Friday, September 26, 2008

Let's chew the fat...

We need to talk about fat and your metabolism.

When you live low-carb, you inevitably eat more fat. You may doubt me, but you will need to eat more of it when you live low-carb. Think of it this way, the typical American consumes 200-400 grams of carbohydrate a day. That amounts to roughly 800-1600 calories a day from carbohydrate. When you're eating low-carb, you'll probably start by eating around 20-40 grams of carbohydrate a day, roughly 80 - 160 calories. That means you just dropped between 600 and 1500 calories a day from your diet. If you have loads of weight to lose, then this may work for a while, but the likelihood is you may need to replace some or all of those calories depending on how much weight you have to lose.

So you have two other macronutrients from which you can make up those missing calories, fat or protein.

Protein is an essential macronutrient because it is required for cell construction and all kinds of maintenance of structures and functions in the body. It is great for structures, but not so great as a fuel. Your body can convert protein to blood glucose as needed via a process called gluconeogenesis. That's what make carbohydrates metabolically unnecessary. You can eat enough protein to use some as fuel, but your body can only take so much before bad things start to happen. After a few posts about fat, I'll get to talking about protein, how much you need, and where it should come from.

Fat is an energy source just like carbohydrates. Just like carbohydrates, fats provide energy and have metabolic and health effects on the body. Unlike carbohydrates, fats do not require insulin to use the energy they provide. Insulin is a fat regulating hormone, among other things, and I explain the physiology of that process here and here. I'd read them in order.

When your body is metabolizing fat as it's main energy source it uses both free fatty acids from the blood stream and it converts some of the fatty acids in your blood to ketones and uses the ketones as it's energy source.

Now we have a foundation from which to build the discussion on fat. I have several more posts coming regarding fat metabolism, fat's effect on your health, fat fears, big fat myths, cholesterol, and fat facts.

As these posts come out, we need all of you who read them to chime in. I know there are people that are reading this because I've gotten a few comments, but we need more. Diet is an extraordinarily complex, controversial, and, in many cases, emotional subject. It needs to be talked about more. We need to have more open dialogue backed up by facts, anecdotes, and studies. If we can talk about this, maybe we can cut through some of the myths and misconceptions and remove some of the erroneous beliefs that are rooted in speculation.

This post may not be so controversial, but there will some real controversy and some conclusions that challenge convention over some of the upcoming posts.


PS. Don't fear the fat! (You'll need it)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Better Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is traditionally made with flour for thickening and served atop some sort of starchy side like egg noodles or rice. Traditional beef stroganoff doesn't really fit into a healthy low-carb lifestyle, but with a little tweaking we can make it so it can become a regular fixture on your low-carb menu.

  • 2 pound ground beef (75% - 8o% lean)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 beef bouillion cube chopped or crushed
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic thinly sliced
  • 3/4 large onion sliced
  • 8oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1.5 c sour cream
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  1. Brown the ground beef in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Remove the cooked ground beef from the pan and set aside, but leave any drippings in the pan. A slotted spoon works well for this.
  3. Reduce heat to medium.
  4. Add onions, mushrooms, and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions begin to get soft.
  5. Reduce heat to low.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and stir until blended.
  7. Add the cooked ground beef back to the pan and stir to combine.
  8. Season to taste as needed.
  9. Remove from heat.
I think this is great served over cauliflower rice. I posted the recipe for Cauliflower "Rice" - Plain so you'd have something to serve your stroganoff atop.

And in case you're wondering about thickening without using flour, you don't need to thicken since you're using a beef bouillon cube instead of a bunch of beef broth.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cauliflower "Rice" - Plain

One of the things to do when you adopt a healthy low-carb lifestyle is to make sure that you can still eat some of your old favorites without sacrificing your health and to try to find some healthy substitutes for food that may otherwise thwart your attempts to lose weight and be healthy.

You may not have loved cauliflower before you started low-carb, I didn't, but trust me when I tell you that you will learn that it is a wonderful substitute for all kinds of things from rice to rice pilaf to mashed potatoes, you can even use it to make pizza.

This is hardly a recipe, it's really just some directions for how to turn a head of cauliflower or a bag of frozen cauliflower into a substitute for a bowl of plain white rice. Once you've got your rice, you can top it with whatever you want.

Whether you've got frozen cauliflower florets or fresh cauliflower you should get equally good results. As you experiment, see if you have a preference. Frozen tends to be cheaper and, of course, has a longer shelf life. The quality of fresh seems to be better sometimes, so I get that when it's a good deal.

Enough with the chit chat, it's time for some directions.

Fresh Cauliflower:
  1. Cut off the stalk and the green stuff that's attached.
  2. Cut the head of cauliflower into 1.5" chunks. Don't worry about being exact, I'm just trying to give you some idea of how to cut it. If you've seen the size of frozen florets, that's about what you're looking for.
  3. Rinse the chunks of cauliflower with cold water.
  4. Put a steamer basket in a pan of water. The water should come up just to the bottom of the steamer basket.
  5. Put the cauliflower chunks in the steamer basket and put the pot over high heat, covered.
  6. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower begins to separate easily when a fork is inserted. When making cauliflower rice, it's better to under-cook than over-cook.
  7. Turn off the burner and remove the the pot from the heat.
  8. Drain the cauliflower and put it back in the pot.
  9. Put the pot back on the burner (but the burner better be off).
  10. Mash the cauliflower with a potato masher until it resembles the consistency of rice. Don't over-mash.
Frozen Cauliflower Florets:
  1. Put a steamer basket in a pan of water. The water should come up just to the bottom of the steamer basket.
  2. Heat the water boiling.
  3. Put the cauliflower florets in the steamer basket and cover.
  4. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower begins to separate easily when a fork is inserted. When making cauliflower rice, it's better to under-cook than over-cook.
  5. Turn off the burner and remove the the pot from the heat.
  6. Drain the cauliflower and put it back in the pot.
  7. Put the pot back on the burner (but the burner better be off).
  8. Mash the cauliflower with a potato masher until it resembles the consistency of rice. Don't over-mash.
So there's your basic cauliflower rice recipe.

I'll post some other cauliflower recipes at some point, but this will be enough to get you started.

My next recipe will use this, so I wanted to put it up first.


PS. Don't fear the fat! (but you won't find any in this recipe, so you'll need to add some)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

As a follow up to my most recent post...

I explained some of the "why" of why low-carb appears to be more effective for weight loss than other weight loss programs.

If you'd like to hear someone else explain it who has reviewed a great deal of research and wrote a wonderful book on the subject of diet and health which covers the subject in extraordinary depth without trying to sell you anything then check out this article on Mother Earth, a periodical all about living better.

Also feel free to check out these articles that Gary has written. The beautiful part about his writing is that he is interested in truth and challenging bad science, not selling diet foods, getting you to follow his diet, or treating patients.

What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?

Does Exercise Really Make Us Thinner?

I've read both of these articles and I enjoyed them both. There's more to the story than obesity. Gary also covers the science of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and other chronic illnesses in Good Calories, Bad Calories. I highly recommend reading it, but realize that it is lengthy and in depth. To quote Gary, "it is written for the intelligent layperson". If you don't find yourself interested enough to read it yet, please feel free to email me or post a comment if there is a particular health concern that you're interested in.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why low-carb and not something else? Part 2

Let's talk a little about why studies show that people are more successful on low-carb than on other approaches.

If you haven't noticed already, you're body is pretty good at holding onto weight once it gets it and if you're someone who has been challenged with being heavier than you'd like for a good part of your life, then you've probably noticed that your body may have an affinity for adding on extra weight even after you lose some.

From what I've learned by reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes where Gary cites well known medical facts as well as in depth of analysis of the studies that have been done to give us the currently accepted "healthy" diet recommendations. The main culprit is insulin.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas to help regulate your blood glucose levels as well as regulate fat storage and use.

To summarize how your body handles carbohydrates:
  1. Eat carbohydrates.
  2. Blood glucose levels rise as carbohydrates are digested.
  3. Insulin output increases to reduce blood glucose.
  4. Blood glucose gets moved to fat cells or to glycogen stores in muscle tissue.
  5. If you're a person who is predisposed to fat storage continue to step #6, otherwise stay skinny and fit.
  6. Energy levels drop because too much energy is moved to fat cells.
  7. Eat more carbohydrates because you're hungry, tired, etc.
  8. Repeat, starting with step 1.
So why does this happen to you and not others?

That's the million dollar question.

There are those of us who are predisposed to this from birth, it is simply a question of when the problem manifests. For some people it comes early in life for others it comes much later. Many people wrongly assume that the excess weight is because they're not as active as they used to be or that they just eat too much, but those are merely symptoms of the problem. For me the obesity came in my teens, but the lack of energy came much younger.

If you're overweight or obese, then you're problem isn't one of overeating or not exercising enough, it's a disease of excess fat storage. Your body is so good at storing weight that when you eat your body doesn't want you to use it, it wants to store it.

What happens?

Your body stores weight instead of telling you to go burn it off. You try to lose weight by eating less, or exercising more, but your body remains good at storing fat. If you eat less and your body is still good at storing, you may find it hard or impossible to lose weight or you may find that you lose it but are constantly hungry or tired.

Why do you gain the weight back?

Your body is still good at storing weight and it drives you to eat more so that you can maintain the fat storage.

Why doesn't exercise help?

If you exercise more, you think you can fool your body by not eating enough to make up for the exercise, but eventually your body continues to drive you to make up the difference and you obey because BIOLOGY RULES! You don't tell your body's biology how to work, it tells you what to do.

Why you've failed...
  • I have no (or not enough) willpower.
  • I must not be trying hard enough.
  • I'm just not disciplined.
  • I'm just lazy or unmotivated.
  • I know what you need to do, you just need to do it.
  • I am just predisposed to being overweight or obese and there's nothing I can do about it.

Have you ever thought any of the above?
Has anyone ever told you any of these?
Have you ever thought this of someone that was overweight or obese?

I have. About me and about others. I was wrong. If you answered yes to any of the question above, so are you. Think I'm wrong? Let's duke it out (verbally, of course). I love to debate this as I find the subject fascinating! Post a comment or send me an email.

Trying to resist your body's propensity for fat storage by reducing calories or exercising doesn't work for most people because BIOLOGY RULES! Let's say you need to go to the bathroom, but you can't find one, or you're busy, or it's the wrong time. What do you do? Your resist biology. You tell your body "this will have to wait". But you can only hold out so long. It doesn't matter the circumstances, eventually you will have to give in. It doesn't matter how inconvenient or inappropriate it would be, you will have to give in. Your body's drive to store fat is the same. You may resist for some time, but eventually you'll fail if your fat storage process stays broken.

So, why does low-carb work?
  1. If insulin regulates fat storage and use and insulin increases in response to carbohydrate consumption, then if you reduce carbohydrate consumption insulin production will fall.
  2. If insulin production falls then fat will be used for energy more easily.
  3. When stored fat is used for energy you will have more energy and need to eat less. Your body won't be constantly trying to put those calories away for later.
That is what makes low-carb different from any other diet. It may not be able to fix your broken fat storage mechanism, but it can work around it in a way like no other diet can.

Soon I'll talk about some of the challenges you'll face on low-carb and how to ensure your long-term success.

In the meantime, if you have questions about a particular dietary approach you want to talk about or need some advice or guidance on, feel free to write to me at

If you have success or failure stories to share, please post a comment. I'd love to hear about what's worked or hasn't worked for you. If you are trying to troubleshoot why you're not losing, let's talk about it and see if I or any of the other readers can help.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Should I be a vegetarian?

I was listening to NPR the other day and they covered a story about a U.N. recommendation to eat less meat to help reduce global warming. You can read about the recommendation on the Fox News site here.

This is one of the many moral quandaries I find myself in now that I have discovered how healthy I am on a low-carb diet.

The article is quoted as saying that a 2006 study done by the U.N. found that 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from methane released from cattle, sheep, and pigs. I can't contest that and I won't try. The suggestion from Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of the U.N.'s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that I heard on NPR was that there are also green house gases released from the production of feed for these animals as well. This logic makes sense to me as well.

I won't dispute the findings of this committee but I think people should always take any scientific "facts" cautiously and make sure they consider the case fully before drawing any conclusions and I must do the same.

Regardless of the rationale behind these recommendations, I agree with the spirit of the recommendation, although I have a slightly different idea of how we should reduce our consumption.
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri recommends "Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,". Dr. Rajendra Pachauri is a vegetarian and I can see how he would advocate this. I don't.

I do think we should try to minimize our waste of precious resources. For instance, instead of farming millions and millions of acres for soy, corn, and rapeseed (canola) to make "healthy" vegetable oils, we have an abundance of animal fats that are being wasted because they are perceived as unhealthy. I think we should go back to the way our ancestors used an animal and wasted nothing from it. Let's go back to putting real meat back in companion animal foods and get soy and soy byproducts out of our food.

If we're concerned about the environment and not just global warming, we need to reform our farming practices too. Farming corn is extraordinarily damaging to the environment, just Google "gulf dead zone" to better understand the effect of all the fertilizers from our corn farming. Also, check out "soy herbicides" to learn a little more about soy farming and all the herbicides it uses. Those can't be good for the planet either.

Where is the recommendation to help reduce the population? If people had fewer children and we were able to reduce the world population even a little, it would have an astounding effect on the environment. Can you imagine if we reduced the world population by even 1%? That would be 67 million fewer people making demands on our limited resources. Developed nations may eat more meat and drive more cars, but we also have fewer children and make a up a smaller portion of the world population.

If you're a person that is obese or overweight and you suffer from diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, a healthy low-carbohydrate diet could benefit your health.

To pass up the opportunity to be healthy and happy based on a recommendation like the recent one from the U.N. is crazy to me. I won't do it.

Here's what I will do. I will make sure that whatever resources I do use I will use as thoughtfully as possible and as conservatively as possible. I will try to use no more than I need. This should be a rule we all live by. Not just for food, but for everything. Energy, plastics, glass, metals, everything should be conserved.

I drive a compact car. I bike to work occasionally. I recycle. I buy local stuff sometimes. I chose to have only one child.

I try to make the most out of the life I've been given and I want to be the healthiest I can be while I walk the Earth. That's why I'm committed to a healthy low-carb lifestyle.

I won't give up meat. It's my life's blood and I need it, but I respect that there is a cost to it.

Your thoughts?


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why low-carb and not something else?

Why not just cut your calories?
Why not cut the fat from your diet?
Why not exercise more and eat less?
Why not allow yourself to have a little bit of everything, but do so in moderation?
Why not take a weight loss drug like Alli?

For that matter, why not go on the beet diet, the green bean diet, or the grapefruit diet?

These are questions you must consider before embarking on taking on a healthy low-carb lifestyle. Why? Because they are questions that will challenge your will along the way and they will jeopardize your progress and your health if you do not remain committed to your new lifestyle. If you don't buy it at first, it's okay, but trust me when I tell you that your long term success depends on your understanding of why this diet will help you lose more weight, maintain your weight loss, and stay healthier than other diets.

Let's talk about why you might follow some of the above diets:
  • You think that eating too many calories is responsible for your extra weight, thus cutting calories will help you lose weight.
  • Fat is bad for your health because it causes heart disease and it has lots of calories, therefore if you cut the fat, you'll lose weight.
  • You exercise more because if you burn more calories than you take in, you'll lose weight.
  • There's no such thing as a "bad" food as long as you don't eat too much.
I assume that like many others you have tried "dieting" and lost weight only to gain it back. Perhaps in the process, you've seen your health deteriorate in the form of diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and other blood fats), fatigue, varicose veins, edema (swelling), joint pain, or back pain.

Think about why you failed on those other diets. I'm betting it was one of a couple main problems with "dieting".
  1. You made changes you couldn't stick with and gave up.
  2. You couldn't take the chronic hunger.
  3. You felt chronically tired and out of energy because your body didn't have enough fuel to run on.
  4. Social pressure made you feel like you couldn't enjoy the same things as other people or made you feel awkward when around other people.
  5. The diet was too complicated and you got tired of keeping track of things or measuring things all the time or these things contributed to reason #4.
  6. When you're asked to give up certain foods, which you relate to happiness, you're back to reason #1 or #4 and giving up on your diet.
Many of us, me included, have tried diets where we lost weight. I bet we're not all that different.
  1. We lost some or all of the weight and we eventually fell off the wagon for one of the above reasons.
  2. You know that if you can just get back to what worked before, you'll lose the weight again.
  3. When you do eventually get back to trying that diet, it doesn't work anymore or one of the above throws you off before you make any serious progress.
  4. Repeat, starting with step 2. Skip step 1.
Over the next couple posts, I'll talk about what makes a healthy low-carb lifestyle different from other diets you've tried and how it can help you overcome some of these obstacles. I'll also talk about some of the challenges you'll still face when you choose low-carb and how to ensure your long term success.

In the meantime, if you have any stories to share about your failure or success, or challenges you'd like to discuss, feel free to tell me about it in a comment or by email at


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pulled Pork - Slow Cooking, but worth the wait

Start with a Boston butt pork roast. If you're not sure what this is, ask the person behind your butcher counter. The folks at my local Hannaford are always really friendly and helped me when I didn't even know I was looking for a Boston butt.

Don't be turned off by the name of the hunk of meat you're buying. It's not really a "butt" like the backside of a pig. A butt portion of a pig comes from the top part of the shoulder. Here's a link to the Wikipedia explanation if you're interested.

When you're ready to cook this, you can coat it with my spicy spice rub recipe or another great option is the Memphis Dry BBQ Rub from 500 Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender. I can't post the recipe as it would certainly be in bad taste for me to plagiarize and it would probably be illegal too. Pick up the book. Not all the recipes are winners, but there are a bunch of good ones. If you buy the book and you find some recipes you love, tell me about them with an email or post a comment. If you want to know my favorites, you can drop me a line or I'll eventually get around to posting about some of the low-carb books I've read.

Once you've coated your roast, you can either wrap it all up in foil to keep the moisture trapped, recommended if you're going to have to pull this apart another time, or you can set it out on a broiler pan and let the juices drip down. I've done it both ways. If you wrap it, more of your spice rub will come off in the accumulated moisture, if you don't your roast will have a nice spice crust on the outside and may be slightly more dry.

Roast at 225 F for 10 hours or until it reaches 175 F internal temperature, I did mine overnight. After ten hours, it's time to either put it away or pull the meat apart. The best way to pull it apart when it's hot is to use two forks and pull across the grain (the direction of the muscle tissue). If you start getting stringy chunks of meat pulling up with your forks, then you're doing it right. Sorry this is hard part to describe. Maybe I'll post some cooking videos sometime so things like this will be easier to visualize. If I don't do that sometime soon, someone nudge me and remind me what a good idea that might be. ;)

Once you've got your pork pulled, either add a little more of your desired rub sprinkled on top or use some reduced sugar BBQ sauce like Kraft's "Light Original" Reduced Calorie Barbecue Sauce or KC Masterpiece "Low Calorie Classic Blend". Both are worth trying, but my wife and I seem to prefer the Kraft one.

If you're looking to go all out BBQ, whip up some homemade cole slaw no milk, no sugar (Splenda instead) and you're good to go.

If you give this a try and have some questions or suggestions, drop me a line or post a comment. I'm sure others would be happy to hear what you have to say.

If anyone has their own low-carb recipes that you'd like to share with the world, feel free to send them my may and I'd be happy to post them and give you all the credit.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Spicy dry hot wings

This one's a simple recipe, but I absolutely love these and when I brought them to my company holiday party last year, they were a big hit!

The secret to making these great is long cooking time, plenty of seasoning, and turning the wings halfway through cooking.

I like to buy chicken wings when they get marked down at the store, but every once in a while I splurge and pick up a pack at full price. It's still cheaper than going out for wings!

First I make a double batch of the Delicious spicy spice rub recipe.

Next I start with a big tray of chicken wings from the supermarket. I think it's around 3 to 4 pounds of chicken wings. If you buy whole wings, as I do, trim off the little inedible part of the wing first, then cut through the joint between the drumstick and the wing piece, if you want.

Lay out the wings on a broiler pan or some other pan where the juices and fat can drain off.

Sprinkle the wings generously with the spicy spice rub and bake at 400 F for about 30 minutes.

Remove the wings from the oven, turn each wing over and sprinkle the unseasoned side with the spicy spice rub.

Return to the oven and bake for at least another 30 minutes, more if you like the skin really crispy. I usually bake for another 45 minutes to an hour after returning them to the oven because I love the skin really crispy.

Serve them with some ranch or blue cheese dressing, or do like I do and just eat 'em plain.

Have you tried this recipe? What did you think?


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Delicious spicy spice rub recipe

I have a delicious spice rub that I use for steak, wings, pork ribs, pulled pork, and any other meat you can think of. I bet it would be awesome on salmon as well. It's pretty spicy, but you can tone it down with less cayenne pepper if you like.

Can't you just buy a good spice rub? Sure you can, but it'll cost you and you need to watch out for sugar in all its form in store bought rubs. Save yourself some dough and some searching and give this one a try. It's an Alex original.

  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all spices in an empty spice container, cover tightly, and shake vigorously to combine.

Like I said, this has some kick to it, so if you're a little timid when it comes to spicy, you might want to lighten up on the cayenne pepper. If you're interested in mixing things up a little, you can substitute ground chipotle pepper for the cayenne pepper.

Let me know what you think of this recipe and how you used it.


PS. Don't fear the fat! (Not that there's any in this recipe, but don't fear the fat from whatever you smother with it)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

The meatball recipe was adapted from one a friend of mine gave me and the marinara sauce is adapted from a couple of different recipes I've come across over the years. This recipe is full of healthy protein, good for you fats from the flax and the meat, and vitamins from the tomatoes and meat.


Meatball ingredients
  • 3-4 lbs of ground beef anywhere from 75-85% lean is fine (don't fear the fat)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons minced/chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon basil
Marinara ingredients
  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (no sugar added)
  • 2 - 6 oz cans of tomato paste (no sugar added)
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce (no sugar added)
  • 2 tablespoons minced/chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (at least)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 packet sucralose (or 1/2 teaspoon of granular sucralose) (Splenda)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicier)

  1. Combine the onions, garlic, egg from the meatball ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until the mixture is fairly smooth.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground flax seed, meatball spices, onion/egg mixture, and ground beef. Mix by hand until the spices, flax, and spices are mixed throughout the beef.
  3. I make about 50 meatballs out of this each a little more than an inch in diameter. I think they are about 1/8 cup per meatball, but I don't worry too much about it.
  4. Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes then turn the meatballs so that they cook evenly and cook another 25 minutes. While the meatballs bake, make your sauce.
  5. Add the meatballs to the pot of sauce and cook on low for 30 minutes. Meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 165 F before you eat them.
  1. Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat briefly.
  2. With the saucepan over medium eat, add onion and garlic from the marinara ingredients.
  3. Once the onion begins to soften, add the two cans of tomato paste and stir to combine with oil, onion, and garlic.
  4. Add can of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  5. Add marinara spices and sucralose. Stir to combine.
  6. Reduce heat to low-medium heat and cover.
  7. Once the meatballs are done baking, add them to the saucepan and cook for about 30 more minutes. (same instructions as the end of the meatball directions)
  1. Canned tomato products are easy to find without added sugar. Avoid cans that say that they have basil and other things added to them. I usually buy the store brand, it's cheapest and it usually doesn't have added sugar.
  2. As long as you keep the sauce on low, you can simmer the meatballs as long as you'd like and the flavor of the sauce and the meatballs will just get better.
  3. You can find ground flax seed in the natural foods section of your local grocer or health food store. If you can't find it just ask. I purchase Spectrum brand at Hannaford. Flax is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acid and fiber. In this recipe it takes the place of breadcrumbs for a little filler, but you won't even notice it.
  4. Feel free to experiment and if you come up with some other ideas for how to improve this recipe, or you have some questions, feel free to post a comment or drop me an email
  5. My family loves these rolled up in low-carb wraps with provolone cheese. The low-carb wraps I like are Mission whole wheat tortillas found in the refrigerated section of your grocer. I find them at Hannaford and Shaw's supermarkets. La Tortilla makes a decent low-carb tortilla and so does Joseph's. They're also great without the wraps and covered with melted cheese.

PS. Don't fear the fat!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How to talk to your doc

Before you make any major lifestyle changes like changing your diet or starting an exercise routine it's important to talk to your doctor. I know you probably think that's probably the same load of baloney that you here all the time, but I'll tell you how I've talked to my docs about my lifestyle changes and what I saw for improvements in my health and I'll tell you why you ought to go to the doc before you start mixing things up.

Why you should go to the doctor before changing your lifestyle?
  1. You may have pre-existing conditions that you ought to be aware of before you start changing things up.
    Healthy low-carb living is all about figuring out what makes you feel the best and what improves your health the most. From day one, you'll be listening to your body and it's needs to decide what you need to do and eat. Only if you're truly informed can you make the best decisions.
  2. If you take medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. these conditions may begin to improve within days of starting your new lifestyle.
    It's important to let your doc know about your changes, so they can adjust your medication accordingly.
  3. Everybody loves 'before and after' pictures.
    Going to the doctor before you start changing your lifestyle is a great way to get a 'before' picture of your health and your follow up visits will be a great picture of your health 'during' your lifestyle changes. It's also a great chance for your doc to see a good example of what a healthy low-carb lifestyle can do for you!
  4. The low-carb lifestyle needs more advocates who know the truth about how low-carb can positively affect your health and an open dialogue with your doc is the best way to educate medical professionals and ensure your success.
    This may no be an easy conversation with your doctor because of their misconceptions about the low-carbohydrate lifestyle and their expectations about what will happen to your body when you adopt this lifestyle. To prepare for some of your doctor's misconceptions about your new lifestyle, check out my "Low Carb Myths" posts.
Now for my experience with my doctors:

After I reached a high of about 285 pounds and my wife reached a high of "too much for her" (I will respect her by not putting any numbers here), I decided to go talk to my doctor about what I could do. I had a general checkup done where they checked blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. I don't know what my blood pressure was, but I know that I saw another doctor one time shortly before I adopted the low-carb lifestyle and within a couple minutes, he said he wanted to talk about blood pressure medication the next time I cam back. My cholesterol was generally low, but my HDL was really low, my triglycerides were through the roof, and when I went to see an endocrinologist, he told me my blood sugar was "a little high". The endocrinologist warned me that if my weight didn't come down, I was probably heading for type 2 diabetes. His suggestion was that I try to reduce my carbohydrate consumption a little because most people eat 300-400 grams of carbohydrate a day and I ought to reduce that to about 200 grams. I asked if a low-carbohydrate diet would be an effective choice and he said it would work, but he didn't think I could stick with it.
I took his initial advice and listened to a friend of mine who suggested a diet of reduced carbohydrates. I quickly started feeling better and dropped 10 pounds in a week or two, but that was it. After a few weeks, I decided to get on the low-carb bandwagon whole hog. The next time I went back to my doctor, she noted that my triglycerides had come down substantially from somewhere above 200 to around 80. She also noted that I lost some weight and complimented me on whatever I was doing.

So now, my triglycerides are about 30 (spectacular), my HDL is around 60 (up about 100% from before low-carb), and my LDL is the same. My blood pressure is consistently around 120-130/70-80, pretty good overall, although sometimes it's as low as 110/70. I lost over 60 pounds from before I started low-carb and I maintain that pretty effortlessly.

I've recently been talking to my doc about some other issues I'm having which have persisted since I was a teen and I talked to her about what I've been eating, and she didn't really care as all my tests come out great.

How to prepare before you go to talk to your doc:
  • Do your low-carb research before you go to the doctor. Read one of the the great books on low-carb living such as Protein Power Lifeplan, Living the Low Carb Life,or Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution are great places to start. Also check out some of the other blogs I link to. If you want to be successful at improving your health while living a low-carbohydrate lifestyle, then reading at least one of these books is a must.
  • Know why you think low-carb will work for you.
  • What problems do you have that you hope will be remedied by living low-carb?
  • Don't forget to check out low-carb myths so you know what your doc will be concerned about. Remember, many of them have had very little education on the subject of nutrition and they hear all the same propaganda as you do about the "evils" of fat.
  • When your doc has objections, indicate your understanding of their concerns and ask what tests they could perform (within your budget) to confirm that you're living a healthy low-carb lifestyle. Your willingness to acknowledge their concerns will go a long way to ensuring your good health and your doctor's buy in to your lifestyle changes.
Have you been to the doctor? What was your experience like?
Know any New England doctors who are knowledgeable about the benefits of low-carb?
Any advice I missed here that you think is vital?

Your thoughts?


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Don't fall off the wagon, jump off and hit the ground running!

Once in a while we all need to take a break from the routine, but don't let yourself get to the breaking point before you decide to mix things up a little.

Despite all my ranting about the evils of grains and sugar and how they should be avoided at all costs because they are completely and utterly unnecessary, I think that it's important to occasionally indulge in some of the food that the rest of the world eats, if you feel so inclined.

Every once in a while, I blow the doors off my healthy eating plan and enjoy something I've been looking forward to for a while. It might be one meal, it might be a whole day, but it's rarely longer than that. Most recently I hit up some fried seafood with french fries which I haven't had for a long time. I followed it up with an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen, chocolate dipped of course.

Did I cave to cravings? Did I give up on a healthy diet? Did I decide that I just couldn't take low-carb one more day? Nope, nope, and nope.

When you have one of these moments, it's important not to do this on impulse. Don't cave for the birthday cake at an office birthday party that you planned to be strong through. Throw away your diet for a day or a meal when it will be really worth it and when you planned on it.

Look, you don't have to be saint every day for the rest of your life. Giving in to temptation because it's there is not a good idea period. If you're a drinker and you're trying to drink less, is it better to plan to have an occasional drink with friends or cave when you feel like you really need a drink? I'd say that letting yourself cave to your perceived "need" to do something or give in is a much less healthy prospect than planning to break the rules every once in a while.

The most important part of any break or indulgence is to get right back to doing the healthy stuff as soon as it's over. If you decide that you're going to break the rules for one meal, then make it one and only one meal. If you decide it's for a day, then when that day ends, so does your indulgence.

Finally, here's what you can expect, depending on how you've reacted to your new healthy diet.
  • If you've been really true to eating a healthy low-carb diet and you've lost some weight, feel healthier, and happier then you'll probably feel like complete garbage that day and/or the next day.
  • If you've had life changing results from low-carb and feel like a million bucks most of the time, have seen things like diabetes, cholesterol, and other chronic ailments improve then you can expect that day and maybe the next (or more) to feel like everything you were used to before.
  • If you've been only sort of committed to low-carb and have seen some modest improvements to your health then you may not feel so bad after your indulgence, but maybe a little less than your normal self.
  • Expect to potentially see a few pounds come back on. This is probably only water weight and should come off within a few days.
  • Expect cravings for all the stuff you're used to passing on, but do yourself a favor and go without. You'll feel better again in a couple of days.
I fall into the life changing group for this diet and find that an indulgence day ends up with me feeling bloated and uncomfortable after the indulgence and the next day. It hardly makes it an indulgence, but that's another conversation.

Your thoughts?


P.S. Don't fear the fat!