I’ve been low-carbing for about four years. It has me 100% convinced that this is the right diet for most people to drop weight and keep it off. I don’t get much exercise myself and maintain a BMI around 24. It does go a little higher in the winter and a 8-10 pound/half BMI point swing is typical.
It now comes pretty naturally but it really does take effort, especially at first. When I tell people how I eat, they insist (!) that they could neeeevvvver give up x because they would immediately and violently perish or something. And I acknowledge that some cultures make it more difficult than others to give up the rice, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, breads, tortillas, corn, sweets, pasta, beans (some low-carbers allow beans), cereals, fruits, beer, vanilla iced lattes and a thousand other delicious things I miss every day.
Low-carbing makes it really difficult to eat at restaurants or carry out. I interpret this as a good thing. Previously, I may have stopped for a hot dog & fries or a plate of tacos after a night out. Now, I wait till I get home and either decide I’m not hungry after all, fry a couple eggs or munch on some low-carb snacks I keep at home. Similarly, I prepare lunches for the workweek at home. Chicken wings and some Chinese takeout work when I need to eat out but still being strict.
“So what do you eat?”
When you’ve made the decision, there’s quite a lot out there.
Let’s start with what I brought for lunch last week at work. Last weekend, I picked up a half a dozen zucchinis, a package of white mushrooms, a package of boneless chicken thighs and two large avocados. Sliced up the zukes into planks and marinade in sesame oil and spices. Make up a batch of roadside chicken marinade for the thighs. Toss the mushrooms in a squirt of hoisin and sriracha (go easy, there’s quite a lot of sugar in these). Grill em and package to take to work. Half an avocado and a serving of chicken, zucchini and a couple mushrooms is a damned good lunch. I haven’t decided what to make for lunches this week but maybe some sausage simmered in sauerkraut.
I keep a bag of almonds and pistachios in my desk drawer and eat about an ounce of one or the other around 11am. Also in the desk drawer are a couple mini-canned hams, cans of tuna, smoked sprats and chicken, canned green beans, shelf stable packets like Trader Joe’s palak paneer for extra hungry days or those times when I was too busy to make food to bring. A bag of baby carrots can be ok, they have some sugar but not enough to worry about in normal portions. I’ve lately been on a pickle kick, too.
Other meals may be eggs, sausage, lettuce-leaf tacos, soups, stews, chili (freezes well), salads (greens and otherwise like tomato, cucumber, tuna, etc but watch the dressing for sugar content), cottage cheese with giardiniera, meatloaf, broiled salmon, stir fry. I frequently cook outside (yes, even in Chicago’s winters), either grilling or bbq which does open a lot of possibilities. I’ll be making a batch of cheese-stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos to the Superbowl tonight. A big pot of chicken in salsa verde is pretty satisfying. Try this chicken paprikash recipe, it is great and so simple. If I’m feeling a little wealthy, a corned beef brisket is a nice treat simmered or smoked. Aldis has some frozen mussles in sauce which are great and surprisingly inexpensive. A local grocery chain (Marianos) has racks of spare ribs fully prepared for $10 a slab on weekends, a real steal. There are loads of great veggies options. Grilled, sauteed or roasted broccoli, asparagus, brussles sprouts, cauliflower, bell peppers & chilies, mushrooms, squash. Use plenty of onions in everything.
For other snacks, consider kimchi, pork rinds/chicharrones, vinegar coleslaw, an ounce of cheese, a pinch of cold cuts. I haven’t made them lately but I went through a tuna croquette muffin phase a while back. Those freeze and reheat well. If your local grocery has loose Persian cucumbers for a reasonable price, pick up a couple pounds at a time. These are fantastic to keep on hand, an easy grab & go when fridge browsing.
My habit is to consider things with fewer than 5 grams of net carbs free. Sure that handful of carrots or bell pepper strips have some sugar but it’s barely any on a per-serving basis. Sour cream and cheese have a couple grams each, too. The superb made-in-house soups from the Polish grocery have been thickened with some flour and I do pick out the large chunks of potatoes. Sometimes a grapefruit or pomegranate falls into my grocery cart. The BBQ sauce I dabbed on my ribs before microwaving would be way too much sugar if I chugged the bottle but the half tablespoon is nothing. The coil of Italian sausage may pick up a couple grams from the red wine and tomato sauce I simmered it in but no big deal. There’s a bag of flour in my pantry that I use for tossing chunks of meat before browning for soup or stew. If I’m on the road and need to pick up some fast food, Wendy’s chili is fair game, most of the carbs come from the beans. And Miller Lite is 3.5 grams each.
Sure, that’s part of the fun. Now that I’m pretty stable and reasonably happy with my weight and appearance, the cheat days are really nice. You will enjoy things a lot more when they are a every couple months treat instead of just another Thursday lunch. Even the crummiest fried rice is damned good when you haven’t had it since sometime before Halloween. Holidays, out to dinner with others, parties, entertaining friends at home, a vendor bought pizza for the office, no problem. Since I’m strict for, say, 14 days in a row, that 15th day treat is fine.
This went on for longer than I expected but I don’t foresee an end to my low-carb lifestyle. At this point, it is pretty easy and the results are undeniable. Like any other change in diet, you’ll need discipline. Read labels. It is important to focus on and look forward to what you are allowed instead of mourning those thing you you aren’t. You won’t die a slow, painful death because meatball subs, hash browns and Jack & Cokes are no longer allowed, I promise.