February 28, 2006

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Hey Gang!

I'm afraid all you get this week is a back column and a recipe. My dad was visiting for a few days, and then we went up to Chicago for my niece's 5th birthday. Now I'm back and caught up with the housework - and it's time to write this week's column! So I thought I'd just send out this short issue, and start writing next week's after I get the new column done.

Spring has definitely sprung here in Southern Indiana. I have snow drops blooming in my yard, and the crocuses and daffodils are sending up their leaves. Just as clear a sign, asparagus is on sale at the local grocery stores - so I'm sending you a column on asparagus. Then I'm going to run out and buy some, and make an asparagus quiche for dinner!

Read on.

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:40 PM

Asparagus! - Column Reprint

It's spring! You know what that means - perfect baby stalks of asparagus are in your grocery store, excruciatingly fresh, and for once, reasonably priced!

Asparagus hollers "Springtime!" - while it murmurs "Luxury and elegance." It's delicious, quick and easy to prepare, and takes to all sorts of easy variations. And, I'm pleased to tell you, asparagus is also one of the very lowest carb vegetables. A half-pound of asparagus - a fabulously generous serving - contains only 5 grams of carbohydrate, of which 2 grams are fiber, for a usable carb count of just 3 grams. This is one indulgence we can all afford to make more often!

Asparagus is plenty nutritious, too. It's a good source of vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C, and a particularly good source of folic acid. Asparagus also has plenty of potassium.

Knowing this, isn't it time for a low carb asparagus feast? Choose asparagus that is very fresh, with no shriveled stalks, and the tips tightly closed. If you're not planning to eat your asparagus right away, wrap it well, and serve within a day or two.

To trim asparagus, simply snap the bottom off each spear where it wants to break naturally. I don't bother taking off the scales, but if you want to you can use a potato peeler to do this. Your asparagus is now ready to cook.

How to cook asparagus? Quickly. Most vegetables suffer from overcooking, but asparagus, in particular, loses its charm when it becomes limp. I like to microwave my asparagus - I put it in a microwaveable container with a lid, add just a tablespoon or two of water, cover the container, and nuke on "high" for just 5 minutes. Once the microwave beeps, uncover your asparagus right away! Otherwise it will continue to cook, and be gray and mushy.

You can cook your asparagus on the stove top, of course. The classic way to do this is to stand the asparagus on end in a deep, narrow pot, with the bases of the stalks in just a couple of inches of water. Cover the whole thing tightly, place on high heat, and once the water boils, cook it for just 5 to 7 minutes - once again, uncover it as soon as the cooking time is up.

Using this method, the tender tips of the asparagus steam, while the tougher bases of the stalks boil. You can buy tall, narrow asparagus pots, but a great substitute is available cheap at yard sales and thrift shops: Buy an old stove-top coffee perker, and remove the guts, for an admirable asparagus pot!

It may amuse you to know that the proper way to eat whole asparagus spears is with your fingers - even Miss Manners says so. You can dip your asparagus in lemon butter, hollandaise sauce, or aioli (garlic mayonnaise), all of which are very low carb. Cooked asparagus is also wonderful chilled - try dipping it in chipotle mayonnaise: Just put 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in your food processor with one chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce, and process till smooth. This is enough for 4 people, and will add only trace amounts of carb to your asparagus.

I've recently started grilling asparagus, and it's becoming a favorite. You can do it on your gas or charcoal grill, of course. You'll want a small-holed grill rack to keep it from falling through, or you can make asparagus "rafts" by skewering 4 to 6 spears side by side, with a well-soaked bamboo skewer through either end. You can also grill asparagus in your electric tabletop grill, though, and it's wonderful. Here's a new grilled asparagus recipe I came up with just the other day:

Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar

1 pound asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your electric tabletop grill. Snap the ends off the asparagus where they break naturally. Put them on a plate, and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss the asparagus a bit, to make sure it's all coated with the oil.

Place the asparagus on your electric grill -- you'll probably have to do it in two batches, unless your grill is a lot bigger than mine. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

If you've had to do two batches, put the first batch on a plate and cover it with a pot lid to keep it warm while the second batch cooks. When all the asparagus is done, and all on the plate, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Roll it about to coat it, then top it with the Parmesan, and serve.

2 generous servings, each with 184 Calories; 16g Fat; 6g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber, and 5 g. usable carbohydrate.

(Reprinted by permission, from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, copyright 2005 Fair Winds Press)

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:39 PM

Hey! I Saw My New Book At the Store!

While my dad was here we went to the local Barnes and Noble, and they had my new book, The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook! It's always a thrill to actually sitting there on the bookstore shelves, you know?

So if you want a copy right this very second, you could run out to your local Barnes and Noble and get one. Or you could just put in an order at Amazon.com, who I assume will have it very soon.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:37 PM

Chicken Burritos

Now that the days are getting longer, and the weather's turning nice, who wants to come in and cook dinner? Here's a family-pleasing meal from 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes so you can go for a walk before the sun goes down.

Chicken Burritos

Wow. Easy, delicious, low carb, low calorie, and reheats easily. What more do you want from a recipe?

2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 large jalapeno, minced (or canned)
12 low carb tortillas
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup light sour cream
3/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Plunk your boneless, skinless thighs in the slow cooker. Mix the garlic, chili powder, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and minced jalapeno together. Pour over the thighs, and stir to coat. Cover pot, set to low, and cook for 10 hours, or cook on high for 5 hours.

When time's up, simply stir with a fork to reduce your chicken to a big pot of tasty chicken shreds! Now, fill each tortilla with 1/3 cup chicken, top with lettuce, cheese, 1 tablespoon sour cream, a generous tablespoon salsa, and a sprinkling of cilantro. Wrap and devour!

This is a great meal for a family that has some low carbers and some non-low carbers, just give them regular or (preferably) whole wheat flour tortillas. The chicken keeps well in the fridge, and reheats quickly in the microwave for a fast snack! (45 seconds on 70% power is about right for a 1/3 cup serving.)

12 Servings, each with: 225 Calories; 13g Fat; 22g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 5g Usable Carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:35 PM

February 20, 2006

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Hey Gang!

Here's this week's opus, and I'm afraid there's urgent and unhappy news I have to convey. Sorry about that.

Read on.

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:56 PM

Time To Cut Way Back on the Diet Soda

And the Crystal Light. Not to mention sugar-free iced tea mix and bottled iced tea, sugar-free gelatin and pudding mix, and indeed anything made with aspartame.

No doubt you know that aspartame (aka Nutrasweet or Equal) has been controversial since its introduction in the 1980s. Even among those of us who shun sugar, aspartame has had a less than sterling reputation. Dr. Atkins felt it interfered with fat burning on a cellular level. The Hellers, who wrote The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, feel that aspartame, along with all sugar-free sweeteners, causes an insulin release just like sugar. And it's been a part of the community wisdom for a long time that roughly half of low carbers have a hard time losing weight if they drink diet soda or Crystal Light.

There have been "netlore" stories going around for years, claiming that aspartame causes all manner of ills, from headaches to visual disturbances to MS - though often without any medical research to back them up. I personally stopped drinking diet soda shortly after aspartame took over the market (after years of a heavy-duty Tab habit) because I discovered that two aspartame-sweetened sodas in a day were enough to make me feel panicky at night.

Still, I insisted - and continue to feel - that artificial sweeteners are safer than sugar, especially for those of us who are profoundly carbohydrate intolerant, and find sugar addictive.

I have gotten many emails from readers taking me to task for using Splenda in recipes, because in lab animals it caused thymus shrinkage and kidney swelling. In response I point out that this is true, but that these effects happened at dosages the equivalent of a 150-pound human being eating over 10,000 teaspoons of Splenda per day.

Most tests on artificial sweeteners have involved similar whopping-huge doses. It's important to remember that the first rule of toxicology is "Dose is everything." I had a particularly Splenda-heavy day on Valentine's day - I made a sweet poppy-seed dressing for our salad, a glaze for our duck breast, and chocolate sauce and sweetened whipped cream to dip strawberries in. That's far more Splenda than I normally consume in a day, yet I doubt I got more than 1/3 cup, or 16 teaspoons. In short, I feel that my level of exposure is low enough that it's not an issue.

But now tests have been done on aspartame that actually involve doses reflecting possible real-world consumption. And the news is not good.

Dr. Morando Soffritti, an Italian reasearcher, spent the past year studying the effects of aspartame on cancer rates in rats. This man is a respected researcher, overseeing 180 scientists and researchers in 30 countries who collaborate on toxin research. And Dr. Soffritti has now stated that aspartame increases the risk of lymphoma and leukemia. Dr. Soffritti feels this is attributable to methanol (wood alcohol) in aspartame, which turns to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in the body.

Previous studies have found that aspartame doesn't cause cancer. It should be noted that these studies were performed by the GD Searle company, creators of aspartame.

Dr. Soffritti responds that those studies were flawed. The rats used were "sacrificed" - killed and examined for cancers - at the age of 2 years. This is the equivalent of 53 years old in a human being. Cancer takes a long time to develop, and people under 53 years of age are far less likely to have cancer than folks who are older, regardless of their habits.

So Dr. Soffritti let his rats die at the natural "old age" for rats - about 3 years of age. He also used considerably more rats than most of the previous studies. And using this method, he found increases in lymphomas, leukemia, and tumors at multiple organ sites.

Here's the part I find really alarming about Dr. Soffritti's study: The carcinogenic effects of aspartame cropped up at doses that were the equivalent of a 150-pound human being drinking about six to eight cans of diet soda per day. A devoted diet soda drinker might easily consume that much. I know that in my Tab-drinking days I went through a dozen or more cans a day.

To be fair, cancer is complicated, and we don't understand everything involved in causing it. Some people are more susceptible than others, and there may be various interactions involved we haven't identified. But for now, this is the best information we have to go on.

So I am recommending that all you devoted diet soda and Crystal Light drinkers give it up, or at the very least, cut way, way back. This advice extends to all beverages sweetened with aspartame - iced tea mix, bottled, artificially sweetened iced tea, diet Snapple, whatever. I'm sorry, I know it's going to be hard for you, but geez. Cancer.

Beverages are the big worry, because they're how the biggest doses of the stuff are consumed, just like regular soda is the major source of sugar in most Americans' diets. You could start drinking Diet Rite Splenda-sweetened sodas, I suppose. But while I'm completely comfortable with my modest Splenda intake, I find myself suspicious of drinking soda after soda, period.

If you regularly eat aspartame sweetened desserts, I'd recommend you cut back on those, too, or even cut them out. I will no longer be using aspartame-sweetened diet gelatin or pudding mix in recipe development. I'll start working on alternatives to my best desserts that use aspartame-sweetened products. Still, people who eat 6 servings a day of diet gelatin are rare. People who drink 6 cans a day of diet soda are relatively common.

I still believe that Dose Is Everything. I wouldn't panic about the occasional diet soda, it's the daily habit I worry about. I'll still occasionally make one of my dessert recipes that calls for sugar-free pudding or gelatin mix - I mean, have you tried the "Better Than S-X" recipe from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes?

But if you're a diet beverage addict, it's time to wean yourself. Iced tea, hot tea (regular or herbal,) unsweetened sparkling water, coffee, or good old water. If you must sweeten coffee or tea, a little Splenda, Sweet 'n' Low (saccharine was taken off the list of carcinogenic products years ago; apparently it was one of those products where they used unreasonable doses in the tests) or stevia should be okay.

But best of all is to get over the idea that drinking sweet stuff all day is a good idea.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:55 PM

I've Got My Author Copies!

I've received my "author copies" (25 free copies) of my new book, The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook. It's so odd - you live with those words for months, till you can practically recite them in your sleep. You cook recipe after recipe. You arrange everything into a book. You'd think that there'd be no big surprise, seeing it in book form. Yet it's always a kick.

Anyway, my publisher assures me that The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook will be in bookstores within a couple of weeks time! The back cover reads:

Good Carbs. Good Fats. Good Food!

Are you counting carbs? Are you counting calories? Or are you just plain trying to eat healthy? This is the cookbook for you!

Millions of people have discovered that being careful about carbohydrates is their key to weight loss and vitality. Yet often low carb dieters assume they can eat unlimited calories. Other folks count calories with success, but find that they're hungry, or have nasty blood sugar crashes that bring irritability, cravings, and fatigue.

It's time for low carbers and calorie counters to take a page out of each other's books! Calorie counters need to discover the joys of never feeling hungry, and of losing those crashes. Low carbers need to keep a gentle eye on calories.

That's not all! Your body needs vitamins and minerals, too. (Oh, yeah. Them!) Quite simply, we all need to eat food that's both healthy and delicious, that keeps us full, and makes us feel and look fabulous. And since we're all seriously busy, it sure would help if it wasn't a pain to cook!

Here you go! Five hundred recipes, from family suppers to party fare. Plenty of protein, a harvest of fruits and vegetables, the good fats you need for vibrant health. Great whole grain flavor without the high blood sugar impact. And every recipe has the carbs, calories, fiber, fat and protein counts worked out - plus a vitamin and mineral breakdown! You'll know you're getting what you need.

Try:

Chile Verde Cheese Burgers * Crab Fritters with Lemon Aioli * Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread * Grilled Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise * Apple and Wild Rice Salad * Blinky's Texas Red * Tequila-Lime Chicken Skillet * Sizzling Moroccan Shrimp * Ginger-Melon Frappe * Plum Sorbet * Chocolate Velvet * Better-Than-Whole-Grain Pancakes

And much more!

So grab this book, and make Every Calorie Count!

Pre-order at Amazon.com and they'll ship it to you as soon as it comes in!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:54 PM

Low Carb For Life Reprint: Broccoli!

Do you love broccoli? You have a lot of company. Do you hate broccoli? You have a lot of company. This Italian cousin of cabbage has grown in popularity over the past few decades, to become one of the most enjoyed vegetables in the US.

This is very good news, because broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, and it's seriously low carb, too. A whole cup of cooked broccoli - a generous serving - has 8 grams of carbohydrate, with 5 grams of fiber, for a teeny carb count of 3 grams - and just 44 calories. Yet you'll get far more vitamin C than you would in a 4-ounce glass of orange juice, a whopping 194% of your daily requirement. You'll also get 43% of your vitamin A, 20% of your folacin, 13% of your potassium, 11% of your B6, 7% of both your calcium and iron, 4% each of your thiamin, niacin, and zinc. Surprisingly enough, you'll even get 5 grams of protein! Clearly, broccoli is your very good friend, nutritionally speaking.

Broccoli is also a great source of sulforaphane, a very powerful antioxidant that is being studied as a cancer preventative, and that may help the body detoxify itself. Hard to beat that. (It's good to know that broccoli sprouts are far higher in sulforaphane than the mature vegetable. If you can get them locally, throw 'em into your salads for a big nutritional boost.)

Yet many people loathe broccoli - we've even had a president declare his antipathy to the vegetable. I suspect that many of those folks have only ever had broccoli that was horribly overcooked. The old "boil vegetables until dead" school of cooking is particularly hard on broccoli; it goes from brilliant emerald, sweet and tender-crisp to gray, mushy, and sulfurous all too quickly. Better to steam or microwave it lightly, or stir-fry it, stopping far short of mushiness.

It's up to you whether you want to cook with fresh or frozen broccoli; the frozen stuff is certainly easier, while fresh is a bit tastier. Should you choose fresh, do yourself a favor - instead of lopping off and discarding the stems, use your vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin, and cook them along with the florets. They're wonderful. If you choose frozen broccoli, it's interesting to know that chopped broccoli is a tad higher in calcium than broccoli spears or florets, because the calcium-rich leaves are included.

Here are a few ideas for upping your broccoli consumption:

* Most grocery stores sell bags of broccoli and cauliflower florets. With bottled ranch dip, these make a great snack to put out while you're cooking dinner, and if you hide the chips it will probably get some veggies into your kids.

* Many groceries also carry "broccoslaw" - shredded stems leftover from those florets we just mentioned. Use in place of or along with cabbage in your favorite slaw recipe for a big nutritional boost. You could also add a handful to a tossed salad - it'll mix in more easily than florets would.

* Steamed or microwaved broccoli is fine with butter, but it's also easy to dress it up. Try a squeeze of lemon juice, or a little soy sauce and ginger, with a scatter of toasted sesame seeds.

* Readers submitted several variations of broccoli salad for 500 More Low-Carb Recipes with grated cheddar cheese, a little onion, and crumbled bacon, plus a dressing made with mayonnaise, vinegar, and just a touch of sweetness. Filling!

* Thawed frozen broccoli marinated in bottled vinaigrette dressing is as easy a salad as you'll ever find, and mighty tasty, too.

* Don't forget about broccoli in stir-fry. I think thawed frozen broccoli "cuts" - bigger chunks than chopped broccoli, but smaller than florets - are ideal for this.

* Broccoli soup is a perennial favorite. Here's a great version out of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, sent in by reader Amy Dungan, who says it's her decarbed version of the soup her aunt used to make. My recipe tester Julie McIntosh called it "great in all aspects" - including that her kids liked it!

Broccoli Ham & Cheese Soup

3 cups of steamed broccoli (chopped into bite size pieces)
4 ounces of cream cheese (softened)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube, or 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules or concentrate
pepper to taste
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup of chopped, cooked ham
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

First, of course, you'll steam your broccoli - you can steam a whole head and chop it up, or you can buy frozen broccoli "cuts," and use 3 cups of them.

Combine 1 cup of the broccoli, the cream cheese, heavy cream, and 1/4 cup water in your food processor, with the S-blade in place. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large saucepan. Add bouillon, pepper, the rest of the broccoli, the mushrooms, the ham and the rest of water. Simmer over medium heat until the mushrooms are soft. Add cheddar and stir until melted, then serve.

Makes 6 servings, each with: 279 Calories; 25g Fat; 10g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 3g usable carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:51 PM

Reader Review of 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes

Great variety - excellent instructions - wonderful cookbook,

This low carb cookbook is truly fantastic! I've tried at least 10 of the recipes and all have become favorites. The chicken wraps are so good that when my partner recently ordered some at a popular restaurant, he said mine were better!

The recipes are tasty, easy, and quick (I take my time with them and always end up with a full dinner within 30 minutes). There is a great variety of dishes including vegetables, which helps to prevent boredom and to provide a wide variety of nutrients. A nutritional breakdown is included for each recipes and variations and side dishes are suggested. Low carb desserts and beverages are also provded, as are several slow cooker recipes - 15 minutes in the morning or the evening before leads to a great dinner waiting for you after work!

c8grey Chicago, IL, USA, June 8, 2005

Well, thanks, c8grey!

By the way, after two years on the market, and 52 reviews, 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes finally has a negative review at Amazon! And I'm kind of proud of it. The reviewer doesn't say the recipes aren't good, or the instructions aren't clear - just that the book doesn't have color photos in it (which is why the list price is under $20 - color is expensive!) And that I used outrageous, weird ingredients - you know, like lamb, or gorgonzola cheese. How awful that I didn't stick to ground beef, chicken, and blocks of cheap cheddar!

Anyway, read all the glowing reviews, and the one bad review, of 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes at Amazon.com

Or pick up 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes at your local bookstore - if you can live with a cookbook that just has good, quick, low-carb recipes, not expensive glossy color photos!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:50 PM

Sweet Tea

Since I've recommended you quit drinking diet soda, it seemed incumbent on me to offer an alternative. So here's one from The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook:

I like my tea black, whether I'm drinking it hot or cold, but sweet tea is a Southern staple, so I had an Alabaman friend vet this for me. She doesn't promise it tastes exactly like your mama's or your auntie's sweet tea, but she says it tastes great. It also has no sugar, aspartame, or even Splenda.

The reason you use the blender to add the stevia/FOS blend is to prevent clumping. Who wants little lumps of ultra-sweetness floating in their tea?

6 cups water
4 tea bags, family-sized
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons stevia/FOS blend (our tester liked it with two, but admits she likes her sweet tea very sweet.)
water to fill

Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, then add the tea bags. Let it simmer for just a minute, then remove from the heat, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing them out in the process.

Ladle a cup of the hot tea into your blender, and turn it on. Add the stevia/FOS blend, and let it blend for a few seconds. Pour into a 1 gallon pitcher. Pour in the rest of the tea, then water to fill.

Chill, and serve over ice!

Note: Most health food stores carry stevia/FOS blend - an all natural sugar-free sweetener. I buy SteviaPlus brand, made by a company called SweetLeaf. You can also order it online.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:47 PM

February 14, 2006

Click here to subscribe to Lowcarbezine!

Order The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook from Amazon.Com
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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 Valentine's Day! What a great day to eat sugar-free chocolate! If you really want those chocolates in a heart-shaped satin box, it's not too late to go to the local fancy candy store. Most good chocolate shops will have sugar-free chocolates, and will happily pack a box for you. Me, I'll just eat the Guylian's sugar-free chocolate bars that are a staple food 'round here.

Have a great day! And read on...

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:28 PM

Low Fat Takes (Another) Dive

Did you see it? Huh? Huh? Hard on the heels of my article last week explaining that yes, a low carbohydrate diet will, perforce, be a diet that gets a higher proportion of its calories from fat - in other words, a high fat diet - comes the big news. All over the mainstream media came the word that a low fat diet doesn't prevent heart disease or cancer.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Okay, everybody, stand up from your computers and join me in the Smug Dance. (cue the music!)

Okay, that's enough. Everyone sit down and resume reading. Let's look at this study and the coverage of it, and see what it means, and doesn't mean, for us, and for nutrition in general.

The study that appears in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is nothing short of immense. Over eight years, 48, 835 healthy postmenopausal women, aged 50 to 79 years old were randomly assigned either to a low fat diet, or to continuing to eat as they had. During those eight years, the low fat group averaged 29% of their calories from fat, while the control group averaged 37% of their calories from fat. The low fat group also ate more fruits, vegetables, and grains than the control group.

The study was originally intended to look at the effect of a low fat diet on breast cancer risk. It wound up concluding that not only did a low fat diet have no statistically significant effect on preventing breast cancer, it also didn't prevent colon cancer, heart disease, or stroke. Since the all along the big-guns objection to our low carb way of eating has been "All that fat will give you heart disease! Or cancer!" this is useful ammunition.

It's also interesting that the greater intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains didn't have any detectable protective effect. We're told these are the best possible foods. Yet eating more of them didn't help, at least when combined with fat restriction. I wonder how twice as many vegetables and half as many grains would have done...

There are serious limitations to this study. First of all, it only included women. Secondly, including, as it did, only women in the 50-to-79 age group, it tells us little about the effects of a careful nutritional program of whatever kind begun earlier in life.

(I "got nutrition" like other people "get religion" - the blinding bolt from the blue that changes your life forever - when I was nineteen. While I have made some nutritional missteps since then - like a low fat/high carb diet - the most egregious junk has been out of my life for almost thirty years. If we could find several thousand like me and test us, it would make an interesting study.)

Too, the control group in the study simply continued to eat their "normal" diet - which is likely to have included bad fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils, plenty of refined carbs, processed foods, and all that wonderful stuff that's part of the Standard American Diet. The low fat group didn't put any restrictions on what sort of fat they ate, so we have no way of knowing how many of them ate, say, diet margarine - a source of trans fats - instead of good old full-fat butter. Both these factors must be assumed to have affected the results.

It would be very interesting to see a study that looked at a low fat diet and a higher fat diet, with both diets excluding refined carbs and hydrogenated oils. But that's a whole different study, and would probably take another $400 million and another eight years.

After eight years, the low fat folks weighed just a pound or two less, on average, than the "normal" diet folks. This is being trumpeted as "proof" that a low fat diet doesn't make you fat. What they're not saying is that it's pretty clear proof that a low fat diet is no better at making you thin than the Standard American Diet. It would be interesting to see an eight year trial of a low fat diet against a low carb diet, wouldn't it?

The usual suspects are weighing in on this.

Dr. Dean Ornish, whose empire is built on the notion that a low fat diet is the ultimate in disease prevention, is insisting that the diet just wasn't low fat enough. It seems to me that if cutting fat back that far was going to give fabulous results, cutting fat back substantially ought to yield at least some results. It didn't.

But Ornish insists that we need to cut back to only 10% of calories from fat, you see, and eat no animal foods at all. Then we'll see the miraculous results he's promised. That no nation, race, or tribe in history has ever eaten such a diet, much less thrived on it, apparently doesn't matter. Nor does the fact that many peoples eating more fat than Americans - like, say, the French and the Italians - are healthier than we are.

People who hate the idea of limiting their diet in any way are crowing that this proves that you might as well eat whatever you want. After all, "eating healthy" doesn't work. They are, of course, ignoring the possibility that a low fat diet wasn't the right way to eat healthy.

The "cut calories and exercise" enthusiasts are saying, "Low carbohydrate diets have already been discredited, and now low fat diets are too - so just eat a balanced diet, watch your calories, and get a lot of exercise." Which floors me, since I haven't seen a scrap of actual research to show that low carb diets don't work, and aren't healthy - just assertions.

And the mainstream journalists and medicos are saying that this shows that we don't need to cut out all fats, we just need to cut out "bad fats." They then go on to define "bad fats" as hydrogenated oils and saturated fats. This, of course, will be the new rallying cry of those who are sure that we're digging our graves with our sugar-free, steak-loving teeth - "But it's saturated fat!"

I have no argument against cutting out hydrogenated oils. They're evil, and I won't touch them. But the idea that saturated animal and tropical fats are bad for us is just as simplistic and wrong-headed as the idea that fats in general are bad for us. If animal fats caused heart disease and cancer the rate of these diseases would have dropped during the 20th century, when we were busily replacing those "bad" fats with "healthy" vegetables oils.

But that's not what happened. Instead, as we replaced traditional animal and tropical fats with vegetable oils and (God forbid) hydrogenated vegetable shortening, the rates of both heart disease and cancer skyrocketed. In light of this, it's hard to see how naturally saturated fats are dangerous. (I say "naturally saturated" because hydrogenation is simply a process of artificially saturating a fat that was originally unsaturated, and therefore liquid.)

I'll say more about good and bad fats in the future, but a good general rule is "If you can picture how they got the oil out of the food, it's probably okay." Can you picture how they get the oil out of corn or soy beans? Do you even know what a "safflower" is? No? Don't eat it.

It would be easy to assume from the big reaction in the press that this study was the first to show a low fat diet isn't effective for protecting health. It's not. There have been many.

A 1996 study in Lancet concluding that women who ate a high fat diet had a lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate a high carbohydrate diet.

Another 1996 study, this one pooling and reexamining data from seven studies of the effects of a low fat diet on breast cancer, finding no evidence that fat is a culprit.

Here's one that looked at specific types of fat and breast cancer risk, and concluded "No associations were observed for animal or vegetable fat intakes."

A Japanese study that shows a decreasing risk of breast cancer with an increased intake of fish oils and saturated fats.

And the Big Casino, the Harvard Nurses Study, looking at 88,795 women. In this article, written in 1999, 14 years after the study began, they conclude "We found no evidence that lower intake of total fat or specific major types of fat was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer."

The same study had already concluded in 1987 "...a moderate reduction in fat intake by adult women is unlikely to result in a substantial reduction in the incidence of breast cancer." Indeed, the women who ate the most fat were almost 20% less likely to get breast cancer than the women who ate the least fat.

Here's a trial of a low carb/high fat diet against a low fat/high carb diet for treatment of obesity and the health problems that go with it. The low carbers lost more weight, and had greater improvement in their heart disease risk indicators.

Here's a study that starts off with the statement, "It has been known for decades that low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets can increase plasma triglyceride levels..." Have they howdied with Dr. Ornish?

I could go on, but you get the point: All the hoopla about this study mostly indicates that the media hasn't been paying attention. The holes in low fat diet theory have been showing for a long, long time.

So where does this leave us? Well, at least in position to laugh at all those post-New Year ads crowing about how few fat grams this or that starch-and-sugar-laden junk food has. And in a good place to say to all of our critics, "Why are you recommending a diet that's been clinically disproven?"

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:19 PM

It's Almost Here!

I heard from my editor today that The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook is in their warehouse, waiting to ship to the stores. So I thought I'd let you read the back cover:

Good Carbs. Good Fats. Good Food!

Are you counting carbs? Are you counting calories? Or are you just plain trying to eat healthy? This is the cookbook for you!

Millions of people have discovered that being careful about carbohydrates is their key to weight loss and vitality. Yet often low carb dieters assume they can eat unlimited calories. Other folks count calories with success, but find that they're hungry, or have nasty blood sugar crashes that bring irritability, cravings, and fatigue.

It's time for low carbers and calorie counters to take a page out of each other's books! Calorie counters need to discover the joys of never feeling hungry, and of losing those crashes. Low carbers need to keep a gentle eye on calories.

That's not all! Your body needs vitamins and minerals, too. (Oh, yeah. Them!) Quite simply, we all need to eat food that's both healthy and delicious, that keeps us full, and makes us feel and look fabulous. And since we're all seriously busy, it sure would help if it wasn't a pain to cook!

Here you go! Five hundred recipes, from family suppers to party fare. Plenty of protein, a harvest of fruits and vegetables, the good fats you need for vibrant health. Great whole grain flavor without the high blood sugar impact. And every recipe has the carbs, calories, fiber, fat and protein counts worked out - plus a vitamin and mineral breakdown! You'll know you're getting what you need.

Try:

Chile Verde Cheese Burgers * Crab Fritters with Lemon Aioli * Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread * Grilled Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise * Apple and Wild Rice Salad * Blinky's Texas Red * Tequila-Lime Chicken Skillet * Sizzling Moroccan Shrimp * Ginger-Melon Frappe * Plum Sorbet * Chocolate Velvet * Better-Than-Whole-Grain Pancakes

And much more!

So grab this book, and make Every Calorie Count!

Pre-order at Amazon.com and they'll ship it to you as soon as it comes in!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:17 PM

Low Carb For Life Reprint: Folacin in a Low Carb Diet

The bonus in this column reprint is that the salad would be fabulous for a Valentine's dinner tonight!

If I ever have doubts about the wisdom of my low carb diet, I'll just look at the arguments coming from low carb detractors. The lack of logic is often breathtaking. These folks have to twist themselves into knots to find reasons why a low carbohydrate diet is a bad idea.

Witness an article that recently appeared in my local paper. In it, Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk program at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, warns that women of child bearing age shouldn't eat a low carbohydrate diet, because they won't get folic acid, and folic acid deficiency can cause birth defects.

There's no doubt that folic acid, or its naturally occurring counterpart, folacin, prevents neural tube defects. But do we have to abandon the health benefits of our low carb diets?

Koren refers to the enrichment of bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals with folic acid, and says that without these foods, we will be deficient in this nutrient. Notice the word "enrichment" - in other words, these foods are not good sources of this vitamin naturally. Instead, folic acid is added to them. There is no difference between eating a food to which a vitamin has been added, and taking a vitamin pill - except for the carbohydrates and calories involved, of course. And surprise, surprise, tacked on at the very end of the article we find, "The problem could largely be avoided if all women of childbearing age took a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid." Good idea.

"Enrichment" is something that is only done to grains that have been refined and heavily processed. These are mostly carbs of the worst kind, with a sky-high blood sugar impact, and little-to- no fiber. Even if you're on a program like South Beach that allows some "good carbs", these products ain't it. To recommend highly refined and processed junk carbs for women of childbearing age because they have a few artificial vitamins added is just dumb - especially since high insulin levels can cause health problems that make conception difficult or impossible, and diabetes and high blood pressure are common risks of pregnancy.

It is more than possible to get plenty of folacin from low carbohydrate foods. One slice of white bread has 21.5 micrograms of folic acid, or roughly 1/20 of the 400 micrograms needed each day. It also has 12 grams of carbohydrate, and almost no fiber. One cup of orange juice - another source recommended by Koren - has 26 grams of carbohydrate, and less than a half a gram of fiber. How much folacin? 74 mcg. Three cups of romaine lettuce, on the other hand, has 228 mcgs of folacin, or over half our daily requirement - and only 4 grams of carbohydrate, of which 3 are fiber, for a usable carb count of just 1 gram. Looks like the low carbohydrate source wins.

The thing Koren seems to have missed is that when we cut carbs, we add other foods to replace them - and quite a few of those foods are high in folacin. I, for example, will often order the insides of a sandwich on a bed of lettuce, instead of on bread. Lots of folacin! For that matter, the cauliflower we substitute for potatoes and rice has more folacin than either.

All green leafy vegetables are low in carbohydrates and high in folacin, so eat your salads! Cooked vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and asparagus are good, too. An egg has a little more folacin than that slice of white bread we mentioned. Peanuts are a pretty good source, and even meat and dairy products contribute a bit.

Indeed, it seems that the only reason there was a need for folic acid enrichment was that so many people base their diets on cheap, starchy foods. Remove the junk carbs from the diet, and there's plenty of room for foods that are naturally high in folacin.

This salad is spring-y and beautiful and extraordinarily delicious. It also has 238 micrograms of folacin per serving!

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

1/2 cup Splenda
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound prewashed baby spinach
1 cup sliced strawberries
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine everything from the Splenda through the salt, and shake or stir well.

Put baby spinach in your big salad bowl. Pour on the dressing, and toss well. Top with strawberries, almonds, and feta, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6. Assuming 4 servings, each will have 227 Calories; 19g Fat, 8g Protein 11g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber, 6 grams usable carb

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:13 PM

Best Review of All Low-Carb Approaches

This is greatly improved from the first edition. At first I didn't even realize I'd previously read this book.

Dana's review of the differences between the various approaches to low- or controlled-carbohydrate eating is so helpful. It made me realize that I've been too strict in the past when trying to do an Atkins-style "induction" phase. Dana is really on top of the science and gives you the references if you want to follow up, and she explains it all very clearly.

I'm most motivated at this time to go back to low-carb eating because of what she wrote about feeling better mentally as well as physically. I have had to admit to myself that I just can't eat sweets and breads etc.; those things are addictive to me and have definitely contributed to health problems (I'll spare you the details).

The criticisms about her treatment of vegetarianism are on the silly side. Dana could have gone into much greater detail about what's wrong with vegetarianism, but she didn't. Instead she chose to accommodate that view and made very helpful suggestions to those trying to be vegetarian and low-carb at the same time.

I highly recommend this book. I read it in just a couple of days and promptly misplaced it; I bought another copy to give to a friend who has diabetes, but I think I'll keep that one for myself and send him another from Amazon.

Jeanmarie Todd Oakland, CA, United States , June 6, 2005

Thanks, Jeanmarie, both for your kind words, and for buying multiple copies of my book!

See this and other reviews of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds at Amazon.

Much as we love Amazon, you should know that How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds is available at brick-and-mortar bookstores, too.

And because some of you asked, I should also tell you that "brick-and-mortar" bookstores simply means actual retail bookstores you can walk into, rather than online booksellers! You know, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Walden, B. Dalton, or your local independent bookstore.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:10 PM

Portobello Fillets

Here, from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, is a seriously fancy, romantic main course that takes no planning, and almost no time. So stop at the grocery store on the way home tonight! You've still got time to make a knock-his-or-her-socks-off (and hey, maybe some other articles of clothing!) Valentine's Day dinner. You'll want to halve this for a dinner for two, of course.

Portobello Filets

4 large portobello mushrooms
1 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
4 filets mignon, about 5 ounces each
olive oil for brushing

Lay your portobellos in a shallow baking dish, gill side up, and pour the balsamic vinaigrette over them. Turn them over once or twice, to make sure they're thoroughly coated in the dressing, then let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Okay, now you're going to multi-tast: Heat up the broiler to "high", and brush your steaks with a little olive oil. Also heat up your electric tabletop grill.

Start your filets broiling close to the heat, and set your oven timer -- I'd probably give them about 5 -- 5 1/2 minutes per side, but cook them to your own preference. When you turn them over, put the marinated mushrooms in your electric grill. Let them cook for about 5 minutes. Your steak and your mushrooms should be done right about the same moment!

Put each mushroom on a plate, and put a filet on top of each, then serve piping hot.

4 servings, each with: 717 Calories; 64g Fat; 28g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 7 grams usable carb. However, this analysis assumes you consume all of the balsamic vinaigrette, while in actuality some will be left in the dish you marinated the mushrooms in. So you'll actually get fewer carbs and calories than this.

(Reprinted from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, by permission of Fair Winds Press.)

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:04 PM

February 06, 2006

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Hey Gang!

Happy Groundhog Day a little late! Ever wonder why there's such a holiday as "Groundhog Day?" (And is this just an American thing? Does any other nation on the planet have Groundhog Day? I guess you'd have to have groundhogs, at the very least.)

Groundhog Day is just about exactly halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox - in other words, halfway to spring! Yippee!

(Unless, of course, you're in the Southern Hemisphere. At which point, you're halfway to autumn. Oh, well.)

Anyway, read on!

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:59 PM

A High Fat Diet?

I've been asked, "Your recipes use a lot of high-fat ingredients. Are you just substituting fat for carbohydrate?" I have to ruthlessly suppress my natural wise-acre tendencies to resist responding, "You say that like it's a bad thing."

No piece of advice has been repeated more often in the past couple of decades than "limit fats to 30% of calories or less." In particular, we were told that this would help us stay slim, but we were also told that limiting fats would prevent heart disease, cancer, and a host of other ills. So it may shock you to know that there simply was never much in the way of scientific data to back up that 30% figure.

Worse, telling people to limit fats to 30% of calories or less discouraged people from eating some excellent foods - for example, nuts and seeds, avocados, olives and olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, all of which have been shown to reduce your risk of disease. It also fails to distinguish between truly horrible fats, like the over-processed, over-heated, hydrogenated oils used to make cheap restaurant fried foods, and truly excellent fats, like fresh butter, coconut oil, fresh lard, and extra virgin olive oil.

(To air a pet peeve, I frequently see objection to a low carb diet phrased, "Any diet that omits a whole food group is a fad diet." Ignoring entirely the fact that a low carb diet is exactly what the name says - low carb, not no carb - where were these people when we were being pushed to eat a low fat diet? And where do they stand on veganism, which really does omit a whole huge category of foods?)

Often I do, indeed, replace carb calories with fat calories, especially in baking, where I tend to use ground nuts - a high-fat ingredient - to replace flour. By doing this I not only make the baked goods more filling, and prevent them from jacking blood sugar around, but I dramatically increase their nutritional value.

Let's take a hypothetical cookie recipe that includes:

1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter

(Note that this is not an actual cookie recipe - for real cookies, you'd need a few more ingredients! But these are the ingredients that matter to our comparison.)

Assuming this recipe makes 36 cookies (3 dozen), each will have 69 calories, with only 34% of those calories coming from fat. They'll have 11 grams of carbohydrate each, with no fiber. Each cookie will have just 1 gram of protein, and the vitamins the flour was "enriched" with - 4% of your daily requirement of thiamin, 2% of your riboflavin, 2% of your niacin, 2% of your iron - oh, plus 2% of your vitamin A, from the butter.

Let me make my usual substitutions. Now our hypothetical cookies will contain:

1 cup Splenda
1 cup homemade almond meal (made with the brown skins still on the almonds, for the fiber and minerals)
1 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 cup butter

Once again, let's assume 36 cookies. The calorie count per cookie actually drops a tiny bit, to 67 calories apiece, with 58% of those calories coming from fat - a big jump. Each cookie will have 2 grams of carbohydrate, a tiny bit of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.

But all of a sudden, each cookie also has 24% of your B6, 22% of your riboflavin, 21% each of your thiamin and B12, 10% of your zinc, 4% of your calcium, 2% of your vitamin A, 1% of your iron, and 1% of your potassium.

Would anyone like to argue that the lower fat cookies are better for you? I didn't think so.

But there's something else to look at when we talk about low carb being a "high fat diet," and that's ratios. What do I mean?

There are only three sources of calories - energy - in the human diet: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. (Okay, four. Alcohol has calories. But we earnestly hope you're not replacing all of your carbohydrate calories with alcohol!)

This means that if you cut out carbohydrates, by definition a greater percentage of your diet will consist of protein and, yes, fat.

For a long time, the government and other authorities have been advocating getting no more than 30% of your calories from fat, no more than 15% of your calories from protein, and between 55 and 65% of your calories from carbohydrate. If you are eating 2500 calories per day, and following these guidelines, you'll get no more than 750 calories from fat. Since fat has 9 calories per gram, this means you'd get about 83 grams of fat per day.

But say that by eating 50% of your calories from fat, 30% from protein, and 20% from carbohydrates ( making sure they're nutritious, low impact carbs,) you are so much less hungry you spontaneously eat 700 fewer calories per day, for a total of 1800 calories? You'll be eating 90 grams of fat per day, or just 7 more grams than you did on your "low fat" diet. That's a difference of just a half a tablespoon of olive oil per day.

In this example, the diet would be fairly high in fat as a percentage, but not particularly high in total fat intake.

I've been keeping track of my diet recently - consciousness is a powerful tool - and I can tell you that I average 58% of my calories from fat. Since I'm eating an average of 1858 calories per day, that means I'm getting 120 grams of fat, or 37 grams more than our hypothetical low fat dieter. That's a difference of a couple of teaspoons of butter, a couple of teaspoons of olive or coconut oil, and a handful of nuts. Somehow that doesn't strike me as dire.

Your protein intake is essential - you need at least a half a gram of protein for each pound of body weight, every day. More protein - up to about twice that - seems to limit hunger and improve metabolism. (And if you're eating a very low carb, ketogenic diet, extra protein is essential. Your body will use it to make what little glucose your body actually needs.) So if you weigh 150 pounds, you need a minimum of 75 grams of protein per day, and 100 to 125 grams per day is quite reasonable. At 4 calories per gram, that will account for 400 to 500 calories per day.

The rest of your calories will be distributed between fats and carbohydrates. These two foods are what your body uses for energy. (Remember that "energy" and "calories" are the same thing. )

Even the lowest carbohydrate diets, like the two-week Atkins Induction, contain at least 20 grams of non-fiber carb per day, and most of us will eat a few more - I find 30-50 grams a day is about right for my body. Those carb grams are where your fruits and vegetables come in, so you don't want to cut them out completely. No-carb is a bad idea.

So if your protein intake is fixed, and so is your carbohydrate intake, it is the fat fraction of your diet that can be expanded and contracted to adjust your calorie intake. If you get less of your fuel from carbohydrates, you'll need to get more of your fuel from fats. If you eat less fat, you'll need more carbohydrate.

(And no, you shouldn't just eat lean protein, with no fat and no carbohydrate. As pioneers who sometimes had nothing to eat but very lean game like rabbit found out, an all-protein diet will make you sick.)

I suppose it's theoretically possible for someone to construct their low carb diet around nothing but fat, but it doesn't seem likely - who wants to sit down to a nice glass of olive oil? Dr. Atkins recommended a short-term fat fast - a few days of a 90% fat diet - for the metabolically resistant. However, the fat fast limited calories to just 1000 per day. That would limit the dieter to 100 grams of fat per day - just 17 grams more than our theoretical low fat dieter.

In short, any diet that limits carbohydrate will be a diet with a relatively high fat percentage. That's just the way ratios work.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:45 PM

Reader Review of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes

You need Dana's books

How do I love Dana Carpender in a completely platonic low carb life saver kind of way? Let me count the ways. Her new cookbook is fabulous. If you don't have it, you simply must get it. So many great looking recipes. As soon as my copy arrived, I read it cover to cover and am about to read it again. We are trying a different recipe every night. We have tried several already and they are very good. We're gonna have another one tonight. I have all of her cookbooks and this one is fab. Her books offer a lot of variety of flavors, which is essential to keeping any way of eating interesting. I'm trying to broaden my taste horizons, and her books give me lots of options. I use her cookbooks everyday. I recommend them all the time, but I don't loan them out. I would be lost if I did! She makes low carb low effort, which makes my life significantly easier. Thanks Dana!

April Grow, Atlanta, GA, September 26, 2004

Wow! She loves me in a completely platonic low carb life saver kind of way! Never let it be said that I feel unappreciated. Thanks, April!

The coolest thing about 500 More Low-Carb Recipes is that fully half of the recipes in it come from Lowcarbezine! readers! It really is the collected culinary wisdom of the Low Carb Community. And I must say, as the recipes came in from readers, I often thought, "Geez, how am I going to come up with anything better than this?!"

See this and other reviews of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes at Amazon.com

Much as we love Amazon - and we do love Amazon! - 500 More Low-Carb Recipes is available at brick-and-mortar bookstores across America.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:44 PM

Nutricounter: An Unpaid Plug For A Useful Tool

Did you wonder how I knew how many calories and carbs, how many protein and fat grams I was eating on average? I have a very useful tool. Itís called Nutricounter, and itís nutritional software that I downloaded into my PDA. You can also get a hand-held model if you donít have a PDA to download the software into.

My Nutricounter software keeps track of calories, carbs, fiber, protein, plus stuff Iím not really worried about, like sodium and cholesterol. It came with about 2000 foods in its database, and lets me add new foods Ė something Iíve done quite a lot of. It lets me average over several days or even months, to get an overall picture.

Hmm. Looking at their website, it seems they now call Nutricounter ďHealthFit,Ē and it can also record your exercise. This seems like a great idea to me.

Even with the software, you need to have at least rudimentary math skills. For instance, if I choose ďPeanuts Roasted 1 cup,Ē the chances are excellent I havenít eaten that many. Itís important that I know that 1/4 cup peanuts equals 0.25 of a serving, and that 1/3 cup of peanuts equals 0.33 of a serving. Conversely, a serving of steak is listed in the database as 3 ounces. If Iíve had 6 ounces, I have to know to record that as ď2,Ē not as ď6" Ė which would be 18 ounces, a truly huge portion.

I find that if I use my Nutricounter software consistently, it has a subtle effect for the better on my eating habits, just because of the mindfulness.

Iím glad I bought it. http://nutricounter.com

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:44 PM

Low Carb For Life Reprint: Low Carb Sources of Potassium

Bananas must have a killer press agent. Over and over folks ask, "But if I can't have bananas on my low carb diet, where will I get potassium?" It is true that bananas are a pretty good source of potassium; one medium banana has 422 milligrams, or about 12% of the RDA of 3.5 grams. However, that banana also has 27 grams of carbohydrate, with only 3 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 24 grams - about half of my daily maximum carb intake, and more than the 20 gram upper limit for those of you who are in the induction phase of the Atkins diet. Clearly we can't count on bananas for our potassium! But where will we get it?

It's easier than you think.

There is a surprising quantity of potassium in the animal protein foods that are the backbone of our diet. A four ounce serving of pork loin provides 411 milligrams of potassium, and a quarter-pound hamburger patty provides 234 milligrams. Six ounces of sole fillet provide 584 milligrams of potassium, and four ounces of scallops provide 524 milligrams. Four ounces of chicken breast provide 282 milligrams of potassium, and four ounces of turkey breast provide 317 milligrams. All of these potassium-rich foods are carb-free, of course.

So already things are looking pretty good for us where potassium is concerned. But it's when you get to the rest of our diet that things really start looking up! After all, we're the ones saying things like, "Instead of the rice, could you bring me some steamed vegetables?" and "Do you mind putting those gyros on a bed of lettuce, instead of in a pita bread?" This is a terrific way to get plenty of potassium. A half-cup serving of white rice has a mere 32 milligrams of potassium, while a half-cup of broccoli has 166 milligrams - and the switch will save you 20 grams of usable carbohydrate, too, not to mention 75 calories. That pita bread has just 72 milligrams of potassium, with 32 grams of usable carbohydrate - no bargain. Have your gyros on a bed of 3 cups of romaine, instead, and you'll get 415 milligrams of potassium, and just 2 grams of usable carb!

But the true, undying low carb potassium champion is the avocado. All avocados are great, but if you can, buy the little, rough-skinned California avocados; they're a tad lower carb than the big, smooth-skinned Florida variety. One California avocado contains 15 grams of carbohydrate, but 12 grams of that is fiber, for a usable carb count of just 3 grams! And for those three grams, you'll get a whopping 877 milligrams of potassium. Avocados are also a great source of monounsaturated fats, the same heart-healthy fats found in olive oil - a real nutritional bargain, all the way around.

So eat avocados, early and often! You can put chunks of avocado in your tossed salad, of course, but try a simpler approach: sliced avocado on a bed of lettuce, sprinkled with lime juice, salt and pepper, or a simple vinaigrette dressing.

Guacamole is a favorite, and it's hard to beat, but without chips, how are you going to eat it? Try spreading it over a grilled steak; it's to die for. Guacamole is also a terrific omelet filling, especially with some Monterey Jack cheese melted with it. My favorite thing to do with guacomole, though, is to stuff it into tomatoes, and serve them as a salad. A medium tomato will add about 4 grams of usable carb, and another 273 milligrams of potassium.

Consider the half-avocado. Once you've removed the seed, you've got a nice big hollow, just perfect for putting things in. Consider stuffing avocados with tuna salad, chicken salad, cold shrimp, or anything else you can think of! Here's a recipe for crab salad in avocados:

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:41 PM

Thai-Style Crab Salad in Avocados

1 ripe California avocado
3 tablespoons lime juice
6-ounce can crabmeat, or 6 ounces cooked lump crab meat
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Salt, if desired.

Split the avocado in half, remove the seed, and sprinkle the cut surfaces with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice to prevent browning.

Combine the crabmeat, remaining lime juice, lemon juice, mayonnaise, cilantro, scallion, pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl, and mix well. Stuff into the avocado halves, piling it high. Garnish with extra cilantro, if desired, and serve.

2 servings, each with 9 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fiber, for a total of 4 grams of usable carb and 20 grams of protein. Plus 932 milligrams of potassium!

(Reprinted from 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes, by Dana Carpender, with permission of Fair Winds Press.)

(Unpaid plug: For those few of you who, like me, live in or around Bloomington, Indiana, Sahara Mart has recently slashed its prices on organic produce - including avocados, which have recently been running a mere 79c apiece. I've also been getting organic cauliflower for $1.99 a head. These are easily the best prices I've seen for organic produce. Sahara Mart is also a great place to get good wine at great prices, not to mention sugar free chocolate covered coffee beans, and all sorts of other stuff. In short, worth the trip. At the corner of Walnut and 2nd. Tell 'em Dana sent you!)

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:39 PM

Tequila-Lime Chicken Skillet

Cooking Low Carb!

This recipe from the upcoming Every Calorie Counts Cookbook is what I'm serving for supper tonight. Yum - I think I'll go cook!

Tequila-Lime Chicken Skillet

I came up with this recipe when I bought some terrific tequila-lime flavored chicken sausage at Sahara Mart, the local health/gourmet/international food store. It was so good, I had to come up with this version using ground chicken for all of you who may not be lucky enough to have access to specialty sausages.

1 pound ground chicken
1 medium onion
1/2 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup canned tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1/2 cup canned black soy beans, drained
OR 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
3 tablespoons tequila
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 California avocado, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Whack your onion into a few big chunks, peel 'em, and throw 'em in your food processor with the S-blade in place. Pulse until the onion is chopped to a medium consistency. Place your big, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil, then throw in the chicken and chopped onion. Break up the chicken a little, then leave it to saute while you

Swap the S-blade for the shredding blade in your food processor. Run the half-head of cauliflower through, and put the resulting cauli-rice in a microwaveable casserole with a lid. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover, put in the microwave and set it on full power for seven minutes.

Okay, that's under control. Go stir your chicken and onions, breaking up the chicken some more. Open your cans and measure out your tomatoes and beans, and have them standing by. Chop your cilantro and peel, seed, and dice your avocado.

When most of the pink is gone from your chicken, stir in the tequila, lime juice, cumin, hot sauce, and garlic. Keep stirring until the pink is gone. Now stir in your tomatoes and beans.

By now your cauli-rice is done! Grab it out of the microwave and drain it. Dump it in the skillet with everything else, and stir it all together really well. Salt and pepper the whole thing to taste. Stir in the cilantro. Now portion the mixture into bowls or onto plates, top each serving with a third of the avocado, and serve.

With black soy beans:

5 Servings: 361 Calories; 18g Fat; 32g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 5g Fiber; 8g usable carbs.

With regular black beans:

5 Servings: 350 Calories; 17g Fat; 31g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Fiber; 9g usable carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:36 PM