August 13, 2003

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Hey Gang -

So, what did you do this weekend? :-D

My heartfelt thanks to all who wrote to congratulate me on my appearance on The Today Show! I had a wonderful time. I'm happy to report that everyone at NBC was just as nice and friendly and warm as they could possibly be; they made me feel very comfortable. Their food stylist, Maria, made my dishes (not to mention a couple that were donated by readers for 500 Low-Carb Recipes -- Vicki Cash's Pumpkin Cheesecake and Ellen Radke's Noodleless Lasagne made the cut! Hey, guys, your food was on TV!) look far spiffier than they ever do in my kitchen, and the crew was gratifyingly enthusiastic about inhaling the "props"; as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

Incidentally, after my rehearsal Saturday, I walked back to my hotel (the fabulous, elegant Essex House, on Central Park South -- and I'm usually a Super 8 kind of girl!) along 7th Avenue, which was closed for a street fair. Instead of eating dinner at the hotel, I bought food from the vendors at the fair -- a couple of kabobs and a chicken satay, giving me a wildly delicious dinner with no more than 2 or 3 grams of carb for a grand total of $7. What a bargain!

(I'll add here that it's always a joy to visit New York City. I grew up in New Jersey, just across the river, and New York will always have a very special place in my heart. And don't believe the nonsense you've heard about New Yorkers being hostile and unfriendly; I always meet lovely people when I go to New York. Love you, Big Apple!)

Nearly as exciting as my network television debut is the fact that for roughly 24 hours I was #1 at -- I was beating Harry Potter! And I'm still in the top 10.

All told, it's been an exciting week. But as always, it's good to be home, writing and cooking up a storm. So here's your ezine -- hope you enjoy it!

Read on!


Posted by HoldTheToast at 05:09 PM

Ethnic Restaurants 101 Continued: Middle Eastern

Okay, we've done Italian and Mexican; today we're going to look at one of my favorite kinds of food -- Middle Eastern! Here's our menu, from Byblos restaurant in Tempe, Arizona: Call it up so you can go back and forth between this article and the menu, and we'll get going.

As always, remember: Ask questions! A well-informed waiter is your best ally; if you're not sure from reading the menu what goes into a particular dish, ask. And don't be afraid to request things the way you want them, within reason. Remember, you're paying them; any good restaurant should be happy to accommodate your dietary restrictions.

To the menu!

First the appetizers. Homos, sometimes spelled hummus, is out for Atkins types and other strict low carbers; it's made from chick peas (garbanzo beans) and is quite carby. However, it is a low impact carb, so if you're simply trying to stick to the lower glycemic index stuff, this may be for you. Moutabal (Babaghannouji) is made from eggplant, a very low carb vegetable, so the dip itself should be fine. If you can get them to serve it with celery sticks or the like, instead of pita bread, this could be a good choice.

Falafel is again made from chickpeas, and it's stuffed into a pita -- it's sort of the Middle East's vegetarian answer to the taco. Carby; pass it up. The vegetarian Dolmas are bound to have rice in the filling, so skip them, too.

Next we have Labneh -- a seasoned yogurt -- and Tzatziki, a wonderful sour cream-garlic-cucumber dip. Since the folks who wrote the GO-Diet turned up the fact that plain yogurt is much lower carb than we thought -- just 4 grams per cup -- I'd consider both of these good choices, except for the pita they're likely to be served with. Again, I'd ask for some vegetables for dipping, instead. (And for those of you just watching glycemic index, even white flour pita has a relatively low impact. I'd go easy, but a little shouldn't hurt. This does not apply to true low carbers, like Atkins dieters, however!! A low glycemic index carb is still a carb.)

After this comes Foul Moudamas, which says it's made from "lava beans."; I suspect this is a misprint, and they mean "fava beans,"; but either way, just about all legumes are high carb.

Byblos Marinated Chicken Wings is next in line, and I just love chicken wings! I'd ask what they're marinated with -- assuming it's not something sugary, these are among your best choices of appetizers.

Homos with Meat and & Pine (nuts) is out, because Homos is high carb. Kebbe has cracked wheat, so we'll pass that by as well. Next we have Arayess. Everything about this ground beef dish sounds fine except for the pita it's stuffed into. You could ask for it without the pita and eat it with a fork, or you could ask for some lettuce leaves to wrap it in instead.

Loubieh Bil Zeit is simply described as "A green bean delicacy, cooked vegetarian style."; Green beans are low carb, so this may be okay, but you'd want to inquire as to just exactly what cooking the beans vegetarian style entails.

I'm afraid the Spinach Pie is out, and too bad, too; this is one of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes. The lamb version of kibbe, like the beef version above, has cracked wheat, so we're not getting this either. But look what's next! Shrimp cocktail. This is another perfect low carb choice.

Finally we have pita cheese crisps -- do I have to tell you these are high carb?

Okay, moving along to the salads, one of our favorite sections of the menu! Tabboule is out, since the main ingredient is wheat. But look what comes next -- Fattouch, a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, onions, and parsley, marred only by some toasted bits of pita, which surely we can have them leave off. This would be a fabulous salad for us -- and would also make a great base for a meat dish that would otherwise be served in a pita, or over rice. The Yogurt Cucumber Salad would be fine, too; unusual and cooling with an order of shish kabab. And of course Greek Salad is a low carb classic -- and again, a wonderful base for a meat dish that would otherwise go in a pita or on a bed of rice.

Coming up: Seafood! There are some great selections here, though of course you'll ask for an extra salad instead of the potato or rice pilaf. My only complaint is that these fish selections are not notably Middle Eastern -- if you're looking for true ethnic flavor, I'd move on. Filet of Fish Meuniere is a classic, and wonderfully low carb, but it's actually French in origin. The Grilled Fish Fillet might have a more Middle Eastern flavor, depending on what the "special seasonings"; are. The Shrimp Provencal-Scampi would be lovely, but again is not notably Middle Eastern, and I'm pretty sure that the lemon-pepper on the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp is not authentically Middle Eastern, either. Still, all of these fish and seafood dishes will be fine for the diet.

The Vegetarian dishes are up next, and for the most part they're not for us. The only possible exception is the Vegetarian Moussaka. Look at the description: "Eggplant layered with a mixture of vegetables topped with a creamy cheese sauce and served with rice pilaf."; The rice pilaf is out, of course, but how about the rest? Eggplant is very low carb; we don't know what other vegetables are involved. I'd ask what goes in the cheese sauce, too -- if it's flour or cornstarch thickened, I probably wouldn't order this, but if there's no flour, and the vegetables involved are low carb, this might be okay.

Our Side Orders are up next. We have no clue whether the soup of the day is okay or not; you'll simply have to ask the waiter what's in it. But Feta and Olives is a killer low carb side dish, unbelievably flavorful, and very filling. The baked potato is out, no surprise there. But the garlic dip may or may not be okay, depending on what else is in it. If it has a yogurt or sour cream base, it's fine. If it's made from something like pureed chick peas, it's not. Assuming the dip itself is low carb, you'd certainly want to ask for vegetables to dip in it, instead of pita.

On to the Dinner Entrees! Again, they're all served with soup or salad, with a choice of potato or rice pilaf, with "garnish' and fresh baked bread. We'll be passing up the bread, and asking for extra salad in place of the potato or rice. But what shall our protein dish be?

Shish-Kebab! Now we're talking! I'd have it made with lamb, myself, but no reason not to have beef if you prefer it. Chunks of meat, broiled with vegetables -- you can't get a better low carb meal! Except maybe the Shish-Taouk, the next item on the menu -- cubes of marinated chicken breast, skewered and grilled with red peppers. This menu is really looking up!

Broiled Chicken sounds mighty plain, but almost everywhere in the Middle East the simple art of broiling a chicken has been raised to perfection. This would be one of my favorite picks.

Next comes the Byblos Mixed Grill, and again we're talking low carb heaven! A lamb kabob, a chicken kabob, and a "keufta"; kabob (sometimes spelled "kofta"; kabob.) What's a Keufta Kabob? Look down one item, and you'll see that it's a kabob made from ground meat -- most likely lamb, but possibly beef, or a combination -- mixed with onions, parsley, and spices, then formed on a skewer and broiled (not boiled!) One each of these delights sounds mighty good. (I may have to get up from this computer and get a snack; this menu is making me hungry!)

After the Keufta Kabob comes a sandwich version, the Keufta Khachkach -- it's the same Kabob, stuffed in a pita with tomato sauce, pine nuts, and mushrooms. Everything but the pita sounds good here; maybe you could order the whole thing on a salad?

I'm guessing the vast majority of you know what a gyros is -- a sandwich made from lamb that's been ground, mixed with seasonings, formed into a big cylinder, and roasted on a special machine made for the purpose, then cut off in long slices and stuffed into a pita with traditional toppings. I'm here to tell you that all of the innards of a gyros sandwich taste fabulous on top of a Greek Salad; this is my most common choice at a Greek restaurant, and it would be a good choice here, too.

Finally we come to Lamb Chops. I adore lamb chops, and they are, of course, carb-free. The mint jelly is not, however, and strikes me as a rather British touch. Still, lamb chops are very nice with no mint jelly at all. Go for it.

How about the House Specialties? The French Pepper Steak may not be Middle Eastern, but it is low carb. So are the Filet Mignon and the Sirloin. If steak is your pleasure, you'll have fun at Byblos. Me, I once again would be looking for something a little more exotic -- like maybe the Shawarma Chicken, which sounds great, and low carb. I'd skip the Beef Stroganoff; it's likely to have flour in the sauce, but the Escalope Cordon Bleu sounds fine.

Which brings us to the sandwiches. We're not going to be eating that pita, unless, again, you're simply trying to eat lower glycemic index carbs. And all of the fillings of these sandwiches are available elsewhere on the menu with no bread. Let's just skip the sandwiches.

Desserts? Yeah, right. Unless it's a very special occasion, deserving of an Indulgence, I trust you'll simply ignore these. With all the great meats and salads on this menu, plus a side of feta and olives, I'm betting you can get satisfactorily full before the end of this meal!

As with other restaurants, you'll want to drink water, coffee, tea (hot or iced), diet soda, or, if you want a drink, a light beer or dry wine. Beware of the Turkish Coffee and Mid-Eastern Tea; both are likely to be full of sugar.

And that's our Middle Eastern meal! Once again, we've found piles of delicious ethnic food that won't leave us sorry the next morning. We'll look at another menu next issue!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 05:06 PM

A Reader's Suggestion Re: Mexican Restaurants

Last issue we looked through a Mexican restaurant menu to see what there was for the low carb dieter. I got this response to the article from reader Renee Cordrey:

Don't write off enchiladas. Last time I was out for Mexican food, I asked for the beef enchiladas without the tortilla. They were happy to accommodate, and I enjoyed a nice plate of beef, cheese, and sauce (which is generally low-carb).

Thanks, Renee! You're a woman after my own heart. Notice, folks, that Renee is following the first rule of getting a good, low carb restaurant meal: Ask for what you want!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 05:00 PM

Great Reader Letter

A reader identified only as Jennifer sends this:


First of all, I can't write to you without telling you how much I absolutely love 500 Low Carb Recipes and how I have recommended it to at least 3 other people who've run out to Borders to buy it. At last! A comprehensive recipe book full of recipes for real people! I have been so disappointed that as more and more LC cookbooks come out, so many of them have ridiculous dishes full of ingredients that might make someone's mouth water (not mine) but are just not practical for family dinners. My husband (not a LC'er) and young son barely notice that dinner is diet friendly when I make recipes from your book - they are so family friendly and good that they don't realized they are eating low carb!

I am a 31 year old woman who has done the low carb thing several times, and who this time has finally really "got it". I am also diabetic (so I know carbs backwards and forwards) and have PCOS (so I know how insulin resistant I am), and after just three months eating this way I have not only lost three sizes, but my health has improved. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the

cookbook, the ezine...the information!

I am reading through your Lowcarbezine! past issues and I just finished your "rant" about the fast food restaurant law suits. In it, you mention how frustrated you were with the blame being placed squarely on fat. That rang a huge and loud bell with me. I recently read an article in Redbook talking about how to raise your metabolism, and while I was thrilled to see increasing protein in there, I was a bit ticked when this was immediately followed up with "this doesn't mean you have to do the Atkins diet" or something of that nature.

I get so frustrated that so many people just don't get it. I see people in front of me at the grocery store with all the prepackaged low fat foods in their carts that probably give them the fictitious satisfaction that they are eating healthily. Then I look in mine and see all the vegetables, proteins, cheese, and I know that I truly am doing the right thing. I want to tap them on the back of their shoulders with a box of processed fat-free cookies and tell them that they're doing it all wrong! And then I see programs talking about food items being healthier because "It's leaner and much lower in fat than beef," etc. and my eyes roll so far back into my head that I have to smack myself so I can see again. (Not literally, of course! :) ) In short...blaming fat annoys me.

Why, why, why? There is so much information out there! Why do these people deprive themselves of all the luxuries we have? Excellent food, satisfying portions, outstanding health! I want to scream, "LC'ers don't eat six eggs and half a pound of bacon for breakfast every morning! We don't eschew vegetables! We don't eat sticks of butter with a spoon! We can have fruits! The media and health industry take the exaggerations and try to scare you away from this healthy high protein, high vitamin, nutritious lifestyle!"

I am alternately frustrated by the lack of understanding in mainstream people and encouraged by the amazing availability of low carb products now. I live in a medium sized city (65,000 population) and without paying a penny in shipping I can buy low carb bars, shakes, bake mixes, tortillas, chocolate, candies, etc. etc., at retail and discount stores. My dream? That someday we'll have Low Carb Restaurants and Food Network will have a low carb cooking show (any thought of this as a next step to promote your books? Hmmmm? Hint!) and doctors will begin widely prescribing the LC lifestyle as a way to improve...well...everything!!

Anyway, that is my rant...something about your writing and your passion for this lifestyle struck a chord in me and I wanted to write to you. Again, thank you so very much for what you are doing to educate anyone who wants to learn. I am very much looking forward to your new book, and will be one of the first in line to buy it.

Please keep up the outstanding work!


Thanks, Jennifer! Great rant! I know exactly how you feel about the carts full of fake low fat food. I always feel like the kid in The Emperor's New Clothes; I want to run up to people and cry, "NO! Don't do it, buddy! It's a lie, it's all a lie!";

But I generally don't. Which may explain why I'm still free to walk the streets... ;-D

Thanks again!

By the way, it's funny you should mention The Food Network. I actually have a television producer who is "shopping"; me to The Food Network for a low carb show. I was going to suggest that you email The Food Network and suggest that they do a low carb show, but their website makes it clear that they only take show suggestions from television producers and agents. So we'll just have to see what happens.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:59 PM

The Issue of Fat and Breast Cancer Raises Its Head Once Again...

Don't know if you caught it, but a few weeks back a new medical study made the mainstream press, asserting that saturated fat is, indeed, associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Since the world at large assumes that we low carbers pretty much live on bunless bacon cheeseburgers with a side of sour cream, I've had a couple of inquiries as to what this study means for us.

Truth to tell, I don't really know. The news reports have been fairly sketchy on details, and I haven't been able to read the whole report yet, or even an abstract. Here's what I do know:

The study, which was done in Cambridge, England by the Medical Research Council's Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, looked at "food diaries"; kept by over 13,000 women from Norfolk. It concluded that women in the top 20% of saturated fat intake had roughly double the risk of breast cancer as the women in the lowest 20% saturated fat intake group. The researchers carefully matched the women for what the news reports simply called "other unhealthy lifestyles."; What those unhealthy lifestyles might be was not detailed.

Dr. Sheila Bingham, deputy director of the Human Nutrition Unit, was quoted as saying, "The study shows that there is an emerging link between eating too much fatty food and increasing the risk of breast cancer."; She went on to add, "The effect seems to be related particularly to saturated fat found mostly in high fat milk, butter, meat, and some cereals such as biscuits [Dana's note: That's "cookies"; here in the US] and cakes.";

So, should we all panic, and give up our low carb diets?

What, did you really think I was going to say yes? Look, I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. However, I have a few thoughts, regarding this study.

First of all, this is only one study, and it comes on the heels of several years of studies that turned up no positive correlation between fat intake and breast cancer. Indeed, more than one study -- including the truly immense and astoundingly long-term Harvard Nurses' Study -- found that the women with the lowest fat intake had a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. This one study, while provocative, and a good cause for further research, does not suddenly render all the previous studies meaningless.

Secondly, while we're still unclear on the causes of cancer, we are quite sure that cancer, once established, feeds on glucose -- blood sugar. There is also a strong correlation between high insulin levels and insulin resistance, and breast cancer. And, indeed, there are also studies that have shown that high intake of carbohydrate, and especially high impact carbohydrate, increases breast cancer risk.

Third, given the fact that we know that insulin levels are tied to breast cancer risk, it would be interesting to know what the effect is of eating saturated fat is in the absence of a high carbohydrate intake. We can gather from Dr. Bingham's statement that these women were, indeed, eating sugar and white flour -- biscuits and cakes -- (indeed, at the BBC site the illustration was a piece of chocolate cake: ) and one assumes they also were eating bread, potatoes, pasta, and the like. Is it not possible that there is some interaction between saturated fat and dietary carbohydrate? Without a study of saturated fat and breast cancer risk in the context of a low carbohydrate diet, we simply don't know.

Another factor that I found myself wondering about was calcium intake. There are now several studies suggesting a protective effect against breast cancer -- and colon cancer, too -- from a high intake of calcium -- and while milk and cheese are high in saturated fat, they are also high in calcium. (Butter, cream, and sour cream are not good sources of calcium.)

Most importantly, there is nothing in this study that indicates that carbohydrates are good for you. Even if, indeed, we learn that saturated fat is a causal factor for breast cancer, that won't somehow make sugar less devastating to health, or make white flour less than a total nutritional wasteland. It won't change the fact that grains are not a part of the evolutionary diet of human kind, nor will it make carbohydrates less of a trigger of high triglycerides, diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

I've said it before, and it bears repeating: We don't know exactly what balance of fats is safest yet. We do know that farm-raised, grass-fed meat has a different fatty acid profile than the game and grass-fed meats that our ancestors ate for millennia; it is unclear yet how big a problem this may be. We do know that some fats that come along with the saturates appear to be darned healthy -- most particularly CLA, found in beef and cheese, which decreases fat storage and reduces cancer risk, and stearic acid, a major component of beef fat, which has a similar LDL lowering, HDL raising influence to olive oil and other monounsaturated fats.

One thing is clear, and has been since long before this study hit the press: A low carb diet that consists of nothing but beef and cheese would be a bad idea -- both boring and nutritionally limited. There's every reason to eat not only beef, but pork (which, despite a bad image, is one of the most nutritious meats -- and which contains more monounsaturates than saturates) and lamb. There's even more reason to eat poultry -- not only chicken, but turkey, duck, Cornish hens, and even quail and the like if you can get them and afford them -- and overwhelming reasons to eat fish on a regular basis. All of these flesh foods are just as low carb as beef, of course.

There's also no reason not to use lean cuts of meat if you are concerned -- again, beef round and pork loin are just as low carb as fattier cuts like short ribs and pork shoulder, and they're almost as low in total fat as skinless chicken or turkey breast (not to mention higher in some nutritients.) If you choose to do this, you can add more fat calories -- since of course fat is where low carbers get most of their fuel -- by sauteing in olive oil, adding guacamole, topping salads with nuts or seeds -- or simply snacking on them -- in short, by adding more monounsaturates.

I, on the other hand, am unlikely to panic. I am unconvinced that this one study outweighs the many that show no danger from fat, and I am quite convinced that cheap, trashy, high impact carbs are the biggest dietary cancer risk.

But however


As all but my very newest subscribers are aware, last week I put out the call for stories of those of you who have successfully controlled or treated diabetes with a low carb diet. Within 48 hours, I had 92 posts, all but a couple of them truly wonderful and exciting success stories. The other few were from folks wanting to know if a low carb diet was helpful for diabetes. Well, folks, I'll start publishing the email I've gotten on the subject, and you tell me! Here's the first low carb diabetes success story:

Hi Dana! I've been getting your newsletter for a couple of years now, but this is the first time I've written you. Back in 1999, I was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. At 5'11" I weighed in at 236 pounds and a size 20 or 22. My doctor suggested the Protein Power diet (he was on it!). My original thought was "moderation in all things". Ha!

I started on my low carb diet and have never looked back! 80 pounds later I'm at 156 pounds, a size 10 or 12 and have stabilized there for quite a while. I went for a blood test last month (July, 2003) and not only have I NOT been diabetic for a couple of years (my doctor and I have known that since I get blood tests on a regular basis for high cholesterol), but ALL of the blood test numbers test smack dab in the middle of normal! And I'm 56 years old! I'm no longer on medication of any kind and my blood pressure which had been in the hypertensive range in 1999 is now "low" (which is good).

My doctor is particularly interested in heart disease (it runs in his family and also in mine) and has recently discovered a direct correlation between adult onset diabetes and heart disease. By going on a low carb diet to initially lose weight and back away from the diabetes, I've also saved myself from heart disease! Go low carb dieting!!! (And by the way, if I read one more "expert" contending that low carb diets are unhealthy, my low blood pressure will be at serious threat of blowing!!).

Donna Hoff, Longmont Colorado

Too cool!! Donna, I'd love to have before-and-after photos. I'll continue to publish these diabetes success stories in upcoming issues. It's important that people realize just how effective low carb is for controlling this potentially devastating disease.

By the way, I'd love to have before-and-after photos from all of you. Don't make me send out a Special Notice! Send me your before-and-after photos, and let's show the world what low carb can do!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:57 PM

August 02, 2003

Click here to subscribe to Lowcarbezine!

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Order How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet -- And Lost Forty Pounds! from Amazon.Com

Order 500 Low-Carb Recipes from Amazon.Com

Hey Gang -

I got it out before the end of the week! I did! Do you have any idea how hard it is to write with workmen around the house all the time? They're lovely people, and my new floors are very nice, but - me? Work? It is to laugh. Or cry.

But here it is, never the less. Read on!


Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:26 PM

Ethnic Restaurants 101: Mexican

Last issue I walked you through an actual Italian restaurant menu, with ideas for what you might order in keeping with your low carb way of eating. This issue we're eating Mexican! Once again, I simply did a Google search under "Mexican restaurant menu" and picked one of the first few that came up. Take a look at the menu for Celia's Mexican Restaurant in Berkeley California:

What shall we have?

At the very top of the menu we see guacamole and chips. Guacamole is wonderful for us, but chips, of course, are not. I'd probably find some other way to eat guacamole, but if I was with folks who felt like ordering the guac-and-chips platter, I wouldn't be above eating some guac with a spoon.

None of the nachos will work for us, but again, if others at the table really wanted them, I'd feel free to peel off and eat the toppings, if I could avoid the beans. Indeed, I might request that they order the nachos without the beans, or order the seafood nachos, which don't come with beans anyway.

Ceviche is a Mexican classic, and it's low carb, low fat, low calorie, high protein - eat this stuff and you'll sprout a halo. It will also taste good. Technically, ceviche is uncooked, but the acid in the lemon juice (some recipes call for lime, instead) makes the fish just as firm as if it had been heated. Don't worry about it.

Skip the vegetarian entrees, they're all hopeless. Let's get fajitas, instead! Fajitas are my most common Mexican restaurant pick. I ignore the tortillas, and order an extra side of guacamole. I pile the guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa) right onto the hot skillet with the meat and vegetables, and eat the whole thing with a fork. Delicious and satisfying! On this menu you have an embarrassment of choices, too - steak, chicken, or prawn (shrimp) - or a combo! You will, of course, forgo the rice, beans, and potato wedges.

(If you'd like to be able to explain to a Mexican waiter why you're not eating tortillas, try, "Porque me hacen gorda y cansada" - "Because they make me fat and tired." Gentlemen, that's "gordo y cansado" for you. This answer has never failed to get a grin out of a curious waiter.)

The house specialties at Celia's are making me hungry just reading them! Steak Picado - chunks of rib eye sauted with vegetables in tomato sauce - will have a few extra carbs from the tomatoes, but should still be fine unless you're on Induction. The Steak ala Mexicana also looks great for us - steak with onion, avocado, and tomato slices. Again, dodge the rice and beans, and I'd be careful about that cole slaw. Cole slaw commonly has quite a lot of sugar in the dressing - if it tastes sweet, it's got sugar in it, period.

Chile Verde should also be all right. Salsa verde is made with tomatillos, which are lower carb than regular tomatoes. Do I have to say it again? No rice and beans for you.

With the Chile Colorado, I'd ask if it has beans in it, and also if it's tomato-based. If it has no beans, it should be okay, and if it has no tomatoes, it's probably a great choice.

Next we have "El Tampico" - a combination of steak and prawns (shrimp) sauteed with vegetables. Sounds promising; I'd make sure that none of the vegetables is corn or potatoes. If the veggies are low carb, this is a great choice.

The enchiladas won't do; let's skip on by. Carne asada is basically steak; skip the rice and beans and you'll be fine, but this doesn't strike me as the most exciting menu option. Carnitas are little cubes of cooked pork, and they're terrific, but again, a little plain without the rice and beans. Perhaps you could ask for them served on a salad, topped with guacamole - now that sounds like a meal.

We'll pass up the burrito.

Okay, we've come to Mariscos - seafood! Bet we find lots of possibilities here!

Wow, look the Cancun Platter! Prawns, chicken, and crab, all sauteed together with mushrooms and white wine, topped with cheese, and baked! Low carb fiesta! Go for it! The Camerones a la Ranchera - shrimp with mushrooms, onions, and peppers - would also be fine. Camerones al Mojo de Ajo is shrimp in garlic butter - sort of Mexican Scampi. Also a great choice. The Camerones a la Diabla - shrimp in hot sauce - is yet another great low carb dinner.

We'll by-pass the crab enchiladas - trust me, with all this great food you won't even miss them. Huachinango - fried red snapper - should be fine, but I'd ask to be sure it's not breaded. And right after it we find Ceviche again - but this time served on a tostada. You don't need that fried tortilla, but the other accompaniments look good - mayonnaise, lettuce, and picado sauce. Maybe worth having without the tortilla, huh?

Forget the Fish Burrito, that "giant flour tortilla" is not for you!

Next we have the traditional combo plates, and most of them we'll have to pass up. There are a couple of notable exceptions, though - you might order the huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) without tortillas, and the chorizo (sausage) and huevos (eggs) will be great.

The large combos are hopeless; pass 'em up. Indeed, most of the rest of the menu is carb-y. The Spanish omelet sounds good, though.

Finally, we get to the North of the Border section. I have a feeling you're already clear on how to order your burger without the bun, skip the fries - but if that was what you wanted, you wouldn't be at a Mexican restaurant!

Celia's online menu doesn't give the beverage choices, but I'm assuming that, like most restaurants, they would have iced tea, diet cola, a light beer, a glass of dry wine, or, of course, water.

So, once again we've picked an ethnic restaurant at random, and found piles and piles of wonderful food that won't make us sorry in the morning. I hope you enjoyed it - and that you're beginning to realize that you're going to be able to eat well and keep your weight down, for the rest of your life! Remember, as always, your most important skills - the ability and willingness to ask questions, and to ask for your food the way you want it - without the rice and beans, with extra lettuce and guacamole, or whatever other reasonable alteration will give you a meal you love, with a carb count you can live with.

Next issue we'll try a Middle Eastern restaurant!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:20 PM

Fruit 2 O

Tired of diet soda and iced tea? Need a new summer beverage? Have you run into Fruit 2 O yet?

No, that's not "Fruit Twenty" - say "Fruit Two-Oh" and you'll get the idea. We're talking water with a touch of natural fruit flavor and Splenda added - just enough to give a light but full-bodied fruit flavor and sweetness, with no calories and no carbs. Fruit 2 O comes in a bunch of terrific flavors, of which I've tried most! Lemon, orange, grape, raspberry, cherry, and peach. Oh, boy, peach! Wonderful. Fabulous. Really tastes like a fresh peach!

Fruit 2 O isn't soda - it's not carbonated, and it's not fake tasting and overly sweet like soda. I really dislike soda; I quite honestly haven't drunk more than a sip of soda in over a decade (I did taste the Diet Rite Splenda-sweetened sodas when they came out, to review them.) It's just too sweet for me. But I've been chugging down a couple of Fruit 2 O's a day, and really enjoying them.

I've also tried using them in cooking, and intend to do so even more. The other day I used the Peach Fruit 2 O to make a peach-orange brine for some pork chops, and they were wonderful! It's so nice to have something carb-free to replace some of the flavors that fruit juices can bring to recipes, without all the sugar.

All told, Fruit 2 O is my favorite new find of the summer. Look for it in the water aisle of your local grocery store!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:12 PM

Reader Success Story!

Reader Laura "Gooch" Sircher sends this ebullient success story:

Say! I don't think I told you my Low Carb success story, so, bear with me! Here I go:

In 2000 I nearly died from Lupus Nephritis! I had to get a kidney biopsy (with the 6" scar as proof). I've struggled with illnesses since '77! I first decided to challenge my willpower late '76 when I graduated High School (yipe!). I'm 5'9" so weight wasn't really a big deal. I started at 146. I went down to 109! First and only time I was in a Juniors.size 7! When my Doc saw me, he suggested I "put on a few pounds" & I went back to 150! I had anorexia before it had a name. Lived on 500 calories a day. But anyway:

In '94 I had Lupus of the joints. Do you think the anorexia nervosa did this?? Who knows? I was okay for a while even though my life was in turmoil. - I got divorced in'97, my Dad got ill and I had to put him in a home.

I remarried my best friend, and things were good. Then the 2000 attack! Kidneys only functioned at 10-15%. I was placed on aggressive meds, blood and "pee" tests and 12 chemos to boost my immune system. As a result, there were side effects: edema, high blood pressure and fatigue, plus I lost my hair, my mind and my self esteem. I went into early menopause as well. To top it off, I shot up to 199 lbs! EW! (1X-16-18) Gross!

Well, after my last Chemo/Doc visit, I decided to begin my version of Atkin's. Cleared out the pantry (no white flour or sugar in there!) Read and altered recipes, and today it is 71 weeks since I started. Proud to say I lost 80 lbs. and I'm in a Juniors .9! My Hubby is so happy for me, and HE's cutting his carbs even though he doesn't need to! He lost 2 pant sizes!

I still have residual effects (tired/can't drive-depression), but I've come a long way, and Ed is a saint for putting up with me! To make a long story short, I'm on maintenance! I've experimented with food show recipes and I made a TERRIFIC LC Worcestershire Sauce which I altered from the Burger Meister! Yesterday I made a LC Hawaiian Salad and it turned out fabulous!!!

Well I rambled enough! You take care! Even though you're busy I hope to hear from you soon! All the best.

"Gootch" Laura Sircher

PS: Saw the Rheumy on a follow up & he was amazed! Blood pressure is great! Kidneys are back to normal (that's about the only NORMAL thing about me) LOL!

So glad you're better, and thanks for sending in your story!

Speaking of success stories, folks, we're looking for folks who will send in their success stories, and share their before and after photos, so send 'em in! You may see them here, or on the website, or even in a national magazine or two!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:11 PM

Crunch Time!

Any other Janet Evanovich fans out there? I'm a huge fan of her Stephanie Plum series, and just finished the latest installment, To The Nines. (The series started with One For The Money, and has counted up.) For the uninitiated, these are furiously paced and truly hilarious mystery novels, starring Stephanie, a Jersey girl with big hair and an attitude, who works as a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie, the bail bondsman. Highly recommended.

Where's the low carb connection? Stephanie's best friend and partner in bounty hunting is a wise-cracking ex-prostitute named Lula. Lula is a plus-sized black woman who is unafraid to be - and to dress - sexy. (I always picture Queen Latifah.) Lula's sporadic attempts to lose weight are a running gag. And in To The Nines, Lula goes low carb!

Of course, this being a Janet Evanovich novel, she goes low carb hilariously, carrying around pork chops in her purse, running to the corner deli for two pounds of bacon, and fighting the neighborhood dogs for it on the way back, carrying around a cooler full of meat in the car while on stakeouts (Steak-outs?), and worrying that her canine teeth are starting to grow. And, being Lula, she pretty rapidly gives up her diet altogether, although she loses 10 pounds eating vast quantities of meat before throwing in the towel. I was pleased that Evanovich didn't dismiss the idea that a low carb diet - however exaggerated for comic effect - can actually work. I find it very cool, too, that we've cracked the public consciousness to the point where we've been enshrined in pop culture.

What was it that finally drove the fictional Lula off of her low-carb diet? Well, aside from the all-too-familiar folly of going on a diet with the idea that the weight will drop off nearly overnight, and then the dieter can happily return to a life of french fries and donuts, the big problem Lula cited was a lack of crunch. She was craving an apple, a chip, anything that was crisp - and noted, sadly, that meat simply doesn't crunch.

Clearly, Evanovich has been paying attention - indeed, I wondered if she had tried a low carb diet herself. A lack of crunch is one of the things that low carbers regularly complain about. So, to keep your diet from going the way of Lula's, let's talk a little about what crunchy things we can have without scarfing down carbs:

* Pork rinds - Everybody's clear that pork rinds are low carb, right? Heck, these are perhaps the most-cited item by low carb diet detractors - "Oh, that's that diet where you eat lots of pork rinds, right?," with the implication that pork rinds are just one rung above cyanide on the food-value ladder. Actually, pork rinds are better for you than chips on just about any scale you'd like to use - they're not only higher in protein, they're lower in fat, too. No, really! An ounce of potato chips and an ounce of pork rinds have a nearly-identical calorie count - but the pork rinds have 1.5 grams of fat, while the potato chips have 9.8 grams of fat, plus, of course, 15 grams of carbohydrate. Far and away the biggest component of pork rinds is protein - 17 grams of protein in an ounce. And of course, most pork rinds are carb-free. (I have seen BBQ-flavored pork rinds that had 14 grams per bag, though, so the READ THE LABEL rule applies, even to pork rinds!)

Now, I was never a big pork rind fan; I have ever said that I reached my pork rind limit at about four. That was before some of the new, fabulous pork rind flavors hit the market! My three favorites are Salsa and Sour Cream, from Katiedid's Pork Rinds (I think of these as "Porkitos", because they remind me of Doritos), the Cheddar Cheese Crunchies from Gram's Gourmet that I reviewed a few issues back - these are a lot like Cheetos, and my husband is in love with them! - and Cinnamon and Splenda pork rinds, whether from Katiedid's or from Gram's Gourmet. Many low carb retailers and etailers carry Gram's Gourmet products; you can order Katiedid's pork rinds direct at I also have gotten emails from readers who have found microwaveable pork rinds in their grocery stores; they all claim these are very much better than your average pork rind - but for me, it's the flavors that make pork rinds interesting.

Idea: if you miss croutons on your salad, take a large sharp knife and dice some pork rinds.

* Chicken chips - you can't buy these, but they're easy to make if you have chicken skin on hand. (If you don't, and you like crispy chicken skin, you might ask the nice meat guy at the grocery store if he could get you some chicken skin - heaven knows they take it off enough chicken breasts.) Spread the chicken skin out flat on your broiler pan, and bake it at 375 for 10 or 15 minutes, or until it's golden and very crisp. Sprinkle with salt and eat like chips. Unbelievable!

* Fiber crackers - Bran-a-Crisp or Fiber Rich, they're virtually identical - basically just wheat bran stuck together. And they're crunchy for sure. Not very interesting by themselves, mind you, but crunchy.

However, fiber crackers get a lot more interesting when you put something on them. Butter and a little salt is nice, or brie. Spreading them with mayo, adding a few sliced scallions, and running them under the broiler or into the toaster oven till the mayonnaise sizzles is pretty tasty, too. They're wonderful with things like hot artichoke-parmesan dip! And me, I love them with liverwurst, but I understand that that's a harmless perversion of my own. Chopped liver or pate would be nice, too, and of course fiber crackers are a natural with tuna, egg, or chicken salad.

There was a time when it appeared from the nutrition labeling that fiber crackers were carb-free, once we subtracted out the fiber. However, it turned out that this was because of a difference between American nutrition labeling and European nutrition labeling: On European labels, fiber is not included in the total carb count the way that it is on American labels - so, by subtracting it from the total carb count, we actually subtracted it twice, yielding a falsely low carb count. Now the labels have been corrected, for Fiber Rich, at least, and we can get a true carb count.

According to my very own box of Fiber Rich Crackers, which I ran and got from the pantry (personal side note: I get a non-trivial amount of exercise writing this ezine, since my desk is at one end of the house, and my kitchen and pantry are at the other end...) a "serving" of Fiber Rich crackers contains 12 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 7 grams. This, of course, begs the question, "How big is a serving?" The box says there are 8 servings in a box. Since a box contains 18 crackers, this gives us a serving of 2.25 crackers, or the sort of thing that makes me want to whack food processors upside the head. A little elementary math tells us that 2 crackers contain 6.2 grams of usable carbohydrate, and one cracker has 3.1 grams - but I'm figuring 3 is near enough for government work.

It's good to note that the high fiber count and the rye content means that those 3 grams are likely to have a very low blood sugar impact. Depending on how carb intolerant you are, you may be able to tolerate 3 or 4 at a time - or not. But they are nice, biggish crackers, and I find them to be a good "crunch" addition to the diet.

There's a recipe for fiber crackers in 500 Low-Carb Recipes. They're thinner, crisper, and lower carb than the commercial fiber crackers, if you want to take the time to make a batch.

There are some other low carb crackers on the market - I've had some from Cheeter's Diet Treats that were quite good. If you don't have a store near you that carries low carb specialty stuff - here in Bloomington, Indiana the source is a great Mediterranean/international/health food grocery store called Sahara Mart - check the low carb etailers to find a source.

*Psyllie Snax - These are the oddest entry in the low carb crunch list, but don't let that put you off. Psyllie Snax are a chip made out of psyllium fiber, the same sort of fiber found in Metamucil. Yeah, I know you're thinking, "Right. Laxative chips." And I'm sure if you ate a pile of these, they'd have that effect, as would any high-fiber food. But these are crispy and light, with a great texture, and they taste good. They look funny, but hey, with all their other virtues, surely you can get past that. Psyllie Snax come in four flavors: Onion with Sesame and Flax Seeds, Garlic Parmesan, Spicy Sesame, and "Psyllie Snaps," which have a sweet butter-and-spice flavor. If you're craving a chip-like snack, you owe it to yourself to at least try Psyllie Snax. Here's their website: , but some of the low carb etailers carry these, too.

* Nuts and seeds - One of the real shames of low fat diets was that they banned nuts and seeds, because of the high fat content. Nuts and seeds are not only tasty - and crunchy! - but remarkably healthful foods. Several medical studies have shown that nuts improve heart disease risk factors like LDL and HDL cholesterol, and demonstrate an association between eating nuts and a reduced incidence of heart disease.

However, it's important to keep in mind that nuts are not only not carb free, but are also very calorie-dense - and despite popular wishful belief, we cannot eat unlimited calories on a low carb diet and still lose weight. A "serving" of nuts is just one ounce, really quite a modest amount. You don't necessarily have to weigh or measure, but do keep in mind that a half a can of mixed nuts at a sitting is too much!

Here's a quick rundown on various kinds of nuts:

Brazil nuts: One ounce of Brazil nuts is roughly 6-8 nuts, and has 3.5 grams of carbohydrate, with 2.1 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 1.4 grams. 186 calories.

Almonds: One ounce of almonds is about 22 kernels, and has 5.5 grams of carbohydrate and 3.3 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 2.2 grams. 169 calories.

Cashews: Cashews are one of the higher carb nuts. 1 ounce, or about 18 cashews, has 8.5 grams of carb, with only 0.93 grams of fiber, or 7.6 grams of carb. 164 calories.

Hazelnuts or Filberts: 1 ounce of hazelnuts - my book doesn't give a quantity! - has 4.9 grams of carb, and 2.7 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 2.2 grams. 183 calories.

Macadamias: One ounce of macadamias is about 10-12 nuts, and has 3.8 grams of carbohydrate and 2.3 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 1.5 grams. 203 calories.

Pecans: One ounce of pecans is about 15 halves, and contains 3.7 grams of carbohydrate and 2.7 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of just 1 gram. My favorites, too! 203 calories.

Pistachios: One ounce of pistachios is 49 pistachios!! 7.6 grams of carbohydrate and 2.9 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 4.7 grams. 161 calories.

Walnuts: One ounce of walnuts is about 14 halves, and contains 3.9 grams of carb, and 1.9 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 2 grams. 185 calories.

Peanuts: Peanuts aren't really a nut, of course, but a legume. They have 6.1 grams of carb per ounce, though my book doesn't say how many that is. 2.3 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 3.8 grams. 165 calories.

Mixed Nuts With Peanuts: One ounce of mixed nuts with peanuts has 7.2 grams of carbohydrate, and 2.6 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 4.6 grams. 168 calories.

Mixed Nuts Without Peanuts: One ounce of mixed nuts with no peanuts has 6.3 grams of carbohydrate and 1.6 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 4.7 grams. 174 calories.

Sunflower Seeds: These are somewhat higher in carbohydrate than nuts, but they're also higher in minerals. A whole cup of shelled sunflower seed kernels - quite a lot! - contains 27 grams of carbohydrate, with 15 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 12 grams. 820 calories, so eat less than a cup! A truly great idea is to buy sunflower seeds in the shell. Having to crack each one separately before eating it slows you down to the point where it's nearly impossible to eat too much. The perfect low carb, high nutrition munchie food. I sneak them into the movies!

Pumpkin Seeds: Like sunflower seeds, these are higher in carbohydrate than some nuts, but also more nutritious. The zinc content make pumpkin seeds an especially good bet for men - zinc is good for the prostate. I'm crazy about pumpkin seeds, and buy them at convenience stores and truck stops all the time. Yum. One ounce of pumpkin seeds, or 142 kernels, contains 5 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 4 grams. 153 calories. Again, buy your pumpkin seeds in the shell, and you'll have a natural brake on your consumption. If you're looking for pumpkin seeds at a convenience store or truck stop, be aware that David brand is lower carb than Planter's - but only if you eat the shells (as I sometimes do.) David's shells only have salt on them; Planter's have flour, as well. It adds a surprising quantity of carbs.

* Sunkist Almond Accents - I reviewed these back in May. These are sliced, toasted almonds in a bunch of great flavors, like Bacon Cheddar, Italian Parmesan, Ranch, and Roasted Garlic

Caesar. Really, really tasty, and crunchier than your standard almond. Worth seeking out - I find them in the produce department of my local grocery stores.

* Celery - There's a reason celery has always been the ultimate diet food - it's basically crunchy water. (No joke. In 100 grams of celery, 95 grams consists of water.) Low carb, low calorie, low everything. You could go through a whole bunch of celery without seriously blowing your carb count for the day - one large celery stalk has a big 2 grams of carbohydrate, and a gram of that is fiber, so 1 gram usable carb per big stalk, less in a small one. And only 9 calories. Now, I know some people don't like celery, or think of it as "rabbit food" but it sure is crunchy, and personally I'm very fond of it. Especially celery hearts, which I can simply devour with a little salt. If you feel like I do, you've found your best crunchy food.

* Crunchy Cheese - Didn't know that cheese can be crunchy? Oh, my, yes. You can fry a big handful of shredded cheese in a little oil, in a non-stick skillet, until it's golden on the bottom, then flip it carefully and fry the other side. Drain and eat for a crunchy treat that will drive all thoughts of Cheetos and Cheez-its out of your mind. You can also spray a microwaveable plate with non-stick spray, put that same handful of cheese on it, and microwave it on high - start with one minute, and go from there; one minute is about right in my microwave. The cheese will melt to cover the plate, and become crunchy as it cools.

Or you can buy Just the Cheese Chips, which are - as the name strongly implies - chips made nearly entirely from cheese, baked until quite satisfyingly crunchy. Why "nearly" entirely? Because they have interesting flavors added - herb and garlic, nacho cheese, that sort of thing. Worth seeking out. (These make terrific emergency food, by the way; I like to carry them while traveling. A few Just the Cheese Chips will kill my hunger for an hour or two, and they're easy to stash in a purse or carry-on bag.)

Crunchy cheese is high calorie, too, but for some reason I find myself far less likely to over-eat on it than I am on nuts - some combination of the strong flavor and the terrific filling-ness of cheese, I suppose. It is, of course, very nearly carb-free.

* Protein Chips - These are a specialty low carb item. They look like tortilla chips, but are made from protein powder. They're plenty crunchy, come in several flavors, and are quite low carb. They're my least favorite of the choices - not bad, but not good enough for me to bother seeking them out. However, if you're really craving chips, they're worth trying. I'd rather have Psyllie Snax, myself.

* Homemade Root Vegetable Chips - Okay, you won't do this unless you really like to cook, and own a deep fat fryer. But I just recently acquired a deep fat fryer (for a big $35 bucks, brand-new, in the box, from Goodwill. It pays to shop around.) so I thought I'd try making chips out of something other than potatoes. So I acquired a jicama and a couple of turnips, and made some chips. I peeled my off-brand root veggies, cut them in chunks that would fit in the feed chute of my food processor, and ran them through the slicing blade. Then I heated canola oil to 375 in my deep fat fryer, and fried me some odd-ball chips.

Both the jicama and the turnip took longer than potatoes would have to become browned and crisp - almost 15 minutes. Both failed to reach the same degree of perfect crispness that potatoes reach, although I suspect part of the reason may be that commercial potato chips are sliced considerably thinner than my slicing blade can do. But both turned out chips that were tasty, especially with a little seasoned salt. The jicama chips, in particular, had a nice, slightly sweet thing going on.

So if you're the sort who likes playing around in the kitchen, you might try this. You'll certainly get chips that are lower in carbohydrate than potato chips - a whole large jicama has 105 grams of carbohydrate, with 58 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 47 grams for the whole darned thing, and trust me, a whole jicama will make a lot of chips. (I just did the math. Jicama has roughly 1/3 the usable carbohydrate that potato does.) Turnip comes to roughly the same carb count - about 1/3 that of potato chips - but turnips are smaller than jicamas, so you'll get fewer chips. If you fry all the chips from 1 large turnip, the whole batch will have about 8.5 grams of usable carb in it. Not a free food, but an interesting thing to try should you have the equipment and a free hour.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:08 PM

Peanut Butter Cup Pie

This pie pushes the edges of acceptable carb count, but it's so easy, and everybody at my party the other night liked it so much, that I thought I'd better include it. It's a great ending for a cookout!

Peanut Butter Cup Pie


1 1/2 cups almonds
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/4 cup butter, melted


1 package, 4 serving size, sugar free instant chocolate pudding mix
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup water
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used creamy)

Preheat oven to 350.

Using your food processor with the S-blade in place, grind your almonds to a consistency similar to cornmeal. Add the protein powder and butter, pulse to combine well. Turn out into a pie plate you've sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, and press firmly and evenly into place building up around sides. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown lightly. Remove from oven and cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pudding mix and cocoa powder. Pour in heavy cream and water, and beat with electric mixer to combine well. Then beat in the peanut butter until everything's well combined. Pour mixture into cooled crust, scraping it all out of the bowl with a rubber scraper. Spread evenly in crust, and chill.

8 to 10 servings. Assuming 8 servings, each will have 16 grams of carbohydrate, and 4 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 12 grams. 14 grams of protein - filling!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:05 PM