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Today Dana looks at the concept of “treats,” how to throw a low-carb Father’s Day, and looks at the question “Are pork rinds really a health food?” All this and more on today’s Dana’s Low-Carb For Life!
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Here’s a transcript of today’s episode. Do you like transcript? Let us know!
Today on Dana’s Low Carb For Life, we explore the concept of “treats,” find out if pork rinds are really health food, and plan a low carb Father’s Day party. So stick around!
Hey, gang, and welcome to Episode 20 of Dana’s Low Carb For Life, brought to you by CarbSmart.com, your smart choice for a low carb lifestyle.
Today we’re going to be talking about the whole idea of treats, a concept that is widely abused, to my mind. I’m going to give you the low down on pork rinds, a food that has become iconic of low carbohydrate diets. And I’m going to give you some ideas for a great Father’s Day celebration that will not only make Dad happy today, but help keep him trim and healthy for years to come.
But first, I’m happy to tell you that 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes now has two reviews at Amazon.com, and as a result, a five star rating. Thanks!! If you’ve got 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes and you like it, please go to Amazon.com and review it. Thank you!
I’m also excited to let you know that I plan to interview my friend George Stella, low carb chef extraordinaire, on his birthday this weekend. Finally, interviews again! George is a great guy with an astonishing low carb success story, not to mention one of the very best low carb cooks around. You’ll want to listen next week for that.
Okay, let’s get right into the show, with the whole concept of treats.
“You have to have a treat now and then!” I hear this more often than teachers hear excuses, and always in defense of something sugary.
But let me read the definition of the word “treat” (courtesy of Miriam-Webster):
Treat (noun): 1 a: an entertainment given without expense to those invited b: the act of providing another with free food, drink, or entertainment 2: an especially unexpected source of joy, delight, or amusement.
Notice that this definition says nothing about junk food. There’s no mention of sweets at all, but rather of “food, drink, or entertainment,” given without expense, or “joy, delight, or amusement” that is “unexpected,” quite possibly having nothing to do with food, much less sugar. Yet somehow “treat” has come to mean sugary rubbish that is neither free nor unexpected –– indeed it’’s ubiquitous, and likely to be costly in its effect on our health.
Similarly, years ago I babysat a toddler whose word for sweets was “special.” If she wanted something sugary, she’’d ask for “a special.” Ironically, she was allowed something “special” half a dozen times a day. How “special” is that?
The words “treat”” and “special”” both connote something out of the ordinary; something eaten infrequently, and all the more appreciated because of it. For centuries, this was so. Sugar and other sweeteners were expensive and/or hard to come by. Sugar was used primarily as a preservative in jams and jellies. Cakes, candies and pastries were luxuries. Most people saved them for, yes, special occasions –– weddings, birthdays, holidays, and the like.
Let’s face it: The donuts in the break room, the candy bar at the mini-mart, the nightly ice cream after supper, are not “treats,” nor are they “special.” They’’re staples of the American diet, so omnipresent as to be expected and yet, paradoxically, so uninteresting as to barely be noticed unless absent.
I am not anti-treat, nor do I scorn the idea of something special. But the concepts need re-thinking.
For centuries, seasons made foods special. Fruits, fresh eggs, even green vegetables were only available for a short time. Each food seemed new and exciting as its season rolled around. Ooooh, salad! Wow, fresh strawberries! Mmmmm, the new apples are in. Even meat had a seasonality, with game being much fatter and richer in the autumn “grease season,” and fresh meat only being available at slaughtering time.
Very few foods are seasonal anymore, but the ones that are still seem like treats. Here in southern Indiana, morel mushroom season is a Very Big Deal, precisely because it lasts only a few weeks. The first bursting-ripe cherries of the year not only delight the tongue, but taste like all the summers of childhood. Pumpkin pie is savored all the more because it bears holiday memories.
Foods also used to be special because they were not mass-produced, and therefore were variable. Homemade bread, microbrewed beer, small-farm aged cheeses from grass-fed cows, organic vegetables straight from the garden –– all of these things that are now sold at premium prices were taken for granted by our ancestors. Their foods had the charm of individuality.
Too, cheap and easy transportation has made commonplace many foods our great-great-grandparents thought of as wondrous and exotic. In Little Town on the Prairie Laura Ingalls wrote of going to a birthday party, where they had dinner and a birthday cake, played games, and experienced a demonstration of that marvel of the age, the telegraph. But what did she tell her mother when she got home? “We each had an orange!”
We can still find the unexpected, the truly special. Shop your local farmer’s market for fruits and vegetables bursting with fresh flavor. Seek out aged gouda, imported brie or local chevre as a change from the usual bright orange, plastic-wrapped, never-varying “cheese.” Splurge on the Ranier cherries, the baby asparagus, the macadamia nuts. Treat yourself to a pound of exquisite coffee from some place you’ve barely heard of. Skip the cheap candy bar, and savor a few squares of fine dark chocolate, melted slowly on your tongue. Real food is more satisfying than processed stuff, both because it’s more nutritious, and because the flavors are more complex and intense. You’ll eat less, and enjoy it more.
It’s also a great idea to expand your repertoire of low carb recipes. An occasional sugar-free cheesecake (remember, if you have it every day, it’s not a treat), a more complicated and tempting main course than you usually take time for, a sugar-free cocktail instead of your usual light beer or dry wine, all can become cherished treats.
Just as important, let’s all expand our thinking about treats to the realm of the not-food. What do you love to do, to have, to experience, that you haven’t made time or room in the budget for recently? A walk in the sunshine in the middle of a busy day? An hour in a hot bath, with a glass of wine and a good book? A baby sitter for an evening, so you can have some grown up time? A cleaning crew this week, so you can ignore the chores for a change? In our over-worked, over-committed society, I suspect that sugary junk food is the reward of choice because it’s quick and cheap. It’s standing in for what we really need. Heaven forbid we treat ourselves to something that might take away from that bottom line of productivity, from that endless to-do list.
Yet that gift to ourselves of just a little breathing room is often the greatest treat of all. It’s no coincidence that taking that time, giving ourselves a chance to de-stress, often makes it far, far easier to make intelligent choices, and especially intelligent food choices. I saw an article in one of the fashion magazines a couple of years ago – I think it was Glamour – about sleep and weight loss. They had assembled a group of women and given them the assignment of making sure to get at least 8 hours sleep every night for a couple of weeks. They all lost weight, and they all attributed it to the fact that adequate sleep de-stressed them so much that they weren’t grabbing for junk food.
We all talk about long-term weight loss requiring not just a diet, but a lifestyle change. This is true, but we mostly think about it in terms of “Well, maybe I’d better take my lunch instead of going to McDonald’s” or “Maybe I’d better find some hobby other than baking.” But it may be that the most important lifestyle change is learning to give ourselves the most important treat of all – a break.
Here’s hoping that your new, healthy lifestyle eventually includes giving yourself enough breaks that they’re no longer officially a treat, but a regular fixture of your life. Beats donuts.
Years ago, some furious online detractor of low carb diets threw at me the accusation that I ate “pork rind cake.” This is not true. I have never eaten a cake made from pork rinds, and had never heard of such a thing till the accusation was made. And though she subsequently posted a link to a recipe, that is the only time I have ever heard of pork rind cake in my near-decade on a low carb diet.
However, the discussion illustrated one thing: Pork rinds are near-symbolic of a low carb diet to many people. Many people also dismiss pork rinds as the worst possible junk food, and therefore cite the fact that low carb diets allow pork rinds as evidence that this is a freakishly unhealthy way to eat.
But are pork rinds so unhealthy? And how do they compare to other options?
It’s no surprise that 1 ounce of plain pork rinds has no carbohydrate. But you may be surprised to learn that pork rinds have almost twice as much protein as they do fat. You’ll get 8.8 grams of fat, and 17 grams of protein, almost as much as three eggs! 155 calories. All of this makes pork rinds quite satisfying –– a 1 ounce bag should keep you full for hours.
More surprising, over half the fat in pork rinds is monounsaturated – 4.1 grams of the fat in pork rinds are monounsaturated, 3.3 grams are saturated fat, and just one gram is polyunsaturated. Since we have learned that many polyunsaturated oils are pro-inflammatory, this is good news.
By comparison, 1 ounce of potato chips has almost the same calorie count –– 152 calories –– with 15 grams of high-impact carbohydrate. They have 9.8 grams of fat –– a gram more than the pork rinds –– and just 2 grams of protein. All this adds up to a predictable blood sugar roller-coaster –– and the hunger that comes with it.
Potato chips have less monounsaturated fat than pork rinds –– just 2.7 grams. The saturated fat content is nearly the same, at 3.1 grams. Chances are good, as well, that they’ve been fried in pro-inflammatory vegetable oil. All of this adds up to pork rinds being a healthier and far more filling snack choice than potato chips.
How about other snacks? Corn puffs have 15.3 grams of carb, with only 2.15 grams of protein. They contain 9.8 grams of fat, and 157 calories. You knew these weren’t a healthy snack, right? Pretzels have been touted as a healthier alternative, because they’re low fat –– but they have 22.5 grams of carb in one ounce, all of it from refined white flour. Only 2.6 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat; you’ll be hungry again very soon.
Nuts and seeds make good low carb snacks, with plenty of healthy fats, protein, and minerals, and fiber that pork rinds lack. But if you’re keeping your carbs to “induction” levels –– 20 grams a day or less –– pork rinds are a better choice.
So despite their reputation, pork rinds are a perfectly respectable food, offering more in the way of nutritional value and hunger satisfaction than most things that come in cellophane bags.
That being said, plain pork rinds are not one of my favorite things. You can find barbecue flavored rinds, but read the label; some are carby. You can also flavor rinds yourself. Add cheddar cheese powder (you can order this through Amazon.com) and shake up the bag for “Chee-fauxs.” And if you miss sweet, cinnamon-y, crunchy things like cinnamon graham crackers, try this: Mix ½ teaspoon of cinnamon with 1/4 cup of granular Splenda, add to a bag of pork rinds, and shake. These are remarkably good.
Aside from their value as a filling and reasonably nutritious low carb snack, pork rinds serve another purpose in low carb cuisine: They make great crumbs. Dump a bag of pork rinds in your food processor with the S-blade in place and run it for a few seconds, and you’ll have pork rind crumbs to use in place of bread crumbs for coating foods, or use in meat balls and meat loaves. Keep them in the fridge! Both plain and barbecue flavored pork rind crumbs come in handy.
When I originally wrote this article several years ago, I included a meat loaf recipe, but it called for Carb Countdown, now Calorie Countdown, and not generally available. However, I have a new pork rind recipe, and it’s wonderful. You’re not going to believe this: Pork rind cookies.
The first time I tried this idea, the whole time I was I was thinking “Have I gone right out of my mind?” But they were not just good, they were delicious, and they’re super-quick and easy and way low carb to boot. You have got to try these!
1 package Nevada Manna sugar-free chocolate chips, or 8 ounces sugar-free semi-sweet chocolate
½ cup natural peanut butter
5 ounce bag plain pork rinds
Put your chocolate and peanut butter in a microwaveable bowl, and stick ‘em in your microwave. Nuke for a minute on high.
In the meanwhile, coat a 9×13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray, or line it with wax paper (my preference.)
When the microwave beeps, stir up the chocolate and peanut butter, and stick them back in for another minute on high.
Poke a hole in your bag of rinds to let the air out, and smash ‘em all over with your fists. You want to break them up into small chunks. Dump your smashed rinds into a big mixing bowl.
Your microwave beeped again! Pull out your chocolate and peanut butter, make sure they’re melted and thoroughly stirred together, then dump the mixture over your smashed rinds, using a rubber scraper to make sure you get all the chocolate/peanut mixture. Stir the whole thing up till your rinds are coated evenly, dump the mixture in your prepared pan, and press it out into an even layer. Stick the whole thing in the fridge, and chill for an hour or two. Then cut into bars.
Father’s Day this weekend! Can you believe it? I just started this podcast on New Year’s Day. Doesn’t feel like a half a year has gone by. I’m going to wake up tomorrow, discover I’m 90, smack myself on the forehead and say “Huh?”
Sadly, my dad has been gone for 4 years now; I miss him a lot. But it occurred to me today that Father’s Day was a great holiday for low carbing! After all, what Dad wouldn’t like a grilled steak? Maybe a whole grilled salmon? Some barbecued chicken? Charcoal-broiled meat just has “Dad” written all over it.
What can you serve with that grilled meat that will make Dad happy, but not torpedo your diet? How about UnPotato Salad? I’ve talked about this before – just make your favorite potato salad recipe using steamed chunks of cauliflower instead of the potatoes. Every version I’ve tried has worked out! I’ve posted a couple of good recipes for UnPotato Salad at the blog in the past couple of weeks, if you’d like a recipe to start out with. Take a look at http://www.holdthetoast.com. Cole slaw is great with grilled meats, too!
If you’d like to serve a tossed salad, I find that Caesar salad has a lot of male fans; all it takes is leaving the croutons out to make it very low carb. Another Dad-pleasing salad is Bayside Salad, which appears in 500 Low-Carb Recipes. In a nutshell, it’s a salad of about 2/3 romaine or other mild, crisp lettuce, 1/3 bitter greens like radicchio and curly endive. Toss with raspberry vinaigrette, and top with sweet red onion, sliced paper thin, and equal portions of chopped, toasted pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and crumble crisp bacon. Fantastic.
Grilled asparagus is to die for, and super low carb. You’ll need a small-holed grill rack for this, or quite a lot of your asparagus will end up in the fire. For a neat presentation, not to mention great taste, wrap little bundles of asparagus spears with bacon strips, and grill till the bacon is crisp. What Dad wouldn’t love that?
Another grilled vegetable I adore is thick-sliced Vidalia onions – Bermuda onions would do, too – basted with soy sauce that’s been sweetened slightly with Splenda or another sweetener of your choice. Onions are carby as vegetables go, but 1/4 of the average Vidalia will only set you back 2 grams of carb, and they’re unbelievably delicious cooked this way.
How about grilled portobello mushroom caps? In fact, if you can afford filet mignon, it’s nice to grill portobello caps along with those little steaks – baste ‘em with bottle vinaigrette, or the same slightly sweetened soy sauce as the onions. Then serve each steak on a mushroom cap – makes those expensive little steaks seem bigger! The average Portobello cap will have 6 grams of carb, with a gram of fiber, for a useable carb count of 5 grams. Come to think of it, layering a mushroom cap, a filet mignon, and a slice of grilled Vidalia sounds like a winner. Go for it!
With all of this, you can serve light beer, of course, or a nice dry red wine. If Dad doesn’t imbibe, personally I’d skip the diet soda for iced tea or homemade sugar-free lemonade, but that’s just me.
What about dessert? For a festive dessert that’s engagingly informal, serve strawberries and whipped cream in your chip-and-dip. But if Dad’s a diehard ice cream guy, it’s good to know that sugar-free Fudgsicles taste just like – well, Fudgsicles. 8 grams of carb, with five grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of just three grams.
So have a great Father’s Day, all you dads out there. And eat low carb, so you have the energy to play with the kids and keep up with the teens – and so you’ll be around to be granddads, and even great-granddads.
We haven’t had much response to our question re summer beverages, so this week’s question for Low Carb Voices is related to today’s show: What’s your favorite low carb treat? And what’s your favorite treat that doesn’t involve food at all? How do you reward yourself without blowing your nutritional program? Call (412) 385-DANA, that’s (412) 385-3262, and let us know!
If you have any friends you think might like the show, please steer ‘em to the show page at Dana’s Low Carb For Life, and if you like it, how about leaving a review at Itunes? We’d love it.
Don’t forget to check out the blog at Hold the toast.com, and join my facebook fan page at Dana Carpender’s Hold the Toast Press (and remember Carpender is spelled with a d where the t ought to be.) And of course, 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes is now available at Amazon.com, or order through CarbSmart.com along with your other stuff. If you’ve already got it and you like it, go review it!
That’s it! Remember, till next week, stay low carb for life!