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Low-carb, anyone?: Going lower-carb doesn't mean giving up on flavor

 

Taco tomatoes are a tasty low-carb option. Fillings can be changed up to make cheeseburger tomatoes.

Taco tomatoes are a tasty low-carb option. Fillings can be changed up to make cheeseburger tomatoes. Photo by: delish.com

 

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These hash brown egg cups are made with cauliflower.

These hash brown egg cups are made with cauliflower.
Photo by: cafedelites.com

 

Coconut flour and coconut oil give these chocolate brownies a low-carb edge.

Coconut flour and coconut oil give these chocolate brownies a low-carb edge.
Photo by: dish.allrecipes.com

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

If reducing carbohydrates in your diet is part of your I'm-gonna-do-it-better-this-year master plan, you're not alone. According to dietdoctor.com, a poll conducted for the U.S. online magazine Insider shows that, among those who resolve to lose weight in the new year, the top dietary approach is the low-carb diet.  

 

The poll found that 43 percent of respondents said weight loss/eating habits were their top resolution. Of those, 45 percent said their method would be using a lower-carb, higher-fat strategy.  

 

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Unwin of the UK advises, among other things, taking small habit-forming steps to help you see low carb as a lifestyle and not a diet with an end date. If you have small lapses in keeping to the resolution, just get right back at it.  

 

In general, low-carb plans are used for losing weight, but they can have health benefits beyond that, such as reducing risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of conditions, like increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal weight and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, that occur together and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes (mayoclinic.org).  

 

There are multiple low-carb diets, but to summarize, in general they focus on proteins, including meat, plant-based proteins, poultry, fish, eggs and some nonstarchy vegetables. They tend to exclude or limit most grains, legumes, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables and certain other foods.  

 

 

 

Cutting back 

 

Before making drastic changes in diet, it pays to understand carbs and their function. Talk to your doctor. Information can also be found at sites such as mayoclinic.org. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy, and too few carbs, as well as too many, can cause concerns.  

 

That being said, it's probably safe to say most of us take in more carbs than we need. If you're looking to moderate, healthline.com offers a few simple tweaks. Among them: 

 

  • First and foremost, eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks such as soda and sweet iced tea.  

     

  • Cut back on breads, especially white breads made from refined grains. 

     

  • Choose low-carb snacks, like almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, cheese. 

     

  • Ask for vegetables instead of potatoes or bread in restaurants. 

     

  • Substitute low-carb flours, like those made from nuts and coconut, for wheat flour. 

     

  • Emphasize non-starchy vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini and spinach.  

     

    When it comes to meals, some restaurants identify low-carb or "light" choices on their menus. And when cooking at home, you don't have to give up all your favorite comfort foods. Recipes below provide some flavorful lower-carb twists. 

     

     

     

    TACO TOMATOES 

     

    Prep time: 5 minutes 

     

    Total time: 25 minutes 

     

    Makes 4 servings 

     

     

     

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

     

    3/4 pound ground beef 

     

    1 medium onion, chopped 

     

    1 (1-ounce) packet taco seasoning 

     

    4 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes 

     

    1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend 

     

    1/2 cup shredded iceberg lettuce 

     

    1/4 cup sour cream 

     

     

     

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, 5 minutes. Add ground beef and taco seasoning. Cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 8 minutes. Drain fat.  

     

  • Flip over tomatoes so they're stem-side down and slice to make 6 wedges, being careful not to cut all the way through. Carefully spread open wedges.  

     

  • Divide taco meat among tomatoes, then top each with cheese, lettuce, and sour cream before serving. Stuff these lasagna-style: Top with a little ricotta, mozzarella and basil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 F. (You can change up the filling for cheeseburger tomatoes, too.) 

     

    (Source: Lena Abraham/delish.com) 

     

     

     

    HASH BROWN EGG CUPS  

     

    Servings: 12 cups 

     

     

     

    1 head of cauliflower, stalk and leaves removed, cut into florets 

     

    1 extra large egg, whisked 

     

    1/2 cup cheddar cheese, (or mozzarella) 

     

    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

     

    1/2-1 teaspoon salt, to taste 

     

    Pepper, to taste (optional) 

     

    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, (or 1 teaspoon onion powder) 

     

    12 small-medium sized eggs 

     

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray a 12-hole muffin tin with cooking oil spray (or grease with butter), wipe over excess with a paper towel and set aside. 

     

  • Pulse cauliflower in two batches for about 30-50 seconds until a fine "rice" is formed. It's OK if there are a few bigger pieces in there. (Be careful not to over-process or the cauliflower will form a raw puree.) 

     

  • Measure out 3 cups (17 ounces in weight) of the cauliflower rice into a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 8 minutes or until soft. Alternatively, lightly steam over a pot of boiling water or in a vegetable steamer until soft. Remove, allow to cool for a good 5 minutes before handling. 

     

  • Using paper towels, an old tea towel or a cheesecloth, squeeze out as much liquid as you can until hardly any liquid can be squeezed out. (It's easier to wrap the cauliflower in the towel, or cloth, and squeeze it into a ball over the sink. Less mess.) 

     

  • Transfer back into bowl (make sure there's no liquid in it), and add the whisked egg, cheeses, salt and garlic powder. Divide mixture into each muffin hole and firmly press them with your fingertips to create a "nest" or cup. 

     

  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until cheese has melted, cups are golden and edges are browned. Remove from oven; break eggs into each cup; season with salt and pepper; return to oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, or until whites are set and yolks are cooked to your liking. 

     

  • Allow them to cool 5 minutes before handling, or they may fall apart. Lightly slide a knife around the sides of each cup. Using a fork, gently lift one side first to make sure they're not sticking to the bottom, and lift out of pan. Garnish with red chili flakes and parsley, if desired. 

     

    (Source: cafedelites.com) 

     

     

     

    COCONUT FLOUR CHOCOLATE BROWNIES 

     

    Prep time: 10 minutes 

     

    Total time: 40 minutes 

     

     

     

    1/2 cup cocoa powder 

     

    1/3 cup virgin coconut oil 

     

    6 eggs 

     

    1 cup white sugar 

     

    1/2 teaspoon salt 

     

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

     

    1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted 

     

    1 tablespoon semisweet chocolate chips, or more to taste 

     

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. 

     

  • Stir cocoa powder and coconut oil together in a saucepan over low heat until coconut oil has melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.  

     

  • Beat eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract together in a bowl; stir in cocoa mixture. Whisk coconut flour into egg mixture until there are no lumps. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; sprinkle chocolate chips over top.  

     

  • Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center come out clean, about 35 minutes.  

     

    (Source: dish.allrecipes.com)

     

  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

     

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