Wednesday, August 27, 2008

At the grocery store...

If you've already read my post about Foods to Avoid, then hopefully you caught the part about not focusing too much on what you can't eat and trying to focus on all that you can eat (an upcoming post). That being said, a good strategy at the grocery store can help you stay on track, avoid unnecessary temptation, and make the most out of your time spent shopping.

Rule number one:
Most of your time spent in the grocery store should be on the perimeter or the outside edge of the store. That's where all the really healthy stuff is: vegetables, fruits, nuts, cheeses, meat, and eggs. All those extra aisles in the store house all the empty calories you should avoid in the form of cereals, chips, crackers, sweets, pasta, etc. You don't need any of that.

Rule number two:
Some of the inside aisles do have some healthy stuff, but you have to know where to look. Canned vegetable aisles are good if you need some canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste or some other canned low-carb veggie (pass on the corn and peas). The condiment aisle is a good one to hit too. There you'll find mayonnaise, mustard, salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. I buy regular "real" mayonnaise, it has sugar, but very little. When buying mustards, dressings, etc. watch out for added sugars. Pass on mustard that has more than 1 gram of sugar per serving, dressings with more than 2 grams of sugar per serving, and sauces that have more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. These are rules of thumb, you'll develop your own judgment as time goes on, but for now, use mine.

Rule number three:
You're going to buy lots of fresh healthy foods. You can save a lot by shopping smart. Watch your local grocer's specials on meats. Every few weeks they'll have boneless skinless chicken breast on sale, then the next week they'll have some kind of steak on sale, then they'll have burger on sale. If you only buy when the stuff is on sale, then you'll save a bundle. I wait for these sales, buy a couple extra packs of whatever and pop them in the freezer for later. Fruits and veggies go on sale in the same way. You may not be able to freeze and thaw them in the same way, but you can certainly buy the stuff that's in season or on sale to save yourself some dough. I've found that going to a pick your own farm or a farmer's market is a great way to get the super freshest affordable fruits and veggies. Check out for where to find your local PYO.

I'd love to give you a dozen more rules, but I can't. It's really that simple. Just stay on the outside edge of the store, pop into only the aisles you need for some dressings and sauces, and grab the stuff you buy the most of, meats and veggies, when it's on sale. Buy local whenever you can to save some green and be green.

If you have some ideas or tips to save some green or be more green, drop me a comment or send me an email at


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Low-Carb Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

This recipe is one that I adapted from a mediocre low-carb brownie recipe and a really good low-carb muffin recipe. These cupcakes are so good that they don't need any frosting, but for the occasional extra-special treat our family loves these with a scoop of chocolate low-carb ice cream, Carb Smart and Edy's No Sugar Added are decent choices, but don't overdo it.

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 ounces baking chocolate (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sucralose (Splenda)
  • 1/2 cups erythritol
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 1/4 baking powder
  • 1 1/4 baking soda
  1. Put the butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.
  2. Remove and stir.
  3. Continue to heat until chocolate is completely melted, stir every thirty seconds.
  4. Add sucralose and erythritol to the chocolate and stir to combine.
  5. Add cream, eggs, and pumpkin to the chocolate mixture and stir until blended.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine almond flour, baking powder, baking soda. Stir until blended.
  7. Combine the chocolate mixture and the almond flour mixture and stir until completely blended.
  8. Spray a 12-cup muffin with cooking spray.
  9. Coat muffin cups with almond flour.
  10. Fill all the muffin cups evenly.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  1. You can substitute some or all of the sucralose for erythritol, but I wouldn't subsitute any of the sucralose with erythritol.
  2. Look for erythritol in th natural foods section of your grocery store or look for it at a natural foods store near you. For you locals, Shaw's in Dover, NH has it in the Natural Foods section and The Herbal Path Natural Pharmacy in Dover, has it as well.
  3. Good almond flour is a bit harder to find. Bob's Red Mill makes some, but I find it too coarse. Making your own is easy, I'll post that recipe as well, or you can buy it at Trader Joe's. I find the brand they sell to be as good as the stuff I make a home with no waste. For you locals, there's I think the closest Trader Joe's is in Peabody, MA.
  4. If you don't want to use almond flour to coat your pan, I recommend, in order, coconut flour, soy flour, whole grain pastry flour, white flour. If you use some kind of wheat flour, be aware that you'll add a few carbs and the recipe will no longer be gluten-free.

PS. Don't fear the fat!

UPDATE 10/29/2008: I have decided that the only way to go with this recipe is to increase the chocolate to 6 ounces of baking chocolate, increase the cream to 1/3 cup, and increase the sucralose to 2 cups. I experimented with this enhancement to the recipe and my wife liked it a lot. She liked them so much that the next time we had a batch, she said " didn't add the extra chocolate this time...?" I realized she was right and promised to make only the super chocolatey recipe from now on.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Foods to Avoid

When trying to make a major lifestyle change like this it's far better to focus on what you should eat instead of what you shouldn't eat. You can check out that list under the label "Foods to Eat".

Having said that you shouldn't focus on what you can't eat, it's important that you understand some of the foods that could be stumbling blocks for you and how to read ingredient labels so you know what to avoid.

First let's start by talking about the major foods and food groups you'll want to avoid to improve your health and lose weight. One important thing to understand is that in the beginning you need to be more strict with yourself until you can find your personal "happy place" with carbohydrate consumption. I'll give you my individual take on this after I explain the basic rules. Also, I won't go into the science here, just the basics on what foods to pass on.
  1. Grains - white, brown, or otherwise you'll want to skip these. That means avoiding rice, wheat, oats, corn (a grain, not a vegetable). Basically anything made with flour, anything breaded, pasta, any cereal is off limits. There are a couple low-carb cereals out there, but if you're just starting out, I'd skip them unless you absolutely can't find anything else to eat.
  2. Sugars - this on is trickier than grains. Sugar goes by many names, but a good rule of thumb here is that anything that ends in -ose is a sugar. The exception to this rule is sucralose, an artificial sweetener also known as Splenda. When you read an ingredient label look for: high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, lactose, galactose, fructose, cane juice, evaporated cane juice, and beet sugar. All of those should be avoided.
  3. Starchy vegetables - potatoes and sweet potatoes. Both of these pack a big carb punch and you ought to avoid these completely. As you get close to your goals, you may be able to have the occasional sweet potato, but don't load it up with marshmallow, sugar, or syrup as some do. Sweet potato fries are a super special treat to indulge in as you get close to your goals.
  4. "Sugar-free" or "No sugar added" or "low-glycemic" foods - I know these seem like they must be on the wrong list, but they're right where they ought to be. First off, beware foods made for diabetics. They are often made with fructose, fruit sugar. I don't believe that fructose is particularly problematic when consumed in the form of whole fruit, but refine it and use it to sweeten things and you've got some bad news. I promised not to go into the science here, but let me warn you that too much fructose will increase your blood fats like triglycerides. Don't trust me, look it up on one of the sites in the blogs list. Skip agave nectar and other fruit juices or concentrates. Some of these products may be okay, but it will all depend on the individual consumer and how the product is sweetened. If it is sweetened with anything ending in -ose (other than sucralose), that means it really is sugar, just not counted that way by the FDA/USDA. If the product has ingredients like glycerin, aspartame, acelsufame potassium, or ingredients ending in -ol (sorbitol, maltitol, lactitol) then it is probably safe for moderat consumption. I find it best to retrain your sweet tooth to get used to fruits or some dark chocolate as a sweet treat, but, to each his own.
  5. Legumes - peas and beans. This are nowhere near as insidious as grains and sugars, but for those of you who have a lot of weight to lose or your health has a long way to go, you may want to lay off these until you learn a little more about how your body reacts to different levels of carbohydrates.
The best rule of thumb is that you don't eat anything not on the list of "Foods to Eat". Remember that this is a learning experience about yourself, so feel free to experiment with what works for you, but don't let yourself believe that eating some grains or sugar every once in a while will help keep you on the plan. For most people, this will derail you very quickly because you'll probably feel really crummy and your cravings will go through the roof.

Now for how I have applied these to my lifestyle. I pass on the diet drinks. I think they perpetuate sweet cravings and may, depending on who you ask, sabotage you long-term success. The only grains I eat are the occasional low-carb whole wheat wrap made by Mission, found in the refrigerated section of your supermarket. I enjoy fruit in moderation, the occasional "no sugar added" ice cream, and once in a great while dark chocolate.

My experience tells me it is best to avoid anything sweetened and all grains for the first month. Your cravings will be intense for the first few days if not longer, but if you push through it and commit yourself to try it for a couple weeks, I think you'll find that your cravings and hunger will diminish substantially.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Low carb mythology: The Beginning

If you decide to embark on a low-carbohydrate lifestyle, I can assure you that you will hear a whole host of reasons why you shouldn't do it. In fact, you may believe some of those myths as you read this. I once did, even after I had been eating this way for some time. Read on if you're interested in exploring some of the existing low-carb mythology.

Myth: The diet is all meat, cheese, and eggs.
Truth: Depending on your preferences and your personal tolerance for carbohydrate consumption you'll eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beef, poultry, pork, seafood, eggs, and cheeses. If you're interested in seeing one person's take on a low-carb diet, then check out my "What I Eat" blog.

Myth: All that saturated fat is bad for you.
Truth: There's really two myths rolled up in one here. First off is the assumption that the fat from beef, poultry, pork, eggs, and cheese is all saturated. The truth is, it's not. Much of the fat from beef, poultry, and pork is unsaturated fats both poly- and mono-. Don't believe me, check it out from a source that gives the breakdown of the different fats such as the "Protein Power Lifeplan Gram Counter". The second half of this myth is that saturated fat is bad for you. I guess it depends on who you ask. If you want scientific information on this, I suggest reading "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, or checking out any of the blogs that I link to and searching on "saturated fat". I think you'll find some useful information. What I will say about the subject is two things: 1)Humans have eaten saturated fats for millions of years and have thrived doing it. Saturated fats are naturally occurring in animals and some plants. The newcomers to our diet are grains and sugar. More importantly, watch out for excess unsaturated oils in your diet from plants like soy, canola, corn, and other vegetable oils. Those are as unnatural as you can get. 2)Saturated fats may raise your LDL or "bad" cholesterol (there's more to this story that I'll post later), but when you avoid grains and sugar other important things will happen to your blood fats. Your HDL "good" cholesterol will go up, your triglycerides, another "bad" blood fat will go down. Some studies show that HDL to Triglyceride ratio may be a better predictor of heart disease than LDL to total cholesterol. Don't trust me, check it out.

Myth: A high-protein diet is bad for your kidneys.
Truth: Another two myths wrapped up in one here. First off, you won't be eating a high-protein diet, you'll be eating a high-fat, adequate protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Fat is your fuel, it's the gas in your engine. Protein is a basic building block of all your cells. You'll eat enough protein to maintain your body and possibly build some more muscle. Second, you can find studies where kidney function improved from higher protein intake. If you're kidneys have problems, talk to your doc before changing your diet.

Myth: The weight you lose is just water weight.
Of course you lose water weight, but you are going to lose fat too. All diets produce water weight loss initially. Between my wife and I we've lost over 100 pounds, I find it hard to believe we were toting around an extra hundred pounds of water. I have personally lost and kept off over 60 pounds. Any sane person has to believe that I couldn't have lost 60 pounds of water and still be alive. Trust me, I've lost a lot of fat too.

Myth: Eating that way will increase your risk of heart disease and/or cancer.
Truth: No it won't. There are civilizations from around the planet who have thrived and continue to thrive on this diet. African tribes, Native Americans, the Inuit are some examples of people that have eaten high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets and had no incidence of heart disease and/or cancer before they were exposed to a "civilized" diet. If you're overweight, obese, diabetic, have high blood pressure, or suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) you may benefit from eating a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.
If you want some more in depth information about the populations who have eaten these diets for a long time, check out "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes.

Myth: If you stop eating this way, you'll gain back all the weight you lost.
Truth: Sorry to say, this one is not a myth. It's the same truth whether you're on Weight Watchers, a low-fat diet, a low-calorie diet, or the grapefruit diet. The other truth is that if you find a healthy way of eating that you stick with for the rest of your life, with some opportunities for indulgence, you'll continue to reap the health benefits for the rest of your life.

The bottom line is that you need to evaluate for yourself what a low-carbohydrate diet is about, decide if it could work for you, and if those around you are concerned for your health, then work with your doctor to check out the things they are concerned about.

If you hear some low-carb mythology I haven't talked about here, add a comment or send me an email at

If you have a hard time convincing your family, friends, or doctor that this is the right thing to do for you or they don't believe it is safe, talk to me or some of the other readers here. We can help you work through their concerns and help you show them how it can improve your health.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Welcome to Low Carb New England

Welcome to the epicenter of the low carb blogoverse for the New England.

The topics will mainly be about diet and truths about nutrition that are rejected by many nutritionists, doctors, naturally skinny people, and people that don't want to give up being unhealthy.


PS. Don't fear the fat!