How to Cook Low-Carb


Whole wheat bread is both delicious and nutritious. See more staying healthy pictures.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Nothing beats sitting down to a home-cooked meal. Yet at the end of a hectic day, the drive-through can be awfully appealing. When you're the cook, though, you're in control. You choose the dish that sounds most appetizing, and you pick the amount and type of ingredients used. The availability of seasonal produce and other ingredients, personal preference, and health and nutrition concerns are all considerations, and you're free to address any or all of them when you're wearing the apron.

Don't feel constrained by a recipe. Use it as an outline, then improvise to create a low-carb diet. Just be aware that baking is a bit trickier because the outcome is much more dependent on correct proportions of ingredients. But even in baking there's room for improvisation, particularly when it comes to boosting nutrition.

In this article, we'll show you just how quick and simple it is to plan meals and alter recipes using the best carb ingredients. Starting with a whole-grain tutorial, and moving on to the inside story on beans, fruits, and vegetables, we'll add some inspiration, throw in a few tricks for tempting picky eaters, and voila -- you'll be the star of your own carb-friendly, healthy kitchen. Sit back and get ready to collect the compliments.

Whole Grains

Most of us tend to stick to the same old grains. But if you venture beyond the usual white rice and whole-wheat bread, you'll find a whole new world of delicious and nutritious grains. There are plenty of tasty discoveries to be made. The following list will get you started.

Amaranth. A lesser-known grain, amaranth is high in protein and a good source of calcium. Most often eaten as cooked cereal, it's also available as flour and as an ingredient in ready-to-eat cereals. Add extra nutrition to baked goods by substituting 10 to 20 percent of the all-purpose flour in recipes with amaranth flour.

Barley. This is a hardy, nutty-tasting grain that dates back to the Stone Age. Barley is available in a variety of forms, including hulled, pearled, flakes, grits, and even quick cooking. Toss a large handful of the quick-cooking variety into a pot of chili or bean soup to add protein, iron, and fiber.

Buckwheat. Often offered as a pancake selection on restaurant menus, buckwheat is technically an herb of the buckwheat family. Originating in Asia, where for thousands of years people have eaten noodles made from buckwheat flour, it can be found in a variety of baked goods including breads, muffins, cookies, crackers, and waffles. Toasted buckwheat groats (the hulled, crushed kernels) are known as kasha. Combine buckwheat with other grains and serve as a healthy side dish or pilaf, or add the flour to baked goods.

Bulgur. A form of wheat, this nutritious grain is a staple in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cooking. In fact, bulgur forms the basis of tabbouleh, a delicious Middle Eastern dish. Bulgur is made from steamed or boiled wheat kernels (also called wheat berries) that first have been dried, then crushed. Combine hot, cooked bulgur with oatmeal and dried fruit for a powerhouse breakfast; mix with brown rice, herbs, and olive oil to make a pilaf; or add cooked bulgur to ground beef or turkey for burgers or meat loaf.

Brown rice. The unmistakable brown color, distinct nutty flavor, and chewy texture of brown rice are the result of removing only the inedible outer husk. Brown rice takes a bit longer to cook than white, so cook up extra, and store it in the freezer. As a quick, convenient alternative, buy instant brown rice; it cooks up in only 10 minutes. It's just as nutritious as long-cooking brown rice; it's just precooked to decrease cooking time. A good source of fiber and vitamin E, brown rice can be substituted anywhere you would use white rice.

Corn. Yes, corn is a grain. From the most basic corn on the cob to grits, cornmeal, corn flour, or popcorn, this Native American staple is fiber rich and contributes small amounts of iron and vitamin C to the diet. Canned, frozen, or fresh, it's unbelievably versatile. Corn mixes well with any type of canned bean (black and pinto are especially tasty), enhances many foods as a quick side dish, and can be tossed into soups, salads, and muffins with equal ease.

Couscous. Not technically a whole grain, couscous is a type of pasta made from semolina (coarsely ground durum wheat). However, couscous is available in a whole-wheat version that provides protein, fiber, and small amounts of iron. Due to its exceptionally quick cooking time (5 minutes!) it's a wonderful way to add a good source of healthy carbohydrates to the diet. Use as a base for salads and casseroles or cook in vegetable or chicken broth and serve as a speedy, flavorful side dish.

Millet. Commonly sold as bird food in the United States, millet is a crunchy, nutty-flavored grain that is a staple in other parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa. Millet swells enormously when cooked, requiring about five parts water to one part millet. Incredibly nutritious, it provides protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, and iron. Millet is often eaten as a hot cereal and is delicious in breads, muffins, pilaf, pancakes, soups, and stews.

Oats. Full of phytochemicals, not to mention good taste, oats are one of the most popular grains. They're extremely versatile and are used in cookies, muffins, cakes, breads, and breakfast cereals. Oats contain soluble fiber, a powerful cholesterol-reducing agent. They come in several varieties, all relatively easy to locate at your local grocery store. When serving oatmeal for breakfast, it's best to choose the least processed variety; flavored instant oatmeal contains added sugar and sodium.

Quinoa. A staple of the Incas, quinoa is one of the oldest cultivated grains. It's a nutritional powerhouse because it contains all the essential amino acids. That makes it equivalent in protein content to beef or eggs yet without cholesterol or saturated fat. Quinoa is lower in carbohydrate than most grains and can be used in the same manner as rice. Quinoa looks like a tiny bead but expands to nearly four times its size when cooked. Use it as a base for salads or as a side dish, or add quinoa flour to baked goods.

Rye. Rye can be purchased as a cereal grain (most often in combination with other grains), as berries (similar to wheat berries), and as flour. You'll find plenty of baked goods, including bread, bagels, and rolls, that contain rye. Often referred to as a "peasant grain," rye is a hardy plant that can grow practically anywhere. Lower in gluten (the protein that helps bread rise) than most grains, rye flour is normally combined with a high-protein flour when used in bread making. Use rye flour in your baking, and seek out rye breads and other baked goods that include rye.

Spelt. Another ancient cereal grain that is native to southern Europe, spelt is a cousin to wheat. Spelt can be used any place you would use regular wheat, yet due to its higher protein content, even people with wheat allergies can include spelt in their diet. Spelt is often combined with other grains in hot cereal and granola mixtures or used in salads, soups, and casseroles. In baking, spelt flour can be used in place of wheat flour.

Triticale. A hybrid mixture of wheat and rye, triticale has a nutty sweet flavor. Found in many forms, including whole berries, flakes, flour, and cereal, triticale is an extremely nutritious grain. Use it in a variety of dishes, from casseroles to pilaf. Lower in gluten, triticale flour is best used in combination with wheat flour when baking to produce a more lightly textured product.

Keep reading to learn about low-carb cooking with legumes.

 

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

 

Low-Carb Cooking With Beans

When it comes to healthy carbs, beans are a winner every time
When it comes to healthy carbs, beans are a winner every time
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

There are many parts of the world where it's unheard of for a day to go by without eating beans in one form or another. Other cultures include beans in unusual ways, such as grinding them into flour to be used in a variety of indigenous foods.

Even in the United States, there are particular regions as well as cultures where bean dishes are more common than others. For instance, the main ingredients in the southern classic Hoppin' John are black-eyed peas and rice. Seasonings and various other ingredients used in it are as diverse as the cook stirring the pot. The vegetarian and vegan communities wholeheartedly embrace beans and the unparalleled plant-based, protein-rich nutrition they contribute to a diet that excludes meat. But vegetarians and folks with southern roots needn't be the only beneficiaries of these nutrition powerhouses.

Without question, we need to include beans on our list of healthy carbohydrates. There are literally hundreds of different varieties of beans. If you can, sample them all! Here's an overview of some of the most common kinds:

Adzuki (aka Azuki and Aduki). A cousin to the larger red kidney bean, Adzuki beans likely originated in China and Japan. Adzukis are sweet and commonly used in desserts. They can be found in Asian markets, where they're sold either whole or powdered.

Black (aka turtle bean or frijoles negros). Native to South and Central America, black beans are a staple in Latin American dishes. Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Spain all boast a wide variety of delicious dishes starring this beautiful, oval-shaped bean. Black beans form the base of dips and salads, as well as the classic black bean soup.

Cannellini. Less flavorful than their cousin, the red kidney bean, cannellinis are often used in minestrone soup and other Italian dishes.

Cranberry (aka shell bean, Roman, October, borlotti). Often used in Italian dishes, this oval-shaped bean is streaked with red, both inside and out. They have a delicious flavor, often described as earthy or nutty, and are available fresh during the summer or dried throughout the remainder of the year.

Great northern.

This large white bean has a slightly nutty, intriguingly distinctive, mild, delicate flavor. It makes a delicious base for herb-flavored bean spreads and is superb in pasta dishes, particularly those that include green vegetables such as broccoli. Great northerns are also commonly used in baked beans and added to soups. They can serve as a substitute in most recipes that call for navy beans or any white bean.

Lentils. Lentils are often used as a versatile meat substitute and star in a variety of salads, soups, stews, dips, spreads, and ethnic dishes such as East Indian dal. Most supermarkets carry the standard brown lentil and occasionally the red and yellow varieties as well. Middle Eastern or East Indian markets are sure to carry the more unusual varieties. Lentils are delicious served whole, pureed, or mixed with vegetables and spices.

Lima. Succotash (a mix of corn and lima beans), the side dish with a fun name, is a high-protein, traditional way to serve lima beans. Called butter beans in the South, lima beans have a pale green color and slight kidney shape. The bean was named for Lima, Peru, where it was discovered in the early 1500s. They're available fresh from June to September and frozen at any time of the year. They make a great side dish and are occasionally used in soups.

Navy (aka Boston, Yankee, pea bean). This small, white version of the Great Northern bean has been served as a versatile staple by the U.S. Navy since the mid-1800s. Navy beans are often used by commercial producers of many different brands of pork and beans. Navy beans require long, slow cooking, making them the perfect addition to a long-simmering pot of soup on the stove top.

Pinto. Pinto means "painted" in Spanish, a fitting description for this artistic-looking staple of Mexico and the American Southwest. Refried beans and chili con carne are both made with pinto beans. They're also often served with rice and found in dips, soups, and stews.

Red kidney. Kidney beans are a perennial favorite. They're full flavored with a soft texture and a kidney shape, from which the bean derives its name. They retain this distinctive shape even during long periods of cooking time, hence their popularity in chili and other soups. Chili con carne or red beans and rice wouldn't be the same without kidney beans, but they're also found in sandwiches, dips, the ubiquitous three-bean salad, and salad bars around the country.

Soybean. You would be hard-pressed to find a more nutritious bean, particularly when it comes to protein. Soybeans are an economical source of protein, providing all of the amino acids typically found in animal products without the saturated fat and cholesterol. Soybeans have been cultivated in China for thousands of years and are one of the leading crops grown in the Midwest. Foods such as tofu, tempeh, miso, and edemame are all soybean based. In fact, edemame is the Japanese name for green soybeans. In their almost infinite color combinations of red, yellow, green, brown, and black, soybeans can be used like any other bean in soups, stews, casseroles, and dips.

In the next section, we'll move onto low-carb cooking with fruits and vegetables.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Low-Carb Cooking With Fruits and Vegetables

Looking for good carbs? Look no further than fruits and vegetables.
Looking for good carbs? Look no further than fruits and vegetables.
Publications International, Ltd.

Both fruits and vegetables offer an abundance of healthy carbohydrates. In this section, we'll take an in-depth look at these culinary delights.

Fruits

A glance at the glycemic index lists fruit in all three GI categories: low, moderate, and high. However, there's no question that all fruits are unbeatable sources of many vitamins, including C and A, as well as fiber and phytonutrients. While fruits have a high percentage of simple sugars, that's no reason to leave these readily available sources of healthy carbohydrate out of the diet.

Fruits eaten whole contribute all of the good things listed above, yet there's another compelling reason to include whole versions. Many nutrition researchers agree that the "synergy" of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans is what appears to confer protection against cancer and other diseases. Synergy is the interactive way vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other components work to produce a much stronger effect than they do individually. Including whole fruits in your diet on a regular basis ensures you'll get the optimal health benefits in a delicious package.

It's easy to toss an apple or banana into a lunch box or briefcase, but this can get boring. Increase your intake of whole fruits by featuring them in a wide variety of entrees and desserts. You can even serve them disguised as fun foods. Rest assured that the antioxidant power of blueberries is not what people think about as they dip into a dish of warm blueberry cobbler. It's not that healthy foods aren't fun on their own, but if you're feeding a reluctant crowd or trying to pad the diets of your loved ones with a few more healthy foods, a little enticement can work in your favor.

Vary the fruit you use depending on the season. For instance, eat pumpkin, apples, and cranberries in the fall and nectarines and blueberries in summer. Start with a fruit base, then use tried-and-true tricks to make the recipe as nutritious as possible: Substitute low- or nonfat dairy products for full-fat varieties, use whole-wheat flour in place of white flour, and substitute applesauce for some of the fat. You can even cut the sugar by 1/3 without negatively impacting the outcome.

Use the following list of tasty ideas as a starting place to add more fruit to your family's diet. You're only limited by your imagination!

  • Cobblers
  • Crumbles
  • Layered fruit and yogurt
  • Baked apples
  • Frozen fruit ice pops
  • Fruit soups
  • Sauteed bananas
  • Fruit puddings (pumpkin, banana)
  • Add dried fruits to drop cookies
  • Bar cookies filled with figs or other fruit
  • Fruit tarts
  • Fruit-filled crepes
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Blueberry/apple/raspberry pancakes
  • French toast topped with fruit compote
  • Fruit-based muffins
  • Fruit breads (banana, pumpkin, cranberry, etc.)
  • Fruit dipped in chocolate (strawberries, apricots, oranges, cherries, etc.)

Vegetables

The idea of synergy applies to vegetables as well as fruits, but when serving these nutrition powerhouses you may need to disguise them using the "fun food" approach. People are very particular about their vegetables, from which varieties they prefer to preparation methods to size and shape.

Eating more vegetables is so important that you should pull out all the stops to make them delicious. If the only way you'll eat green veggies is to saute them in a bit of butter, do it! If you love cauliflower and broccoli nestled under cheese sauce, just try to find the healthiest version of cheese sauce you can and be judicious in the amount you use.

The benefits of eating more vegetables far outweighs any bit of topping you might add. For some, nothing beats the flavor of unadorned vegetables, where their true flavors stand on their own. Particularly during the summer when fresh vegetables are at their peak, try to experiment with steaming, microwaving, and munching veggies raw.

A discussion of carbohydrate and vegetables would be incomplete without touching on the starchy varieties. These complex carbohydrates are often avoided because "they turn to sugar" after you eat them. While that's true, as all carbohydrates break down into glucose (a form of sugar) following digestion, that doesn't make them unhealthy. Where folks get into trouble is by eating huge servings of less healthy versions of starchy vegetables, such as super-size orders of french fries. Healthy people shouldn't avoid starchy vegetables. They should be included in the diet as a solid source of energy and because of their many beneficial nutrients. If you're managing diabetes, be sure to count the carbohydrate in these foods in your daily total to help keep blood sugar in line.

As far as the glycemic index goes, keep in mind that starchy vegetables are rarely eaten on their own. It's not too often that you sit down to a huge bowl of plain mashed potatoes. If you've monitored your own reaction to these high-GI foods and find your blood sugar surging, then plummeting, eat smaller portions and always accompany them with a source of protein. Complement them with double helpings of nonstarchy vegetables. Include them in other dishes as well, such as muffins, breads, or burritos, where you'll still score the nutrition benefits.

Here's a list of starchy vegetables:

  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Green peas
  • Sweet potato
  • Yam
  • Winter squash

Now you know all about foods that have healthy carbohydrates, but what are some great ways to prepare them? That's covered in the next section, where we'll tell you how to adapt your favorite recipes for low-carb cooking.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Creating Low-Carb Recipes

It's common to experience resistance from family members, or even your own taste buds, when making ingredient changes to your recipes. Remember when you made the switch from whole milk to skim? You probably thought you'd never get used to the flavor or the mouthfeel. However, you've most likely reached the point where you can't imagine downing a glass of whole milk! Substituting whole-wheat pasta and brown rice can take you down a similar path.

One of the best ways to overcome resistance is to make the switch gradually. Try mixing two-thirds white and one-third whole-wheat pasta, and do the same with rice. Over time, decrease the amount of white and increase the whole grain. Some pasta manufacturers have even begun marketing pasta made from half white flour and half whole-wheat flour, an excellent choice for those just starting to make the switch.

Take a look through some of your favorite recipes. We all have an old standby that's foolproof, quick to throw together, and requested often. Could any of these tried-and-true dishes use a healthy-carbohydrate makeover? What about new recipes you'd like to try? Here's how you can make those home-cooked favorites carb-friendly:

Breadcrumbs or Crushed Cereal Toppings and Fillers

Recipes that call for breadcrumbs and/or crushed cereal use them in a couple of ways. They're either sprinkled on top to add a crunchy texture or mixed into the main recipe to add bulk or holding/forming power. If you purchase ready-made breadcrumbs, it may be difficult to find anything other than white bread as the base. Whether the recipe calls for a small sprinkling or a larger measured amount, whole-grain crumbs are a better choice since they contain some fiber and additional nutrients.

You can make your own by tossing the heels of whole-grain bread into the food processor (many people throw these out anyway). Give them a whirl and store in plastic freezer bags or containers for future use. When a recipe calls for breadcrumbs, you can add them directly from the freezer (no need to thaw) or mix in a variety of herbs and spices or other flavorings as dictated by the recipe.

If you're trying to reduce carbohydrate even further, try mixing chopped nuts and breadcrumbs. This works best for coating foods rather than as a filler. For cereal toppings, use a high-fiber (at least five grams of fiber per serving) cereal rather than a variety that contains only one gram or less. Unless you're preparing a dessert-type dish, be sure the cereal is unsweetened.

Pasta Dishes

This may seem like an obvious place to make a healthy carb change, but it's easy to get into the habit of always doing things the same way because they've always been done that way. In fact, many people don't even consider substituting whole-grain pasta for white-flour pasta just because they never have. But it only requires a bit of forethought. It's easier than ever to find whole-wheat pasta in a wide variety of shapes.

Whatever the pasta dish, from macaroni and cheese to linguini and clam sauce, there's no need to ban it from your dinner table; just use whole-wheat pasta in place of the white. Regardless of the type of pasta you use, refrain from eating excessive portion sizes. Serve pasta in smaller, salad-size bowls, and round out the meal with extra vegetables and a salad.

Rice Dishes

Any dish that calls for rice-unless it's something unique such as sushi-can accommodate the substitution of brown rice. Pay attention to cooking times, as brown rice takes longer to cook than white. Be sure to allow for such adjustments.

Tortillas

Whether cradling savory burrito fillings or the contents of a tempting taco, or serving main duty in any number of vegetable- or meat-filled wraps, tortillas lend themselves well to a variety of dishes. Corn and whole-wheat tortillas both contain more fiber and nutrients than the white flour variety, and they're getting easier to find even on the shelves of mainstream grocery stores. Corn tortillas aren't normally made with fat. But when buying any type of tortilla other than corn, scan the ingredient list for shortening or lard and only buy tortillas that contain neither.

Bread

In recipes that call for bread, such as an egg-rich strata or baked French toast, substitute 100 percent whole-grain bread for the kind you usually use. Just like substituting whole-wheat pasta for white, you need to plan ahead to make the substitution; otherwise you'll just use the same white bread you've always used.

Summing It Up

Cooking with healthy carbohydrates really comes down to including plenty of four main ingredients: whole, intact grains; legumes (dried beans of any variety); vegetables; and fruits. These foods (with the exception of a few varieties of fruit) naturally score low on the glycemic index rating, so they're kind to blood sugar levels, and they help you feel full and provide vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

If you eat a lot of processed carbohydrate foods and have experienced the dramatic energy dips, uncontrollable cravings for sweets, and weight gain associated with that kind of diet, try substituting healthier carbohydrate choices and monitor how your body responds. You'll probably find you feel much better! Pair moderate portions of lean cuts of red meat, poultry, fish, or plant-based proteins such as soy or legumes with plenty of veggies and whole grains, and you'll be consuming less unhealthy cholesterol and saturated fat as well.

Many of the carbohydrate choices people grab on the run or include in ready-to-eat, grab-and-go meals are high in sugar, low in fiber, and loaded with additives and/or preservatives. By cutting out these foods and replacing them with the foods we talked about above, many people will experience weight loss, maintain stable blood sugar levels, and manage and possibly prevent a multitude of diseases. And that, after all, is the name of the game.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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