28: Net Carbs, Gluten-Free Living and More!

Today on Dana’s Low Carb For Life, we learn what the Atkin’s Diet REALLY says, hear about Dana’s Adventures in Gluten-Free Land, and more, so stick around!

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Links for today’s episode:

Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb gateway

Laura Dolson’s About.com Flax-seed foccacia recipe

Our Sponsor, CarbSmart


Hey, gang, welcome to this rather late episode 28 of Dana’s Low Carb For Life, brought to you by CarbSmart.com, your smart choice for a low carb lifestyle.


Today I’m going to dispel a common myth about the Atkins diet, and give you an idea where I stand on the “net carbs” concept. I’ll fill you in on how things are going with my new gluten-free status. And we are, indeed, going to talk about low carb school lunches for the kids, with a very helpful call from a listener, on Low Carb Voices; you’ll want to hear that.


First, though, I want to offer a hearty congratulations to my friend, low carb blogger and podcaster extra ordinaire, Jimmy Moore – this week, Jimmy has reached his 500th podcast. FIVE HUNDRED! And I’m up to a big 28, sheesh. Jimmy is The Man, and gets some really amazing interviews. Of course he’s interviewed everyone who is anyone in the world of low carb, but he’s even gotten some of the most vehement anti-low carb people to come on his show. I mean, he got Dean Ornish, for crying out loud.


Jimmy and I come from the same place – no, no, not geographically; he’s a Southern Gentleman and I’m a Jersey Girl. No, we’re both people who were so startled, so gob-smacked, so dazzled, by how much better we felt, how easily we lost weight, how much healthier we were, when we went low carb, that we felt the overwhelming urge to grab total strangers by the lapels and say “NO! THAT LOW FAT THING IS A LIE! YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS!” Call it the Emperor’s New Clothes Phenomenon, we both got hit by it in spades, and it changed not only our diets and our health, but our whole lives, and especially our professional lives.


Of everyone working largely on the internet, I’m betting Jimmy has the biggest following, and deservedly so. That means he’s very likely been the “front porch” to low carbing for more people than any other blogger or podcaster. And that means, very simply, that he’s changing and saving lives.


Congratulations, Jimmy! All the respect and the love, d00d, and I’ll see you on the cruise in May!


I’ll have Kevin the Producer put up a link to Jimmy’s site at our show page, Dana’s Low Carb For Life.com, but it’s really easy to remember his URL: livinlavidalowcarb.com.


I also am excited to announce that 300 Low Carb Slow Cooker Recipes is now available from Amazon.com! If you pre-ordered, and you already have your copy, we’d love to have you go review it at Amazon. And just so everyone is clear: This is a reissue of my original slow cooker book, with 100 new recipes – we’ve expanded it by 50%. I just didn’t want anyone who has the original to order it and be all disappointed because two-thirds of the recipes are the same. Still – 100 new recipes! (And we’re still eating the leftovers…)


I’d also like to offer a brief apology for how late this podcast is, with the addition that I can’t guarantee it won’t be late again. I’m sorry for that, but sometimes things in the rest of my life just go nuts, and something gets delayed. I have a couple of possible projects being discussed right now, too, so things may get busier before they get calmer. I will not, however, desert the podcast! Honestly, it’s too much fun.


Okay, let’s get to the show! In a little bit, we’ll be talking about the whole gluten free thing, and we’re going to get some ideas for low carb lunch box food. But first, I want to lay a common myth about the Atkins diet to rest.


I recently got an email from a reader who, among other things, said she’d tried the Atkins Diet, but it was so impossible, with no fruits and vegetables. This is a pretty common misconception, often repeated by clueless reporters who haven’t bothered to read the book. Many people figure that they’re “doing Atkins” by eating nothing but meat and eggs – after all, that’s what their friends told them the diet was. I thought it would be a good idea to lay this myth to rest right here and now.


So let me say it clearly, and for the record: The Atkins Diet does not, does not, DOES NOT ban fruits and vegetables. Am I clear here? Really, it doesn’t. Never did.


It does ban fruit for the first two weeks, during the Induction Phase, when carbs are kept to 20 grams per day or fewer. Even the Induction Phase, however, not only permits vegetables, but prescribes them. Induction dieters are told to eat 2 cups of salad vegetables or very low carb cooked vegetables per day. This includes the vast majority of vegetables – all leafy greens, cauliflower and broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, artichokes, avocados, eggplant, onions – really, it’s far easier to list the vegetables not allowed during Induction than all the ones that are – skip corn, peas, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and you should be fine.


Since many Americans never look at a vegetable other than the lettuce and tomatoes on their burgers and the fries next to it, this means that a whole lot of people will be eating more veggies than they formerly did, even on this strictest phase of Atkins – which, again, Dr. Atkins only insisted on for the first two weeks.


After those two weeks, daily carb intake on the Atkins Diet is increased by 5 grams per day on a weekly basis – in other words, you eat 25 grams per day for a week, then 30 grams per day for a week, and so on – until you find a level where you are losing steadily but not at break-neck speed, and are still in mild ketosis. You stay at that level – your “OWL” (Ongoing Weight Loss level) till you’ve lost the weight you need to lose, then increase carbs, again, in teeny increments, till you’re neither gaining nor losing, to find your maintenance level. Keep in mind that your maintenance level may change over the years – mine has gone down a bit as I approach menopause, but might increase a bit if, say, I started walking 5 miles per day.


Once the dieter is through the Induction phase, fruit is allowed so long as he or she stays within the daily carb limit. Since fruits vary widely in carb content, you can eat more of some of ‘em than others. A cup of halved strawberries has 11 grams of carbohydrate, which will fit into a pretty tight carbohydrate limit, as will, say, half a grapefruit, at 10 grams. A medium banana, on the other hand, has 27 grams of carb, and a medium apple has 25 grams – doesn’t mean you can’t ever have these things, but if you choose them you’re going to have to skip some – possibly all – other carbohydrate-containing foods for that day.


All of this entirely overlooks, by the way, the fact that before his tragic death, Doc Atkins embraced the “net carb count” concept (what I tend to call “usable carbs”) pioneered by Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades in their excellent book Protein Power. This is the now-common practice of subtracting fiber grams from total carbohydrate grams, to find the number of grams of carbohydrate you actually digest and absorb. Using this method, that apple only has about 20 grams of net carb, and will fit in a little more often. A cup of raspberries has only 7 grams of carb if you subtract the fiber – that’s a lot of raspberries!


Further, using the subtract-the-fiber principle, you can have nearly FORTY CUPS of shredded romaine, even on Induction, since shredded romaine has 1.55 grams of carb per cup, 1 gram of which is fiber. You could have nearly that much spinach, for that matter. That amounts to pretty nearly unlimited salad greens, even for a veggie fanatic. You have to go a little easier on tomatoes or onions, but I trust the point is made that the Atkins Diet allows for plenty of produce.

Please, folks, take the time to read Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, or, if you prefer, New Atkins For A New You, rather than just assuming you know what the diet entails. It’s a whole lot more liveable than many people assume – says the girl who has been eating low carb for 16 happy years now.


In a few minutes we’ll talk about my first adventures in Gluten-Free Land, and also about low carb school lunches. But first, let me touch on concern that’s tangential to the whole discussion about fruits and vegetables and net carbs: The use of the “net carbs” concept by food processors. Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades ONLY suggested subtracting fiber grams from total grams of carbohydrate. The food processors, eager to cash in on the market – especially during the Atkins Boom year of 2003 – expanded that concept shamelessly, claiming you could subtract out all manner of things – sugar alcohols aka polyols, resistant starch, sugars with a low glycemic index. This is stretching things to the breaking point, if you ask me.


Where sugar alcohols are concerned, I count different ones differently, because different sugar alcohols behave differently in the body. Maltitol is the most commonly used in commercial sugar-free sweets, and just as commonly you see them subtracted out from the net carb total. However, about half of maltitol is absorbed in the gut – more slowly than sugar, it is true, but still, it is absorbed. Accordingly, when I’m reading the label on sugar-free chocolate or no-sugar-added ice cream, I ignore the manufacturer’s net carb count, and instead calculate it myself, using half the listed grams of maltitol. This 50% figure also applies to xylitol and isomalt – and sorbitol may be absorbed at an even greater rate.


Erythritol, on the other hand, is virtually unabsorbed. Accordingly, I don’t count it – and it’s the sugar alcohol I’m most likely to use in my own cooking. (I also like it because it doesn’t cause the gastric distress maltitol is infamous for.) Polydextrose, which I’m seeing more often, also is completely unabsorbed, and therefore does not need to be counted.


One manufacturer of “low carb” products lists what they call “low glycemic monosaccharide” on their labels, and claims that because of the low glycemic index of this sweetener, you can discount it entirely from the net carb count. I am sorry to inform you that the only low glycemic monosaccharide of which I am aware is fructose, which is pure carbohydrate, completely absorbed, and despite its low glycemic index, very bad for you. I have written the company and asked, and they have dance around the question, neither confirming nor denying that their “low glycemic monosaccharide” is fructose. This lack of candor intensifies my suspicions. One thing is certain: a monosaccharide of any variety is a sugar. Period. I don’t care how low the glycemic index is, I wouldn’t eat this stuff, and I certainly don’t think you can subtract it from the net carb count.


Then there’s the whole Dreamfield’s question – the product is definitely high carb, but they claim to have manufactured it so that you don’t absorb it. I’ve heard too many reports of high blood sugar after consuming Dreamfield’s to trust that claim. The company claims that if you cook it more than the time listed on the label – 8 or 9 minutes, I believe – it makes the carbohydrate available. The same is true if you reheat leftovers. Way too touchy for my liking, and anyway, I’m not eating gluten, and Dreamfield’s is made from wheat.


In short, cast a skeptical eye on manufacturer’s listed net carb counts. When in doubt, use a glucometer – test your blood sugar before and after eating the product, and see just how much it jumps. Figure about 5 points of blood sugar increase for each gram of carbohydrate. If, by 20 or 30 minutes after eating a product your blood sugar has jumped substantially, you know that product is not for you. If you don’t care to stick holes in your pinkies, stick to the good old rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Moving along! We’ll talk about low carb lunch boxes in a minute, but first, I’ve had a TON of response regarding the review of Wheat Belly, and it’s clear that a whole lot of low carbers are also going gluten-free, or at least not deliberately consuming wheat products. In the interests of helping them – and myself – I made a couple of phone calls:


First I called Hershey’s, to find out for sure whether sugar-free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are gluten-free. The nice Hershey’s lady, named Maria, told me that the labels are always explicitly clear about potential allergens/trigger foods such as soy, wheat, and nuts. If wheat isn’t mentioned, there are no wheat-sourced ingredients in the food. This is the case with sugar-free Reese’s, and also with the sugar-free Hershey’s Special Dark. These candies are not manufactured in a gluten-free facility, so they don’t label them gluten-free, but Maria said they do take pains to avoid cross-contamination. If you’re super-sensitive – the sort of person for whom the faintest trace of gluten will mean an intestinal flare up, or a worsening of ataxia – you might want to skip ‘em, and look for sugar-free chocolate made in a more rigorous facility. If, like me, you’re avoiding gluten on principle, because you think it’s a bad idea, you might choose to eat these. They’re still in my kitchen cabinet – and were in my mouth earlier today.


At a reader’s request, I also called Dove. They have a consumer information line that includes information about which of their products are gluten-free. I am happy to report that all Dove sugar-free chocolate is gluten-free. It is also super-yummy.


I’ve also been doing some experimenting with reduced-carb, gluten-free yeast-raised bread. I am here to tell you it ain’t easy.


In the yeast bread we’re all familiar with, gluten develops into stretchy, elastic strands as the dough is kneaded – indeed, developing the gluten is the purpose of kneading. Those stretchy strands of gluten create billions of teeny balloons that inflate as the yeast creates carbon dioxide. That’s what makes bread rise. Taking out the gluten means no stretchiness to the dough to create that structure. Gluten-free breads generally rely on xanthan or guar gum to create some structure. Guar and xanthan are low carb. but they don’t make a truly stretchy dough.


So that’s the gluten-free part. How about reducing the carbs? Yeast-raised bread can’t be seriously low carb, because it’s the carbohydrate in the dough that feeds the yeast so that they produce carbon dioxide and puff it up. Most gluten free bread recipes depend on gluten-free grain flours and other starches – rice flour, millet flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and the like. I am using some of these, but to keep the carb count to a level my body (and, presumably, some other folks’ bodies) can handle, I need to dilute those high-starch ingredients.


In most low carbohydrate breads, much of the carbohydrate is replaced with fiber. I have commonly used almond meal and/or protein powder as well. However, these ingredients can make dough heavy, lessening the rise.


I’m playing around, trying to come up with something that is acceptably bread-like, but that won’t jack blood sugar around too badly. I’ve tried twice now, once in my bread machine, and once mixed by hand and baked in the oven. The bread machine version is better, but still pretty heavy. The hand-mixed bread rose okay, but I took it out of the oven too early; it was soggy in the middle. I put it back in, but by then it had deflated, making for a dense center.


So it goes. The recipe game can be rough – there are ideas I’ve tried a half a dozen ways, only to never have ‘em work out. Still, this one seems worth pursuing. Those of you who are 100% grain-free – a good place to be – won’t be interested, but I know that there are many people who have depended on low carb bread and tortillas, yet may be worried about gluten. I’ll do what I can, folks, and let you know how it goes.


Let’s move on to Low Carb Voices! The question for the past few shows has been about lunch box ideas, especially low carb lunch box ideas for kids, and especially-especially low carb lunch box ideas for kids that don’t involve gluten-containing stuff like low carb tortillas and bread. It’s a tall order, no?


This is one of those subjects where I’m at something of a loss. Yes, I know a whole lot about low carb food. On the other hand, I have no children. However, a quick google turned up pictures of really cool new lunch boxes, with several compartments inside. It strikes me that these would make the whole thing easier. I mean, some cheese chunks in one compartment, some baby carrots, pepper strips, celery sticks, and some ranch dressing in another, maybe a few mixed salted peanuts and sugar-free chocolate chips (assuming the school allows peanuts), sounds like a lunch most kids would like, even without the usual sandwich. You could also do sliced pepperoni or salami and sliced mozzarella, rolled together, with a container of sugar-free pizza sauce to dunk it in. Skip the “Go-gurt” – it has way more sugar than protein – but how about full-fat Greek yogurt with frozen berries in it, to help keep it cool till lunch?


Do kids take Thermoses to school anymore? A wide-mouth Thermos would let a kid take chili, soup, stuff like that. All mom or dad needs to do is make extra when cooking supper, and there are a few school lunches.


How about a container of tuna, chicken, or egg salad, with a plastic fork? Worried about the mayonnaise? Two points: First of all, research shows that commercial mayonnaise actually retards spoilage. And secondly, if you’d be unafraid to send one of these salads in a sandwich, it’s no more dangerous in a snap-top plastic container. You could send along lettuce leaves, if you like, so your kid can make lettuce wraps. For this, I might well use iceberg lettuce; it’s likely to stay crunchy longer. Try putting it in a zipper-lock bag with a damp paper towel, to help it keep.


Here’s a call we got from – I can’t tell if she Tara or Kara – from Columbia, Maryland, but she’s been kind enough to call in and tell us what she packs for her kids’ lunches. Give a listen:


I love that statement “Give ‘em a toothpick and they’ll eat anything.” That’s a great idea, as is the idea of meatballs in a wide-mouth Thermos. And it gives me an idea: How about little kabobs? Spear a cube of cheese, a cube of ham, and a cube of turkey on each toothpick – you could throw in a grape tomato, too! You could even include some kind of sauce or dressing to dip it in.


As for the flax bread she mentioned, I don’t have a recipe for that, but Laura Dolson, who runs the low carbohydrate page at About.com, has a recipe for flax seed foccacia; I’ve tried it, and it’s good. I’ll have Kevin the Producer throw up a link on the show page, at Dana’s Low Carb For Life.com. And Tara-or-Kara, thank you so much – and we’d love to have your flax bread recipe!


Need I add here that anything that can go in a kid’s lunch box can go with you to work? One more possibility, maybe more popular with the grownups than the kids, but good for either: Put a few handfuls of bagged salad in a snap-top container, and throw in any other easy veggies you might have on hand. Add a handful of cubed ham or turkey, or shredded cheese, or canned tuna, or cold cooked shrimp, or chopped hard-boiled egg – really, any kind of cold cooked protein – and put the lid on. Put your favorite dressing in a little snap top container – if there’s a fridge at work, just keep a bottle there. When lunch rolls around, just pour on the dressing, and you’ve got a main-dish salad.


This week’s question for Low Carb Voices is one that a lot of people struggle with: What do you eat when you want something crunchy? Do you eat pork rinds? Nuts? Something else? Do you eat’em plain? If not, how do you vary them? Bonus points if you’ve got a recipe to share! But that’s not the only reason to give us a call. If you’ve got an idea to share, or a question, a recipe, an idea for a low carb treat – really, anything to share with the low carb community, 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 – lots of great folks there; it’s a fun ongoing conversation.



And of course, 300 Low Carb Slow Cooker 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!




6 Replies to “28: Net Carbs, Gluten-Free Living and More!”

  1. Crunchy (and usually salty) snacks:
    1. I make pepperoni chips by putting pepperoni on a paper plate and microwaving for 30 seconds to a minute. Then I blot with paper towels and let cool a little. They are crunchy & GOOD!!!!
    2. Crispy bacon
    3. Pork rinds (with cinnamon and sweetener)
    4. Your crunchy chicken skins—but they go too fast and I LOVE skin on my chicken so I don’t get many that I can just use for skins
    5. Grated cheese melted on parchment paper in the microwave—i usually add salt to those.
    6. Nuts
    7. raw broccoli & cauliflower are now the substitute for potato chips in my husband’s lunch—(he has been doing low/lower carb now for 2-3 months and he has lost 20 lbs. NOT FAIR!!!!!!!!)
    Love your show, Dana Carpender!!!!! YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!!!

  2. Question about Jimmy: If he’s so awesome, can you explain why opinion on his blog is so heavily moderated/censored? And if one disagrees with him one too many times, one will get summarily banned. Simple as that. If he’s so confident about the mission and underpinnings of the LLVLC franchise – and that’s what it is – then he should have the guts to stand up to dissenting opinion. He doesn’t.

    1. Jimmy allows all kinds of dissenting opinions, but if you aren’t engaging in a conversation and just keep saying the same thing ad nauseam or take a combative or rude tone, you are not contributing and you are going to lose the privilege of posting.

      Oh, and it isn’t that he blocks comments from lots of people, just the 10 or so who happen to have your exact IP address.

  3. Dana, I only just discovered your podcasts, though I’ve been enjoying your books for years. This was the first episode I heard, and I loved it! Keep up the great work, your contributions to the low-carb world are really informative, helpful and encouraging (and as a chronic wagon-faller-offer, I need all the encouragement I can get). 😉

  4. Dana,
    So glad to find you. I have done hcg and know it like the back of my hand but it isn’t permanent for me…I gain back…so I now know it is low carb for life and I’m beginning the uphill swim!!!
    I am so curious about hcg w/fat fast. I too am under the opinion that hcg effect is canceled by fat ingesting…although I have had an experience w/eating pork ribs while on hcg without weight gain.Now I want to know more…can you keep sharing?

Comments are closed.