June 26, 2003

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Hey Gang -

You'll find this is a remarkably short issue: One article, one recipe, and that's it. There are numerous reasons for this - We're undergoing renovations, and my house is torn up six ways from Sunday. Furthermore, we're planning to have a fund-raising barbecue here on Saturday, so I have to make as much order out of the chaos as I possibly can in the next 48 hours - while shopping and cooking for the event, too!

Yikes! I'd better get a move on. In the meanwhile, read on!

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:52 PM

Email! I Get Email!

Jane Bailey writes:

Hi Dana (or whoever is reading this)!

Just bought your revised "40 lb." book - I've finally found a low-carb philosophy that is simple! I'm looking forward to great results! Pray for me!


Had a couple of questions:

1) Please please tell me what company you get your multi-vitamins from

2) How much or little fruit do you recommend to lose weight? A fruit lover in summer is a dangerous thing!

3) What do you think of food combining? Eg. Somersizing, Fit for Life etc.

4) What are your favorite Firm videos? I have a bunch - they are the best! Try Traci Long's other videos (same creator as The Firm but more intense - more in the line of slow burn)

5) I have 3 kids. What "good carbs" do you recommend that won't create sugar/carb addicts? Luckily they love cheese, fruit, some meat, whole wheat pasta, eggs etc.

Thanks again for your great books and sense of humor! Keep up the good work!

Jane Bailey (on her way to the "whoosh")

Hey, Jane! Wow, bunch-o-good-questions.

First of all, I read my own email, really I do. I even reply to a lot of it, though, I confess, not all of it. I get a lot of email. I also get way, way more spam than any one person should get, and fear that I occasionally delete reader email accidentally while block-deleting all those (ahem!) marvelous offers. Still, I do my best.

Okay, taking your questions in order:

1) Please, please tell me what company you get your multi-vitamins from.

I buy the vast majority of my vitamins from Puritan's Pride, a mail-order vitamin house that has a huge product line and excellent prices. I generally bulk-order all of my vitamins for the whole year during their biggest annual sale, thus saving mucho bucks. (I store all the oil-based stuff - fish oil, extra vitamin E, and the like, in the freezer, to prevent rancidity.)

The only drawback to ordering from Puritan's Pride is that the product line is so big that you really have to know what it is you want, or you can get confused just flipping through their catalogue. I've been a vitamin freak for years, and know what I'm looking for, so this isn't a problem for me, but if your eyes glaze over in the vitamin aisle at the health food store, the Puritan's Pride catalogue is likely to induce the same reaction and then some.

For the record, the Puritan's Pride multiple I take is called Green Source, and I buy the Iron Free formula, because I get lots of iron in my diet, what with all that red meat. Green Source is a very good three tablet per day formula, but it's short on calcium and magnesium, so I take those, too. Indeed, I take three forms of calcium/magnesium/other mineral supplements, chosen for a balance between formula and price. If I had to pick one cal-mag product from Puritan's Pride, I'd pick their Bone Reinforcer.

All of this being said, there are plenty of good multiple vitamins on the market. In the past I've been very happy with a few formulations by Twin Lab, for instance - their Mega 3, Mega 6, and Dual Tabs are all quite good. Other brands I've come to trust include Now, Solgar, and Nature's Plus. Too, some of the network marketing companies put out excellent nutritional products, though they tend to be quite expensive. Still, some of the most cutting-edge formulations I've seen have come out of the network marketing industry.

I'm not a fan of one tablet per day drug store supplements. They're virtually always short on something, and often use forms of nutrients that are not well absorbed by the body. However, it should be duly noted that I long ago attained the status of True Believer where supplements are concerned, so I may not be as objective as some.

(If you'd like to check out Puritan's Pride, they're at http://www.puritans.com . I'd request a catalogue; navigating their website can be sort of clunky.)

2) How much or little fruit do you recommend to lose weight? A fruit lover in summer is a dangerous thing!

Oh, boy, don't I know it. I've been known to eat an entire quart of cherries at a sitting. Better for me than Skittles, no doubt, but still more sugar than my body needed.

I'm afraid I can't give you a hard-and-fast number for fruit consumption; bodies differ too much. You have to go with your own critical carb consumption level - the quantity of carbs you can eat and still lose.

Keep in mind that fruits vary a lot in carb content - eating a wedge of cantaloupe will mess you up far less than eating a banana. Fortunately, a lot of the summer fruits are fairly low carb. Which? Take a look at my article, "Summer Fruit Roundup," here: http://tinyurl.com/f7um

Also interesting is the fact that fruits vary quite a bit in glycemic index, and their GI doesn't generally have much to do with their carb content - for instance, cantaloupe has a high glycemic index, but it's quite low in sugar as fruit goes. How can this be? Because glycemic indices are evaluated using a specific number of grams of carbohydrate of the food being tested - so you'd eat lots of cantaloupe, but not much in the way of bananas (which also have a high glycemic index, by the way, along with having a high carb content.)

Personally, I'd worry more about the number of grams of carb in a given serving of fruit, and less about the glycemic index. Need to look up a fruit not in my article? Here's a link to the USDA Nutrient Database, which everyone reading this should bookmark! http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl This is a wonderful resource, and one of my favorite examples of Our Tax Dollars At Work.

I personally would be reluctant to eat more than 1-2 servings per day of fruit; I can eat a lot more vegetables for those carbs!

3. What do you think of food combining? Eg. Somersizing, Fit for Life etc.

I haven't tried Somersizing, but then, I don't eat the starches and sugars she allows, so my meals tend to be "properly combined" anyway. I do take exception to her downgrading of some fine foods as "funky" - most notably avocados, which are not only delicious, but highly nutritious - in particular, they're about the best low carb source of potassium.

I will say that I've heard from folks who have done well with the Somersizing approach, and I can't quarrel with success. However, I'm guessing (and that's all it is - a guess) that this has to do with a general reduction of carb intake, rather than any magic from food combining.

As for Fit For Life, I did try it, for about a week, despite being singularly unimpressed by the Diamond's "logic". Did nothing for me except make me hungry.

(What was my problem with their "logic"? Fit For Life asserts that you should eat different foods at different times of day, and that, in particular, you should eat nothing but fruit in the morning, because this is your "cleansing cycle." First of all, your body is processing waste constantly; I'm unaware of any particular time of day that is devoted to this process. Secondly, I kept wondering if my body would know if I flew across time zones, or was working the night shift, or when it was daylight savings time...)

Is there any truth to food combining? I think so. It's certainly true that proteins digest in the stomach, in an acid medium, while carbohydrates digest in the small intestine, in an alkaline medium. This means that eating the two together can trap undigested carbohydrates in your stomach, waiting for proteins to digest - and those carbohydrates can start to ferment in your stomach, leading to indigestion and heartburn. No fun. This is one of the reasons that many people find that reflux clears up on a low carb diet.

However, I am unconvinced that there's something magic about digesting your food thoroughly that causes weight loss. After all, food that isn't digested is passed through without being absorbed by the body. That food we don't digest or absorb will cause weight gain flies in the face of everything I know about nutrition. If this were the case, fiber would be the most fattening food stuff, and we know that this is not the case.

4) What are your favorite Firm videos? I have a bunch - they are the best! Try Traci Long's other videos (same creator as The Firm but more intense - more in the line of slow burn)

I will! That sounds very cool.

My all-time favorite Firm video is an old one - number 3, Interval Training, with Sandahl Bergman ( http://tinyurl.com/f848 ). I have "Maximum Body Shaping - very much focused on weights rather than aerobics - and like it a lot.( http://tinyurl.com/f83z ), and the "Time Crunch" 45 minute workout, also wonderful. ( http://tinyurl.com/f83p )

I was never wild about the Janet Jones Gretzky tape; it was always too light on the weights for me. Conversely, the very first tape, with Susan Harris, is too tough for me to do all the way through. Harris, for those of you who have not seen her, is a delicate looking blonde - who, I swear, was a Marine Drill Instructor in a former life.

I recently purchased the three tape set with "fanny lifter." Sadly, I still cannot do The Firm on anything like a regular basis without setting off the pain in my right leg left over from my car wreck 3 years back. I keep hoping some day I'll be able to go back to it regularly, since I know of no better home workout program.

I haven't tried anything like all of the Firm tapes; I tend to acquire a few and do them in rotation, over and over. But Lowcarbezine! reader and Firm Believer Carol Vandiver wrote me a very comprehensive post about the Firm videos a couple of years back - here's a link: http://tinyurl.com/f858 - scroll down through the issue to find Carol's article.

Folks, if you've been looking askance at The Firm because it's now advertised by infomercial, all I can say is "don't". There simply is no better home fitness product on the market today. Every Firm video I've tried has been well-designed and well-instructed, and offered an excellent workout. The combination of aerobics with weight training that The Firm videos offer is superb for getting you into killer shape in the shortest time possible. The workouts are not easy - we're talking weights, here - but they are simple enough for anyone to follow, and because you can choose lighter or heavier weights, they can be easily adjusted to any level of fitness - and you'll never outgrow them.

If you're serious about getting in shape, it's hard to do better than The Firm.

5) I have 3 kids. What "good carbs" do you recommend that won't create sugar/carb addicts? Luckily they love cheese, fruit, some meat, whole wheat pasta, eggs etc.

I'd go with a few main criteria: Minimal refinement/processing, high fiber content, and modest glycemic index - you'll notice that these tend to go together.

Whole wheat pasta is a perfect example: It's unrefined, minimally processed, and relatively high in fiber - and it has a modest glycemic index. Another similar starch choice would be whole wheat pita bread, which, for some reason we don't yet completely understand, has a much lower glycemic index than whole wheat loaf bread - and most kids think it's sort of cool. A third choice would be brown rice - and if you can combine it with unhulled barley, better yet; barley's glycemic index is far lower than brown rice's. (They'll cook happily together in the same pan.)

What about potatoes? Potatoes are a little trickier. First of all, all potatoes, in every form, have a high glycemic index. Still, if you give the kids minimally processed potatoes, they'll have some vitamins in them, and a bit of fiber, so they're not the worst choice. It's when they're turned into fries, chips, potato sticks, and the worst - instant mashed potatoes - that potatoes become a real problem. If your kids aren't overweight, I don't see why they can't have a baked or boiled potato with dinner.

But the kids like chips! Sure they do, but they like popcorn, too, and it's a better bet. One ounce of popped popcorn contains 22 grams of carb, with 4 grams of fiber. An ounce of potato chips sounds better - 15 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber. But an ounce of potato chips is roughly 15 chips, or 1/8th of a regular size bag, and who ever ate that few? The ounce of popcorn, however, is almost a quart - a far more realistic serving size. Go with the popcorn. Just don't buy microwave popcorn - it's virtually always loaded with hydrogenated fat. Get a popcorn popper, fercryinoutload - you can find them cheap at thrift shops everywhere - buy bulk popcorn, and butter it yourself. You'll save a pile of cash, too.

Sadly, all grocery store crackers of which I'm aware - Ritz, Club, saltines, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, et al, contain hydrogenated vegetable oil, and most are also made from white flour. Can't recommend 'em. However, health food stores carry whole grain, hydrogenate-free crackers. Wasa crackers, available in many grocery stores, are also a good choice, especially since rye has a lower blood sugar impact than wheat. Give the kids some cheese or natural peanut butter and low sugar preserves to eat with those crackers, and they should be content.

I'm sorry to have to tell you that all cold cereal except All-Bran has an immense glycemic index; the stuff is sugar-shock in a box. It's also wildy expensive, of course. If the kids want cold cereal, consider making a big batch of homemade granola on the weekend. Making granola is easy - you just assemble the ingredients and toast it lightly in the oven; it should take you a big ten minutes hands-on time. There's a recipe for high protein, relatively low carb granola in 500 Low-Carb Recipes, but you'll also find granola recipes in many "health food" cookbooks. Decrease the grain a bit, add extra nuts and seeds, and substitute Splenda for at least part of the sugar or honey, and you'll be well on your way to a better cereal than any you can buy. Stir in some protein powder, too, if you like - it'll keep the kids full longer!

I'd let the kids eat fruit pretty much with impunity, again, assuming there's no weight problem. Beats the heck out of candy bars and cookies. Avoid "fruit roll ups," "fruit leather" and the like, even if it's the no-sugar-added stuff from the health food store - maybe as an occasional treat, but this stuff is concentrated, and it's easy to get a lot of sugar this way. Even natural sugar is sugar, as you know. I'd skip dried fruit, too, for the same reason - one of those little snack boxes of raisins represents an entire bunch of grapes! (And grapes are a high impact fruit!) No, whole fruit with all the water and fiber still in it is best, because the bulk naturally limits what they'll eat.

What about "real" sweets? Here, fat and protein are your friends. Avoid all candy that's pretty much solid sugar - jelly beans, Skittles, Twizzlers, gummis, that sort of thing. Chocolate covered nuts are about the easiest on blood sugar of all the candies, because of the protein and fat - this includes peanut M&Ms, by the way. Personally, though, I'd probably give a kid the sugar free stuff - so long as I could count on said kid not to overindulge and end up with a belly-ache! All cookies have a high blood sugar impact, but oatmeal cookies are somewhat better than stuff like chocolate chips and sandwich cookies, apparently because of the fiber.

The true diamond on the list is super-premium ice cream - Hagen Daaz and the like - which has a relatively low glycemic index, again because of the fat and protein content. Still, the sugar free ice cream, ice pops, and fudge bars are virtually indistinguishable from the sugary kind. I'd probably go with sugar free.

I'd stay away from the commercial yogurts marketed to kids - "Go-gurt" and the junk with sprinkles to mix in and such. "Health food"? I think not. Buy plain yogurt (or make it yourself,) and stir in a few mashed berries and some sweetener, or some low-sugar preserves. Vanilla or lemon extract plus sweetener also makes for very tasty yogurt. Takes roughly 30 seconds to put this together.

One last carb you should let them have: Milk. Milk has 12 grams of carb per cup, but it's all in the form of lactose, which has a very low glycemic index. And of course milk is a superb source of calcium, and a good source of high quality protein. They want chocolate milk? Can you talk them into drinking sugar-free chocolate protein shakes, instead? Healthier than chocolate milk - all that extra protein! Still, even sugar-sweetened chocolate milk is far, far better for them than soda pop, though I'd still limit it.

Hope this helps!

One final thought: I can't claim to be any sort of authority on child-rearing, being childless myself and all. Still, I've heard from friends with kids that the number of things a child will "just die" without drops dramatically when they learn that they're expected to pay for the stuff themselves. Accordingly, if I do have kids (working on it!) I will not ban sugar/junk food outright. Instead, my policy will be "Not in my house, not with my money." If they want to buy a candy bar or a can of soda with their money while their out of the house, there's little that can be done to prevent it. But I will draw a very hard line on the issue of spending my hard earned cash on rubbish that will make them unwell and ill-behaved, not to mention racking up dental bills.

6) We love ethnic food but every country in the world seems to combine grains with their vegies or meat. Any suggestions for Mexican, Italian, Chinese etc.?

Sure! It's a rare restaurant where I can't find something to eat without carbing out. Be very honest with yourself, though - it's pretty common for people to think, "Oh, I'm at a restaurant, it's a special occasion - I'll just go ahead and have whatever I like." Fine if you've planned ahead for an Indulgence, and it's truly a special occasion - birthday, anniversary, day-you're-dropping-$100-per-head-at-a-three-star-joint, whatever. But most Americans now eat out at least once a week; having an Indulgence that often is a bad idea.

When I eat at a Mexican place, my most frequent pick is either steak or chicken fajitas, with extra guacamole (I love guacamole!) I simply pile the guac, sour cream, and pico de gallo on top of the skillet of fajitas, and eat the whole thing with a fork. Depending on the restaurant, I might also have Puntas de Filete ( bits of beef fillet - these come cooked a variety of ways), or steak done Mexican style (look for the work "bistec"). My favorite local Mexican place (El Torre, here in Bloomington, Indiana) also does a wonderful dish of pork stewed with zucchini and tomatoes. Another good choice can be the taco salad - if you can trust yourself not to eat the taco shell. Sometimes these have refried beans; I've never had trouble getting a restaurant to hold the beans and replace it with extra meat or chicken.

(Confession: On those rare occasions that I find a Mexican restaurant that serves Chicken Mole, I declare an existing state of Indulgence. I adore Chicken Mole, and it's very hard to find in Indiana. This is not a huge indulgence - not like, say, eating a huge platter of spaghetti - but the sauce generally has ground tortillas in it as a thickener.)

Most Italian places will have some sort of meat or poultry in an acceptable sauce - veal or chicken piccata (cooked with lemon, white wine and capers), chicken Marsala (the Marsala is a sweet wine, but there's not likely to be enough to truly mess you up), something in Alfredo sauce, or the like.

Italian places also often have good fish and seafood dishes - Scampi (shrimp with lots of butter, olive oil, and garlic) is a low carb Italian classic.

Furthermore, if an Italian restaurant has a good antipasto platter, that can practically serve as a meal in itself! And Italian restaurants virtually always have good salads.

At Chinese places, you can always eat your food without the rice. You'll also want to avoid dishes where the meat, chicken, or fish is breaded and fried - sweet and sour dishes, for instance. But then, you'd want to pass up sweet and sour anyway because of the sugar in the sauce. In general, stick to meat, chicken, or shrimp stir fried with veggies of one kind or another. Hot and sour soup and/or egg drop soup are also pretty good choices, as is Eggs Fu Yong.

That being said, I've come to generally avoid Chinese food. I'm almost always a little bloated the day after eating it, even with no rice. It seems that - at least in their American incarnations - virtually all Chinese dishes have corn starch and sugar in the sauces. Since I'm a good and enthusiastic cook, if I find myself craving Chinese, I'm likely to cook something myself, instead of going out.

I hope this has helped. I've found myself very interested in this subject, so I'll tell you what: Next issue, I'll do an article where I link to really-truly menus that I find online, and we'll go through them, looking at what we can eat in various restaurants. Should be fun!

Thanks, Jane, for a great bunch of useful questions!!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:50 PM

Cooking Low Carb - San Diego Chicken

Sometimes these things happen fast: A version of this recipe appeared in my local paper yesterday, and it looked tasty, but it was way too high carb for us. I played around with it, cut out a lot of the carbs, ended up with this recipe, made it for dinner, and - yum!

San Diego Chicken

8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
3 tablespoons Splenda
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (if you don't have any on hand, I'm sure pple cider vinegar would taste fine - different, but fine.)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 pounds cut up chicken

Mix together everything but the chicken pieces. Place the chicken pieces in a large zipper-lock bag, and pour the tomato sauce mixture over it. Seal the bag, pressing out the air as you go, and turn to coat all the chicken pieces. Let your chicken marinate for at least a few hours, and I'm betting a day wouldn't hurt a bit.

When you're ready to cook: Get your grill ready - I use a charcoal grill, and waited till my coals were covered with white ash. If you have a gas grill, you know your unit better than I; set is as you do for chicken. Pull your chicken out of the marinade, and pour the marinade out of the bag, into a saucepan. Go throw your chicken on the grill, bone side down, close the lid, and set a timer for 13-15 minutes.

While the chicken is grilling, put that pan of marinade over a low burner, and let it come to a simmer. You're going to simmer it for a good five minutes, thus killing all those raw chicken germs, and making it safe to use as a finishing sauce. Now go check your chicken for flare-ups - I keep a squeeze bottle of water by the grill to keep these at bay. You want your chicken cooked, not charred!

Timer gone "ding"? Turn your chicken, using a pair of tongs. Set your timer for another 13-15 minutes. When time's up, turn it skin side up again, and pierce a piece to the bone, to make sure all the juices are running clear. If there's any pink in the juices let your chicken cook another few minutes.

When it's done, serve each piece with a little of that marinade you simmered spooned over the top. Enjoy!

6 servings, each with 5 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 4 grams. 29 grams of protein.

Note: I used serious Jamaican Scotch Bonnet hot sauce in this, and it wasn't scorch your mouth hot, just nicely spicy. If you want to, you can crank the heat up or down by either using more or less hot sauce, or using hotter or less-hot sauce.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:40 PM

June 06, 2003

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Cooking Low Carb! Jamie's Elvis Burgers

Something for the grill! I was watching Jamie Oliver on the Food Network the other day (gotta love a network that's all about food!), and he made these really cool looking burgers for an Elvis impersonator friend of his. The way he made the burgers - including a whole huge onion and a bunch of bread crumbs - wasn't going to work for us. Furthermore, Mr. Oliver is a bit more of a purist than I am, grinding his own beef and his own spices. I figured that I'd still get a tasty burger with the carbs greatly reduced, and using store-bought ground beef, and pre-ground spices. Sure enough, the burgers came out great. So here is the new and decarbed version of:

Jamie's Elvis Burgers

2/3 cup minced sweet red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pound ground chuck
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Pinch salt or Vege-Sal
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon or spicy brown mustard

Throw the onion and olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed skillet over lowest heat, and let the onion saute for 10 minutes or so. In the meanwhile, assemble everything else in a mixing bowl.

When the onion is quite soft - again, after about 10 minutes - add to the mixing bowl, and using clean hands, squish everything together until very well combined.

Form into 6 patties, and chill for an hour or so - in the meanwhile, get your grill going. Cook over a low charcoal fire for 5-7 minutes per side, or until done to your liking. Or, if you prefer, cook them in a skillet, or on an electric tabletop grill.

Serve with low carb ketchup, and some dill pickle slices.

6 servings, each with 3 grams carb and a trace of fiber; count 3 grams of usable carb (not including ketchup and pickle.) 28 grams protein.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:02 PM