April 22, 2005

Passover!

I realize this is not a moment too soon. This is a reprint of a column I wrote last year:

Most people are aware of some Jewish dietary laws - that Jews who keep kosher do not eat pork or shellfish, or consume meat and milk products together. The laws are more complex than that, governing how kitchens are run, how animals are slaughtered, and who may or may not prepare certain foods. These rules do not interfere with a low carbohydrate diet.

However, there are additional laws governing foods eaten during the Passover season, and many Jews who don't keep kosher the rest of the year follow the Passover laws, and of course, there are food traditions. Some of the Passover laws and traditions do, indeed, make it more difficult to stick to the diet.

A Passover rule followed even by many Jews who do not generally keep kosher is the ridding the home of chometz - any leavened grain product. In memorial of the unleavened bread eaten by the Hebrews in their haste to flee Egypt, nothing leavened may be eaten during Passover. The chometz is ritually gathered up, and disposed of.

Since grains may contain wild yeasts, they are not allowed during Passover, either. This is not a hardship for us, since we don't eat grains anyway. However, Jews of European descent also shun rice, millet, corn, legumes or foods made from them. This rules out soy and everything made from it - including many low carb specialty foods. It also eliminates rice protein powder, one of my favorite flour substitutes.

Usually, high-carb matzoh meal is used in place of flour. Perhaps you could simply skip things that are very carb_rich, like matzoh balls, but use small amounts of matzoh meal to, say, thicken a casserole. One_quarter cup of matzoh meal contains 27 grams of carbohydrate, and just 1 gram of fiber, so you'll want to go very easy. Potato starch is also used during Passover, but is even higher carb.

Rabbi Hirsch Meisels, who runs www.FriendsWithDiabetes.org, a site for Jewish diabetics, tells me that ground nuts or seeds would also be acceptable flour substitutes. Almond meal is becoming more widely available - Bob's Red Mill brand, now in many grocery stores, packages this. A quarter_cup of almond meal has 6 grams of carbohydrate, with 3 grams are fiber, for a usable carb count of just 3 grams. Or you can simply grind almonds to a cornmeal consistency in your food processor.

Guar and xanthan gums, low carb thickeners, are okay. Guar is derived from a seed, not a grain, and xanthan from a microorganism. One of these would be my choice for thickening gravies and sauces. If you can't find guar or xanthan at your local health food store, Carb Smart carries them. (http://www.carbsmart.com - they have the almond meal, too.)

Mass_market powdered artificial sweeteners, including Splenda, Sweet 'n' Low, and Equal, contain corn products, and are not acceptable. However, kosher for Passover versions are made, including one by Sweet 'n' Low; look for them. Liquid artificial sweeteners and stevia are both kosher for Passover.

At the Seder, there is a Seder plate of traditional foods which must be eaten. Eggs are dipped in salt water, to symbolize tears. A roasted bone symbolizes the Passover sacrifices from before the destruction of the Temple. Bitter herbs - usually horseradish - symbolize the travails of the Hebrew people. A green vegetable, such as romaine or celery, symbolizes the fruits of the earth. All of these things are low carb! There is also charoset, a mixture of fruit, nuts, spices, and wine, symbolizing the mortar made by Jewish slaves in Egypt. Very little of this need be eaten, but if you like, you may make it with more nuts than fruit, to reduce the carb count.

Eating 45 grams of carb worth of matzoh is required, unless you get permission from your Rabbi to eat less. Barring medical problems, I'd just eat it. It is a holiday, after all! If you can find it, oat matzoh has more fiber, and thus fewer usable carbs, than wheat matzoh. Four glasses of wine are also required - sounds like fun to me! Make sure it's a dry wine; dry reds have 3 grams of carb per glass or less.

This Passover side dish is great for anyone!

Spinach Mushroom Kugel

8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
30 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
2 tablespoons almond meal
1/2 teaspoon guar or xanthan (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute mushrooms and onions in the oil until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms soften. Transfer to a mixing bowl, reserving 9 mushrooms slices for garnish, and add spinach; mix well.

Stir together eggs, mayo, and bouillon granules till the granules dissolve. Stir into vegetables. Stir in the almond meal. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the guar or xanthan over mixture, and stir in well; repeat with the second 1/4 teaspoon.

Spread evenly in a greased 8x8" baking dish. Decorate with reserved mushrooms. Bake for

1 hour. Cut in squares to serve.

9 servings. 214 Calories; 20g Fat; 6g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 4 grams usable carb.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 01:51 PM

December 19, 2004

Yikes! It's Almost Christmas!

How does this happen?! It's a week before Christmas, and I've barely started shopping. More importantly, I haven't covered the topic of the holidays in this august journal, and it's very nearly too late. So here is a quick scattershot of tips that may get you through the next week, at any rate:

* Most Important Point (which is why I'm calling attention to it!) There is a huge difference between choosing to have an Indulgence for Christmas Day, and deciding "It's the Holiday Season" and giving yourself permission to eat every carb-y treat that appears before you. Pick and choose Indulgences mindfully, or you'll be ringing in 2005 in a larger size.

* Do not let others decide if, when, and with what you should Indulge. Ignore pleas of "But it's my special family recipe!" "I made it just for you!" "It's traditional!" and other such blackmail. Weigh for yourself the pleasure versus the pain of each possible Indulgence, keeping in mind the other opportunities for dietary indiscretion that are bound to come your way during the season, and make your decisions accordingly.

* Shift the focus off of food to other holiday fun. Build a snowman, go sledding or skating, make decorations, drive around to see the lights, go downtown to see the decorations in the shop windows, go caroling, gather 'round the fireplace and read Christmas stories aloud. Give your family traditions that don't focus on sugar!!

* Check specialty candy stores for foil-wrapped sugar-free chocolate novelties, like Santas and foil-wrapped ornaments. I've had good luck finding these. Many stores can also make up an assortment of sugar-chocolates in a fancy box - a great gift for low carbers on your list.

* The lowest carb and calorie way I know to get a quick chocolate fix is to nuke a cup of Carb Countdown chocolate flavor for the best sugar-free cocoa ever. Add a drop or two of peppermint extract for a festive flair.

* Can't get Carb Countdown? Swiss Miss Diet Cocoa Mix has 4 grams of carb per cup. Easy to stash in your desk, to help you resist those cookies in the break room!

* For you folks lucky to live in New York, New England, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, Carb Countdown is also distributing low carb eggnog in those regions. Here's hoping that next year they distribute this nationwide - I know my nog-loving husband would be happy.

* Speaking of which, there are two cookie recipes in the Cooking Low Carb! section, below, which will make you very popular with your low carbing co-workers.

* No time to bake? Do yourself a favor and keep at least a sugar free truffle or two on hand. Sugar is likely to ambush you at the darnedest moments this time of year. Be prepared.

* If you're going to a party, and it's the custom in your set to bring a dish along, bring something you love that you won't regret the next day. Hot wings, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, all will be welcomed by non-low-carbers, and will keep you happy.

* No time to cook? Your grocery store deli will come to the rescue. Just call in advance, and they'll make up a tray of hot wings, cheese and sausage, assorted cold cuts, vegetables and dip, or cold shrimp, any of which will brighten up a party. You could also buy a few gourmet cheeses and some fiber crackers, or smoked salmon.

* This sort of "pickup food" is a great strategy for cozy nights at home with the family, too. While decorating the tree, wrapping presents, or watching A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time, just set out a variety of substantial, nutritious, low carb snack foods, and call it supper. Easier than getting the milling hoards assembled around the dining room table.

* Feel like you have to have sugary treats, or people will be disappointed? Serve something that's not your own personal favorite.

* Don't stand by the food table at parties. Grab a plate, load it up with low carb treats, and go socialize somewhere else. Standing there next to the bowl of chips is not a good idea!

* Speaking of parties, you might want to go really easy on the sugar free candy and other polyol/sugar alcohol-laden treats if you have a party to go to. Remember, that stuff can cause, er, social offensiveness. Having a vicious gas attack at the Christmas party is not likely to endear you to your friends.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:19 PM

A Special Note To Those Whose Families Are Not So Idyllic

(This article is a repeat, but it still applies.)

While most of us (gosh, I hope it's most of us!) will be spending time with people we love and enjoy this holiday season, I am sadly aware that there are more than a few people whose families are more like armed camps, with nasty little arrows being fired back and forth, or even big, ugly bombs being dropped. If you are from such a family (and you're not in there being ugly with the worst of them), you have my profound sympathy.

One possibility is simply not to see them. Yes, you are permitted to do this, even at Christmas. You are not required by law, morality, or anything else to put up with people who deliberately try to make you unhappy. I know that we all hope for reconciliation, especially at this time of year, and sometimes it works. But I also know several folks I'm fond of who have had relatives that they have simply had to drop, for their own sanity, and for whom this was a hard, but very good, decision.

If it's someone you feel your kids need to see -- your parents or in-laws (their grandparents), your ex-spouse -- drop the kids off and pick them up later. Feel you need an excuse? Volunteer at the local soup kitchen or charity organization; they can use all the hands they can get this time of year. How can anyone give you a hard time for delivering Christmas dinner to shut-ins, without sounding like an ass?

Maybe there's just one or two family members who have to stick pins -- a sib, a cousin, whatever. Memorize this handy-dandy all-purpose comeback: "How very kind of you to say so." Got it? Not, "You jerk, how can you be so mean?" or "Yeah, well screw you too." No. "How very kind of you to say so." As in:

"Gee, you've gained so much weight!" (Little do they know you've taken off ten pounds in the last two weeks.)

"How very kind of you to say so!"

"Lost a lot of hair, haven't you?"

"How very kind of you to say so!"

"If you were worth anything, you'd have a better job by now."

"How very kind of you to say so!"

"I can't believe that wife of yours is such a lousy housekeeper."

"How very kind of you to say so!"

Isn't this fun?! You'll drive them absolutely nuts, while retaining the moral high ground, and looking like a class act to everyone else there.

Acceptable variations are, "How nice of you to notice!" or -- given the season and all -- "And a very Happy Christmas to you too!" This last is useful for loaded questions, where "How very kind of you to say so" won't quite fit. For instance, "Is that good-for-nothing dead beat husband of yours ever going to amount to anything?" "And a very Happy Christmas to you too!"

(If you're wondering why "Happy", not "Merry", it's because I learned this useful phrase from a British man I dated years ago. I rather like the English phrasing, but feel free to use "Merry" instead.)

Hope this helps. Next year, consider spending Christmas with FRIENDS!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:14 PM

Low Carb Drinking

Long-time readers can skip this, since I do it every year, and the news hasn't changed much. But since this is just about the drinking-est time of year, it's timely.

Alcohol is technically carb-free. Indeed, it is its own class of calorie containing substances: carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram, fats have 9 calories per gram, alcohol falls in between, at 7 calories per gram.

However, alcohol does raise blood sugar, and many people even consider it to be a "super carb." There are folks who insist we should be counting 25 grams of carbohydrate per ounce of alcohol. Without a whole lot of money for clinical research, I have no way of knowing how valid this is. However, three things are certain:

1) Alcohol slows your metabolism, or as a medical journal article I read put it, "Alcohol profoundly inhibits lipolysis." This means that carbs or no carbs, alcohol is always a luxury on a low carb diet.

2) Alcohol contributes a fair number of calories, and while we can more calories on a low carb diet without gaining weight, we can't eat unlimited calories. Calories do count, at least some.

3) Alcohol lowers inhibitions, making it more likely you'll eat the chips or say "Yes" to dessert.

All of that being said, many of us are likely to include alcohol in our making merry this season. How can we minimize the damage? By exercising moderation, of course. And also by avoiding taking in extra carbs and calories with our alcohol. Here are some tips to help you get the most fun for the least damage:

* I've seen "low carb wine" recently, but all dry wines are low carb. Burgundy, Cabernet, Shiraz/Syrah, Merlot, Rhine, Chablis, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, all should run between 1 - 4 grams of carb per 3 1/2 ounce glass. Red wines have more beneficial antioxidants than white wines!

* "Dry" champagne isn't really dry; it's actually pretty sweet. We won't even consider sweet champagne! If you're toasting the New Year, "Extra Brut" champagne is your best bet.

* Michelob Ultra has gotten a lot of press, but I don't much like it. I find it bland and flavorless. Miller Light tastes a lot better, to my way of thinking, and has only about a half a gram more carb per serving. Miller Lite is also a lot lower carb than Bud Light. If you like a beer that tastes "skunky," Rock Green Light is worth a try. My vote for best beer for 5 grams or fewer per bottle? Amstel Light.

* Shun "alko-pops" - coolers, hard lemonade, Zima, and the like. Created to lure a generation weaned on soda pop, all this stuff is full of sugar. A shot of vodka in a glass of sugar free lemonade makes a good hard lemonade.

* Liqueurs and cordials - stuff like creme de menthe, creme de cacao, Midori, Irish Cream, Kahlua, sweetened schnapps - are all sugary. Remember, if it tastes sweet and doesn't say on the label that it's artificially sweetened, it has sugar in it.

* Monin's syrup company has an Irish Cream flavored sugar free syrup. A shot of this, mixed with a shot of cream and a shot of Irish whiskey, makes a pretty good sugar-free simulacrum of Irish cream! Order Monin's sugar free syrups here. Be aware that Monin's also makes a sugar-sweetened line of syrups; you want the Monin's O'Free syrups.

* Since hard liquor - vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, rum - is technically carb-free, the big thing to watch out for is the mixers. Juices, soda, sour mix, tonic water, are all sugary. Diet soda, club soda or seltzer, diet tonic, the new Carb Countdown low carb juices, and Crystal Light or other sugar free drink mixes are all fine. Baja Bob's sugar-free mixers are terrific, especially the margarita mix. Get 'em from CarbSmart or many other low carb etailers - or at your nearest low carb brick-and-mortar store; my local source, Sahara Mart, carries these.

* A classic martini - gin or vodka with a whisper of dry vermouth, and an olive - is fine. Most of the new so-called martinis - "appletinis", "chocolatetinis" and such - are sugary. Steer clear.

* There's no reason not to make your favorite eggnog recipe with Splenda in place of the sugar. I've done this, and it works just fine. Don't have a favorite eggnog recipe? Try this one, from 500 Low-Carb Recipes. It doesn't include alcohol, but of course you can add a shot of your favorite grog:

Cooked Eggnog

This is for you safe-living folks who would never consider eating a raw egg - and it's mighty tasty, too.

2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1 cup water
Nutmeg

In a big glass measuring cup, combine the half and half and the cream. Microwave it on 70% power for 3 - 4 minutes, or until it's very warm through, but not boiling - this is simply a time-saver, and is not essential; if you prefer you can simply heat the half and half/cream mixture over a low flame in the saucepan you'll use to finish the recipe. After microwaving, pour cream/half and half mixture into a heavy bottomed saucepan, and whisk in the Splenda, vanilla extract, and eggs. Turn the burner to lowest heat - if you have a heat diffuser or a double boiler, this would be a good time to use it - and stand there and stir your eggnog constantly until it's thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film. This will, I'm sorry to say, take at least 5 minutes, and maybe as much as 20. Stir in water, and chill. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on each serving - this makes about 1 quarts, or 6 1-cup servings or 12 -cup servings. If you drink 1 cup of this eggnog, you'll get 5 grams of carbohydrate, a trace of fiber, and 9 grams of protein. Again, feel free to spike this if you like!

And as always, drink with moderation, and no drinking and driving!!

Happy New Year.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:04 PM

November 21, 2003

DeCarbing Thanksgiving Dinner

Last issue we talked about having an Indulgence Day on Thanksgiving, and eating the traditional high carb foods of the holiday, without completely blowing our low carb way of life. However, many of us have reached a point where we don't care to eat a lot of concentrated carbs, even for a holiday. So this issue, let's talk about how to have a fabulous Thanksgiving feast, while keeping the carbs to a minimum.

Notice the phrase, "keeping the carbs to a minimum." I'm not going to pretend that even a decarbed Thanksgiving feast is going to be a strictly low carb meal. Nor should it be, to my way of thinking - it is, after all, a celebratory feast. But we can keep the carbs as low as is consistent with a satisfyingly traditional Thanksgiving dinner - and this is a fine thing to do.

Here, then, in no particular order, are some ideas for decarbing your Thanksgiving feast.

* All but the newest of low carb dieters are aware, I am sure, of the trick of using pureed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. This is very simple to do: You simply steam or microwave cauliflower until it's tender, drain it well, and then put it through a blender or food processor. Add butter, salt, pepper, and - if you want to make it really top-drawer - a little cream cheese - and you'll have what we call "fauxtatoes."

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have had dinner guests try fauxtatoes with gravy, and not realize until the third or fourth mouthful that they were not eating potatoes. If, for the holiday dinner, you'd like to make your fauxtatoes even more convincing, you might try cooking and pureeing just one potato along with your cauliflower, to add that potato flavor.

* Stuffing, also known as dressing, is a major part of the Thanksgiving experience, and I, for one, adore the stuff. How can we decarb our stuffing?

First of all, you can use reduced carb bread. This is more and more available; my local grocery stores in Bloomington, Indiana have now started carrying Atkins bread, and a reduced carb bread from Brownberry. "Lite" breads are also worth looking at - if I recall correctly, Pepperidge Farm light bread has no more than 6 grams of usable carb per slice. If you really want to show that your heart is in it, you could make your own low carb bread, either from one of the recipes in 500 Low Carb Recipes, or in Diana Lee's Baking Low Carb.

Once you've got low carb bread, the next thing to do is to look at the bread-to-vegetable ratio of your stuffing. Will you be happy with more celery and onions, and a bit less bread? How about adding some sauteed mushrooms - a very low carb vegetable - to your stuffing? I've done this, and the results were excellent.

For that matter, my mother has always put cooked and crumbled pork sausage in her turkey stuffing. Accordingly, my sister, Kim - who is also a low carber - has sometimes made stuffing with quite a lot of celery, onions, and sausage, and just a little bread. Not only did Kim find this meaty, reduced-carb stuffing acceptable, but so did our father, who is not only not a low carber, but a picky eater of the first water.

Of course, Southerners eat corn bread stuffing, instead of stuffing made from loaf bread. I know it sounds nuts, but there's a recipe at the Katiedid's Pork Rinds website for a stuffing made from crushed pork rinds that is remarkably like cornbread stuffing. Do take a look!

If you're interested in a recipe that has no grain whatsoever, but is still very tasty (not to mention quick to make,) there's a recipe for Apple-Walnut Dressing in my new book, 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes. I think it's quite good (of course!,) but I can also tell you that the nice people at Fox and Friends also pronounce my grain-less dressing delicious.

* Sweet potatoes are another traditional Thanksgiving carb food. It's nice to know that sweet potatoes, while high carb, have a lower blood sugar impact than "regular" potatoes, and contain far more vitamins. Still, we are talking roughly 30 grams of carbohydrate per sweet potato - and that's without the brown sugar, corn syrup, and/or marshmallows people tend to heap on them! What can we do?

Here's a neat trick: Combine one sweet potato, cooked and mashed, with canned, pureed pumpkin. Now, add Splenda to taste, with maybe 1/2 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses for a brown sugar flavor (you could use Brown Sugar Twin instead; I don't like the stuff,) and a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Put it in a casserole, dot it with butter, and bake it till it's hot clear through. Using one average sweet potato and a pound of pumpkin puree, and assuming you serve 6 people, each serving will have about 10 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber, or 9 grams of usable carb - just a third of eating a plain sweet potato.

* Cranberry sauce is the easiest thing to decarb! Buy a bag of fresh cranberries. On the bag you will find a recipe for Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce. (Or at least, I've never found a bag of cranberries that didn't have this recipe on it...) This is exceedingly simple to make - you combine cranberries, water, and sugar in a saucepan, and boil them together for about 5 minutes, or until the cranberry skins pop. Do this exactly the way it says on the bag, only use Splenda in place of the sugar! If you've only ever had canned cranberry jelly, I think you'll be excited at how wonderful fresh, homemade whole-berry cranberry sauce is.

If you're fond of cranberry sauce all year long, here's a useful tip: Cranberries are one of the few foods that are still strictly seasonal. They're only available for a few months in the autumn. However, cranberries freeze beautifully! So if you want cranberry sauce all year long, pick up a few extra bags of cranberries and stash them in the freezer. They'll live there happily, and be ready to gladden your heart with tart-sweet cranberry goodness till next autumn rolls around.

* Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without turkey gravy, and gravy is, of course, usually thickened with flour or cornstarch. If you'd like to really go all the way with de-carbing your feast, consider thickening your gravy with guar or xanthan gum, instead. You can put the de-fatted drippings and some broth through your blender with a little guar or xanthan, then pour it back into the pan to heat it through and season it. Alternately, you can combine the de-fatted drippings and the broth in the turkey roasting pan (the turkey will, we trust, be on a platter by this point!,) and, using an odd salt shaker, sprinkle guar or xanthan over the surface while stirring frantically with a whisk. Either way, stop adding guar or xanthan when the gravy is a little less thick than you'd like - both of these thickeners tend to thicken a bit more on standing. Again, once your gravy is thickened you can add salt, pepper, some poultry seasoning, and whatever other seasonings you like, to taste.

* Then we come to dessert. I'm pleased to say that low carb pumpkin pie is no more difficult, and is perhaps even tastier, than the traditional kind - after all, we make the crust with ground pecans! This recipe appears in 500 Low-Carb Recipes, but I've repeated it below. If you prefer, you'll also find Vicki Cash's wonderful Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe in 500 Low-Carb Recipes - the decision is up to you.

I'm afraid I have not yet managed to de-carb apple pie, for a very simple reason: Apples are a relatively high-carb fruit. I have a few ideas to try yet; if I come up with a winning recipe, I'll let you know!

* The rest of the advice for a de-carbed Thanksgiving appeared last issue: Have plenty of great low carbohydrate vegetables, and of course lots of turkey. Add a dry white wine - perhaps a Chardonnay - and you've got a traditional Thanksgiving feast that - while not being strictly low carb - will have far, far fewer carbs than is usual.

Have a very happy Thankgiving! (And to all my readers outside the US, I hope at least some of these ideas are applicable to your lives. I promise to go back to being less US-centric next issue!)

Posted by HoldTheToast at 05:39 PM

November 06, 2003

The Thanksgiving Indulgence: Damage Control

There are two possibilities for the low carber when faced with a feast day like Thanksgiving: Do your best to de-carb the meal, or just declare an Indulgence Day, and eat all your traditional favorites for that one day. We'll be exploring the first possibility next issue. In this issue, let's talk about the Indulgence Day, both how to minimize the damage, and how to get right back on the low carb track afterward. ,

There will be at least a little damage, you know. That's why I greatly prefer the term "Indulgence" to the term "cheat" - because "cheat" implies you're going to get away with something, and you never do. You may be able to fool yourself now and then, but you can't fool your body.

You can, however, help your body deal with an Indulgence, and help yourself get right back on your low carb plan with minimal pain. Here are some ideas for getting through a Thanksgiving Indulgence with the least backlash possible:

* Start thinking now about which foods your family traditionally serves for Thanksgiving dinner, with an eye to which of the carbohydrate foods really matter to you. By way of example, I adore stuffing, but couldn't care less about candied sweet potatoes. Accordingly, I would have a moderate serving of stuffing, but skip the sweet potatoes. Don't bother Indulging on anything that isn't a huge favorite of yours just because it's always been there.

* Don't let family members decide what you should Indulge in, either! Indulgences are way too precious, and your health and weight loss too hard-won, to give in to nagging to "have just a taste; after all, it's a holiday, and you're eating stuffing, so why won't you eat my bread?" or whatever. You don't owe it to a soul to eat anything that isn't 100% what you want at your Indulgence meal.

* On Thanksgiving Day, as on every other day of the year, get up and eat your low carbohydrate, high protein breakfast. No starving yourself all day in anticipation of the big feast! Just a couple of eggs first thing in the day will be enough to help you eat one serving of mashed potatoes, not three!

* Do load up on the wonderful low carb foods on your Thanksgiving table, too - turkey, of course, but how about low carb vegetables? Our family always has green beans almandine for holidays, and that's a great low carb treat. Rutabaga, a borderline vegetable that I love, is also a part of our Thanksgiving. You can bet I'll be having big servings of both of these. Do you have a favorite low carb vegetable dish? Consider adding it to the menu. By loading up on protein and low carb vegetables along with the stuffing and the mashed potatoes, you'll dilute the carbs with plenty of fiber and protein - and minimize the rebound effect on your blood sugar.

* Remember, when Thanksgiving dinner is over, your Indulgence is over! You do not get to spend the rest of the holiday weekend eating hot turkey sandwiches and leftover pie! If the feast is at your house, consider giving away most of the carb-y leftovers to departing guests. If you're eating at someone else's house, and they offer to wrap up a piece of pie for you, ask if you can have some leftover turkey instead.

* Once the Thankgiving bloat starts to lift - probably several hours after dinner - hop right back on the wagon with a small protein meal. A slice or two of leftover turkey would be the obvious choice. Don't let your blood sugar crash when there's lots of temptation in the house! Anyway, this is a good way to give yourself the message that you're back to Business As Usual.

* Going to be spending the rest of the weekend watching football games? Make sure you have plenty of low carb snacks on hand - hot wings, cheese, cold cuts, a relish tray from the grocery store deli, pork rinds, mixed nuts, all will go a long way to keeping you out of the chips. For that matter, the low carb chips have improved over the past couple of years; Keto Tortilla Chips, and Atkins Crunchers are a couple of brands I really like. Remember, these aren't free foods, but they'll help keep you from feeling sorry for yourself.

* Don't forget the low carb beverages! If you like a beer with your football, make sure you have Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, or Milwaukee's Best Light in the house - they're the lowest carb beers on the market.

* All that family togetherness driving you to sugar? Leftover pie singing a siren song from the pantry? Get out of the house. Start your Christmas shopping, go downtown and look at the Christmas decorations, take in a movie, rake the yard, go skating if it's cold enough, or walk if it's warm - just get the heck out of the house and DO something!

* And remember: Having so many food choices that we have to eat mindfully, with an eye to our health and our waistlines, is a blessing so immense that it is unimaginable to vast numbers of people. Be thankful!

Next issue: How to put together a reduced-carb Thanksgiving Feast that will please dieters and non-dieters alike!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:59 PM

November is Diabetes Month!

No, no, it's not a month to get diabetes, it's a month to raise awareness about diabetes, and help people fight their diabetes. Since diabetes is the big-casino, end-game version of carbohydrate intolerance, that makes Diabetes Month a big deal for us here at Lowcarbezine! And since type II diabetes (we changed the name from "adult onset diabetes" when children started getting it with alarming frequency) is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world, it should be a big deal to everyone else, too.

Most of you will remember that back in August, I put out a Special notice asking for low carb diabetes success stories. The response was nothing short of overwhelming - I got over 90 stories in 48 hours! Clearly, many of you have found that your low carbohydrate lifestyle has been instrumental in getting your blood sugar (and cholesterol, and triglycerides) under control. I'd like to share some of those stories this month:

Donna Hogan writes:

I have had diabetes since 1998. Started on medication and tried to lose weight. Never lost a pound. Always heard diabetics could not do low carb diets. Until I read Dr. Bernstein's book in 2001, I never thought of going low carb. But he is living proof it won't kill me.

So I started cold turkey, cut out carbohydrates similar to Dr. Atkins suggestions. Never had any trouble dropping the carbs, especially after I started dropping the pounds. When I started dieting I also started a walking program. I had been told I would need hip surgery in the future. Walking was painful, but I started slow and worked at increasing my time spent walking. Was told by my orthopedic doctor not to do any exercise except swimming or walking, so I walked.

When blood sugar started falling to normal levels, I threw my diabetic pills away.

To end this story: I lost 65 pounds. I take no medications now. I lowered my cholesterol and related blood fat levels. Have improved the hip condition, weight condition, and now walk at least two miles a day, but usually three miles a day. My endocrinologist says my diabetes is "in remission." My body will not know I have diabetes until blood sugar go over 126. I maintain a level between 98 - 115 with diet and exercise. I am 66 years old.

Hope this story is what you want to hear. I still cannot get other to do low carb dieting even though they are overweight. I think the diabetes and bad hip were my incentive to follow this through. I have been on low carb maintenance way of life for almost two year now, with no weight gain.

Carolin Van Pelt writes:

We have a friend (a guy) who is married with three children. He is 30+, in good shape, lifts weights, works a physical job. His doctor told him he was borderline diabetic. He was told they would need to start medication.

We explained the no carb/low carb diet. He did almost no carb. He has not had to start medication. He came back to us and was concerned because he had been losing so much weight. I told him to add a few more carbs back into his diet. I explained weight loss is what the diet is for besides diabetes. I told him to start adding some fruit, still try to stay away from pasta and potatoes. He has been medication free for several months. I don't have the particulars on his blood count, but he is doing well. His doctor was surprised!

John Foyt writes:

My specifics are: At age 37 I went to the doc for a checkup and was warned of borderline high cholesterol and EXTREMELY high triglycerides (450.) He recommended Lipitor which I did not want to take - personal aversion to drugs of all kinds. A few months later I tripped on a copy of the Carb Addicts Lifespan Program and got started right away. Three weeks later, I saw the doc for a followup. Cholesterol had dropped 40 points and triglycerides were down to 330 - in THREE WEEKS.

Doc noted that "the drug was working" and was VERY annoyed that I had done this WITHOUT drugs. In subsecquent followups, choleterol is down to normal and triglycerides are around 200. All without the Lipitor prescribed. And as triglycerides are a marker - I'm off the diabetes fast track.

Darcie Westhoff writes:

In February 2003, my 36 year old huband was notified his triglyceride level was 799. He was approximately 10-20 pounds overweight. His fasting blood sugar was normal, but he has diabetes in his family history. His doctor wanted to start him on the medication Lopid, but he did not want to go on medication. I put him on a low carb diet. He lost 15 pounds, and his triglyceride level at recheck 4 months later was down to 156.

He is staying on the low carb diet in hopes that he can avoid getting the diabetes that has affected so many of his family members.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:54 PM

October 08, 2003

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Now that it's October, can the scariest day of the year be far off? Halloween can be utterly terrifying.

No, not the ghosts and the skeletons and the monsters. Not the ancient stories of visits from the spirits of the dead. Not even the modern urban legends about razor blades in apples and poison in candy. Face, folks, it's the candy itself that's poisonous - and Halloween has evolved over the years from a night of good-natured pranks (when my grandfather was a boy, he and a friend moved a neighbor's outhouse to the middle of a footbridge), to a huge cultural phenomenon that is unwholesomely centered on candy. And that, my friends, is scarier than any ghouly, ghosty, or long-leggity beasty.

Oh, I know, people don't generally die of acute sugar overdose. But thousands upon thousands e die every day of chronic sugar poisoning, also known as hyperinsulinemia or Syndrome X. We don't call it that, of course. We call it heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, morbid obesity, cancer, or any one of the other faces this dangerous shape-shifting monster likes to wear. The different guises don't change the nature of the beast. Sugar kills.

And here in the States (and, I understand, in the UK, where a US-style Halloween has been catching on), it's about to launch an invasion of your happy low carb home. Furthermore, Halloween is just the beginning. If you let yourself be softened up by pleas of "But it's HALLOWEEN!," you'll be a goner when the Christmas cookies and candy canes start to roll in. Now is the time to start thinking, and thinking smart, about holiday strategies, starting with the holiday at hand - which is, after all, America's premier junk-fest.

And it's not just you I'm worried about. It's your kids. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in America, and what we used to call "adult onset diabetes" has been renamed "Type II diabetes" because it is now hideously common in children. It is vitally important both that you minimize your children's exposure to the sea of sugar threatening to engulf them, and also that you teach them that there is tremendous joy to be found in celebration, and that that joy does not depend on unlimited consumption of sugar.

So what can you do to make Halloween spooky good fun, and satisfying for all, while defending yourself and your family against the demon substance? Here are a few ideas:

* Throw yourself into the fun and creative facets of Halloween that have nothing to do with candy. Work on making or assembling the perfect costumes. Decorate your house and your yard. Carve up an army of jack-o-lanterns. Make styrofoam tombstones, write funny epitaphs on them, and erect a cemetery in your front yard. Have fun!

* More and more, people are opting for Halloween parties instead of trick-or-treating. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, trick-or-treating is a terrific way to end up with vast quantities of sugar in the house. On the other hand, I can remember few things that were as much fun, as a child, as dressing up in costume and going door to door. In the end, which your family does will likely be influenced by what the community custom is. Still, it's good to point out here that having a Halloween party lets you control how much candy is involved!

* If you opt for a Halloween party, center it around activities, not around sweets. Bobbing for apples, costume judging, pumpkin carving contests (or drawing, for young children), spooky stories, the old game of turning off the lights and passing around peeled grapes for eyeballs and cold spaghetti for guts, reading scary stories aloud by flashlight - whatever you can think of that would be fun and appropriately spooky. In the meanwhile, consider serving something other than soda pop to drink (consider add-your-own-sugar Kool Aid, made with stevia, instead), and, while you may not eschew sweets entirely, make sure there are some healthy foods, too: vegetables with ranch dip, cheese chunks, hot wings, burgers - something that will encourage the children (and you) to fill up on something other than junk. In particular, you'll find that the kids are far less likely to have behavior problems if you can get some protein and fat into them to help stabilize their blood sugar!

* For kids who are old enough to not be easily terrorized, but still young enough to be able to get away with going door to door begging for sugar, consider a horror movie party instead. Let them pick out couple of videos or DVDs from the local rental joint (keeping an eye out to make sure they don't overstep parental boundaries!), invite some of their friends over, and pop some corn. Yes, popcorn is a carb, but it's lower carb, higher fiber, and more nutritious than most chips, and certainly better for them than candy! Do pop bulk regular bulk popcorn, instead of buying the microwave stuff. Microwave popcorn is full of hydrogenated oils and other damaged fats. Be aware, too, that the cable movie channels often show great old horror movies this time of year; I have a collection of classic monster movies I've taped off of AMC. (I adore the old black and white Universal horror movies! A better movie than Bride of Frankenstein has yet to be made.)

* Another Halloween treat that is traditional and festive, yet nutritionally superior to a bag full of candy, is the caramel apple. I'm not suggesting these for you, mind you, but perhaps for the kids, in lieu of piles of worse junk. Yes, caramel is almost pure sugar, and apples are a fairly high sugar fruit. On the other hand, the caramel is a relatively modest layer on the outside, and the apple has considerable nutritional value along with its naturally occurring sugar. It also has fiber, to fill the kids up, and to moderate the absorption of the sugar. Not an ideal food, but a heckuva lot better than Skittles, M&Ms, and Twizzlers. Making caramel apples with your kids - or even as part of a party - can be a fun activity, and distract them from the fact that there aren't huge bowls of more damaging candy lying around.

* Consider opting for one of the many commercial entertainment possibilities now available for Halloween fun - a haunted house or haunted hay ride, spook night at a local amusement park, or a ghost story telling festival are all possibilities. Keep an eye on your local paper for ideas. Another great place to ask is at your local library reference desk; I know our library has all sorts of lists of local events. Taking advantage of one of these entertainments is a great way to prevent huge trick-or-treat bags full of candy from creeping, unbidden, into your home.

* If, on the other hand, you're from a trick-or-treating sort of a community, consider discussing with your kids ahead of time what limits you plan to set on the post-Halloween consumption of candy. You may want to let them decide which, say, four or five kinds of candy they like best, let them keep those, and toss the rest (or take it to the office, and leave it in the break room, where it will, of course, mysteriously vanish.) I know that when I was a kid, I used to get candy I didn't care much about - stuff like Necco Wafers, Smartees, and Mary Janes - along with the stuff I craved. But did it ever occur to me to not eat the candy I didn't care much about? Might as well ask an alcoholic if they ever considered not drinking rye because they preferred bourbon.

* There need to be limits, too, on how much candy the kids are allowed to eat, and how often - certainly no child should be left with an entire shopping bag full of candy to be eaten at his or her own discretion! Parents need to take on the role of Keeper of the Candy, and dole it out in reasonable quantities, preferably after a meal. Remember that all candy freezes well.

* However, to take on the role of Keeper of the Candy, the parent needs to be confident of their ability to be a trustworthy steward. In other words, no eating all the kid's candy behind his or her back. If you're uncertain of your ability to resist, have the child keep an inventory of their own candy, so he or she will know if you've been raiding the candy supply. Who wants to be embarrassed in front of an 8 year old?

* If your kid is going out trick-or-treating, the chances are excellent that you're also expecting trick-or-treaters. Now, I no longer live in a trick-or-treating neighborhood (indeed, I live on a dead-end road, a couple of miles outside of town), but when I did, I was uncomfortable with the thought of giving candy to children. I hit on giving out peanuts in the shell - I'd fill up a basket, and let each kid take a double handful. Surprisingly, the kids reacted very well - I never heard, "Where's the candy?" Instead, they'd say, "Oh, cool! Peanuts!" And my house was never egged or TP'd, so I assume I didn't incur the Wrath of the Disappointed Trick or Treaters. I've known other people to get good reactions with small, cheap toys, stickers, or even small change.

* If you do decide to give out candy, don't go buying your own favorite! Instead, buy some kind of candy that you, personally, don't like - if I were giving out candy, I'd give out Twizzlers. Can't stand the things. If you decide that you'll give out Snickers bars, because they're your favorite, you know and I know that you'll have eaten half a bag by the time All Saints Day rolls around. Don't go there.

* In the meanwhile, have a few of your favorite sugar free treats in the house. Nowadays, you can get virtually any sort of candy you like in sugar-free versions, from gummi bears to the gooey-est caramel-filled candy bars. They're hardly health food, but they're easier on your blood sugar than the sugary kind. Furthermore, they enforce moderation by causing fairly unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms if you overindulge. Having a few of your favorite sugar-free sweets in the house, coupled with making sure whatever you're giving away isn't something that trips your trigger, will go a long way to keeping the Ghosts of Halloween from coming back to haunt you the next time you step on the scales!

* Many conservative Christian churches hold alternative celebrations at Halloween; I have some friends who are involved with running these at their churches - around here, costume parties where you come as a Biblical character are popular. If you are helping to plan and run one of these for the children of your church, I implore you to remember what the Bible says about the body being a temple, and be the voice raised for moderation where sugar is concerned. Remember that sugar addiction in childhood has been tied to alcohol problems - and who knows, maybe problems with other drugs - in adulthood, and strive to be a good influence. After all, you're having the alternative celebration because you're concerned for the welfare of the children, right?

Have fun! And in keeping with my commitment to being as inclusive as possible, Happy Samhain, Feliz Dia de los Muertos, and a Blessed All Saints Day to you all. And a Happy Halloween, of course!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:55 PM