Saturday, 31 May 2014

Very low carb diet

Scrambled egg with dill, creme fraiche and tomato salad
Low carb breakfast
As planned, I started my very low carbohydrate regime after the wedding. In brief, this involves: no sugar or starchy carbohydrates at all - no bread, pasta, cereals, rice, potatoes or flour, no cakes, biscuits, sweets or full sugar drinks. Fruit is limited to 100g per day (about a handful) of berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries etc.), pulses are limited to 30g cooked per day (about 1 tbsp), nuts and seeds are limited to a small handful, and you can have 3 portions of dairy produce (to provide calcium) but not flavoured or sweetened yogurt. A multivitamin is required because of the exclusion of a whole food group. Lots of low carb vegetables are encouraged, ground almonds and coconut flour can substitute for wheat or cornflour (up to a point), and monounsaturated oils are recommended. Unprocessed forms of protein are deemed better than processed due to the potential for inclusion of carbohydrate fillers.

It has been easier than I thought it would be. I like protein and vegetables, so evening meals have been fairly straightforward: meat or fish and vegetables or salad. Lighter lunch meals have incorporated leftovers, or I've had vegetable sticks and dips like salsa or guacamole, or vegetable soup with a swirl of plain yogurt sprinkled with seeds. I thought breakfast would be the most challenging, especially on a work day when there isn't a lot of time, but it turns out that I like plain yogurt with berries and flaked nuts more than I thought I would. When there's time, breakfasts are egg-based - poached, fried, scrambled or an omelette with one or more of tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, smoked salmon, cream cheese or herbs.

I thought I would miss pasta and rice, and when Mr A has cooked them for himself they smell lovely but I haven't been tempted. Luckily there has only been one cake at work, and it wasn't very attractive so not hard to resist. I've snacked on unsalted nuts or vegetable sticks, and a couple of squares of 85% cocoa chocolate are allowed, as well as 'Atkins bars' which I have felt obliged to try, but don't really like much. They're expensive, too.

The key to success has been planning, because I can't just grab a piece of toast or bowl of cereal if I'm in a hurry. So I have my week's meals scheduled, and at each meal time I consult the sheet of paper to find out what is on the menu. Tonight we're having mozzarella, some antipasti from a jar, a tomato and basil salad and grilled courgettes and peppers. Tomorrow it's haddock proven├žale from the BBC Food website. Mr A bulks out his meal with the carbohydrate of his choice.

Side effects can include headache, nausea, fatigue and constipation, but are usually mild and short-lived. I felt absolutely fine until about 10 days in, when I had a niggling headache for a couple of days - but it may be just a coincidence. I've lost a little bit of weight, only 1 kg, and I suspect it's because of not being able to tuck into the usual amount of work-based cakes and biscuits, and the odd slice of bread between meals, plus all the running that I'm doing. But I'm not the target candidate for this diet, which is squarely for the benefit of overweight people with Type 2 diabetes, in order to help them reduce their blood glucose and curb their appetite. I still haven't recruited any patients to actually start the very low carb diet for real, but I have produced a poster and some flyers that will be given to likely candidates during clinics, to see if I can rustle up some trade.

We had a Diabetes Dietitians' meeting this week, where we discussed exactly how much pulses to allow, and whether we should tell people about low carb bread, and what exactly is the recipe for ground almond pancakes. There are some recipes that the other Dietitians have tried, for linseed bread and low carb cake, but I'm not sure I can be bothered because I don't mind not having bread and I didn't bake cakes even when I was eating carbs. I did try to make the ground almond pancakes, but they just tasted like gritty omelettes, hence the discussion about the exact recipe. It was all very interesting - four out of five of us are on the diet, with one doing it seriously and the other three dabbling. I'm adhering to it strictly for these three weeks up to our holiday, but we'll see what happens when we're away, and when we come back.

Leek and mushroom soup with yogurt and mixed seeds


  1. Are you all monitoring your blood glucose during this trial, or is there no point if you're not diabetic, since your body just regulates it anyway? Is fruit juice excluded too?

  2. We're not diabetic, so no we're not monitoring our blood glucose. The patients have to, though. And fruit juice is so excluded! It's not recommended in a full carb diet for someone with diabetes, it's used more as a hypo treatment than one of your 5-a-day.


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