Here are my answers to some of the most frequent questions I receive from readers.
You say that your recipes are healthy, but they are not low-fat!
Current science tells us that there’s actually no need to eat low fat, and certainly not very low fat. Our bodies need fat. The only fats you should avoid are man-made trans fats and highly processed and refined vegetable oils.
Having said that, I don’t believe that the more fat the better and that calories don’t matter at all on a low carb diet. I don’t think pre-agriculture humans evolved on eating huge amounts of fat (wild game isn’t exactly fatty). Too much fat can cause weight gain, not to mention unpleasant digestion issues. So you will see quite a few of my recipes using reduced fat cream cheese and light sour cream, especially desserts, because I prefer to limit my dessert calories and “spend” my calories on more nutritious foods.
How do you feel about artificial sweeteners?
I don’t love them. But being realistic, I think they are the lesser of two evils for people with impaired glucose tolerance.
These days I use stevia almost exclusively when making low carb baked goods and sweets. I used xylitol for a while, but one of us is sensitive to it. I don’t use Swerve for the same reason – although erythritol should be gentler than xylitol, it does cause gastric distress for some. Swerve also contains oligosaccharides, which are contraindicated for people with digestion issues such as IBS.
As for stevia, I believe it is safe. I use stevia glycerite, which has no bitter aftertaste. Here’s a conversion chart in case you want to use another sweetener, but keep in mind that I have not tested these recipes with any sweeteners other than those listed.
In an ideal world, I would use honey and maple syrup to sweeten my recipes. But this is not an ideal world. Sadly, for many of us, our broken metabolisms mean that a diet high in simple sugars is the real danger, not stevia.
Can you post a recipe for diet coke cake?
Sorry, I can’t. I only use real food, so many classic “diet” recipes are absent from this blog. Such as “diet coke cake”; anything made with Cool Whip, Egg Beaters, boxed cake mixes or margarine; or any other recipe that attempts to reduce calories and fat by using food-like substitutes and artificial chemicals.
List of ingredients in Cool Whip, Original:
Water, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and Palm Kernel Oils), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Skim Milk, Light Cream, Contains Less than 2% of Sodium Caseinate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan and Guar Gums, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Beta Carotene (Color).
List of ingredients in Straus organic heavy cream:
Pasteurized organic cream.
Are you familiar with a recipe for chicken breast coated with mayonnaise? Can I use a mayo substitute such as Smart Beat?
The list of ingredients for Smart Beat is filled with ingredients that I personally would not like to put in my body:
Water, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Vinegar, Maltodextrin, Salt, Cellulose Gel, Egg Whites, Lactic Acid, Artificial Colors, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA Used to protect quality, Lemon Juice, Flavors, Colored With Beta Carotene, Onion Powder, Garlic Juice Concentrate, Oleoresin, Paprika.
Your blog’s tagline says “Real Food, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Paleo.” Do all your recipes conform to these criteria?
No. All of them are made with real honest food and no weird ingredients. But not all of them are low carb AND gluten-free AND paleo. Many are, but many others are low carb but not paleo, for example; or paleo but not low carb. Personally, I eat low carb, but my teenage kids eat a higher carb diet that’s mostly gluten free.
So for example, I have this great recipe for twice baked sweet potatoes. I don’t touch the stuff (except to taste test), but my kids love it and eat it often. Real food, paleo, but not low carb.
Or this wonderful low carb chocolate mug cake. I love it, and consider it as wholesome as a dessert can be. But since it’s sweetened with stevia, many will not consider it paleo.
I do love the paleo insistence on clean eating, and I agree that grain and legume consumption is best minimized. But I’m not super strict about it, and I do use whole milk dairy and stevia often.
Why do you follow a low carb diet? Do you believe that a low carb diet is healthy for everyone?
I think we can all agree that a diet high in sugar and in refined and processed carbs is a bad idea.
As for whole-foods carbs, such as whole grains, beans or sweet potatoes, they are probably okay and even beneficial if your metabolism is healthy. So my kids eat them daily. But once your ability to properly metabolize carbs breaks, which is what happened to my husband and me, there’s a good chance you will need to limit carbs – even healthy carbs – to remain healthy.
The Harvard School of Public Health mostly supports a Mediterranean-style diet that includes whole grains and legumes. But it also says that moderately low carb diets can be beneficial and that a focus on restricting carbohydrates, rather than calories, may work better for long-term weight control.
How many healthy carbs you can safely eat is very individual, and something that you will need to determine for yourself. Hopefully with the help and supervision of your physician.
What works best *for me* is eating a moderately low carb diet (around 80 grams of carbs per day, so not super low carb). In addition, I enjoy healthy fats in moderation, minimize (but not eliminate) whole grains and legumes, and completely avoid processed junk such as soda, candy, and chips.
Where do you stand on organic and/or GMO?
I try to buy the highest-quality food I can. This often means local, organic, pasture-raised, wild caught and (ideally) GMO-free.
However, these foods are expensive, and I still think that the more pressing goal is to rid our diets of processed foods.
If your diet consists of conventional fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy, and does not include processed junk, I think you’re doing quite well actually. Possibly even better than someone who relies on a lot of organic processed, sugary foods. For example, a breakfast of an organic, GMO-free donut and coffee is inferior, in my opinion, to a conventional breakfast of a veggie omelet with a cup of fresh berries and coffee.
How do I know that these recipes work?
I have made all of the recipes in this blog- most of them more than once – so they are all tried and tested. In fact, I had to make several attempts at many of the recipes here until I got to perfection. I never publish a recipe unless it’s a success, not just by my definition but by my family’s standards.
So once I’m satisfied with a recipe, I serve it to my family, and I ask them, “Is this blog-worthy?” Only the recipes that are deemed blog-worthy by at least three of us (we are a family of four) find their way into this blog.
I tried one of your recipes and it did not work for me. Why?
I wish I knew. As much as my recipes are exact, there are so many variables that can influence the result. The exact ingredients used (freshness of eggs or baking powder, type of salt – a Facebook fan recently complained that a recipe came out too salty. Turns out, she used fine sea salt instead of coarse kosher salt); the pan (nonstick, aluminum, cast iron, dark, light, heavy, lightweight); the oven – you wouldn’t believe how different ovens vary in temperature; even the humidity – all of these can make a difference.
Even when I make one of my own recipes under slightly different conditions, I sometimes need to make minor adjustments.
My advice? Try to view the recipes in this blog – any recipe in fact – as general guidelines, but always use your own judgment and try to adjust along the way according to the flavors and textures you’re getting in your own kitchen, with your own ingredients and tools. Kind of like following a GPS in your car but still looking around and making sure the virtual directions make sense in reality.
How do you calculate nutrition facts?
Doesn’t all this healthifying result in food that doesn’t taste very good?
A friend recently asked me, “what do you miss the most ever since you gave up junk food?” and I honestly didn’t know what to say. Sure, I mostly gave up white sugar, wheat, and other grains; I avoid commercially processed food and I don’t touch fast food. But my meals have never been so flavorful or so varied.
I eat better than I ever have, and without all the added sugar, flavorings and preservatives, I also enjoy my food more than ever. I think our palate tends to become more sensitive when we eat cleaner. So I can’t agree that healthy food is inferior to unhealthy food in terms of flavor. I think it’s far superior, although you do have to go through a period of adjusting.
How do you stay fit?
I avoid sugary, calorie-dense junk, stay active, and eat to satiety – not until I’m stuffed.
“Stay active” – can you elaborate?
I walk five miles every day, do an hour of Pilates three times per week and lift small weights three times per week.
So you eat healthily, stay active – you must have *some* vices? Do share!
Of course I do. But I don’t consider the occasional unhealthy treat a vice. Surely you’re familiar with the 80/20 or 90/10 rule of eating healthy most of the time, not all of the time.
Who is the photographer behind this blog?
I photograph the vast majority of recipes. Very rarely, I use a purchased stock photo, in which case I credit the photographer.
What camera/lens do you use?
In 2011, I started out with Nikon D60 Digital SLR Camera with an 18-55mm lens. In 2013, still with the same camera, I started using a new lens – Tamron SP 60mm F/2 Macro. And in 2016 I upgraded to a Canon EOS 6D 20.2 MP CMOS camera with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens.