Monday, November 02, 2009

The Low-Carb Thing

For several months now, we've had a dietary shift of direction here...well, I have, and Alex and Bella have been along for the ride a little bit. What I've given up entirely are sugar and refined grains and potatoes, and I only consume the tiniest bit of whole grains. It's something I've known I should do for a long time, but it just sounded so HARD. No sugar? No cherry Coke from Sonic in the afternoon? No crackers with my cheese? NO BREAD? How would I live?

I did a lot of reading, with the major influencers of the plan I ultimately chose being Gary Taubes' scared-straight treatise on food and obesity, Michael Pollan's books, and the books and websites of the Drs. Eades. This is NOT some crazy, high-fat orgy of cholesterol...I'm not having bacon and bacon sandwiches with bacon chips on the side. But I'm also absolutely not worrying about things like saturated fat at present. I may get to a point where weight loss slows down enough that I DO have to start paying some attention to denser-calorie choices, but it hasn't happened yet. The light-bulb moment for me was realizing that humans have zero nutritional need for cereal grains. None. It's something that just hadn't ever occurred to me before.

To tell the truth, it hasn't been that hard, really. In exchange for the things I was giving up, I got to stop worrying about some other things, like fat content and calorie-counting. I very rarely even have to count the carb content in the food I'm eating, because once you learn the basics, it's just super-easy to keep each meal or snack coming in at 1o grams net carbohydrate or less. You basically just load up on quality proteins, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables--all you want. The only thing I even have to halfway watch are my fruits, but I stick to the high-fiber fruits, mostly, so even then it's pretty much cruise control. My big indulgence is a bit of 85% cocoa chocolate almost every day.

What I like: Not having to "fuss" with calories, fat grams, points, portions, etc. Losing weight steadily and easily. Having ZERO G.I. issues (which, if you've been with me for a while, you know were a SERIOUS problem for me). Having fewer headaches. Never feeling "bloated" or overfull. Never feeling hungry.

What I don't like: Lack of convenience and "quick and lazy" options. Picking up a sandwich or tossing a frozen pizza in the oven, while still an option for Alex or Bella, isn't an option for me. Many, many more trips to the grocery store than I'm used to making--lots of fresh food means frequent re-stocking of the fridge. Lack of variety in snacking (this may just be my personal lack of imagination, but I wind up having the same snacks over and over, mostly different kinds of nuts and cheese).

What I miss: Crackers and milk. That's pretty much it. I do occasionally work a glass of milk into my day, but I really have to plan for it. Likewise, high-fiber crackers are not out of the question, but they do have to be worked in carefully. This doesn't really fit my usual cracker-eating style, which begins with an open box and ends when there are no more crackers. For my crunch-cravings, I'm pretty much left with almonds.

I don't always manage to stay on the straight-and-narrow with this way of eating--I usually mess it up when I'm tired or in a hurry. My biggest temptation is sushi, and every time I have some, I wind up feeling bloated and gross...and that's just because of rice.

Anyway, I wanted to post about it, because I know there are a lot more of you out there who've been doing this longer than I have, and that you'll have great suggestions and more to think about. Got some protein-dense snack ideas? Conversions of recipes that would traditionally be carb-laden? I'm eating tons of Blue Diamond Bold almonds and making tons of vegetable casseroles. A recent dinner was shrimp scampi with broccoli and whipped cauliflower gratin with carmelized onions--and it was perfect. I need more meals like that on my menu!


  1. Ask your local sushi chef to make you a sashimi plate, you get all the awesomeness of sushi without the bloat of rice. I've been doing this for three years now and I don't miss the rice at all.

  2. I'm not sure that I could give up the pasta. Doesn't shrimp scampi have pasta? I can give up potatoes, easy. I can give up bread, most of it. Pasta would be really hard. Also I put milk and sugar in my coffee each morning, I can give up one or the other, but I can't do it black.

  3. A low-carb snack that I love is to wrap a pickle wedge with ham and cheese with a little dab of mayo/mustard. You cut it into slices that you can pop in your mouth. Use the rectangular slices of ham, lay a slice of swiss cheese on top of a slice of ham, smear a little bit of the mayo/mustard (this is to your taste) around leaving one edge clean. Lay a pickle wedge on the other edge and roll up. I let the roll sit, seam side down for a few minutes to form before slicing, but you can poke toothpicks in and then slice, if you want.

    Where did you find the recipe for the cauliflower gratin? That sounds yummy!

  4. Sharon, that's a good tip. I've also found that they're willing to cook things to order without cornstarch or breading, if I just ask.

    Pasta: My friend Angie at Home Grown ( turned me on to Dreamfields pasta. I have tried every low-carb pasta out there, and found them all to be about equal to cardboard in taste and texture. This stuff, however, is really great. Totally equal to "regular" pasta. I was amazed to find it in my local Kroger. I'm not sure I buy their net carb math, but I do know that I can eat a full serving of it with no bloat or GI symptoms, so I'm coming around.

    Tammy, that's a darn good snack idea, thanks!

    The cauliflower recipe is originally from my friend Julie, and it's delish! The key is in extracting as much liquid from the cooked cauliflower as possible before baking. You can pretty much make it up however you like. Basically, it's cooked cauliflower, blended in a food processor or mixer with butter, sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, whatever! This last time, I cooked 3-4 strips of bacon, then used the fat from that to carmelize red onions. Then I mixed in all the other stuff, crumbled in the bacon, topped with cheese and baked 30 minutes at 350.

  5. If it works for you, it works. I lost 60 pounds on LC, and have kept 50 of it off for over six years now. It's not all that difficult - and on maintenance, I do indulge (like this past weekend, or pizza!!) but I concentrate more on veggies and protein. (And a bucket of red wine.)

  6. Oooh, Nina, I'm so glad you shared that, because I've followed your rockin' bod for so long now--it's good to know how you did it! Perhaps "buckets of wine" are the missing component for me? Heh.

  7. I like string cheese and hard boiled eggs as quick and easy snacks. Besides nuts I find a piece or two of bacon to be excellent for the "crunch-cravings." I cook extra bacon on the weekend and then have it precooked in the fridge for when the cravings hit.

  8. I modified this from a Food and Wine recipe to take out the bread crumbs. It is delicious and vegetarian, though probably adding ham would be tasty, too.
    With my modifications:
    Sautéed Cauliflower Frittata with Thyme
    Recipe by Nancy Silverton
    Nancy Silverton often prepares a tender frittata for her antipasti table at La Terza in Los Angeles. Makes a meal.


    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 medium head of cauliflower cut into 1-inch florets (2 cups)
    Sea salt
    1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
    3 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    10 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

    2 teaspoons thyme leaves
    1 tbs oregano
    1 cup grated parmesan cheese, or 3 cheese mix (Asiago, Romano, Parmesan)


    1. In a 10-inch, nonstick, oven-proof skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil. Add the cauliflower florets, season with sea salt and cook over high heat, without stirring, until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Toss the cauliflower florets in the pan and cook until golden brown all over and just-tender, about 3 minutes longer. Add the sliced onion and 1 tablespoon of the butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate, add the garlic and cook until it is softened, about 1 minute longer. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and swirl the pan to melt it.

    2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs with 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt.

    3. Turn on your oven broiler. Pour the eggs over the cauliflower and cook, without stirring, until the bottom of the frittata is just set, about 2 minutes. Lift the edges of the frittata and tilt the pan to allow the uncooked egg mixture to seep underneath. Continue cooking the frittata until the bottom is golden and the top is just slightly runny, about 3 minutes.

    4.Sprinkle cheese and herb mixture over the frittata and broil until it is just set, about 3 minutes longer. Let the cheese topping get golden and slightly crispy. Remove from broiler and let sit for a moment to cool, then serve.

    Make Ahead
    The frittatas can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

  9. So glad I read all these tips - now I'm motivated to get off the computer and go fix something good to eat!

  10. Turkey pepperoni is sold near lunchmeat, in bags, already sliced up. It is delicious! You can even microwave it a little to crisp it up which my son does after drizzling tabasco sauce on.