What are your go-to meals? Everyone has them, the ones you eat at least once a week or more. We choose them for their mix of taste and convenience.
When you throw diabetes into the mix, the go-to meals are usually the ones where you know the exact carb count, how much insulin you need to take with them and they’re probably quick and easy.
I go through phases too—eating one dish for weeks and weeks before getting thoroughly bored of it. I add the odd newbie into the mix occasionally, usually picking something I find online. I like simple dishes—a generous helping of protein, two of vegetables and fat in the form of mayo, cheese or nuts thrown in.
My ‘go-to’s’ are:
Chopped cooking chorizo fried with mushrooms on top of salad generously dressed with balsamic vinegar and a bit of chopped avocado.
Prawns in home-made cocktail sauce with salad leaves and broccoli
Low-fat cauliflower cheese with salad leaves and two eggs to give extra protein
Any home-made soup with boiled eggs
Roasted chicken legs with broccoli or cauliflower and…you guessed it, salad leaves.
For all that we post recipes giving you lots of choices for your low-carb diet, I wonder how many of you are like me? Do you too return to the same meals time after time and are they as simple (boring!) as mine?
This week, I’m going super low carb. The carb count has crept up lately. And I was ill for a while which sent the blood sugar levels soaring.
And yes, I wouldn’t mind knocking off a kilo or two. Then treating myself to a whole new wardrobe.*
Does anyone else love a spot of dietary planning? You dig out your recipe books, go online, write menu plans and shopping lists. All instead of doing the day job. Bliss!
I’ve researched the recipes I fancy, here and on Diet Doctor which has every kind of keto option you can imagine. A lot of them can be cream and cheese heavy (not a bad thing), but they do offer salad-y type stuff and dairy-free options too.
I thought I’d try these chicken drumsticks, the crunchy coating made from coconut and pork rinds. I’ll skip the coconut, though, as I don’t think I’d get that past my husband. [“Coconut flakes?! On drumsticks? Get thee behind me, Satan.”]
Heaven only knows what my husband fed those courgette plants this year, but the monsters keep on coming…
To this end, I have needed to come up with a LOT of courgette recipes. I don’t really fancy them spiralised (which is the trendy treatment de jour), so this week I made soup instead.
It’s a very summery soup – courgettes, feta and mint – and you could always make it more substantial with some shredded chicken, or a poached egg on top. Another idea is bacon ‘croutons’. Cut a rasher of bacon into small pieces, fry in a little butter until crispy and use to top the soup.
Are you low-carbing for Christmas? A lot of traditional Christmas food fits well with a low-carb diet and, with the addition of a few good substitutes, you don’t need to feel you are missing out on anything.
Crisps and dips. Most dips – guacamole, blue cheese dip etc – are low-carb. For dipping, use raw vegetables instead of crisps.
Starters. Pates can be served without toast or oatcakes and prawn cocktail without the bread. The latter is a nice light starter. Serve the prawns and sauce in Little Germ lettuce leaves. To make cocktail sauce to dress 200g prawns, mix four tablespoons of mayonnaise with one of tomato puree. Add a teaspoon of brandy and a few drops of Tabasco. Or try this broccoli and Stilton soup for green-y goodness.
Turkey, ham and sausages are all obvious. Help yourself! Remember, that a meal such as this will be heavy in protein. People on insulin need to take this into account. Our book The Diabetes Diet highlights what you do to cover protein, but see this post too for further clarification.
Gravy does have carbs because it is usually thickened with flour. However, this isn’t significant so don’t worry about it unless you are on a gluten-free diet. Cornflour is suitable for gluten-free diets and this can be used instead.
The classic stuffing uses sausage meat and bread crumbs, both of which have carbs. If you want some, keep it to a small amount.
Bread sauce, roast and mashed potatoes all have carbs, but there are low-carb equivalents you can make. Pureed cauliflower can be substituted for mashed potatoes and braised celeriac are another delicious substitution for potatoes in general. My sister served up cauliflower cheese for Christmas dinner a couple of years ago – and I’d rather have that than potatoes or bread sauce any day. You can also try these delicious Parmesan-crusted cauliflower steaks from Nourished Peach.
Cranberry sauce. Most commercial sauces are packed with sugar. You can make a version with cranberries and sweetener instead which will still have some carbs but not as many.
Christmas cakes, pudding and mince pies. There aren’t really substitutes for these things because they depend so heavily on dried fruit, flour and sugar. Christmas pudding and cake isn’t a winner with everyone anyway because of its heavy fruit content. When you’ve eaten low carb for a while, you often find you lose your sweet tooth , so having a pudding at the end of a meal is no longer as appealing. However, if you do want something sweet, may we suggest Tiramisu and Key Lime Pie.
Another idea is the cheese course – much better than pudding! You don’t need the biscuits. Celery sticks or carrot sticks will give you some crunch, as will walnuts or apple slices. A good cheese board has roughly four cheeses – a Farmhouse cheddar, a blue such as Stilton or Roquefort, a soft one (Brie or Camembert) and AN Other. Goat’s cheese is my preference.
Chocolate. It’s hard to escape chocolate at Christmas. From the special offer wraps piled up at the front of supermarkets, to the yule logs, chocolate Santas and stockings, the stuff is everywhere. If you love chocolate, a few squares of good quality dark chocolate do not contain many carbohydrates. Treat yourself to a good quality bar to make the occasion. You could also make this chocolate peanut fudge, which is easy to make and very low-carb.
Finally, the trick to remember with Christmas is that it is one day of the year. When it comes to low-carbing consistency is the key. If you’re low-carb most of the time but for one or two days you decide to dig in, do so guilt-free. Do this mindfully, enjoying everything but keeping an eye on portions. This is especially important if you are on insulin as you will need to know how much to take to cover what you are eating.
What does a day of very low-carb eating look like? Bacon and eggs, chicken salad and then steak, blue cheese sauce and green beans?!
Okay, some of the low-carb clichés work well. I don’t mind bacon and eggs in some form for breakfast every day. Otherwise, I might have low-carb bread (and you can see our great recipe for this here) with butter and Marmite, or I have smoked salmon or leftovers from the night before.
Whisper it: I’m not fussed about steak. A great burger, on the other hand… I’m also keen on turkey, particularly turkey mince which is very versatile. Turkey tacos, turkey chilli, turkey burgers and turkey curry are regular features in my house.
Bacon and egg.
Two rashers of back bacon, chopped up and fried in a little egg. Once they have cooked, I add in one large egg and mix it up. The whole thing takes less than 10 minutes to make.
Prawns and vegetables
I made my own Marie Rose sauce (2tbsp mayonnaise, a teaspoon of tomato puree and a dash of Tabasco), and mixed this with 100g king prawns. I served this with salad and steamed broccoli. I also had some dry-roasted peanuts.
Turkey steaks in mushroom sauce
I had one and half turkey steaks, diced with a cream sauce. The sauce was made from mushrooms fried in a little butter. I added a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard, 250ml double cream and some salt. (I used about a quarter of this sauce.) I served it with steamed cauliflower and salad.
I finished with an Atkins bar – the chocolate coconut one that’s a bit like a Bounty bar. These bars are controversial in low-carb circles. They are heavily processed, after all. However, I really love the coconut chocolate one and I count 8g of carbs per bar, not the 2g of net carbs the label claims*.
*You need to figure this out yourself. The nutritional information for the Atkins bar subtracts polyols (the sugar alcohol used as a sweetener) from the total to give you the net carb content, but some people find polyols do affect their blood sugar levels.
‘Tis the season… for summer salads! Take some veggies, plenty of spice and good quality minced beef and what do you get? A Taco salad. The whole Taco thing is more popular in the US than over here, but if you take the meat and spices bit alone you’ve got a good low-carb dinner recipe.
I adapted this recipe from the book AltShift (an alternate low-carb/higher carb diet).
1 fresh chilli, chopped (leave the seeds in if you like it hotter)
½ tsp salt
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tsp cumin seeds, ground in a pestle and mortar
1tbsp smoked paprika
75g grated mature cheddar
2 spring onions, chopped
½ courgette, diced
4tbsp sour cream
½ tsp onion granules
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
½ tsp paprika
Fry the beef and onion in a large saucepan or frying pan, stirring regularly to break up the clumps, until it is evenly browned. Add the cumin, pepper, salt, paprika and chilli and cook for five minutes more. The excess liquid should have evaporated and the mince should be evenly coated with the spices. Leave to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, empty out the packet of salad leaves and add the chopped spring onion and diced courgette. Mix together the sour cream, onion granules, garlic powder, salt and pepper and paprika. Mix the dressing and cheese in with the meat and tip the mince into the bowl. Mix well to combine everything and serve.
Serves 4. Allow about 5-8g of carbs per portion. You can use turkey mince, which will make the recipe cheaper too.
Now that the expense of Christmas is over and done with, you might be looking at belt-tightening all round – and that might include your food budget too.
Eating low-carb can be expensive as cheap ingredients such as rice, potatoes, bread, pasta and beans are often used in meals as the filler – think lasagne, chilli con carne and shepherd’s pie for instance. Meat and fish can be expensive, but there are ways to eat a low-carb diet without incurring huge grocery bills. Continue reading “Seven Tips for Budget Low-Carb Eating”→