you just shouldn’t drink calories, so before switching to a protein shake I’d try different ways of eating breakfast that doesn’t include eggs. I’m putting together a post about eggless breakfast options, but if you look at Chowstalker, you will probably find something nice.
You have to be careful with shakes. Soy protein shakes should be avoided. Whey protein isolate shakes can be OK, but when they’ve got sweetener in them it’s not ideal. I’d rather get an unsweetened protein powder and mix it with a bit of cocoa powder and PB.
But first try to find a breakfast idea you can stand that’s actual food.
Thanks! I’ll try to figure something out! Lost 17 lbs so far and want to keep going!
Thanks so much for all the great 4 hr I info! Could you please clarify what you mean by a domino food? I eat lentils a lot as part of the diet be haze I thought they had the most health benefits?
A domino food is something that is technically OK to eat but could very easily cause you to become derailed and overeat it. For me, salted nuts is a domino food. Too many nuts is bad, even though a handful is technically fine. This can depend on the individual, because we each have our own tastes.
I also wanted to share something I’ve been eating that has saved me.
Red lentils cooked in broth.
I put them in my blender (ninja) with different seasonings. Always garlic! Maybe some ranch powder or a little butter.
Blend it up and you have “mashed potatoes”
That sounds yummy! I love it.
thanks for your list.
I know processed meats are out…does this include sausages?
I’m talking organic sausages that do not contain nitrates.
Hey Fran! When you say “processed meats”, what do you mean? I occasionally eat hot dogs, for example. They’re not a staple, but I’ve been known to enjoy a beef frank once in a while. I couldn’t find in the book where he says we can’t have that. So I’d say sausage is fine as well, and organic sausage is probably going to be quite awesome. 🙂
On your list of fats/oils you do not list coconut oil, which I believe is in the 4-Hour Body diet.
Wow – I use it all the time and can’t believe I forgot to add it! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
Thank you so much. This is gonna make my life so much easier. Love the shopping list. I always have a problem with what to make not how to make. Thanks for sharing.
My pleasure, Robert!
Thank you for compiling and sharing this list! One question:
I notice that chickpeas are not listed here, but hummus (which is essentially mashed chickpeas) is listed in the extras section. If hummus is okay, is it safe to assume that chickpeas are okay as well?
Thanks again, this is a valuable resource!
So the reason I might have left out chickpeas is because the book talks about them as a domino food. If I recall correctly, they’re among the higher-GL legumes we have access to. I listed hummus in the extras, which I might have named condiments. I wouldn’t eat a half a cup of hummus (maybe a couple Tbsp), whereas I might eat a half a cup of chickpeas. I’m adding chickpeas, but I’m giving them an asterisk. 😉
Thanks for the comment!
Thanks! Once again, this is a one-of-a-kind resource!
You are amazing! My beans and flavorless chicken were making me very angry. Can you tell me are chia seeds okay? I’ve been taking a spoonful every day for a year now and feel like it really helps with my digestion and is a good source of calcium. Thank you again!
Yes, Lindsey, chia seeds are fine. Thanks for asking! 🙂
Really nice shopping list. Thank you for sharing. However why haven’t you listed quinoa? I know it’s a grain but is very healthy and it’s gluten free. Since I discovered quinoa I haven’t touched rice again.
Hi Jacqueline! This website isn’t about healthy foods in general, but primarily slow-carb foods. Slow-carb isn’t simply gluten-free. It’s more about the type of carbohydrate than the quantity, and quinoa (and rice) is definitely not a slow carb food. And at a macronutrient level, there’s little difference between quinoa and white rice. In terms of health, vegetables are healthier (more nutrient-dense) than either rice or quinoa, or any other grain for that matter, and they do more for fat loss than a “healthy” grain would.
Thank you Jason, now it’s clear 🙂 I appreciate it.
Great list, this will make my transition to cutting out dairy/sugar/grains so much easier! Quick question ( sorry if this has been asked before) is almond milk ok in small amounts for tea or is it a complete no no?
Hi Teresa! The biggest issue with almond milk is finding one without sweetener. I’d say two big ifs: if you find one with no sugar and if you’re using it as a condiment and not a beverage it should be ok.
thank you! I have the unsweetened kind so all good!
Thanks for taking the time making this list Jason – I really appreciate the time and research you put into it, and I also really LOVE your website! You are right on point that many lists out there are a bunch of crap. Now I have something definitive that I can keep on the fridge to keep me on track. Cheers . . .
Totally my pleasure. 🙂 I’m glad it helps!
I like salads however salads with no dressings don’t taste as good, is there any dressing besides oil and vinegar out there. Also you put sunflower seeds are good? Can I get flavored?
You probably won’t find any SCD approved dressings in the grocery store. Even the vinaigrettes often have extra stuff in them. Here’s a yummy garlic-infused oil and vinegar dressing that could work. Sometimes my wife and I will use a squeeze of lemon with some salt, and that seems to be enough as well. Also, I will sometimes use salsa or a chimichurri instead of a dressing. It’s got a lot of flavor in it, and it’s more veggies!
As for the sunflower seeds, the flavored nuts and seeds almost always have some type of sugar and/or milk powder to achieve the intense flavor. My recommendation would just be to check the labels. Make sure they don’t have sugar, soy, or anything dairy if you want to keep it legit slow-carb.
I want to share my dressing recipe, because I love it, and a little goes a long way. It’s just coconut milk, citrus zest and juice, a little salt and pepper, and a big fat handful of fresh herbs. I love using cilantro, but Italian parsley is also good, or whatever you like. Just throw that all in the blender, and voila! You could even thicken it up a bit by adding an avocado. It keeps really well also.
I was doing some research on acai, and it seems to be mostly fat (omega 3,6,9, 5g/serving) and protein (2g/serving). The little bit of carbohydrate (0.6g/serving) is all fiber. It is not sweet at all. I understand it is biologically a fruit, but it does not have a high fructose content or a high GI/GL. Would raw, unsweetened acai be ok?
That’s a really interesting question, Michelle. It’s fascinating to me that a fruit has so much fat! Although I suppose avocado is a fruit as well, and it also has a lot of fat. Acai and avocado seem to have pretty similar profiles, actually, except that avocados have significantly more fiber per 100g than acai does. Looking at 100g of it, it looks like the carbs are half fiber and half sugar, but it’s still very low. Lower than 100g lentils. In the end, I’d say it’s worth checking out because of the other health benefits, but I’m not ready to tag it as slow-carb friendly yet. Do you want to test it out and get back to us with how it affected your results? 🙂
No, honey is straight sugar. Shouldn’t be part of your meals 6 days a week.
I was doing Atkins for a while. It was easy for me being a busy single mom of 4 kids. I’ve done the 4 Hour Body and really liked it. But I can’t help but feel that the Atkins shakes and bars are just so convenient for my schedule. Are they in any way compliant with the 4 Hour Body philosophy? Is there a protein powder out there that is compliant? Thanks!
Hey Tracey! Thanks for stopping by! With the Atkins stuff, they just look, feel, and taste too much like candy and cookies. It doesn’t remove the mental addiction we have to those kinds of things. I would say they’re not compliant with the philosophy of healthy eating habits, which is where we want to get to with 4HB. Personally I try to stay away from them unless I’m really jonesing for a treat and don’t want to wait for cheat day. And even then, I hardly ever eat one.
I do recommend a protein shake for people who need it. It’s called Primal Fuel, and it was created by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple. You can read this post to get some better info: The Truth About 30g Protein Within 30 Minutes Of Waking.
Hi Jason, Great list! My question: you only have ghee and clarified butte on your approved list, yet you say in a response to one of the comments that Kerrygold butter is your favorite and butter is fine. This is not clarified. Do you think regular butter is on the approved list?
Kerrygold is an exception. It’s not the only one, though. If you use regular butter, it must come from grass-fed cows. The reason is that the fat profile from grass-fed cows is totally different from conventional butter. In a pinch I’ve used clarified butter made from conventional butter, but I always prefer Kerrygold, and I don’t clarify it.
Thanks for the question!
Thinking about starting the 4hb but I am paleo (weight loss has stalled) and don’t eat legumes. Should I just omit or add in other carbs like sweet potatoes, squash etc. Thank you for your help.
Hi there, Teresa! If you poke around the site, you’ll start to see that my 4HB looks a lot like paleo (I go light on the legumes). That may be because I take what folks like Robb Wolf and Sarah Fragoso say about starchy carbs to heart. Are you switching because your weight loss has stalled eating a paleo-style diet?
There’s no problem omitting the legumes as long as you’re getting enough food to eat between the fat, protein, and veggies. Most people find that legumes are useful to get adequate calories as well as keep you feeling fuller. But they’re not necessary.
Hi Jason, thank you for the reply, that helps. My weight loss has stalled on paleo however I think I am looking for more of a fat loss than weight loss which is why incorporating 4hb intrigued me. I think I am going to give it a try for 30 days and see what happens. Sneaking suspicion I have been overdoing it on almond butter and fruit. 🙂
Sounds quite reasonable. 😉
Hi! Great list except sriracha should not be on it. Contains sugar!
You’re right, it does have some, but it’s in the book so that’s why it’s on the list. You end up using so little anyway (most of us, I suppose) that the sugar is negligible. But if you’d prefer staying away, that’s fine too!
Question, what about sausage that contains 1g of sugar? I buy sausage from wegmans that they make. Is this ok? What do you think?
What about tea? (Celestial seasonings brand)
Heavy whipping cream? I know he allows 2tbsps a day, but maybe none is better for maximum weight loss?
Hey Heather! I’ll catch them all in one. 🙂
I really do try to keep my sausage to 0g sugar. Because when it says it has some sugar, it usually has actual sugar. I don’t think 1g per serving in a sausage is going to derail you, but if you eat it regularly and you’re not seeing results, it’s one of the things I’d put on the chopping block.
Tea is totally fine as long as it’s not mix. So the bags that steep should be no problem. Coffee is also totally fine. Black is best, but up to 2 Tbsp is allowed in case you just can’t take it. But I always say if you can’t drink it black, you probably need better coffee. 🙂
Thank you so much!
I’ll look into making my own sausage to have at breakfast, or maybe just some ground pork with spices.
Had black coffee this morning, it wasn’t terrible, and definitely worth it to just omit the dairy all together.
One last question, what are your thoughts on spring mix greens, are these ok? Salads are my go to for work usually.
One of the top ingredients in Oyster Sauce is sugar – how is it 4HB compliant?
Good call, Hank. Might be an oversight on my part. I’ll look into it. Thanks for pointing that out!
I did some digging around, and I found this on Tim’s blog, specific to slow-carb:
If you like spicy foods, a bottle of Cholula or Sriracha will be indispensable. Oyster sauce is great for lovers of Thai food.
It sorta flies in the face of avoiding sugars, since sriracha and oyster sauce have them. I think the danger is in the dose. You’re not going to be using a lot of it, so it’s not going to damage your results. But I’d also add that it’s one of those things that if you start to feel like you’re not getting results and everything else is dialed, start being real careful about the added sugar.
So no sugar in my coffee? Not even stevia?
Correct – no sugar in your coffee. Actual stevia would probably be OK, but the problem is real stevia is very hard to find. Any white powder is probably not actually stevia. Things like Truvia are not Stevia. You can find liquid extracts that are legit, but I haven’t found one in the US.
What really works well, and what Tim Ferriss recommends in the book and in other places, is cinnamon. I was surprised at how my coffee tasted sweet when I added cinnamon.
Have you looked into sweetleaf stevia? I found this and it seems to be legit organic stevia. What do you think?
The only stevia that’s legit is the stuff that’s made only from the actual stevia leaf. Sweetleaf is stevia extract and inulin, and while their website says it’s OK, I’d still go with one that ONLY has stevia extract and nothing else.
Homemade caesar dressing? Here’s what I put into it—
1 rib celery
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 cups olive oil
Didn’t have any anchovies lying around, but it tastes good without them.
Can you find a problem with anything in this recipe? Thanks!
Also- is spring mix lettuce allowed?
All that looks fine!
Do I need to count calories on the 4HB? I haven’t started yet….still gathering my information, but wondered if on top of my meal choices do they need to be within my suggested caloric intake for my size. I’m a small female at 5′ and don’t have any extra room for extra calories on my small frame.
You’ll likely find that you naturally eat fewer calories on 4HB, and part of the whole culture of the eating style is not to count calories. I’m robust dude, and when I would track my food, I was barely getting to 2000 without trying.
The other thing is not all calories are created equal. Our bodies treat 100 calories of bread way differently than 100 calories of avocado, for example. So even if you’re eating more than the “recommendation” for your frame, think about where the recommendation came from, and what its calories consist of.
And finally, you may find that testing and tweaking gets you to your sweet spot. So find the right portion sizes and food “ratios” (for lack of a better term) that work for you.
As always, let me know if you have any questions!
Hey, a lot of nice tips!! 🙂
I took upon 30 – day challenge doing the Slow Carb Diet, in addition in my Sibling Duo Blog you will find tips, recipes and a description of the slow carb diet. I deal with many other interesting topics. Have a nice day !!
I’m 75, and have loved the idea of slow carb dieting. Have needed to get down about 15-20 lbs for some time, and this is absolutely effective and easy!! I love all kinds of vegetables and don’t get tired of the same food for more than one meal. If I fix my husband a wrap, I just put the ingredients on my plate w/o the wrap, zap it and it’s delicious. Have latched on to spices to help relieve the blah-ness of some veggies. For brkfst I saute my pre-prepped veggies (jalapenos, sweet peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, actually whatever I have on hand) in a little coconut oil, then pour in 2 scrambled eggs (from the farm) and stir. I love it w/ various seasonings – it’s a different dish w/ the different seasonings. Salads are my go to when we eat out, which isn’t very often. That free day just makes it easier and when I’m religious w/ it (life interferes sometimes) I find I don’t enjoy the free days as much…not as “necessary”. Thanks for the blog, it makes life easier.
Thanks for your comment, Kathy! And thanks for being part of the crew here. 🙂