Every week or two, some new low carber subscribes to one of the lists I’m on, asking for advice on how to get started. The overwhelming response from more experienced low carbers is, “BUY THE BOOK!”
I, too, believe that trying to switch to a low carbohydrate lifestyle without reading up on it is like trying to ride a bicycle through a maze blindfolded. You need a foundation for anything you do, and low carbing is certainly no exception! Get yourself a copy of Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, or Protein Power, or whatever low carbohydrate plan you’ve chosen. If you don’t know what plan you want, get the books out of the library, read, compare the plans, and then buy the one you want to follow so you’ll have it around as a handy reference.
But what happens when you’ve read the book (whichever book you’ve decided on) and it seems SO different and SO overwhelming that you just can’t imagine giving up bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, bananas… and that morning donut?
Every journey begins with a first step.
Dr. Atkins recommends spending your first two weeks in the very strictest phase of his program before going on to the easier phases. How many people have read that and said, “I can’t! It’s too hard!”? Make no mistake, it IS hard. But those who can do it, find it very rewarding.
Still, if you’re one of those who just CAN’T do Induction, or CAN’T give up “everything” all at once, that’s no excuse not to strive for a low carbohydrate lifestyle. Whether you get there by the shortest, steepest route, or whether you climb the mountain by going round and round the road that gradually winds to the top, the view is the same.
So, you ask, how can I start low-carbing if I can’t give up everything all at once?
For me, the answer was to first decide to give up sugar and refined flours. Out they went. Next went bananas and whole grain breads and pastas, then lastly most fruits and starchy vegetables. This process took me several weeks, but there’s nothing wrong with you if it takes several months. Everyone is different, every body is different, and if you need to gradually remove sweet and starchy foods from your regimen, rather than going cold turkey, then that’s what will work for YOU.
Even now, if I’ve slipped off-plan for more than a day, I have a horrid time trying to jump back on. When that happens, I start out at maintenance levels and slowly cut back from there. I may not drop weight quickly, but I can still enjoy all the health benefits of a low carbohydrate lifestyle.
But… but… what do I DO when the donuts call my name???
Like the Boy Scouts, low carbers have to “Be Prepared.” Ideally, we need to eat real, minimally processed foods – but we’re human beings, not blueprints. What’s ideal isn’t always realistic.
If you know you are going to be in a tempting situation, make sure you are either so full that you couldn’t possibly stuff in a bite of whatever is tempting you, or have some yummy alternatives handy. My substitute for those donuts is a couple of homemade flaxseed muffins, which I make in a variety of flavors. (Today’s is Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip!) They are very low in carbs, and while some might consider them a trigger food all on their own, I find them to be a very satisfying alternative that pleases my sweet tooth without setting off sugar cravings. The basic flaxseed muffin recipe I use is below.
Other “legal” snacks that can be helpful in food-filled situations include raw veggies (celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini/yellow summer squash, scallions, and (in moderation) carrots and tomatoes, with or without a sour cream-based dip or ranch dressing. Deli turkey, ham or roast beef, perhaps wrapped around a bit of cheese with some mayonnaise and/or mustard. Hard-boiled, or deviled, eggs. Fresh blueberries or strawberries, which are not carbohydrate-free but pack a great nutrient punch for the number of carbs they contain. In a pinch, a protein bar can be a great filler-upper. (In a classic case of “Every Body Is Different,” some people’s metabolisms react to the glycerol, glycerin, and malitol in the bars as carbs, while some don’t.)
One more thing that can be a great comfort to a new (or old) low carber is a reduced-carb bread. There are a number of recipes available, as well as bread machine mixes, but if you’re like me and can’t stand the thought of paying big bucks for a mix that makes a tiny loaf you’re supposed to shave into 16 or 24 or 32 itty-bitty slices, try reading the labels on the “Light” or “Lite” or “Diet” breads in your supermarket. One serving (2 slices) of Country Hearth Lite Wheat bread contains 12 grams of carbs, 4 of which are fiber. My limited mathematical ability makes that out to be 4 grams of non-fiber carbs per slice. Not bad for a couple-times-a-week treat! Other brands may be slightly higher in carbs, but you can figure it out by reading the labels.
Above all, remember that low carbohydrate eating is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. It is not a “diet” as that word is normally used. That means that each of us has to find ways to live with it that work for us as individuals, and as families. As long as you’ve got the basics down (READ THE BOOK!), it is up to you to adjust and adapt your way of eating to fit your lifestyle, and vice versa.
Happy Low Carbing!
Basic Flaxseed Muffins
- 1 cup flaxseed meal (*** See note below.)
- 1/2 cup plain unflavored protein powder (I use Designer Protein, which is a whey powder.)
- 1 cup granulated (or 24 packets) Splenda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup walnut meal or pecan meal (***See note below.)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup DaVinci syrup, your choice of flavor (Use vanilla for plain muffins.) (*** See note below.)
- 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add wet ingredients and whisk with a wire whisk until thoroughly moistened. Let stand for a few minutes to thicken, if necessary.
Spray a nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray, or grease with shortening. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22-28 minutes.
Banana Walnut – use only 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus 2 teaspoons of banana flavor extract. Use banana flavor DaVinci syrup. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts to batter. I’ve also added 1/2 cup low carb chocolate chips. (Available from CarbSmart.com.) (Andrew, insert the link to the chocolate chips here.)
Blueberry – Add 1/2 dry pint fresh blueberries to the batter. Fresh berries work better than frozen, trust me on this one.
Chocolate – Add 2-3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder to the dry ingredients, and use chocolate DaVinci syrup, or try half chocolate and half caramel syrups.
Cinnamon Spice – Add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients, and use half cinnamon DaVinci syrup and half gingerbread flavor DaVinci syrup.
**Note: Flaxseed meal, which is known in the UK as linseed meal, is available in many health food stores and specialty groceries, or from Carbsmart.com. It should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, particularly after opening. If you prefer to make your own flaxseed meal, you can buy whole flax seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder.
CarbSmart also carries all the available flavors of DaVinci sugar free syrups.
Meg is the listowner of LC Muffin Mania, which you can find at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LCMuffinMania.