But I heard low-carb diets are bad???
Well, I’m not an expert, but they probably are. Your body needs carbohydrates. But it doesn’t need high-glycemic foods like corn syrup and sugar. This eating plan is not a low-carb diet, unless you turn it in to one by eating nothing but protein and fat. Just stick to eating whole grains (‘slow carbs’) and cut out the fat when you eat any carbs at all.
What about honey, fruit juices, and my organic raw sugar products?
Sorry to say, but they are still very sugary and spike your blood sugar. Save them for treats.
What about artificial sweeteners?
As long as they don’t spike your blood sugar, they are allowed. You can use the herb stevia or the artificial sweetener Splenda. I haven’t experimented with agave nectar, but that is probably an option too. Aspartame spikes your blood sugar, plus it has some other questionable health concerns, so it is not recommended. Maltitol is allowed since it does not raise your blood sugar. Unfortunately, though, if you eat it in any serious amount you are likely to get really bad gas. Really bad. Eat it only when you are planning on being alone.
What about fruit?
Well, fruit is really sugary. A can of juice has the same amount of sugar as a can of soda. Since fruit has lots of vitamins, however, you may still want to sneak some in. Avoid juice and eat the whole fruit, which contains fibre and doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much, and avoid eating fats within 3 hours of eating fruit. Also, check the glycemic index of the fruits — apples and berries are much less sugary than tropical fruits and oranges. Bananas contain a lot of starches and should be avoided. Lemons and limes are fine, since they contain no sugar. But try to eat more veggies and less fruits.
What kind of hidden sugars do I need to look out for?
Sugar, honey, corn syrup, fruit juice, most things that end in “ose” including fructose, thickeners like cornstarch and tapioca.
How does dairy work?
Dairy is interesting. Skim milk has no fat, and is classified as a carbohydrate. Heavy cream (33%MF e.g. whipping cream) has no carbohydrate and is considered a fat. So you are stuck using one or the other when you follow this plan — if it is a carb meal then use skim milk and if it is fat meal use heavy cream. All of the other kinds of milk, for example, 2%, homo, and light cream combine carbohydrates and fats and are not allowed.
I’m a vegetarian. What about tofu?
This eating plan is a bit more challenging for a vegetarian, since a lot of the protein meals use meat. Tofu, unfortunately, contains both fat and carbs. The super-firm tofu has less carbohydrate and is a better choice. A lot of people substitute tofu for meat in a protein/fat meal and do just fine. So if you don’t eat meat you’ll need to be a bit more creative, and you might need to use up some of your cheating room on tofu. If you are a vegan, then just focus on sticking with whole grains and cut back on the sugars, especially when you eat fats.
Um, that’s a lot of fat. It has to be bad for you.
Well, that is a concern that a lot of people have. If you’re worried about eating too much fat, then just stick to the lower-fat recipes most of the time.
It’s certain that eating a lot of fat at the same time as eating sugar is not good for you, but it’s not clear whether or not it is the sugar or the fat that really does the damage. It’s up for debate right now, and there is new information coming out all the time. I can tell you one thing from personal experience, however. My mother (a senior) had marginally bad cholesterol before she started this diet. She was on the diet for a few months and went back to have her cholesterol measured again. She was afraid of the test, because she had been eating a lot of fat! It turned out that her bad cholesterol had lowered and her good cholesterol had gone up a bit. Her doctor did not believe her when she told him what she had been eating.
What kind of veggies can’t I eat?
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, orange squashes, and the rest of the starchy vegetables spike your blood sugar. (Spaghetti squash is OK). Avocados and olives mix fat and carbs and are off the list as well.
What about eating out?
Eating out is a challenge on any diet, but fortunately there are lots of good options with this eating plan. However, you almost always end up having to choose a no-carb meal, because finding nonfat whole-grain prepared food is really difficult! Plain oatmeal, dry whole grain toast, or a whole-wheat vegetarian sub (without cheese or mayo) are the only low-fat, whole-grain carbs I’ve managed to find. It is really easy to find a protien/fat meal, especially in the last few years as low-carb diets have become popular, but be careful that it has NO carbs, not just low carbs (e.g. flour coatings, sauces etc.), especially if it is high in fat. A good choice is to ask for a meat/chicken/fish dish, and substitute green veggies or a salad for the rice or potatoes. Omelettes, dry ribs, caesar salad, chicken wings with salt & pepper are all favourites of mine.
What about alcohol?
Sorry, but alcohol is a sugar. This doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely — you can use it as one of your ‘treats’ and you can minimize the damage by having it after eating a meal containing fat. One strategy I use is to eat a meat & veggie dinner, and then have a glass of wine an hour later as a nightcap, after the fat has passed through my digestive system. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s much better than having the drink with dinner.
What kind of condiments can I use?
Mayo and mustard are your friends, since they don’t contain sugar. Ranch dressing and caesar salad dressing are generally OK (check the labels for added sugar), as are many vinaigrettes. Or whip up a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing yourself. Ketchup, relish, and teriyaki sauce are all super-sugary, and most thickened sauces use starches to thicken them. Again, you need to check the labels.
I’ve got a special occasion and I plan to cheat a little. How can I minimize the damage?
When you cheat on this diet, you can reduce the effect of eating sugar by eating other foods that lower your blood sugar at the same time. Eating fibre or low-fat protein at the same time as carbs will keep your insulin level from rising as much as it would otherwise. For example, if you eat a piece of birthday cake, follow it up with a glass of fibre drink (e.g. Benefibre, Metamucil, or a psyllium husk drink). The fibre keeps your insulin level from spiking as much as it would otherwise. Just don’t get caught thinking that you can keep cheating by adding a bit of fibre – it reduces the damage of eating sugar but doesn’t eliminate it.