Low-Carb Favorites, from the Devotees

So this whole low-carb thing about diabetes is driving me crazy.

As I said myself recently, when struggling to control your blood sugar, the more carbs, the more struggle.

Low_carb_plate_3 But I also don’t believe that complete abstinence is the answer (like “just say no” isn’t really the answer for birth control, right?) Carbohydrates are part of life, and part of a healthy diet, too, in moderation. I just wish there were more — and more satisfying — low-carb (LC) choices to make the whole carb restriction thing a bit easier.

So in desperation, I turned to Atkins / ultra-low-carb devotees for advice. I wrote to Jimmy Moore of the leading LC blog Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb, with this query:

Since most diabetics seem to struggle with restricting carbs and figuring out what in the heck they can eat, I need your help. Could you share your TOP 20 FAVORITE LOW-CARB MEALS & SNACKS with me to share with my readers?

What we’re looking for are some viable meal/snack options that really keep a person satisfied — some actual dishes you can prepare for a dinner or a lunch meal, or something you can order in a real live restaurant.

Jimmy posted the query on his discussion board, and whala, we got a whole mess of suggestions! I’m not sure they added up to exactly 20; I lost count (speaks for my carb-counting skills, ay?). Here’s a rough synopsis, in no particular order:

Fave Low-Carb MEALS:

* Chicken Marsala
“Thin sliced chicken dredged in parm cheese and pan fried in butter and garlic. A splash of real marsala wine for flavor (do not drink the rest of the bottle). Serve with sauteed sliced mushrooms and a gorgeous salad.”

* Chopped shrimp (the frozen stuff will do) on a bed of lettuce with a dollop of mayo and hard boiled egg slices

* Green bean casserole, mashed cauliflower, meatloaf, turkey burgers, unbreaded fried wings, baked chicken breasts, baked fish

* Fauxtatoes, buffalo wings, low carb pizza (not for the gluten-free, of course)

* Sea scallops wrapped in bacon, skewered on the BBQ

* Steak on the grill with “loaded broccoli”: broccoli with a bit of sour cream, a touch of butter, real bacon bits, chopped onion, and shredded cheese (apparently kills those potato cravings)

* Spaghetti squash, instead of pasta

* “Lettuce sandwiches”: wrap your sandwich fixins in lettuce leaves

* Salad, salad, salad: taco salad, chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, Caesars salad with chicken or shrimp, spinach-strawberry salad, lemon-tarragon salad, and so on

Fave Low-Carb SNACKS:

* Steamed shrimp

* Turkey Kielbasa (good as an entree, too)

* Pepperoni chips

* Yogurt cup with a few chopped berries and walnuts

* Cauliflower “Popcorn” (comes complete with an oh-so-cute instructional video on YouTube HERE)

* Celery sticks with flavored cream cheese

* Deviled eggs, avocado-filled eggs, boiled eggs mashed with wasabi powder

* Salad, salad, salad: chicken salad, tuna salad, shrimp salad, etc., etc.

Thanks so much for the suggestions, Guys! But I also see my problem right there; I am sick to death of skinless chicken, eggs, and salad, salad, salad. I can’t stand cauliflower. Steak and pepperoni are too fatty for my poor sensitive stomach to take very often… whine, whine, whine… I know.

Honestly, the enthusiasm of Jimmy’s followers alone kind of re-kindled my motivation to slash the carbs. And it’s sure nice to know there’s a whole community out there to fall back on whenever you feel you might be “losing it.” Time to start surfing the low-carb recipe circuit again :) Need a place to start? Go see Linda.


23 Responses

  1. Michelle
    Michelle September 18, 2007 at 8:44 am | | Reply

    It’s so hard to remove the carbs. I look at those “meals” and think “where is the side dish of rice?” Where does macaroni and cheese (homemade of course) fit into that and what’s a taco salad without broken up pieces of taco shell? Sigh. I will fail at low carb. Always.

  2. Anne
    Anne September 18, 2007 at 9:07 am | | Reply

    Just make sure to take it easy on the saturated fats. Another option is to cut back on the fat in these recipes and have a piece of toast or two (in order to balance calories). For most, it won’t send your BG’s that high. A 1/2 C serving of rice shouldn’t, either, for most people. Substitute olive oil or other healthy fats for saturated fats like butter. Use low- or non-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream. I think, for me, the most helpful thing is to time my boluses properly and to avoid snacking too much. But my A1c is not as good as it could be. I just don’t have the energy to exercise properly without some carb’s in my diet, and I think having an HDL level of 80 and resting heart rate of 48 bpm outweigh a slight rise in post-prandrial BG’s.

    I am biased though, I admit. I just can’t buy the low-carb/Atkins thing since it reminds me so much of when I was diagnosed, and was wasting away as my body ate away at my fat stores. Yeah, I was a skinny thing but having ketones flooding the bloodstream is not healthy. I realize that it’s a different situation but it’s the same metabolic pathway that Atkins dieters are trying to use. (I realize, too, this post is not necessarily about Atkins, but just keeping things low-carb. I do agree that keeping carbs lower does help. I just don’t think we have to deprive ourselves of them, but to just eat them in moderation. That’s my experience, anyway.)

  3. Chelle
    Chelle September 18, 2007 at 9:33 am | | Reply

    Have you ever tried the tortillas from La Tortilla Factory? I love them, and they’re very low in carbs. The large wrap has only 20 carbs, and the small tortilla has 8. If you subtract out fiber, the large wrap has 7, and the small tortlla has 3. It’s not bad, and they taste great!

    I also like Dreamfields pasta (as long as you don’t cook it too long). I subtract 10g from the carb count for every 1oz I eat. Also, I’ve noticed that if I reheat it, it’s like eating regular pasta…BG spikes right afterward. It doesn’t do well for leftovers; but it’s great for dinner!

    For breakfast, I’ve discovered Trader Joe’s 0% Fat Greek Yogurt. I mix 1c with defrosted frozen berries, plus 1oz of whatever raw nuts strike my fancy. A little stevia, and it’s awesome! (Yes, I do eat the same thing for breakfast almost every day, but I vary the fruit/nut combo; I love it, and it keeps my BGs steady through the morning.)

  4. riva
    riva September 18, 2007 at 10:02 am | | Reply

    For a snack, try Lindt’s chocolate bar with 85% cocoa. I wouldn’t have believed it but it’s got about half the fat and half the carbs of even other dark chocolate bars and less carbs than Guylian’s sugar-free chocolate. One ample square at night is pretty satisfying, creamy and delicious. If you’re daring grab a bite of that and their 99% cocoa version. Thought it was the most bitter thing I ever tasted the first time I tried it, but it’s grown on me immensely.

  5. MoHo
    MoHo September 18, 2007 at 10:14 am | | Reply

    Wine, wine, wine…

  6. Jimmy Moore
    Jimmy Moore September 18, 2007 at 11:12 am | | Reply

    THANKS for allowing my forum readers the opportunity to share from their own experiences, Amy! :)

  7. kelly
    kelly September 18, 2007 at 1:08 pm | | Reply

    oh my god i so love this. i am SO sick of seeing 180s and 190s etc etc (and much worse of course but that’s even what i’m trying to eat right)! i love the lettuce idea esp. i also like riva’s suggestion since i had sworn off “diabetic” or “sugar free” or “low carb” candy … i’ve also been eating a lot of hummus lately though i know probably everyone already eats mountains of that…

  8. Chris
    Chris September 18, 2007 at 2:59 pm | | Reply

    I just have one question to all this low carb stuff…

    aren’t there any VEGETARIAN diabetics who eat low carb?

    every time i read low carb it always seems to translate into meat meat meat.

    a disgruntled diabetic vegetarian

  9. Lili
    Lili September 18, 2007 at 5:29 pm | | Reply

    I’m a vegetarian and I’ve eaten low carb. Also, rice sends my bg through the roof, even when I know I’m bolusing for the right amount – just another datapoint. Anyway, I have several low carb vegetarian and low carb baking cookbooks. It *is* possible, with some work.

  10. gretchen
    gretchen September 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm | | Reply

    For those concerned about fat in low-carb diets, I really think the healthiest approach is the former GO Diet, renamed the Four Corners Diet. Because I liked their approach, I helped the authors with the 4C book, adding comments on diabetes, but I have no significant financial interest in it now because the book never took off and has been remaindered. You can get used copies on Amazon for about $3.

    The diet emphasizes healthy mono fat, fiber, yogurt, and what we called “pharmafoods,” or foods like broccoli that are supposed to help prevent some diseases like cancer.

    Once you get used to a LC diet, you realize that foods like rice aren’t really that tasty. I now much prefer LC vegetables and now view foods like pasta as simply a waste of calories.

    To me, saying, “I could never live without bread” is sort of like saying, “I could never live without deep dish apple pie a la mode with whipped cream and chocolate sauce on the top.” Would we rather have our accustomed childhood foods or would we rather have a chance to see our grandchildren grow up?

  11. RichW
    RichW September 18, 2007 at 6:33 pm | | Reply

    I just started on a diet and this couldn’t have come at a better time. This isn’t the first time your timing was right on the money. I can’t wait to try the cauliflower popcorn. Sorry to hear you don’t like cauliflower.

  12. CrazyACpumper
    CrazyACpumper September 18, 2007 at 10:58 pm | | Reply

    Oh the fun we have with our addictions! Carbs are the most annoying aspect on my life as a Type 1 Diabetic. And don’t get me started on a certain time of the month. We have cravings. We have addictions. I know a couple things for certain, I feel better when I eat fresh food, namely vegetables, and even better when I drink water. Now, the water is free but the “good for you food” is expensive.

    If you have seen any of my previous posts, after 22 years, 7 on my own, I am at a crossroads between living the life I want and accessing what I need to live. The first part is my current job. I work from home doing what I love. After 7 years of struggling I had to rethink my career path to better my health. I am just at the beginning of my “new life” and all I know is everything I learned growing up as a Diabetic still holds true:

    Pay attention to how your body reacts to foods. If your BT rises after doing the correct amount of insulin, cut back or cut out. If you “feel” better and your BT barely rose, stick with it!

    What seems to be most consistent is Diabetics react more “immediately or intensely” to carbs. So I will end with my latest motto: If It Works, Work It!

  13. mollyjade
    mollyjade September 19, 2007 at 6:56 am | | Reply

    Amy, you should really try the roasted cauliflower. It tastes very different from other kinds of cauliflower, and I’ve converted a few cauliflower haters with it. Roasting it makes it sweet and crunchy.

    Also, Chris and Lili, there’s a new vegetarian diabetics group over at TuDiabetes. You should join and share some low carb vegetarian ideas.

  14. brenda
    brenda September 19, 2007 at 7:11 am | | Reply

    What about fruits and nuts? I crave these and it seems that the low-carb diet restricts these items. I have just started the Atkins diet and can manage everything except the lack of fruit and nuts (peanuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts, etc.) I like these for snacks. Any suggestions/ideas?

  15. Ed
    Ed September 19, 2007 at 7:23 am | | Reply

    Brenda – Almonds are great for diabetics and normally you won’t need to bolus for them. You need to find fruits that are low on the GI like berries – grapes and other sweet fruits are awful for diabetics (raise bs very quickly).

    As far as rice, long grain rice is much easier to bolus for than short grain rice, of course brown long grain rice is the best but we all need some flavor!

  16. Brenda
    Brenda September 19, 2007 at 7:31 am | | Reply

    Thanks for the almond suggestion. Do you have other ideas for quick, on-the-run snacks? This is my first time to visit this site and I’m excited to find so much info, however, my time is so limited at the computer for going through all the posts to find exactly what I am looking for. I hope to spend as much time as possible reading everyone’s comments and suggestions, as I need lots of help in this area. I have been diagnosed with Pre-diabetes and my dr. suggested that I consider the low-carb diet approach to handling this as a first step, before it becomes a severe problem.-

  17. Dan
    Dan September 19, 2007 at 8:27 am | | Reply

    Amy, thanks for posting this. I am a member of Jimmy’s forum and contributed to the list. He didn’t say it was for your site and I’m happy to see it here.

    I think diabetics should take a common sense approach. Forget all the theories and low fat vs. low carb. Just use your glucose meter as a guide. If something jacks up your blood sugar, don’t eat it or eat it in smaller quantities. We all react differently to different foods. I adopted low carb shortly after being diagnosed type 2 and have relied on my meter to guide what I eat. I have to avoid some foods that are otherwise allowed in moderation on low carb.

    There are a lot of misconceptions about low carb and you really need to understand what it is all about. While there are some strict carnivores out there, most of us don’t eliminate all carbs and enjoy plenty of non starchy vegetables. Atkins only restricts fruit and nuts in the “induction” phase, but allows them later. Atkins even praises berries as being highly nutritious. It’s NOT all about bacon & eggs, steak & butter, etc.

  18. Andrea Harris
    Andrea Harris September 19, 2007 at 6:58 pm | | Reply

    I agree that cauliflower is not too appealing, but tossed with olive oil and kosher salt, then roasted it’s divine. Brussel sprouts too.

    The flax wraps from Joseph’s Middle East bakery are my lunch-time staple. Spread it with pesto, your choice of meat, avocado, and lots of salad and it’s great. They’re found locally in MA or in Walmarts (if you can stand to shop there) elsewhere in the country.

    Nuts are another favorite. Also, fresh peanut butter on a GG Scandinavian Bran Crisp cracker is always a safe bet for me.

  19. maxlharris
    maxlharris September 20, 2007 at 12:22 pm | | Reply

    I came to look from Jimmy Moore’s site. It’s always amazing to me after several years of On-and-Off low carbing (Am currently in month 13 continuous, but have been doing it for part times since 2002) the amount of misinformation available about LC, even in theoretically aligned groups.

    Background: Dad had pre-diabetic blood sugar. Then he saw a different doctor and was informed that the standard had changed. He started doing Atkins in 03, and has been roughly compliant since. Dad’s HbA1C is stable in the normal range since, and he hasn’t had to use any insulin, metformin or other external BG control. Dad also lost 40 lbs and is closer to 6 pack abs at 62 than he was at 26 (dad was never heavy, now he’s very lean.).

    At any rate: Thoughts:
    Anne’s post is far from anything on target, information wise. If you’re carb free, you don’t worry about fats. In fact, on a traditional low carb diet, you’re getting maybe 50-60% of your calories from fat. Sat Fat, Monounsat, poly unsat. No problem. It doesn’t convert to fat when you’re not flooded with insulin, and it doesn’t promote BG response. Easy Peasy. In fact, the fat will blunt the glycemic response to carbs. Not gonna lower glycemic load, but index, yeah.

    Ketosis != Ketoacidosis. The former is the mere presence of partially burned fats flowing in your system. The latter is a potentially deadly condition that diabetics will find themselves in if they don’t manage themselves well. Both are marked by the presence of ketones in your emissions (urine, breath, sweat, etc). But that’s about where the similarity ends. One is harmless, maybe even beneficial (research pointing to a ketone fueled brain as being less likely to develop degenerative brain conditions), the other deadly dangerous. Be careful and know the difference. Consult your medical professional on the latter, but don’t get confused.

    Exercise Energy and the LC: You tank for a week or so as your body switches to fat burning. Unless you are doing spinning classes or other long, intense muscle depleting exercise, your stored fat will eventually (after a week to a month) fuel your workout just as well as the carbage. There’s research with athletes on this. Average time for endurance athletes to make the switch and return to their form was about 2.5 weeks if I recall.

    If you are doing Atkins, you are out on the fruit and peanuts for two weeks. Then you get to add them back. If you do other LC diets (plug for protein power here), you get your berries and your nuts, even peanuts, right up front. from day one. Don’t get confused. You get berries and other low sugar fruits in limited quantities. But if the trade off is pineapple and a bolus or blueberries and the benefits of low carb, I think I can live without the acid reflux I get from pineapple (most people who do the LC dance report reduction/elimination of acid reflux. When I was 55 lbs heavier, I had debilitating reflux 3-7 nights a week, and it was hard to do anything when I had a bad attack. In 13 months, I’ve had maybe two very minor incidences. It’s a nice benefit).

    Last, I’m a steak and brie kind of guy. There are LC vegetarians. I couldn’t tell you how to start, especially if you are doing a protein powered LC diet. On snacks. String cheese or other single serving cheeses are great on the go. Beef jerky (12g carbs in a 3.5 ounce package of Jack Link’s Original). Baked pepperoni travels well. Marcona Almonds (fewer carbs and more protein than traditional almonds) are nice too. The deep deep dark chocolate (75%+ cacao content) is good in limited doses.

    I hope this has been informative and not overly confrontational. Only trying to share some info in the hopes of being helpful.

  20. Beth Wieder
    Beth Wieder September 21, 2007 at 11:49 am | | Reply

    I agree 100% with Max’s post. I have done a low carb diet most of the last 10 years since being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and always feel better and have more energy the lower carb I stay. You really drag around the first couple of weeks, though, but you do get used to it, and quit craving starch. I find what I miss most is crunchy texture. Try making “parmesan crisps” (here’s a recipe http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/snacks/r/cheesecrisps.htm). I have also had success in reintroducing small amounts of some higher carb but low glycemic index foods — really helps with variety!

  21. Tired of Atkins Idiots
    Tired of Atkins Idiots January 13, 2008 at 9:54 pm | | Reply

    I think low carb diets are unhealthy and dangerous for diabetics.

    One should always eat at least 45g of carbs with major meals, and 15g-30g for snacks, getting at least 120-150g a day.

    I have seen three nutritionists since I was diagnose diabetic 7 years ago, and they have all warned me about the dangers of not eating carbs with every meal. Some of the menu items you posted have absolutly no carbohydrates at all.

    This is dangerous for a diabetic. Not eating carbohydrates will cause your liver to produce extra blood sugar to cover the fact that you aren’t eating any. This makes your blood sugar rise even higher that it normally would, and give the insulin a more difficult time of attaching and synthesizing your blood glucose.

    In essence, abstinence from carbs makes your blood sugar *higher*. Hyperglycemia is DANGEROUS and must be controlled properly.

    You shouldn’t be looking for low carb options, you should be looking for complex carb options. There is a huge difference. One is healthy, the other is dangerous.

    Educate yourself.

  22. taulandi
    taulandi January 19, 2008 at 12:22 am | | Reply

    When my parents were diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor prohibited many kind of foods to them. They began to eat less and more soup.

    I was then, going around asking and getting the right infos to give to my parents on what do they have to eat.

    And the thing I’ve learned that one diabetic should eat from every kind of food; from proteins [meat,fish,eggs], carbohydrates, fats. A only one type of food diet is not healthy. A diabetics body needs to have all kind of foods.
    But, one diabetic should know what exactly to eat. For example, one diabetic can eat less than one teaspoon honey, but not more than that. Can eat meat, but have to choose a lean one, and so on.
    That is the best diabetes diet.

  23. LCC
    LCC July 1, 2008 at 2:42 am | | Reply


    As a five-year low carb adherent who thought he could never give up bread, it *is* possible to change your diet and still eat well. I’ll admit that there’s times I cheat, but I’ve been able to keep 65 lbs off for almost half a decade, so from a weight reduction standpoint, low carb has worked for me.

    I have recently seen my blood sugar numbers creep up past the normal range and as I have a strong family disposition toward diabetes, I hope that the low carb living will help keep the disease at bay for as long as possible.

    You can visit my site at http://lowcarbconfidential.com for some of my recipes, but there is a *world* of creativity in the low carb world that is worth checking out – industrious low carbers have found substitutes for nearly everything.



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