June 26, 2013

Plan the Perfect Fourth-of-July Celebration

Assorted Meats on the BBQ
How to Plan the Perfect Low-Carb Fourth-of-July Celebration
(Photo by Jeffrey Kontur)
If you’re following a low-carb diet, you can still have a fantastic Fourth-of-July celebration without having to worry about popping yourself out of Ketosis. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines or deprive yourself of holiday goodies either. With picnics and barbecue parties the most popular ways of celebrating America’s freedom and independence, it’s easy to surround yourself in colors of red, white, and blue – yet still maintain control over those carbs!

All it takes is a little bit of thought and preparation.

With that in mind, you don’t want to wait until next Tuesday morning to start figuring out how to stay on plan. If you do, you’ll end up with a plain bun-free burger or hotdog, a boring lettuce salad, a handful of pork rinds, and maybe a few strawberries for color. Eating that way when everyone else around you is chowing down on potato salad, baked beans, corn-on-the-cob, and colorful cupcakes can quickly escalate into tossing your low-carb diet aside.

Although one free day won’t damage your new way of eating for very long, a better alternative is to take a few moments and give the food you plan to serve or eat that day a little more thought. Whether you’re the party chef, hostess, or welcomed guest, here’s how to plan the perfect Fourth-of-July Celebration.

Decorate with Patriotic Colors – Set Up Red, White, and Blue Tables

Table Setting for Fourth of July
Decorate for Fourth-of-July Using Red, White, and Blue
(Photo by Rubbermaid Products)
In the U.S., most of our holidays use food as the central point of the festivities, but you can change all of that by beefing up the decorations. The idea is to create a celebratory atmosphere and mood for your picnic or barbecue that doesn’t rely on food to give your family and friends a good time. Decorations, centerpieces, and plate settings that play to the traditional Independence Day colors of red, white, and blue can make the day truly unique and memorable.

Take advantage of colorful plastic cups, plates, silverware, and napkins. Don’t just opt for a boring white, although a white vinyl tablecloth can look quite striking as a background to a stack of blue or red plates and cups. Spend a little bit of time browsing the offerings of your local thrift store or dollar store for red and blue flowers, greenery, and knickknacks with a patriotic theme. Make the time you spend on decorating fun.

Table Setting for Fourth of July BBQ
And while you’re at it, don’t forget about using a few red, white, and blue balloons, flags, pinwheels, pompoms, and maybe some crepe paper streamers or small bunches of curling ribbon streamers to liven things up. When the holiday is over and done with, it will be the fun you had that you remember, not necessarily what you ate.

That doesn’t mean that food isn’t important. It obviously is. But when you spend an appropriate amount of time covering your tables with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, rolling single-serving sets of silverware inside blue napkins, or arranging the food on the table to keep the Patriotic colors well-balanced, you give your subconscious mind something fun to do, rather than eat.

Low-Carb Barbecue Main Dishes for the Fourth-of-July

The nice thing about picnics and barbecues is that the main part of your meal is practically taken care of for you. No one expects the main dish to be ultra-fancy. The Fourth-of-July traditional features are simple:

  • hot dogs
  • hamburgers
  • pork or beef ribs
  • chicken
  • steak
  • shish kabobs
  • salmon

The most difficult part of the festivities is the barbecue sauce or the marinades that the meat might have been soaked in. Standard barbecue sauces are loaded with sugar, and therefore very high in carbohydrates for the amount of sauce you get. Many marinades also contain a load of sugar. If you’re going to a holiday barbecue, one option is to call ahead and ask what the host or hostess plans to do regarding marinades and sauces. If that isn’t an option, simply bring your own meat and sauce to throw on a corner of the grill.

Easy Low-Carb Barbecue Sauce


1 cup sugar-free catsup (Hunt’s low-sugar catsup is made with Splenda)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1 teaspoon molasses
1/3 cup sugar substitute
1/4 cup sugar-free maple syrup
2 tablespoons Brandy (optional)


Place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have all of those spices, the pumpkin pie spice and a little extra cinnamon are the two that give this sauce it’s unique flavor.

Low-Carb Main Dish Picnic Ideas

Picnics aren’t that difficult either because cold roasted chicken or grilled chicken breast that has been grilled ahead of time, and then paired with a nice, low-carb dipping sauce, make nice celebratory main dishes. If you aren’t sensitive to wheat, you can also use a low-carb flour and make some fried chicken. Chicken strips or nuggets breaded with crushed pork rinds and parmesan cheese and dipped in a sauce of mayo and mustard or the above barbecue sauce also makes a tasty dish for a picnic. Even room temperature leftover barbecued ribs or pork chops are good.

Take advantage of lettuce wraps, lunch meat filled with cream cheese or dill pickles and then rolled, or even cold meat balls tossed in barbecue sauce. Anything that tastes good cold will make a good main dish for a low-carb picnic. We live near a Sprouts market. They sell assorted turkey parts. We love to braise the legs or thighs in water to cover with lots of garlic powder and some salt. These are fantastic served cold or at room temperature.

Side Dishes for Your Fourth-of-July Celebration

It’s the side dishes where you can really get creative. Once again, think about foods and ingredients that play to your red, white, and blue theme.

Spark Up Your Lettuce Salad: Don’t just serve a simple lettuce salad with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions. Take advantage of summer blueberries, sliced strawberries, hard-cooked eggs, and crumbled feta or blue cheese to really bring out your holiday theme. And don't forget to whip one one of your favorite low-carb salad dressings.

Meat and Cheese Appetizers: Make appetizers using cubes of pepper-jack cheese, ham cubes, and black olives. Spear them together with toothpicks that hold a U.S. flag.

Cauliflower Salad: You can also whip up a cauliflower salad. It’s made just like potato salad with onions, pickles, olives, and mayonnaise, but with the addition of blueberries and chunks of red bell peppers for a nice Patriotic presentation. For an added twist, throw in a few bacon crumbles, some minced jalapeno, and a handful of tiny baby cooked shrimp.

Deviled Eggs: For those who are still on Atkins Induction, use minced red sweet peppers in the filling, along with the traditional lemon juice and mayo, but add a little bit of blue food coloring to really perk them up.

Everything doesn’t have to be red, white, and blue of course, especially if you’re still on Induction or haven’t returned berries to your diet yet. Just make sure that your sides go the extra-mile with little touches that say they are not your every day, typical faire.    

Three-Bean Salad: Combine a can of drained green beans, yellow wax beans, and black soy beans with some chopped onion and red bell peppers. Toss with your favorite Italian Dressing and chill overnight.

Cole Slaw: Purchased cole slaw from the deli is high in sugar, but you can do the same thing at home by combining a package of ready-mix cole slaw veggies with mayo, Splenda, celery seeds, minced garlic, and lemon juice. This tangerine and walnut cole slaw recipe will also make your salad extra special.

Vegetable Salad: Look over your list of acceptable vegetables and pick out several different kinds. You can use them raw, or lightly steam them. Toss with mayo, Splenda, a dab of spicy mustard, a few bacon crumbles, and some Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning. Italian Dressing or a homemade Ranch would also be nice. If you aren’t sensitive to dairy, blue cheese dressing or chunks of blue cheese would also go well with this. Many low carbers are particularly fond of raw chopped broccoli, cheese chunks, and bacon.

Jalapeno Poppers: These are good cooked on the grill, but if you’re planning a picnic, they are also great served cold! Simply slice open a large jalapeno, remove the pith and seeds, and fill with cream cheese. Close the pepper back up and wrap in bacon secured with a toothpick. Bake or grill, turning often, until bacon is crispy and peppers are cooked through.

Low-Carb Fruit Fluff

For those who can afford a few extra carbohydrates, this low-carb fruit fluff is to diet for! Originally made with pineapple, mandarin oranges, small baby marshmellows, and Cool Whip, I’ve adapted it to be much more low-carb friendly.


1 cup of heavy whipping cream
sugar substitute to taste
2 to 3 cups of assorted berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries
16-ounce carton of cottage cheese
sugar-free gelatin, blue or red
Extras: unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, etc.


Whip up the heavy cream until nice and thick. Add sugar substitute. The amount you need will depend on how sweet your berries are. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine berries, cottage cheese, and enough sugar-free gelatin to give it all a nice dark color. When you fold in the cream, the color will lighten up quite a bit, so you want the color to be much darker than when you finish. Add any extras you like, then fold in the whipped cream, and chill.

Low-Carb Desserts

When it comes to low-carb desserts, there’s no shortage of recipes on the web. However, many of these recipes for cakes, cookies, and pies use low-carb products that contain a lot of wheat gluten. If you’re sensitive to gluten, you’ll want to stay away from them. But if you’re not, the holidays are a perfect time to try one of these recipes out. The following are some of my favorite low-carb desserts:

Chocolate-Mayonnaise Pound Cake: This recipe for low-carb chocolate cake is wonderful, but it needs to be made a day ahead. If you eat it the same day, it will be dry, but after it sits overnight, the texture changes and it becomes moist and wonderful. It does use wheat gluten though.

Easy Apple-Blueberry Crisp: If you’re short on time, this recipe for apple crisp makes use of canned sugar-free pie filling.

Strawberry Cheesecake: With or without a nut crust, a low-carb cheesecake topped with sliced strawberries and blueberries makes a great Fourth-of-July low-carb dessert.

Easy Strawberry Pie: If you’re looking for a red, white, and blue dessert, this low-carb strawberry pie will make you look like you spent hours in the kitchen. You can serve it to your non low-carb guests, and they’ll never know the carbs are missing! Or take it along with you to a Fourth-of-July party, but be prepared to share the recipe.

Real Strawberry Popsicles: If you’re hosting your own Fourth-of-July party, whipping up a bunch of real strawberry popsicles will keep the kids happy, as well as the adults. For an added touch, toss in a few blueberries and maybe swirl in a bit of whipped cream for a marbled effect.

Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake: If you want to get creative, you can make a fantastic strawberry-blueberry shortcake using Atkins’ original Revolution Roll recipe piled into a tube pan and baked into an Angel Food Cake. Revolution rolls themselves would make a nice shortcake base. Just split, fill with berries, and top with Splenda-sweetened whipped cream.

Low-Carb Cupcakes: Dr. Atkins' recipe can also be baked in a muffin pan using cupcake papers and then frosted for delicious low-carb cupcakes! For a marbled effect, simply divide the cupcake batter into two dishes and tint each bowlful red or blue. Carefully spoon the colored batter into your muffin cups and bake.

Easy Low-Carb Cream Cheese Frosting


8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 cup soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Splenda to taste

Cream together the cream cheese and butter until nice and fluffy. Add vanilla and Splenda to taste. This is great just as it is, but you could also flavor it with assorted extracts, fold in some unsweetened coconut and chopped nuts, or add some food coloring to match the holiday. You can also tint the coconut and sprinkle it on top, or top with strawberries or blueberries just before serving.

Keep the Holidays Fun!

Last year, we went to a country western concert for the Fourth-of-July, rather than having an eating bash. It was a nice outing, and we had loads of fun! I don’t remember what we ate. I just remember the time we spent with our closest friends. Now, when you’re in the beginning or the midst of a low-carb diet, that can sound a bit contrived, but the aim is to find appropriate ways to put some fun back into your life. Yes, low-carb food can be fun to make and fun to eat, but to truly make a low-carb diet a way of life, you need to be able to have fun without everything being about food.

For MORE party ideas, check out the following Related Post:

Low-Carb Superbowl Goodies

June 16, 2013

Top 6 Dieting Mistakes Newbies Make

Common Low-Carb Diet Mistakes
Are You Making One of
These Top 6 Dieting Mistakes?
No one likes to make mistakes.

Mistakes can be humiliating and send your weight-loss efforts packing.

When new to a low-carb diet, however, there are simple mistakes that almost everyone makes, so don't let them get you down. There is a huge learning curve when it comes to changing your lifestyle, so you can't expect yourself to get everything right the first time.

However, you don’t have to be new to a low-carb diet to make one of these 6 following dieting mistakes.

They are just as common among those who have been dieting for a while as they are among newbies. As time goes on, you might become more relaxed and less mindful of the amount of carbs and calories you are eating. You might forget to drink your water or get so caught up in your latest project that you forget to eat.

It is also not unusual to misplace the basics, so whether you’re new to the low-carb lifestyle or you have been on this journey for several months, here are the top 6 dieting mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

June 06, 2013

Cheating On a Low-Carb Diet – Is There Any Hope?

Low-carb dieters come in several varieties.

1. There are the die-hards who believe you should never ever cheat on a low-carb diet, even on holidays or your birthday. They have a particular list of low-carb foods that they believe everyone should stick to, and if you eat something that is not on their acceptable list, you’re not truly committed to your low-carb lifestyle.

2. Then there are those who take up the low-carb baton, willingly, but aren’t as fanatical about the details. They’re much more flexible about the whole process. They eat what they believe are low-carb foods, but don’t count how many carbohydrates they’re eating. They don’t know if they are within standard low-carb guidelines, but aren’t concerned about it because they’re either losing weight their own way, or they’re happy with their improved health. They will go off plan on holidays, their birthdays, and sometimes during social engagements, but then they’ll climb right back into the wagon and continue their low-carb journey.

3. There are cyclical low-carb dieters that fluctuate between being a die-hard and being overly relaxed. They will strongly stick to Atkins Induction for a few weeks, never cheating, but as the restrictiveness of that very low-carb level begins to wear thin, or the temptation to cheat becomes too strong, they’ll become more flexible. Where the relaxed dieter can easily climb back onto their plan once they’ve satisfied their need to eat normally, the cyclical dieter often finds themselves face down in the carbs. They have so much trouble getting back on plan, however, that they’ve usually gained back part of their weight, if not all, before they try again.

4. And then there is the person who can’t stick with a low-carb diet for more than a few days before the pull to cheat is too strong. They go into an unconscious binge before they wake up and discover what they’ve done. Sometimes it’s cyclical behavior, and sometimes it’s flexible, but they never really get the chance to lose much weight, and sometimes they even gain more, because their mind talks them into refilling their glycogen stores almost as soon as they’ve been emptied.

5. There are also a chosen few who are die-hards for most of the year, but allow themselves the luxury of participating in planned cheats. They are more strict than those who have a relaxed style of dieting because they do count their daily carbohydrates and do eat from a select list of low-carb foods. Their cheats are small and well controlled, because that’s all they need to feel satisfied. Those who practice controlled free meals and refeeds would fit into this category.

Granted, these are exaggerated caricatures, but they do illustrate the wide variety of eating styles that can be found within the low-carb community. Some of these eating styles are more friendly to fat loss than others. I’ve even experienced or purposely tried a few myself. Regardless of a die-hard’s unforgiving attitude, no style is better than any of the others. These are just the patterns that I’m aware of.

Subconscious Mind Drives the Cheating

These patterns are so distant from one another, it makes it difficult (if not impossible) to make solid recommendations in regards to cheating on a low-carb diet, because what drives us to overeat carbohydrates isn’t necessarily something that we can easily control – especially for those who experience a strong famine response to dieting. The mind and body are wired toward survival, and that’s what many of us are fighting against: the mind and body’s determination to survive at all costs.

It can be shocking to come to the realization that the mind and body would rather be fat than thin, but in my low-carb journey so far, that’s the epiphany I’ve sadly come to. The subconscious mind is in control, and when our conscious ideals and goals butt heads with our unconscious programming, the subconscious mind always wins.


That doesn’t leave us in a very good position. It feels rather hopeless actually. And that hopelessness and reinforcement only gets stronger when you take the time to actually LOOK at what’s going on within the low-carb community today. Very, very few individuals ever reach their goal weight. That’s reality. Luckily, for those of us who are still trying, there are a handful of low-carb success stories available, such as a man at Low Carb Friends who goes by the name of avid.

I talked about him a little bit in my last post about coffee and heavy cream. He’s gone from 180 pounds to 131. He reached goal weight on June 5, 2013. However, the last five pounds did require him to lower his daily calories, which he chose to do by cutting down on how much coffee he drank, as well as how much heavy cream he was putting in it. While losing 51 pounds is a tremendous accomplishment and should be celebrated, the sad part of this story is that it fits into my 50-Pound Theory.

What is My 50-Pound Theory?

For awhile, I’ve been watching people within the low-carb community that have actually make it all of the way to goal weight, and it has prompted a few questions.

  • What sets them apart from the rest of us?
  • Why do some of us completely stall out when we’re still so far away from a healthy weight?
  • Why does the mind and body do everything in its power to trick us into eating too many carbs?
  • Why does someone go from a die-hard eating style to someone who cannot stick to a low-carb diet for more than few days?

At first, I entertained the theory put forth by the BloodSugar 101 website that the body will only allow us to lose a certain percentage of our body fat before it puts on the breaks. But that doesn’t explain how people like avid have been able to succeed. Obviously, he has lost more than 15 or 20 percent of his weight, so what makes him different? What made Dr. Atkins’ success different?

At one time, the popular theory within the low-carb community that tried to explain this phenomena was called the One Golden Shot Theory. Many guessed that a low-carb diet ceased to work if you yo-yo’d back-and-forth between a low-carb diet and a high-carb diet too often. In fact, Dr. Atkins even warned his readers about abusing Induction for that very reason. It could backfire in our face. However, looking at my own weight-loss and weight-gain patterns, I’m now wondering if it’s about absolute poundage lost rather than a percentage.

It seems that when I look at success stories, people that have about 50 to 60 pounds to lose, or less, do very well on a low-carb diet – provided they stick with the plan. That’s because they hit maintenance about the same time that the body catches on and stalls. Those of us who started out with a hundred pounds to lose, or more, tend to stall when we are still far away from goal weight. When we attempt to push the issue, to force our bodies to give up more of its fat stores then those first 50 to 60 pounds, eventually, one of the non-die-hard low-carb eating patterns I described above raises its head to try and stop us from succeeding.

In my own case, I’m sad to say it worked.

Is There Any Hope of Overcoming the Subconscious Mind?

Honestly? I don’t know! Every low-carb diet I’ve attempted since I lost my initial 100 pounds has only left me heavier than I was before. It’s getting very disheartening. I managed to get down to 145 pounds after completing a round of the hHCG diet, but I wasn’t able to maintain that loss. Not because the diet is not sustainable. You move to a low-carb diet after it’s over. But I couldn't maintain the loss because of the amount of calories it takes to sustain 145 pounds. I just couldn’t do it.

When I regained and reached about 160, which was a little less than a 100-pound weight loss, I found that livable. It was maintainable. However, that quickly changed when I attempted to do a low-carb, high-fat diet. Eating high-fat only packed on more pounds. It was a big mistake on my part, because I was following a small low-carb subset, but I had HOPE.

And hope was what I needed at that moment.

Unfortunately, it backfired in my face. I quickly went from 160 pounds to the 190 that I weigh today before my weight stabilized. Not pretty. In fact, I was literally shocked when the DMV recently took my picture for my driver’s license. I had no idea I looked that badly again! But the drop in metabolic rate that the high-fat diet caused has not corrected itself.

So Where Do I Go From Here?

There are so many different low-carb camps today. The low-carb community has severely fractured into many different tribes, with each group standing opposed to the others, and screaming, “We have the truth. We will lead you to salvation.” But I don’t believe that anymore. I have come to realize that no one has the truth. Especially me. The world that existed when Dr. Atkins first started his low-carb revolution no longer exists.

Our food is more genetically altered, contaminated with chemicals, drenched in pesticides, and lacking in nutritional density than it was in 1972. Our meat is full of antibiotics and hormones that have messed with our gut flora and intestinal health. We live in a sterilized, fear-of-germs world.

At the moment, I don’t have any answers other than to continue eating a nutrient-dense diet. That’s quite a bit easier these days because we have moved further north to where my husband currently works. Healthy foods are easy to get here, but those nutrient-dense foods haven’t affected my weight at all. But my right knee and neurological issues are acting up again under the excess weight.


I just don’t know what. Maybe a more gentle, backdoor approach that doesn’t trigger the famine response would be best.