Friday, February 22, 2008

Low-Carb Products #1

One of the things that you notice when you're a recent convert to low-carb is what I think of as the Great Low-Carb Gulf. I think that approximately 2004 was the height of the latest low-carb-as-a-fad craze... and then, like all fads, it dropped off in popularity. And the result of that is that if you look at a lot of the low-carb groups, it's like this great void, like the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs... then and now, before and after. Nowhere is this more clear than in lists of low-carb products and restaurant reviews. Most of them don't exist any more, and it's frustrating to think, wow, that sounds good... only they stopped producing it in 2005 when demand fell off. Oops.

On the whole, I don't see this as much of a loss, because I think that the less processed gunk that we eat, the better, and I am SO not a fan of the Atkins bars and similar items, although I'm sure they're a lifesaver if you're pressed for time. And I think that PJ, the Divine Low Carb, is exactly right when she says that you have to get out of the mindset of making things that are "like" higher carb things... as if they're inferior substitutes for something that you'd rather have. But, hey, it's not like I wouldn't like a bagel now and then.

So having said that, here a few product reviews.

1. Shirataki Noodles. Omigod, are these the greatest gift to low carb living in the universe, or what? I think you have to like Asian noodles, and you DO have to remember that you must rinse them carefully and/or boil them for a while, but they're just terrific. I tried them but didn't really believe that they'd be as good with, say, alfredo sauce, but I was oh so wrong. You can get these online (in a lot of places), but if you live in the Northeast, Wegman's carries them (in the organic foods dairy case), and others report finding them wherever the refrigerated tofu is.

2. Arnold's CarbCounting Multigrain Bread. I probably haven't got the title quite right. The pro: it's the only low-carb bread that they have regularly at the grocery store. The con: it's just not great bread. First of all, it's as if a committee got together and said, we're only going to sell one low-carb bread product, so let's make it appeal to the widest audience possible. Well, fine, and good marketing, but as they say in the marketing literature, you're satisficing. Not getting what you really want. If you really want white bread, it's not. If you really want wheat bread, it's not... or at least not a substantive wheat bread. And, as Michael complains about all the time, it's sweet-ish, like nearly every commercial wheat bread product in the U.S. So I'd give this a 5. We buy it because M. likes a slice of toast with his poached eggs, but on my own, I'd skip it.

3. Controlled Carb High Fiber Plain Bread. This bread I got from LowCarbU, and the single biggest downside is that it's a staggering $6.99/loaf (they have a zero carb version, too, and it's $7.99/loaf). It's sliced thin, and each slice weighs a pretty consistent 3/4 ounce, but the package is labeled for a 1 ounce serving size. For an actual slice, this will net you about 3 carbs, which is not bad if you don't go crazy. It comes in lots of other flavors, too. The pro: it tastes a lot better than the Arnold stuff, and makes a pretty good piece of toast if you don't overtoast it. The con: it's dry. Very dry. This is ok in toast, but I think it would be downright nasty untoasted. This may be because there are no preservatives (you have to freeze it if you're keeping it for any period), and maybe it would be better fresh. Hard to rate overall; has some real pros and cons, and then there's the price...

4. Ostrim. These are Slim-Jim like Ostrich snacks. Ok, we bought them because we just liked the idea of Ostrich Snacks. It just makes you want to say it a few times... here, honey, have an Ostrich Snack. You can get them from Netrition, but we didn't like them. VERY salty-tasting, and they're not all ostrich, and they are low fat but they taste incredibly fatty. It's not that low fat content was a selling point for us... but I just don't like that greasy, fatty taste. We tried the Teriyaki flavor... there are about 4 flavors, I think. Also, they are kind of expensive.

4. Whey Gourmet. Yum. Yumyumyumyumyum. This is a protein shake mix, whey protein obviously, and it tastes better than most milkshakes I've had. I make it like this: for 2 servings, 1 cup water, 2 scoops protein, about 1/2 c. whole-milk yogurt (we like Stonyfield Farms), a good slug of whatever DaVinci syrup you like (I like caramel), and some ice. Blend on slow speed for about 5 minutes (this comes out a LOT better than blending it fast). Whey Gourmet comes in a bunch of flavors. We've had the Dreamy Milk Chocolate and the Artic Cappuchino; both excellent. The price on this stuff varies a lot. The lowest that I've seen is $21; Netrition sells it for about $25, and I've seen a lot of prices around $32. There are about 12 flavors, but most places seem to only carry a few. It's 3 net carbs and 21 g protein.

As long as I'm at it here... I'd like to list my top two food-related irritations of the moment.

1. Artificial colors in EVERYTHING. Michael is very sensitive to both red and yellow colorants (and if you think these things are no big deal, read up on tartrazine. Hope I got the spelling right.). And Nutrasweet. I'm pretty convinced that Nutrasweet (aspartame) is best avoided, but try to find a soda without it! Diet Coke makes a Splenda version (which, I have to say, tastes overly sweet to me), and there's a brand called Diet Rite that is also sweetened with Splenda... BUT, despite making a big deal on their label about 0 calories, 0 carbs, 0 artificial flavors... what DO they have? Colorants in most of the flavors. Sigh.

2. Chicken (and other meats) "enhanced" with broth. We eat roast chicken about once a week... easy, fast meal, everybody loves it... and this week I happened to buy a couple of Purdue whole chickens at Wal-Mart (because I was doing my monthly stock-up on big stuff run). Didn't read the label carefully. Made two lovely chickens, and we both went, weird, really salty. Pulled the labels out of the trash... and, yeah, in tiny print, there's salt and maltodextrin and who knows what else added. Won't ever buy those again. Ditto on Wal-Mart's "Angus Steak House" beef, which is also mostly injected with salt. Awful. I mean, if you're selling chicken, the only ingredient on the package should be CHICKEN.


Carol said...

Hi Nina,

I'm back from the grocery trek that I usually do on Wednesdays or Thursdays, but could not this week.

About your husband's food coloring sensitivity. For sodas, we buy only Hansen's Diet Soda. My foster son with epilepsy can't have the dyes, either, and only Hanson's has NONE in any of its flavors. It is also sweetened with Splenda, not aspertame. It has off-beat flavors like Diet Rite cola...but does have a fairly tasty ginger ale and root beer. Below is a link to them online, with a way to contact them to see where you might find them in your state. Looks like you can buy them from their website but they are a lot more expensive than what I pay here locally.

Most main-stream markets don't carry them. We buy ours here (Tucson, AZ) at Trader Joe's for $1.99 a 6 pack. I've heard that Whole Foods Markets and Wild Oats Markets, as well as Sunflower Markets. carry them. Some health food stores do, too.

I share your dislike of especially protein foods with "extras" in them for flavoring or whatever. I like the taste of the original!

I've never heard of Whey Gourmet but might check it out next time I order from

BUT on low-carb boards I belonged to in the early years (about 1997 to 2000), some people could not lose any weight at all with shakes or bars in their diet. They found they had to stick to "real" food, "pure" food. I don't know if that's something you've considered with your slow-to-no weight loss. I never noticed that it hurt me, but then I only had/have something like that maybe once a week as a special treat, never daily or more than once a day. I personally prefer the taste of real food, anyway...and never was one for milkshakes or anything like that. Just didn't like the taste much...and for that, I'm very grateful!! Fewer nasty foods to become un-addicted to!

For those in my family who can eat bread (two of us cannot, due to gluten sensitivity), I buy the Natural Ovens Original Carb Conscious Bread from Natural Ovens Bakery in Wisconsin. I buy 6 to 12 loaves at a time, at $4.49 a loaf, and keep them frozen. They must be frozen and then in the fridge, because they have no preservatives. A slice is 5 net carbs, but they are sliced about the same width as a loaf of regular white bread. Here's a link to them:

We love shirataki noodles here, too!!

I don't think low-carb eating, as a whole, really fell off much. What did fall off were all the fake foods that the groceries stocked for awhile. Many of us hardcore oldtimers -- and there are probably millions of us, counting those of us who eat low carb for diabetes or epilepsy or many other health reasons -- just did not ever buy much of the low-carb junk, but instead cook pretty much from scratch, which is what I do with a couple of exceptions. I even make our own low-carb version of bread for Sean and me, using almond flour, due to our gluten sensitivity and not able to eat wheat.

I love cookbooks and enjoy collecting them and reading them. I have all of Dana Carpender's books and all of the Eades' cookbooks (actually ALL of their books!), as well as a few others. I rarely follow a recipe exactly, except for maybe baked goods, but love to read through and get inspiration for something different for dinner.

Have to go feed Sean some lunch...I'll be back.

Nina said...

Oh, you're in Tucson! Beautiful. I've only been there once, but I have really fond memories of it. And this time of year, it seems like a great idea; today was the first above-freezing day in a while. And loads of sunshine for a change.

I love cookbooks, too... I have way too many, and one of the things that's been great about the low-carb thing is it's actually considerably expanded the ones that I can use. Low fat made it all difficult. I'm with you on never really following the recipe, but they're great for ideas.

The shakes and bars thing... I've read that, too; a lot of people who can't lose eating one or both of them. Frankly, I think that the Atkins shakes and bars are just junk; overprocessed crap full of maltitol and other things that I don't really want to eat. I never eat anything for bars, except occasionally the GoLower nut bars from the UK, which are very good but too expensive to really eat frequently. The whey protein... I was never a milkshake fan, either, but Michael has much more of a sweet tooth, so it gets him more of the protein that I really think he needs while making him think he's getting dessert... and even I think that they're great. I actually think that it was one of the Eades' books that recommended whey protein, but I can't remember right now.