Low-Carb Cruise Speaker Removed from Ship Due to False Tweet

Friday, May 18, 2012
2012Greetings from the Low-Carb Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic! I will soon post my summary of our first day at sea, but first there was excitement that has been in some of the newspapers and even a few TV segments: one of our guest speakers, Dr. Jack Kruse, was booted from the ship before it sailed on Sunday, May 5, after a mysterious tweet implied he was planning a bioterrorism attack! Of course, the ship's captain had to take the threat seriously until proven otherwise. The FBI interviewed Dr. Kruse and at least one other member of our group. Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Galveston, TX police were also called in (I haven't heard reports of which agencies responded and in what way).

The Tweet, on an account called s**tkrusesays (expletive partially deleted), stated:"security confiscated dynamite. talk won't be as explosive as one at PaleoFx. still have vial of Legionnaires for epic biohack. #lccruise12."

(The reference is to a fake stick of dynamite Kruse used as a prop in his talk at the recent Paleo FX conference.)

In an NBC News interview (see video and story here), Dr. Kruse compared the experience to an episode of the television drama series "24", saying they searched all of his belongings every nook and crevice of his room aboard the cruise ship. Carnival offered to fly Dr. Kruse to the next port, but he elected not to take them up on it (possibly because two of our conference days, including the one for Dr. Kruse's scheduled talk, were Monday and Tuesday).

According to news media, the FBI is making progress on the case.

That excitement aside, soon I'll be bringing you lots of details about the cruise, including capsules of each of the talks, and some of my fascinating conversations with fellow low-carb cruisers. I've met so many interesting people, hearing of the great grassroots work being done to promote low-carb eating, and the many, many lives which have been changed, and probably even saved, by turning their backs on the carb-based diet we've been encouraged to follow.

Image c Debbie Hubbs

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Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 18, 2012
On Mother's Day, usually kids and spouses think of feeding Mom some high carb treats. But what if Mom's body really does better without all the sugar and starch? In that case, what would really be special is give Mom treats which are healthy for her. Here are some delicious, low-carb ideas for Mother's Day - I guarantee you that the Mom in your life will remember your thoughtfulness. If you are a mom, print out this Low-Carb Mother's Day page and place it strategically within the view of your loved ones. Bottom line requirement for Mother's Day - enjoy each other. That's the best gift of all!

Blueberry Coffee Cake Photo c Laura Dolson

Sample Mother's Day Ideas:

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Carbs in Fennel

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Fennel is a vegetable only recently catching on in the U.S. - mostly it has been associated with Italian cooking. It's in the same family with carrots and dill (its fronds look a lot like dill, in fact). Although the white bulb is usually the part that is eaten, the stalks and fronds are also edible. It has an anise-like flavor (if you don't like anise, slice the bulb very thinly and soak in ice water for a few minutes). Fennel seed can be used as a spice, and is popular in Italian and Indian cooking.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Fennel

  • ? cup sliced raw fennel: 2 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 1.5 gram fiber and 14 calories
  • 1 large bulb raw fennel (about 8 oz/half a pound): 10 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 7 grams fiber and 73 calories
  • 1 oz. raw fennel: 1 gram effective (net) carbohydrate plus 1 gram fiber and 9 calories

Glycemic Index for Fennel

As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of celery.

More Information about the Glycemic Index

Estimated Glycemic Load of Fennel

  • ? cup sliced raw fennel: 1
  • 1 large bulb raw fennel (about 8 oz/half a pound)): 5
  • 11 oz. raw fennel: 1

More Information About the Glycemic Load

Health Benefits of Fennel

Celery is a good source of Vitamin C, and a fair source of potassium.

More Information About Fennel at Calorie Count.


Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

United States Department of Agriculture. "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods - 2007. November 2007

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21.

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Low Fat Recipes for Mother's Day

Thursday, May 17, 2012
In my world, there are two Mother's Days: the U.K. one, known as Mothering Sunday, which falls in March, where I remember my mom (actually, "mum"), and the U.S. one, which is on May 13th this year, when my two girls will scurry about semi-furtively, planning some culinary masterpiece. It's been a few years since they proudly served brightly colored cereal drowned in chocolate milk, and burned toast. These days, they've become quite accomplished at making eggs and pancakes from scratch.

If it's your turn to treat mom this year, I have 10 low-fat Mother's Day recipes that should fit the bill, ranging from delicious breakfast or brunch options to dinner and dessert.

Crepes Photo c Fiona Haynes, licensed to About.com

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New Recipe: Low-Carb Biscotti

Thursday, May 17, 2012
altWant something to dunk into your tea or coffee? I've been working on biscotti lately, and have tried a whole bunch of different approaches. I decided since almond biscotti is traditional, the almond meal base was the best. I haven't come up with a chocolate one that I'm especially excited about, but chocolate CHIP - yes! I have plain and chocolate chip variations. These aren't super-sweet, although you could always add the sugar substitute of your choice. Hope you like these Low-Carb Biscotti (less than one gram net carb each).

Photo of Low-Carb Chocolate Chip Biscotti c Laura Dolson

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Chicken Caesar Salad

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Caesar salads can be huge fat traps with their creamy dressings and deep-fried croutons. Not this one. Make your own tangy, low fat Caesar salad dressing, and use either fat-free croutons from the grocery store or bake your own croutons.

Use rotisserie chicken for speed, or top your salad with slices of freshly grilled skinless chicken breasts.

Prep Time: 30?minutes

Total Time: 30?minutes


  • 1 large head of romaine lettuce, torn
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup fat-free or low fat croutons
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • .
  • Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt, drained (or fat-free mayonnaise)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed


Arrange torn Romaine lettuce in a big serving bowl. Top with chicken, croutons and sprinkle with cheese. Whisk dressing ingredients together and drizzle over salad. Gently toss until combined. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serves 4

Per Serving: Calories 188, Calories from Fat 39, Total Fat 4.5g (Sat 1.5g), Cholesterol 54mg, Sodium 328mg, Carbohydrate 11.3g, Fiber 2.3g, Protein 25.9g

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Low-Carb Cruise Day One

Thursday, May 17, 2012
2012Imagine a vacation where you not only get to visit exotic locales, snorkel in crystal-clear Caribbean waters, and relax in the sun, but meet over 270 low-carbers from all over the world, sharing stories and tips, eating together, and generally having a great time. Plus, all this is only the backdrop for three days of excellent speakers on various aspects of living a low-carb lifestyle.

This year the fun started before we even got on the ship, as on Saturday evening we shared a delicious low-carb meal at the local hotel where most of us were staying. We all got "goodie bags" with low-carb products and information. But the real treat was after the dinner when Tom Naughton, comedian and filmmaker of the great documentary Fat Head "roasted" each of the cruise speakers. It was a great introduction to the speakers, as well as getting us started on the fun part of the cruise. (Tom is a prime example of the fact that people actually learn more when they are relaxed and entertained.)

Sunday we embarked, and Sunday evening shared our first cruise meal together (our group is seated in the same section). Our waitress was at first a bit puzzled about our needs, but soon she was logging onto Google to learn about low-carb eating, so she could help us out. Each evening she enthusiastically tells us which items on the menu we can eat and which can be easily modified to be low in carb. That first night, many after-dinner conversations followed in little knots throughout the ship, including at the first of many karaoke gatherings.

Monday morning began the first day of speakers. As I've reported in my most recent blog post, Dr. Jack Kruse had been removed from the ship the day before due to a fraudulent "tweet", so instead four of our many knowledgeable low-carbers who weren't scheduled to speak filled in with shorter talks:

Valerie Berkowitz, registered dietician, diabetes educator, and author of The Stubborn Fat Fix said that the #1 factor in success is motivation. If you don't have that, you won't be able to find creative ways to consistently stick to your plan in stressful and difficult times. She suggested ditching the scale and using other measures of success. Also, brutal honesty with yourself is called for.

Dr. Mary Vernon, low-carb leader, educator of physicians, researcher, and co-author of Atkins' Diabetes Revolution - told the story of how frustrated she was as a physician when all the advice she was supposed to give her patients didn't work, which launched her on a quest to help them, and eventually has influenced the health of so many. She says, "If you do this, it works! If you keep doing it, it keeps working!" If you want your body to run as it should, you need to find the correct hormonal balance. Carb restriction works for two of the main hormones, but there are other ones.

Dr. Mike Fox, a specialist in infertility and woman's health, says that he sees pregnancy rates double or triple with carbohydrate restriction alone. He said it also works for many of the symptoms of menopause, especially when nutritional therapy is combined with other treatments.

Dr. Lauren Noel, a naturopathic physician, talked about how she turned her health around with nutrition. She advocated a nutrient-dense Paleo, gut-based approached, and says that "everything starts in the gut". She has a stool test done on everyone, and has her patients fill out a 15-page history. This way, she can identify the root causes of problems, and fine-tune the approach to the person. Dr. Noel finds that patients who have bad skin or are depressed are probably eating low-fat. She says that the standard American diet "is turning women into men, and men into women" by changing hormonal balance.

Next was our first "scheduled" speaker: Dr. Eric Westman, leading low-carb expert, researcher, and co-author of New Atkins for a New You. Dr. Westman's talk was "Debunking Myths About Low-carb Lifestyles". It was a user-friendly form of the lecture he's been giving to physicians. Some of the ideas he covered:

Myth: We need a certain amount of carbohydrate every day. Dr. Westman brought us through which tissues of our body need glucose, pointing out that of these, most can do just fine using ketones if your body is "keto-adapted" (used to using fat for energy instead of carbohydrate). For example, 80% of brain energy can be provided by ketones. The bottom line is that our bodies only need a small amount of glucose, which can easily be provided without dietary carbohydrate, as our bodies can make 210-270 grams of glucose per day through gluconeogenesis.

Myth: Low-carb diets are high in protein - Actually, people don't usually change the amount of protein they are eating all that much, although the percentage goes up as they naturally reduce the total calories they are eating.

Myth: Low-carb diets are too hard to maintain - Any chance is difficult, but people aren't given sufficient support in adopting a low-carb diet. When they receive that support, they are a lot more likely to be able to make the change. Also, if (for example) someone stops following their exercise program we don't say, "oh, well, I guess it's just too hard. Forget about exercise, then."

Dr. Westman says that in medical school he was taught what pill to give for what condition. Now, he takes pills away instead.

Lunch time, we sat with Scott Merritt, who has a small ranch in Texas and a silk screening business which includes low-carb T-shirts. He travels a lot and has become quite an expert on obtaining cheap low-carb fast food. I learned:

- Burger King burgers consistently raise his blood sugar, while others don't. He found out that the beef they use includes by-products that contain carbs.

- In many fast food restaurants it is much less expensive to order your burger patty "on the side" than to order the sandwich without the bread. At 5 Guys, if you order one burger you can get as many patties as you want "on the side", but at McDonalds and other places (but not Wendy's or Chick-Fil-A) you can just order on the side. You can also order breakfast items from McDonald's "on the side".

- At Subway, they charge a lot more for a salad, but you can order the sandwich and have the middle wrapped separately from the bread and just throw away the bread.

In the afternoon, we heard from low-carb and Paleo bloggers each had a few minutes to talk about themselves and their sites. Then, fitness expert Fred Hahn spoke about the importance of strength training and understanding what we're doing and why, and doing it in the safest way possible. He talked about how strength training improves hormone regulation, and how all effective exercise increases our mitochondria and improves their efficiency (mitochondria are the energy-producing "factories" in our cells). His "slow burn" method goes something like this:

1) pick a resistance

2) start as slowly as you can, taking about 1-2 seconds the first inch, then continuing through the movement at that rate

3) keep going until exhaustion (the muscle simply won't work any more)

Our last talk of the day was Monique Forslund talking about "Healthy Food Healthy Kids". She is a LCHF (low-carb high-fat) proponent in Sweden, and is a fitness instructor, author, blogger, coach, Montessori teacher, and mother of 3. She told us about her journey to health through LCHF, and about how fats in the diet are so important to babies and growing children in particular (she bemoans the fact that children go from breast milk, which is over half fat, to low-fat milk). Quote from one of her children after school one day: "Mom, today it was sandwiches for lunch, so you know I'm going to be hungry."

Whew, it's Saturday morning, and I've finally finished writing up Monday! But I hope I've given you a flavor of what it's like to be on the cruise. Plans are already in place for next year's cruise. The plan is to go out of New Orleans and go to Belize and other places in that vicinity. Just saying, you can start thinking about it and planning for it now! (Note: apologies to people who saw the first draft of this from the boat, loaded with typos. I had very limited time for Internet access.)

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Blueberry Banana Bread

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Warm banana bread out of the oven is hard to beat. Warm blueberry banana bread is even more so. This sweet treat is made healthier by using low fat buttermilk and heart-healthy canola oil instead of butter, and replacing a little more than half of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour. Why whole wheat pastry flour? It has less gluten, which makes for more tender quick breads, cakes and muffins, yet it still provides a nice boost of fiber.

Blueberry Banana Bread Photo c 2012 Fiona Haynes, licensed to About.com

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Metabolic Syndrome

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Definition: Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms and signs that tend to clump together. People with the syndrome have an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Signs include abdominal obesity ("belly fat"), high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL, and elevated blood glucose. The syndrome appears to be increasing in prevalence. About 10% of young adults match the symptom picture, but the figure rises to about 44% of the over-60 population.

Pronunciation: met a BOL ik SIN drome

Also Known As: Insulin resistance syndrome, dysmetabolic syndrome, Syndrome X. Right now metabolic syndrome seems to be the most commonly-used term, but it may switch to dysmetabolic syndrome soon.

Common Misspellings: metabolc syndrone

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Veggie Omelet

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Low Calorie Veggie OmeletKimberley K. Eggleston

This veggie omelet is especially delicious in spring, when asparagus and mushrooms are in season. Pair with whole wheat toast and fresh fruit for a well-balanced breakfast or brunch.

Prep Time: 5?minutes

Cook Time: 10?minutes

Total Time: 15?minutes


  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp skim milk
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • dash black pepper
  • 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese (1/2 ounce)


1. Heat a small, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray, and cook the asparagus and mushrooms for four minutes, or until tender. Remove, and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg whites, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, coating the entire bottom of the pan. Allow to cook for 2 minutes. Next, sprinkle the cheese, mushrooms, and asparagus on one half of the omelet. Then, using a spatula, fold one end of the omelet over the other, enclosing the veggies inside. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes, until egg is fully cooked through.

3. Slide the omelet onto a plate.

Serves 1

Per Serving Calories 201

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Spicy Roast Chicken Breasts

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A quick and easy flavorful chicken dinner for any night of the week. Serve with rice.

Cook Time: 25?minutes

Total Time: 25?minutes


  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, sliced
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Scatter sliced onions and red peppers on tray, and chicken breasts on top. Drizzle oil on chicken breasts and sprinkle them with curry powder. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees.

Serve chicken with onions and peppers alongside basmati/pilau rice.

Serves 4.

Per Serving: Calories 210, Calories from Fat 40, Total Fat 4.5g (sat 0.7g), Cholesterol 82mg, Sodium 96mg, Carbohydrate 8.5g, Fiber 2.3g, Protein 33.9g

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Green Bean Casserole

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Green bean casserole is a holiday meal favorite - a tradition in many American homes. Here's how to reduce the carbohydrate in the sauce, and make an onion topping with healthy and low carb ingredients.


  • 1 bag frozen green beans - about 14 oz (can use canned or fresh if preferred), thawed
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced or chopped (can use a small can of mushrooms)
  • 1 large onion
  • Salt, pepper, seasoned salt, and ? teaspoon dried thyme
  • cooking oil or butter, about a Tablespoon
  • 1? Tablespoons (5? teaspoons) flour (wheat, rice, or other flour), or see below for other thickeners
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk and 1/4 cup cream (or see below)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal


First, a word about the sauce. The regular green bean casserole includes cream of mushroom soup. You have much more control over the ingredients by making a simple sauce of your own, using your preference of butter or oil, the liquid you want to use, and the thickener. Any type of "dairy" product works. The lowest in carbs is unsweetened soy milk. In this recipe, I've used 3/4 unsweetened soy milk and 1/4 cream, for richness. But you can use any fat level of milk you want to use, and any combination. Since cream adds some body and thickness, you may need to adjust the amount of thickener if you change the amount of cream. Check carb counts in milk, soy milk, cream, etc.

The thickener is up to you as well. 1? Tablespoons (5? teaspoons) of flour will add about 10 grams of carb to the whole recipe - that is a tolerable amount for many people. The nutritional information at the bottom includes this amount of flour. There are other lower carb thickeners such as guar gum and proprietary thickeners such as Thicken Thin NOT Starch.

One more thing - this casserole is not very saucy - some will think it needs more sauce, which is fine.


Heat oven to 350 F.

Topping: (can be done before, after, or simultaneously with other steps). Slice the large onion into thin slices. Put a small amount of oil or butter in a skillet and let about 3/4 of the slices slowly cook. When they start to get soft, add some seasoned salt or some other salty spice mixture. You want them to get soft and sweet, but if you let them cook down for a very long time they will start to lose too much volume. When they are soft, remove from heat and toss with ? cup almond meal. Taste and adjust seasonings.

The Rest: Chop up the rest of the onion and saute it with the mushrooms in oil or butter. Add salt, pepper, and seasonings, stir, and add the thickener. If flour, stir for a minute or two. Add liquid, and bring to a simmer for one minute. Mix with beans and put in casserole dish. Bake for half and hour. Spread the topping on top, and cook for 5 more minutes or until topping begins to brown.

Nutritional Information: Each of 8 servings has 6 grams effective carbohydrate plus 2.5 grams fiber, 9 grams protein, and 102 calories.

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2012 Low-Carb Cruise: Day Two

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
2012 First up on Day 2 was Denise Minger's talk, "The China Study: Wilted Evidence For Plant-Based Eating". Have you ever talked with someone who insisted that your low-carb diet was going to kill you because it has animal proteins and/or fats in it? They may have gotten their information from the book The China Study. I have heard and read quite a few discussions where one side essentially kept chanting "China Study" over and over (the most recent being Joel Fuhrman at the recent Obesity Conference).

The great thing about Denise is not only her ability to analyze and synthesize large amounts of data, but to present it in an accessible and entertaining way. (I've talked about Denise's analysis of the film "Forks Over Knives".) I can't possibly do complete justice to her talk (if you're interested, check out her blog post on the subject.) Here are a few of her main points:

There is a big difference between the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, and the research project which has been called The China Study (a 20 year epidemiological study directed by Campbell which Minger thinks was for the most part very well done). The thing is that much of the book actually contradicts the data which came out of the research. (By the way, Minger says that one way to describe epidemiology is "the study of things that can never ever ever ever ever prove cause and effect".)

For example, in his book, Campbell claims that animal protein promotes cancer growth "like a carcinogen", when in fact in the study, neither animal nor plant protein consumption had a statistically significant correlation with most of the cancers studied. However, the non-significant correlations were mostly negative for meat protein (meaning more meat was related to less cancer) and mostly postive for plant protein. So the data does not in any way back up his claims. Similar claims for heart disease have similar data. What food had the strongest association with heart disease, stroke, and body mass index? Wheat. Campbell himself had stated in the text of a 1996 study "wheat may be unique in its relative capacity to stimulate insulin". For more, check out her blog.

Another dynamic presenter was Dr. John Briffa whose talk had the same title as his book, Escape the Diet Trap. He talked about the many problems with the "just eat fewer calories" approach and said "it's not so much that diets don't work, it's that they can't work". He pointed out that "there has never been a diet comparison study that showed low-fat calorie restriction did better then low-carb" and yet when someone doesn't succeed in long-term weight loss by going hungry, the blame is placed on the dieter. In contrast, he says, "the less hungry you are, the more weight you'll lose".

Dr. Jeff Volek, co-author of several low-carb books including the new book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, spoke about "New Paradigms In Carbohydrate Nutrition For Athletes". As Dr. Volek has extensively studied this topic himself, there may be no better person to talk about it. He reviewed the history of how we came to believe that a continuous glucose source is needed for athletes, and then proceeded to present an alternative view. He said that we didn't evolve to store very much glucose, but we did evolve to store fat for energy. He pointed out the irony of when athletes "hit the wall" they have tens of thousands of calories in their bodies in the form of fat, but they aren't able to access it. On the other hand, people who are adapted to using fat for energy by following a low-carb ketogenic diet (the process of keto-adaptation takes several weeks) can readily access fat stores during athletic activity, making them far less prone to "hitting the wall". He is currently working on a sports drink based on these principles.

Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt followed Jeff Volek's talk by suggesting he add Swedish Olympic gold medalist Bjorn Ferry, who follows what the Swedes call "LCHF" (low-carb high fat) to Volek's list of athletes who follow low-carb eating regimens. (As I've reported in the past, LCHF is very popular in Sweden, and again this year we had many Swedish folks on the cruise.) Dr. Eenfeldt always delivers a great presentation -- another one that manages to be entertaining and informative at the same time. Two things that jumped out at me from this one: One for the science geeks: it turns out that in the 2006 Women's Health Initiative study (which showed that a low-fat diet was not protective of health) that "buried in the middle" of the paper (neither in the abstract, introduction, conclusion, or discussion) was the one statistically significant result: that people with a propensity for heart disease got worse in the low-fat intervention group. Naturally, this little tidbit did not make the papers. For the non-geeks, he told a wonderful story about a person who found out about LCHF in a grocery store talking to a stranger. This person had had 7 heart attacks and was on 20 medications. LCHF normalized everything, he lost 70 lbs, and he's only taking one medication now. Conclusion: Tell your story. We can change the world.

The final talk of the day was a fabulous presentation by Jackie Eberstein, RN called "Is Carbohydrate Addiction Real?" This is a controversial subject in the medical community, but Jackie presented compelling evidence on the side that it is a real thing, and says that she herself is a carb addict. I am definitely going to write about this, and Jackie has agreed to help me. I think it's very important to understand how some of us have brains and bodies that respond to carbohydrates in this way, and what we can do about it. Her suggestions are similar to an addiction model for other substances. Do you know that you can't eat "just one" cookie? Then do not eat any of them. She says, "embrace the idea the moderation does not work for you, not because you are weak, but because you are carb intolerant." I promise I will be writing more about this in the next couple of months.

The next three days of the cruise were "port days" where we explored Jamaica (Montego Bay), Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. One day I toured a plantation in Jamaica which grows coffee and a jillion types of fruit and palm trees (samples! yum!). In Cozumel, I did one of the best things EVER - "Snuba", which is sort of like Scuba only the air tank is on a raft floating at the surface. Several of us had regulators (what scuba divers use to breathe) attached to the tank with long tubes, so we could swim 20-25 feet below the surface. A guide taught us how to do it, and then led us under the water exploring the fish, coral, and other sea creatures. Oh MAN, I can see why people get hooked on diving! Snorkeling is one of my favorite things, but this is ten times better, as you're swimming amongst the sea life, with brilliant fish inches from your eyes -- easily 40 or 50 different species. If you ever get the chance to do this, don't hesitate!!

I'm going to be away for a few days, and then I will tell you about the last day of the cruise, and a cool new thing I'm going to try.

Image c Debbie Hubbs

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Leftover Turkey Ideas

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
When Thanksgiving or Christmas is done and you still have lots of turkey left, you may wonder what you can do with it all. Actually, quite a lot. First, chop, dice or shred your leftovers and store them in resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator. That way, you can reach for a bag or two as you need them. Then you’ll be ready to try one or more of my 10 Low Fat Ways to Use Leftover Turkey.
  1. Soups Add 2 cups of chopped leftover turkey, a selection of chopped vegetables and 1 cup of uncooked rice or noodles to 3 cans fat-free, low sodium chicken broth.
  2. Salads Add leftover turkey to a mix of arugula and spinach, sliced mushrooms, cranberries, shredded carrots, sliced red onions and a sprinkling of heart-healthy walnuts. Toss with your favorite low fat or fat free fruity dressing or vinaigrette.
  3. Sandwiches and Wraps Use slices of leftover turkey to make all kinds of sandwiches. Be sure to use whole grain breads and rolls, and low fat or fat free fillings. If you don’t like the taste of fat-free mayo, use mustard instead, or flavor your mayo with a little curry powder or another herb or spice. Make a turkey-salad filling with crunchy celery, cranberries and apple. Use plain low fat yogurt for the dressing. Stuff into a whole wheat pita or spoon into the center of a whole wheat tortilla wrap and roll up.
  4. Pizza Toppings Top a prepared whole wheat crust with 1/2 cup of tomato or barbecue sauce, 1 cup of chopped turkey and 1/2 cup reduced fat cheese. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
  5. Quesadillas Combine shredded turkey with a little cumin. Spoon on one half of a low fat corn tortilla; sprinkle with reduced fat cheese; fold tortilla in half and cook in a nonstick skillet (coated with cooking spray) for 5 minutes, turning once.
  6. Burritos, Enchiladas, Fajitas, and Tacos Add shredded turkey to salsa, black beans, low fat sour cream and reduced fat cheese; or combine with sauteed onions and sweet peppers; with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes; or mix with mild green chiles, seasonings, scallions and a can of enchilada sauce. Use low fat flour or corn wraps with these fillings.
  7. Pot pies Add leftover turkey, sliced mushrooms and leftover green beans and carrots to low fat, reduced sodium condensed chicken or mushroom soup. Top with a low fat biscuit topping (there’s now a low fat version of Bisquick) or phyllo pastry sheets.
  8. Casseroles Combine 2 cups chopped leftover turkey with 2 cups cooked whole grain rice, a can fat-free, low sodium broth or chopped tomatoes, and a selection of chopped vegetables in a 2-quart casserole. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  9. Skillet Meals Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped leftover turkey to sauteed onion, mushrooms, broccoli and rice cooked in fat-free broth. Sprinkle some parmesan before serving.
  10. Pasta dishes Add leftover turkey to your any number of pasta dishes. Use shredded turkey instead of ground beef in your favorite lasagna recipe. Be sure to use reduced fat cheeses.
Finally, don’t forget the carcass: put it in a big pot of water along with some onion, carrots, celery, peppercorns and herbs; bring it to a boil, then simmer. After a couple of hours, you’ll have a rich stock, which you can de-fat and use for low fat soups, stews and gravies throughout the holiday season.

Who knows, once that turkey has finally gone, bones and all, you might even miss it…

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How to Make Granola Bars

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Afternoon hunger strikes, and you want to grab a healthy snack. You may think of granola bars as a nice choice, but if you look at the ingredient label of many popular commercial brands, you will find that they are loaded with sugar, oil, and even chocolate! It almost seems that they are more of a dessert than a healthy snack.

How about enjoying a tasty granola bar without the extra, unhealthy ingredients? You can find a healthy low calorie granola bar by making a batch of these tasty homemade granola bars. The ingredients are all whole, natural ingredients including whole oats, dried fruit, pure maple syrup, and sliced almonds. Plus, they are really quite simple to throw together. The first thing you need to do is gather the ingredients. For these low calorie granola bars, you will need:

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 egg whites

1 whole egg

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp wheat germ

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

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Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
If you love cheesecake but hate the fat and calories, then these perfectly portion-controlled lower-fat raspberry cheesecakes are for you. They're also quick and easy to make. I use tub cream cheese rather than blocks because the cream cheese is nice and soft, but also because the tub of light cream cheese is slightly lower in fat than the brick version.

Mini Raspberry Cheesecake c Fiona Haynes, licensed to About.com

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Chicken Cordon Bleu

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lean ham and part-skim mozzarella cheese make this low calorie chicken cordon bleu healthy and delicious. All you need to round out the meal is a tossed green salad and steamed broccoli.

Prep Time: 20?minutes

Cook Time: 30?minutes

Total Time: 50?minutes

Yield: 4 Servings


  • Ingredients for Low Calorie Chicken Cordon Bleu:
  • 4 4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 oz. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 large egg whites, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced fine
  • 4 sliced thinly sliced lean ham (2 oz.)
  • 4 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese (2 oz.)


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of wax paper. Using a meat mallet, pound to chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.

2. In a small dish, combine the egg whites, butter and garlic. In a separate, shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper.

3. To prepare the chicken cordon bleu, lay one chicken breast flat. Place one slice of ham, and one slice of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken. Roll the chicken breast up, enclosing the ham and cheese inside, and secure with a toothpick. Dip the rolled chicken breast into the egg white mixture, coating the entire outside. Then, dredge the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture, assuring that the entire chicken breast is coated. Place the chicken, seam side down, on a baking pan coated with non-stick cooking spray. Repeat the procedure with the remaining chicken breasts.

4. Bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink, and the tops are golden brown.

Serves 4

Per Serving Calories 286

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One Bowl Chocolate Cake

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A one-bowl cake means less clean up; a one bowl cake that needs only one cake pan means even less clean up. A low fat, one-bowl, one-layer cake also means less fat and fewer calories per slice. A win-win situation all round. This chocolate cake doesn't even need frosting, especially if you enjoy it warm. I find that it's sufficiently chocolatey to stand alone. Instead, you could serve this cake with some luscious red strawberries or some raspberries, and dust the plate with powdered confectioner's sugar.

Prep Time: 20?minutes

Cook Time: 25?minutes

Total Time: 45?minutes


  • 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup hot espresso coffee


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Coat a 9-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk cake flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking powder and baking soda together.

Add buttermilk, brown sugar, egg, oil and vanilla. Using a hand held electric mixer, beat for two minutes on medium speed.

Add hot coffee and mix in until blended. The batter will be thin and soupy.

Pour into baking pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Alternatively, cut slices straight from the pan!

Serves 12

Per Slice: Calories 133, Calories from Fat 3.1g (sat 0.5g), Cholesterol 17mg, Sodium 149mg, Carbohydrate 24g, Fiber 0.9g, Protein 2.2g

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Black Bean Dip

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Black Bean Dip

I thought this black bean dip really came together well!? I served it to my kids with some baked tortilla chips for a really healthy snack, and they gobbled it up. I plan on making this more often at our house.

Photo@ Kimberley K. Eggleston, licensed to About.com, Inc

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Everyday Grilling

Sunday, May 6, 2012
It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest, so some of us don't get outside to use our grills as often as we'd like. Those who have grown up here will grill no matter what the weather, but the rest of us are fair weather grillers. So instead I rely on my handy indoor compact contact grill, which cooks succulent chicken, fish, lean pork, and vegetables in no time at all, with minimal clean up. Get the lowdown on one such grill and see how it helps with low fat cooking.

Cuisinart Compact Griddler Photo c 2012 licensed to About.com

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Is Glycemic Index Useful

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What is the Glycemic Index?:

The glycemic index was developed to inform us about the degree to which carbohydrate foods raise blood sugar. Several popular reduced-carbohydrate diets, such as the South Beach Diet, use the glycemic index. Still, contradictory and somewhat confusing issues surround using glycemic index numbers when choosing specific foods to eat.

Why Is Knowing the Glycemic Value of Foods Important?:

A lot of reliable research shows that eating a diet with a relatively low blood glucose impact can protect us from diabetes, and likely from heart disease as well. Therefore, choosing foods that are less likely to rapidly raise our blood glucose can be a healthy way to eat, especially for those prone to insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease.

How Is the Glycemic Index Calculated?:

Researchers use a group of healthy (disease-free, including diabetes) people to determine the index. The individuals eat a food with a standard amount of carbohydrate, usually 50 grams. Their blood is tested every 15 minutes to see how much and how fast their blood sugar rises. The higher and faster it rises, the higher the score the food is given, on a scale of one to 100. Less than 55 is considered to be a low GI, higher than 70 is high, and in between is medium. It's important to note, however, that while GI scores are based on research, these cutoffs were assigned in an arbitrary way.

What Are the Problems with the Glycemic Index?:

Although it would indeed be extremely useful to have a good measure of how glycemic various foods are, the glycemic index has several problems. The most important ones are the small number of foods tested, the small range of GI measurements, the variability of foods tested (the studies are done in various labs around with the world with various-sized groups of people, different recipes, etc.), and the fact that the glycemic index doesn’t simulate the way people actually eat.

Small Number of Foods Tested:

The main foods tested for the glycemic index are those high in carbohydrates. Remembering that the standard amount of carbohydrate is 50 grams, spaghetti is included in the index because it is reasonable that one could eat 1 and ? cups of spaghetti (the amount it would take for you to get the 50 grams). On the other hand, it would be quite difficult for you to get 50 grams of carbohydrate from eating broccoli; you’d need to eat between 16 and 22 cups of it in a sitting. So, broccoli – and other foods for which it would take a lot for you to tip the carb meter – are not tested for the glycemic index.

Many Foods Have a Lot of Different Glycemic Index Values:

Different recipes, varieties of plants, and ways of preparing foods yield different values, as do different laboratory techniques. There are different listings for various cakes, with GIs ranging from 38 to 87, for example. Peaches are usually said to have a glycemic index of 42. This number, however, is the average from two different studies -- an Italian one, in which the average GI was determined to be 56, and a Canadian one, in which the average GI was 28.

The Range of the Glycemic Index Values is Small:

Two foods have a GI over 90 -- parsnips and amaranth. Potatoes, honey and some processed cereals are above 80, and sports drinks, white bread, white rice, watermelon, and some processed baked goods rank in the 70s. At the low end of the scale, with GIs below 40, are various beans, grapefruit, and nuts. By far, most of the foods tested have GIs between 40 and 70. Remembering that GIs are based on averages and not exact numbers, it is difficult if not impossible to tell if any true differences between the majority of the foods exist.

The Glycemic Index Doesn't Account for the Way We Eat:

We don’t eat one food at a time. If we eat a lot of different carbohydrate foods in a meal, how do we count it? Protein and fat tends to lower the glycemic index in a meal, but we have no way of knowing how much, short of each person testing his or her own blood (which is unreasonable in everyday life).

Enter the Glycemic Load:

The glycemic load was invented to account for serving size, since we seldom eat exactly 50 grams of carbs from any one food. Theoretically, glycemic load should resolve some of the problems inherent in the glycemic index. However, one of the basic problems with the glycemic load is that it is based on the glycemic index, so it has many of the same difficulties.

Problems with the Research:

Although many studies have shown value in using the glycemic index, others that haven't shown positive results have had some of these problems. For example, in a 2006 study, researchers essentially guessed at GI values for foods not on the list (giving cheese the same GI as milk, for example). This research also shows the problem with range, as very few people in the study ate a diet classified as low GI; almost all ate a diet with quite a high glycemic index or load, so it isn't surprising that results weren't conclusive.

So, What Should We Do?

There is no doubt that eating a low glycemic diet is a good thing. And the research on the glycemic index does give us a few clear guidelines, such as minimizing potato consumption. However, I think at this stage of the game, it is a better idea to just go with total amount of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate does raise blood glucose, and insulin must be released to stabilize it. The easiest way to limit the problems caused by high glycemic foods is simply to follow a reduced-carbohydrate diet.


Foster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 76,:1: 5-56 (2002).

Lui, S., Willett, WC, et al. "A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women.." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 71(6):1455-61. (2001).

Mayer-Davis, E.J., Dhawan, A et al. "Towards understanding of glycaemic index and glycaemic load in habitual diet: associations with measures of glycaemia in the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study.." British Nutrition Journal. 95(2):397-405. (2006).

Salmeron, J, Manson, JE, et al. "Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women.." Journal of the American Medical Association. 12;277(6):472-7. (1997).

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Low-Carb Cinco de Mayo!

Sunday, May 6, 2012
lowBreak out the sugar-free margaritas and guacamole! It's Cinco de Mayo, the most celebrated Mexican holiday in the United States. I've collected a lot of low-carb resources together, and included features from About.com's Mexican, Cocktails, and Entertaining Guides in this guide to your Low-Carb Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy!

Photo c Skip O'Donnell

Related Resources:

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Cinco de Mayo

Sunday, May 6, 2012
Cinco de Mayo gives us a great excuse to indulge in some Mexican-inspired recipes, some of which may already be a weeknight staple. After all, many of us already have taco night, or something similar. But in honor of this triumphant day in Mexico's history, when the Mexicans defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla, here are some Low Fat Cinco de Mayo recipes, including some delicious fish tacos (pictured).

Low Fat Fish Tacos c Fiona Haynes licensed to About.com

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10 Things to Stop Doing if You Want to Eat Low Fat

Sunday, May 6, 2012
People choose to eat low fat for various reasons. Some want to lose weight, others need to lower their cholesterol, and some need to eat low fat for other medical reasons, such as gallbladder disease. Sometimes things get in our way and undermine our best intentions. Whatever your excuses, here are 10 things to stop doing if you want to eat low fat.

Photo c 2012 Ariel Haynes, licensed to About.com

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10 Things to Stop If You Eat Low Fat

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Any kind of diet can be hard to stick with, but if your goal is to eat low fat, here are 10 things to stop doing right now.

  • Stop Eating Low Fat Products

    Many low fat products contain many more ingredients than their regular counterparts. These include fat-replacers such as gums, flavorings, and added sodium and sugars to compensate for the lack of fat. You don't need processed low-fat products to eat low fat. Skip low fat cookies, muffins and desserts. A large low fat muffin can still pack plenty of calories, thanks to its size and its carb content. If your goal is to drop a few pounds by eating low fat, then eating these will not help you do so.

    There are some exceptions to the skip low-fat-products advice: low fat or nonfat milk, and nonfat Greek yogurt come to mind. Low fat cream cheeses and sour cream often have a surprisingly long list of ingredients for texture and flavor; reduced-fat hard cheese is fine, but in general skip rubbery fat-free cheese.

  • Stop Filling Up on Simple Carbohydrates

    It's not just fat that makes us fat. Excess sugars, or any carbohydrates in excess, will be converted into fat. White bread, rice, and pasta can be part of our diet, but a carb-heavy diet will cause us to gain weight, putting us at risk of diabetes and heart disease. A diet that's low in saturated fat and high in carbs increases the risk of heart disease, although this doesn’t exonerate saturated fat. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats has a beneficial effect on heart disease.

  • Stop Eating Fried Foods

    If you're serious about cutting back on fat, stop eating fried chicken, French fries, chips, and doughnuts. If you crave crispy fish or chicken, try using panko crumbs, and try baking your fish and chicken instead.

  • Stop Eating Meat Every Day

    Cutting out meat once or twice a week can cut our overall fat intake considerably, especially if we replace red meat, which tends to be higher in saturated fat. Not all vegetarian meals are low fat; take macaroni and cheese, for example, or fettuccine Alfredo. In many cases, it's a matter of choosing some beans or legumes for lean protein, and supplementing them with grains and vegetables. Here are some low fat vegetarian recipes to get you started.

  • Stop Skipping Meals

    Skipping meals makes it more likely you’ll graze on sugary, high-fat snacks. Many people skip breakfast, often because they're in a rush, but this is always a mistake. Eating breakfast keeps our blood sugar levels stable, provided we don’t fill up on sugary cereals or doughnuts. Here are 10 low fat breakfasts to get your day off to a good start. Don't skip meals; skip dessert or late-night snacks instead.

  • Stop Piling Your Plate High

    Watch portions and you'll automatically cut fat and calories. It’s that simple. And yet it's something we're bad at, despite numerous tools and tips to help. If we eat family style, we’re likely to pile food on to our plates, and help ourselves to more almost without thinking. Some restaurants are notorious for huge portions, making it easy for us to overeat.

    One way to help ourselves, if you'll excuse the pun, is to learn the difference between serving sizes and portions. Careful reading of labels will tell us what constitutes a given serving of a food, on which nutritional data are based. If you free-pour your cereal each morning and glance at the side of the box to see how many calories there are, you may fool yourself into thinking you're consuming only the stated 110 calories, when you could actually be consuming up to twice that much.

  • Stop Mindless Eating

    Where do you eat your meals? At your computer? in front of the TV? In the car? Do you sometimes reach into a bag of something and take a minute to realize you've eaten the whole pack? Have you ever finished your kids' leftovers, or picked at the nut bowl and appetizers at a party just because they're there? This is what we call mindless eating. Brian Wansink, a food psychologist based at Cornell University, created a number of experiments employing all kinds of tricks and gimmicks to show how easy it is to misjudge what and how much we eat. These are illustrated in his fascinating book, Mindless Eating .

  • Stop Eating Dessert Every Day

    It's an obvious point worth repeating: desserts are notorious fat (and sugar) traps. That's not to say don't ever eat it. Just don't eat it every night. Indeed, try and limit dessert to once or twice a week at most, and even then, watch your portions and be thoughtful about what you have with or on top of your dessert. As much as I love chocolate cake, pie, and ice cream, I can be very happy with berries and a spoonful or two of thick Greek yogurt.

  • Stop Feeling Hungry

    Critics tell us that eating low fat makes you hungry all the time. I've never really understood this. We know that fat helps us feel full, but there are plenty of other low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods that are filling. Barbara Rolls, whose work on Volumetrics, shows us how you can eat more for less: more nutrient-dense foods for fewer calories. A simple example would be to ask yourself if you would feel fuller eating a cup of grapes or a ? cup of raisins. It's easy to feel full with lean protein, fiber and produce. But remember, the goal is to satisfy hunger, not to feel uncomfortably full. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

  • Stop Worrying About Every Diet Study

    Truth is, most diet studies are flawed in some way. Many diet studies rely on self-reporting, which can be unreliable. Others are not large enough or long enough in duration to get a definitive answer. Quite often, too, media reporting of studies leaves something to be desired, with sensationalist headlines or omission of some findings.

    Nonetheless, it's true that the reputation of low fat diets was dealt a serious blow in 2006, when a long-term study found that eating low fat failed to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in older women. Yet some positive news from the same study was overlooked by the media: that those with the highest intake of fat who cut it the most cut their risk of breast cancer by 15-20 percent.

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    Sugar-Free Pickles/Relish

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    The Bottom Line

    These sweet pickles and relish, sweetened with sucralose (SplendaR) instead of sugar, taste great to me and my tasters. The relish has a slightly different consistency to regular sugar-sweetened relish – it is more like dill relish in that way. The relish works in all the usual pickle relish applications – on hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as in deviled eggs and tuna salad. The other sweet pickles can also substitute in any way for regular sugar-sweetened pickles.


    • Low carb count/no sugar
    • Tastes likes regular sugar-sweetened products
    • Fairly widely available in supermarkets (U.S.)


    • Consistency of relish is not quite the same - not as thick
    • Some find a slight aftertaste from sucralose
    • May have to mail order


    • Mt. Olive makes 3 kinds of No Sugar Added sweet pickles, plus sweet relish.
    • Bread and Butter pickles come in chips or in "sandwich stuffers".
    • Sweet (midget) gherkins also available.
    • Carb count comparable to non-sweet varieties.

    Guide Review - Product Review: Mt. Olive No Sugar Added Pickles and Relish

    In general, pickles are a fairly low carb food – after all, they are just cucumbers, vinegar, salt and spices. Dill pickles and sour pickles are usually fine on reduced-carb diets. But sweet pickles? Unfortunately, sweet pickles usually have quite a lot of sugar, and so that marvelous sweet-and-sour taste is usually off-limits. This includes one of the most popular forms of sweet pickles – pickle relish.

    Ingredients: All the labels essentially say the same thing: cucumbers, water, vinegar, various spices, sucralose (SplendaR), and coloring.

    Flavor:The taste is comparable to “regular” sweet pickles and relish. Some find that the sucralose (SplendaR) gives them a slight aftertaste, but usually note that due to the strong flavor of the pickles, it is not very noticeable.

    Carb count: These sweet pickles and relish have about the same carb count as cucumbers or dill pickles, which is about 1 gram of carbohydrate per ounce (about 1 small pickle or 1 spear), or one tablespoon of relish. This is as compared to 5 grams of carb for regular sweet relish or 9 grams per ounce of sweet pickle.

    Availability:Mt. Olive Pickles are widely available in the Southeast US. In most of the rest of the U.S. they are carried in such supermarket chains as Safeway, Albertson’s, Shaw’s, Pathmark, and Kroger. They can also be ordered through the manufacturer as well as other online sources.

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    2012 Nutrition and Metabolism Symposium

    Saturday, May 5, 2012
    nms The Nutrition and Metabolism Sympposium has become something I look forward to a great deal. This year was my sixth one, and now I am seeing the same people again and again, and enjoying it so much. Each year there is a different focus (last year was about ketogenic diets). This year there were two different focii: one was helping physicians to translate the theory into practice, and the other was looking at policy issues generated by the knowledge that the standard Dietary Guidelines do not work for a significant portion of the population.

    I thought the first part was extremely valuable. Again and again I see the problem that even physicians who are OK with their patients following a low-carb diet for health (or even encourage it) have no idea how to support their patients in following a way of eating that is so counter the usual recommendations.

    The afternoon started out with Dr. Eric Westman (co-author of New Atkins for a New You and others) conducting an information session as if we were his patients. He provided us with a handout he uses at the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center called the "No Sugar No Starch diet" (if you are interested, it's also available near the back of the book by Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat, but it's also basically the Atkins diet).

    First of all, I like the title. You don't have to explain what a "carb" is, or how "low" is "low". It's just very simple: don't eat sugar, don't eat starch. Why? Because "Carbs make you hungry."

    People started to ask the typical questions (Can I eat this? Can I eat that?") and the answer was "if it isn't on page 4, don't eat it". Again, very simple. Simple, but very different, so you have to learn this new way. He compared it to learning to drive on the other side of the road.

    Dr. Westman then led us through the low-carb basics, how to read a nutritional label, etc. I'm sure the doctors there learned a lot about how to approach patients with this diet change in a positive way.

    Dr. Mary Vernon then talked about how she works with her patients. (Dr. Vernon is also an animal trainer and at one point she said, "I don't educate my patients; I train them.") She teaches them about the diet, and then asks, "Can you do this for a week?" "How about two weeks?" "Great, come back in two weeks, and if you have trouble, call me."

    She emphasizes to both physicians and patients to take their attention off of weight. She said "overweight is not a disease any more than a fever is a disease". Focus on the fuel source, and on the health results (blood work, blood pressure, etc.). She's says it's not uncommon for people to have delayed weight loss, and that's all right if other things are improving.

    I was moved when Dr. Vernon talked about the benefits to physicians of using a low-carb approach to treat their patients. The main one is that it's so rewarding: you enjoy seeing patients who are improving, and "you get to work miracles". She listed off the many changes patients often experience (e.g. no heartburn, improved migraines and sleep apnea) and some surprising ones like improvements in narcolepsy and schizophrenia. (Dr. Westman told the story of a patient who came to him for weight loss; he didn't know she was schizophrenic. When she came back she announced that she'd stopped hearing voices. He was surprised.) Of course, we don't know what it is about a low-carb diet that may have had these positive effects -- it could be gluten or other components of grains, it could be the ketosis, or lots of other possibilities.

    Loren Cordain gave a great talk about paleo eating. Whereas Friday he focused more on the evolutionary science, this time he talked about nutrition. He said they did an analysis of 5 days of menus from the USDA Dietary Guidelines Web site and compared it to 5 days of Paleo eating, and how the USDA diet was lower in almost every nutrient (often by a lot) than the paleo diet, and that the USDA diet didn't measure up to the basic recommendations on many nutrients.

    Dr. Cordain also asked the question "why aren't hunter-gatherers calcium deficient?", since that is the one area that the Paleo Diet doesn't live up to the recommendations. He thinks this is due to adequate vitamin D due to lots of natural exposure to sunlight and/or consumption of fish and marine mammal organ meats.

    How to implement the Paleo Diet in modern times? He said a good start is to take the "My Plate" logo and simply cross out the grains and dairy portions.

    I really enjoyed the talk by Christopher Gardener, the scientist who headed a famous big diet study a few years ago. Although the Atkins group had the biggest weight loss, it wasn't by much. Also, people did not follow the diets, so what was being tested was more about compliance. Gardener went on to speak about what we have come to realize about the benefits of low-carb diets: better blood lipids, etc., that we all are familiar with by now.

    But here's something that wasn't published in the original study, and this is the problem with averages: Although the Atkins group loast an average of 10.5 lbs, and the others lost about half that, there was a 66 pound RANGE of weight change within each group, with some people in each group actually gaining weight. Given that information, it is almost useless to say, "this group lost an average of 10 pounds and this group lost an average of 5 pounds". The important question is: why do some people do better or worse on any given diet? Gardener and his fellow researchers looked into their data and essentially found that people who have problems processing carbohydrate (insulin resistant, metabolic syndrome, or on the diabetes spectrum) did not do well when they were assigned to a low-fat diet, while those who were insulin-sensitive (no problems with carbohydrate) could do well on either type of diet.

    Dr. Gardener then talked more about the factors of 1) insulin resistance (he talked about this study by Cornier and a couple of others) and 2) genetics, including this research. Of course, those two factors may not be at all independent, but the science has not been done to figure this out.

    I've got to say that I was pleased that Dr. Gardener talked about this, and about many of the other points I and others have tried to hammer home:

    • When people talk about whole grains being less glycemic, this is only true for whole, intact grains. "Whole grain flour" is not "whole" any more, and just as glycemic as white flour.
    • Quality matters. Processed foods that are marketed as "low-carb" or "low-fat" are often deceptive.
    • It's good for everyone to cut out added sugars, flour, and fruit juice.
    • Different people do best with different amounts of carbohydrate.
    Dr. Steve Phinny talked about "Dietary Fat - the Key to Sustainable Nutritional Ketosis". Dr. Phinney has done seminal work in the area of keto-adaptation and athletic performance. (I've just started reading his most recent book with Dr. Jeff Volek, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, a companion to last year's The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.)

    He emphasized the importance of eating enough fat. This is especially vital after weight loss slows and stops (during weight loss, we are "eating" our body fat).

    The right kind of fat is vital. Sometimes people who are having trouble eating "enough fat" are eating the wrong kinds. "Many people we counsel, including health care professionals, have to be begged, cajoled, or browbeaten into eating enough of the right kinds of fat. But when they do, the response is "Wow!"

    He made the point that people who complain about the high cost of low-carb eating are probably trying to eat a lot of protein. "Good fat" is not more expensive than "good carbs".

    The reason many people are not as successful as they could be eating low-carb is that those particular people would do better on a consistently ketogenic diet (under 50 grams net carb).

    Our body fat is a little over half monounsaturated fat, and most of the rest is saturated. It's possible that this is a good amount to shoot for in the diet.

    Avoid soy oil, including maynnaise and salad dressings made with it. He has observed in his research that people don't do well with large amounts of omega-6 laden oil.

    "When in doubt, eat less carb; when in doubt, eat more fat."

    This is getting ridiculously long, but I want to say a few things about the last portion of the symposium, which was about nutrition and diet policy, because there were some very interesting people and information. (Note: The U.S.D.A declined to participate.) Rather than summarize or critique these, I'm just going to pull out one or two important pieces of information from each talk.

    Stephanie Chiuve, from the Harvard School of Public Health led us through how the purpose and history of the USDA Dietary Guidelines have evolved through the years, she asked the question, "Are the Dietary Guidelines fulfilling their purpose?" The answer, clearly, is "no". It turns out that greater adherence to the Dietary Guidelines do not predict better health! (Actually, with men, the most adherent were VERY SLIGHTLY healthier than the least; with women there is absolutely no correlation at all between adherence and health.)

    The Harvard group has their own guidelines, which does better at predicting health, but it has some issues. I spoke to the presenter about a couple of things, and we just had to agree that it's difficult to tease things out. One example: they are negative on red meat, but red meat consumption is highly correlated with refined carb consumption (so is the problem really the meat?) Then, because they don't want people to eat red meat, they don't tell people to eat monounsaturated fat (like olive oil), because in the U.S. diet, most of the monounsaturated fat comes from red meat and other animal fat. So they tell people to eat polyunsaturated fat instead. But why not just tell people to eat vegetable oils, so olive oil, avocado, etc, could be included? I should have asked this, but I think the answer might be that some vegetable oils are high in saturated fat, like coconut oil. So you can see how this kind of goes around and around.

    Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis presented a "Review of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Nutritional Guidelines". I was very much looking forward to this talk, since there is so much confusion among health care professionals, health writers, and my readers about this. I will be writing more about this in the near future, as I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Mayer-Davis about this in a follow-up phone call, and will also be talking to other people from the ADA. But here is the bottom line:

    There is no "Diabetes Diet". The guidelines are for an individualized plan that enables the patient to achieve optimal blood glucose control and weight loss. A low-carb diet is perfectly fine if it helps achieve these ends for the individual patient, and the patient is willing to do it.

    During my phone call with Dr. Mayer-Davis, we discussed the problem of diabetes educators and other health care professions not getting this message. I will report on this separately.

    Co-author of Atkins Diabetes Revolution, Jackie Eberstein's talk was called "Carbohydrate Restriction: From Practice to Policy". She spoke about the people who aren't well-served by the traditional low-fat/high-carb diet recommendations. She charted how rates of obesity and diabetes took off like a rocket when these guidelines were put into effect, and how food trends have changed over time. That the people who are most at risk from these changes are those who have family histories of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and conditions associated with insulin resistance (e.g. PCOS). Also gestational diabetes and carbohydrate addiction (she's going to be talking about carb addiction next week on the Low Carb Cruise.) These people need different dietary guidelines.

    She also talked about how we need a standard definition of a "low-carb diet". She proposed that under 225 grams of carb per day be labeled a "moderate-carbohydrate diet", 50-130 be "low-carbohydrate", and under 50 be "low-carbohydrate ketogenic".

    Biochemistry professor Dr. Richard Feinman criticizes the current dietary guidelines on many fronts, including lack of scientific accuracy, ignoring or misinterpreting relevant literature, highly biased writing, and an unwillingness to accept responsibility for failure of previous versions. In addition, he feels they contain imprecise and confusing definition of terms, and show a disdain for the intelligence of the reader. He gave many examples of this, including the term "solid fats". He gives examples of diabetics who have been hurt by the current guidelines.

    So, whew! Got some of the basics written up before heading out again on thelow-carb cruise!

    Image Courtesy of the Nutrition and Metabolism Society Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter & RSS

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    Corn Salsa

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    The tastiest corn salsa is made with grilled corn. Four medium ears of corn should yield about 2 cups. If you can't grill or roast the corn, then use thawed frozen sweet corn or even canned sweet corn instead.


    • 2 cups cooked corn kernels (about four ears) or thawed frozen sweet corn
    • 1 medium tomato, seeded chopped
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
    • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice


    Combine cut or thawed corn, tomato, onion and pepper in a medium bowl. Add cilantro and lime juice. Toss well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Serves 6

    Per Serving: Calories 67, Calories from Fat 5, Total Fat 0.5g (sat 0.1g), Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 5mg, Carbohydrate 13.5g, Fiber 1.7g, Protein 2g

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    Low-Carb Cinco de Mayo

    Saturday, May 5, 2012
    Break out the sugar-free margaritas and guacamole! It’s Cinco de Mayo, the most celebrated Mexican holiday in the United States. The history of Cinco de Mayo is fascinating, but you don’t need to know the history to enjoy the party. If you skip the chips and a few other things, you can enjoy a fun, festive and low-carb Cinco de Mayo.

    Going out to a Mexican Restaurant?

    Check out these low-carb hints:

    Celebrating Cinco de Mayo At Home

    Quick Tips:
    • Instead of tortilla chips, dip into your salsa, guacamole or bean dip with low-carb veggies, such as red bell peppers, cucumbers and jicamas.
    • Make burritos with low-carb tortillas.
    • Serve a green salad along with the rest of the food.
    Low-Carb Drinks for Cinco de MayoLow-Carb Food for Cinco de Mayo

    More Tips

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    2012 ASBP Obesity Conference (Part 1)

    Saturday, May 5, 2012
    denver Every year I look forward to the Nutrition and Metabolism symposium, which I'll be writing about soon. This symposium comes after the spring Obesity Conference of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. This year, the conference was in Denver, CO on April 20 and 21. One of the things that has been fascinating to me over the years I've been attending is being able to watch the changing emphasis and assumptions that underlie many of the talks about obesity and weight loss. This year, I was impressed by these trends:

    1) Many of the scientific presentations referred to benefits of low-carb diets simply as part of their talks -- as if it was an underlying assumption that low-carb diets can be helpful. This is a big change from even a few years ago. It seems that the value of low-carb diets is much more taken for granted than it used to be.

    2) On the other hand (but, I think, related), totally absent from the conference was the "eat less and exercise more" emphasis on calories that has been the traditional focus. Even Dr. Robin Blackstone, the bariatric surgeon who gave the keynote address, said that "we know that weight loss surgery doesn't work through calorie restriction or malabsorption, but through metabolic effects". It's all about metabolic changes, and guess what? As far as dietary changes go, carbohydrate restriction is a chief driver of these favorable effects.

    3) In addition to general mentions of carbohydrate reduction or restriction, more of the speakers mentioned what has been called the "diabetes spectrum", and that different individuals do best with different amounts of carbohydrate in their diets, depending on their degree of carb sensitivity and the amount of progression along the spectrum. I was cheered by what seems to be a strong move away from one-size fits all recommendations, as well as realizing that a low-carb diet does not mean the same thing for each person.

    4) Paleo comes to ABBP! There has certainly been an explosion in the interest in paleo eating, but I was pleased to see that it has reached the point where physicians are hearing about it, at this conference in the form of Loren Cordain, who gave talks at both conferences.

    Four Contrasting Diets

    Probably the most interesting segment of the conference for my readers took place on Friday afternoon, when we heard from experts representing four different diets and how they can cause weight loss:
    • Joel Fuhrman, who advocates tons of vegetables and fruit as the foundation of a micronutrient-rich vegan (or almost-vegan) diet
    • Loren Cordain, who famously advocates and researches the effects of the Paleo Diet (link)
    • Jeff Volek, researcher of reduced-carbohydrate diets and author or co-author of several low-carb books (although his talk focused on saturated fats)
    • Scott Rigden, who wrote a book about eating according to metabolic type, and spoke about the Mediterranean diet (turns out that the weight loss version he uses with patients is low in carbs).
    Obviously, there was a lot of disagreement among these four, and during the panel discussion afterwards, things got a little heated! But one audience member (Dr. Mary Vernon), pointed out that there are a lot of common elements in these approaches, including 1) no sugars or refined grains, 2) a promotion of nuts and seeds, 3) avoidance of high omega-6 oils (soy, corn, cottonseed, etc) and 5) an emphasis on vegetables and some fruit.

    I could easily do a long blog post about Dr. Fuhrman's talk, but I realistically won't (it's off-topic for me, for the most part), but I did want to say a few things because it was attention-getting. Although I think it's very clear that our biology and physiology has evolved to be omnivorous (and that we would not have gotten to the point where we would have an Internet if our ancient ancestors remained vegan) I am also sure that Fuhrman is not lying when he talks about his patients who have benefitted greatly from his approach. There is definitely a lot to be said for a high-nutrient diet, which is the main reason that vegetables are at the base of my low-carb pyramid, and different people do respond to different diets. Problems come in, though, when there is an assumption that "what works for me will work for everyone".

    To me, the main thing that contrasted Fuhrman with the other speakers was not only the lack of a scientific basis for his talk (I'm used to seeing lots of research cited, graphs, and explanations of biological mechanisms cited at these conferences, which Fuhrman's talk was lacking), but his throwing in loads of scientific-sounding things that gave the impression he was just making things up. This may fly when you are "preaching to the choir" and people are hanging on your every word, but it will not wash in a scientific conference. For example, he said that "the reason skim milk causes prostate cancer" is because it has more protein than whole milk. First of all, although there is an association between skim milk and prostate cancer in a couple of studies that I'm aware of, it's by no means even clearly associated at this point, let alone "causing" prostate cancer. Secondly, the difference in the amount of protein between skim and whole milk is half a gram per cup (8.4 vs 7.9 grams of protein)! And yet, he sprinkles these types of claims through his talk in a very energetic and self-confident way. When pressed for the science behind his thinking, he kept mentioning the book The China Study, much of which has been very thoroughly debunked. I know Dr. Fuhrman was included to represent a wide spectrum (which is, in theory, a good idea), but I'm afraid he stood out like a sore thumb. Plus, he yells or borderline-yells much of time, and I find it off-putting, and, again, this was a big contrast with the other speakers and participants.

    A Highlight

    I can't go further without talking about the wonderful gathering on Friday evening with folks in the low-carb and paleo communities in the Denver area. We had a fabulous meal together and I got to meet physicians, bloggers, and quite a few readers -- a real highlight. I spend my time in my little room and my computer, and while it's great to hear from readers via email, it does my heart extra-good to meet people in person. I look forward to more of this at the upcoming Low-Carb Cruise (and I think it's not too late to come along)! Thanks to Jimmy Moore, Dr. Jeff Gerber and Bridget Hart of Sweet Enough Personal Chef and Catering Service for organizing this! Bridget made some yummy low-carb and paleo muffins, crackers, and desserts!

    Well, it was three packed days and I got home late last night, so this is all I've had time to write about. Stay tuned for more about the Obesity Conference and the Nutrition and Metabolism Symposium.

    Photo of Denver: James Balog/Getty Images

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