So you’ve committed to a diet low in carbohydrates. Maybe you did it because your doctor recommended low-carb eating as a way of managing your diabetes. Maybe you did it to lose weight. Maybe you did it because in this world of conflicting health advice, just about everyone you know is doing it, and you thought that you’d give it a try. But now that you’ve made the commitment, how do you stick to a low-carb diet in a world of fat-free cookies and pasta dishes?
The first thing everybody tells you is to avoid temptation. But for some of us, eating out is a way of life – especially when we’re traveling. And there’s probably not a restaurant on the planet that doesn’t serve some very carbohydrate-rich foods. Remember though, it’s far easier to stick to a low-carbohydrate regimen when eating in restaurants than it is to stick to almost any other kind of eating plan. You just have to be a little choosy about where you go.
Burger joints are easy. Just order the burger with all the fixings and toss the bun. Steak houses are similarly accommodating if you ask for veggies instead of the baked potato. You can even get away with an Italian restaurant if you order a meat and wine dish instead of the pasta. Admittedly, Chinese and Mexican restaurants make it hard to avoid the carbs, so you want to steer clear of those unless you know the chef is willing to cater to your specific needs – no flour, no sugar, no starch. Wherever you go, fill up on low-carb appetizers such as shrimp, oysters, clams or antipasto, and skip dessert.
Sometimes we don’t have to go out to a restaurant to be tempted; temptation comes to us. Eventually, our friends, family, and coworkers are sure to wave cookies under our nose. One way to fight off the urge at times like these is to always have an alternative on hand. This is more difficult than it looks. Most of us don’t have healthy snacks available to us 24/7 and it’s somewhat impractical to carry around a leg of lamb. Luckily, a discrete bag of nuts will do in case of emergency. Cured beef sticks and beef jerky are also handy treats. Stash low-carb snacks in all conceivable places you may need them: by the computer, in the glove box of your car, in your desk at work, and by your bedside table. If you do this, the next time a coworker passes by with some candy, or a family member starts munching on chips, you’ll have something to combat your snackish urges in a hurry!
Even after we’ve successfully fought off the immediate threat of a piece of chocolate cake by filling up on nuts and quick low-carb snacks, we may still feel deprived and a wee bit sorry for ourselves. That’s the time to remember that there are several benefits to low-carbohydrate diets, the most important one of them being that we can usually indulge in rich and delicious foods that other dieters can’t. If you’ve been tempted with cake, promise yourself a handful of strawberries and fresh whipped cream later in the day. If you’ve had to forego macaroni and cheese one too many times, treat yourself to a steak slathered in mushrooms.
Of course, most of us don’t have time to prepare fresh whipped cream and steaks slathered in mushrooms every night. And one of the most frequent complaints about a low-carb diet is that it requires too much cooking. How many times have we come home, starving, so that the immediate hunger far outweighs our resolve to stick to our diet? No matter what the diet gurus may say, it’s better to fall into a quick microwave dinner full of preservatives that mostly meets with our dietary goals than it is to fall into a gallon of ice-cream full of preservatives that meets none of our dietary goals. So keep some convenience foods on hand.
Boston Market has a line of chicken in a box without the starchy side dishes. There are also a variety of frozen meats and veggies that can be thrown together in the microwave, available from your local grocer. In a pinch, roll up some cream cheese in sliced smoked turkey breast for a quick snack, or slice up some cheese and summer sausage. Cheese sticks, smoked mussels, sugar free jello cups, and frozen spiced chicken breasts can all feed that immediate hunger. Cans of tuna, turkey, and crab are good to keep on hand too.
Note that all of the quick foods listed above can be purchased in any grocery store. But there are other alternatives. Companies have started to jump onto the low-carb bandwagon and they’re offering many products that can be used to supplement your diet. While the bars, the shakes, and the pills probably aren’t all that healthy and aren’t worth the price, there are a few products that really do have a place on the low-carb dieter’s shelves. It’s hard to stomach day after day of protein without a little ketchup in your life. There are now a few brands of very low-carb ketchup sweetened with Splenda. Splenda itself is a nice substitute in your sugar bowl and can be used for anything from sweetening your coffee to cooking recipes. And if you just have to have a slice of bread, go ahead and buy some of the new low-carb sliced bread loaves. Throw the bread in the freezer and thaw a few pieces at a time as you need them. All these products, and some others, are available from some very reliable online stores that ship directly to your home.
Still, don’t go overboard with your online shopping excursions. These supplemental products can be expensive, and most of them aren’t worth the price. Just get a few of the basics – ketchup, Splenda?, low-carb bread, and maybe a little mint sauce for that leg of lamb – and your life will be much easier for it.
But say you’ve followed all these guidelines but somehow an entire bowl of pasta ended up in your stomach by accident. What then? Well, experts say that if you eat the entire offending portion of carbohydrates within the span of one hour, the damage might not be that bad. According to the authors of the “Carbohydrate Addicts Diet,” insulin is produced in two waves. If all your offending carbohydrates have been consumed at the end of an hour, the second wave of insulin is not large enough to cause the usual associated fat storage.
Even if your binge did go beyond that magic hour marker, remember that tomorrow is another day. Don’t let a misstep today make you give up your plan completely. Just resolve to make your next meal conform to your eating plan. Good luck and happy eating