Do you feel like you eat healthy but still can’t lose weight? You’ve cut back on greasy foods and avoid salt but the scale won’t budge? Perhaps a low carb (short for carbohydrate) diet is right for you. Popularized in the 90’s through diet books like Atkins and South Beach these diets turned the traditional weight loss advice on its head.
The USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid advocated for a diet heavy in grains and starches like bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice. However, during that time the numbers of overweight and obese Americans skyrocketed. Low carb diets advocate cutting out sugars and starches and focusing on lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. Depending on the plan, moderate amounts of fruit, whole grains, and dairy foods may be included.
Ready to start on a low carb diet? Begin by first cutting out sugary foods. This includes desserts like cake, cookies, ice cream, and candy. Try eating fresh fruit instead for dessert such as raspberries or strawberries. Breakfast foods like muffins, pastries, and doughnuts are also high in sugar. Other high carb breakfast offenders include bagels, pancakes, and waffles. Instead have eggs, plain Greek yogurt, low fat cheese, or oatmeal. Supplement with fresh fruit or nuts to make
it more filling.
The next step is to stop drinking sugary beverages. Most people immediately think of soda but this also includes sweetened iced teas, lemonades, sports drinks, and vitamin enhanced waters. If in doubt check the Nutrition Facts label and keep sugars to 5g or less per serving. Even the natural sugar in fruit juice and smoothies counts when you’re following a low carb diet. Stick with mostly plain water and seltzer and if you get bored an occasional diet soda or iced tea won’t hurt.
Of course, if we’re talking about eliminating sugar you’ll have to change what you use to sweeten your tea or coffee. Many people think that brown sugar is a healthier choice than white sugar but in terms of carbs it’s all the same. Honey and syrups are also no-no’s on this plan. Many people turn to artificial sweeteners like Splenda® or Equal®. If you’re looking to go the more natural route stevia has become more widely available. It’s commonly sold under the brand names PureVia®, Truvia®, and Sweet Leaf®. If you don’t like the taste of sugar substitutes you can always get used to drinking your coffee or tea plain or with just milk.
The final and often hardest step when following a low carb diet is to cut out starchy foods. The most common are bread, rice, and pasta especially the white refined kinds. Also be weary of potatoes, yams, plantains, crackers, and cereals. If you’re ready to majorly overhaul your diet you’ll want to cut out all of these foods. If that’s too difficult cut back on how often you eat them or try eating them in smaller amounts. If you’re going to keep starchy foods in your diet choose only whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, and high fiber cereals without added sugar.
Low carb diets aren’t for everyone. If you have a pre-existing health condition like diabetes, high cholesterol, or kidney disease speak to your doctor first. For more personalized help seek out a Registered Dietitian. Some people feel fatigued, irritable, or shaky as their bodies go through carb withdrawal. After a week or two their bodies will likely adapt and the cravings will subside as they embrace the low carb lifestyle. If you’re ready to begin, try this recipe for Broccoli, Chicken, and Almond Sauté. Bon appétit!
Broccoli, Chicken, and Almond Sauté
The amounts are estimates, adjust to your taste.
• 1/2 lb to 3/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
• Kosher salt
• Olive oil
• Your favorite spice rub for grilling (optional)
• 1 lb broccoli florets
• 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes (more to taste)
• 1/3 to 1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
• 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
• Freshly ground black pepper
1 Put a 2 quart pot of salted water (about 1 Tbsp of salt) on to boil. While the water is heating, start the chicken cooking in the next step.
2 Place the chicken breasts in a bowl and sprinkle seasoning on all sides. Use at a minimum some salt. Or if you have a favorite spice rub, you can use that too. Heat a grill pan, or prepare a grill, for high, direct heat. (If you don't have a grill pan or grill, use a cast iron skillet, and only season the chicken with salt.) Rub some olive oil all over the chicken breasts. Grill the breasts for a few minutes on each side to get some nice char marks, then lower the temperature to low and leave on the grill until the breasts are just almost cooked through. They'll cook a little longer in the sauté pan, so they can still be a little pink in the middle at this point. Remove from pan or grill, set aside for a minute, then thinly slice.
3 Once the chicken has cooked and the water is boiling, add the broccoli florets to the salted boiling water. Allow the water to come back to a boil, and once boiling again, let cook for about 1 minute. Drain.
4 Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan on high heat. Add the red chili flakes. Once the red chili flakes are sizzling, add the broccoli florets, sliced grilled chicken, and toasted almonds. Drizzle dark sesame oil over the broccoli and chicken, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss and cook until all of the chicken pieces are no longer at all pink in the center, a minute or two.
Yield: Serves 4.
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