The Lowdown on ‘Living Low Carb’
Struggling to keep her own weight down, Fran McCullough, an award-winning cookbook editor, decided to try a low-carb diet. It turned out to be a perfect fit. In her quest for meal-time pleasure without plumpness, she put together a collection of more than 250 recipes for 1997's The Low-Carb Cookbook. The book was an instant success and best seller. Living Low-Carb, which contains more explanation of living low-carb plus 175 recipes followed in 2000.
McCullough's later book explains the differences between the most stringent low-carb diet plans and the more liberal ones that she favors. She then outlines how to adapt the latter group of diets to fit a pleasure-eater's palate. Rather than a "diet" book, Living Low-Carb is more of a lifestyle and self-help guide with recipes for everything from home fries to Moroccan-styled chicken to what she calls Intense Chocolate Cake.
McCullough dismisses the raft of objections to the low-carb diet, but she does note that for some people this type of routine is not ideal. She discusses the particular needs of diabetics and those with low-thyroid function (her own condition) and includes caveats for women who are pregnant or nursing. Living Low-Carb is full of motivational advice as well as practical tips for stocking the pantry; eating on the road, in restaurants, and at the homes of friends; and, finally, dealing with a dieter's bete noir, the sweet tooth.
She also encourages exercise, not because it will make you lose fat, but because it's good for you.
How the Diet Works
Here’s McCullough's basic plan for low-carb eating:
- Have protein at every meal -- about one-half gram of protein for every pound of your ideal weight, typically somewhere between 60 to 85 grams unless you're very large or very small.
- For weight loss, keep the carbs low, anywhere from zero to 30 grams daily.
- Choose whole foods, organic if possible and ideally raw. The more fiber, the better.
- Avoid nearly everything white -- potatoes, rice, bread, flour, sugar, popcorn. Of course, this doesn't include cauliflower, turnips, or giant white radishes.
- Eat fruit at breakfast, particularly low-carb fruits such as berries, melon, peaches, kiwi. Half a banana is all you get.
- Although you are allowed cream and butter, save it for treats, and cut down on them if you are trying to lose weight. Choose cold-pressed olive and nut oils, and avoid processed oils, partially hydrogenated fats, and margarine.
- Eat dinner early and make it minimal.
Now, what about the recipes? All are low-carb with the exception of several moderately higher-carb dessert recipes. McCullough points out that the carbohydrate counts she gives will not be the same as those in standard books because the fiber count has been subtracted from the total carb count. What does that mean? The fiber component, she says, is not metabolically active and does not raise blood sugar levels, which allows you to have more carbs if they are in the form of fiber.
Appetizers include roasted almonds, grilled Parmesan chunks, and stuffed mushrooms; main courses include pork tenderloin, salmon prepared in several ways, and something called A Lot Like Lasagna made with zucchini, spinach, Italian sausage, and ricotta. Desserts run from Rummy Pumpkin Mousse to Capri Chocolate Almond Torte.