May 23, 2004

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Hey, Gang

Just when you were beginning to think you'd never see Lowcarbezine! again, here it is! I thank you for your patience. My life has become far, far busier in the past year than it was when this ezine started - and now, along with the books, I have a weekly newspaper column to turn out. (If your local paper isn't carrying the column yet, and you'd like them to, it's called Low Carb For Life, and it's being distributed through the United Media Syndicate.)

Indeed, this would be a great time for me to welcome all the new ezine subscribers who have come on board because of the column - Hi! Welcome to Lowcarbezine! Hope you enjoy it. You'll find I run on a bit more here than I do in the column - after all, I have no space constraints, and no editor. Ah, the intoxicating freedom of it all!

500 More Low-Carb Recipes got turned in - well, not quite exactly on time, but only about a day late. My very public thanks to all of you who submitted recipes! Indeed, many of your recipes made me break into a cold sweat, thinking, "Geez, how can I come up with anything half as good as this?!" My readers are a talented bunch.

My thanks also to all my recipe testers, and most especially to my right hand - my husband, Eric Schmitz, the Hold the Toast Webmaster, bookkeeper, shipping manager, researcher, and all-purpose executive assistant. He worked fourteen hour days right along side me, getting the book done on time - and helped keep me from having a total nervous breakdown from the stress.

So to Eric, to my recipe testers, and to all of you who submitted recipes, my heartfelt thanks. When I say "I couldn't have done it without you" I'm not just being polite. It's the simple truth. Now I just have to turn in two more books by the end of the summer...

It's good to be back! Hope you enjoy the 'zine!

Read on!

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:08 PM

What About "Good Carbs"?

Now that I've finally turned in 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, I've had a teeny bit of free time, and I've started taking a look at The South Beach Diet and the new The Hamptons Diet. I have not read both books through yet, so I will not offer a final opinion, but I will say this about the "good carbs" they both recommend:

If I add even good carbs - coarse ground rye bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice - back to my diet on any regular basis, I start to gain weight. Indeed, before I went low carb, most of the foods I was eating on my low fat/high carb diet were at least reasonably good carbs - 100% whole grain bread, beans and lentils, brown rice, Cheerios, fruit. I did eat white flour pasta, and potatoes, but with the notable exception of low fat ice cream with Hershey's syrup ("now, as always, a fat free food") I was not eating a lot of highly processed sugary stuff - no Pop Tarts, no Oreos, no Wonder Bread, and I haven't had a sugared soda since I was 11 or 12 years old.

Yet eating carbs that were at least relatively "good" still got me up to 190 pounds at 5'2", with nasty energy swings and borderline-high blood pressure.

What I've seen so far of South Beach and the Hamptons (are we talking nutrition, or real estate?) indicates that they are somewhat narrower in their definition of "good carbs" - my Cheerios would not have made the cut, for example, nor would the potatoes or the white flour pasta. This is just as well, since it turns out that these carbs pack a serious blood sugar wallop. However I have, since going low carb almost nine years ago, tried adding some of these "good carbs" back to my diet - most notably 100% whole grain rye bread, which I adore, and which has a low glycemic index. I'm afraid I found that if I had a slice a day, I started to gain weight, so now I simply don't buy the stuff. (Nor do I bother much with low carb specialty bread, either homemade or purchased. For the most part, I simply don't eat bread, and truth to tell, I don't much miss it.)

For that matter, when I was doing blood sugar tests trying to find out if "carb blockers" work, I discovered that one cup of brown rice was enough to drive my blood sugar into the diabetic range. That's a bigger serving than these diets recommend, and I was eating it without the protein and fat that would have moderated its effect on my blood sugar, but it still was a pretty clear demonstration to me that brown rice is not my friend.

I find that I do best if I simply keep my usable (non-fiber) carb intake under 50 grams a day, and I try to keep it lower than that most days. (I also keep a mild eye on calories.) I get the vast majority of those carbs from vegetables, a little fruit, nuts and seeds, seasonings, some dairy products, and the malto-dextrin filler in Splenda. Given the need to keep my carb count so low, I simply have no interest in supplanting, say, 15 grams of carbohydrate worth of vegetables with 15 grams of carbohydrate worth of whole wheat pasta - I'd rather have a huge salad than a teeny portion of noodles. I don't really see the point, nutritionally speaking, since I have yet to find a single vitamin or mineral available in grains and the like that I can't get from lower carb sources.

That, however, is me, and one of the tenets of my low carb writing has been that people differ quite a lot. I do know people who have done quite well on a diet that includes some of the good (ie, low glycemic impact) carbs, and I even included a diet that uses such carbs in How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds - I call it The Careful Carb Diet. (Maybe I should have called it the Bloomington Diet?) I do not mean to voice a blanket objection to diets that do include modest portions of these foods. If you're on South Beach or the Hamptons diet and you're doing well, God bless, and stick with it! I just wanted you to be aware that "good carbs" aren't good for everybody. There are some of you who are going to do far better if you simply stay away from grains and the like pretty much forever, and there are going to be some of you who can tolerate them only every so often, and then only in tiny doses.

There's no substitute for paying attention to your own body.

I also wanted you to be aware that there is no compelling nutritional reason that you need to eat those "good carbs." Every vitamin and mineral found in them can be found in lower carb sources, if that's what your body prefers.

I promise to read both books thoroughly, and report back soon.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:06 PM

Okay, So It's an Old Story

But then, I've been dilatory lately, haven't I?

Back in April, CNN carried a story about a couple on Atkins induction who were booted from a buffet-style restaurant after going back for a twelfth serving of roast beef - the employee carving the beef was concerned about having enough for the other customers. The couple had assumed the restaurant was all-you-can-eat, but the manager insisted it wasn't. When the couple demanded a refund, the police were called, and they were removed from the premises.

I'm not going to get into the legal issues involved, except to say that it seems to me that anyone who has had eleven servings of roast beef at buffet prices can't claim they haven't gotten their money's worth. No, it's those twelve servings that concern me.

Excuse me? Twelve servings of roast beef? I know that Atkins doesn't specify quantities at all, but that doesn't mean you're supposed to do your level best to eat until you explode, like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Two servings? Three? Completely understandable. But twelve? It seems to me these folks were being a tad compulsive.

So let me point out two things: First of all, Doc Atkins, while not prescribing specific portion sizes, said that people should eat when they are hungry, eat enough to not feel hungry anymore, and then stop until they are hungry again. He did not say that so long as you were eating very low carb you should feel free to eat yourself loop-legged, nor did he say that a low carb diet was license to stuff yourself to the point where most people would puke. Indeed, one of the great triumphs of the Atkins nutritional approach - and indeed, of low carbohydrate diets in general - is that for most of us, if we're very careful with our carbs, and pay attention to actual hunger, we find that we can trust our appetites, often for the first time in our lives. But nobody eats twelve servings of roast beef in response to actual hunger pangs. Once you're past serving two or three, we're talking entertainment or compulsion.

Secondly - and I've said this before, but it's such a pervasive myth that I need to say it again and again - It is not true that so long as you eat a very low carbohydrate diet you can eat an unlimited number of calories and still lose weight. The clinical studies indicate that you can, indeed, eat more calories than you could on a carb-containing diet and still lose weight - most people should have no trouble losing somewhere in the 1800 - 2500 calorie per day range, which is easily enough calories to feel comfortable. Some people will be able to eat more than that, and I have one friend who lost weight in the 4000-5000 calorie per day range - but then, he started at 450 pounds.

However, I know of no one who can eat 10,000 calories per day and lose weight, no matter how deep in ketosis they are. And most people are going to need, as I mentioned, to ride in the 1800-2500 calorie per day range. Which, if you eat in response to actual hunger, rather than for entertainment, or because the food is simply there, should be easy.

Oh, and I hope they had at least a salad or some green beans with that roast beef. Even on Induction you're supposed to be eating vegetables, you know.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:03 PM

Important Splenda Info

There's no question why Splenda has taken over the artificial sweetener market in a big way - it simply tastes better than anything else out there. However, my email shows that there is some confusion about it. Here's one query I got:

I was in a low-carb chat room and the management of the chat room flashes low-carb info. across the screen occasionally... Like drink lots of water and stuff like that. They send one that says that something like "one cup of Splenda contains 40+ carbs...." Can this be right??? If someone makes homemade Kool Aid with Splenda, then they are just drinking empty carbs. (I have a friend who does that although personally I like the water where I live)

Cordially,

Clint McHann

No, Clint, the 40 grams per cup figure for granular Splenda is not correct. However, there are 24 grams of carbohydrate in a cup of Splenda, which is enough to pay attention to. Why, then, does the Splenda package say that Splenda has 0 carbs per serving (not to mention 0 calories?) Because a "serving" is just 1 teaspoon, and contains roughly 0.5 grams of carbohydrate. The federal government of the USA allows food processors to round down any carb count of 0.5 grams per serving or less to "0 grams." Voila, a "carb-free" product!

However, what is carb-free in theory is not carb-free in practice, and that 0.5 grams per teaspoon figure means that 1 tablespoon has 1.5 grams, and 1 cup (16 tablespoons) has 24 grams. That's 1/8 the carbohydrate of sugar - a big improvement. However, that carbohydrate comes in the form of the maltodextrin used to bulk the unbelievably sweet sucralose till it's the same sweetness as sugar - and maltodextrin is a high impact carb with no nutritional value.

(This is as good a place as any to point out that Splenda's claims of being "calorie free" also rest on the same legalism. 24 grams of carbohydrate per cup means 96 calories per cup - not a lot compared to sugar, but enough that it will influence the final calorie count of desserts and other things made with quantities of Splenda.)

It's important to realize that "granular Splenda" - the stuff sold in bulk, by the box or the "baker's bag" - is bulked considerably more than the stuff in the packets. The stuff in the packets is considerably sweeter, and has a lower carb count. Sadly, I can't find a hard figure on exactly how much carb is in the little packets, but it's definitely less than the granular Splenda. How to convert Splenda granular to the packets? I've only used the granular, so I didn't know, but here's an email I received:

Dana -

I have used the Splenda packets in cooking - but for baked goods, the bulk of the baking bag of Splenda is much better. For drink mixes like Kool-Aid and homemade lemonade - 16 packets of Splenda is about the sweetness equivalent of one cup of sugar.

Stacey Brock

Very helpful info, Stacey. Thank you! (Note to self: Buy Splenda packets...)

Why bulk Splenda at all? Why not just let us all have the liquid sucralose being used by the food processors? Because pure sucralose is seriously sweet - reportedly 600 times as sweet as sugar. That's an impractical degree of sweetness for home use. To sweeten a cup of coffee, you'd have to dip a pinhead in the pure sucralose, then use it to stir with, and even then you might get too much.

However, there's nothing keeping McNeil Nutritionals (the US manufacturer/distributor of Splenda for the home market) from giving us liquid sucralose diluted with water to a usable strength. After all, liquid saccharine was in widespread use for years, and is still available - it is generally diluted to the point where a few drops equal the sweetness of a teaspoon of sugar, which is an easy level of sweetness to control. A product like this wouldn't work well for baked goods like cookies, because it would be hard to distribute evenly through the dough. But in moister products, like cheesecakes and muffins, it would be simple to stir a liquid sucralose product into the other liquid ingredients, and we could shave a good couple of grams off of a serving.

And of course for use in liquids, such as coffee, tea, or lemonade, liquid Splenda would be preferable.

So why won't McNeil give us liquid Splenda? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's really starting to annoy me. There have been a few companies that have sold a low carb "syrup concentrate" that consisted simply of liquid sucralose diluted with water to a usable strength, but they come and go, apparently because McNeil is uncooperative. The only liquid sucralose product I know that has been on the market consistently for at least a few years is Fiberfit, which is marketed as a fiber supplement instead of a sweetener. You can find it here: http://www.trulylowcarb.com/fiberfit.htm I have used Fiberfit, and I think it's quite good.

However, it would be very nice if we could all purchase liquid Splenda in our grocery stores, along with the granular and the packets. I have talked to a representative of McNeil, and they claim there's not enough demand for liquid Splenda. I find this difficult to believe, since I know that many of my readers have called McNeil in the past to say how much they'd like to be able to purchase such a product, but perhaps the message still hasn't gotten through. So I urge you to call McNeil at 1-800-7-SPLENDA, and tell them that WE WANT CARB-FREE LIQUID SPLENDA! Heck, pass the number around to your low carbing friends who don't get this ezine. Post it on bulletin boards. Call them weekly. Deluge their switchboard with requests for liquid Splenda.

Perhaps if we annoy them enough, they'll get the message.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:00 PM

Product Reviews: Total and Special K

My local grocery store now has reduced carb versions of two popular cold cereals - Total and Special K. Though I don't miss cereal in general, there is one permutation of cereal that is on my "seriously missed food" list: Wheaties with sliced peaches. Don't ask me why, it's just one of those things - Wheaties with sliced peaches (and during my I'll-eat-whole-grains-but-not-sugar phase, Nutrigrain Wheat Flakes with sliced peaches) has always been among my very favorite things to eat. Weird thing to be passionate about, huh? But there it is.

Anyway, I know a lot of people do miss cold cereal, so I thought in incumbent on me to give these a try.

Accordingly, I bought the low carb Total first. I confess, the original Total is not a cereal I ever paid much attention to back in my cereal eating days. I figured it was just Wheaties with some vitamins sprayed on it, and since I took my vitamins every day, what was the point of spending the extra money on extra-fortified cereal? So I cannot tell you how low carb Total compares to original Total.

I can tell you, however, that it is not much like Wheaties. In this, I was quite disappointed. The flakes are very crisp - too crisp to really seem like cereal; they lack the delicacy of your standard cereal flake. Furthermore, low carb Total is very sweet. I realize that having shunned sugar for as long as I have has made my palate more sensitive to sweetness, but still, this was sweet enough that it almost seemed like a kiddie cereal to me. Low carb Total doesn't actually taste bad, mind you, but it wasn't what I was hoping for at all, and I wouldn't be likely to buy it again.

In the plus column for low carb Total is the fact that it doesn't have soy in it, and that it has enough protein that it doesn't cause serious rebound hunger or cravings for me - 13 grams if you eat the rated serving.

In the minus column is the fact that in order to keep that all important "net carb" number on the label artificially low, they've decided that a serving is just 3/4 cup. I know of no one who would consider 3/4 cup of cereal to be a bowlful, even a 1 cup serving seems a little skimpy - and a 1 cup serving would have about 11 grams of usable carbs, at least as General Mills calculates it. Considering that three eggs will give you 18-21 grams of protein, and just 1.5 grams of carbohydrate, I'd say this cereal is only for people who aren't seriously carb intolerant, and certainly isn't for people on any sort of Induction phase.

Also, low carb Total has sugar in it - indeed, it has more than one kind, including sugar, honey, and brown sugar syrup on the label, along with chicory root extract (a form of sugar alcohol or polyol) and maltitol. It seems like a bad idea to me to put sugar in a low carb cereal, and as for the sugar alcohols, they're enough reason not to eat this if you've got an interview, a presentation, a hot date, or any other event for which flatulence would be a disaster, on your schedule for the day.

How about low carb Special K, from Kellogg's? Again, my experience with original Special K is skimpy enough and long enough ago that I can't really make a comparison to that. However, I like this better than the low carb Total -- the texture is much more like "real" cereal, and it's nowhere near as sweet.

However, several of the same criticisms apply. Again, the serving size is listed as 3/4 cup to keep that "net carb" number low, but I found I had to eat over a cup to feel like I'd had a reasonable portion. Like low carb Total, low carb Special K has sugars of various kinds in it - the label lists sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and malt flavor, one right after the other. Further, low carb Special K is higher in carbohydrate and lower in protein than low carb Total - that 3/4 cup serving will give you 14 grams of carb and 5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 9 grams - but just 10 grams of protein, or less than 2 eggs.

And Special K does contain soy, both soy grits and soy protein isolate. I am, as I have frequently noted before, iffy about soy. (If you want to know why I'm iffy about soy, go to the Lowcarbezine! archives at http://www.holdthetoast.com and take a look at the 4/11/2001 issue.) I would not eat low carbohydrate Special K regularly for this reason alone.

All told, I am unimpressed by the low carb cold cereal situation. Of the two, low carb Special K with peaches comes closer to my fond memories of wheat flakes with peaches, but not close enough, or low carb enough, for me to bother with it again.

Too, these are highly processed foods (as are their high carb counterparts,) and the only reason they have a decent vitamin and mineral count is because the vitamins are sprayed on at the factory. And they are even more expensive than standard cold cereal, which has long struck me as a conspiracy to charge $3.50 a box for 15c worth of grain.

In short, these two cereals exemplify a lot of what I find disturbing about many of the low carb specialty products flooding onto the market - they simply are not a substitute for real, unprocessed low carb foods - meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and low sugar fruits. If you're tired of eggs, and want a quick, cool breakfast, better you should have some cottage cheese with a few strawberries or a little cantaloupe cut up in it, or some plain yogurt with sweetener and a little flavoring stirred in (and maybe those strawberries, as well.)

Even if you discover these cereals are to your liking, I can't recommend them as a regular part of your diet. Too high carb, too high in junk, too low in protein. Eat real food.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 03:58 PM

Tavern Soup

Having finished 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, I have turned my attention to slow cooker recipes, a subject I know is dear to many hearts. Here's a soup I tried just yesterday:

Tavern Soup

Light beer gives this cheese soup a little bite that I find most pleasant! I also used extra sharp cheddar, but use what you like.

1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1/4 cup celery, diced fine
1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced fine
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
12 ounces light beer
1/2 teaspoon salt or Vege-Sal
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
guar or xanthan

Before you head out the door, combine the chicken broth, celery, green pepper, carrot, parsley, and pepper in your slow cooker. Cover, set to low, and let it slow cook 6-8 hours -- and even a bit longer won't hurt.

When you get home, either use a hand-blender to puree the vegetables right there in the slow cooker pot, or scoop them out with a slotted spoon, puree them in your blender, and return them to the pot.

Now whisk in the cheddar cheese a little at a time, until it's all melted in. Add the beer, the salt, and the Tabasco sauce, and stir till the foaming stops. Use your guar or xanthan shaker to thicken your soup until it's about the texture of heavy cream. Recover the pot, turn to high, and let it cook for another 20 minutes before serving.

6 - 8 servings. Assuming 8, each will have: 274 Calories; 20g Fat; 18g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber, 3 grams usable carb.

Notes: I used Milwaukee's Best Light beer, which comes to about 3.5 grams per can, and is cheaper than Michelob Ultra, which has roughly 0.5 grams less per bottle, and costs a lot more.

I shredded my own cheddar cheese for my soup. I suppose you can use pre-shredded cheese, but be aware that it often has some starch added to keep it from sticking together. It's pretty easy to run cheese through the shredding blade of your food processor.

As for that "guar or xanthan shaker" - you newbies may be wondering what the heck I'm talking about. Guar and xanthan are both powdered soluble fibers, widely used as thickeners in the food processing industry. They're what we use in place of flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot for thickening low carb soups, sauces, gravies, and the like. The easiest way to use these thickeners (which are available through health food stores, low carb specialty stores, and low carb etailers) is to put them in a spare salt shaker and keep them by the stove. Then when you want to thicken something, you just start whisking your soup or sauce, and sprinkle the guar or xanthan over the surface, stopping when your dish is slightly less thick than you want it - it'll thicken a bit more on standing.

You can, instead, transfer part of the liquid to your blender, and add guar or xanthan in small quantities - maybe 1/4 teaspoon at a time - until it's the thickness you want (remembering that if you're adding it back to more liquid, it'll be diluted when you do.) What you absolutely do not want to do is dump a spoonful of guar or xanthan in your food, and then start to stir. You'll end up with gooey, gummy lumps, sure as you're born.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 03:56 PM