Friday, August 31, 2007

Just received a low carb shipment!

My most recent order from netrition.com has just arrived! My grocery list is as follows:

  1. Da Vinci sugar free syrups -- Everyone keeps telling me to try these. So, I bought a few flavors to test out. I hadn't expected such huge bottles! I popped open the cherry one a moment ago. It tastes like grenadine. So, I poured some into a diet Pepsi. Not bad. I think I'll try to use the cherry to make snow cones.
  2. Splenda Quick Packs -- These have suddenly disappeared from the shelves in all of the grocery stores I frequent. So, I had to order through the mail.
  3. Xanthan Gum Powder -- This is a thickener. I decided to try it because it's the main ingredient in another product called "not sugar". It's not a sweetener, but some claim it creates a sugar-like texture. I'm hoping this will be the key to making better sugar-free cookies. Many people also use it as a thickener for gravy and jellies.
  4. Baja Bob's Sugar Free mixers -- Original margarita, strawberry margarita, and sour apple martini.
  5. Hazelnut Meal -- Good price, cheaper than buying at the local food co-op. You can use this for anything calling for almond meal and it's lower in carbs.
  6. GeniSoy Tortilla chips -- ripped this open as soon as it arrived. They're pretty good but a little higher in carbs than the other low carb chips I've tried. Why is taste and carbs always a trade-off?

The $4.95 for shipping is offset by not having to pay local sales tax. My total is $71.62 and I still have nothing in the house to cook for dinner.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Panera Bread Company Gives Up

I have been a huge fan of Panera Bread Company's low carb bread. It's the best tasting low carb bread I have ever had. And, I love that they will allow this as a substitution on any of their sandwiches! This is one of the only places where I can go out for a quick lunch and actually eat bread!

Well, I went to Panera today for lunch. And, they told me that they quit selling their low carb breads yesterday! The store manager told me that they simply didn't sell enough of it. She also told me that she thought that this applied to the entire chain and not just this one location.

I don't feel that they ever gave the low carb breads a fair chance. They listed them at the very bottom of their bakery menu. There was no mention of it on their sandwich menu. And, they never advertised the product. Most people on low carb diets typically avoid bakeries. So, without getting the word out, almost nobody on a diet would even know that it existed.

I would appreciate it if you would write Panera and ask for the return of low carb breads. Tell them that the product would not have failed if they had advertised it appropriately and displayed the option in a more prominent place on the menu. I don't know how much good contacting the company will do. But, it can't hurt. I absolutely loved their bread and the sandwiches options. I'm so saddened by this loss.

Write them using this form: http://www.panerabread.com/about/contact/

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Maltodextrin, Splenda, and the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. The higher the GI, the faster and bigger the corresponding insulin spike and thus potential weight gain.

Granular Splenda has 24 carbs per cup. I know that the label says "less than 1 g" but that is assuming a 1 teaspoon serving size. Sucralose is what makes Splenda sweet and it has virtually no carbs. The carbs from Splenda come from a filler called maltodextrin. This is used to give Splenda equal measure to sugar. The danger is that maltodextrin has an extremely high glycemic index of 105. This is 5 points higher than glucose which is 100. And, it is almost double that of table sugar which is around 59.

Don't get me wrong. Sugar has more than 8 times the carbohydrates of granulated Splenda. So, you are still better off eating granular Splenda. But carb-for-carb sugar is perhaps less unhealthy.

Splenda Quick Packs however are a special type of Splenda designed to quickly dissolve in liquids. Typically it is available in the KoolAide section of grocery stores. Splenda Quick Packs have less maltodextrin and only 4 net carbs per pack which is the equiv. to one cup of sugar. Therefore, if you are making a dessert that calls for one cup equiv. of sugar, using a quick pack instead of granular splenda spares you 20 carbs that would have had a high GI.

An even better alternative is Sweetzfree. Sweetzfree is a highly concentrated solution of sucralose in water. It has no filler other than the water and therefore has no measurable carbohydrates and no glycemic impact. This is what I use most often in my own kitchen. The price sounds high, $18.00 for a one ounce bottle. But keep in mind that this is the equivelent to 24 cups of sugar. It comes in a little dropper bottle. One drop equals a teaspoon of sugar. 1/4 teaspoon equals an entire cup of sugar. My wife sometimes keeps a small bottle of this in her purse. A single drop instantly turns tea into sweet tea. The downside is that Sweetzfree is only available online and due to limited supplies is only sold on certain days of the month. I'd love to see this product available in stores.

I wonder how long it will be before Splenda wisens up and sells concentrated sucralose? It seems that they are taking the other direction, combining granular splenda with regular forms of sugar marketed toward good tasting baked goods rather than the lowest carb diet baked goods. I would suspect that if they'd sell little dropper bottles that there'd be one heck of a market.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Favorite Low Carb Recipes

I have been experimenting in my low-carb kitchen for a year now. Here are my top ten low carb recipes in order of preference:

  1. Fettuccine Alfredo Impasta (3.5 net carbs)
  2. Brandi's Breading for Frying (1 net carb)
  3. Cinnamon Streussal Flax Muffins (2.5 net carbs)
  4. Kentucky Hotbrown (8 net carbs)
  5. Classic Cheesecake (6 net carbs)
  6. Buffalo Chicken Dip (4 net carbs)
  7. Bulgarian Shopska Salad (2.5 net carbs)
  8. Guacamole Dip (3 net carbs)
  9. Rainbow Slaw (4 net carbs)
  10. Corn bread (5 net carbs)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Carb Cycling Diet

With all of the attention we place on reducing carbs, it's easy to forget that carbohydrates are actually good for you! I have found carb cycling to be much easier from a will-power perspective and as a lifestyle change because we have opportunities to indulge every once in a while without feeling guilty. From my personal experience, cycling seemed to result in equal weight loss as low-carb every day.

I have just started reading "The Carb Cycling Diet" by Dr. Roman Malkov. So far, it is an excellent weight-loss book. The author, Dr. Malkov is a physician and exercise physiologist. He was a nutritional consultant for the Russian National Rowing team and now practices in New York City. His book provides several approaches for different lifestyles. While he clearly states that exercise will dramatically improve results, there are even instructions for those of us who are not combining the diet with exercise. I have been doing carb-cycling for several months now without exercise. My results have been pretty good. This book supports my theory that mixing in some normal or high carb days prevents a slowdown in your metabolism. The carb cycling diet approach aims at preventing the adaptation changes that occur when someone's behavior becomes repetitious.

Excerpt from book:


The Carb Cycling Diet rests on these four simple concepts:
  1. Your body's metabolism consists of two pathways: anabolism, in which you build muscle; and catabolism, in which you burn fat. You cannot do both at the same time.
  2. Therefore, you need to alternate between normal-carb days (which promote anabolism) and limited-carb days (which promote catabolism). Keep in mind that when we talk about limiting carbs, we're talking primarily about refined (bad) carbs.
  3. However, when you consume carbs on your normal-carb days, you also open the door to fat deposition, which usually takes place within the first few minutes of eating refined carbs.
  4. In order to prevent that fat deposition, on normal-carb days, anaerobic weight lifting exercises are most effective. On limited-carb days, aerobic exercises are most effective.

I will have to do a little more research on number 1. I had always thought that protein would build muscle regardless of carb intake. He basically says that if you are taking in less nutrients than you are consuming, that your body can't efficiently put these nutrients to use building muscle. I 'll have do some additional reading on protein and muscle growth.

Number 3 above shocked me. I'd like to know what studies back up this statement. It's just so hard to imagine that fat is deposited within a few minutes of eating! For this reason, it is suggested that you exercise before you eat, not after. Apparently doing so will cause the nutrients to be deposited in muscle rather than fat storage.

There's also quite a bit of talk in this book about slowing down the aging process and making the skin more elastic. The theory is rather complex involving triggers for the release of various hormones. I may post on this topic later, once I have read more and had time to think it over.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Over Ten Thousand Visitors

Today is a milestone for my blog. I have had over 10,000 visitors resulting in over 25,000 page views. At this time, I am getting close to 400 visits from unique IP addresses per week. When I started this blog one year ago, I never expected this many people to actually read it. I'd like to thank each of you for reading and commenting. And, I especially want to thank those of you who have put links out there that lead others to my site!

My hit counter keeps track of referrals. This basically gives me a list of the web sites that people were on when they clicked on a link to my site. Because of this, I know how many of you first stumbled upon my blog. The top sources of hits are:

  1. Google searches. The most common search is for "buffalo chicken dip" followed by numerous searches for "low carb" combined with various ingredients.
  2. Linda's Low Carb Menus and Recipes, a very good source of low-carb recipes and information.
  3. Low Carb Mania, a low carb blog feeds site run by PJ of The Divine Low Carb blog.
  4. My own Low Carb Blogs feeds site.
  5. MySpace.com news.
  6. Links from posts in lowcarber.org forums. Sometimes these are my posts, sometimes they are posts from people who are talking about me.
  7. Jimmy Moore's Low Carb Links site.
  8. Blog Lines. I'm not really sure what this site is. It looks like a way to setup personal lists of blog feeds.
  9. Yahoo.com searches on "low carb" combined with various ingredients.
  10. Various other low-carb blogs. As a matter of fact, I have discovered many great blogs by following my hits back to their referring URL's.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How did I get to be more than 100 pounds overweight?

I have been dieting for over a year now. During this time, I have experienced substantial weight loss. As I near my goal, I am contemplating maintenance plans. To figure out what maintenance plan would work best for me, I thought that I should ask myself, "How did I get more than 100 pounds overweight?" I think that I need to answer this question in order to insure that it doesn't happen again.

  1. Ballooned in 2005 and 2006 due to eating large dinners after 8:30 PM and then going directly to my hotel to sleep.
  2. Used vending machine snacks to boost energy during work day. The fatter I became, the more I needed sugar and starches to wake me up.
  3. Moved away from diet soda and started drinking regular Coke and Pepsi.
  4. Lunches usually came from fast food restaurants. French fries and sandwich buns became a staple in my diet.
  5. Had pizza for dinner more than once a week. Leftovers usually became breakfast.
  6. Had bread or pasta with just about every meal.
  7. Love to cook desserts and cookies. Loved eating them even more. The more sweets I ate, the more I craved.
  8. Often ordered dessert following dinner.
  9. Periods of depression did not necessarily result in eating heavier but definitely caused my metabolism to slow down.
  10. Especially on weekdays, I had little to no exercise (still true).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Low Carb Yum Yum Salad - 6.25 net carbs per serving

The other day, I made some of Niki's low carb frosting (4 oz cream cheese, 1/2 c heavy cream, and sweetener). It reminded me of a number of fruity salads and marshmallow dips. I thought this would make a good base for a number of low carb desserts.

One of my wife's favorite desserts is what she calls "yum yum salad. And, today, we made a low carb version. It's not quite as fluffy as the high carb version but it's still very good.

When buying your can of crushed pineapple, choose one that is in juice not syrup.

The entire recipe is 50 net carbs and makes 8 servins at 6.25 net carbs per serving.


Ingredients:

2 packages sugar free lime jellow
1 c. water
8 oz. crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup)
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. equiv. sugar (I used sweetzfree, zero carb)
1/4 c. crushed pecans

Instructions:

  1. In sauce pan, combine water and pineapple, including can's juice. Bring to boil.
  2. Stir in lime jello. Place in refrigerator. Allow to cool until syrup like but not solid.
  3. Meanwhile, put cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and sweetener in mixing bowl and beat on high. Use a whisk attachment if you've got it. Whisk until thick.
  4. By hand, stir together the cool but liquid jello with fluffy white mixture. Stir in nuts.
  5. Put into serving bowl and chill for at least one hour before serving.

Mount Olive No Sugar Added Pickles

A few weeks ago, I posted about my garden cucumbers. I was thinking about making low carb bread and butter pickles before I left town so that they wouldn't rot. Well, I must confess that I never got around the making them.


However, today, at the grocery store, I stumbled across Mount Olive No Sugar Added Pickles. These are pickles sweetened with sucralose. They actually make bread and butter chips, strips, and sandwich stuffers! And, while they're not quite as good as my home canned pickles, they're still pretty darned good. They also make sweet pickles and relishes.



Friday, August 17, 2007

Low Carb Blog Feeds

Are you looking for more blogs about low carb? I have recently added several sites to my low carb blog feeds site: http://lowcarbblogs.blogspot.com/.

Do you have your own low carb blog that has been up and running for at least a few months? If so, let me know about it and we'll add the feed.

Pastry Cutter, an Essential Tool

Typical pastry cutter.

I have come to realize that many of my readers don't have a pastry cutter and some don't even know what a pastry cutter is. This is a very cheap hand tool that can be found in just about any store that carries kitchen gadgets. I consider this tool essential for many of my low-carb dishes such as cheesecake crusts, crumbly topics, and biscuits. If you don't own one, you can use a food processor on pulse mode. But when using a food processor, it is very easy to over-do it. And, a pastry cutter is much easier to clean.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chipped Beef - 4.5 net carbs per serving

Here's another breakfast item. The irony is that there are thousands of good low-carb breakfast dishes out there but almost none of them are fitting when you're on the run... So this weekend, when you are not working, try this recipe. Or, fix it for dinner as my wife and I did last night. Sorry, but I didn't snap a picture before eating.

Each serving is enough to amply cover two slices of toast or 4 biscuits. Don't forget to add the carbs for whatever bread you are using.

Serves 2 @ 4.5 net carbs per serving.

Ingredients:

1 package dried beef (not jerky)
4 oz cream cheese
1 c. Hood calorie countdown
pinch of cayenne pepper
Pepper (to taste)

Instructions:

Put cream cheese, hood, and spices in sauce pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until melted. Whisk vigorously until smooth. Chop up dried beef and add to mixture. Change temp to medium-low and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until thick. Serve over low carb toast or low carb biscuits.

Sugar Alcohols

Vickie at Kickin' Carb Clutter has recently made a great post regarding sugar alcohols (click here to read her post).

I haven't discussed this topic here in quite some time. I often see people doing low-carb diets who are eating thes "low carb" products unaware that the sugar alcohols will sabatage their diets. They see 0 or 1 net carbs and think that they can eat as much as they want.

You'll find that most products advertised as low carb will boast the "net carbs" on the front of the package. This is very misleading as they typically subtract sugar alcohols from the total carbs. Sugar alcohols are partially metabolized by the body. Therefore, you should not subtract all sugar alcohols all from your net carb count. A good rule of thumb is to calculate net carbs by subtracting fiber and only 1/2 of the sugar alcohols. Regardless of the government's stance on sugar alcohols, advertising these products with a very low net carb is deceptive and bordering on fraud. And, it could be life threatening to those with diabetes.

Typically low carb ice creams boast about 3 net carbs per serving, but I usually count them as 5 or 6 net carbs due to the sugar alcohols. Candy boasting 1 net carb, I often count as 3 to 5 net carbs. Don't let the package fool you! Always do your own calculations!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carb Cycling Benefits

As I have said before, I have no formal education in the area of nutrition. Like many of you, I fish through tons of diet information on the Internet looking for what seems logical. The following information is from the website of a Dr. Malkov, author of "The Carb Cycling Diet". I have not read his book (yet) and am not following his plan. But, the website does a good job of explaining the basic concept of carb cycling.

According to CarbCycling.com, there are four key benefits of a carb-cycling diet (CCD):



CCD reduces refined carbohydrate consumption. That alone gives your pancreas the luxury of a well-needed rest and prevents diabetes and cardiovascular complications.

After sessions of hormone releasing exercise, CCD boosts the level of anabolic hormones — HGH, and testosterone; and that's exactly what you need! When the diet is followed faithfully, it provides powerful anti-aging and health protecting
benefits.

CCD prevents rapid slowdown in metabolism associated with dieting and aging.

CCD prevents loss of muscle and bone.

Carb Cycling Question

I received the following e-mail from a reader:

All I can say is WOW. Your story sounds alot like mine- except- I am
female and 48 years young.

Would you mind explaining the CARB
CYCLING and how it works? I am very frustrated and do not want to stop
eating low carb but when you do not lose any weight for
weeks...

Thanking you for your wonderful stories of
inspiration. You and your wife are my new HERO'S. You both are proof
low car works.


My response follows....

No problem. And, thanks for the compliments. First, let me say that I am not a professional nutritionist nor doctor. All I know I have learned from books, online, and experimentation.

With regards to cycling. Usually carb cycling is used by body builders. They alternate low carb and high carb with the high carb days corresponding to their heavy workouts. These cycles are typically very short, often just a few days. They often refer to the carb-up days as "re-feeds". Even though I don't work out with weights, I looked at the body builder diet methods because these people typically have extremely lean bodies with lots of muscle and little to no fat.

I have also been reading online diet logs and discussion forums. I have noticed that most people doing Atkins and Protein Power lose a tone of weight the first few months and then the weight loss slows substantially and often results in stalls of weeks or months. It seemed to me that the body adjusts to the diet and the metabolism slows down to conserve energy and hang onto fat storage. Carb Cycling seemed like a logical means to keep the body from conserving energy.

My first experiment was about a month long and used a cycle of low-carb weekdays and high-carb weekends. I'd quickly gain 5+ pounds on the carb-up days and it'd fall off very quickly on the carb down days. I attribute this to water retention as carbs seem to make your body hold more water. I'm not sure if this is the carbs or the salt content in carby foods. I did not gain any weight but lost very little. It took my body about 3 days to slip into ketosis which only left 1 or 2 days for real fat loss.

Next, I adjusted the cycles. I wanted more time in ketosis, so I went to a two week cycle. This cycle consisted of 11 days low carb followed by 3 days high carb. Essentially, my wife and I took every other weekend off the diet. On the carb-up days, we ate whatever our bodies craved and often ate decedent desserts. My results doing this was a loss of about 5 pounds per month, the same as I was losing doing low-carb-all-the-time. One interesting difference is that I consistently lost almost exactly 5 pounds a month where-as on low-carb-all-the-time (excluding the first few months), I sometimes lost 10 pounds and sometimes lost nothing. But the average monthly weight loss was the same.

In conclusion, I can't tell you that carb-cycling works better. My personal experience is that my average weight loss is the same as on low-carb-all-the-time. But, it allows me more flexibility. If a diet is to be a way of life that you stick to forever, I need a lifestyle with flexibility. Carb cycling gives me this flexibility.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Peanut Butter Mousse - 7.2 net carbs per serving

Saturday, during a carb-up day, my wife brought home a peanut butter dessert from Logan's Steakhouse. I thought it tasted pretty good and that I could possibly make a low-carb version. My version turned out soooo good! This goes together in just a few minutes and it can be made ahead of time. The entire recipe without optional ingredients (not counting sweetener) is 28.9 net carbs (also called ecc) or 7.2 net carbs per serving. As a bonus, it is high in protein. Without optional ingredients, there are 39.3 grams of protein or almost 10 grams per serving.

Makes 4 servings @ 7.2 net carbs per serving.

Ingredients: (total 28.9 ecc, 39.3 protein)

1 1/2 c. heavy cream (10 ecc, 7 protein)
equiv. to 1 c. sugar *
1 t. vanilla (0.5 ecc, 0 protein)
1/2 c. peanut butter (18 ecc, 32 protein)
8 T. Plain whipped cream (0.4 ecc, 0.3 protein)

Optional Ingredients: (total 5 ecc, 3 protein)

4 T. roasted peanuts (add 5 ecc, 3 protein)
Walden Farm's Zero carb Chocolate Syrup

*I used 1/4 t. of Sweetzfree (0 carb, concentrated sucralose). Be sure to add the carbs if using other sweeteners. I suggest a Splenda quick pack which adds 4 net carbs (1 net carb per serving).

Instructions:
.
Put peanut butter in mixing bowl and whisk/beat until light and smooth. Add heavy cream, sweetener, and vanilla. Whisk/beat until light and stiff. Do not over whip. I have a whisk attachment on my Kitchen-aide mixer. You can use beaters but a whisk attachment will make it whip up in seconds as opposed to minutes. If desired, add 1 T. peanuts and chocolate syrup to each dessert dish. Next, spoon peanut butter mousse into dishes. This can be served now or refrigerated up to 24 hours. Top with plain whipped cream when ready to serve. Enjoy.

Pictures of Us Then and Now

On year ago...


Now, August 2007...


These pictures were taken one year apart. At the time the bottom picture was taken, I was down about 80 pounds and my wife was down about 60.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Salmon and Swiss Cheesecake - 3.6 net carbs

Cheesecakes do not always have to be sweet. I made this salmon and swiss cheesecake last night and my wife and I had it for breakfast. It was fantastic! The creamy tartness of the cheeses compliments the salmon. Served warm, this cheesecake is similar to an ultra fluffy and creamy quiche. Prepare the cheesecake ahead of time and you've got a quick and elegant brunch to serve later.

The salmon you use should be fully cooked. I would not recommend using canned salmon. I used a vacuum sealed packet containing a smoked filet. Most grocery stores carry this near canned tuna.

The entire cheesecake, crust and all has 36 net carbs.

Makes 10 servings at 3.6 net carbs each.

Equipment:
9" Spring form Pan
Electric Beaters
Pastry Cutter or Food Processor


Crust Ingredients (12 net carbs):

1 c. almond meal
1/2 c. soy protein powder (plain, not vanilla)
2/3 stick butter.

Filling Ingredients (24 net carbs):

24 oz. cream cheese at room temp (3 eight oz. packages)
3 eggs
2 T. heavy whipping cream
3 to 6 oz smoked salmon.
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a pastry cutter, combine crust ingredients until crumbly. If you don't have a pastry cutter, you can use a food processor's pulse button. Press mixture into bottom of spring form pan.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and whipping cream. Beat until mixed well and smooth.

Break up salmon and add to filling mixture. Add Swiss cheese. Stir by hand. Pour into spring form pan.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Then reduce heat to 275 and cook 1 additional hour.

When done, turn oven off but do not remove cheesecake. Allow to cool in oven for an hour or so before moving to the refrigerator. Cooling too fast could result in cracks.

To serve, cut a piece and put on microwave safe plate. Cook in microwave on high for 35 seconds. It is best eaten warm.

Back in the Saddle Again

Yes, I fell off the wagon, but only for 3 weeks. I'm now back on board, 15 pounds heavier plus an inch wider around the waistline. Because of the increased circumference, I can't blame carb induced water weight. But, that's okay. As I approach my goal weight, I need to know my limits. After reaching goal, I'm not going completely off the diet. For a maintenance plan, I intend to do further tinkering with carb cycles so that I can get the best of both worlds while keeping a good balance overall.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Cleaning out the closets

Today, I have been working on cleaning out my closet. It was overflowing with clothing much of which didn't fit. And, it was beginning to become difficult to find the clothes that did fit well. Part of me wants to just throw away all of my "fat" clothes. But a small nagging voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I may need them again some day. There are actually a few outfits that I will miss.

In the process, I also found a box of "too small" clothes from six years ago that now fits again. And, I found a really cool pair of dressy black cargo paints my current size with the tags still on. I guess that these must have been a Christmas gift that didn't fit at the time.

My wife went through this process a couple of months ago. The result is that we now have a garage full of boxes and bags of clothing that don't fit. Some are destined for the attic and others are destined for either a garage sale or a Goodwill donation.