Sunday, November 4, 2012

Practical Tips to Living Life the Very-Low-Carb Way

* This post is Part III in a three-part series. The other parts: Part I and Part II

Howdy, folks! As we speak, I am on day 77 of the Very-Low-Carb (VLC) diet, and still going strong. This is my second time through the diet - last year I did it for the first trimester plus 40 days, and I am still learning lots of tips of the trade. I thought that I would start a running record of notes that might help others who are trying this diet, since it's rather difficult and tricky to do. This will not be particularly organized - more a stream-of-consciousness list of notes, as they come to mind, that could possibly help others.

So, if you are trying the VLC diet for garden-variety weight loss, for the healing of some condition, or in an attempt to ward off pregnancy nausea, here goes! Feel free to leave any questions, and I will attempt to answer them - as I am able - in the comments.

But first, my brand-spankin'-new blogger disclaimer!

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical care or advice. Please consult your healthcare provider before undertaking any changes to your pregnancy healthcare. Under no circumstances, shall the author be liable under any theory of recovery for any damages arising out of or in any manner connected with the use of information or documents from the site. 

Don't you love it?

In other words, do your own research and decide for yourself whether or not you are comfortable using this diet. I am comfortable with using this diet during pregnancy. Some people are not. Make your own informed decision. Informed decision-making is the catch-phrase of the day!

With that in mind, let's get started!

The basics:

What is OKAY:

- Meat of all kinds (check to make sure there's no added sugar)
- Nuts
- Heavy cream, hard cheese, cream cheese that has less than 1g of carbs per serving (and I assume that all-natural sour cream, made only from heavy cream, is okay, though I don't know for sure)
- Non-starchy vegetables
- I'm not sure about tomatoes - the sheets I'm using just say "limit tomatoes." I'm not sure if that means no tomatoes, or if small amounts of tomatoes are okay. For now, I use tomatoes in limited amounts, but I would stop immediately were I to become pregnant. 

What is NOT OKAY:

- Grains of any kind (this means NO wheat, corn, oats, quinoa, rice, etc. - NONE)
- Legumes/beans of any kinds, except peanuts (which are okay)
- Sugar in any form
- Fruit
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc.)
- Dairy other than that listed above (this means no milk, half-and-half, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc.)

This, of course, means that one's diet is extremely limited. Finding a new food is always extremely exciting, and it is definitely an exercise in creativity!

You will notice that 98% of your recipe collection has now gone out the window, because almost all American recipes include grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, or sugar in some form. I know that almost all of my recipes are now completely useless (as far as my eating is concerned), so this is an exercise in starting over. Things like potlucks and parties are also now difficult, so plan to bring something that you can eat to communal functions!

Another difficulty is, of course, one's family - because they, like you, will get bored! Additionally, I want my children to have experience eating a variety of foods, not just the limited choices that I have. This means that I occasionally cook differently for myself than I do for my family.

For family cooking, I have three choices:

- I can cook things that we all can eat. - I try to do this most of the time.
- I can cook things that they can eat and I can't (and cook for myself separately). - An example of this would be sloppy joes, which I can't eat. I do this occasionally, but I try not to do it very often - because I rely on leftovers for breakfasts and lunches, and it's depressing to have the fridge full of food that I can't eat!
- I make a mixed meal. - This is where I make most of the meal something that we can all eat, and then add a side dish or two for the rest of the family. For example, meat, a non-starchy vegetable, and then rice or beans or mashed potatoes or corn (etc.) for the family. They have cheered up immensely since I started doing this - not to mention that carb-heavy dishes tend to be more child-friendly, always a plus!

Notes on the various meals:


Breakfast is.... a problem! You probably will have noticed that modern American breakfasts are almost 100% grain-based, and usually sugar-based as well. All of that gets thrown out the window. No cereal, toast, pancakes, waffles, muffins, pastries, oatmeal, etc. Farewell to the American breakfast!

As a matter of fact, this comes easily to me, as I dealt with this several years ago - I found through years of experimentation that grain-based breakfasts make my fatigue issues many, many times worse, so I have relied mostly upon egg-based breakfasts for years. "Go and do likewise!"

For breakfasts, there are basically three choices:
  •  Salad (go ahead, it's okay!)
  • Leftovers (learn to love 'em!)
  • Eggs: Fried, scrambled, poached, egg casserole (made without bread or potatoes), whatever. My favorite is omelettes, made with cheese and raw vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.).
- Try this Zucchini Walnut Almond-Flour Bread (I'll put up the link when I find it.)

- We absolutely LOVE this recipe for Strawberry Almond Shortcake. Make with stevia instead of honey (not as good, but close!),  serve with unsweetened whipped cream, and skip the strawberries.


Umm..... See "Breakfast." I focus on leftovers.

Also try salads or sandwiches made with lettuce instead of bread (yum!). Use cheese, meat, tomatoes, dill pickles, mustard, and mayo (no ketchup or sweet pickles).


Nuts, cheese, celery with no-sugar peanut butter, olives, boiled eggs, meat.

When pregnant, I also used zero-carb protein shakes (Sprouts brand). As always, I recommend chocolate - vanilla and strawberry don't seem to camouflage the flavor as well. Do not prepare with juice or milk - use water or half-water-half-cream to mix up. You may need a Magic Bullet or a blender (or a really strong husband - my choice) to shake these up - mine tend to clump badly. I find that the shakes do not work as well as solid food in averting nausea, but they're a help when you need to be pumping the protein and getting lots of snacks.

Always travel with snacks, especially when pregnant. I usually traveled with a bag of nuts while pregnant. Even while not pregnant, I noticed that at the beginning of the diet, I had to eat very often to combat nausea. Now that I've been on the diet for quite some time, I can go much longer without eating and not have problems.

Additionally, while pregnant last time, I kept snacks near the bed - usually cheese in a cooler. I ate in the middle of the night, and also in the morning before getting out of bed (at the same time I took my Zofran and Unisom). Waiting another 20 minutes before getting out of bed really helped.


Dinner basics: Meat with non-starchy vegetables. Go for it.

Some other ideas:

- Tacos: Serve the family tacos, and have taco salad for yourself. Try homemade taco seasoning with no added flour or sugar.

- Hamburgers: Nix the bun and make lettuce wraps - they are awesome! Yum! Remember to skip the ketchup and sweet pickles (go for mayo, mustard, and dill pickles).

- Check out some of the recipes from the book "Diet Evolution." I especially love his "Angelic Jungle Princess Chicken" and his "Chicken with Green Beans."

- Try this new recipe for chicken pot pie from the Wheat Belly Blog! Skip the carrots. (Tried this. SO GOOD!)

- From the same site, try chicken and dumplings. Very good! Skip the carrots.

- Low Carb Chicken Cordon Bleu. Wow, this is amazing! I used chicken stock instead of white wine (personal preference), and next time will double (triple, quadruple) the amazing sauce. Yum!

- Instead of mashed potatoes for a side dish, try onions sauteed in butter! We did this last night, and it was great!

- Some great vegetables: Green beans, sauteed mushrooms, summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini), sauteed onions, greens (spinach, collards, kale), salad, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, sauteed cabbage, Brussels sprouts, avocado.

- Main dish salads - Topped with chicken, fish, tuna-salad (no sweet pickles!), chicken salad, chef-salad, steak.

- Avocado Egg Salad - Yum!

- Try making Fajitas - Use fajita meat (chicken or steak) with tomatoes, salad (dressed with cider vinegar and salt), salsa, guacamole. Just skip the tortillas/beans/rice (or serve them to the rest of the family). This was awesome! Make your own fajita seasoning to avoid flour/sugar additives.

- If you want to make pasta dishes, try making them with various vegetables in place of pasta. Asparagus is a great foil for a pasta sauce - but expensive! Lately we have been trying and loving zucchini pasta! Just julienne your zucchini and boil or saute for 1-2 minutes. It's great! Try it with a low-carb Fettucini Alfredo recipe, spaghetti sauce, or this wonderful Zucchini Spaghetti recipe.

- I have also made a wonderful lasagna using zucchini slices instead of lasagna noodles. Just saute slices (sliced lengthwise) briefly in hot olive oil, then use in place of noodles. YUM. This was incredible!    

- Instead of crackers, try peeled sliced cucumber rounds! They are great! Try with nut butters (always unsweetened, check for added sugars) or for cheese/meat/pickle-and-cracker meals.

- Cauliflower Bean Casserole - This is so incredibly good that it ought to be outlawed. Wow.

- Foil dinner: Put sausages, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and other vegetables of choice, in a foil packet. Salt & pepper to taste, perhaps with garlic powder. Barbecue. Yum! 

- Try various stir-fry recipes (make sure they're sugar-free!) - serve over vegetables instead of rice, or just eat by itself and serve over rice for the rest of the family.

- Barbecued meats: Sausages, chicken thighs, steak, salmon, hamburgers. Other meats: Baked chicken, pot roast, crock-pot chicken thighs.

- Baked Low-Carb Mexican Chicken. Yum! Try with thighs instead of breasts. Try homemade taco seasoning with no added flour or sugar.

- Similarly, try Chicken Salsa Verde - so very, very good! Yum!

- Make your favorite meatloaf using powdered parmesan cheese in place of breadcrumbs (or cracker crumbs or oatmeal). Not quite the same, but very tolerable. As always, skip the ketchup!

- Try a quiche - without the crust, of course! Just look up a crustless quiche recipe, or try your favorite quiche without a crust. We love James Beard's recipe for Quiche Lorraine, but any will do. Or, if you must have crust, you can use the crust recipe from this delicious-looking spinach tart (and make the tart while you're at it!).

- Cauliflower Pizza - You would think that this would have an awful odor, but some sort of chemical reaction during baking completely eliminates it, and it is awesome!!! We eat this almost weekly. I'll post the link whenever I find it again, but there are tons of recipes online, just Google!

- Squash and Zucchini Casserole - wonderful as a side dish

- I am going to try these delectable-looking Stuffed Mushrooms for Thanksgiving. (Later note: They were great!)

- Did you know that you can use all-natural xantham gum (zero-carb) as a thickener for sauces and gravies? I'm going to try it for gravy on Thanksgiving. Look it up! (Later note: It works!) Also for gravy, try this awesome-looking recipe from Elana's Pantry. (Later note: The gravy was decent; next time I'm going to try a proper recipe to make it even better.)

- Try this Chicken Divan - it was SO good! Yum!! Use her modified directions at the bottom of the recipe.

- Ground Beef Stroganoff (one of my favorite dishes) - Serve over vegetables (broccoli, green beans, asparagus).

- Did you know that you can make "chips" out of dried vegetables? So far I've tried squash chips to make nachos, and they were great! Note: I guess I didn't slice mine thinly enough, because they took 3+ hours to finish. Let me know if you try this with any other vegetable!

- Low Carb Stuffed Bell Peppers - these were wonderful!

- Eggplant Parmesan - Easy to make and so absolutely delicious! I tried the reviewers' technique of cooking the eggplant slices in a dry, preheated skillet for 2 minutes per side before putting in the casserole, then baking 20 minutes covered and 10-15 minutes uncovered to brown.

- Hot Dogs - Heat and slice your favorite hot dogs, and then put on a plate and cover with lettuce, tomatoes, sauerkraut, no-sugar pickles, cheese, mayo, and mustard! Wow, these are great!! Hot dogs also make a great quick snack (check the carbs) or an addition to scrambled eggs.

- Low-Carb Chili - I make so many changes to this recipe that it's not even funny... the most important of which is leaving out the cinnamon. However, give it a try if you want some chili - or just google other low-carb chili recipes. Anything without beans should be fine!

- Low-Carb Sloppy Joes - Serve over almond biscuits or lettuce. I like mine with melted cheese on top!

- Awesome side dish - Sauteed cauliflower. Heat equal parts butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Add sectioned cauliflower and season with sea salt and sage. Cook until crisp-tender. YUM. This takes cauliflower from "tolerable" to "addictive."

- Another awesome side dish - Broiled Brussels sprouts. - Clean and halve, coat with olive oil, garlic and sea salt, pour into a single layer on an oiled, foil-lined tray, and bake at 450 till done. Delicious.

- Chicken and Dumplings - These are amazing! Basically, this is my new chicken pot pie. Also check out the Wheat Belly cookbooks for ideas!

- Garlic Parmesan Fried Eggplant - YUM.


- The only dessert I have found so far is the oh-so-delicious Simple Coconut Oil Candies. Wow! I won't even tell you how many of these I have had today, because I ought to be ashamed of myself.

- You can have unsweetened whipped cream. Now, you go and find something to do with unsweetened whipped cream, and then tell me about it! You can try sweetening with a bit of stevia.

- I assume that stevia (the sweet herb) is okay, as it is zero-carb. We use the liquid form. It cannot replace sugar in all recipes, simply due to the fact that sugar has other properties (moisture, browning) that stevia doesn't replicate. But it is useful in some cases! However, it does have an aftertaste if used in large amounts, so use with caution. I am still gagging over the memory of the over-sweetened stevia ice cream that we made. I generally sweeten recipes with just a hint of stevia, to avoid the aftertaste. The result is desserts that are much less sweet than traditional American desserts, but it's good enough. After being no-carb long enough, a hint of sweetness is enough to satisfy the dessert craving!

- One of the main ideas of this diet is to reduce the need for sweet - so try not to focus on replicating sweets. But the occasional sweet (in my case, my daily coconut-oil candy!) is very refreshing. Good luck on the search!

- I am going to be trying this zero-carb custard (made with stevia) soon. (Later note: It was so good! I used one dropper of stevia.)

- You can make unsweetened almond-flour products. See Elana's Pantry for ideas. Remember, no sweeteners or fruit, which will cut out a lot of recipes.

- Zero Carb Chocolate Mousse - planning to try this for Thanksgiving. I recommend reducing liquid stevia to 1/4 teaspoon - from my horrible experience with the stevia ice cream, I can say - with another reviewer - that 3/4 tsp. will be horribly bitter. (Later note: This was great! I made a double recipe and alternated it with layers of unsweetened stabilized whipped cream for variety and visual appeal. And because it was just barely sweet, no one else wanted any! More for me! Mwa ha ha ha ha!)

- Low Carb Cheesecake - find one with stevia.

- Low Carb Hot Chocolate - Mix 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder and 2 Tbsp. water, microwave 30 seconds. Add unsweetened almond milk and a bit of liquid stevia, and heat again.

- A word about low-carb "desserts," and that is - no one will like them but YOU! And even YOU won't like them until you've been low-carb for a while and gotten rid of the overdone American sweet tooth. This is actually awesome, because no one wants to share your desserts, including the kids! Is that awesome, or WHAT?


-We are trying to do green smoothies... the only problem is that fruit is what makes green smoothies tolerable! However, we have found that by using only the milder greens (lettuce and spinach), we can make pretty unobjectionable green smoothies. Cold water, lettuce and/or spinach, chia seed - presto!

- Remember to keep it high-fat, or else you will discover what I did - the SNATT(Y) experience (Semi-Nauseated All The Time). Butter, mayonnaise, avocado, coconut oil - good stuff - use lots of it!

- The Big Note: Most people will find it quite difficult to start this diet after NVP (nausea and vomiting of pregnancy) has engaged - because one's body becomes a dictator once nausea has engaged. This diet is best done before conception, so that one can get used to it and get one's body in line before dealing with the stress of pregnancy. And again, I have no true idea of whether or not this diet works to avert severe NVP. I think it does, but I'm not sure. I will definitely be doing it again, and I'll let you know of how it goes. But there are no guarantees, so make your usual preparations and do NOT assume that this diet will work.


And there you have it! I will be adding details as I find them, or as people give me information. Feel free to leave questions. Most likely, my answers will be, "Good question! I have no idea!", but I will do my best. The diet directions that I have do have some ambiguities, so there are many details that I do not know. But I'm doing my best!

Good luck!

And once again, just for good measure...

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical care or advice. Please consult your healthcare provider before undertaking any changes to your pregnancy healthcare. Under no circumstances, shall the author be liable under any theory of recovery for any damages arising out of or in any manner connected with the use of information or documents from the site. 

Have a good night, everyone!


  1. I made a great dish tonight that was vlc. There is no recipe I just kind of threw some things together. It was a pizza chicken type thing. Sauté chicken breasts, then cover with pizza sauce, cheese, and pizza toppings like onions, peppers, olives, pepperoni, etc. and bake in the oven. I served it over noodles for the kids and zucchini noodles for me!

    1. Thanks for the great idea - I might have to try it some time!! :) Thanks for visiting!!

  2. I'm curious about seaweed and low carb? I love using arame seaweed as a noodle sub since I cant do wheat and dairy (plus it's amazing for the thyroid, digestion, reproductive health, and contains 10-20x the amounts of nutrients and trace minerals as land plants). I did the GAPS diet which I thought was limiting, but dang VLC is even more intense. And I can't do the dairy. Sigh.

    1. Hi, Michelle! I apologize again for the long response time. I came here yesterday and typed out a long reply to your comment, only to have the computer eat it (signed in on the wrong account).


      I don't know much, if anything, about seaweed. Its compatibility with the VLC would, I imagine, just be based on its carb count. (Anyone have any other input here?) But I have heard repeatedly about the benefits of sea vegetables, and I myself occasionally take kelp pills for the iodine. I would think that seaweed would be a great addition to a pre-conception diet.

      And I really, really admire you for doing the VLC dairy-free. Wow. I've tried to do that twice and failed both times - I never made it past the two week mark. Good for you!!

      I'm looking forward to reading your blog!!
      Diana :)


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