Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Struggling on Induction? 5 Fail-Proof Methods to Keep You On Track

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The Induction phase is the most difficult period of a low-carb diet. It severely cuts your daily carbohydrate level to 20 net carbs, or less, forces the body to use it's glycogen stores for fuel, and eliminates most of the foods you're used to eating. That can be a shock to both your body and your mind. While the euphoria, lack of appetite, stable blood sugar, and dramatic weight loss can provide plenty of motivation to get you through those first carb-free days, if the mind decides to fight against you, the Atkins Induction Diet can quickly turn into a nightmare.

If you've been struggling to stay on Induction, here are 5 fail-proof methods to help you stay on track.

1. Face Your Excuses

People who habitually say, "I need to finish up this loaf of bread first," "I can't afford to throw away that half of cantaloupe; I'll start tomorrow," or "I'll give Induction a try right after I have one last carb fest," are more likely to continue using excuses throughout the first two weeks as well. That can make it difficult, if not impossible, to make it all the way through the first phase of Atkins without caving into that piece of cornbread, juicy orange, or chocolate-chip cookie.

Most of our eating habits are habitual. We reach for that handful of potato chips while we're watching television or sample what we're cooking for the family without realizing it. Excuses come wrapped in the same type of mindless package. But they manifest as thoughts and urges. Thoughts and urges can be observed, so as you go through the week, watch yourself carefully. Try to catch yourself making an excuse. When you do, write it down.

Once the excuse is written down, you can look at it closely and determine if that excuse is valid, or not. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, "I had a hard day. I deserve to have that cookie," write that thought down. Then think about WHY you believe you have the right to eat that cookie. Who or what gave you that right? What will that cookie do for you? Most of the time, deprivation is actually about an experience of taste you think you're missing out on, or a sign that you need a little comfort.

Whatever it is you need, find something that fits within your new low-carb lifestyle that will take care of that need.

2. Stop Thinking About What You Can't Have

The Induction phase of Atkins asks you to make dramatic changes in your diet. The purpose for that is to get you into the state of dietary ketosis as fast as possible. Deprivation ignites and grows stronger when you place your attention on what you cannot eat. So, stop making illegal foods important. Look at the list of acceptable foods for Induction and find foods that you really enjoy eating. Make out a menu for the week and fill that menu with foods that are super tasty and comforting.

Don't just eat a plain, grilled chicken breast. Top it with sauteed green onion, mushrooms, and cheese. Instead of a plain, frozen hamburger patty, top it with a slice of boiled ham, a fried egg, and some grated Parmesan cheese. Use sour cream and sliced olives to garnish your Taco salad, put cream cheese and some bacon in your chicken salad, or top that boneless pork chop with a homemade Alfredo sauce. Choose foods that make you feel pampered, and you won't have to think about what you're missing.

3. Make Sure You're Eating Enough Food

Although the first two weeks can result in a drastic weight loss, losing weight isn't the goal. The purpose of the Atkins Induction Diet is to coax the body into using a different metabolic pathway. For that reason, hunger often increases as the body prepares itself to switch from predominantly burning glucose to predominantly burning fats. The mind will also begin to crave sugar and other high-calorie foods during this time. Since the hunger and cravings are a sign that glucose is getting low, if you don't understand what is happening, the body will set you up to go back to your old way of eating.

Instead of allowing your body and urges to control you, stick to your low-carb commitment. Feed your body's hunger, but do it with high-fat foods instead of sugary treats. Don't worry about calories or portion sizes during Induction. Just keep your tummy full. There will be plenty of time later on to adjust calories, portions, or dietary fat. Induction is not the time to do that.

4. Don't Worry About Tomorrow

A low-carb diet frightens a lot of people. Many medical authorities do not understand the science behind the diet and believe it's dangerous. It's lifestyle commitment and permanency is different from many other diets. That can make the future look pretty dark if you have to go without ever being able to eat a baked potato when you go out to dinner, or enjoy a piece of birthday cake. For that reason, it's easy to fall into the trap of worrying about a particular food that you think you will never be able to eat again.

Those fears may or may not be true. There is no way of knowing what you can or cannot return to your diet until you get there. Some low carbers are able to eat fruit, potatoes, whole grains, and even a piece of cake on their birthday. Others that are extremely insulin resistant cannot. Some people continue to eat the way they ate during their ongoing weight-loss phase with very little change. By the time they reach maintenance, the diet has become such a part of them that they enjoy the way it makes them feel and don't want to sacrifice that feeling.

If you're struggling with thoughts of what the future might bring, the best way to handle the problem is to commit to doing just a two-week Induction, and nothing more. That eliminates future thoughts and concerns and gives you the opportunity to focus on what you are doing right now. Today. Atkins Induction is for just 14 days, so that's what you commit to. Accept the challenge and give a low-carb diet a fair chance to change your life.

At the end of those two weeks, that's the time to evaluate how you feel. Not before. In fact, it's probably a good idea not to even step on the scale during that time because the number on the scale could send you packing if you don't have a firm grip on how water balance affects your scale weight. Take your measurements before you start Induction instead. That will give you a more accurate measurement of your fat-loss progress. If you feel good, are happy with your current success, and want to go on, then commit to another 14 days. Just take it one step at a time until your mind and emotions adjust to the change.

5. When All Else Fails - Move Into a Low-Carb Diet Slowly

There's no rule that says you have to start with the Atkins Induction Diet. It's a pretty radical method for turning yourself into a fat-burning machine. It's similar to the diet that Dr. Atkins used himself back in the '60s, but that doesn't mean it's the best method for you. If you've been on a number of diets over the years, your body might not appreciate you robbing it's fat stores -- yet again. In that case, the best method might be to take a much slower approach.

When Dr. Atkins was creating his famous dieting approach, there were a number of low-carb diets that used 60 grams of total carbohydrates a day. If your insulin resistance is minor, or if you don't have insulin resistance at all, this approach might work very well for you. You don't have to start at 20 net carbs. You can start at a higher carbohydrate content, such as 60 or 80 or even 100 carbohydrates per day, and then readjust the carbs downward by 5 or 10 per week, only if you aren't losing weight.

Another slower approach is to drop major food groups from your diet one at a time. For example, you could start by eliminating all forms sugar and leaving the rest of your diet exactly where it is right now. Switch to using sugar substitutes in your coffee and cooking, a Splenda or Stevia-sweetened diet soda or Kool-aid type product, and read labels to avoid all products made with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey.

After you adjust to doing that, or your weight loss from that change stops, you can move onto eliminating something else. Maybe side starches or fruit. You can also check out one of the many paleo or primal diets for ideas.

Find What Works For You

The key is to create a dietary plan that works for you. The methods you use may or may not be what other low-carb dieters are doing. That doesn't matter. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to implement a low-carb diet in a certain way. That is absolutely not true. While some people have been having good success eating a high-fat low-carb diet, others have not. It all depends on how insulin sensitive you are and whether your mindset is on board with what you're currently doing or not. If it's not, then simply give yourself permission to find another way.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Zero-Carb Diet Recipes and Ideas

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I recently received an email asking me for help in overcoming the boredom that results from eating a zero-carb diet. Hot wings and Heroine Wings can get pretty monotonous after a few weeks, so one of my readers asked if I had recipes or menu ideas that would fit into a zero-carb diet. I haven't talked about zero-carb diets much because my own personal experience with this type of diet wasn't a pleasant one, but that was before I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease.

With that in mind, I've spent the past few days thinking about how I would go about upgrading my diet to make it more tolerable -- if I couldn't eat any carbs.

What I came to realize was that zero-carb options easily fit within the parameters of all low-carb diets. In fact, they are often the mainstay and focal point for those who don't have much time to cook, want to keep things simple, or have decided to go dairy free. While most people who follow a no-carb lifestyle cannot eat dairy, not everyone has dairy sensitivity, so the following ideas and suggestions will cover both types of zero-carb diets.

Meat-Crust Pizza

Pizza on zero carb? You bet! In fact, a Meatza Pizza was very popular among low carbers back in the late 90s. Instead of using fancy low-carb products or cream cheese, eggs, and mozzarella to make the crust, you can use ground meat. 

Any type of ground meat will work. Just take a pound of ground beef, turkey, chicken, pork, or additive-free sausage and mix it with an egg. (If you can't eat eggs, just leave it out. It will still work.) Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings. Pat it into a pie plate or square baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain off the grease and top it with whatever you like. 

Pizza sauce isn't allowed on a no-carb diet, but you don't really need it. Just use a variety of meats (I like pepperoni and sausage, so it has that familiar pizza taste) and whatever cheese allowance will keep you within your 5 grams of carbohydrates per day. Pop it back into the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

Meat Soups

Although traditional low-carb diets take advantage of nature's bounty to whip up creative soups and stews, a no-carb diet simply does the same thing with a variety of meats and a good homemade soup broth. 

Fill a pot with a variety of chicken legs, turkey, pork, beef, or sausage. Add enough water to cover the meats. If you're a zero-carb purist, simply bring it all to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a tight fitting lid, and simmer until it's as flavorful as you want it to be. 

If you are just using a zero-carb diet because you're insulin resistant and don't mind a few minimal carbs, you can season the broth with minced garlic, minced ginger, salt, pepper, herbs, and other spices. I usually add some minced fresh cilantro to mine.

Burger Fun

Bunless burgers are a staple of any low-carb diet. Even those who just eat beef and drink only water. If you're just keeping your carbs within the zero-carb diet limits and don't mind a little bit of vegetable matter, you can add cooked and crumbled bacon, minced jalapeno, minced garlic, and a variety of spices to your raw hamburger meat before you form it into patties. Some have even used chopped pepperoni or salami. 

Also, don't limit yourself to just beef. Ground turkey, pork, sausage, and chicken also make nice, flavorful burgers. If you can eat eggs, topping your burger with a fried egg and a slice of cheese also kicks it up a notch and turns a plain burger into a feast.

Burger Buns and Sandwich Bread

When I was doing a zero-carb diet a few years ago, eggs and cheese were frowned upon, but today, many no-carbers take advantage of them. While the top carb allowance for a zero-carb diet is usually a daily total of 5 total grams, or less, several traditional low-carb diet foods fit into that parameter. 

Dr. Atkins original Diet Revolution Roll is one of them. The recipe is the first one in that Low Carb Friends thread. If you can't use even that small amount of cottage cheese, scroll to the bottom of the recipe where the poster offers a variety of other substitutions. I've used mayonnaise and cream cheese with equal success. Some people have even spread the batter in a cookie sheet or pizza pan and then used it for a pizza crust.

**The key to these rolls is to not overcook them. Use a low temp, and only bake for about 30 minutes. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, pop them off of your cookie sheet and place each roll in a zip lock bag. Put them into the refrigerator, and don't touch them until the next day. That's essential. The texture and taste will change after they have sat in the refrigerator overnight.

Meat Stir-Fry

Stir-fries often focus on vegetables, but they don't have to. Why not use just meat instead? One of my favorite lunches is Chili Garlic Chicken. It uses chicken breast cut into cubes and takes advantage of a little bit of garlic-chili sauce. Garlic-chili sauce does have a carb or two, but it has no sugar and makes the chicken really, really tasty.

Tasty Mustard Sauce and Dip

And while you're there, if you aren't a zero-carb purist, check out my alternative honey-mustard sauce in the same article. It makes a great dip for simply grilled or pan-sauteed meats, as well as hard boiled eggs.

Shish Kabob

Okay. Most shish kabobs are filled to the brim with vegetables, but just like no-carb soups, stews, and stir-fries, you can simply use meat on your skewers. Chicken, pork, beef, and Italian Sausage chunks all work well. Just make sure that you don't mix up meats that will need different cooking times on the same skewer. If you mix chicken with pork, for example, the chicken breast will come out overcooked before the pork is cooked through. Barbecue sauce isn't allowed on a zero-carb diet, but you can use butter mixed with a flavorful oil-and-vinegar marinade to keep your kabobs from drying out on the grill.

The Bottom Line

Finding recipes that fit within a zero-carb diet isn't hard, but it does take a bit of creativity. The easiest way to add some variety to your meals is to search the web for low-carb main dishes and low-carb meat recipes, and then simply eliminate the vegetables or other ingredients that are not allowed. That will enable you to come up with your variations. In addition, grilled meats, flavorful marinades, barbecue rubs, and a wide variety of herbs and spices are still at your disposal. The trick is to just substitute meat, eggs, or cheese for some of the other ingredients you'd normally find in a traditional low-carb recipe.

For example, a bacon-wrapped hot dog recipe could easily be converted into wrapping bacon around a chicken strip instead of using a pork-rind breading. A pork roast could be thrown into the crock pot with a little bit of soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and water. Chicken breast can be sauteed in a non stick pan, then topped with crumbled bacon, pepperoni, and Parmesan cheese. You could even whip up a casserole using mayo and cheese for the sauce and use a variety of meats instead of veggies. Meatloaf and meatballs can also be made carb free.

Think in terms of "how can I adapt this recipe to get rid of all the carbs," and you'll quickly come up with a treasure chest of your own ideas.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What Can I Eat on Atkins Induction?

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Atkins Induction is the strictest phase of the Atkins Diet. It allows for only 20 grams of "net" carbohydrates per day, or less. To arrive at that net figure, you simply deduct the grams of fiber in the foods you're eating from the grams of carbohydrates. That amount is quite radical when you compare it to a typical American diet of 300 to 400 carbs, or even more.

For that reason, newcomers to Atkins often find it difficult to plan their meals, especially if they are following the Atkins Nutritionals guidelines of using 12 to 15 of those 20 grams for just vegetables. If you're just starting out on a low-carb diet, you'll need to pick yourself up a good carbohydrate, fiber, and calorie counter at your local bookstore (such as Netzer) or register online for one of the free nutrient calculator sites, such as Fitday. At Fitday, and other sites like it, you can enter in the foods you're eating and it will do the counting for you.

How to Do Atkins Induction

The introductory stage of the 2002 version of the Atkins Diet is supposed to be followed flawlessly for the first 2 weeks. Don't eat anything that isn't on the list of acceptable foods for Induction, keep within it's limitations for heavy cream, cheese, and other foods, and don't go over a total of 20 net carbs per day. That means you'll have to keep track of the number of carbs you're eating and perhaps juggle the meal and recipe suggestions below to fit within those parameters.

While 20 isn't a magic number, as many people are able to go into the state of ketosis at much higher carbohydrate levels, the carb level specific to you will depend on your degree of metabolic damage and insulin resistance. To avoid failure, it's always best to follow the plan as written. At least, for the first 2 weeks. After that, you can make a few slight adjustments, depending on how your body reacts to the carbohydrate restriction.

It's a good idea to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Induction isn't the time to chase after desserts and convenience foods such as low-carb tortillas, sugar-free puddings, and pastas. Grains and starches are not allowed until you are much further along in your journey. Give yourself time to learn the foundational foods that make Atkins special.

Breakfast Ideas for Atkins Induction

When most people hear they can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, they usually jump in with both feet and start eating bacon and eggs every single day. That will get old very quickly. Variety always works best, so don't confine yourself to just eggs, bacon, or sausage. While those foods are certainly allowed on Atkins Induction, and you can eat them every day if you want to, there is no reason why you have to eat breakfast-type foods for breakfast. Think about expanding your menu choices.

Low Carb Breakfast Ideas for Those Sick of Eggs is an article I wrote for Infobarrel last year that contains a lot of ideas for healthy, out-of-the-box, low-carb breakfasts. Not all of them are Induction friendly, however, so if you are still in the First Phase of Atkins, you might want to consider the following breakfast suggestions instead. Just make sure to count the carbohydrates in the dairy and vegetables you're eating:
  • meatballs and simple burgers
  • lettuce salad with or without meats and cheeses
  • left over roasted chicken legs
  • protein shakes
  • one-minute muffins
  • bowl of warm soup
  • lettuce wraps (simply tuck your sandwich filling inside a leaf of lettuce)
  • cream cheese or pickle tucked into a slice of ham and rolled up
  • burrito filling in a bowl, topped with sour cream and cheese

Absolutely any low-carb food can be eaten for breakfast. You don't have to limit yourself to just eggs. However, hard boiled eggs dipped in a sweet honey-mustard sauce, vegetable and meat omelets, crustless quiches, and leftovers scrambled into a few eggs also make a great, easy breakfast too.

Lunch Ideas for Atkins Induction

If you have a microwave at work, finding great lunch ideas won't be difficult. You can simply heat up leftover from dinner the night before. If you're carrying your lunch to work and don't have a microwave to heat up leftovers, lunch ideas can be more difficult, but not impossible.

Most people will start out taking a nice lettuce salad to work, but just like bacon and eggs, salad can become boring really fast. Take a good look at the acceptable foods list and think about foods that will taste good if eaten cold. And don't forget that you can simply put your lunch meat, lettuce, and tomato inside 2 slices of real American cheese with a little mayo or mustard. American cheese makes a great substitute for bread when you're on Atkins Induction.
  • cold sesame chicken wings
  • grilled chicken breast
  • cold meats and cheeses
  • raw veggies with Ranch Dressing
  • broccoli salad with mayo
  • tuna or chicken salad with bacon bits
  • cucumber slices marinated in vinegar, water, and sugar substitute
  • bean salad made without the kidney beans
  • cole slaw with green onions and garlic
  • slices of avocado

You can also tuck a few of the breakfast ideas above in your lunchbox too. Lettuce wraps, ham rolls, cold meat balls, and leftover chicken or other meats make easy lunchbox ideas. A lot of people doing Atkins fry up bacon a pound at a time, and then take it to work, and eat it cold.

Dinner Ideas for Atkins Induction

Dinner can be the easiest place to come up with low-carb ideas, but don't make the mistake of falling into a rut. Grilled meat, a lettuce salad, and a steamed veggie makes an easy, quick meal, but if you eat like that every single day, your low-carb diet will get old very quickly. Take a look at the type of foods you used to eat for dinner and see if there are ways you can convert those recipes into a great low-carb meal idea.

Hot Wings: Hot wings are the gold standard for many people on Atkins. They are super easy to make yourself. Just bake the chicken wings until nice and crispy, then toss them into an easy-to-make low-carb hot wing sauce. Combine 1 cup of a low-carb hot wing sauce, such as Franks, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon onion powder. You can even add additional ground red pepper if you like yours super hot. You can also throw them back into the oven for a few more minutes after tossing them into the sauce if you like.

Pizza: Pizza crust on Atkins Induction can be made by patting a thin layer of ground beef or turkey into the bottom of a pan, baking it for 15 to 20 minutes, then topping it with normal pizza toppings, such as pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and mozzarella cheese. Simply, bake it again until everything is nice and melted. You can even leave out the crust completely if you want to. Put the pizza sauce in the bottom of your pan, add your toppings, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and bake until bubbly.

Chicken Nuggets and Strips: Put a bag of pork rinds in the blender, and crush them up. Mix in a little bit of Parmesan cheese, fried-chicken type spices, and use that mixture to make great chicken nuggets or chicken strips. Simply dip your chicken pieces in an egg mixed with a little heavy cream, roll in the crumbly mixture, and then bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Pork chops or fish are also good made this way, but you'll want to make sure that you bake the pork for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

Shish Kabobs: Kabobs make a tasty, unique low-carb meal. Just thread a variety of meats and vegetables onto your skewers, top with a little homemade low-carb barbecue sauce, a nice Italian dressing, or a maple cinnamon sauce, and then bake, barbecue, or broil until the meats and veggies are as done as you like them. We particularly like chicken cubes, sausage chunks, zucchini squash, onion, and bell peppers.

Chili: For a cold winter evening, nothing hits the spot like a warm bowl of chili. On Atkins Induction, you'll have to skip the beans, but other than that, you can just make chili the old fashioned way with lots of ground beef or beef cubes, tomatoes, onions, olives, tomatoes, and spices. Later on, after you move into the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, you can add some black soy beans to the mixture.

Grilled Chicken Breast with Bacon: I don't remember what our local restaurant used to call this, but when the waitress heard that I was on Atkins, she brought me out a special treat. She had the cook grill up a nice, piece of chicken breast, and then topped it with sauteed mushrooms, onions, bacon, and cheese. It was absolutely heavenly!

Chicken Parmesan: Fill a baking dish with pieces of chicken breast. Top with spaghetti sauce, and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and return to the oven for a couple of minutes, until the cheese melts. You can also simmer the chicken in a frying pan with the sauce, turning it occasionally, and sprinkling the cheese on top just before serving.

Meatloaf: You don't need bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, or oatmeal to pull off a great tasting meatloaf. The eggs you add are enough to bind it all together. Experiment with different spices, minced dried onions, grated cheese, and chopped olives. My grandmother used to put bits of dill pickle in her meatloaf. A nice topping can be made by mixing together sugar-free catsup and some cinnamon.

King's Burger: Another local restaurant used to serve something called a King's Burger. I simply ordered it without the bun. It was a hamburger patty topped with a slice of ham, a fried egg, and cheese.

Chicken Alfredo: Alfredo sauce is an easy low-carb sauce. Simply melt 1/2 cup butter in a skillet, add 8 ounces of cream cheese cut into cubes, and smash it around for a little bit. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream. Cook and stir until the sauce is nice and smooth. Add 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese or 1/2 cup dried cheese. Stir until well melted. To make the chicken, simply place a bag of frozen broccoli in the bottom of your bake dish. Top with slices of chicken. Cover with the Alfredo sauce. Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes.

Snack Ideas for Atkins Induction

Nothing will kill a diet faster than going hungry, so snacks are highly encouraged on Atkins Induction. The first two weeks are not really about weight loss, so don't be afraid to eat.
  • celery stuffed with cream cheese and minced green onions
  • deviled eggs
  • guacamole with pork rinds
  • diet soda with a little heavy cream
  • boiled ham stuffed with a dill pickle and rolled up
  • raw veggies with Ranch Dressing

Cheese Chips: If you're missing potato chips and want something crispy to use with salsa, homemade dips, or guacamole, you can make another low-carb standby: cheese chips. Take a slice of real American Cheese (the type that comes unwrapped, such as Kraft Deluxe), and cut it into 9 squares. Place on a piece of parchment. Nuke for about 1 minute or so. The cheese will puff up into crackers and get crisp as they cool down.

Just as you don't have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast, you don't have to eat snack-type foods for snacks either. Leftovers, a bowl of soup, a lettuce salad, hot wings, a slice of cold meatloaf, or some diet gelatin with whipped cream also make easy snacks. Absolutely anything that is on the acceptable foods list for Induction can be turned into a snack.

Check Out a Few Low-Carb Recipe Sites

A low-carb diet isn't the same without a few standard recipes such as hot wings, hot poppers, a nice chicken Alfredo, or a terrific bowl of ham and vegetable soup. Those things will make Atkins Induction feel more like a luxury than a diet. Also, check out a few great low-carb recipe sites, such as Linda's Low Carb Recipes. Many low-carb recipe sites will indicate which recipes are suitable for Induction.

And while you're looking around for great low-carb recipe ideas, don't forget to check out our own recipes section here at Kickin' Carb Clutter. I'll be adding to it in the days ahead, so you'll want to check back often.