K.I.S.S. – Suggestions for Starting a Low Carb Diet

One day at a time.
Taking it one day at a time.

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid (and Easy).  This is Day 5 for me and as I begin my low-carb journey, I remind myself every day to make this new way of eating as simple as possible and to eat as “clean” as possible.

For the first few weeks, I plan to eat simple meals with very few ingredients.  I am eating grilled chicken with chopped romaine lettuce and olive oil for lunch today.  For dinner, I’m going to cook some haddock with a side of sauteed zucchini.  I like to pair meat or fish with one veggie and some butter or olive oil.

I am avoiding all sugar substitutes so my body forgets what “sweet” tastes like.  I don’t want to eat artificial anything.  I can happily say that I have already lost my “sweet tooth”.

Drinking water is so important on this diet! I am drinking water like there is no tomorrow.  I try to drink 48 oz of water before I get home from work and another 32 oz when I get home.

I carefully plan each meal before I sit down to eat.  I use myfitnesspal.com to make sure I am getting the right ratio of macro-nutrients to be successful on this program.  I make sure that all of the groceries I need for the week are in my kitchen and easily accessible.

I have joined a “90 Day Low Carb Challenge” on Facebook.  I am very encouraged and inspired by the results I see on this challenge.  What a wonderful group of people!  I would recommend this group to anyone!

I read a lot about nutrition and healthy eating.  I think it is very important to be educated about the foods you eat and how they affect your body.

My first weekly weigh-in is this Saturday and I know I will be pleased.  I can already feel my body changing.  The bloating is gone and I even woke up feeling “skinny” yesterday.

I have already taken my “before” pictures and I can’t wait until the “after” photos!

So you never forget…

Time for a change.
How did I end up this way again?

Dear Elaine,

So you never forget…This is what it feels like when you are obese:

  • I feel tired all of the time. Even coffee is not enough to give me energy.
  • I want to sit all of the time and even when I do, I no longer fit comfortably in chairs. I find myself sliding down and having to readjust myself.  I am also looking at chairs differently and trying to assess if it will hold me and will I fit.
  • The heat affects me terribly. I have a hard time breathing outside in the summer and I feel like a roasting tomato.
  • My clothes don’t fit. I always feel like a sausage trying to put on my clothes and pants that were hanging off me are now very snug.
  • Last summer was the first summer of my life when I didn’t put on a bathing suit. I wore shorts to the beach.  Part of the reason is that I do not have any bathing suits big enough to fit and I do NOT want to go shopping for a new one.  I also feel like a whale and I do not want to expose my big belly and thunder thighs on the beach.
  • Photos are frightening. I know I am fat but when I look at myself in a photo, I look extremely obese.  I have a little head and a mountainous body.  My face has also doubled in size since I gained all of this weight.  I am ugly and I am ashamed.
  • I wake up with a stomach ache every day.
  • When I look in the mirror naked, I cannot believe the rolls of fat that are on me. I no longer recognize my own body.
  • I am so depressed. I cannot believe I allowed myself to gain 90 lbs.  No food is worth what I feel right now.
  • Mirrors are cruel.

2017 is going to be MY year!  I am so tired of observing life.  It’s time to live it again!  One day at a time.

Here is to a successful New Year for all of us!

Resolutions…A New Year, A New Me!

Resolutions.  A new year and a healthier me.

new goals for a new year
2017 – the Year of Elaine

During this time of the year, I like to reflect on the last twelve months: what worked for me and what I would like to change as I strive to become a better person.  On the plus side, my finances are in better shape than ever and I love my job.  I also have an amazing relationship with my family and friends and my dogs are all healthy.

As for changes I would like to make in the new year, there are many. While 2016 started off with a commitment to a low-carb lifestyle, I lost my way after July.  July is also the last time I created a new post on this blog.  My eating has been out of control since then and as unhealthy as it gets.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to have a sleeve of saltines and a handful of cashews and call it dinner.

I feel old.  I feel tired.  I feel fat.  Time to do something about it!

My Resolutions for 2017 include:

  • Recommit to my low carb lifestyle.  I know it works and I feel physically wonderful when I cut out the sugar and focus on whole foods.
  • Make sure I go to the grocery store regularly so there is always healthy food options in my refrigerator.  When my fridge is bare, I tend to order in.  Preparation and planning are key to successful meal planning.
  • Cook, and I mean actually cook my meals.  I have become so dependent on convenience foods and I rely too much on reheating in my microwave.  My goal is to make at least two new low carb recipes each week and share them with you.
  • Share my low carb journey with you with at least two new posts each week.

I would love to hear from you.  What kind of resolutions are you making for 2017?

 

Low Carb Schnitzel Recipe

 

Wienerschnitzel
Low Carb Wienerschnitzel

Hi Everyone!  My dear friend Brian has also embraced a low-carb lifestyle. We are both World Language teachers in the same middle school. Brian is a wonderful cook.  He has generously agreed to write a guest post for this blog and to share his famous low carb schnitzel recipe with us.  I can’t wait to try this recipe for myself!

Take it away, Brian….

before and after

Hi, my name is Brian.  I am a German teacher at the same school where Elaine teaches French.  This year I lost 40 pounds. (See photos above) Last time I traveled to Austria, my former home of 4 years, I was weighing my suitcase, which weighed forty pounds.  I thought to myself, “oh my God, I’ve lost a suitcase!”  One suitcase lighter, I feel great and I’m ultimately glad I’ve decided to embrace the low-carb lifestyle.  

In the beginning it was hard, but I was fortunate to have a cheerleader at school, who gave me advice, told me I was doing a great job and how proud of me she was.  Her name is Elaine! I am so thankful for all the words of wisdom and motivation she has given me over the past months, so now it is my turn to share with her!

Now, I am not normally a fan of foods pretending to be something they are not.  I love the creativity, but I usually feel disappointment, because they fall short of expectations I’d set when I used to indulge in carbs.  Holding onto the gluttonous notion of an overly-full belly being a good thing is not healthy and is certainly not without consequences in both how you look and how you feel.  Elaine once told me, “Stop focusing on what you can’t have and focus on all the yummy things you can have.”

She couldn’t be more right.  For many of us, however, food is not just a delicious way to get energy; it can be emotional on so many levels.  For me I feel emotionally-connected to the sights, sounds and TASTES of Austria.  One of the biggest staples of Austrian cuisine is the Wienerschnitzel, a pounded out cutlet of veal, pork, chicken or turkey that is breaded and then shallow-fried.  I am not sure if I could live in a world where Wienerschnitzel is on the list of forbidden foods.  So, against my better judgement, I sought out to make a low-carb Wienerschnitzel that tastes good.

The type of meat I chose was veal, the traditional meat for Wienerschnitzel.  I only chose it because my supermarket actually had it and it happened to be very thin cut, so I wouldn’t have to pound it out.  (This is fun if you are having a bad day, but if you can, avoid it!)  Any of the meats I’ve already listed would be fine, as we know meat is not only allowed it is a huge part of our diet as low-carbers.

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The big issue here of course is the breading.  That is a giant NO-NO for us.  “But I want Schnitzel!” (in a whiny, Arnold Schwarzenegger voice)   This was the giant hurdle for this recipe.  I started to research how other low-carbers putting crispy coatings on things. I tried a couple out and they weren’t quite as disappointing as I thought they would be, so I decided to mix up some of the ideas I found to make a coating for my Schnitzel!  This is what I came up with:

Schnitzel Coating:

  • ½ cup of almond meal (You can buy almonds, toast and grind them or buy this at Trader Joe’s  or on Amazon)
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese (any kind is ok, go fancy or don’t)
  • ½ cup of flaxseed meal (Look into flaxseed and all of its health benefits.  It also promotes regularity  🙂
  • ½ tsp of onion powder
  • ½ tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼-½ tsp salt (there already some in the cheese)

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Mix this all in a bowl. Now I usually take half of this and save it for future use.  However, if I need more, I add it.

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The recipe:

  • Coconut oil and butter for frying
  • A few shakes of Tabasco
  • 2 Eggs
  • Pepper, for seasoning egg mixture
  • Salt, for seasoning and egg mixture
  • Schnitzel Coating (see above)
  • 6-8 small or 4 large cutlets either cut thin or pounded out.

Lay out cutlets on a large cutting board or plate.  If they are not THIN already (necessary to make a proper Schnitzel), then pound them out between two pieces of plastic wrap with either a mallet or very sturdy pan and then put on board.

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Lightly season the cutlets with salt and pepper. (You should do this to every layer of a dish!  If you want less salt, reduce it, but do a little in every step).  

Now, I would preheat the pan.  Add coconut oil to pan to coat ½ inch.  Add a ⅓ of a stick of butter and turn heat onto medium high, but don’t forget you have oil on the stove!

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In a bowl, crack both eggs and add a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper and a few shakes of Tabasco.  Gently whisk for 15 seconds with a fork.

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Dip cutlets in egg, let drip for a second or two and then into the coating.  Coat well and add to hot pan. Continue coating and setting aside until you are ready to flip your schnitzel.  Just a reminder, the cutlets are thin and should only take 1-2 minutes per side!  If you didn’t get it quite as thin, shame on you, and cook the schnitzel a little longer (you may need to lower the heat a smidge because you don’t want them to burn).

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Flip the schnitzel when they are golden brown, and move them to a stack of paper towels when they are finished.  Continue until all the schnitzel are cooked.

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Eat with freshly squeezed lemon and pair with a nice glass of Grüner Veltliner.  You can serve with cucumber salad and/or cabbage salad.

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Mahlzeit!  (Bon Appetit in Austria!)

 

Vacation

Going on vacation!
Nigara Falls here I come!

Vacation!

Hi Everyone!

I am going away on vacation and I decided to leave the Internet behind. Sometimes you just need a break from your keyboard.  I am looking forward to some fresh air and the majesty that is Niagara Falls.  I’ve never been there before and I can’t wait to experience the Falls first-hand!

While I am away, I will not be posting any new material but you are more than welcome to read any of my previous posts, especially the earlier ones that didn’t reach many people.

Until we meet again, Low Carb Elaine

5 Benefits of Eating Walnuts: It Just Takes a Handful a Day!

healthbenefitsofwalnuts1
Walnuts! One of nature’s “superfoods”!

I love walnuts!  Besides the delicious taste and crunch they add to many of my favorite foods, walnuts are also very healthy for you!  Eating just one ounce a day (about seven shelled nuts) can improve your health in a number of ways.

Benefit # 1:  Eating walnuts can help with weight loss!  

It is important to include healthy fats when you are trying to lose weight because eating fats help to provide satiety.  Just 1 oz of this little powerhouse provides 2.5 grams of omega 3 fats, 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber!  Wow!  Adding a handful to a salad just makes the salad taste that much better!  I also enjoy them with roasted vegetables.  One of my favorite side dishes is roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts.

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Add flavor and crunch to your favorite recipes!

Benefit # 2: Eating walnuts can help you fall asleep!

Walnuts contain tryptophan, a sleep-enducing amino acid  and melatonin, a natural hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles.  Eating a handful before bed may help you fall asleep faster.  To read more studies about melatonin and walnuts, check out: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15979282.

Benefit # 3:  Eating walnuts is great for your heart!

Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids that benefit your cardiovascular system.  These omega-3 fats may lower your blood pressure and reduce the bad cholesterol in your body while increasing your good cholesterol.  Eating a handful of these nuts every day is an easy way to take care of your heart.

Walnuts have so many positive health benefits!
So many positive health benefits!

Benefit # 4:  Eating walnuts is great for your immune system!

Walnuts contain many antioxidants that boost your immune system and make you more resistant to the onset of disease.  The omega 3 fatty acids found in these nuts reduce inflammation in the body, which can then boost your immune system.  When our bodies are inflamed, we are much more likely to get sick so a handful of nuts will go a long way towards boosting your immune system and keeping you healthy.

Benefit #5:  Eating walnuts is great for your hair and skin!

Walnuts are loaded with antioxidants and B-vitamins that can attack free radicals and reduce wrinkles and the effects of ageing.  They also contain potassium, omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 that are essential for hair nourishment.  Applying walnut oil to your hair can strengthen hair follicles while leaving you with stronger beautiful hair and a healthier scalp.

A “Superfood” is defined as a nutrient-rich food that is considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.  Eating just a handful a day of these wonderful nuts can have a big impact on your health!

Do you enjoy eating walnuts?  How do you include them in recipes?

 

 

 

 

The Vitamin B Family: Spotlight on B1 – Thiamine

Thiamine - Vitamin B1
Thiamine – Vitamin B1

Let’s talk about vitamins and more specifically about thiamine – B1.

Vitamins are good for you.  We all know this but I thought it would be nice to learn exactly why we need vitamins and what the benefits are of specific vitamins.

Let’s begin with the Vitamin B Family.

What is the Vitamin B Family, you may ask?

The Vitamin B Family consists of eight B vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12.  These vitamins help convert our food to fuel and keeps us energized throughout the day.  Each of these vitamins play a special role in cell metabolism – from assisting with healthy skin and hair to preventing migraines and memory loss.

Today, we are going to examine B1 – Thiamine, also known as Thiamin.

What is thiamine and why do I need it?

Thiamine (B1) is a water-soluble vitamin that helps turn starch and sugar into energy and is important for metabolism, focus and strength. Besides carbohydrate metabolism, this vitamin helps with healthy digestion and plays an important role in nerve transmission.  Thiamine also supports the nervous system and muscle functioning.

How much B1 do I need? 

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adults ages 19 and older is 1.2 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women.

Can my body make thiamine naturally?

Although all living organisms use it, only plants, bacteria and fungi can synthesize it.  This means that animals (and humans) can only get thiamine from the foods they eat.

What kind of foods contain thiamine?

Health Benefits Of Vitamin B1 ( Thiamine ) (1) (1)
Foods that contain thiamine

Whole grains, beans, cereals and pasta are all good sources of this important vitamin. Unfortunately, I no longer eat carbs.  However, beef, pork and fish, as well as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, kale, peas, cauliflower, spinach, milk and nuts are also high in this vitamin.  One thing to keep in mind is that heating your food will reduce the amount of thiamine in that food.  Since this vitamin dissolves in water, a significant amount of the vitamin is lost when you boil food.

What happens if I don’t get enough thiamine?

If you have a deficiency, you may notice chronic fatigue, weakness, constipation and weight loss.  A deficiency can also cause numbness and tingling in your hands and feet.

Can I have too much thiamine in my body?

Thiamine is considered safe and nontoxic, even in high doses.  You may feel a little drowsy if you have more than 100 mg in your body.

So there you have it – an introduction to the B Family and a better understanding of  B1 – thiamine.  I plan to introduce a new vitamin to you once a week so we can better understand how our bodies function!

Until tomorrow, Low Carb Elaine

Sugar Addiction: How to Kick the Habit for Good!

Kick Your Sugar Addiction card with colorful background
The sign says it all

Sugar is an addiction.  According to webmd.com, most people in the U.S. eat 19 teaspoons or more of added sugar every day! Wow!  That is scary! The American Heart Association recommends that women eat no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily and that men should get a max of 9 teaspoons.

Eating sugar makes you crave more sugar.  Sugar highs come when you eat simple carbohydrates like a piece of candy. The carbs turn into glucose in your bloodstream, which triggers your pancreas to make insulin to get the glucose out of your bloodstream.  The sudden decrease in glucose causes a sugar low, which may cause shakiness and fatigue and makes you crave more sugar to bring about another “high”.

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After a sugar crash, you seek out another sugar “high”

Beware of other carbohydrates as well.  Like added sugar, starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice also break down into simple sugars in your body.  These foods can also cause surges and crashes in your bloodstream.  I know that if I eat pasta at lunchtime, I just want to lay down for a nap after lunch.  Sugar crashes can really impact your energy level and productivity for the day!

The good news is that it is possible to beat sugar addiction!  Although you may feel cranky and out of sorts for a couple of days, when you cut back on all of your sugar, you will notice that you want it less and less.  Eating sugar makes you crave more sugar.  Not eating sugar makes you significantly less interested in eating sugar.  You will find that your taste buds will no longer have to have something sweet to be satisfied.

When kicking your sugar addiction, it is very important to read food labels.  When I started reading labels, I couldn’t believe how many common grocery products were loaded with sugar!  You may not always see the word “sugar” on the label.  Other names for sugar include:  sucrose, glucose, lactose, dextrose, and fructose (stay away from the        -ose!)

High-fructose corn syrup is especially bad for your health!  Salad dressings, barbecue sauces and cereals all contain high-fructose corn syrup and it is the sweetener that is added to regular sodas!  High-fructose corn syrup is worse for you than table sugar!  It is a major contributor to obesity, diabetes and fatty-liver disease.  If you are reading a label and the product contains high-fructose corn syrup, put it back on the shelf!  And speaking of syrup, stay away from malt syrup, and brown rice syrup as well.

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You would be shocked to find out how much sugar is in your drinks!

Eating protein can helps curb your sugar addiction.  Protein does not make your blood sugar spike.  You digest it more slowly and it will keep you full and satisfied longer.  I always try to keep some hard-boiled eggs and grilled chicken in the house for when I’m feeling hungry.  I recently wrote a post called Hunger vs. Appetite and I have learned to listen to my body to determine if I am truly hungry or if my appetite is rearing it’s ugly head!

Another way to beat your sugar addiction is to be aware of and break some bad habits.  When I was growing up, when I finished all of my dinner, I was rewarded with dessert.  Although my parents didn’t know any better at the time, they were reinforcing two very bad habits:  eat until you have no more food (instead of listening to when my body is satisfied) and using dessert as a nightly reward.

I have worked at breaking the “clean plate” habit and by listening to my body and putting down my fork when I am satisfied.  I have also worked hard to break the “clean plate = sweet dessert” habit.  Although there are many low-sugar and artificially-sweetened desserts out there, my personal choice is to break my dessert habit altogether!  I feel that if I am satisfied enough to put down my fork at dinner and stop eating, then I shouldn’t need a sweet treat to help me feel satisfied.  Any bad habit you try to break will be difficult at first but it does become much easier with practice!

If I can break my sugar addiction, so can you!  It just takes patience and practice saying “no thank you” to sugary foods!

Think Thin Protein Bars – a Low Carb Product Review

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High in protein and 0 grams of sugar!

I am never hungry when I wake up but I know that I should eat something before lunch.  I have been searching for the perfect protein bar – something small, easily portable and satisfying.  Last week, I tried Quest Bars and while I had some mixed reviews about flavor, they did leave me satisfied.

This week, I found “Think Thin” high protein bars in my supermarket.  These bars have 20 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar.  They are also gluten free and come in a variety of flavors.  I bought three bars to taste and review.

First up, the Lemon Delight Think Thin Bar.  This bar is a fairly decent size and the texture is better than the Quest Bar.  I can taste the lemon, although the flavor is not pronounced and the lemon has an artificial taste to it.  This bar left me feeling satisfied and actually kept my hunger at bay for six hours before my next meal.

Not bad in a pinch but not sure I would buy this one again.
Not bad in a pinch but not sure I would buy this one again.

My second Think Thin Bar is the Chunky Peanut Butter Bar.  Wow!  I finally found a winner!  This bar is large and very tasty!  I really like it because it has texture and a great peanut butter taste. This protein bar is also covered in chocolate and is so very satisfying and filling.  I will definitely buy this one again!

Definitely my favorite protein bar! Must buy this one again.
Definitely my favorite protein bar! Must buy this one again!

My third Think Thin Bar is the White Chocolate Bar.  This bar is tasty and has some texture.  The white chocolate itself tastes a bit artificial but it did fill me up and it wasn’t half bad.  I prefer this bar over the Quest Bars because I prefer the texture.

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Not bad, but not as good as the peanut butter bar!

Think Thin Bars are less expensive than Quest Bars and I prefer the flavor and texture.  They cost about $1.75 when you buy them individually.  I look forward to trying all of their flavors!

Low Carb Snack On-The-Go: Volpi Roltini!

Low carb snack on the go - Volpi Roltini
The perfect snack! Prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella sticks

I was on my way to the beach last weekend when I realized I hadn’t eaten breakfast and my stomach was growling.  I had to stop for gas so I decided to go into the Quick Chek mini-mart and pick up a low-carb snack.  There was a lot of junk food available but very few healthy options.

Then….I saw it!  This wonderful little snack was next to the sandwiches and chips.  My Volpi Roltini is a mozzarella string cheese wrapped in prosciutto ham!  Those are the ONLY two ingredients on the wrapper!  Talk about a low-carb satisfying snack!   It costs $1.99.  I bought two of them and they really satisfied my hunger and held me over until I had an early dinner.

I would definitely recommend this low-carb snack and will be bringing them with me on future road trips!  They are easily portable and very satisfying!  My rating:  A+

When I got home from the beach, I asked myself “How difficult could this be to make these roll-ups at home?”  I bet it would be cheaper than buying them at the mini-mart!  I bought a 4-oz package of Citterio Prosciutto for $6.99 and a 12 oz package of Sargento String Cheese for $4.99.  The Prosciutto package had eight slices so I planned to make eight roll-ups.

So delicate, yet so flavorful!
So delicate, yet so flavorful!
Snack on the go
Satisfying when you are on the go!

Each slice of prosciutto was separated by wax paper,which made them easy to roll with the cheese.

And voilà, my homemade roll-up!  Even better than the commercial variety!  And at $12 for 8 roll-up, each prosciutto mozzarella snack is only $1.50, instead of the $1.99 you would pay at the mini-mart!

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Home-made is always better! Perfect snack on the go!

Until tomorrow, Low Carb Elaine