Living Low-Carb: The Complete Guide to Long Term Low-Carb Dieting
By Fran McCullough
Now that all of America has internalized the low-fat edict, it's really hard for most of us to conceive of food in an entirely new way, one that requires us to think in terms not of fat grams or calories, but of the basic metabolic effect food has on our bodies. That task is complicated by the fact that each of the many low-carb systems now available puts a slightly different spin on the basic message. Most long-term low-carb dieters have been on several if not all of these diets, and then settled for one, with some individual modifications.
Here's a simplified, general plan that will allow you to jump on the low-carb diet. If you're just starting, have some beef broth or bouillon on hand to drink if you feel a bit faint or tired - you may need the potassium while your body's adjusting. Using Morton's Lite salt, which has extra potassium, will also do the trick.
A Basic Low-Carb Plan
1. Drink 8 to 12 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Seriously. If you don't do this, you won't lose as much weight and you won't flush the toxins that are released when you burn your stored fat. Drink 2 glasses before breakfast and you're well on your way.
2. Get enough protein at every meal. This means about 0.5g protein daily for every pound of your ideal weight, somewhere from 60 to 85g unless you're very large or very small. For weight loss, keep the carbs low - close to zero if you're on the Atkins diet and trying to get into ketosis; 20 to 30g daily if you're just trying to lose weight in a not-so-rapid way. Don't worry about fat grams.
3. Eat whole foods, organic if possible, and raw ideally. The more fiber, the better. Read labels carefully on prepared foods and note that you can subtract the fiber grams from the total carb count - which means you can have more vegetables and low-carb fruit.
4. A good general rule is to avoid everything white - especially flour, sugar, potatoes, popcorn, and rice. (Technically complex carbohydrates, potatoes and rice act as simple sugars in the body.) Milk is fairly high-carb, so limit it. But do eat turnips, cauliflower, and giant white radishes (daikon).
5. Eat fruit at breakfast, if at all, and stress low-carb fruits: berries, melon, peaches, kiwi. Half a banana or a finger banana is your maximum.
6. Be prepared. Stock up on canned tuna, sardines, celery, hard-cooked eggs, cheese, nuts, green vegetables. On the road, take along low-carb protein bars or other portable low-carb foods.
7. Choose your fats wisely. Good fats include cold-pressed olive oil, nut oil, avocado, nuts, sesame oil, and peanuts. Bad fats are processed oils, partially hydrogenated fats, and margarine Don't go wild with the fat if you're trying to lose weight. If you save the rich cheese and butter and cream for treats, you'll not only lose weight faster, you may be doing your health a favor, too (see page 56).
8. If you're trying to lose weight, weigh yourself no more than once a week; once a month is better.
9. Have dinner early, and make it minimal - just protein and salad or vegetables - if you're trying to lose weight. A little exercise after dinner is also a great idea.
10. If you fall off the wagon, savor what you're eating but jump right back on at the very next meal. Don't blow a whole day; chances are you may see no ill effect whatsoever if you don't compound the problem by splurging again right away.
It's amazing how quickly the low-carb program becomes second nature. You'll feel especially energetic, you'll look really good, and you'll be losing weight, toning your body, and boosting your level of general health dramatically.
What a great diet! So why isn't everyone in America on it and getting lean and healthy? The fact is, although it's very easy in one sense it's hard in another - it tends to be boring, and you have to give up some favorite foods, at least in any quantity. For those of us who are completely hooked on sugar and starch, it's difficult. I'm no exception; because my work revolves around food. I'm always being invited on fantastic trips to exotic food destinations (this month, it's the Piedmont district of Italy, where the pasta and risotto will be practically in my bed). I'm constantly tempted - and I frequently succumb. My laxity isn't good for my general health profile and certainly not good for weight loss; in fact, I spend about half of each year just losing weight I've recently gained on these pilgrimages. I get a little more resistant to the carb devils as I struggle through this eternal Groundhog Day of gaining and losing, and I'm hopeful that eventually I'll just be able to resist them all. I'm entirely sympathetic with readers who find themselves snatching the french fries off their dining partners' plates.
When I'm on the straight and narrow for weeks at a time, though, I tend to get bored, and that's another situation where temptation has an easy time with me. The only solution to that is to cook your way out of it, to make interesting food that makes you eager to sit down to a low-carb meal.