Low Carb Zucchini Fries

Low Carb Zucchini Fries RecipeI consider zucchini to be the “Swiss Army Knife” of summer vegetables since there are so many different ways to prepare it – both as a main course as well as a side dish. Though fresh zucchinis can be had year round in most locales, it’s at its best during the summer months. I’m a big believer in the strategy of consuming fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. Zucchini also are easy to grow in backyard gardens provided you have sufficient space to let the vines roam. The following recipe is just one of many ways to prepare a healthy and tasty side dish using zucchini.


Though this recipe won’t make you forget McDonald’s fries, it will hopefully begin to gently lead you towards a path of choosing healthier and lower carb side dishes. There are quite a few recipes out there for zucchini fries, but I’ve found them to still be a little too heavy on the starchy carbs for my liking. Most use flour and breadcrumbs to provide a crispy coating to the fries. This is great, but through a little experimenting, I’ve managed to come up with something just as good that doesn’t add to the glycemic load of the recipe and is also much simpler to prepare since it eliminates a few extra steps. The other recipes require that you first dredge the zucchini strips in flour and then dunk them into egg before another dredging operation into breadcrumbs. We’re gonna skip all that and get right into cooking up some zucchini fries!

It’s Officially Zucchini Season 2015!

With zucchini’s popping out in gardens all over now that it’s summer, why not take advantage of all the great ways to enjoy them? Besides this fantastic low-carb baked zucchini fries recipe, there’s also zoodles. In the video below, I demonstrate how to use a simple Vegetti slicer to make oodles of zoodles! It also includes a delicious recipe for combining them with a low-carb version of Chicken Parmesan.

These fries can either be served as a side dish or can also be served on their own as an appetizer. Hold the ketchup and serve them with a dip of hot marinara sauce or cold homemade salsa. Bring these out to your friends during your next Super Bowl party and see how they react.

Servings: 2

low carb zucchini fries nutrition info

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium size zucchini
  • ½ C Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Peel the zucchini with a potato peeler and cut into strips ¼” thick and about 3” long
  3. Pour 2 Tbsp of olive oil into a glass baking dish and dump the “fries” into it. Lightly toss the fries until well-coated with olive oil.

    Sliced Zucchini Fries

  4. Dump Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper onto a plate and sift together using a fork.
  5. Place several fries at a time into the Parmesan cheese mixture. Roll the zucchini strips over several times in the mixture making sure that they are thoroughly coated on both sides with cheese.
  6. Place the zucchini strips in uniform rows on the cookie sheet. You don’t need much spacing between them, but you may need a second cookie sheet depending on how many fries you wound up with.
    Baked Zucchini Fries
  7. Sprinkle the remaining olive oil using a metal soup spoon evenly over the tops of the fries.
  8. Bake the fries for 10 minutes and then remove from the oven. Carefully flip them over using a spatula and then place back into the oven for another 10 minutes or until well-browned.
  9. Remove fries from oven and server immediately – either as a side dish or as an appetizer with one of the aforementioned dipping sauces.

Checkout More of Our Delicious Low Carb Recipes Here!




Low Carb One Minute Cheesecake

low carb one minute cheesecakeIn the lowcarber’s on-going quest to find low-carb versions of traditional dishes from the high-carb world, there exist the ones from the pastry world. I won’t bother to enumerate any of them here. The list is legion and I’m sure you just rattled off at least a dozen in your head while reading the previous sentences. It’s a world you’re better off leaving completely behind. But if you insist on going there, then you need to be aware of the preparation challenges with adapting these temptations to your way of eating.

The crux of the problem with pastries of most kinds is twofold and comes down to finding suitable substitutions for two major ingredients: flour and sugar. Without these key ingredients why even bother? Cauliflower double-fudge brownies anyone?

The essential challenges are finding substitutes for refined white flour and that sweetest of all ingredients: sugar. There are nut flours you can choose from and coconut flour isn’t a bad one. It tastes like coconut and is sort of sweet and you can always use baking powder and/or tapioca flour for low-carb forms of leavening. Where the typical sugar substitutes fall short when it comes to baking is lack of caramelizing properties at least for most of them. But what if there was a sweet treat that just about everyone craves that doesn’t use flour and can do just fine without caramelization?

If I had obscured the delicacy in question in the title of this post, I bet it would have taken you a while to come up with it, unless of course you’re a cheesecake fanatic. After all what is cheesecake, besides a big ole hunk of cream cheese, combined with eggs and a ton of sugar? Baking a cheese cake is typically a rather involved, time-consuming process. My Aunt Mary’s “Light as air fluffy cheese cake” is a rather big production, but oh so worth it. I’m providing the link to the recipe on her blog for information purposes only. You’ve been warned! Oh, and be sure to watch the video she recorded.

I found this microwave version of a single-serving cheese cake on Facebook. I’ve adapted it to replace the sugar with a few drops of liquid stevia. When it comes to cooking and dressings, substituting Swanson Vitamins’ liquid stevia will make you swear that real sugar was used. I lied in the title. Actual preparation time is somewhat under five minutes with a cooking time of ninety seconds. And of course you need to let it chill in the fridge for a few hours prior to eating. That’s a true test of your willpower!

Note-1: This recipe doesn’t use a crust. As you probably know, most cheesecakes have a streusel type crust made from either crushed graham crackers or bread crumbs. It also uses quite a bit of sugar along with butter. Honestly, I don’t really miss the crust. I was thinking about making a faux crust using almond flour, but I think the crunchy granularity of the sugar would be missed in this case.

Note-2: Portion control tip. I’ve mustered the discipline to consume exactly half a mini cheesecake per sitting. My typical routine – when I have some on hand – is to eat half with my afternoon coffee (great combo!), and then finish the remaining half as dessert after dinner or as an evening snack. It sounds really hard, but it’s a great way to manage both appetite and cravings.

cheesecake-label

Ingredients:

low-carb cheesecake ingredients

  • 2 oz cream cheese softened
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 6-8 drops liquid stevia
  • Small ramekin for “baking”

Directions:

  1. Place cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and soften (about 20-30s on High).
    softened cream cheese
  2. Add remaining ingredients and whisk together.
    low-carb cheesecake batter
  3. Pour batter into small ramekin and microwave on High for 90s. Stir gently after 30s. Recheck at 60s and only stir if still soupy.
    one minute microwave cheesecake
  4. Chill in fridge for at least one hour.
  5. (Optional) top with fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries or if you’re feeling really decadent; sugar-free jam.



Workout Like a Convict

workout like an inmateMy preferred form of exercise is weight training. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was fifteen and I credit it with setting the foundation for a reasonable degree of muscularity and strength which I’ve managed to retain to this day at the advanced age of 58. I began lifting weights in the basement of my parents’ home and have continued this practice across several gyms during the intervening years. I’ve had lapses where I’ve taken an extended hiatus, but I’ve always gone back to lifting. I suppose it gets under your skin and in your blood somehow.

Recently, I’ve begun taking some of my workouts at home. There’s no basement in my current home and there’s pretty much no extra space available. I also didn’t feel like investing in a bunch of new weight lifting equipment, but since there wasn’t any place to put it, this was never a viable option. The only alternative was to conduct some form of resistance training in a very confined space. I wonder who else manages to do this.

Please don’t think that I’m making light of the situation faced by inmates. I’m not. They’re serving their debt to society and make do under some rather harsh conditions to say the least. Prison life is often associated with endless periods of weight lifting out in the “yard” and it seems that just about all inmates are jacked beyond all reasonable belief. The reality is that many prisons have removed weights and weight lifting equipment from their facilities, most infamously, at San Quentin. This has forced inmates to resort to improvised workout routines using mostly body weight movements within the confines of their tiny cells. I’m perpetually grateful for my freedom, but I borrowed some ideas from the guys on the inside to build my own home workout routine.

These sorts of workouts typically combine resistance training along with an aerobic element. They are essentially old school circuit training routines (remember the “Universal” gym?). Nowadays, these kind of routines are referred to as intervals or HIIT (high intensity interval training). There is a core set of exercises that are performed in quick succession with minimal rest between exercises. This is what gets the heart pumping. The exercises are often a mix of cardio style exercises such as burpees, knee ups, mountain climbers, etc. along with resistance movements like pushups, chins, and floor dips. A longer rest period is taken between intervals or circuits prior to commencing the next round. Progression is achieved by increasing the number of intervals, shortening the rest period between exercises and intervals, and increasing the number of reps for the exercises. This kind of routine can really get you sweating – as I can attest – and they don’t need to turn into extended marathons to get decent results. A productive workout can be had for under thirty minutes with some consisting of only twelve minutes or all-out effort [ref. 12min workouts]

My Thirty Minute Interval Workout

I’m fortunate to have a few small pieces of exercise accessories and equipment as an old pair of adjustable dumbbells, which are fixed with the full complement of plates to attain a pair of 20lb bells. In addition, I have a long foam yoga mat which I used for pre-workout stretching and bench pressing, an over-door chinning bar, a jump rope, and some improvised items such as a tennis ball “foam roller,” and a wooden chair for dips and seated dumbbell movements. I’ve listed the primary muscles worked along with any supporting muscles groups for each exercise.

Pre-workout Stretching Routine

At my advanced age, it’s mandatory that I get in a thorough stretching session prior to jumping into the main interval workout. Long gone are the days when I could start my workout with near max weights without fear of pulling something. I allow a good 10 minutes to stretch out my entire body – especially my torso and lower back which always seem to be stiff and knotted these days. I use an improvised “foam roller” which is simply a tube sock stuffed full of old tennis balls.

  • Roll entire body from shoulders down to calves paying particular attention of knotted muscles (trigger points)
    yoga mat with tennis ball roller
  • Rib grabs to loosen shoulders while resting knee on “roller”
  • Alternating arm back stroke to loose shoulders
  • Bridges to loosen hamstrings and lower back

First Interval

(about 20 seconds effort + 10 seconds rest)

  • Jump rope (cardio)
    jump rope with chair
  • Air squats (quads)
  • Paint can deadlifts (simulates kettle bell – hamstrings and glutes)
    paint can deadlifts
  • Dumbbell bench press on yoga mat (just need to get arms to 90 degrees at bottom – chest)
  • Chin ups on bar (lats and delts)
    over door chin bar
  • Standing dumbbell curls (biceps)
  • Chair dips (triceps and shoulder)
  • Plank (use timer to go as long as possible – core)
    plank timer for core
  • Cool down from plank position doing yoga poses
  • Rest 1 minute

Second Interval

  • Jump rope (cardio)
  • Lunges (10 per side – quads)
  • One legged pistols (hamstrings and glutes)
  • Pushups (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  • Dumbbell bent over rows (lats, biceps, shoulders)
  • Pullups on bar (biceps, lats, shoulders)
  • Seated triceps dumbbell press (triceps)
  • Plank (core)

    rolled up yoga mat

    All Done!

I apologize for not having pics of the actual exercises. At some point, I’ll enlist the help of a photographer friend to take those. In the mean time here are some links to give you a better idea of some of the exercises and workouts.

  • Krista at 12minuteathlete.com has some really creative routines that don’t require weights or a gym membership. She’s also quite an inspiration.
  • NerdFitness.com has some good improvised resistance training ideas.
  • Though I’m not much of a fan of CrossFit, the CF warmup video on this page has some very good body weight movements.

 

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Pumpkin Cage: Jason Gillman



Low Carb Breading for Fish or Chicken

low carb breading for fish and chickenI’ll state at the outset that I’m not a fish lover nor am I’m much of a seafood lover in general. Apart from shrimp and a can of tuna now and then, I get along quite well without the stuff. However, I know intuitively, and I’m constantly reminded from various sources, that fish is not only a healthy source of protein, but certain cold water types such as salmon, cod, and mackerel are great sources for the much vaunted omega-3 fatty acid.

Of those three varieties of cold water fish, I’m willing to make an exception for salmon, but only if it’s thoroughly spiced and/or drenched in some kind of sauce. Can’t have any of that fishy taste getting through! Below is a hilarious discussion by Jim Gaffigan with David Letterman on how much he hates fish and seafood in general. Warning: if you love clams and oysters, you probably should watch with caution!

In order to cover my fatty acid bases, I try to get a somewhat balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. I attempt to achieve this by simultaneously reducing my omega-6 consumption while increasing omega-3 consumption via supplements, from plant sources, as well as from occasionally eating salmon or canned tuna.

But the main reason I attempt to work fish into my diet is to add some variety beyond just eating chicken and ground beef for dinner every night. There are only so many bunless burgers and variations of baked chicken someone eating low-carb can manage – both gastronomically as well as emotionally.

Without too much of a stretch, I think it’s safe to say that the most popular preparation method for fish, in terms of taste and texture, is to bread and fry it.

sushi

Sushi, a dark place I don’t go.

A close second would be sushi, but sushi restaurants aren’t typically on my culinary itinerary. There are breaded and fried fish fillets of all kinds and in fact, there is an entire group of fish that are termed “pan fish” after this particular cooking method. Sunfish, bluegills, and perch are all pan fish. Catfish and any other white fish including, the ever-present tilapia (trash fish), can be breaded and fried up in a pan of hot grease. However, my preferred variety of fish to fry these days is flounder.

The suggested (healthy) cooking methods for all sorts of food, going back several decades, have been to eschew frying for: baking, poaching, grilling, and any other method, including raw consumption, to reduce the fat content of the dish. As we’ve come to find out over time, this across the board fear of fat has been unwarranted. Now that’s not to say that heavily-battered, deep-fried, low-quality such as fish and chips is in any way close to a healthy meal. However, I won’t deny that it is indeed a delicious indulgence and is wonderfully complemented by a pint or two.

The challenge I’ve been faced with is to prepare a fried flounder fillet using a low-carb or at the very least, lower-carb breading, and then fry it in healthy fats. The frying part was quickly and easily solved. The breading part is one that continues to challenge/vex low-carb cooks the world over and though there is certainly no shortage of ingredients that can be substituted for refined white flour, cornstarch, and breadcrumbs, most come up short in the texture and taste department and usually both. Below are just a few off the top of my head:

  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Crushed pork rinds
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Ground cauliflower ( I think)

I haven’t managed to work my way through the relatively short list above, but have tried almond flour, pork rinds, and Parmesan cheese, singly and in combination. As far as pork rinds, I suppose I’m too much of a food snob to take them seriously and it was a long time before out of desperation for flour-based breading substitute that I relented and gave them a try. Yuck! No offense to pork rind lovers, and I know there a many out there, but they don’t work for me.

I’ve found Parmesan cheese to be a very effective coating for chicken, but only when baked. I’ve combined it with almond flour with very disappointing results. I’m curious about coconut flour as it’s something I’ve never tried, but at the point more interested in using it for baking. Cauliflower is something I’ve only recently acquired a taste for, but prefer it as nature intended it to be consumed: as a vegetable side dish, though the riced cauliflower as a substitute for white rice in stirfrys and even the pizza crust made from cauliflower look interesting, though much more work than smearing sauce on a low-carb tortilla.

breading flakes off

Just say no to flakes!

To date, the most acceptable substitute for white flour that I’ve found is almond flour, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s nothing more that ground up almond nuts without a trace of gluten to be found. Not containing gluten along with having much lower starch content would ordinarily be a good thing – at least from a nutritional standpoint if you’re eating low-carb or are gluten-sensitive. However, it doesn’t lend itself well to either baking or using it for breading.

egg dip for breading

Just say no to wasting a precious egg!

The stickiness of gluten makes for better behavior in both cases. I’ve found that mixing almond flour with some other non-flour ingredient such as cheese or other nut flour doesn’t work too well as a meat or fish breading even when using an egg dip. An egg dip makes breading such as bread crumbs or cornflakes adhere better, but isn’t necessary when using flours. It makes for a sticky mess and is also a waste of a completely good egg!

I found that almond flour on its own or in combination does not adhere very well to what it’s supposed to be coating. It would crisp up nicely in the frying pan only to flake off and burn up in the hot oil. The purpose of a breading is to seal in the natural juices of the meat or fish and provide a crispy outer shell. Think Southern fried chicken… or perhaps you shouldn’t.

flour mixture for breading

Not abstract art.

Again, I’ve been forced to settle for another “Nutritional Compromise” and use a scant amount of refined white flour to leverage the cooking benefits it provides while subjecting myself to some of its not so nice nutritional qualities. In the end, the relatively small amount of white flour used – less than 1 Tbsp – hasn’t seemed to have had a negative impact on either my weight, digestive system, or level of carb cravings.

Of course, I’m well aware that this particular compromise is unworkable for those with a sensitivity to gluten as any amount usually causes issues and it may be problematic for those eating a strict ketogenic diet, though I’m willing to bet that even those folks could probably tolerate it and not find themselves thrown out of ketosis. The very minimal amount of white flour shouldn’t cause problems. If you can tolerate low-carb items containing wheat, such as tortillas, then this is in the same category.

Fried Flounder Recipe

By way of example, here’s a recipe for fried flounder that uses the tweaked breading ingredients. I’ve come to enjoy this recipe so much that I now have it once a week for dinner to break up the monotony of chicken and hamburger. I use a preparation step to reduce the fish taste of the founder. How and if this technique actually works I have no idea. It’s an old school trick and seems to work for me – at least psychologically. As a final “de-fishification” step, I squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fillet. I need all the help I can get in order to eat fish!

Nutritional Information:

breading nutrition label

Breading Nutrition Label

fried flounder nutrition label

Fried Flounder Nutrition Label

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium flounder fillet
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small lemon
  • dried parsley flakes

For the Breading:

  • 1/4c milk
  • 1 Tbsp white flour
  • 1 Tbsp almond flour
  • dash ground black pepper
  • dash garlic powder
  • dash paprika

Directions:

  1. Soak fish in a small bowl of milk for at least 15 minutes.
    soak fish in milk
  2. Thoroughly mix breading ingredients on a plate.
  3. Heat non-stick skillet and add butter and EVOO.
    frying oils
  4. Carefully remove fish from milk and gently squeeze out excess milk. Don’t want fish too moist.
  5. Dredge both sides of fillet through breading mixture. Use a metal soup spoon to distribute mixture on fillet.
  6. Fry fillet in oil until crispy brown on both sides – about 4 minutes per side.
  7. Sprinkle ground black pepper and dried parsley flakes on fillet and let cook a few more seconds.
    fried fish fillet
  8. Remove fillet from pan onto serving dish. Squeeze juice from lemon over fillet.

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Sushi: priyanphoenix
  • Flakes: dhester
  • Eggs: Scarletina

 




Pros and Cons of Low Carb Diets – Part 1

steak and saladThe topic of the risks and benefits of low-carb diets will probably turn into a series of posts. It’s a big topic requiring some degree of analysis and contemplation. To kick off the series, I’ll begin with a single post on the pros of low-carb eating. I think the cons will need to be broken out into at least two. Hey, might as well start out by saying a few nice things about one of my favorite ways of eating before digging into it’s risks when over-zealously embraced and promoted.

Before we begin, it’s important to define some parameters as to degree and demarcation of what constitutes low-carb. It’s easy to assume that low-carb eating means being in a state of constant ketosis via a ketogenic diet. It’s the condition of “Perpetual Atkins Induction,” which is defined as 20g of carbs or less per day. If that number isn’t already permanently etched into your brain, then be sure to remember it. We’ll be coming back to it shortly.

From what I can tell, nutritionists (the mainstream variety) consider anything under 200g of carbs per day to be low-carb. Some may set the cutoff a tad lower and call it at 150g per day. Folks in the low-carb and associated communities tend to consider 150g per day as a full-on carbo binge and a recipe for developing t2 diabetes. For the sake of this discussion, let’s classify low-carb eating to be in the range from zero carbs to 200g of carbs per day. There are some categories within low-carb with the ketogenic diet being at the lowest end of the range:

  • Ketogenic Diet or Very Low Carb Diet (VLC): 0-50g
  • Low Carb Diet: 50-130g
  • Reduced Carb Diet: 130-200g
  • Balanced Diet: 200-300g
  • High Carb Diet (high-activity): >300g

When I first embarked on low-carb eating almost twenty years ago, I bought into all the purported benefits and advantages of reducing carbohydrate intake to an ever vanishing amount. My favorite principle was the metabolic shift that occurred when going into a state of ketosis and transforming myself from a “sugar-burner” to metabolically advantaged “fat burner.” This concept was first put forth by Dr. Robert Atkins in his New Diet Revolution book and then wrapped in terms readily embraced by the body building community by Dr. Mauro G. Di Pasquale in his own work entitled The Anabolic Diet. As I would discover years later, this concept was highly flawed and actually downright incorrect.

The nutritional alchemy behind low-carb diets made no difference to me at the time. and in fact, this naive believe aligned perfectly with a semi-youthful quest to pack on lean muscle mass. My faith in this belief was reinforced that such a way of eating had made me noticeably leaner. It took several more years to realize that though I was noticeably leaner, the perceived muscularity was an illusion brought about by… well, simply being leaner and more vascular. I was also discovering that no amount of effort in the gym could compensate for the lower energy levels and the corresponding decrease in strength I was experiencing.

Perhaps one advantage I have when it comes to discussing and evaluating low-carb eating is that I’ve been doing it for so long.

The aforementioned twenty year span covers the periods of my life from my late 30s while I still had some of the raging testosterone from the previous decade that drove my devotion to exercising with weights, through my 40s when those hormonal levels began taking a noticeable dive, until today where I’m on the threshold of entering the sixth decade of my life where everything seems to be an enormous effort – both physically and mentally. Through it all, I’ve paid close attention to carbohydrates. During the early days and for many years thereafter, I counted every last carb and wore my “20 net carbs per day or lower” goal as a badge of honor, though I was realistic enough to know that I could never take things to zero. In theory, our metabolisms may not need carbohydrates, but in practice, it’s a completely different story.

OK, let me list off a few the advantages/benefits of a low-carb diet. Most of these are observational and anecdotal in nature, having come from my own experience with this way of eating and also from observing the reported experiences of others from various places such as online forums, Facebook groups, blogs, and from firsthand accounts of friends and acquaintances.

An important side note: I won’t be listing any of the claimed benefits for LC with respect to those – primarily epileptic children – suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. These benefits are associated with a very low-carb, ketogenic diet and though important, have little to do with the motivations of the vast majority of people seeking out low-carb diets.

It’s Easier to Count Carbs than Calories

calculator for counting carbs and calories

If nothing else, Dr. Atkins’ brand of the low-carb diet got people to focus on the number “20” – the total amount of carbohydrates in grams required to be consumed per day during the Induction phase of the diet. What could be easier than keeping a running total of a single macronutrient? OK, a magic weight loss pill comes to mind, but short of that, it’s vastly easier to count carbs than tally up the total calories for everything you eat, which for even the simplest meal, might consist of several food items. With carbs you can ignore things that don’t contain appreciable carbs such as meat, fish, etc. and once you get into the groove, you can simply perform a mental estimate that is often pretty close to actual totals.

The problem with obsessing on a single macronutrient and setting a maximum threshold that going over is cause for a great deal of shame is that it becomes the reverse of too much of a good thing. In the case of carbs, people often figure that if I’m losing weight at 20g of carbs per day, then let me take it down to 15, 10, and eventually 0. It eventually becomes the equivalent of a China Syndrome meltdown if allowed to run uncontrolled.

Reduces Cravings and Appetite

sugar cravings

The focus on carbs is a result of the delusion that calories don’t matter – only the quality of those calories truly matter. What low-carb dieters – at least most of the diehards – don’t understand is that by removing a great deal of the sugar in their diet in the form of sweets, bread, pasta, and to some extent potatoes and rice, they are suppressing their cravings for sugar which in turn suppresses their overall appetite thus resulting in lowering their daily caloric intake. In the end, they drop real (fat) pounds after the dramatic initial glycogen and water weight drop. Unfortunately, many proponents of this diet cheerlead from the sidelines and cajole practitioners to gobble up ever increasing quantities of butter, bulletproof coffee, steak, and bacon. The sad reality is the thermodynamic piper will have to be paid at some point in the form of stalled weight loss or in many cases – reversal of all and any weight loss.

It Tricks You into Eating More Veggies

eat more veggies on low carb

We may have pitched a fit at the dinner table when mom laid down the law and said we had to finish our Brussels sprouts or there would be no dessert, but once on a low-carb diet we find creative ways to get in every last ounce of vegetables from roasted Brussels sprouts to faux pizza made from pureed cauliflower “dough.” Nothing wrong with this, it’s just unfortunate that the other plant group in the way of fruit becomes villainized with the same brush to tar ice cream, cheesecake, and Reese’s Cups. Granted, some people are extremely glucose sensitive that too much fructose from fruit can cause a wild ride for their blood sugar levels. This is why a period of carb reduction to break sugar cravings and allow for the gradual reintroduction of healthy carbs in all their forms including fruit, grains, and starch up to the individual’s threshold for carbohydrate tolerance.

It may help with certain health issues

low carb improves health conditions

This is a controversial topic and I can only present my experience with an autoimmune condition of my own as well as relate a few anecdotal success stories. I suffered with plaque psoriasis for a good portion of my adult life. It wasn’t a serious case – certainly nothing approaching full body coverage – it was mainly just on my elbows and back of my forearms. Mostly just on my right side. Creams of various strengths moving up to strong corticosteroid creams and even injections of these compounds failed to provide long term improvement. In fact, the injections made things worse by causing the skin on my elbows to thin to the point where simply bumping an elbow would cause profuse bleeding.

I did manage to get noticeable improvement about 15 years ago with a new steroid cream, but it never quite cleared up the plaques and ceasing use would cause the plaques to rethicken. Around the same time I had been experimenting with low-carb dieting off and on for a few years. I had begun to notice that each time I went on the diet that my plaque psoriasis would greatly improve regardless if I used the corticosteroid creams or not. I’ve been off all dermatological medications for over five years and no longer have a trace of psoriatic plaques.

I can’t conclusively chalk it up to eating low-carb and it’s quite possible that I simply outgrew the disease. It does happen and psoriasis has been associated with emotional stress. Several variables to consider in this case and I certainly didn’t conduct a proper medical study – even on myself – draw any valid conclusions, regardless, I think it warrants a proper study or two. Conversely, during the course of writing this post I came across a blog comment where a woman claimed that low-carb eating triggered an outbreak of psoriasis, so perhaps, LC creates a form of stress that can trigger the condition.

I have also read and heard from others on low-carb diets that they’ve seen noticeable improvements in rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal conditions with an autoimmune basis such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease.

Dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, and sugar and their impact on blood lipid levels and in turn what the ensuing numbers mean with regard to cardiovascular disease and atherosclerotic plaques is another volatile topic and one which deserves a separate discussion. There is ample evidence that LC can affect blood lipids both positively and adversely.

The link between diabetes and heart disease is well-known and under the proper circumstances, a low-carb diet can improve diabetes, which should in turn improve the subject’s outlook with respect to CVD. In my own case, my blood lipids – total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, and LDL –  have all improved while eating low-carb, however, I had also been self-administering Niacin (B3) and red yeast rice during the periods when blood tests were performed. I’m unwilling to forgo either regimen for the sake of scientific testing and for the record, I’ve never been a big consumer of saturated fat, though I do eat it without guilt or concern when a meal would be better enjoyed with it.

Update (5/14/2015):

In my haste to enumerate all the terrific benefits of a low-carb diet, I overlooked two additional bennies:

Reduction of dental caries and improved oral health – diets containing high amounts of sugar promote tooth decay. I have a mouth full of ugly gray amalgam filled molars as proof. I’m not sure when the Philly region where I grew up began fluoridating its water supply – most of America had instituted it by 1961 when I was 4 – but with or without it, my diet and oral hygiene habits didn’t help matters. My childhood diet of white bread, pasta, pizza, and sweets left a sticky plaque that coated my teeth and it provided a steady source of business for my dentist. To this day, I can visibly notice the difference in the degree of plaque that accumulates on my teeth depending on my consumption of wheat and sugar-containing foods [1].

Of course, adequate and proper dental hygiene is most likely the most important factor in preventing dental problems, and without getting into the controversial issue of feeding a low-carb diet to children, it probably wouldn’t be considered abusive or negligent to restrict the amount of added sugar in the form of soft drinks and candy in a child’s diet. It then comes down to a question of which is harder: restricting sweets or getting a kid to brush his teeth on a daily basis?

Reduction in acid reflux episodes – I used to experience heartburn on an almost daily basis. Heartburn so extreme that I used to gobble Tums antacids two at a time. It would often disrupt my sleep. Pizza was a major offender. I used to think it was the garlic or even the tomato sauce that caused these flareups. My bouts of heartburn all but vanished the first time I began a low-carb diet. It took me a while to notice a connection and of course, pizza had been relegated to the sideline while eating low-carb.

As close as I can tell, the root cause was the presence of wheat products (unrefined wheat flour in pizza dough) along with gastrically irritating foods such as garlic, onions, hot peppers, and certain spices. Perhaps gluten – that perennially bad guy – is the actual culprit. Fortunately, I’ve been able to have my pizza (and bread) and eat it too. Simply by greatly reducing the total quantity of gluten contained in a food, I can enjoy these beloved food items once again without digestive stress.

See my tweaked versions of Ultra Thin Crust Pizza (video below) and Low Carb Bread That Doesn’t Suck.

Babies and Ketotic Bathwater

baby thrown out with bathwater

A pervasive cry from the low-carb community – at least among those who acknowledge that dogma exists – is let’s not get all crazy and stuff and toss out the baby (LC benefits) with the bathwater (dogma, carbophobia, and blind adherence to ketosis). I count myself among this group. This sentiment will be revisited after we have a look at the risks of low-carb dieting. Most of the risks are concentrated around the VLC and ketogenic approaches to the diet, but also extend into daily carbohydrate ranges above these extremes. I have my work cut out for me in performing the background research and data gathering for these upcoming posts, so I better carb up and get my butt in gear!


 

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Steak and Salad: LifeisGood
  • Calculator: DuBoix
  • Christmas: Cookies: Ladyheart
  • Squash: MaxStraeten
  • Stethoscope and Heart: imelenchon
  • kamuelaboy: Baby’s Foot



Nutritional Compromises For Dietary Success

nutritional compromise handshake lead imageI listed Nutritional Compromise as one of the seven principles of The Practical Carbs Lifestyle. I realize the bombastic title makes it sound like some kind of grand manifesto, but it’s just a collection of reminders (mental cues) that I put together so that I can keep things on track when it comes to navigating my daily routine. This particular principle is sort of my “get out of jail free” card. It serves to keep me from becoming obsessive about the food items I purchase and consume.

Though I strive to eat the healthiest and purest foods I can both find as well as afford, my primary focus is to keep my weight under control. Sometimes, I need to “cheat” a little and purchase food items that are not organic, nitrite-free, grass fed, free range, non-GMO, raw, pastured, etc., etc. It’s not that I don’t think most of the aforementioned items aren’t healthier, but that I’m willing to make compromises when availability, cost, and taste outweigh those benefits; at least to my mind.

Cost and Value Propositions

cost of healthy food

I live in a smaller town where the options for organic food are not as diverse as in urban areas. Most grocery stores now stock organic produce and grass-fed meat and free range chicken. There is an organic store in town now, but I rarely visit since it’s an extra trip and it’s always sticker shock for me at checkout. To be honest, I don’t notice much taste of freshness difference between organic produce and the regular stuff. The main concern when it comes to produce is pesticide use. I’m willing to take my chances with non-organic produce. I realize that washing doesn’t remove every molecule of Roundup or whatever pesticides are on an apple, but I choose to not worry about it. Pesticides and other harmful compounds are all around us, from our drinking water to the air we breathe.

grass-fed cattle

I’ve yet to sample grass-fed beef. The price always keeps me away. In theory, it makes complete sense that grass-fed beef is healthier for us than the feedlot, grain-fed beef that overflows the shelves in the grocery store. What I have been buying recently is locally-produced ground beef. It’s still grain-fed, but the cows are not shot full of antibiotics and hormones. And it tastes a lot better. It does cost a bit more, but still less than the grass-fed beef. I’m willing to spend a bit more for better taste, food safety, and also to benefit local farmers. The same goes for shopping at farm stands and farmers markets.

Ethical, Religious and Psychological Considerations

ethics and veganism

Many people choose veganism more out of ethical concerns regarding the inhumane treatment of animals used in food production than for the health benefits. The same can probably be said about those choosing to eschew GMO food products. There is no scientific evidence that GMO products are dangerous or less healthy than non-GMO products, but personal beliefs and lingering doubt make them a non-starter for many people. There’s no point in consuming food that you believe will harm you. On the flip side of the GMO controversy, there is the very real concern over the undue influence companies such as Monsanto exert on the US agricultural industry with their patented seeds and Roundup pesticide product.

There are also religious laws that regulate what adherents may consume. If you’re a faithful member of a religion with dietary laws, then these restrictions are non-negotiable. I remember growing up when as a Catholic, eating meat on Friday was forbidden. Typically, many Catholic families ate fish. We weren’t big seafood folks, so it was either pizza or pasta night which suited me just fine. It was also a fondness and a habit that took its toll on my weight and health over the years and was difficult to finally break.

When Taste Wins Out

nitrates in lunch meats

The theme of this post is nutritional compromise, what it means, and when to employ it and as with diet, when and how to compromise with your food choices is deeply personal. Compromise must take a back seat when religious and ethical concerns are at stake. An Orthodox Jew could no more indulge in a shrimp cocktail than a strict vegan could in a 16oz Delmonico steak. The same holds for someone such as me that has worked hard to eliminate processed foods and added sugar from my diet. I will no longer drink a regular can of Coke or munch down on sour cream and onions potato chips – no matter how much I used to love them.

There also comes a point where attempting to be 100% healthy in all your food choices becomes overwhelming and in the end, impossible. The danger with this approach, is that the overwhelm leads to stress and frustration from attempting to be perfect, that it becomes very easy to succumb to the unnecessary pressure and give up. Frustration is a form of stress that often leads to bad things.

Instances of where I compromise nutritionally have already been mentioned. I usually don’t purchase organic produce or pastured meats. I do, however, make sure that the fish I buy – both fresh and frozen – is wild caught. The unsanitary process of raising fish in a pen is the tipping point for me. Why I draw the line at fish and not beef is a good question. Perhaps, the cost difference between the two kinds of fish production isn’t as great as it is for beef, poultry, and pork.

artificial sweetener risks

I’m also willing to ingest aspartame artificial sweetener on occasion. I’m fortunate that it doesn’t give me a headache like it does for many others. However, now the Pepsi and Coke are taking measures to replace aspartame in their diet colas with sucralose (Splenda), I’ll probably stop drinking diet soda altogether. Sucralose has been shown to interfere with gut bacteria [1]. This is a nutritional compromise I’m unwilling to make. However, I consume quite a bit of cured and processed meats such as salami, cooked ham, and deli meats such as turkey breast.

Perhaps, I’m foolhardy in choosing to ignore the nitrates and nitrites contained in these processed meats, but since I enjoy them so much, it would leave a pretty big void in my food options if I were to omit them. I rationalize their consumption by acknowledging the fact that humans have been eating cured meats for centuries without much evidence that they have led to shortened life spans.

Some degree of compromise is essential to day to day living. We all lead busy lives and something has to give. Otherwise, we’d just collapse into a sobbing ball of limp flesh on the floor. The same holds for our eating habits. By defining and adopting an outline that guides a healthy eating plan for each of us that also allows some wiggle room; we place ourselves in a much stronger position to follow through with it. The end result is less frustration which in turn leads to less temptation to cheat and which ultimately leads to raging success in the long run.

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Agreement: Yoel
  • Money: Dodgerton Skillhause
  • Pastured Cattle: wiselywoven
  • Veggies: pedrojperez
  • Sandwich: Alvimann
  • Sweetener: jppi



Prepare Your Own Meals For Healthier Eating

chopped veggiesI’ve liked to cook from an early age. I suppose it started with visiting my grandparents and soaking in the smells when my grandmother was preparing the sauce and meatballs for Sunday dinner. It was my personal nirvana! I also loved to “help” my mother bake pies and cookies. The lumps of baked dough I called “cookies” weren’t much to look at and were tough to choke down, but to me they were every bit as good as the fancy cookies from the corner bakery. It was because I made them all by myself!

The first real thing I learned to cook—after toast—was fried eggs. If you can fry an egg without burning the house down, then you basically know everything there is to cooking for yourself. If you can also open a can, then you’re well on your way to being the next Top Chef.

OK, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away and over confident, but preparing your own meals is not too difficult. The most challenging part is keeping and grocery list and doing the actual shopping. You can still be lazy, but just not too lazy.

Benefits of home cooking:

basket of fresh produce

    • Fresh and unprocessed ingredients – it should be assumed that preparing your own meals doesn’t mean tossing a box of Hamburger Helper into a hot skillet with a chunk of ground beef. It does mean using as many fresh ingredients as you can such as vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry. If you choose to use organic and grass-fed versions then go for it. Personally, it’s a bit out of my budget and I’m OK with purchasing the cheaper varieties of fresh food.
    • You pretty much know what goes into your food – menu items at restaurants and fast food places are made out of your view – unless you’re eating at a sushi place. My point is, that despite what ingredients are listed on the menu, you can’t be 100% sure of what goes into making it. Perhaps, more importantly, you have even less of an idea of how it’s prepared. Once you start preparing your own meals, you become more sensitive to ingredients and their nutritional content. This in turn, will give you a better perspective on what constitute healthy ingredients. And don’t rely on the server or staff at a fast food restaurant to provide you with reliable information on ingredients and methods of preparation.
    • You’ll eat less – the trend for a while at most American dining establishments is to supersize everything. There are 32oz sodas, 1 pound cheeseburgers, and jumbo plates of pasta and seafood to just mention a few items that have been elaphantized. Sure, you can always ask to take home leftovers, but that’s both inconvenient especially is you’re going out somewhere afterwards such as to a bar or movie or just want to take a leisurely stroll after dinner. Not to mention, that the leftovers often turn moldy in the fridge because they don’t looks all that appealing the next day.
    • Save money – this point should be obvious, but based on how many coworkers I’ve known over the years that habitually grab lunch away from the office, I’m not so sure. Many of these same people would also stop off at a fast food or pizza joint on the way home in the evening to pick up dinner. It didn’t surprise me that many of them were overweight. As any high school math teacher would preach: “Do the math!” It does add up over time.
    • Hygiene – if you’ve ever worked in the food industry then you probably have a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes. There’s a reason for the Board of Health. My first job while still in high school was washing dishes at a country club. You would think an elite establishment such as a country club would have impeccable food storage and preparation standards in their kitchen. It was anything but! It’s also advisable to not upset your server. For reference, view the movie Waiting – the video clip below should be sufficient to get the point across. There are many cases of food poisoning each year in the US – many of them unreported. How often has that happened when you’ve prepared food at home?

  • Food will taste better – it may just be me and where I live, but I’m usually always disappointed when I dine out. Frankly, the food leaves a lot to be desired along with the competency and courteousness of the servers. Factor in that it’s an effort to find menu choices that satisfy my particular dietary needs along with the high cost of dining out, then it’s a disappointing experience all around. If nothing else, it makes me appreciate preparing and eating meals at home.

I can hear you saying, “That’s great and all, but who has the time for meal planning and then doing all that cooking?” Glad you asked since I have some helpful tips to deal with those concerns in the form of some simple strategies:

Strategies for preparing your own meals:

cooking utensils

  • Meal planning – every project begins with a list. Make one on a weekly basis. You don’t need to plan out each and every meal for an entire week. Just having a general idea of what you’d like to eat for a few lunches and particular dinners should suffice. You can fill in the blanks once the day rolls around. By that, I mean having on hand the basic ingredients from which you can throw together a simple and quick meal. Having a large bag of frozen chicken breasts or other parts can server for at least two dinners and possible a lunch or two. Fish filets and steaks can also be stored frozen. Fruit and veggies should be purchased fresh at least weekly along with dairy items such as milk, cream, butter, and of course a variety of cheese. From there it’s a matter of making sure you have the bulk items stocked in your pantry such as cooking oils, snack foods such as nuts and other healthy snack items.
  • Learn the basics of cooking – as I mentioned previously, if you can fry an egg you’re well on your way to cooking simple meals for yourself and your family. Of course, you’ll probably get tired of eating eggs at every meal, so you’ll want to learn a few more advance recipes. There are many great meals that you can cook in a glass baking dish such as baked chicken, fish, and vegetable casseroles and bakes. Stir frys are extremely simple and only require a single skillet – pretty much the same as frying an egg. One of the great things about the low-carb and Paleo communities is that they have some of the best cooking and recipes sites on the Web. Below are some of my faves. There are also tons and tons of general recipe and cooking sites to explore for healthy recipes and cooking tips. And don’t forget YouTube!
  • Stock up on containers – leftovers are your friends and saviors! With actively practicing portion control, you’ll often find yourself satisfied with half the contents on your plate. Scooping half of the large chicken breast and vegetables into a plastic storage container becomes a quick and easy lunch to take to the office or school the next day. Storage containers also come in very handy to keep chopped veggies at the ready for salads, stir frys, and other main and side dishes.

Getting in the habit of preparing your own meals at home puts you more in tune with what goes into a healthy and great tasting meal. You’ll have a deeper appreciation for selecting quality ingredient while grocery shopping and this will translate in making better choices when dining away from home. Eating out is a great way to treat yourself and for making a fun social occasion with family and friends. It’s also a necessity when traveling. I’ve just found over the years that making dining out the exception rather than the rule has allowed me to stay on track with my way of eating and has also added a fun dimension to everyday living.

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Chopped Veggies: Seeman
  • Produce Basket: macroncasin
  • Cooking Utensils: Melodi2



Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes

Homemade Salad DressingsA staple of any diet, low carb or otherwise, is salads. Sometimes you do find yourself feeling like that proverbial rabbit from noshing on all that lettuce and the only saving grace is all the salad dressing you can drench it in to mask the fact that you’re essentially eating roughage.

Once upon a time, back in the days when low fat diets were the law of the land, it was about finding the lowest fat versions of salad dressings. Fast forward a decade or two, and it’s now all about finding salad dressings with next to zero carbs. In this quest, we allow in a lot of unhealthy stuff in the form of vegetable and seed oils, sodium, and a laundry list of preservatives. That’s if you’re going the convenient route and purchasing bottled salad dressings.

A question that gets asked quite a bit in online low-carb groups is what are good salad dressings to use when eating low-carb. It’s important that they have as few carbs as possible to those asking these questions. Taste seems to often be a secondary concern.

When I see these types of questions it causes me to wonder if these people have ever considered making their own salad dressings. It’s a very simple matter to whip up a healthy and tasty salad dressing at home and most require only two basic ingredients: oil and vinegar.

The oil part can consist of EVOO, avocado oil, yogurt, or mayo. There are even more options for the acid portion of the dressing when you consider that there is more than one type of vinegar as well as lemon and lime juice.

The possibilities really begin to open up when it comes to the host of spices that can be incorporated into a dressing. And if you want REALLY simple then take a cue from the lead photo of this post and take a page from the Mediterranean Diet and pour EVOO and red wine vinegar directly from the bottles (or cruets if you’re being fancy). Sprinkle some dried oregano over it and voila!

In the video below I demonstrate how to make two very basic salad dressings: a basic balsamic vinaigrette and my interpretation of honey mustard with a low-carb twist. Enjoy!

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Oil and Vinegar cruets: deegolden



Low Carb Bread That Doesn’t Suck

low carb cheesey breadOne of the first things that gets thrown out when starting to eat low carb is bread—bread of all kinds: sliced bread, dinner rolls, sub rolls (hoagie rolls in Philly), Kaiser rolls, English muffins, and biscuits (oh, no, not the biscuits!)

Wasn’t it bad enough that the pasta and rice also got banished and don’t get me started on the pizza! I think just about everyone who has begun a low-carb diet has eventually begun the search for the Holy Grail soon after starting and I’m not talking about the grail from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It’s the search for substitutes for the great-tasting, carb-laden foods that most of us continue to crave after giving them up. It’s these cravings that never seem to subside and are often the ruin of many a low-carb diet despite the best of intentions (cue House of the New Rising Sun). The low-carb, and even gluten-free versions of these items, especially bread, almost always leave you disappointed. The ingredients in a lot of these breads run the gamut from nut and seed flours such as almond, coconut, and flaxseed to even chia seeds. I think I’d only want chia seeds on my retro Chia Pets and even that’s a stretch.

I’ve never tried any of the commercially available low-carb breads and really have no desire to at this point. The outrageous prices of most are more than enough to ward me off and if they turn out to taste like, well, flaxseed, then I’m really going to feel dumb. The homemade versions, though commendable for the attempt, often involve way too many ingredients and steps. And judging from the flour substitutes, it doesn’t look like something I’d want to attempt baking. I could be wrong, but instead, wondered if I could perform a “food makeover” that involved a “nutritional compromise.” It’s a fairly large one at first glance after you learn what one of the ingredients is.

My Challenge: would it be possible to make a dilute version of a high-carb, highly-refined food item such as a biscuit or roll that would taste very close to the full-on version, but be compatible with my way of eating while not incurring too much of a unhealthy dose of things like trans-fat, sugar, and refined white flour?

Bisquick box

It’s an outrage I tell, ya!

I began by studying a lot of the low-carb and gluten-free bread and biscuit recipes. A version that caught my eye used eggs and cheddar cheese as the foundation for the “dough.” Batter would be a more apt description. It also employed baking powder and a few other ingredients to give it a bread-like quality when baked. It then occurred to me that I could leverage Bisquick for both its leavening as well as its gluten content. Yes, sorry, this recipe is far from gluten-free, so my apologies to readers with celiac disease or are otherwise gluten-sensitive. I was just thinking about myself on this one.

The resulting recipe so far has met my needs perfectly. I use a half-and-half mixture of Bisquick and almond flour and the net carbs work out to 6g per roll/biscuit/muffin—however you’d like to call them. The trans-fat is less than 1g which qualifies for 0g with respect to nutritional labeling requirements for commercial food products. Now, I certainly understand that this sort of thing qualifies as low-carb, Paleo, etc. sacrilege and you’re free to skip this one. But you’ll never know what you’re missing!

low carb bread ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Bisquick (oh noooos!!)
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tsbp whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use extra sharp New York style)

Servings: 6

low carb bread nutritional label

Utensils:

  • 6 English muffin rings
  • 1 non-stick baking pan
  • 1 large mixing bowl

Directions:

  1. Grease English muffin tins with coconut oil or butter – don’t use Pam! Arrange evenly on non-stick baking pan.
    English muffin rings
  2. Add Bisquick, almond flour, cheese, eggs, and milk to large mixing bowl and whisk. Should be the consistency of thick pancake batter.
    low carb bread batter
  3. Pour or spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin ring. This will be well short of the top of the ring, but the bread will rise during baking. This does make for a pretty thin roll, so can use more if cutting quantity back to 5 or 4 rings. Bear in mind that this ups the carbs and all other nutrients proportionally. Don’t worry if some of the batter seeps out under the rings. It shouldn’t be much.

    low carb bread batter poured into muffin ring

    Batter only comes up part way in ring

  4. Bake at 400F for 12 minutes.
  5. Remove baking pan from oven and let cool. Carefully release rolls by scoring around the inside of the ring with a butter knife.

    baked low carb rolls from oven

    Some battered leaked out – no biggie, simply trim!

  6. Allow to thoroughly cool before slicing. Store in cookie tin or plastic container. Since these don’t have extra preservatives, they won’t keep long unrefrigerated. I leave them out for about 3 days before refrigerating.

I use these rolls in various ways:

  • Have half a toasted roll with breakfast (the heated cheddar smells great!). The natural nooks and crannies (thanks to the eggs, cheese, and of course Bisquick) resemble actual English muffins.
    low carb toast
  • Use for sandwiches. A turkey and cheese pictured below simulates a club sandwich.
    turkey club on low carb roll
  • Use when I feel like having a “real” hamburger.
    cheese burger on low carb roll
  • Makes a killer sausage/ham, egg, and cheese biscuit a la Hardee’s!
    sausage, egg, and cheese on low carb biscuit

The important thing to note is I don’t make these all the time. They are just a part of my “carb rotation” now that I’m working more carbs back into my diet. And since they involve a bit more work, it’s something that naturally limits consumption.

A note about toasting: I like to toast a roll especially when making a turkey club, but just be aware that due to their thinness and cheese content, that they tend to curl up at the edges. Therefore, set your toaster lower than you normally would for regular bread and don’t freak out if they still curl up a bit. If you’re really careful, you can “smooth” the curls down a bit.




Does Eating Right Require a Biology Degree?

Is a biology degree required to eat right?The evolution of the Internet is perhaps one of the greatest achievements during the past twenty years. Finding information on even the most basic topics once required a trip to the public library and possibly an hour or more to flip through a card catalog followed by wandering down endless shelves of books to find what you were looking for. It might also have involved a trip to the inner sanctum of the library known as “The Reference Room” for an even deeper search of the information kept locked away behind its glass window. I still don’t know have to use the reference room at my local library, in fact, it’s been years since I’ve set foot inside a library. Not to denigrate libraries–they still are a great source of information–but so much can be found in mere seconds right on your computer or even your smart phone. The net result is we’re all becoming better informed, and in a lot of ways, just plain smarter because of this ready access to information. But as in most things–especially ones possessed of so much power–caution is advised.

The World Wide Web (WWW) can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to retrieving information and pitfalls abound. Searching out information online and then determining its value is an acquired skill. A lot of time can be wasted in the pursuit, and even worse, you can easily be misled or misinformed by a lot of the information that you consume online. How to be a good consumer of online information is beyond the scope of this post, but Rob includes some basic pointers in this post for spotting low-quality scientific studies. To paraphrase Sy Simms, “An educated information consumer, is less dangerous to himself and others.”

Proliferation of Dietary Cults

Dietary Cults

This double-edged sword is probably no more evident than when it comes to seeking out diet and nutritional information online. It also doesn’t help matters that the various dietary factions have formed around de facto leaders who are rather aggressive it defining the principles of their dietary beliefs to the point of becoming dogmatic. To make matters worse, there is even in-fighting among groups, which in turn begets splinter groups with modified views on the original principles. If it reminds you of something, it’s because these belief systems have a lot in common with religious feuds—both past and present day.

There’s a Research Study for That

Nutrition Studies

A tactic that has become the hallmark of these spats is to cite research studies and letting that stand as the final say on the matter at hand. If you have a point to make, then there’s most likely a study to support your position. PubMed – a research report repository from NIH – is probably one of the most heavily-linked Web properties at the moment. There is no shortage of nutritional and medical studies and keeping up with all of them is a daunting task.

pubmed backlinks

Backlinks to PubMed

I respect the folks with degrees as well as those that completed medical school. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish. On the other hand, I don’t take everything they proclaim when it comes to health and nutrition as gospel. Case in point: my brother, Rob, who holds a PhD in biology, has proclaimed to me that what’s required to lose weight and stay healthy is actually quite simple: stay away from processed foods and eat as many whole foods as you can. Great advice and I concur wholeheartedly. And I think it should form the core of anyone’s approach to diet and nutrition, however, I think it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Though Rob has managed to maintain exceptional health and body composition following that directive, I on the other hand, have had to tweak it by adding in a few caveats specific to my own metabolic situation. This is where the low-carb business comes in and remains an on-going investigation on my part. My degree is in computer science, and what I know and understand about biology and human metabolism is what I learned back in high school biology class and what I’ve learned from my online reading. It’s a fascinating subject and I’m eager to continue my informal education in this area.

Do I feel that I need a biology or medical degree to direct my eating and lifestyle?

No, certainly not when there are so many research studies to pick and choose from to lead my down the nutritional rabbit hole. My preference is to let my experience, the experience of others, known facts (as few as there may be), and common sense to be my guide.

Moderation, Stupid!

Everything in Moderation

The age old admonition to do all things in moderation continues to be my guiding principle, especially when it comes to eating. Yes, I eat a low carb diet, but I no longer keep my carbs low enough to enter into ketosis, in fact, I’m gradually upping them in the hope of crossing over into what would be considered a “balanced” diet. How many carbs that turns out to be in my case remains to be seen.

Moderation works in both directions: don’t overdo things by consuming too much of something, i.e. dietary fat, sugar, rib eye steaks, etc. Conversely, don’t overdo things by restricting or cutting out completely such as carbohydrates or saturated fat. Moderation’s buddy is balance. It’s not worth risking your long term health for whatever results you’re seeking such as weight loss in the near term in exchange for nagging health issues down the road. Slow and steady and moderate certainly aren’t very sexy, but crossing the finish line with your health intact is a pretty big achievement.

slow and steady wins the race!

Photo Credits (morguefile.com):

  • Graduates: kconners
  • Cult icon: Daniela Turcanu
  • Reports: dhester
  • Moderation: iamnotpablo
  • Tortoise: Roger Whiting