Almond Crusted Cod – Slow Carb Dinners

Almond Crusted Cod

Almond Crusted Cod

Fish is a great protein to add to any low carb or slow carb diet.  The problem is many people don’t like fish, or find it too bland when you have to forego the breading.  Enter mustard and ground up almonds!  Begone Bland!  Hey that might be a good domain name to pick up for a new site I’m building.  What do you think?

Actually, I would like to talk about this new site that is going to offer all things fitness (diet, wellness, exercise, etc.).  I’m calling it Pivottofit.com (aka pivot2fit.com) and it should launch October 1st.  More about that later.  Right now….focus on the fish.  Focus Dorothy, focus.

OK, I’ve been on a high-protein-low-carb diet for 4 years now (versions of slow carb, low carb, ketogenic) and most of the recipes I share focus on chicken, beef and pork proteins for dinner meals.  I have added salmon and scallops in as easy to prepare, tasty fish dishes, but every time I cooked white fish of any kind (cod, flounder, tilapia, etc.) it just tasted blah.  Easy and quick to make, but blah.

This dish (inspired by Eating Well magazine) was still quick and easy, but it packed a lot of flavor while still being compliant with a slow carb diet.  Here’s the recipe….enjoy!

Almond Crusted Cod with Dijon Mustard base

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dill, either fresh or from the tube
  • 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 cod filets (or halibut or other thick white fish)
  • 4 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Either use parchment paper or coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Zest the lemon over a small bowl.  Grind/chop the almonds to a coarse texture (I used a Vitamix blender).
  3. Add the almonds to the bowl, along with the lemon juice, the dill, 1 Tbsp oil and salt and pepper.
  4. Pat the thawed out fish dry and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Spread each filet with 1 tsp mustard and then divide the almond mixture among the 4 filets, pressing it evenly onto the mustard.
  5. Bake the fish until opaque at the thickest part, about 7 minutes for most.
  6. Cover and keep warm.  We served it here with a spinach-egg-drop soup.

I’ll keep posting more slow carb and low carb recipes on this blog until the new site is up and running (remember the name pivot2fit.com).

In the meantime, if you want one-to-one coaching on diet and exercise visit me over at this online coaching site (there are also coaches there that coach on productivity, meditation, saving money and a host of other things).

 

0

Low Carb Chocolate Truffles with Pistachio Coating

Low Carb Chocolate Truffles

Low Carb Chocolate Truffles

While these Low Carb Chocolate Truffles are certainly not low calorie, they are low in carbs to spare your blood sugar from spiking and setting up an insulin response.  They are delicious and very easy to make and chocolate, especially dark chocolate actually has some health benefits.  They’re certainly not something you would want to eat on a regular basis if your goal is weight loss due to the calorie count, but hey….it’s Valentines Day weekend and if you’re going to treat yourself, or you’re loved one, do it with a scrumptious low sugar, low carb treat!

Recipe for Low Carb Chocolate Truffles (with Pistachio Coating)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz  80% dark chocolate bar (or even 70%)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (fluid)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp good vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste, but choose your own)
  • 1 Tbsp bourbon
  • 1/2 cup crushed pistachios (or hazelnuts or pecans)

Directions: 

Double Boiler Method:

  1. Place chocolate and cream in a stainless steel or glass bowl and place over a pot of lightly simmering water.  Stir constantly until everything is melted and mixture is smooth. (maybe 5-10 minutes).  Do not heat over high heat or mixture might separate.  Stir with a spatula and watch it melt until it is smooth and creamy.
  2. Stir in salt, vanilla and bourbon while mixture is still warm.
  3. Pour into a pie plate or baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to overnight.
  4. When ready to make truffles, remove from refrigerator and let it get soft enough to form balls.  Using a melon baller or spoon, make balls (about 1 inch in diameter). Roll between palms and then roll in crushed nuts.
  5. Refrigerate, but don’t serve ice cold; remove from refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Can be refrigerated for up to 10 days or freeze and consume at a later day  (but consume within 10 days of thawing).

Microwave Method:

Place chocolate and cream in microwave for one minute and 10 seconds at HALF POWER (50%).  Take out and stir until smooth.  If not completely smooth, place back in microwave for 5 more seconds only.  Stir again.  Continue with above recipe starting at step 2.

Sugar Level in Low Carb Chocolate Truffles:

I made the first truffles (above recipe) with 8 oz. of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate (60% cacao) and they were the best truffles ever.  I didn’t realize how much sugar could be in Bittersweet Chocolate however (when it says 60% cacao it means the remaining 40% is sugar), so I adapted the recipe below to include unsweetened chocolate and then used an artificial sweetener.  Still good, a little more bitter, but a lot less sugar!

The Skinny on Using Artificial Sweeteners in Baking:

Artificial sweeteners generally include something called “sugar alcohols”.  Sugar alcohols include such names as maltitol, xylitol and erythritol.

With respect to spiking blood sugar and insulin response, some of these sugar alcohols are fine, but others…not so much.

The worst artificial sweetener is Maltitol, , which has 75% of the blood sugar impact of sugar, but also only 75% of the sweetness. This means maltitol and table sugar end up being about equal.

The medical research does show that  Saccharin,  Aspartame, and Acesulfame potassium have strong evidence of negative health issues

Sucralose (or spenda) is one of the better artificial sweeteners as far as impacting blood sugar, glycemic index and  insulin.  The only other one that is comparable are things sweetened with xyrithitol (Truvia).

With respect to anecdotal impacts of using artificial sweeteners, some people believe that they will trick the brain into thinking it is getting sugar and therefore derail the effort to eliminate sugar cravings.

With respect to this recipe and other baking recipes, I used a combination of a powdered sweetener (Truvia) and a liquid sweetener (Sucralose).  The reason for this is many of the powdered sweeteners can leave a gritty texture (not so much in truffles because it is heated up with the chocolate).  Liquid sucralose on the other hand can leave the chocolate on the bitter side.  A combination of both of them in this truffle recipe made a truffle that was nearly indistinguishable from the truffle made with the sugary bittersweet chocolate.

 

Recipe for Low Sugar Low Carb Chocolate Truffles:

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (shredded with a box grater)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp Truvia
  • 3/4 tsp to 1 tsp liquid sucralose
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp bourbon (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup crushed nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts, etc.)

Directions:

Make according to the directions above.  The only difference is to shave or grate the unsweetened chocolate ahead of time so it melts quicker and watch the mixture closely until it is melted, making sure it doesn’t separate.

**Note:  Place these in the freezer and pull out one when you need a chocolate fix.  Just know that the cocoa has quite a bit of caffeine so don’t eat too close to bedtime.

Enjoy either way!!!! Just make sure if you do the Ghirardelli version that it’s on cheat day!

 

0

Slow Carb Chicken Shawarma

Slow Carb Chicken Shawarma

Slow Carb Chicken Shawarma

Slow Carb Chicken Swarma for an Easy Dinner

The hand- on part of this Chicken Shawarma recipe is very quick and easy, although you do have to allow a couple of hours for marinating and cooking time (about an hour marinating in the fridge and an hour in the oven).  Add some greens and you have a perfect, easy-but-fancy, slow carb dinner!

Chicken is such a popular and versatile dish, but it can be pretty bland.  Chicken Shawarma is anything but bland, with a lively marinade of lemon, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  It is a Middle Eastern dish that is often served on warm flatbread topped with a savory yogurt sauce.  Neither flatbread or yogurt is compliant with a slow carb diet, although you could make a yogurt sauce with full-fat plain yogurt that would work with some low-carb diets.

True shawarma is cooked with stacked, spice-marinated meats– lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, or a mix of meats– on a vertical spit. The shawarma turns and cooks on the spit for hours and hours, basted in fat and its own juices.   Sometimes it is served with a tahini sauce which I could probably modify to be slow carb compliant, but I was going for quick and easy with this dish.

Honestly though, it was delicious without flatbread or yogurt or tahini sauce and if you didn’t know that it was usually served that way, you would never miss it!

Recipe for Slow Carb Chicken Shawarma:

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons, freshly juiced
  • 1/2 cup plus
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin (toasted seed and then ground if you’ve got time)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 lbs. skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 onions (yellow or red), quartered

Directions:

  1. For the marinade:  In a medium to large bowl, combine lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  Whisk to combine.
  2. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat them with the marinade.  Cover and store in refrigerator for 1 hour up to 12 hours.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat over to 425 degrees F.  Spray rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or oil.  Quarter the onions (or cut in large chunks) and coat with the marinade in the bowl.  Remove the chicken and onion and place on baking sheet.  Pour any remaining marinade over the chicken.
  4. Roast the chicken in the oven until it is browned, about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit a couple of minutes while you make the accompaniments if using.  Serve and enjoy!

Ideas for accompaniments might include tomatoes, cucumbers, hot sauce, olives, fried eggplant, feta or a tahini sauce.

0

The Dreaded Diet Plateau

diet plateau photo

“diet plateau” photo

What is a Diet Plateau?

In the last year of coaching people on high-protein-low-carb diets the most common scenario is a loss of 2-5 pounds in the first few weeks and then a downward trend of about 1 pound per week over the next 6 months. At some point however (often more than one point on the journey) you hit the dreaded diet plateau.

 
The plateau is not exclusive to a low carb or slow carb diet. In fact, people generally reach a plateau with every diet under the sun. In researching the various diet plans, I’ve come up with a curated list of methods that have seen some success in getting people off the diet plateau.

Why Do We Plateau?

It seems like everything is cruising along fine, you’ve got the hang of the diet and your sugar cravings are in control. Seeing that gradual weight decrease on the scale in the morning is enough to keep your spirits up, even if it is only .2 lbs. Then….a week goes by with no decrease. Then another week. This is when the going gets tough. Many people will give up at this point, blaming the diet because they know they have been 100% compliant.

 
Fat loss plateaus can be extremely frustrating at times, but generally they are temporary bumps in the road. It’s important to keep focused on your goal, and look at the overall downward “trend” of your weight loss, rather than minor changes in measurements or weight from week to week.

Sometimes a fat loss plateau can be traced back to some minor changes that may have happened over time. Sometimes it is fluctuations in water weight due to stress, hormones or lack of sleep. And sometimes it’s just mysterious voodoo. Often, after being on a plateau for a couple of weeks you will see a “whoosh” where your body just seems to all of a sudden release a few pounds.

Ferriss on the “Diet Plateau”:

Some of the following methods come directly from Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four-Hour Body”, some of it is what I have seen work in the last year and a half of diet coaching, and some is curated methods from health and fitness blogs and podcasts.

Briefly, here is what Tim Ferriss says about the plateau:

  1.  “Don’t start thinking that you’ve plateaued until you have been on the diet 6 weeks. It is not unusual for women to experience their greatest weight loss around the 6-week mark. “
  2. “Eating too late, not eating enough protein (my note: you need at least 20-25 grams a meal), drinking too little water are the three most common causes of hitting a weight loss plateau.”
  3. ” The total percentage of body fat lost per month naturally decreases over time. The number of mitochondria in your muscle tissue largely determines your rate of sustained fat-loss (this is why you need resistance training as part of your exercise routine!). Targeted exercise, even just 20 minutes per week, will often double fat-loss that’s plateaued, and should do so for at least two to four months.”

Simple Tips for addressing a Diet Plateau:

  1. Check ingredient lists of any pre-packaged foods you have been eating for and note the sugar, the carbs and the calories. If the food label has 3 grams of dietary fiber for every 20 grams of carbs, it is a “slow carb” that will not spike blood sugar in the same way as a simple carb.
  2. Reduce the amount of beans in a day. While beans are allowed (and necessary for energy levels), you only need 1 cup per day. More than that and the calories and fats in legumes can stall your loss. Alternatively, if you aren’t on a slow carb diet, have smaller portions of food – essentially decreasing your calories by doing either one.
  3. If you have been using any kind of protein shake, discontinue use for a week and replace it with a whole food, like eggs, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, etc.
  4. Drink more water, it is really necessary for high-protein diets. Insufficient water intake seems to be particularly common among women. Make a special effort to drink more water on your cheat day.
  5. Portion out or do not have “Domino Foods”. There are certain foods that, while technically fine to eat on a high-protein diet, are prone to portion abuse. almonds, which are easy to consume by the handful, contain 824 calories per cup, 146 calories more than a Whopper from Burger King. A few nuts is just fine (5-10), but no one eats just a few. Self-discipline is overrated and undependable.
  6. Have a proper cheat day, if you have skipped any recently. There’s a lot of data that shows a spike in calories, and a spike in carbohydrates both helps your body to avoid a lower metabolism due to dieting.
  7. Eat more than 60g, but less than 230g, of proteins every day.
  8. Eat healthy fats. Getting enough healthy fats from foods like avocados, coconut, nuts, eggs, and fish can help stimulate the right hormones to ensure that your metabolism doesn’t shut down, even when you’re cutting back on calories. Not getting enough healthy fats will cause your hormone levels to suffer and create a risk for adrenal fatigue, which can cause all sorts of problems, including weight gain. Healthy fats are also what keep you full and give you long-term energy, so always make sure you’re getting enough in your diet.

More Robust Ways of Addressing a Diet Plateau:

  1. Start exercising more intensely, this is often the key to getting off the plateau in terms of fat loss – get in some sort of strength resistance exercise of your choice for 3-4 times a week. Some experts estimate that every extra pound of muscle on your body burns 30-50 calories extra a day, while others estimate each pound burns 6 extra calories a day, compared to 2 calories burned by fat. Either way, if you want to increase your metabolism, gaining muscle is the best and most sure way to go about doing so.
  2. Intermittent Fasting . There are several different types of IF and that is another whole post. Google intermittent fasting and get knowledgeable to see if it’s for you.
  3. Find out what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is using one of the calculators on the web and start tracking calories. The reason for plateauing at each level is usually related to the fact that your metabolism starts to slow down as you consume less food. In addition to building muscle and taking cheat days to increase metabolism, there is some evidence that getting cold (either by taking cold showers, sleeping cold or drinking ice water in the morning) can help boost metabolism
  4. Follow the very, very stringent meal plan that Ferriss lays out in his “Last Mile” Chapter of 4-Hour Body. It is effective for the short term, but not a sustainable way of eating.

If you have reached the dreaded plateau and want some accountability coaching to help jump off, visit me over at the coach.me platform and check out the coaching option.

0

Maintenance Plan for Low Carb or Slow Carb Diet

So you’ve met your goal weight!  Kudos!  Not an easy thing to do and the last thing you want to do is lose momentum and put to waste the struggle it involved, just to gain it all back in a year.  If the statistics are correct however, there is a good chance that you will gain it back.  You need a plan.  A maintenance plan for low carb or slow carb diet.

Body fat measuring tool

Body fat measuring tool

Why People Tend to Fall Down:

Even if you took on a high-protein-low-carb diet as a lifestyle change rather than a diet, this insidious thing called “carb creep” seems to enter our complicated lives at some point.  The fact that we are social beings and that eating and drinking with friends/family is a favorite social activity is going to be an ever-present influence.

Restaurants and food producers are making an effort to decrease the sugar in our food, but high levels of carbs and sugar in prepared food is still the norm.  How many people cook at home these days?  I don’t know the answer to this, but based on the pool of clients I have coached over the past year, I would guess not many.  Especially in the under-30 crowd.  A lot of foodies, but not many home cooks, and this leads to boredom and the convenience of eating out.

So….how do we navigate these influences over time once we have reached our goal weight?  Enter the  “maintenance plan”.  The maintenance plan I’m outlining below is not based on clinical trials or large studies, but rather it is a plan that has worked for me for 4 years now and one that 80% of my clients have seen success with for at least a year.

Maintenance Plan for low carb or slow carb diets:

Four overarching strategies make up the plan:

  1. Data tracking to avoid carb creep
  2. Reintroducing Non-Compliant Foods (SCD)
  3. Exercise routines for metabolism maintenance
  4. Action steps to instill perseverance

1)  Data Tracking and Carb Creep:

Tracking body fat vs weight

Tracking body fat vs weight

As Tim Ferriss notes in a quote from Peter Drucker, “What gets measured gets Managed”  I love this quote and live by it.  I’ve been tracking my weight every day now for 4 years.  It’s a habit that I don’t even think of…UNTIL, I go over my red-flag limit.  Then it’s time to get serious again.

The red-flag limit is a personal limit you give yourself for how many pounds you are willing to shrug off before you call it carb creep and slap yourself into being strictly compliant again.  My red-flag limit is 4 pounds.

The scale is a blunt instrument and your weight will go through natural fluctuations depending on stress, sleep and hormones.  For my body however, 4 pounds is something more than natural fluctuations.  It usually happens after a vacation or a prolonged holiday.  Your individual red-flag limit may be different based on your own weight and body rhythms, but it is important to establish one and then honor it.

Most people find that once they have been eating a low carb diet for a while, their body has reached some sort of equilibrium and it is fairly easy to lose the vacation weight in 1-2 weeks if you just become compliant again and get back into your low-carb eating habits.

The other reason to studiously track your daily weight is that you can look back over the year and see which months were difficult for you, what you may have been doing at that time, and how long it took to correct it.  That last part can be a huge stress-reliever.  Just seeing that indeed you did correct it and it only took a couple of weeks can be highly motivating and allow you to calmly remedy the creep rather than falling into a spiral of self-hate.

Data geeks often track their micro-nutrient grams, their body fat %, their exercise minutes, etc. but I’ve found that once you understand the parameters of the diet and you have a pretty solid routine, the only thing you really need to track is your weight.  Body fat % is a great thing to track but most people can’t easily do that on a daily basis.  The daily long-term record keeping is what is key.

2)  Reintroducing Non-Compliant Foods:

Panna Cotta w/ Strawberry & Red Wine Sauce

Panna Cotta w/ Strawberry & Red Wine Sauce

With the slow carb diet you are allowed a scheduled cheat day once a week and if you lost your weight under this particular diet, you don’t really need to change anything.  Cheat day still exists on the maintenance plan and I think it is a beautiful thing.  That delayed gratification aspect keeps you eating mostly clean and over time cheat days tend to become days for some fruit and grains rather than the junk-orgy they start out to be.  Ferriss said not long ago that he does the all-out cheat day usually about once a month, with the other three cheat days being much milder and healthier.  The thing to remember is this is by choice and so you end up evolving into a lifestyle that is sustainable and quite healthy.

By the time you have reached your goal weight with either a low carb or a slow carb diet plan, you have learned a lot about nutrition.  At this point you can start to add back in certain foods that are not strictly compliant with a slow carb diet, but that follow the principle of not spiking blood sugar/insulin levels.  This would be things like full-fat plain yogurt, some aged hard lactose-free cheeses, some berries, and perhaps grapefruit or some citrus.  Add them one at a time over a period of a couple of weeks for each and see how your body responds.  Just be aware of the sugar content and read labels.

Exercise Routines

Exercise Routines

3)  Exercise Routines for Metabolism Control:

So you lost weight without any exercise?  Totally possible, but it probably won’t stay off unless you do some sort of regular exercise routine.  The research on exactly what kind of exercise is best is hotly debated.

The part of it that is not debated is to start with something you enjoy and that you can incorporate into your schedule.  The “routine” is the most important part of exercise on a maintenance program.  Once you get into a regularly scheduled exercise routine, the type of exercise will likely evolve into something more intense as you go.

Most of the current literature on exercise maintains that interval training with a resistance component is the best exercise for weight loss and weight control.  This is because it builds muscle and muscle will keep your metabolism up.  Keeping a high metabolism rate is relevant to a low carb diet maintenance because your metabolism does tend to downshift and adapt to the lower needs of the diet.

4)  Action Steps to Instill Perseverance:

This last step is a goal-setting exercise that you can do alone, but is helpful to do with a coach or a friend.  Implementing the illusive quality of perseverance over the long term is made up of personal habits and the unique environment that you live and work in.

There are a number of goal-setting methods that will work.  I’ve found the most important aspects of goal setting is threefold:  1) make the action steps measurable, 2) only pick out 3-5 action steps that you are willing to totally commit to, and 3) write it down physically in a notebook that you have handy and will look at frequently.

Here is a brief example of one person’s goal-setting exercise for perseverance:

GOAL:  To stay compliant with SCD and make it a lifestyle that can accomodate life’s changes in routines and circumstances

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Part of persevering is mastering the ability to let go.  Commit to taking deep breaths or a 3-minute meditation when the emotional stress that is tempting you to eat comes on.
  2. If there are people in your life who are particularly negative and seem bent on preventing you from achieving, it’s ok to either stop spending time with them or limit how much you see them. Seek out 1-2 places per month where you can find some healthy, like-minded friends.
  3. When faced with food temptations at the office, I will use my phone and do the Pomodoro technique to distract me.
  4. Reflect on what happened when you fell off the wagon and figure out what you can take away from the experience. Write this down in your notebook. Even the strongest people have failures (usually many of them). Write down a new idea for pursuing your goal in a similar situation where you failed, acknowledging it’ll turn out differently next time.
  5. Read one biography a month about someone who accomplished their goals despite emotional or physical hardships.
Falling Off the Wagon

Falling Off the Wagon

Want online coaching?  Go to coach.me to hire Dorothy for diet coaching or to browse the huge range of goals and coaches.

0

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

UA-22658354-1