Guide to Low Carb Cooking & Eating for a Healthy You!
Starting a Low Carb Diet …
So you’ve decided to cut back on carbs to lose weight or for better health! Good for you!
We eat way too many carbs and then end up storing them as fat because we simply do not move as much as we should to burn them off. That’s why people that are very physically active can eat more carbs (calories) than those that are inactive.
Why lower your carb intake? Because most carbs are calorie-dense foods are very high in calories. Eating too
many calories causes us to gain weight. Many of the carbs that we have fallen in love with are basically empty unhealthy calories. Think french fries with processed cheese and bacon.
So if you want to lose weight and feel good, reducing carbs in the diet is the way to go. But keep in mind, carbohydrates play an important role in our diets as they provide energy to fuel your body.
Get rid of all processed carbs completely; white bread, cakes and cookies for example. Those are bad carbs and are not a part of a healthy diet. Not all cookies and cakes are bad, just learn to make healthy versions of your favorites at home.
Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that provide the energy the body needs to function properly. But consuming too many carbs, especially the wrong kind, can lead to obesity, Type II diabetes, and other potentially serious health problems.
To reduce those risks, low carb diets aim to reduce or eliminate the simple carbs that can put blood sugar on a rollercoaster and cause weight gain. Whether you’re starting a structured low carb plan like the Paleo or Atkins diet, or just working on reducing the carbs in your diet, cooking the low carb way can help.
Eat small amounts of complex carbs with each meal to keep you feeling fuller longer. Healthy complex carbs tend to be lower in sugar and higher in fiber.
Healthy Complex Carbs:
- Brown Rice
- Whole Grains
- Whole-Grain Breads
- Sweet potatoes
7 Day Low Carb Menu with Dinner Recipes – — > Print Out Our Low Carb 7 Day Menu Here
Carbohydrates: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The body is fueled by carbohydrates. The carbs we eat are converted into glucose by the action of insulin produced by the pancreas. That glucose drives the metabolic functions that keep the brain and body humming. But not all carbs are the same. Complex carbohydrates found in whole grains like oats, quinoa and barley, and in starchy vegetables such as yams, break down slowly, and these good carbs help keep insulin levels on an even keel and reduce feelings of hunger.
The typical Western diet makes it all too easy to consume the wrong kind of carbs, though. Simple carbohydrates from sugars and highly refined flour and grains cause insulin levels to spike and fall, creating insulin resistance that leads to Type 2 diabetes and adding extra pounds. When these bad carbs are combined with unhealthy fats, too much salt and plenty of additives, they turn very ugly indeed.
Low Carb Isn’t Necessarily Low Fat
Until recently, dietary guidelines called for reducing fat in all its forms. That led to the production of low fat versions of just about ever food that ever contained fat of any kind. But to replace the flavor and texture provided by the fat, manufactures added a long list of thickeners, sweeteners and preservatives that made low fat versions unhealthy. Never buy foods that say “low fat.” Manufacturers are not in the business to sell bland, tasteless foods so they end up adding more oils or sugars to make their products taste good.
Today, fats in general and especially “healthy” fats found in foods such as olive oil and nuts are welcomed as important components of a balanced diet.
Low carb cooking relies on those healthy fats. Most recipes are built around lean proteins such as chicken and fish, with generous use of heart healthy olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and nut butters. Cheese, too, can add essential calcium along with a modest amount of saturated fat. Paired with antioxidant rich vegetables, most low carb main dishes are rich in protein while eliminating unhealthy trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils.
Low Carb Cooking is For Vegetarians, Too
With slogans like “eat like a caveman” it’s tempting to think that low carb diets are fit only for carnivores. While it’s true that the centerpiece of many low carb dishes is often a lean meat such as chicken, fish or thin-sliced beef, low crab can be vegetarian and vegan friendly too.
Mushrooms, especially large, meaty portobellos, can replace meat as the central ingredient in many low carb dishes, and so can high protein beans and legumes. For lacto-ovo vegetarians, there’s plenty of room for cheese and eggs. Strict vegans can build in non-dairy cheeses such as soy and cashew cheese as well as a range of nut butters for added proteins and healthy fats. And non-starchy, low carb vegetables are an essential ingredient in many low carb meals.
Low Carb Doesn’t Have to Be No-Carb
Although low carb cooking emphasizes foods that are either low in carbs or virtually carbohydrate free, such as vegetables and lean meats, there’s a place for those healthy complex carbs, too.
High fiber whole grains such as brown rice, barley, rye and the ancient grains amaranth and quinoa make healthy side dishes or filling breakfasts. Relatively unprocessed whole grain breads and toasts in combination with the usual low carb staples of lean protein, fruits and vegetables can still keep a meal low in carbs. Small amounts of sweeteners such as brown sugar, maple syrup and honey can add flavor without an overload of carbs, too.
You can eat healthy starches in small amounts like potatoes, sweet potatoes and rice. Don’t cut these out completely because they do contain important nutrients.
Cauliflower is the New Rice & Potatoes
Fried rice demands, well, rice. A burger and fries just wouldn’t be the same without the fries. In some favorite dishes, carbs like rice, potatoes and noodles are essential ingredients. But clever low carb cooks have found that certain vegetables can fill in nicely for these higher carb versions.
Finely chopped cauliflower can be seasoned and cooked to a consistency and taste very similar to rice, pureed to sub for the potatoes in potato soup, or riced for hash browns. Spaghetti squash or zucchini, cut into long thin strips, can substitute for noodles in many Asian-style dishes, and baked sweet potato fries can fill in for standard French fries.
You Don’t Have to Give Up Dessert
Low carb desserts rely on the natural sweetness of fruits and flours made from grain alternatives such as almonds. Sweeteners such as stevia substitute for standard brown and white sugar in low carb cakes, cookies, pastries and other kinds of sweet treats. Even high carbohydrate sweeteners such as syrup and honey can be added for flavoring without pushing the carbohydrate count too high.
Nut butters and cream cheese play an important role in low carb dessert cooking, too. Even vegetables such as zucchini, carrots and sweet potatoes can be whipped up into a tasty, nutritious low carb dessert.
Because carbohydrate rich foods are everywhere, it’s easy to take them for granted. But with a little time and imagination, the low carb alternatives you make at home can be more nutritious – and delicious.
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