Low-carb dinner ideas: easy weeknight steak, meatballs, salmon recipes – The Arizona Republic

If you made a resolution to cut back on carbohydrates this year, you’ll be thrilled to learn that your menu options are vast. The truth is, you can enjoy complete meals that are so satisfying, you’d forget they’re virtually carb-free. 
Studies consistently show that when people reduce their intake of carbohydrates and enjoy more protein and healthy fats, they ultimately consume fewer calories. This is partially because protein and fat generate a greater feeling of satiety and reduction in appetite. And the recipes below are about as satisfying as you can get.
But first, let’s talk about what carbohydrates are.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a low-carb diet is one in which you limit your daily intake to 20 to 57 grams of carbohydrates, which is around 80 to 240 calories from carbs.
When we eat carbs, our body breaks them down and, if we need the fuel, they’re immediately used as energy. If we don’t need the fuel, the body stores them in our muscles and liver. If we don’t end up using those excess stored carbs, they’re converted to fat.
If weight loss is your goal, you’ll be pleased to hear that people on low-carb diets typically lose more weight faster than those following a low-fat diet. This holds true even when those on a low-fat diet actively restrict calories.
What accounts for the rapid weight loss? Low-carb diets rid the body of excess water, which produces speedy weight loss in the first week or two. There’s also fat loss and, the great news is, a large percentage of that is abdominal fat, harmful adipose tissue linked to serious health issues.
It’s worth noting that to maintain any newly acquired weight loss, you must sustain a healthy, balanced diet and exercise routine.
Healthy, low-carb diets can help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, blood triglycerides (fat molecules that increase your risk of heart disease), blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol. A reduction in carbohydrate intake can also increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke.
In a nutshell, a sensible, low-carb diet can effectively reverse all five key symptoms of metabolic syndrome — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. This cluster of conditions increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and a lower-carb diet can help.
I hate to break the news to you, but cutting out carbohydrates doesn’t mean loading up on bacon.
A nutritious, low-carb diet means one that’s rich in lean protein, healthful fats and nourishing produce. In general, a low-carb menu includes lean meats (sirloin, chicken breast, pork tenderloin), seafood, eggs, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli), nuts and unsweetened nut butters, seeds, oils (coconut, olive, rapeseed), some fruit (apples, blueberries, strawberries) and unsweetened dairy products (plain whole milk, plain Greek yogurt, cheese).
As you can see, the range is huge, which means you shouldn’t feel deprived while eating low-carb. 
The main items to steer clear of are sweets, white breads and pastas, white rice and most starchy foods, including potatoes.
Don’t despair, the recipes below showcase how you can create easy weeknight dinners so delicious, you won’t miss a single carbohydrate.
Pan seared steaks served with a silky blend of fresh spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese and cream feels indulgent, but this one-pan meal couldn’t be easier and is ready in less than 20 minutes.
Makes: 4 servings
You’ll only need one pan, a handful of ingredients for these juicy, parmesan- and herb-spiked meatballs swimming in marinara sauce and blanketed with gooey cheese. Put it all together and let the oven do the work for you.
Makes: 12 meatballs (4 servings)
These tender salmon fillets, scented with sweet butter, fresh lemon and tantalizing Cajun seasoning will bake to perfection in less than 10 minutes.
Makes: 4 servings
Questions or comments? Email the culinary team at cooking@azcentral.com.