February 23, 2004

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Hey Gang

Here it is! Once again, sorry it's late, but I'm not promising I'm going to get a lot more prompt about it; my life's just too crazy for that.

I've been scheduled on QVC again, and this time I won't be on in the middle of the night! I'll be on selling 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes on March 5th, on the show that starts at 1 pm, Eastern Standard Time, though I don't know exactly when during the show I'll be on. Hope you'll tune in!

The most important part of this issue is the first article. If you don't read anything else, please read it. I'm heartsick about the press Dr. Atkins has gotten recently, so I want you all to know the truth behind the ugly rumors. But if you try the side-dish recipe in Cooking Low Carb! too, you won't be sorry.

Read on!


Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:02 PM

Dr. Fatkins?

On February 10th, the Wall Street Journal ran the story that Dr. Atkins's final medical records showed that he weighed 258 pounds when he died. The story also mentioned that Atkins had heart problems, and speculated that these two facts were evidence that Dr. Atkins's diet was dangerous. This has lead to ugly stories about "Dr. Fatkins" and the like, and some people deciding that a nutritional program that has manifestly improved their health is actually a threat. I think it is vitally important that Lowcarbezine! readers know the truth about this story - both about Atkins's condition when he died, and where the story came from.

It is true that Dr. Atkins weighed 258 pounds when he died. This does not, however, mean that Atkins was, as implied, obese. Dr. Atkins was a very public personality, appearing on television several times in his final year; had he been obese it would have been impossible to hide it. When he entered the hospital eight days before his death, having suffered a head injury from a slip-and-fall accident, he weighed only 195 pounds - hardly obese.

So how on earth did Dr. Atkins gain 63 pounds in just 8 days? Here's where his heart problems come in.

It is true that Dr. Atkins had heart problems; he had suffered a cardiac arrest just about a year before he died. However, his cardiac arrest was not caused by coronary artery disease. Rather, Dr. Atkins had a viral infection of his heart muscle, also known as viral cardiomyopathy, weakening his heart and causing congestive heart failure. When Atkins had his cardiac arrest, he was given an angiogram, and his coronary arteries were found to be normal.

It wasn't only Dr. Atkins's personal cardiologist, Patrick Fratellone, who said so. Dr. Clyde Yancy, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a member of the American Heart Association's national board of directors, said, "Despite the obvious irony, I believe there is a total disconnect between the cardiac arrest and the health approach he (Atkins) popularizes." Since the American Heart Association has long pushed a low fat diet, and been skeptical of the Atkins approach, I find Dr. Yancy's statement particularly compelling.

Cardiomyopathy causes water retention; indeed, edema is often the symptom that leads to a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. As Dr. Atkins lay unconscious, his body slowly failing, the intravenous fluids he was given collected, bloating his body mercilessly - and resulting in that final weight of 258 pounds. This is heart-rending and tragic, but it is not an indictment of Dr. Atkins's diet.

So why the ugly stories? To understand that, you need to know where the story came from.

Dr. Atkins's medical records were given to the press by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. If this name sounds familiar, it may be because I wrote about them in December. ( http://www.holdthetoast.com/archive/031217.html ) To recap: Despite its name, the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, 95% of whose members are not physicians, is an animal rights organization with deep and inextricable ties to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) - they get most of their funding from PETA, have shared offices with them, and Dr. Neal Barnard, the psychiatrist who is the director of the PCRM, is staff medical advisor to PETA.

Despite posing as a non-partisan organization concerned only with human health, Barnard and the PCRM are instead radical vegan activists. They have long done their best to denigrate the animal food-rich Atkins diet, and Dr. Atkins himself. An example: The PCRM solicited stories of people who had been harmed by the Atkins diet, then presented those stories as conclusive evidence that despite all of the clinical studies showing the Atkins diet to be safe and effective, it was actually terribly dangerous - with no evidence that the stories were true, that the "harm"was actually caused by the diet, or even that the people who wrote to them were following the Atkins diet as prescribed in Atkins's book. And of course, they didn't talk to the millions of people whose health has actually improved on Atkins or other low carbohydrate diets. This approach goes beyond unscientific to downright dishonest.

In this light, it is not surprising that the PCRM tried to spin Atkins's weight at death and viral heart disease into some sort of "Atkins was fat and had clogged arteries!" scandal, though it is surprising that the Wall Street Journal picked up such a scandal-rag type story. I'll never see the Journal in quite the same way again.

Where did the PCRM get Atkins's confidential medical records in the first place? Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City office of the chief medical examiner, said the records were erroneously sent to Dr. Richard M. Fleming of the Fleming Heart and Health Institute in Omaha, Nebraska. Dr. Fleming is a member of the PCRM, and is currently promoting a book of his own, advocating a low fat, high carbohydrate, vegetarian diet. Having requested and obtained the medical records, Fleming saw fit to turn them over to his pals. Fleming claims he had no idea that the PCRM would go public with Atkins's medical records, but given the history of both the PCRM and PETA, such a statement marks Fleming as stupid, painfully naive, or disingenuous. You may take your pick.

I cannot begin to express how revolted I am by the PCRM's ghoulish behavior, but I cannot say I am surprised. After all, they're hand-in-glove with PETA, the organization that exploited Rudolph Giuliani's prostate cancer for their own political gain, handed out flyers on college campuses urging students to drink beer instead of milk, and asked Timothy McVeigh to become their poster boy from death row.

Since this story broke, a few people have said to me, "Well, if Dr. Atkins's diet didn't kill him, why hide his medical records? What's the big deal?" Ignoring entirely that Dr. Atkins and his family are entitled to the same confidentiality of medical records as you or I, the answer is two fold. First of all, Veronica Atkins, widowed less than a year, should not have been subjected to this sort of ugliness and pain; that she has been is nothing short of vicious. My heart goes out to Mrs. Atkins, and I sincerely hope she sues Dr. Fleming and the PCRM for everything they're worth. A win in court won't heal her grief, but it would go a long way to preventing this sort of behavior in the future.

Secondly, having seen the media feeding frenzy after Dr. Atkins's cardiac arrest, I can't blame Mrs. Atkins and the Atkins Center for not wanting to share Atkins's medical records with the press. They had already demonstrated that the facts about Dr. Atkins's heart problems needn't stand in the way of a juicy story, why expect them to care about truth over trumped-up scandal this time around?

I hope that you, as a low carb dieter, have not been taken in by this fear-mongering. Not only is there no reason to believe Dr. Atkins died from the effects of his low carbohydrate diet, there are several recent, well-conducted medical studies backing up everything Dr. Atkins claimed for his diet: That it was effective not only for weight loss without hunger, but for improving cholesterol and triglyceride numbers, too.

If you still have any lingering doubts, ask yourself: Am I more or less healthy since I started my low carbohydrate diet? Have I lost weight? Do I feel better? Do I have more energy? Does my blood work look good? Is my blood sugar stable? Because that, my friends, is the bottom line.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:01 PM

What About Low Carbers Short On Time and Money?

After my recent article regarding low carbing on a budget, I got a plaintive question from one reader - how was a low carb dieter with a tight schedule to save money? It's all well and good, she pointed out, to suggest that people do more prep work on their own, to save money, but where was everyone to find the time?

I, of course, work at home, so this has not been my problem. However, my friends and family are like everyone else, and of course I hear from my readers.

Many busy people on budgets, low carbers or not, depend heavily on their slow cookers - and indeed, I am working on a low carb slow cooker book, due out next winter. Slow cookers are an example of the most important time-crunch kitchen technique: Time-shifting. It's not that you don't have to cook, but you can shift your cooking to more convenient times, so that you don't have to scurry to get dinner on the table when you get home. Indeed, with a slow cooker you can cook dinner after dinner - that is, you can come home, eat whatever is in the slow cooker waiting, and then do your cooking, putting together your dinner for the next night, and getting it ready to slow-cook in the morning.

You can, however, time-shift in all sorts of ways. My sister Kim, who runs a killer schedule and makes do on a very tight budget, does a lot of time-shifting of her cooking, some of it with a slow cooker some without. Kim cooks on the weekends. Every Sunday she takes a few hours to make a double batch of soup, chili, or the like, and a double batch of some other entree. These, then, form the mainstay of her and her husband's dinners for the rest of the week. This is a time-honored technique, and still a good one.

If you like, you could also make a couple of "deli-style" salads - cole slaw, cucumber salad, bean salad, or the like - while your main dishes are cooking. These salads keep well for at least a few days, and let you put dinner on the table right away, with no work at all. If you want a hot vegetable, microwaving them is by far the fastest way to cook them, and preserves a lot of nutrients, too. Most frozen vegetables now come with microwave directions on the box or bag.

If you prefer tossed salads, consider making your own "bagged salad." Wash and dry salad greens and break them up, then stash them in zipper-lock bags in the fridge. This gives you the convenience of purchased bagged salad without the price.

Or you can ditch the salad all together. Instead, cut up peppers, celery, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and the like, and keep them on hand, again in those zipper-lock bags. This lets you put out vegetables and dip for the ravening hordes, to appease them while you take more than fifteen minutes to put supper together. Using vegetables and dip as a "put-off" this way also means that the family is confronting those vegetables when their hunger is the sharpest. This is a Very Good Thing.

Another great idea is to revive the Sunday roast. When I was a kid, some sort of roast - a big ol' hunk of protein, cooked simply in the oven - was the centerpiece of nearly every Sunday meal. Roasts are very easy - for the most part, you just stick them in the oven for the requisite period of time. And if you make a large roast, you'll then have pre-cooked meat on hand for the rest of the week. Of course, if you're on a budget you won't be roasting a prime rib of beef, but other roasts are often far cheaper. Again, I realize my local prices aren't representative of the whole country, but I have seen whole or half-hams for 99c a pound, leg of lamb is usually $2.99 a pound, and drops to $1.99 a few times a year, and turkey is economical all year round. Oh, and I got whole boneless pork loin on sale for $2.29 a pound just last week, not a bad price for lean, well trimmed meat with no bone.

Make leftovers of everything! Never roast just enough chicken or make enough meat loaf for one meal. Making a vegetable side dish you love? Make extra, for zapping in the microwave later in the week. Who needs frozen dinners? Indeed, you can buy Gladware plates with covers, that let you dish up a meal, cover it, freeze it, then put it directly in the microwave. Since these plates are washable and reusable, they're not much of an extravagance. If you've been frozen dinner dependent, this might be a useful path to follow.

In short, do your cooking when your schedule permits, so that you aren't stuck with playing short-order cook and/or depending on expensive pre-prepped convenience foods when you get home.

I suggest pressing the family into service to help. No child should grow up ignorant of basic cooking; that way lies junk food addiction. It's easy for me to make parenting suggestions, having no kids and all, but consider rotating sous-chef duty. If you give the child whose turn it is to help considerable say in what the next night's dinner will be, you may find them more interested than you thought.

Finally, I'd like to recommend a great book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn (that's pronounced "decision," as in "She made a decision to marry a man of Ukrainian ancestry.") A compilation of virtually all of the articles that went into Dacyczyn's ground-breaking newsletter, The Complete Tightwad Gazette is bursting with terrific ideas on how to pinch pennies in every possible way; I guarantee you will find at bare minimum a half a dozen money-stretching strategies that never occurred to you.

The book is also compulsively readable, and tons of fun. My only word of warning: Dacyczyn recommends cutting way down on meat intake, and eating lots of grains and legumes, to save money. Obviously, we won't be doing that. But even ignoring her dietary advice, there is plenty in The Gazette to help eke out even the toughest budget, and a good dose of creative bootstrap philosophy to keep you from feeling sorry for yourself while you do it. And the money you save on other things can go toward inexpensive cuts of meat, and low carb vegetables, and the like.

You can get The Complete Tightwad Gazette at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375752250/lowcarbohysoluti , where you can also read many rave reviews. But I'd be untrue to the true spirit of the thing if I didn't recommend that you borrow it from your public library first! (Me, I renewed the first Tightwad book three times, and then decided I needed to buy. And I bought The Complete Tightwad Gazette at a used book sale! Amy would be proud.)

Posted by HoldTheToast at 06:55 PM

Important Point to Ponder

Reader Terri Miyamoto writes:


I want to bring to your attention an editorial published in the Newark (NJ) Star Ledger February 13 that I believe deserves some attention. The author is David L. Katz, "associate clinical professor of public health and medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and author of "The Way to Eat" (Sourcebooks 2002). His essay first appeared in the Hartford Courant."

Dr. Katz makes excellent points in this essay, essentially pointing out how market demand drives the foods available to us in stores, and arguing that if we, as consumers, demanded more healthy food choices we would get them. The point I believe your readers should contemplate is in this paragraph:

"'When we focused solely on dietary fat, the food industry gave us more calories in the form of Snackwell cookies and the like. Of course, we kept gaining weight. We are now inviting those same, eager-to-please food manufacturers to serve up excess calories in low-carb rather than low-fat packages. It is just a matter of time before we can cut the carbs and keep the calories, too. So long, weight loss."

I think he is right on target. Keep encouraging your readers to save the low-carb, sweet specialties for occasional use. We low-carbers have to focus on healthy, simple meats, veggies and fruits. I believe we also have to anticipate the day when "low carb" will be ridiculed, because so many people try it without understanding it, and fail.

Thanks for your newsletter. I always enjoy it. I started Atkins a year ago and have lost 90 pounds, have 10 more to go to get to my goal. Plus low-carb helps control my skinny husband's diabetes. We're convinced, but I can easily get sucked into the low-carb chocolates and mousses, even though I can see from the scale that they affect my weight loss if I do more than a tiny bit!

Thank you, Terri, for bringing this up. Yes, I am seeing the Snackwellification of the low carbohydrate diet, and I do not think it bodes well for people's success. I was reminded of the problem yet again when, after my article on brown bag lunches in the last issue of Lowcarbezine!, one reader wrote to say that with low carb bread on the market now, we could all start taking sandwiches for lunch again. While I have no problem with the occasional low carb sandwich - I like a good grilled cheese myself from time to time - I think it is, for most of us, a bad idea to start eating low carb bread - or low carb pasta, or low carb cookies, or low carb cereal, or low carb candy, or low carb chips - as daily staples of our diets.

The "low carb bread" I find hereabouts generally has at least 5 grams per slice. That's 10 grams in a two-slice sandwich. For 10 grams, I could have a very big salad instead, and it would be both more nutritious and more filling than those two slices of bread, and likely cheaper. It would also be free of soy, an ingredient I try to limit in my diet, but that is very common in low carb specialty products.

So I will repeat what is becoming my constant refrain: Do not make low carb specialty foods a major part of your low carbohydrate diet. Do not try to make your low carbohydrate diet look like your old, high carb diet, by simply swapping high carb processed foods for low carb processed foods.

Always, always, always, the heart and soul of a low carb diet should be meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, vegetables, low sugar fruits, and healthy fats, not packaged low carb stuff designed to cash in on the popularity of the diet. Low carb specialty products should be relegated to a support position - as occasional treats or to fight cravings.

Be aware that I have heard from more than one person who has found that so long as they stick to whole, unprocessed low carb foods, they lose weight, but when they add the specialty products with any frequency, they stall, or even start to gain.

You have been warned.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 06:51 PM

Reader Success Story!

Several months back, at the request of a journalist, I asked for stories from those of you who had successfully controlled diabetes with a low carb diet, and was absolutely flooded with great stories in response. I published a few, but have been meaning to publish more. So here's a success story for you!

Hey Dana:

I'm a low-carbing diabetic, female, age 44. I was diagnosed in November 1999, and it's not like I was borderline. My fasting blood sugar was 245, and went up from there after the drinking the glucose solution. I had had gestational diabetes with both my pregnancies, so it wasn't a total

surprise. I was prescribed Glucophage, plus Synthroid for a hypothyroid condition diagnosed at the same time.

I read every book in the library about diabetes, and researched the heck out of the Internet. The only plan to control it that made sense to me was Dr. Richard K. Bernstein's "Diabetes Solution". I started low-carbing then, and have continued to this day. I also do weight training, as recommended by Dr. B.

I lost 35 pounds in three months, and keep my blood sugar readings between 80-100. My doctor says my blood sugar is lower than his, and he's not diabetic. In addition, my gums, which had been in dreadful condition, rallied so much after surgery, that the periodontist was astounded. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, too, so this is important. Yeast infections are a thing of the past. Colds, which before diagnosis would invariably worsen into sinus infections, now last 3 light-sniffling days, less than once per year. No more late-afternoon slumps, either.

I know that low-carbing has brought me all these benefits, and it amuses me when people feel sorry for me, because I can't have some carby goody they're having. Meanwhile, they will take all kinds of scary medications, or undergo radical surgery for things that I believe would clear up if they would only try low-carbing. (Sorry for the rant, I'm a little militant about LC, and now I have a forum!)

Please pass on my story to the journalist, and my e-mail address if they want it. Keep up the good work, and I look forward as always to to the next Lowcarbezine.


Jeannie Aromi

Bay Shore, NY

Great story, Jeannie! It did, indeed, go to the journalist, and here it is to inspire your fellow Lowcarbezine! readers, as well. Thanks!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 06:49 PM

Jansonn's Temptation

This Swedish favorite is traditionally made with potatoes. I have no idea how this decarbed version compares, but it's utterly delicious in its own right. Don't be afraid of that anchovy paste, by the way. There is no fishy flavor in the finished recipe, it's just rich-tasting and wonderful.

2 turnips, cut in strips
1/2 head cauliflower, cut in strips
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon salt or Vege-sal
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Peel your turnips and cut them into smallish strips -- about the size of fast food french fries. Cut up your cauliflower, too -- cut it in strips as much as possible (include the stem), but of course, being cauliflower, it'll crumble some. No biggie. Combine the turnips and cauliflower.

2. Slice your onion quite thin. Melt the butter in your heavy skillet, over medium heat, and saute your onions until they're limp, and turning translucent.

3. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Then layer the turnip/cauliflower mixture and the onions in the baking dish.

4. Measure your cream, and stir in the anchovy paste, salt, and pepper, until the anchovy paste is dissolved. Pour this mixture over the vegetables.

5. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 06:47 PM

February 02, 2004

Click here to subscribe to Lowcarbezine!

Order The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook from Amazon.Com
Order 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes from Amazon.Com
Order 500 More Low-Carb Recipes from Amazon.Com

Order The Low-Carb Barbecue Book from Amazon.Com

Order 15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes from Amazon.Com

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 -

Happy Groundhog Day (a little late!) I hear Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow, but I remain unconcerned. I don't see why one groundhog should predict six more weeks of winter for the whole country, when weather is such a regional thing. It was cloudy and rainy all day here in Southern Indiana, and there's no way any local groundhog saw his shadow. So as far as I'm concerned, spring is coming to my neighborhood, at any rate!

That being said, I'm off to New York again. Gotta go pack!

Read on!


Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:47 PM

The Low Carb Brown Bag Lunch

With low carb chain restaurant menus proliferating like the spam in my inbox, the need to take your own low carb lunch to work is less pressing than it once was. It's still a fine idea, however - it's cheaper than eating out, of course, and brown bagging it also saves time for things that might be dearer to your heart, like a quick walk, a little shopping, a chapter of whatever you're currently reading, or maybe even an earlier quitting time. Furthermore, as the weather warms up (Please, God!!), a sack lunch will be your ticket to sitting in a local park in the sunshine for a few precious minutes, instead of waiting for a counter person or waiter to bring your food.

So here are some ideas for what to put in that brown paper bag:

* Hard boiled eggs or stuffed eggs. Stuffed eggs travel pretty well in a small snap-top container.

* Leftovers. If your office has a microwave for your use, lunches are the best way to use up leftovers before the family rebels.

* A slice of quiche. Make a quiche over the weekend, and take a slice for lunch every day. Traditionally, quiche is eaten at room temperature, so you don't even have to warm it up! If this idea appeals to you, it's good to know that Tupperware sells triangular "slice carriers" that will fit a slice of quiche perfectly.

* Tuna, egg, or chicken salad and fiber crackers. Or tuna salad, chicken, or egg salad without fiber crackers, for that matter. Even without refrigeration, these salads shouldn't go bad by lunchtime, unless your workspace is hellishly hot. But if you like, there are containers available with little cooler-packs in the lid - freeze the lid over night, fill the container with salad, screw the cold lid on, and presto: Refrigerated food.

* Bagged salad with tuna, cheese, diced ham, canned shrimp, boiled eggs, or other protein added. Stash a bottle of dressing in the break-room fridge, or buy the smallest size snap-top container, and fill it with dressing to bring along. Just don't toss your salad with its dressing hours before lunch - your salad will end up unappealingly soggy.

* Canned protein shakes. Atkins, Carb Solutions, and other low carb protein shakes in single serving cans are now available in many mainstream grocery stores, and even in mass-marketers like Kmart and WalMart. These make a quick and easy lunch, and are not only low carb, but generally low calorie as well. I weary quickly of drinking my meals; I like solid food. Furthermore, I have a bias in favor of stuff that's not this processed. But if you like these things, they're certainly an option.

* Nut and seed mix. This is more of a snack or nibble that is nutritious and filling enough that you may not need a full meal. Check out a good health food store for a variety of nut and seed mixes, but be sure to avoid those with carb-laden additions like raisins, date pieces, dried banana slices, yogurt coated nuts, and the like. It's also good to keep in mind that the wider the variety of nuts and seeds in the mix, the more nutritious it will be - and that pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are actually more nutritious than most nuts.

* Cut up vegetables with a high protein dip. This is a fast and easy lunch, and sort of fun to eat.

* Homemade low carb, high protein baked goods. The zucchini bread in the last issue, for instance, would make a fine lunch, especially if you spread it with a little cream cheese. For that matter, the Sunflower Parmesan Crackers from 500 Low-Carb Recipes with a dip or spread would make a nice lunch. There are more and more recipes for low carb baked goods out there - in 500 Low-Carb Recipes, and in others. There are also some low carb, high protein commercial baked goods hitting the market - they're certainly becoming more available where I live. However, these commercial products vary a lot in carb and protein count - many of them are so high carb I wouldn't consider them. Read the labels carefully - and pay close attention to the serving size!

* Stuffed celery. One of the nicest things to stuff it with is a half-and-half mixture of cream cheese and blue cheese, but use what you like - keeping in mind that there's a pretty strict limit to how much peanut butter you should eat (and that you should always buy natural peanut butter, not the processed kind with sugar and hydrogenated oils added!) Travel tip: Put equal-length pieces of stuffed celery stalk face-to-face before putting them in a bag or snap-top container, to avoid mess.

* Individually wrapped cheese chunks. There are bunches of these around - string cheese, Laughing Cow Cheese Bits, Baby Bels, all sorts of stuff. Easy to carry, easy to eat. Of course, there's no reason you can't just cut some hunks of cheese, and put them in a baggie. Cheaper, too.

* Along with your cheese, you could bring sliced deli meats - ham, turkey, roast beef, or what-have-you. Be wary, however, of things that are ground up and pressed back together - bologna, chicken loaf, that sort of thing. Too often, these have sugar or corn syrup and other carbs added. Read the labels! Be careful, too, about things like "honey ham." If you're buying your cold cuts at the deli counter, go at a fairly slow time if you can, so you don't feel pressured, and can ask the nice deli people to check labels for you.

* Frozen hot wings. If you have access to a freezer and a microwave at work, your possibilities increase tremendously! Frozen hot wings take only a few minutes to heat up, and they're very tasty.

* Frozen grilled fish fillets. Again, these take only a few minutes to heat up, and they come in a number of flavors - lemon pepper, garlic butter, Cajun blackened, etc. Look in the frozen fish case - and stay away from the breaded stuff!

* Cold shrimp with homemade low carb cocktail sauce or mustard and mayo combined. Cold cooked shrimp are neat and easy to eat. Buy 'em that way, or cook up a batch on Sunday, and stash them in the fridge for lunches during the week.

* Cottage cheese - plain, or with seasoning added. It's the old dieter's standby for a reason: It's low carb, low calorie, filling, inexpensive, and loaded with protein and calcium. Add some berries to your cottage cheese, if you like, or if you'd prefer something savory, you could add chives or sliced scallions, chopped radishes, grated carrot, minced green pepper, whatever you like - and maybe some seasoning salt. You can also buy cottage cheese in single-serving containers with peel-off tops, though I'd be more likely to just spoon some into a snap-top container.

* Plain yogurt, with artificial sweetener and your favorite flavoring extract added. While packaged flavored yogurt is too high carb for us, plain yogurt fits into a low carb diet just fine. As the authors of The GO-Diet pointed out, the 12 gram per serving carb count on plain yogurt is inaccurate. That's how much carbohydrate - lactose - was in the milk the yogurt was made from, but the yogurt bacteria turn most of that lactose into lactic acid, giving yogurt its characteristically tangy flavor. Count 4 grams per cup of plain yogurt, and you should be fine. Don't like it plain? Stir in a teaspoon of any flavoring extract you like - vanilla and lemon are our favorites around here - plus sweetener to taste. Again, yogurt travels well in a snap-top container.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:45 PM

The World Is a Very Big Place

Last issue I wrote about low carbing on a budget - and ended up getting scolded soundly by readers who said the prices I cited for various foods were far cheaper than they'd ever seen. It's true, I live in the midwest, where meat and egg prices, in particular, tend to be lower than on either coast, I'm guessing because the food doesn't have to be transported as far.

Still, it is my observation that every region has its bargains. My sister in San Diego, who envies the prices I get on steaks, makes me green when she tells me she's buying avocados at 99c for a half-dozen. And while you'll almost never see cheap seafood in the midwest (and if you do, you should avoid it!) those who live near either ocean are more likely to find occasional deals. (We in the midwest do get farm-raised catfish, however - which, I have been informed, isn't making it to New England. It's a shame; I regularly buy boneless catfish "nuggets" - pieces between one and two ounces each - for $1.99 a pound.)

So please, let me know what low carb bargains you've found in your own area! Obviously, transient sales are no help, but what's consistently not-too-pricey where you live? I can pass the word along.

I'll pass along one more money saver: If you have a freezer, and eat a lot of chicken, look in the Yellow Pages to see if you have a poultry processing plant near you. I started buying chicken backs in 50 pound lots from a local poultry processor, to feed to my dogs - and discovered that if I was willing to give freezer space to 50 pounds of chicken legs and thighs at a time, I could consistently get them for a price that was at or around the lowest sale prices the local markets gave. So when chicken doesn't go on sale for a while, that's what I do.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:44 PM

Product Review: Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages

I've been meaning to review Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages, by Hood, but some readers beat me to it!

Nancy Zarr writes:

In response to your request of favorite new products, hands down I think the Carb Countdown Dairy Beverage by Hood is one of the best things I have tried yet. At first they just carried it at Wal-Mart but now all the stores carry it. I particularly like the chocolate milk and think it makes a great high protein breakfast if blended with a scoop of protein powder which tastes like and has the texture of a malt. On its own it is high in protein, low in carb, and great in taste and texture. I don't care for the regular milk as well, but imagine in the summer months I will use it more with ice and frozen berries for smoothies. I have never been a milk drinker so it wasn't something that I missed when I started a low carb lifestyle 2 years ago. However this product is good enough I buy it on a consistent basis. I haven't tried cooking with it so if you ever review this product I would be interested in knowing if it is good for cooking. Many thanks for your great newsletters!

And Lynn Frazier-Hines writes:

Hey Dana~

Just wanted to tell people about something that I came across. I was little worried at first about how it would taste, but it is REALLY good!

It is called "Carb Countdown" dairy beverage and it is made by Hood. As someone who never liked the taste of skim milk and always opted for whole milk, I expected this to taste like watered down milk. Especially at 3 grams of carbs per 1 cup serving. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was thick and creamy, kinda tasted like half and half. But you have to remember to shake it first, or the taste is less that delicious. They have a chocolate version too. I live in New England, and was surprised to find it in the dairy section at a grocery store in Texas when I was visiting for the holidays. So for those of you who miss a good glass of cold milk, look for this stuff! You won't be sorry! Oh, and Dana, you can cook with it too!

I am in 100% agreement: Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages are terrific; they became instant staples in my kitchen. My husband and I are both crazy about the chocolate "milk" - indeed, I had to get up and pour myself a glass while I was writing this! It's rich and thick, and very chocolatey. I'm thinking it would make great cocoa, too - just pour some in a mug and zap it in the microwave. The plain "milk" really does taste like milk. I eat it pretty regularly on low carb cereal, and I can't tell the difference between the Carb Countdown and regular milk. No weird, "off" texture or flavor at all. A real winner. And yes, you can cook with it!

Carb Countdown is made from milk and cream, with some - well, "milk components" is the term that comes to mind - added: calcium casienate, whey protein concentrate, buttermilk. Also some less appealing stuff - disodium phosphate and mono and diglycerides; I confess I don't know what these do. Carrageenan and locust bean gum are both natural thickeners. It also has some sucralose and ace-K (a lesser-known artificial sweetener) no doubt to replace the sweetness from the lactose. Oh, and the usual vitamin D, to help your bones use the calcium.

It's good to note here that lactose is a relatively low impact carb; if you're on a diet that's only moderately carb restricted, or you're on maintenance, I don't see why you couldn't have a glass of the real thing now and then, unless you're lactose intolerant. But this fills a real need for folks who have to keep their carbs to a bare minimum, and, come to think of it, for the lactose-intolerant, as well. Just three grams of carbohydrate in an eight-ounce glass.

I found Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages in the dairy case of the local Marsh grocery store, so look in your grocer's dairy case - and if they're not carrying it yet, go to customer service and ask why not?

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:41 PM

Has Atkins Changed?

The New York Times caused quite a flap recently by reporting that Atkins Nutritionals had recently issued guidelines, saying that Atkins dieters should get only 20% of their calories from saturated fats. They made this sound like a big change - as if the Atkins folks were back-pedaling on Dr. Atkins assertion that we could eat meat, eggs, and cheese freely, with no worry about saturated fat.

This, however, is simply not so. The Atkins dietary program remains unchanged. Here's the deal:

The average Atkins dieter will get roughly 60% of his or her calories from fat. But all foods with fat in them contain a combination of kinds of fat - saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The notion that a steak, for instance, contains only saturated fat is bunk. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 grams of sirloin steak contains 6.14 grams of saturated fat, 6.63 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. In other words, less than half of the fat in that steak is saturated. Bacon, often seized on by low carb detractors as the ultimate in dietary insanity, also derives over half its fat from monounsaturates - one slice of cooked bacon contains 1.1 grams saturated fat, 1.48 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 0.36 grams polyunsaturated fats.

So less than half of the fat from the meat we eat is saturated. But we don't eat only red meat, do we? 100 grams of roasted chicken, eaten with the yummy, fatty skin, contains 3.79 grams of saturated fat, 5.34 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 2.97 grams of polyunsaturated fat. And 100 grams of farmed salmon contains 2.18 grams of saturated fat, with 3.87 grams of monounsaturates, and 3.93 grams of polyunsaturates.

Butter, too, is a mixture of saturates and unsaturates. One pat of butter contains 2.04 grams of saturated fat, 1.67 grams monounsaturated fat, and 0.143 grams polyunsaturated fat.

But these aren't the only high fat foods that Atkins encouraged, by any means. Olive oil may be used liberally on salads and in sauteing - and of course, olive oil is very high in monounsaturates: One tablespoon contains 9.97 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 1.35 grams of polyunsaturated fat, with just 1.8 grams of saturates. An ounce of pecan halves contains just 1.75 grams of saturated fat, but 11.57 grams of monounsaturates, and 6.13 grams of polyunsaturates.

I trust you get the picture: A person who is eating broadly of the many foods allowed on the Atkins diet, including not just red meat and butter, but poultry, fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and the like, will not be getting a preponderance of his or her fat calories in the form of saturated fat. He or she will naturally be getting a balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, plus, of course, protein, and however many grams of carbohydrate they can consume without passing their personal critical carb level. Indeed, it's likely that without even trying, most Atkins dieters get somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% of their calories from saturated fat - which is, of course, where the New York Times figure came from.

No change, just a rearranging of old information to make it look new.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:37 PM

Marco Polo Steak & Stir Fried Vegetables

Here's something easy and new to do with a steak, or even a boneless, skinless chicken breast.

Marco Polo Steak

1 cup Italian salad dressing (vinaigrette style, not creamy)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated ginger root
2 tablespoons Splenda
4 drops blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 - 2 pounds steak - rib eye, sirloin, or whatever you have that's tender and fit for broiling.

Mix together everything but the steak. Using a fork, pierce the steak all over. Then either put it in a big zipper-lock plastic bag, or in a shallow, non-reactive pan. Either way, pour the marinade over it. If you're using the bag, press the air out as you seal the bag. Turn your steak over a few times to make sure it's coated, then let it marinate for at least an hour, and more won't hurt.

When dinner time rolls around, pull out your steak, and pour off the marinade into a bowl. Broil your steak as close as you can to your broiler, set on "high," basting it once or twice with the reserved marinade.

Assuming two pounds of steak, you'll have 5 servings. My programs says 6 grams of carbohydrate per serving, but that's assuming you eat all the marinade, which you don't, by any means. I'd guess no more than 3 grams per serving. 34 grams of protein.

While the steak is cooking, make

Marco Polo Stir Fried Vegetables

2 tablespoons peanut oil, or other oil for sauteing
2 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup reserved Marco Polo Marinade

In a heavy skillet or wok, over high heat, stir fry the vegetables in the oil until the broccoli is just tender-crisp. Stir in the reserved marinade, and let the whole thing cook for another couple of minutes - this will kill any raw steak germs still in the marinade. Serve with your Marco Polo Steak!

4 servings, each with 4 grams carbohydrate and 1 gram fiber, for a usable carb count of 3 grams. 2 grams protein.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:34 PM