Low Carb Side Dishes for Busy Work Days and Special Occasions

melon-mThere are plenty of filling and tasty side dishes to try on a busy workday or special occasion. Low carb diets emphasize the importance of balanced and diversified menu for healthy weight loss.

Ideas for Low Carb Sides

Sides add flavor, nutrients, and variety to any meal. Dieters can try different low carb recipes and sides or modify classic recipes. There are plenty of low carb options though, for example, mushrooms and green beans, tomatoes and okra, and garlic green beans. You can also try shredded Brussels sprouts, sesame green beans, roasted baby carrots with rosemary, and asparagus parmesan. There are meat and vegetarian options to incorporate in your menu. Low carb diets offer plenty of choice and vegetarian sides are tasty and good for your health. You can have pea and asparagus medley, smothered green beans, tomato and eggplant bake, or broccoli with almond butter. You can also make green beans with lemon and hazelnuts or baked stuffed tomatoes for a special occasion. There are also meat options such as creamed vegetables with ham and almond and bacon green beans. Some sides are easy to make and take no time to prepare while others are great for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and other special occasions and formal events. Stuffed artichokes, for example, are an excellent choice for a special occasion and are made using Romano cheese, parsley, oregano, and garlic.

Snacks for Busy Workdays

It is always a good idea to make snacks and have them in between meals, and many popular diets recommend eating two snacks per day. You can choose from a wealth of low carb foods and recipes for a healthy and filling snack. Some snacks are available at supermarkets such as olives, cheese, and nuts. If you don’t have much time, you can buy mini cheese portions or a trail mix with almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. Some trail mixes also contain chestnuts, cashews, raisins, and other dried fruits. It is best to avoid them because chestnuts and cashews are high on carbs while dried fruits are loaded with sugar. You can have full-fat yogurt, celery, pepperoni sticks, or berries instead. You will also find diet-friendly snacks at healthy food and specialist stores. You can try protein shakes, pork scratchings and dried meat snacks, and even seaweed. Other snacks can be prepared at home and take little time to make. If you have 10 – 15 minutes, you can make celery sticks with peanut butter or hard boiled eggs with cream, sour cream, or mayonnaise. Some snacks take more time to make, and you may want to prepare in advance. You can make cheddar crisps, cheese straws, flax crackers, or low-carb pancakes. There are great low carb recipes for a lazy weekend at home when you have free time to cook. You can try zucchini chips, broccoli bites, or cauliflower tater tots. There are plenty of options, from premade products to homemade snacks.

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Carb-Counting as a Way to Plan Meals

Carb-counting is one way to make sure that your meals fit into your plan of choice. This is a practical option to ensure that you include the right amount of nutrients in your meals.

Benefits for Dieters

Once dieters learn how to count carbohydrates, it is easy to find and fit different products into their plan. Thus they can include a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables by checking the nutrition label. Another benefit is that dieters can control their glucose levels and readings. This is especially important for patients with diabetes. Moreover, it allows you to plan your meals in advance and ensure that you have a balanced menu.

Slow vs. Quick Acting Carbs

children-snacksThere is a difference between simple and complex carbohydrates, and the main one is their glycemic index value. Examples of low GI foods include porridge, oat bran, whole wheat, mushrooms, cabbage, and others. Foods with a high GI are parsnip, pumpkin, dates, instant mashed potatoes, and French fries. Products with a high glycemic index value cause spikes in insulin levels. Foods that are high in protein and fat do not have the same negative effect on glucose levels. This is why carb counting is important. It helps dieters to control their blood sugar levels, lose weight, and fight diseases such as heart problems, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and others.

How to Count Carbohydrates

One option is to check the amount of dietary fiber and carbohydrates on the nutrition label. If a product has 5 grams of dietary fiber and 18 grams of carbs, it contains 13 grams of net carbs. Check the nutrition label for sugar alcohols as well because they are more difficult to absorb. To make sure that your menu fits into your diet, you may want to consume more foundation vegetables such as asparagus, cauliflower, and hearty greens. Then have some high-fat foods such as cream and hard cheeses. If you find all this time consuming, there are other methods to try.

Online Tools

You can use online calculators, charts, tables, and other tools. The first thing to do is to calculate your daily recommended intake. There are calculators that help you to do this. Just enter your activity level, weight, height, sex, and age. For example, if you are a 32-year old female who is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weigh 180 pounds, your daily intake is 2051 calories to maintain your current weight. The amount of carbohydrates to consume depends on your plan of choice. If you are on the Zone Diet, for example, some 40 percent of your calories should be in the form of carbohydrates. Some plans also come with printable and downloadable food lists and carb counters to make it easier for dieters to track their daily intake. Other tools include a comprehensive database and allow you to find foods by total amount of saturated and monounsaturated fat, amount of carbohydrates, trans fat, cholesterol, and so on. You can choose between 200-gram and 100-gram servings. Another option is to base you search on a certain category, for example, sweets, snacks, oils and fats, legumes, seed and nut products, and others. The tool allows you to find foods that are lowest or highest in certain nutrients. Regardless of the tool or method of choice, the daily intake depends on whether you are on the Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Low GI, or any other plan. The most important thing is to limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates.

Online Resources




Low Carb Meals That Most Restaurants Offer

Many restaurants offer meals that are considered low carb-friendly or will gladly modify a meal to fit into your menu. Whether a chain, local restaurant or a fast food joint, there are options for low carbers.

Popular Choices
Many restaurants offer chicken with green beans and side salads. This is a good choice but avoid breaded chicken. Most restaurants also offer tasty omelets. Just skip the hash browns and toast and have steamed vegetables or salad greens instead. If you go with steak, ask if it has added sugar. Restaurants that offer salad bars are usually low carb-friendly. You can have grilled lamb chops with salad on the side. If you love seafood, many seafood restaurants offer grilled shrimp, grilled lobster, crab legs, and shrimp scampi.

Chicken wings, grilled chicken, chicken strips, Buffalo wings, and char grilled chicken are also popular choices. Many restaurants offer chicken, steak, and chops. Chicken fillet or steak with steamed vegetables is a great choice for your lunch menu. Many restaurants offer this option. Some restaurants offer popular meals such as carved roast turkey, baked fish, carved salmon and ham, hot wings, and taco meat. Other options are baked chicken, roast beef, beef patties, and more.

Low carb-friendly salads are also offered by many restaurants, for example, cob salad, Caesar salad, and others. Any salad that includes a protein source is a good choice (luncheon meat, cheese, etc.) Spring greens and tossed green salad, for example, are good options.  Opt for salads with low carb dressings with no added sugar. Choose dressings such as raspberry vinaigrette, creamy Italian dressing, salsa, and blue cheese dressing. Caesar dressing is very low in carbs (less than 1 gram per portion) while blue cheese contains about 2.5 grams.

The Salad Bar

While many restaurants offer diet-friendly options, avoid sugary and starchy foods such as pancakes, French toast, French fries, and hash browns. The salad bar is your best bet, and some restaurants and chains offer the option to build your own salad. You choose from spring mix, iceberg, and Romaine lettuce and different toppings, including protein sources such as tofu, turkey chicken breast, and ham. Other toppings include artichoke hearts, blue cheese crumbles, and feta, parmesan, and shredded cheese. Many chains offer a large selection of toppings for your salad, including oranges, green bell peppers, sliced egg, pineapple, dried cranberries, mushrooms, olives, and bacon bits. Basically, you choose your base, toppings, filling, and dressing. Some restaurants even offer homemade coleslaw. There are classic choices as well, for example, house salad with cream, coleslaw, sweet corn,  celery, tomatoes, cucumber, roast ham, and lettuce. The Italian salad is a great choice – a combination of celery, roast pepper, sun dried tomatoes, cucumber, olives, mozzarella, pesto, and of course, extra virgin olive oil. Or you can build your own salad and order cheese and bacon, spicy chicken breast, grilled salmon steak, or anything else that fits into a carbohydrate-controlled menu. Be careful with the dressings, toppings, and sauces because many contain hidden sugar and other carbohydrates.

Greek, Japanese, and Other Restaurants

While it is not difficult to pick a meal or salad in many Western-style restaurants, if you are going Japanese, for example, you may want to pass on meals that contain rice. Opt for fish and miso soup. Greek restaurants are an excellent choice for people on a low carb diet. You can have Greek salad, pan fried goat cheese, cucumber, yogurt, and garlic dip, garlic prawns, deep fried calamari, and other meals, salads, and appetizers that are diet-friendly.


Low Carb Eating Out: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/low-carb-restaurant-orders

Low Carb Recipes: http://www.lowcarbfoods.org/low-carb-recipes.php

Dining Out Tips: http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/4586/low-carb-tips-for-dining-out


Low Carb Options for a Long Haul Flight

travelIf you are on a low carb diet and flying overseas, you probably wonder what your options are. Some airlines serve no carb meals while others allow passengers to bring Atkins protein bars and other snacks onboard. Another option is to pre-order a high-fiber meal.

Airline Carriers

There are many factors that people take into consideration when flying oversees – ticket costs, connecting flights, comfort, passenger safety, and food onboard. American Airlines, for example, offers low carb meals inflight, as well as special meals such as vegetarian, diabetic, kosher, Muslim, and others. A sample list of foods to bring with you may include celery with cream cheese, hard boiled eggs, and protein bars. Airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Air Canada offer low sodium and gluten-free meals while passengers flying with Northwest are served low carbohydrate meals. Low carb meals are also offered by TWA. Another option is to order a diabetic meal. Many airlines offer diabetic meals, including United Airlines, Northwest, Delta, Continental, Air Canada, and American Airlines. Singapore Airlines offer diet-friendly meals with no carbohydrate or starch content. Lufthansa recently announced plans to offer reduced-carbohydrate options on its long haul flights. Passengers flying from Los Angels to Germany can choose this option. Business class passengers will be served a menu that includes a dessert, entrée, and appetizer. British Airways also offers a selection of meals to passengers with special dietary requirements. Customers can order a carbohydrate controlled meal with reduced sugar content.

Some airlines also offer a vegetable and fruit plate and a cheese and fruit plate. Whether you can have fruits depend on your diet of choice. Fruits are not allowed during the Induction Phase of the Atkins Diet.

Other Options

While some airlines offer diet-friendly and diabetic meals, others have a more limited selection of options. In this case, you may want to pack food for your long haul flight. Keep in mind that some airlines don’t allow meat. Pack your food and make sure that the package is sealed. Another option is to buy food at the airport, but this is more expensive. Keep in mind that the rules vary from one country to another. In some cases fruits, cheese, nuts, and other products cannot be brought into another state. Have a big breakfast before your flight. You can have sausages or bacon and a veggie omelet. Other meal ideas for your long haul flight include roasted sweet potato, avocado and raw carrots, roasted chickpeas, and fresh fruits. You can also pack a trail mix with peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and raisins. Raisins are high in sugar content, however. It is better to have dried berries instead. The type of food to bring along also depends on your route and whether it is a particularly long flight. If it is a 9- or 12-hour flight, you may want to pack food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (depending on your flight time). Make sure you bring high protein and non-starchy vegetables with you. Pack containers with salad, string cheese or sharp cheddar, low carb dips, and some pepperoni. And drink plenty of water while onboard so that you stay hydrated. If you love herbal, black, or green tea, you may want to pack a few teabags for your flight. Just ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water.

Avoid foods and drinks that boost your blood sugar levels, for example, noodles, rice, and bread. Sauces served onboard often contain sugar. Make sure you order in advance. Most airline carriers require a 24-hour notice.


Restaurants Join the Low-Carb Revolution

While some restaurants and fast food chains offer few or no low-carb options, an increasing number of chains feature a selection of tasty and healthy options. They offer high-protein menus to dieters and diabetics to increase their customer base.

A Selection of Delicious Meals and Nutritional Informationpitcher

Many restaurants offer specialties from the Cuban, Mexican, Irish, and other cuisines to attract low-carbers. There are healthy options to choose from, including rib-eye with spinach, mushroom jack fajitas, Kobe beef skirt steaks, and grilled lamb chops. Some restaurants also offer chef’s seasonal menus with dishes such as heirloom tomato salad, yellowfin tuna with beans and baby arugula, and lemongrass chicken with peanuts, celery root, and julienne carrots. All meals can be served cooked, undercooked, or raw, depending on the customer’s requirements. There are vegetarian and spicy versions as well. Restaurants that offer gluten-free meals use ingredients that are modified or made to be gluten-free.
Many restaurants use fresh ingredients to prepare all-natural beef, chicken, veggie, and other meal options. Many restaurants also follow emerging drink and food trends to improve their menus and services. They also cater to customers with special dietary requirements and are happy to accommodate their requests for vegan and vegetarian meals. Some restaurants even work with chefs, nutritional experts and mixologists to create healthy menus and meals. While there are restaurants that offer a few meals, others feature a comprehensive selection of over 30 or 40 low-carb dishes together with nutritional information about each meal. They provide information such as total fat, fiber, protein, sodium, carbohydrates, trans and saturated fats, and calories. Nutritional information is offered for all starters, appetizers, meals, soups, salad dressings and salads, sides, desserts, and even drinks and non-alcoholic beverages. Some restaurants even provide nutritional information for meals and drinks that are included in their kids’ menu. To offer accurate information, many restaurants cooperate with laboratories, nutritional experts, consultants, suppliers, and dietitians. There are some differences between chains and local restaurants, however. With chains, some items may vary slightly from one location to another.

Allergens and Healthy Food Choices

In addition to comprehensive information, some restaurants also offer information on foods that contain allergens, for example, shellfish, peanuts, soy, wheat, and others. This information is useful if you have gluten sensitivity or other allergies. Foods that contain allergens also include shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, and crab, as well as fish such as flounder, cod, and bass. Eggs and nuts also cause allergies, including walnuts, cashews, almonds, and peanuts. There are other trends in the food industry. Low carb-friendly restaurants are going green. They use only products that contain no additives, growth hormones, preservatives, and artificial flavors and coloring.

Best Practices

Not only this, but many restaurants adopt good practices to make it easier for customers to stick to their diet. Some restaurants, for example, offer carb-counter cards that allow customers to check the carb content of meals. Customers can check the nutritional value of meals on the websites of some restaurants. For example, creamed spinach contains 10 grams of protein and 18 grams of carbs while filet mignon has no carbohydrates. Stuffed chicken breast has 3 grams and Hollandaise sauce – 1 gram. Some restaurants also offer low-carb survival guides on their websites to make it easier for customers to stick to their diet while dining out. Some restaurants also offer South Beach or Atkins approved menus to attract customers who follow a certain diet and help them with their meal selection. They also feature daily menus to help customers diversify their menu and avoid diet boredom.

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Phone Apps for Dining Out on a Low Carb Diet

Phone apps help low carbers to find decent restaurants and fast food joints that offer healthy and inexpensive food options. Apps allow users to check suggested meals and nutrition data, search for restaurants, and read user comments.

Features and Extras

smart-phoneDining apps come complete with features and extras such as nutrition guides, list of low carb foods, and browsing capabilities. Users can choose from hundreds of casual dining and fast food restaurants. They can browse by different features such as location, name of restaurant, meal type, carb range, and more. There is an option to read articles in low carb blogs as well. Some apps also list drinks and beverages, including wines, sodas, and beers. Carb counter apps and weight loss trackers are also available for different types of mobile devices. Some apps allow users to find nutritional information on restaurant meals and groceries and offer healthy recipes. They can create a low carb plan or stick to the recommended plan. The app offers recipes, food suggestions, and more. There are additional features that allow dieters to keep track of their progress and count the net carbs consumed with each meal. Information about different foods is also offered, and you can set a daily target. The best part is that some apps can be downloaded for free while others cost a few dollars. They are available for Android, iPad, and iPhone.

Dieters benefit from added features such as:

• Unlimited reminders
• Food database
• Supermarket, common foods, and restaurant suggestions
• Shopping lists
• Graphs showing daily progress
• Carb and sugar content for hundreds of items
• Water tracking
• Information on sodium, sugar, protein, saturated fat, fat, calories, and net carbs in foods consumed
• Choice of food brands
• Set net carbs budget
• Set water budget
• Restaurants listed alphabetically
• Nutrition reports

Low carb dining apps are great for the Zone, Sugar Busters, South Beach, Atkins, and Paleolithic Diet. This is a great tool for persons with a busy work schedule and social life. One app offers an overview of menus at different restaurants so that dieters make healthy choices. Customers can read feedback and suggestions by other dieters and leave their comments to help others. On the downside, the app lists only restaurants but not bakeries.

Other Apps

There are other apps for mobile devices which allow dieters to count carbs and lose weight based on their target and current weight, height, sex, and other factors. Some apps allow users to search for sugar-free, high-fiber, and protein-rich foods and recipes. Users can choose from different gluten-free and dairy-free recipes as well. Each recipe comes with nutrition facts such as total protein, carb, sodium, saturated fat, and fat content. Other apps allow dieters to choose a recipe by main ingredient and course. The app also displays recipes for low-sodium, gluten-free, and other types of diets.

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Fast Food and Chain Restaurants When on a Low Carb Diet

Most people associate fast food with burgers, chips, and coke. However, fast food chains are changing their menus to offer healthier alternatives and foods with less sodium, sugar, and other simple carbohydrates.

Some Tips

IMG_1906It is a good idea to read the nutritional information to find the amount of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. As a rule, dressings are packed with carbohydrates while drinks are laden with sugar. Fat-free versions should be avoided because they contain added sugar. Good choices include the Light Italian, Creamy Caesar, and Ranch Dressing. Avoid mayo that contains corn syrup. If you want to have a sandwich, order without the bun. Some buns include as much as 30 grams of carbs. You can have an omelet sandwich, for example. Another option is to have the filling wrapped in lettuce. Many chains offer this option. While burgers contain no carbohydrates, the extras and condiments do. Onion, tomato, and cheese are good choices as they are low in carb content. Ordering fish is a bit tricky. In some fast food chains, fish fillets are breaded so fish has to go. The same goes for crispy and home style chicken patties as well as chicken fillets.

Salads, Sides, and Drinks

Salads are always a great healthy choice, but watch for certain ingredients. Avoid salads with tortilla strips and croutons and opt for versions with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, hearty greens, walnuts, and sugar-free dressings. Avoid salads that contain breaded chicken. Most salads offered by chains such as KFC contain breaded chicken. When it comes to low carb sides, there isn’t much of a choice. You can have cole slaw or green beans, for example. There are some low carb drinks such as diet soda and unsweetened iced tea but some chains offer sweetened ice teas that are loaded with sugar. Coffee and water are safe choices.

Alternatives to Fast Food Chains

If you don’t have the time to cook and love ready made foods, go to the convenience or grocery store. The salad bar is one option to consider. Or you can buy pre-made salads and deli foods. And you can always have meal replacement bars between meals. Check the label for sugar alcohols when buying snack bars. Some products contain maltitol which is a sugar substitute. The problem is that maltitol contains carbohydrates and has a negative impact on blood sugar levels. It has a high glycemic index value. When it comes to fruits, consumption depends on your diet plan. Some diets allow low-sugar fruits while others ban them during the introductory stage. Low-sugar fruits include blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and others. Check the ingredients if buying a ready made fruit salad.

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Making Wise Low Carb Choices when Dining Out

Sticking to a low carb diet is more difficult when dining out, especially if you are going to your favorite restaurant. Of course, it all depends on whether you are out with friends on a special occasion or business dinner, whether you love Indian, Italian, Mexican, Greek, or any other cuisine. Some restaurants offer plenty of choice when it comes to low carb meals, while others offer mostly carb-heavy meals.

Italian Restaurants

Even if you love pizza and spaghetti, they are not the best choices. The problem with Italian food is that bread, pastas, and pizzas are loaded with carbohydrates. Still you can choose from a selection of meals when dining out. Order dishes with lean meat, seafood, and fresh herbs, vegetables, and seasonings. There are some don’ts as well, including eggplant parmesan, breaded foods, crostini, bruschetta, polenta, risotto, and others. The foods to avoid also depend on the plan you follow. If you are in the induction phase of the Atkins Diet, for example, you should avoid foods that contain bread crumbs. The good news is that many antipasti contain a mix of vegetables, seafood, and lean meats. Antipasto platters include a selection of marinated vegetables, different cheeses, and salami and are suitable for a low carb diet.

Mexican Restaurants

There is a world of meals you can try at a Mexican restaurant. Mexican cuisine is not only about tamales, enchiladas, and tacos. You can have Fajitas, grilled vegetables and meats, and seafood. Mexicans also use mole – this a sauce made of chocolate, seeds, spices, and chili. Breakfast foods are also low carb. The traditional breakfast includes vegetables, beef, and eggs. Of course, there are some foods to avoid, including chimichangas, enchiladas, and quesadillas. They are packed with carbohydrates. You can have the filling, however. Other foods to avoid include burritos, nachos, taquitos, and tacos. You can have low carb tortillas if offered.

Chinese Restaurants

The Chinese cuisine is healthy and tasty, but there are plenty of high-carb meals to be avoided. The list of banned foods includes eggs rolls, steamed and fried rice, and breaded meats. Other dishes to avoid include deep fried wontons and noodles. Some sauces are loaded with or contain sugar. Examples include oyster sauce, plum sauce, and sweet and sour sauce. You can have some, but try to limit consumption. As a rule, thick sauces and soups contain corn starch. The good news is that there are plenty of safe meals to choose from, including barbeque, walnut chicken, and stir fried dishes. Veggie and meat combinations are also safe choices.

Regardless of whether you love Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Indian, or Moroccan food, there are safe choices and meals to avoid. If unsure about the ingredients, you can always ask the waiter or request that certain ingredients are not used when preparing your salad or meal.