Travel and Eating Out on Slow Carb Lifestyle

SCD lunch in Valencia, Spain

SCD lunch in Valencia, Spain

Dining Out on Slow Carb Lifestyle:

There are certainly ways to make eating out compliant, although sometimes it is embarrassing (or just a hassle) to have long conversations with your server about substitutions, etc.  Here are a few tips on what to order when eating out and how to navigate some of the restaurant or socializing issues.

  • Indian Food: This cuisine usually includes a lot of protein and legumes. Avoid the rice, ditch the Naan, and go easy on light colored things since they tend towards heavy butter and cream (some butter and cream is allowed but you need to not overdo it). Vindaloo without potatoes, Dal, and Gobi dishes again without the potatoes make excellent choices. Tandoori chicken is usually safe. Lentils are great and will help fill you up in lieu of rice.  Avoid the deserts, as they are usually loaded with sugar.
  • Thai Food: Tim Ferriss talks about Thai food a lot in his book. The Thai curries are great in a bowl sans rice.  My favorite Thai restaurant (Thai Basil in Denver),  makes a peanut curry dish with chicken or pork and I ask them to add mussels on top.  It is wonderful.  Thai restaurants also offer good salads with fish sauce dressings.  Just skip the rice, even though the servers will think you’re a little odd when you tell them that.
  • Mexican Food: Most Mexican restaurants offer a range of lean proteins and beans.  Again, skip the rice, the burito shells and the corn salsas and you will be fine.  Mexican food often offers tomatoes, peppers, quacamole and lots of spice, which are all great.  Skip the corn and the tamales.
  • Steak houses and other restaurants: The default strategy is to replace carbs with vegetables and beans
  • Pancake houses: Many of the pancake houses offer egg dishes 24-7.  Omelets, eggs and bacon, etc. are all great for dinner also.  Make sure and skip the toast, hash browns, pancakes and cheese though!

Sticking to the diet when eating out

  1. Have some tried and true standby places in mind. When friends suggest going out, you can offer these up as suggestions so you aren’t just saying “no” to all of their suggestions.
  2. Another tip along this line is…don’t talk to friends about being on a diet (unless they are also). Just tell them you’re doing a “healthy eating challenge with rules” or that your doctor said you have to decrease your insulin spikes.  It goes over a lot better and they’re less likely to be annoyed or talk you out of it.
  3. Find meals you like and repeat them. Alternate days if it’s too boring.
  4. Stick with wine instead of high calorie cocktails or beer
  5. If you are in business situations and don’t want to talk about your substitutions at the table, excuse yourself at a convenient time and talk to the server privately about making substitutions
  6. If you are going out to eat at a new restaurant, look at the menu online ahead of time and make your plan.
  7. Eat a small snack before you go out to eat so you are not starving. Bad decisions (like the bread basket) are much easier to fall into when you are starving.

Fast Food Alternatives on Slow Carb Lifestyle

  • Jimmy Johns has lettuce wraps that are very good – just hold the cheese
  • Chipotle’s burito bowl with meat, veggies, pico, beans, and quac is really good and fast.
  • Wendy’s has a triple burger. No bun, no ketchup, no cheese.  They have a secret menu that servers are not always aware of. Ask the manager. Add pickles, mustard, onions, tomato, etc.
  • if you are at Starbucks and ask for real cream for your coffee they bring out a gallon jug and pour off a cup for you!
  • When you’re in a hurry for breakfast and not home, McDonald’s has scrambled eggs and bacon.
  • Most fast food places have some sort of salad – just get the dressing on the side and exclude cheese. Ask if they have hard boiled eggs to add.

Couple of Tips While on Vacation or Traveling:

  1.  Before any higher carb meals or before “imbibing” get some citrus in you. A grapefruit or grapefruit juice is the best, but lemon juice from a couple wedges of lemon in your water works second best.
  2. If at all possible, try and get in a lot of protein in that first hour of waking. Breakfast buffets are great for this because they typically have a lot of eggs and meat.
  3. If you are flying , it’s doubly important to pack your own food. You can absolutely forget getting compliant food on planes these days. On most US flights the only food available once you’re boarded is primarily carbs. If the trip is short, you can just eat before you go, but most of the time you will need to take something with you. It’s safest to bring it from home, but most airports now have meal salads and other selections to take on the plane with you.
  4. Tip: A soft-sided, 12-pack drink cooler can fit in a carry-on bag.  If you are following the SCD strictly you are going to want to pack something in it to carry on.  It should contain nonperishable low-carb foods such as:
  • Protein bars (but watch for suspicious ingredients such as maltitol, and watch the carb count on the bars)
  • Nuts or nut butters
  • Jerky
  • Snack sausages
  • Protein powder and blender bottle (mix with water)
  • Tuna or smoked oysters in small tins (but beware, your seatmate may not appreciate it!)
  • small packets of peanut butter
  • Sturdy vegetables like celery will be fine without refrigeration for a day or so
  • Olives, pickels, kimchi
Olive selection in mercado in Spain

Olive selection in mercado in Spain

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16 Most Common Mistakes on the Slow Carb Diet

Why is the Slow Carb Diet so Popular Anyway?

There is more than one answer to this question, but in my opinion it has become very popular because it is simple and easy to follow (and because of cheat day of course!).

I have personally tried other diets in the past, but many of them were hard to follow. Some of them required unusual ingredients, others precise combinations, and others were simply unbearably boring.

The Slow Carb Diet uses the principles of the 80/20 Rule to focus on the few things that cause the highest impact. This is a counter intuitive approach that leads to unusual conclusions based on detailed observation of causes and effects.

In the context of the Slow Carb Diet, having a high protein breakfast and avoiding sugar, flour, and dairy are small changes that can have a huge impact on weight loss.

The 16 Most Common Mistakes of Slow Carb or Low Carb Diets

#1 Not Eating a High Protein Breakfast within 1 Hour of Waking Up

It is not uncommon for people to think they can skip breakfast and not pay the price. This is particularly true with habitual bagel & cereal eaters. Eat a high protein breakfast – it makes a BIG difference.

#2 Not Eating Enough Legumes

This is a very common mistake.  Legumes have a fairly low caloric density and because of this they are a “slow carb” that can offer a form of energy that will not spike your insulin levels (sometimes people that go “low” carb don’t get enough calories and end up fatigued and then quit.  If you don’t cook, keep it simple and buy canned beans and lentils.

 #3 Not paying Attention to Domino Foods

Keep Domino Foods under control (foods that may easily lead to overeating) by deciding on the size of each portion in advance.  There is nothing wrong with occasional snacks, just keep a close eye on the size of the portions.  Domino foods include nuts, peanut butter, chickpeas, olives, etc.

#4 Not Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can lead to gaining weight because of the hormonal imbalance it causes.

#5 Not Drinking Enough Water

#6 Getting Off on the Wrong Foot

You don’t have to take a college class to understand low-carb eating, but you do need to understand where hidden carbs are lurking.  Learn to read labels for two things: grams of sugar and grams of carbs.

#7 Giving Up Too Quickly

There are lots of different approaches to low-carb or slow-carb eating, and there are often missteps at first, as you try to find one that works for you, or to modify an existing one. There is a tendency to over-react a bit when everything doesn’t go perfectly, and give up. Don’t give up.

#8 Not Enough Vegetables

People tell me they get tired and fatigued eating a diet lower in carbs, and it turns out they are eating almost no vegetables or beans.  It is not an “all-protein” diet.

#9 Not Enough Fat

This can be a real problem also. Despite some effort to get out the word about healthy fats, hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear an outdated message about the negative aspects of fat in the diet. This leads some to attempt a low-fat version of a low-carb diet. This may work for a short while in the beginning, but soon people start getting hungry (and crabby) if they don’t add some fat to their diets. Nothing will sabotage a diet faster than hunger.

#10 Not Enough Fiber

Eating enough vegetables will go a long way towards ensuring you are getting enough fiber in your diet.

#11 Eating Too Much

It’s true that you don’t have to count calories on a slow-carb diet. But that doesn’t mean calories don’t count.  The great thing about slow-carb eating is that our appetites “turn down,” allowing us to eat fewer calories without getting hungry. Some people make the mistake, though, of thinking they can just keep eating and eating and still lose weight as long as the food is slow-carb. Let your appetite be your guide – eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are comfortable.

# 12 Lack of Planning

When you first start out on a new way of eating, you’ll run into old “‘habits” that need to be changed to new healthier ones. No longer can you mindlessly hit the drive-thru or snack on chips and dip while watching TV. This is a good thing: Pausing to re-consider our habits is a constructive step towards making improvements in our lives (*note: read Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before” book for strategies to change habits). In the case of eating, it’s important to plan ahead for a while, until our new habits come naturally. Nothing will sabotage your goals more quickly than realizing that you’re hungry but you don’t know what to eat.

#13 Getting into a Rut

Tim Ferriss talks about eating the same thing over and over as a strategy (actually it’s one of the 5 rules) for weight loss.  This works well for a while, but eventually people get bored and start looking for variety.  This way of eating should be viewed as a lifestyle change rather than a diet and eating the same things over and over can help you achieve your weight loss goals, but not necessarily “maintain” them unless you add variety to your diet.  A varied diet is also better nutritionally.  Basically, what helps here the most is learn to cook.  Most dishes can be modified to decrease carbs.


#14 Problem Ingredients in “Low-Carb” Packaged Foods

Many protein bars and many “health drinks” are loaded with sugar and carbs.  Learn to read labels and give a cautious look towards products that talk about “net carbs” or “impact carbs”.  Be wary of “sugar free” products if they have things like maltitol in them (a sugar replacement that is just as bad as sugar).

#15 Carb Creep

Set a personal carb limit that works for you and if the scale starts to creep up more than 3 pounds, pay attention.  Pay attention to the candy jar at work, to the “just a little sugar in my coffee”, to the “well, just this little bit can’t hurt” self-talk.  Carb creep is subtle and can become a vicious cycle.  If you notice carb creep, start over for a few days to a week with the strict protocol.

#16  No Exercise

While you don’t really need to exercise to lose weight at the beginning of the diet, at some point you will need to build some muscle to keep your metabolism high and maintain the weight loss.  While cardio exercise isn’t really necessary to weight loss, it certainly has health benefits.  And lastly, exercise lowers insulin resistance which will help with weight loss maintenance.  Exercise (especially strength and resistance exercise) is key to weight loss maintenance.

 

 

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Fish Cakes Compliant with Slow Carb Diet

Fish Cakes for the Slow Carb Diet

Fish Cakes for the Slow Carb Diet

Last year I did a post where I adapted Gordon Ramsey’s Fish Cake recipe to be slow carb compliant by replacing the Panko crumbs with crushed chicharrones (pork skins).  Many people had trouble with the idea of eating pork skins (it’s like bacon people!), so I have adapted the recipe to include a little almond meal rather than chicharrones.

They did seem to hold together better with the almond meal, so I’m using this updated recipe as my go-to for fish cakes.  It is really delicious.  I also used cod instead of catfish, but any white fish will work just fine.  The delicate flavor of white fish takes up the bolder Asian flavors in this recipe.  If you want to see the catfish cakes with the chicharrones, click here.

This is easy, it’s quick, it’s healthy and it’s delicious.  What more could you ask for?  Oh yeah, it’s slow carb compliant also.  I served it with some asparagus with a soy based dressing on it, but greens of any simple preparation would be a great accompaniment.

Recipe for Slow-Carb Spicy Fish Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. skinless fish filets, cut into small pieces (cod, catfish, or any whitefish)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp scallions, sliced thinly
  • 3 Tbsp Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt (more if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 3/4 tsp chipotle powder (or any spicy chile powder)
  • squeeze of fresh lime juice (I used juice from 3 lime wedges
  • 1/4 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp fine grind almond meal
  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients (except grapeseed oil) in a large bowl and mash together with a fork or your hands until well blended.  What you are aiming for is a mixture of small, medium and large chunks of fish mixed well with the other ingredients.

2) Heat 2 Tbsp oil in large skillet until lightly smoking (about 3 min).  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out some fish mixture, level it off and turn it over gently onto the hot skillet, starting at the 6:00 position and moving clockwise (so you remember which ones to turn over first.  Do not crowd the patties; leave a little room between each one.

3) Cook patties until browned and crispy on one side (3-5 minutes).  Do not move them around while they are browning.  Flip, starting at the 6:00 fish cake, and brown a couple of minutes on the other side.  Don’t overcook.

4) Remove the fish cakes to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven (200 degrees) to keep warm.  Add more oil to skillet if needed and repeat process with remaining patties (or refrigerate and cook the next day for lunch!)

Fish cales with Harissa Sauce

Fish cakes with Harissa Sauce

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

Combine the following ingredients in bowl, stir, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  • 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • lime juice from 2 wedges
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • a little sugar (optional)

Alternatively, purchase a hot sauce for dipping.  I like our new Harissa Sauce from HeathGlen which you can find here.

Tartar Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp capers
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp dill pickles, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp scallion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Want more slow carb or low carb recipes?  Find them on this (temporarily) free meal plan.  Click here to view meal plan.

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What food is Allowed on the Slow Carb Diet?

Summary of SCD Compliant Foods

You can eat as much of the following foods as you want.

Seared scallops on Creamed Spinach

Seared scallops on Creamed Spinach

Proteins

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Turkey
  • Protein powder
  • Soybean meats
  • Tofu
  • Smoked Oysters

Legumes

  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Red beans
  • Soybeans
  • Black beans

Vegetables

  • Sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, olives, fermented foods
  • Asparagus
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Frozen spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel  Sprouts
  • Spaghetti  squash (no other winter squash)
  • Avocados
  • Bok choy or any greens
  • eggplant
  • mushrooms
  • okra
  • zucchini
  • turnips
  • sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.)
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • radishes

Domino Foods (eat in moderation)

  • hummus
  • nuts
  • cottage cheese
  • olives
  • red wine
  • diet pop (one per day)
  • guacamole
  • peanut butter
  • almond butter

Forbidden Foods on Slow Carb Diet (until cheat day)

  • Alcohol (1-2 glasses wine allowed per night)
  • desserts
  • popcorn
  • bread
  • rice and any other grain
  • potatoes & winter squash & carrots & corn
  • noodles
  • chips, crackers or cereal
  • ice cream
  • more than one diet pop
  • cheese and dairy
  • fruit (eat only on cheat day)
Favorite Slow Carb Breakfast

Favorite Slow Carb Breakfast

Some breakfast ideas for Slow Carb Diet:

An ideal breakfast is 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Eggs are an easy way to do this (and boost success rate by 10%).

  • Protein shake with 30g of protein powder and 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs (16g) with 3 slices of Canadian bacon (13g)
  • 2 eggs (12g) with 1/2 cup black beans (20g), salsa and guacamole
  • 3 servings of spinach or broccoli frittata (30g or 5-6 eggs plus some protein from the veggies)
  • Caffeine is fine.  You can have up to 2 Tbsp heavy cream in your coffee per day

Lunch and Dinner Ideas for Slow Carb Diet:

Moroccan Chicken & Lemon

Moroccan Chicken & Lemon

Most of your meals will be a combination of protein + vegetables and/or legumes from the list above. Here’s a tip: Cook in bulk so that you have leftovers for a couple of days (or freeze individual serving sizes for much later). Here are some ideas:

  • Roasted chicken with mixed vegetables
  • Salad bowl at Chipotle: hold the corn salsa, sour cream and cheese — add guacamole
  • Mustard-crusted pork loin with spinach and mushrooms
  • Steak and asparagus or green beans
  • Tuna with mustard and/or salsa with a fresh spinach salad
  • Homemade burrito bowl: leftover chicken breast, black beans, salsa and guacamole
  • Lentil stew
  • Beef and bean chili
  • Meat and vegetable curry

Beverages

Drink lots of water and drinks with zero calories. Make these substitutions for beverages with calories that you’d normally drink:

  • Flavor water with lemon
  • Unsweetened beverages like tea are okay. Limit diet soda to one per day
  • Coffee with cinnamon or up to 2 Tbsp heavy cream (not half and half or milk)
  •  tea with lemon
  • Red wine (max 1-2 glasses per day)

 A Few Tips for Succeeding on SCD

When eating out:

Your default strategy should be to replace any carbs with vegetables and beans. Here are some ideas:

  • Burrito salad bowl or any dish with vegetables swapped out for rice/wheat
  • Thai curry or soups without rice
  • Salad without cheese, croutons
  • Indian food: lentils, dairy-free vegetable or bean dishes
  • Grass-fed beef burger without the bun or ketchup
  • Roasted, baked or grilled protein with vegetables
  • Keep a list of Slow-Carb Diet friendly restaurants nearby. Find meals you like and repeat them. Alternate days if it’s too boring. This makes meal planning into a breeze.

Don’t cut calories

Don’t worry about calories. Always eat until you are full. It turns out that your body digests calories from different macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) differently.

Protein powder with blender bottle

Protein powder with blender bottle

Get enough protein.  You should be getting at least 20g of protein at each meal and 30g for breakfast. This will keep you full longer and help you burn fat.

The problem with Atkins and some of the Low carb diets is that vegetables and protein are high in nutrient density, but very low in calories.  Hence the beans, they make up for the caloric deficit and you don’t get fatigued and tired (and then quit). The tiredness goes away. If you hate beans, add fat. Omega 3s are a good place to start.

Be Careful of Portion Size with “Domino Foods”

Some foods like nuts, chickpeas, hummus, and nut butters are allowed on the diet but can halt your weight-loss if you consume too many calories from them. If you’re trying to lose weight, the easiest solution is to limit them or avoid them if you can’t control it.

Eat lots of veggies

Nicoise Salad Prep

Nicoise Salad Prep

Not eating vegetables on the diet correlates with less weight loss! You can eat as many of these vegetables as you want: spinach, mixed vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables), sauerkraut, kimchee, asparagus, peas, broccoli, green beans.

Eat whatever you want on your cheat day

Indulge in whatever you want once a week. Ideally, your first meal should still consist of 30g of protein, but eat whatever you want after that. Drink more water than usual on your cheat day and try and have a grapefruit shortly before your first cheat meal.

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Moroccan Chicken, Lemon & Olives – Low Carb

Moroccan Chicken & Lemon

Moroccan Chicken & Lemon

After living under the Slow Carb Diet lifestyle for 2 years now, I have decided it is an effective and healthy way to lose weight, and it might be time to take what I’ve learned and develop a range of menu plans.  I’m starting with Dinner plans and you can view a portion of the first one by clicking on the “join” button after clicking here:  Low-Carb Dinner Plan.  It’s free for now (because it’s only half done), but when all 30 recipes are filled in it will be $6.99.  If you like it let me know.  I hope to go on to do low-carb meal plans for breakfast, lunch, parties, etc.

So, on to the Moroccan Chicken!  This is one of the low carb meals on the plan, and it packs a lot of flavor into a one-pot meal.  When this dish is made in a specific Moroccan clay cooking vessel it is known as a “tagine”.  I don’t own a tagine, so I make it in a dutch oven and I’m pretty sure the taste is just as good.

The spice combinations are what distinguish the Moroccan dishes and can turn ordinary dishes into something truly special.  This “stew” includes harissa paste along with the range of Moroccan dry spices.  If you don’t have harissa, you could substitute in Sambal or another chili paste.  Or, of course, you could order a great jar of harissa from HeathGlen Organic Farm.

With respect to the spices, it does make a difference to buy the cumin as whole seeds, give them a quick toast in a dry frying pan and then grind fresh in a coffee grinder.  If that is too much to wrap your head around, just use the pre-ground spices from the supermarket, but try and get them as fresh as possible.  You will notice the difference.  On with the recipe….

RECIPE FOR MOROCCAN CHICKEN with LEMONS & OLIVES

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs and/or legs (6 thighs)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock
    2-3 Tbsp Harissa (or other chile paste)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1-2 fresh lemons, cut into wedges
  • 8 garlic cloves, slightly smashed
  • 1/2 cup coarsley chopped fennel bulb
  • 1 onion, coarsley chopped or 2 leeks, white part only, sliced
  • 3/4 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1-inch ginger root, grated
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and butter in dutch oven (or large skillet). Salt and pepper chicken thighs and brown in the hot oil (skin side down). Remove chicken thighs and drain some of the oil out of the pot.
  2. Add all of the remaining ingredients except mint into the pot and stir together thoroughly. Reduce heat to a low simmer and add back in the chicken.  Tear up about 1/2 cup mint and add to the pot. Cover and simmer for about an hour.
  3. Just before taking the pot to the table, scatter the remaining mint leaves over the chicken.
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