Published: 09/16/2015

The Carb Ladder

The carb ladder provides a logical order in which to add carbohydrate foods beyond the basic foods consumed in Induction and prioritizes the amount and frequency. On the lower rungs are the foods that should be eaten most often. On the top rungs are the foods, that—even in Lifetime Maintenance—will put in an appearance only occasionally, rarely or never, depending upon an individual’s carb tolerance. 

People who are relatively tolerant of carbs may be able to introduce some foods in Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) that are usually not introduced until Pre-Maintenance. Other people who are relatively intolerant of carbs may not be able to introduce certain foods coded for OWL until Pre-Maintenance or Lifetime Maintenance. Again, depending upon their carb tolerance, some people can introduce foods coded for Pre-Maintenance and beyond only infrequently, in very small quantities or not at all.

Phase 1, Induction:

Rung 1: Foundation vegetables: leafy greens and other low-carb vegetables

Rung 2: Dairy foods high in fat and low in carbs: cream, sour cream, and most hard cheeses

Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss:

Rung 3: Nuts and seeds (but not chestnuts)

Rung 4: Berries, cherries, and melon (but not watermelon)

Rung 5: Whole milk yogurt and fresh cheeses, such as cottage cheese and ricotta

Rung 6: Legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, and the like

Rung 7: Tomato and vegetable juice “cocktail” (plus more lemon and lime juice)

Phases 3 and 4, Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance:

Rung 8: Other fruits (but not fruit juices or dried fruits)

Rung 9: Higher-carb vegetables, such as winter squash, carrots, and peas

Rung 10: Whole grains