August 31, 2007

Good Food To Eat When Cutting Carbs

A lot of people tell me they'd like to cut back on carbs but don't know what they'd eat, since they aren't big on hunks of meat. So I've pulled together a bunch of "things every low carber knows" for those of you who are trying to cut back.

One thing to keep in mind. The fewer carbs you eat, the safer it is to eat fat. If you are keeping your carb intake under 15 grams per meal you can eat as much as 70% fat and see your cholesterol and lipid fractions improve. If you are eating 30-40 grams of carbs per meal, go easier on the fat!

Here are a bunch of ideas that I've picked up over the years by hanging out on the old newsgroup. This should get you started.

  1. Pancakes Whey Protein powder can be cooked up to make pancakes. Add some low carb strawberries or raspberries (frozen works great) and some sugar free Maple Syrup and you've got a delicious breakfast. Recipe on my Indispensible Low Carb Treats page.

  2. Potatoes A great substitute for mashed potatoes can be made by steaming or boiling cauliflower and pureeing it in a food processor and then adding some cream or half and half, butter or salt.It doesn't taste like cauliflower.

  3. Rolls If you can eat gluten, you can make delicious rolls that are very similar to popovers using the Magic Rolls recipe. You can find it HERE in the Eades' Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook. Search for "Magic Rolls." It's on page 22. Make extra and freeze in a plastic bag.

  4. Veggies Here's a list of some very healthy very low carb vegetables you should eat as much as possible. Romaine Lettuce, Boston Lettuce, Red Lettuce, Mesclun mix, green beans, artichokes, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, olives, spaghetti squash, acorn or butternut squash (small amounts), zucchini.

  5. Pasta Instead of pasta with its 50 gm per tiny 2 ounce serving, put sauces over lightly steamed zucchini strips you make with a vegetable peeler. Or use spaghetti squash.

  6. Sugar Substitute When baking, instead of using Splenda powder which contains maltodextrin, a sugar in baking quantities that can become significant, use DaVinci sugar free syrup which can be bought at Marshall's or TJ Maxx in the specialty food section. There is no sugar at all in these. I cook with the Caramel or Vanilla and use the White Chocolate for things like Cocoa. Usually a direct substitution works--1 tsp syrup for 1 tsp sugar. Do not do this for recipes which depend on sugar to hold everything together. It does work for custards and puddings.

  7. Cookies You can make delicious very low carb macaroons with a recipe on the Indispensible Low Carb Treats page.You can also make cookies using almonds ground very fine, but if you are trying to lose weight, almond flour is very high calorie and not a good option.

  8. Snack Food Sunflower seeds in the shell make a good "finger food" snack that are low carb and take the place of chips while watching the game, etc.

  9. Candy Low carb cream cheese fudge makes a nice chocolate candy treat. recipe on the Indispensible Low Carb Treats page.

  10. Pizza When it's pizza time, get a meat/veggie combo and just eat the toppings. Some people make "meatza" using a thin lining of pepperoni as the bottom crust when they make pizza at home.

  11. Chinese At Chinese restaurants, Hot and Sour soup works. So do barbecued spareribs and teriyaki strips, though they have some sugar. Ask that no sauce be put on the ribs. Some places do a crispy duck that works. Chicken with string beans often does too. There are some carbs in all of these, so don't eat there every day!

  12. Other restaurants Besides the obvious "chunk o' meat" entries try the steak "bistro" salads or Caeser salads with grilled chicken or shrimp (not fried!). Avoid any salad where you can't add the dressing yourself, though, as some chains will serve you bits of lettuce drenched in sugar as "salad." Stick with blue cheese, Parmesan pepper corn, or classic Italian dressing. Many flavored vinaigrettes are full of sugar. Many Steak House chains sprinkle MSG on their steaks which may improve flavor but leaves you ravenously hungry an hour later. That's what MSG--and soy sauce which contains natural MSG--do. Avoid those restaurants if you're trying to lose weight!

  13. Nuts Almonds, walnuts, and pecans are low carb in reasonable quantity and full of very healthy oils that lower cholesterol. You can heat them on a cookie sheet for a few minutes with a coating of DaVinchi flavored syrups to make them fancy.

  14. Sinful Desserts For a fancy dessert try making a low carb cheese cake. Use the Classic Philly 3 Step Cheese cake recipe and substitute DaVinci sugar free syrup for the sugar and bake for a few minutes longer than usual. Instead of graham crackers, use a crushed nut crust made by chopping walnuts or almonds and pressing them into the pan.

  15. LOTS OF GREAT RECIPES HERE Google Groups Advanced Search for "REC" on If you are looking for something in particular, search the newsgroup for "REC" and the name of the food.

  16. BREAKFAST Most "low carb" cereals are full of soy, which may not be good for your thyroid. If you must eat cereal, stick to high bran cereals, but read the labels carefully. Instead of using milk, which is full of fast carbs, try using a little half and half or else stir in some plain yogurt. Most people are at their most insulin resistant at breakfast, so if you can, try eating the classic eggs and meat breakfasts. Use the lower carb Rye Vita Dark Rye or Sesame Rye crackers instead of toast.

  17. AVOID PRODUCTS LABELED "LOW CARB!" Most of them aren't. Using a variety of bogus tricks food manufacturers sell a lot of products, like Atkins Advantage bars that are full of sugar alchohols that WILL raise blood sugar. These included Maltitol and Lacitol. The only sugar alcohol that is reliably low carb is Erythritol. Unfortunately, it is very expensive and though it looks like sugar, it does NOT cook like sugar, so avoid the tempation to buy it as a sugar replacement. Sadly, the good candies that used to be available with erythritol have disappeared.

  18. AVOID ALL "SUGAR FREE" OR "DIABETIC" FOODS. Again, they may be free of sucrose, but they are full of sugar alcohols that will raise blood sugar and many of them are full of flour which turns into glucose as soon as it hits your digestive tract. The people who run the companies that sell "Diabetic" foods full of flour and starch deserve to have their feet amputated like the poor victims who eat their products.

Copyright Janet Ruhl 2007. If you are NOT reading this on the content has been STOLEN.


Anna said...

Sometimes high carbers don't "get it" until they have successfully become low carbers for a while. The carb cravings reduce and even go away when high carb foods are not a regular part of meals and snacks.

And low carb vegetables taste much better when the sweet-sensitive taste buds aren't bombarded with sugar all the time. That was a big surprise for me. I found myself enjoying more non-starchy vegetables (both quantity and types of veggies) when I cut the carbs. I found myself even wanting salads even for breakfast sometimes. And by salads I don't mean just lettuce and dressing. My salads usually have lots of different veggies in addition to several lettuce varieties, perhaps bits of cheese and/or meat, nuts, sometimes fruit, and homemade salad dressing. It's never boring.

Everyone thinks that low carbers pig out on meat and cheese, and perhaps some do at first. But eventually, many low carbers settle on a regular amount of protein (meat, poultry or fish) with each meal and perhaps cheese, but with larger quantities of non-starchy veggies than before low carbing.

Bix said...

These are some wonderful ideas! Thank you for writing them all up, Jenny. That mashed cauliflower gets made this week :)

Anna said...

I donated or threw out most of my cookbooks that featured recipes I could no longer make with some great low carb cookbooks (I saved a few classics like The Joy of Cooking and The Silver Palate. It's important to scrutinize low carb cookbooks carefully, because many are not very good, use too many highly processed or odd ingredients or are not even very low carb. The "diebetic" ones are usually the worst because they follow the ADA recommendations and are not usually low carb. I avoid "diabetic" cookbooks.

Personally, I love all the Dana Carpender books (no affiliation, etc., just a satisfied customer). In fact, it was one of her earlier books, 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes that got me started on this because it was full of foods I like and was already eating. At the time I wasn't planning to try to "diet" to lose my extra 20 pounds because I couldnt' face starving myself. But the weight started coming off low carbing a few meals a week, so I read more and trimmed the carbs at every meal and snack.

For those who like menu planning and shopping lists, Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way is pretty good. I have some others that I use, too (there is a book list on my website, but all of Dana's books are the ones I use most frequently for inspiration and reference. I have used the bbq book a lot this summer and I use the slow cooker book a lot in the winter. I like her variety, especially for "international" flavors, but with easy to make "real food" ingredients that fit a wide range of palates.

In my opinion, good cookbook support makes the difference for those who need more than a hunk o' meat, cheese, & eggs. When I was pregnant and diagnosed with gestestational diabetes, there were NO cookbooks for low carb that I could find and the diabetic ones didn't give me good BG control at all. I suffered through little piles of food on my plate with no excitement for my palate because even that took so much time to calculate and record for my doctor. I would probably have stuck to low carb after the pregnancy if I could have used the great cookbooks I use now, with all the calculations done for me.

Bix said...

I just wrote down the Dana Carpender ref., Anna. Thank you.

It's hard right now, since I'm just starting, to know what books and sources are good. I have a book here that I got from the library, by Karen Barnaby. She uses soy protein isolate ... I just can't. Not only for the reasons Jenny says, but I don't want to eat the highly-refined dregs of an oversubsidized farm industry. Oh, and wheat gluten? Does that come from China? Sigh...

Jenny said...


I'm pretty sure that the Bob's Red Mill Gluten sold at health food stores is not the crap from China.

If you don't trust the whey protein powder, you can also make decent pancakes, I'm told, with cottage cheese.

Anna said...

I don't make pancakes very often, but my son requests them now and then. Cottage cheese works great (a handheld blender can smooth out the curds if those are objectionable) . I tend not to use protein powders except in small quantities and not very frequently at that. But I choose whey or egg protein over soy. I am hypothyroid and avoid as much soy as possible now (I do use a bit of raw traditionally brewed Japanese soy sauce, Nama Shoyu).

My mom used to make pancakes for dinner with cottage cheese and extra eggs in the batter (sometimes corn kernals, too). We thought it was great fun. Now I realized that she was probably doing the best she could with a very stretched food budget.

I make cheese sometimes so I use the leftover liquid whey to make smoothies for the kids or soup broths.

I regularly make subsitutions to some ingredients that are recipes, either because I don't have it on hand or want to avoid it, especially oils, fats, and soy proteins. Sometimes it bombs, but one gets a sense for what will work after a while.

But I also stopped wanting/making low carb versions of some high carb foods, like muffins, breads, etc. For me, it was easier and better to just leave those foods behind and forget about them. But I do make low sugar ice cream and cheesecake instead of cakes, cookies, etc. And I still like a bit of dark chocolate. So I'm not a complete purist. But I can fit those in with my blood sugar targets far easier than other desserts.

Khürt Williams said...

Any research on how low carb diets work for vegetarians ( real vegetarians )? My wife has tried low carb diets ( South Beach and Weight Watchers ) but ended up quitting since she could not find enough sources of high-density protein to make up for the loss in calories. She would go to bed with a grumbly tummy and really dislikes the texture of tofu. Oh, and she's Indian s is looking for ideas that fit into her cultural tastes.

Jenny said...


There are some forms of dahl that are pretty low carb, channa dahl, and urud dahl. Lentils and beans rather than rice would be better. Tofu isn't particularly healthy, so I would not suggest building a diet around it. If she eats Paneer that would probably be the best of protein. Plain yogurt is very good too. And then lots of vegetables to go with it all.

Deidrel said...

Shirataki noodles are pretty good for bulking up stirfries -- the tofu-free versions have neither significant carbs nor significant calories, but I justify the expense on the grounds that they're filling.