Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Funny that my last blog post was about sweet things in the low carb way of eating. I recently noticed I was having the kind of hunger pangs the old Snicker's ads used to celebrate "it's poking at ya, poking at ya". When I started eating low carb, those went away. Conditioning is a powerful thing; my taste buds craving for more sweet, all the time brought them back!
Diet sodas became a regular purchase. I was adding more sweeteners to my tea, making more sweet treats. And gaining weight.
I'm more than 2 weeks into life without regular added sweets. I went 2 weeks with nothing, nadda, zip. Having eaten very low carb for over a year, I'm not getting over sugar like so many in the Official Tame Your Sweet Tooth Challenge. I'm trying to stop having my day be one annoying little craving after another.
Without added sweets, the cravings sort of abated, especially on days when I get plenty of exercise. And by "added sweets" I mean no sweetened drinks, nothing with added sweetener. Eating low carb means that I may have a few berries (usually mixed in ricotta), but no added sugars, no juices, and not much fruit.
I hoped that doing without the sweet tastes for 4 weeks would "reset" my taste buds. I'm doubting it. I put a little stevia glycerite in my morning tea after 2 weeks, and the taste buds said "blech". I definitely don't like just a "hint" of most flavors. If it's sweet, I want it boldly sweet! I seemed to struggle with cravings that day. The next day I doubled the cream in my tea (to 2 tablespoons) and it was a better drink and no cravings.
Last night I made a little fat bomb treat with cocoa, coconut oil, and a little stevia glycerite. Much better, because I will put up with just about anything to get chocolate! And I think having it in the evening is better as it hasn't produced cravings.
I'll keep doubling down on all the foods that celebrate low carb for me, that aren't sweet. Deviled eggs, cheddar, and dill pickles are the first things that come to mind when I have to remember why I can't just buy cookies at the store, or boil up some pasta. My husband and I have both found it easy to quickly plunge close to our goal weights, and for me that means I'm in the "healthy BMI" range. We've maintained for about a year but we're both examining and tweaking to see if we can develop habits that support a lower weight. We'd both like to be past the "holding pattern" of when to replenish our wardrobes.
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Before low carb, my morning started with a hot cup of strong black tea, with milk and sugar. In my low-fat vegetarian experience, I'd made adjustments to reduce the calories, but nothing was a suitable substitute for the 2% milk. Thanks to tracking on SparkPeople, I'd confronted the reality that I was getting up to 400 calories a day from my multiple cups of sweetened tea.
When I adapted to low carb, I had to cut out the sugar. I focused on really enjoying non-sweet foods for the first few weeks, and found that if my sweet tooth wasn't banished, it was at least no longer the dominant impulse! I continually work on having more veggies and non-sweet courses of food, but the availability of dessert is important to my happiness, and that's just how it is!
I've tried many of different non-sugar sweeteners. All of the sweeteners below are appropriate to sweeten tea or coffee, or to add to whipped cream, or to sweeten some ricotta a little bit. I'll save pointers to my favorite low-carb food bloggers and their sweets for another blog entry. If you try a sweetener and don't like it, give it another chance with a 2nd sweetener added. If I'm making something that I want to very much taste like "real" sugar, I'll usually include 3 different sweeteners.
I avoid all of the newer big company stevia blends in the grocery store. Sad artifact of our food laws and supplement laws in the US, is that you'll find the more natural non-sugar sweeteners labeled as "supplements".
My first discovery was that aspartame (Equal) seemed to trigger my rosacea to flush. That finding was an interesting benefit to adapting to low carb. The primary benefit was in my taste buds being more open to new tastes.
Even if you have a well-stocked natural foods store available, you might find that Amazon is the most convenient way to find these sweeteners. It is a bummer to get to the store and find they're out of what I'm in need of that day!
Stevia - before low carb, I'd tried and detested the aftertaste. When I gave it another try, I could taste the sweet. I started with Kal Pure Stevia Extract, a power that comes in a salt-shaker sized bottle. It is important to be careful to find the literal "sweet spot", because you cross that line and the yucky aftertaste really takes over. This comes with a tiny spoon, and you might want to start with one tiny spoonful in your coffee or tea.
Stevia Glycerite - This liquid product mixes stevia into a vegetable glycerin base. I bought the NOW Better Stevia brand. Get a 2 oz bottle at first, in case you don't like it. This formulation is much more forgiving, and I can actually get something "too sweet" without tasting the stevia aftertaste. Like stevia, the flavor is not affected by cooking. As with other highly concentrated sweet flavors, it can't substitute for sugar in cookies or other recipes where the sugar is part of the "body" of the food. I put 3 or 4 drops in a spoon first (to make sure I'm not adding too much), then stir it into my tea.
Sucralose - This is the highly concentrated artificial sweetener found in Splenda. When provided in the packets, or in the granulated version that measures like sugar, it is mixed with other ingredients, primarily dextrose and maltodextrin, which contain carbs. A better and tastier way to enjoy sucralose as a sweetener is EZ Sweetz. I get it on Amazon. Look for the 2oz - 800 servings per bottle version. A drop is about a teaspoon worth of sugar flavor. For my picky eater husband this product is the difference between success and failure with low carb. I have granular Splenda around, and will occasionally add some to baked goods.
Erythritol - This sugar alcohol is available in granulated and powdered forms. It adds about 2/3 the sweetness of sugar, but is not digested by the body, isn't believed to spike insulin, and doesn't cause the digestive distress of malitol, another sugar alcohol. This product does brown a bit, so it is found in many great low-carb recipes. It gives a "cool" sensation in the mouth that can be a draw-back. Sometimes xanthan gum is added to recipes to dampen that affect. Don't know how or why it works, sorry!
Xylitol - Very similar to Erythritol, and preferred by some. Xylitol is hazardous to dogs, and I have four greyhounds (AKA "dishlickers"), so I just don't use xylitol. If you don't have dogs, I don't know of any drawbacks.
Malitol - you won't find this for sale to consumers, but it is the most-frequently listed sugar alcohol in commercially prepared sweet things for low carbers and diabetics. If you eat too much of it, you'll get gas other digestive upset. You will develop a fondness for Gas-X pills, but that won't help. If you can't stop yourself from nibbling on tasty chocolates, you might not want to have any of it in the house. But it won't kill you. And you can really satisfy chocolate cravings if you're missing fabulously mass-produced chocolate crap. I suppose a review of these is another blog entry, too. My husband is somewhat reliant on the Atkins bars to get him through the day, but I figure they're still better than how he ate before, so it is a reasonable trade-off.
Thursday, January 09, 2014
I've been on the "flexitarian" spectrum for over 20 years. No land meats, but I've been on and off with fish. When eating a low-carb diet, that means that cheese = joy.
While cheeses are generally low-carb, it is still a good idea to read the labels. Even better to go to the SELF Nutrition Data tool to see how many grams of carbs turn up when you select the largest portion size given, so you can spot the cheeses that have 2x - 4x the carbs of others. This doesn't make them forbidden, just something you want to keep an eye on. No messing around with reduced fat cheeses or the skim milk version; higher carbs.
After spending months and months in the low-fat vegetarian weight loss mode, really going high fat was a mental obstacle. Cheese was there to help me through it!
Cheese on salad - shredded, grated, or grilled as croutons. If you're having to survive a meal from a salad bar, cheese and salad dressings are going to provide the bulk of your calories... just reverse all the "how not to sabotage your diet at the salad bar" guidance you've ever read!
Cheese your soup - adding some creamed cheese to your soup is about all it takes to achieve "Low Carb Cream of ____" soup. Cream of mushroom soup is as easy as cooking chopped onion and celery in some olive oil, adding mushrooms, cooking, then adding broth and cream cheese.
Cheese as crackers and crisps - microwave on parchment paper or a paper plate until it starts to brown. OMG. I've had good results with little bits of deluxe american cheese, and with a thin layer of shredded cheese. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, and paprika before cooking for extra pow.
Cheese for dessert - A little mascarpone or ricotta, heated or cold, mixed with a little flavor like cinnamon. Try sweetening with some stevia glycerite if you're appeasing the sweet craving. Or top with a small portion of sliced strawberries.
Cheese your vegetables - This George Stella recipe for cauliflower "mac & cheese" shows the way. www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/george-s
Cheese plate your cheese - When I really want to appreciate the savory things, I arrange a plate with 2 or 3 different cheeses, some nuts, olives, and pickles. Not nearly as elegant packed in baggies, but it also works as a packed lunch.
Convenient cheese - I buy cheddar and whole milk mozzarella in blocks, but I keep shredded cheese and pre-sliced cheese around, too. Sometimes it takes making things quick and convenient to get in the way of other urges. My husband never thought he'd make himself a hot breakfast every morning, but if shredded cheese and low carb tortillas make his low carb breakfast burritos happen, they've earned a spot in the fridge.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Part of my low carb experience has been adapting 20 years of more plant-based experience to living without grains and without most meats. I went many years eating fish only occasionally, but it is currently a regular part of my diet. It is otherwise challenging to keep carbs low enough without resorting constantly to processed protein powders.
One excellent resource for a keto adapted / low carb high fat diet is "The Art and Science of Low Carb Living", written by two of the authors of "New Atkins for a New You". The idea of a "well-formulated low carbohydrate diet" is repeatedly mentioned. And what does that mean? Basically, get some veggies with your bacon, avoid relying on processed foods, and understand good fats.
One of my habits is to regularly make salads that try to hit some of those "well-formulated" points. My selection of greens and fats (from dressings, nuts, and cheese) is intended to help boost the nutrition I'm getting as well as to make me really, really happy with my salad.
My salads almost always start with romaine lettuce and baby spinach. This will provide far more micro-nutrients than iceberg lettuce. If my family weren't so picky I'd throw a selection of baby greens in there, but for now, we keep it simple. I worked slowly up to about a 50/50 blend.
Buying my lettuce bunched instead of pre-bagged is not much extra work, and the flavor is much better. Baby spinach, on the other hand, is so handy pre-washed in the large box. Because the leaves aren't torn, they don't start to get bitter. A salad spinner comes in very handy for washing and drying the lettuce. I usually tear the leaves into bite size (if I won't be shredding them) and then add the baby spinach before spinning. My standard salad has about 2 cups of lettuce and spinach per serving.
Dressings are an amazing part of the low-carb salad experience. You can readily find dressings that are 1g of carbs or less per 2 TBLS serving. Trader Joe's has a good selection of them. Some of the "Follow Your Heart" vegan dressings are also good choices. Read the labels, and give preference to those with no added sugar, and those not based on soy or corn oil. Part of that "well-formulated" equation is working a higher portion of Omega-3 fatty acids into our diet, which has become heavily skewed to Omega-6. Other than making these choices, I'm not tracking how much of each I get or trying to reach a specific ratio.
I put the dressing on first and toss well. This will help the other salad elements stay mixed in better, instead of slipping to the bottom. I usually add cheese next, just a TBLS or two per serving. Parmesan or romano add a sharp flavor, crumbled cotija (a Mexican cheese that is feta-like in texture, but milder in flavor), or cheddar are all tasty and low-carb options. Fine-grated cheeses spread the flavor all over, shreds give a little more "cheesy" experience, and chunks (especially fried "grilling" cheese) stand in for croutons.
If my salad will be my entree, I add two chopped hard-boiled eggs, or other protein. My daily protein requirement is about 75g, so I target 20g or so per meal, and moderate amounts in my snacks.
The final touch is nuts or seeds. These take the place of croutons. Almonds are a great low-carb choice, and Smokehouse almonds can really wake up a salad. My favorite is roasted and salted pepitas, because they're light and crunchy.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations, all on the romaine and spinach base:
Ranch dressing, cotija cheese, and pepitas (also excellent with chopped hard boiled eggs)
Salsa, shredded cheese, and warm taco meat (or in my case, taco-seasoned fake meat "crumbles")
Lemon-herb dressing and shrimp (also great with just baby spinach, no romaine)
Caesar dressing, fried "grilling cheese", and grated Parmesan (hubby particularly likes this with chicken and crumbled bacon).
My final "bonus ingredient" for salads is capers. They add a little pop of bright, salty flavor, but be careful not to over-do. They will overwhelm everything else.
Monday, December 02, 2013
I had a #2 blog on Low Carb done last week (on cheeses), but when I went to post it gave me a snippy "No HTML" message and my blog went poof. I have to go look up the cheese data again, but I'm done pouting, so I'm ready to talk pizza.
So many people say they can't imagine eating low carb because they'd have to give up ... a long list of yummy stuff. It is really hard to start from that mindset, certainly. I started thinking about enjoying lots of cheese and olives and pickles and just forgot about my carb-laden favorites long enough to adjust.
But going without pizza... that's just unthinkable! In the event of a pizza emergency, a low carber can just buy a pizza (or a slice, depending on the scale of the emergency) and eat the toppings (cheese, meat, veggies, whatever!)
To add pizza to your regular meals, you'll need to make your own. I've got a flax-based recipe if someone wants to beg for it, but the link below is amazingly tasty and crispy. *This is not my recipe, I found it by Googling "keto holy grail pizza".*
The only modification I make is that I mix with a spoon, not by hand (found it much too sticky for that) and I add a few tablespoons of ground flax seed instead of any additional almond flour. Be sure to read the comments for other good hints on rolling it out. Shredding your own cheese minimizes the carb count, but takes more time. Most recently I've made this with a shredded cheddar and jack blend from Kirkland.
Roll the crust out onto a cookie sheet. I line mine with parchment, so it is later easier to move off the pan to cut. Bake the crust, then add toppings and return to the oven.
Pizza sauce is pretty easy to find, but check to make sure no sugar is added. Trader Joe's sauce has added sugar. Muir Glen Organic Pizza sauce is my favorite, and widely available. It has just 4g net carbs per 1/4 cup, which is more than enough for a pan of pizza.
Top with your choice of cheese. I usually shred whole milk mozzarella. I put it back in the oven at 425 and bake until I get some toasty brown spots, about 10 minutes.
This crust browns beautifully, and has a wonderful crispness. I sometimes make a double batch for a thick crust. Thin or thick, you can pick up a piece and hold it... just like pizza!
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