Archive Monthly Archives: August 2011

Atkins Induction Diet – Restaurant Pangs

I was lazy this past weekend and didn’t cook any food to eat for dinner during the week. Dinner has therefore been a nightmare to plan for. At 8pm, I sit and ponder through the short list of choices that I can order from while hunger pangs gnaw at my stomach lining. I skim through the seamlessweb list again hoping, even though I have given up hope, that there’ll be miracle restaurant that I’d missed on my previous 300 browses. Sigh. Nothing. That’s when I give up and order from one of my regular places. It’s not amazing, but it’s sustenance, and some of it is pretty decent! Here’s my top 5 restaurant choices for the Atkins induction diet:

5. Kebabs:

Dervish Restaurant Chicken Brochette (kebab)

Dervish Restaurant Chicken Brochette (kebab)

Meat grilled on a stick. I like most grilled meats as long as it’s not too overcooked, but I do have a beef with the stingy amount of meat that a lot of restaurants serve while charging me $15! I got dinner from Dervish Restaurant (on 47th between 6th and 7th) and ordered my you-can’t-go-wrong chicken kebab (they called it brochette, which is just a fancy french word for kebab!). My heart sank as soon as I saw the dish. 5 pieces of chicken sat atop of bed of rice, and the container came with a brown bag of naan bread. They certainly gave me enough food – just not enough low carb food.

4. Salads:

Chop't salad with spinach, olives, eggs, onions, cucumber and caesar dressing

Chop’t salad with spinach, olives, eggs, onions, cucumber and caesar dressing

Healthy healthy sheep food. Chomp Chomp Chomp! There’s all sorts of salad options, and pretty much every restaurant has one that you can eat without the dressing. Even McDonalds has salads that you can eat (although you might have to pick out some of those oh-so-tasty carrot slices). When it comes to salad places, I like places where you create your own salad by physically grabbing the tongs and putting into your bowl how much you want as opposed to places where there’s a server who daintily scoops exactly 6 tiny pieces of chicken cubes into my salad.

3. Steaks:

Skirt Steak from Lezette

Skirt Steak from Lezette

I didn’t really eat steak growing up, and I definitely didn’t eat steak that had even a faint shade of pink in the middle! When I first came to America, I started eating steak well done, then after a few years, I moved down to medium well, and now I’m at medium. However, I’m still not a fan of the steak swimming in its own blood, so I doubt I’ll be ordering it rare anytime soon!

2. BBQ:

Hill Country Take-out Paper Bag

Hill Country Take-out Paper Bag

I love BBQ – the grilling and smoking just makes the meat so tender and flavorful. Of course, a lot of the time, that flavor is coming from the BBQ sauce and that’s when I sadly have to decline to eat the meat. Luckily, Hill Country’s BBQ doesn’t come already slathered in sauce and they deliver, so I can just gobble up their moist brisket for dinner most nights.

1. Rotisserie Chicken:

A whole Pio Pio Chicken (rotisserie style)

A whole Pio Pio Chicken (rotisserie style)

I would normally never dream of putting any kind of chicken number 1 in a food list – I just think there are way better meats than chicken. But, I have learnt that some rotisserie chicken, like the ones at Pio Pio, are just so tender and juicy, they taste good enough for a meal even without their green spicy sauce (commonly described in Yelp reviews as crack!).

Salmon Bake

Salmon Bake on Aluminum Foil

Salmon Bake on Tin Foil

I never use my oven enough when I’m cooking – I think it’s probably the Asian in me! My parents have a large kitchen with 3 ovens, and yet they never use any of them! I’m not even positive they know how to use the oven! The only time I remember using the oven before college was to dry a piece of plastic (which then melted of course, duh!) and making cheese on toast (a fav of mine from my childhood days!). Well, this diet is pushing me to discover new appliances! I discovered what the broiler button on my oven did a year ago (while trying to figure a way of cooking sausages more conveniently), and now I’m discovering just how good salmon can taste when baked in the oven. This is a simple and quick recipe from allrecipes.

Ingredients to make 2 fillets of salmon

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 (6 ounce) salmon fillets without the skin
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)

Salmon marinading in ziplock bag

  1. First we’re going to prepare a quick marinade for the salmon. Mix together the minced garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley (and the basil if you have some in your kitchen). This is going to be your delish marinade.
  2. Pour the marinade into a ziplock bag and place the salmon fillets into the bag as well. Seal the bag tightly and place into the fridge for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  4. Take the fillets out of the ziplock bag and place them onto a piece of aluminum foil and turn the edges of the foil up so that none of the marinade spills out. Pour a bit more of the marinade onto the salmon and cover the salmon fillets up with the foil. I would the put another piece of foil around the your salmon-filled aluminum package just in case any of the marinade spills out.
  5. Place the aluminum package into a baking pan (or glass dish made for baking) to prevent spillage, and bake for 35-45 minutes (until the salmon comes off in flakes).
Salmon wrapped in Aluminum Foil in Oven

Salmon wrapped in Aluminum Foil in Oven

Bacon Egg Bake – Exciting Variations on Eggs

Empire State during thunder and lightning

Empire State during thunder and lightning

It sounds like something from a Frankenstein movie outside – thunder and lightning and huge sheets of rain drumming against the window. But inside, I’m nice and dry and about to bake something delicious! Eggs are a staple ingredient of low carb life. It’s good as a snack, as a salad garnish, or as a meal. However, hard boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets and egg salads are so commonplace that the thought of having to eat them again and again can create severe nausea and a pounding headache! So here is a new way to spice up your egg-eating life – the bacon egg bake. I found this recipe on, and it works great! In essence it’s just a different way of dressing up the bacon and eggs that I eat for breakfast daily, but it does look a lot more appetizing – it almost looks like something you’d find at an upscale brunch place, especially if you place it on a bed of green leaves!

Ingredients to make 1 Bacon Egg Bake

  • 1 slice of bacon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of grated aged cheese (or a slice) – I recommend aged Cheddar or Parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon melted butter (optional)
  • you’ll also need a muffin/cupcake pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (170C).
  2. Cook the bacon so that it’s not crispy and won’t break when you fold it. You can cook the bacon in the skillet or in the oven or even in the microwave.
  3. Wrap the bacon slice around the inside of a muffin/cupcake cup making a ring (like in the photo below).
  4. If your muffin/cupcake pan isn’t non-stick, then put a 1/4 teaspoon of melted butter into the base of the pan – this is just to prevent the egg sticking to the cup.
  5. Crack the egg into the muffin/cupcake cup – don’t worry, it shouldn’t overflow.
  6. Egg bake preparations - bacon wrapped around cupcake cup with egg

    Egg bake preparations – bacon wrapped around cupcake cup with egg

  7. Sprinkle the grated cheese or place the slice of cheese gently on top of the raw egg and put the pan into the oven for 10-15 minutes. You can check whether the egg is cooked by shaking the pan gently – if the stuff inside wobbles a lot, then it’s not cooked yet, but a small amount of wobble is good. If you like you egg well done, then there should almost be no wobble. Remember to shake very gently! When it’s done, sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top and carefully scrap the around the edge of the cupcake cup to detach the bacon from the sides of the cup. Then stick the fork under the egg and lift it up. Place on a salad bed or just devour it by itself.
Bacon Egg Bake

Bacon Egg Bake

Update on Atkins’ Induction Diet

It’s day 6, and I still haven’t caved in, although I hit a bit of a rocky patch on Tuesday and had to consume 3 Atkins bars in order to keep going! So what have I been eating? Well, it’s been a bit easier since starting back at work on Monday since my office has a cafeteria, although you can get what I’ve been eating for breakfast and lunch in most cities!

For breakfast, I devour 3 fried eggs with some bacon (I’m usually starving by the time I get to work). I’m rather bored by just eggs alone so the bacon helps to add some flavor to things. Omelets and scrambled eggs can make for a bit of a variation. Or if you’re super lazy, you can boil a dozen eggs in one go, peel them and store them in the fridge. Then have 2 or 3 each morning for breakfast. I quite like the taste of caesar salad dressing so you could cut up your eggs with a fork and mix it with some of that for a bit more flavor and less dryness. Also, some soy sauces (or liquid aminos) have 0 carbs (or very small amounts) and can add great flavor to eggs cooked any way! Soy sauce gets mixed responses from Atkins dieters because its ingredient list contains wheat, which is not allowed on the diet. As an alternative to soy sauce, you can try Liquid Aminos, which are made from soybeans and water. Bragg (one manufacturer of liquid aminos) claims that each 1/2 teaspoon contains 0.1g of carbs.

3 Fried Eggs with Bacon Strips3 Fried Eggs with Bacon Strips

For lunch, I’ve gotten salads several times. I put in some boiled eggs (cut up), some tuna, some onions, and some spinach. I’ve also thrown some olives in a few times. I usually also get a fillet of salmon freshly grilled. I then shred the salmon meat and stick it into my salad. Then everything is tossed with 3 tablespoons of caesar dressing (I say “tossed” but really I just put everything into the box they supply in my cafeteria and shake vigorous!). Several other salad dressings are permitted on the Atkins induction diet including, blue cheese, italian, lemon juice, oil and vinegar, and ranch, although caesar contains by far the least amount of carbs per serving, which means more spare carbs to consume elsewhere during the day! Of course, you don’t have to do salads! I got a grilled hanger steak one day and had it with some veggies. Grilled fish is also good as long as there’s no sauce on it. I often also get some chicken broth to have as a soup – I just skim the liquid off the top of a chicken noodle soup.

Salad with eggs, tuna, salmon, onions, spinach, and caesar dressingSalad with eggs, tuna, salmon, onions, spinach, and caesar dressing

So far, this gets me to around 2pm. I can make it most days to around 3pm or 4pm just on the above described breakfast and lunch. However, once that afternoon slump hits, it’s deathly! To get water from the pantry, I have to walk past the vending machine and these chocolate covered almond machines! I can usually make it past the vending machines without incident, but those almonds! They’re just sitting in this glass bowl, and my eyes just stray over to them as I turn the corner out of the pantry. Last time I went to get water, I nearly walked into the wall because my legs kept moving whereas my eyes remained fixed on that delicious sweet sensation! Sigh. That’s when I turn to the Atkins bars. Everyone (except perhaps Atkins) claims that you get the best results if you stay away from the bars. Some people on the diet are purists and want to stay away from anything that might be controversial, including diet sodas, soy sauce, and Atkins bars. I, however, cannot do it. In fact, I was so enamored with those bars that I bought a whole 12-pack of them from Amazon! I really like the Marshmallow Mudslide flavor although the Chocolate Chip Granola Barcomes a close second. There’s a Cookies N Creme bar that’s coming soon, and if I were planning to continue this diet for a while, then I would definitely be eagerly awaiting their release! Of course, there are other snacks, for example, cheese. I bought the Robusto aged gouda from Wholefoods and cut it up into 1 oz pieces (approximately 2 inches by 0.5 inches by 0.5 inches) and individually wrapped them. Then you can take a few pieces into work as a snack. (I had 2 of those pieces as an after dinner snack tonight.)

Atkins Advantage Marshmallow Mudslide Bar (allowed for all phases of the Atkins' diet, but note - contains sugar alcohols)Atkins Advantage Marshmallow Mudslide Bar (allowed for all phases of the Atkins’ diet, but note – contains sugar alcohols)

Dinner…this always perplexes me. I don’t really want to spend ages cooking when I get off work so I usually cobble together a smattering of different dishes that I’ve cooked during the weekend or on a less tiring night. The dishes include salmon salad, egg salad, tuna salad, slow cooker pork belly, slow cooker chicken, and whatever else I can think off that’ll keep in the fridge for a few days (there’s currently a nice slab of beef brisket cooking in my slower cooker). It’s quick, and it gives me some variation – at the very least, my plate looks very colorful!

Plate with pork belly, slow cooker chicken with salsa, and salmon saladPlate with pork belly, slow cooker chicken with salsa, and salmon salad

What do I think so far of the diet? It’s painful! But, because I really don’t have hardly any sugar highs, I never really feel that awful crushing crash when you go off the sugar high. Then, of course there’s the issue of no alcohol. I’m 50/50 on this at the moment – I hate not being able to drink anything except water and soda water at a bar, but yet I’m grateful the next morning when I’m not waking up to a dry mouth and a pounding head! However, I feel that several “celebratory” drinks will be waiting at the end of the next 8 days…

Day 1 of Atkins’ Induction Diet

It’s all very well saying here’s what you can eat and here’s what you can’t eat on this diet, but when it comes down to having to pick out food for eat meal, it’s a lot more problematic. Foods that you normally took for granted are suddenly on the forbidden list. Foods that you thought were low carb turn out to have way more sugar in them than allowed on the diet. Eating the same food day after day is also annoying. So, here is what I’m eating daily on this diet along with my total estimated calorie and carb intake.

Total Carb Count for Day 1: Calories = 1440 Carbs = 7.2g

Day 1 – Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with onions and a side of prosciutto. Calories = 400 Carbs = 4g

Scrambled eggs with onions and a side of prosciutto (3 eggs)

Scrambled eggs with onions and a side of prosciutto (3 eggs)

Day 1 – Lunch: Home-made grass-fed beef patty (lemon infused macademia oil, all-spice, salt). Calories = 380 Carbs = 0g

Home-made grass-fed beef patty (lemon infused macademia oil, all-spice, salt)

Home-made grass-fed beef patty (lemon infused macademia oil, all-spice, salt)

Day 1 – Afternoon Snack: Atkins Advantage Peanut Fudge Granola Bar. Calories = 210 Carbs = 2g

Atkins Advantage Peanut Fudge Granola Bar (allowed for all phases of the Atkins' diet, but note - contains sugar alcohols)
Atkins Advantage Peanut Fudge Granola Bar

Atkins Advantage Peanut Fudge Granola Bar (allowed for all phases of the Atkins’ diet, but note – contains sugar alcohols)

Day 1 – Dinner: Egg Salad. Calories = 300 Carbs = 1.2g

Egg salad made with German mustard, mayo, and salt

Egg salad made with German mustard, mayo, and salt

Day 1 – Midnight Snack (because I hate going to bed hungry!): Slow-cooker Chicken. Calories = 150 Carbs = 0

Slow cooker cooked chicken thighs with a tablespoon of paprika, garlic powder, onion, and pinch of salt

A few small pieces of slow cooker cooked chicken thighs with a tablespoon of paprika, garlic powder, onion, and pinch of salt

Day1 – Drinks: Decaf black tea with coconut milk, Iced Rishi Mint Rooibos tea, and of course lots and lots of water.

Atkins’ Induction Diet – Introduction to the Diet

Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution BookDr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution

Today is day 1 of the 2 week challenges and the start of the Atkins induction diet. I did my research by reading the atkins’ diet website and Dr. Robert C. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution book. A large section of the book deals with the science behind the diet – from insulin to metabolic advantage. Then there’s a large chunk of the book that talks in detail about the diet and what you can and cannot eat. The induction diet is the first couple of weeks on the Atkins’ diet (the 1st of 4 phases of the diet). It is also the hardest part of the diet as it contains the most restrictions on what you can and cannot eat. They suggest that most people should go on the induction part of the diet for at least 14 days and that you can see results (I think they’re talking about weight loss here) within that period. Unfortunately, 14 days of this diet is going to be seriously challenging – I currently feel like all I can eat is eggs, steak, and celery!

What Can You Eat on the Atkins’ Induction Diet?

  • 20g of Carbs per day: The main premise of the atkin’s diet is carb counting. During the induction phase of the diet, you can consume a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrates each day – that’s a really small amount!
  • Meats: You can eat all meats as long as it doesn’t have any added sugar in the meat itself or in the sauce. There is a caution regarding processed meats (e.g., ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs) because they may contain added sugar.
  • Cheeses: You can also eat a small amount of cheese. The book recommends 3-4 oz per day of a full-fat aged cheese. 1 oz of cheese (approximately a chunk 2 inches by 0.5 inches by 0.5 inches) counts as 1 gram of carbs. No cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese or other fresh cheeses are allowed.
  • Vegetables: 2 to 3 cups of leafy, watery vegetables such as bok choy, arugula, cucumbers, mushrooms, lettuce, or celery. Vegetables higher in carb content such as asparagus, bamboo, cabbage, broccoli, onion, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, squash, string beans, zucchinis, pumpkin, kale, and cauliflower may also be consumed, but only 1 cup per day as measured with the raw vegetable.
  • Salad Dressing: For salad dressing, avoid prepared dressings and get oil and vinegar (although not balsamic vinegar, which contains huge amounts of sugar as I discovered today at the salad bar!).
  • Other Foods: You’re also allowed to have butter and mayonnaise (according to the website) as they both have no carbs. You are also allowed to eat one of the following: 10-20 olives, half a small avocado, an ounce of sour cream or 3 ounces of unsweetened heavy cream per day. For snacks, Atkins snack bars are sold in many stores – I picked up some from a health food store in midtown New York. Make sure that the back of the Atkins bar says that it’s suitable for all phases of the diet as some of the bars are only suitable for phases 2, 3 and 4.
  • Fiber: Dr. Atkins also recommends taking in a bit of psyllium husks or ground flaxseeds if you get constipated. I assume this can be a problem since you’re not eating foods with all that much fiber. However, there are some sources that suggest that eating more meat does not lead to constipation in the long run although it may be a problem in the beginning stages of a low carb diet.

What Can You Drink?

Basically anything without caffeine or sugar. The list includes broth, club soda, heavy or light cream (2-3 tablespoons per day), decaf coffee or tea, diet sodas sweetened with sucralose (Splenda), flavored zero-carlorie seltzers, herbal tea, 2-3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice, and of course water.

What Can You NOT Eat?

Wow, this list is long! It’s basically anything with a lot of carbs in it! But, on the induction diet, you’re also not allowed nuts and fruits, which a lot of other low carb diets allow. The diet also tells you to stay away from certain artificial sweeteners due to harmful effects and recommends Splenda as the best one (max 3 packets a day due to the 1 gram of carbs it has per packet). However, if you’re using liquid sucralose, there should be no restriction as there is no sugar in it at all. Soft fresh cheeses are also not allowed along with other diary products such as milk (which has a fair amount of sugar) and yogurt.

Water and Vitamins

Dr. Atkins recommends drinking plenty of water on this diet (eight 8 oz glasses of water per day). He also believes that we are vitamin and mineral deficient and require some supplements. I recommend the Source Naturals Life Force Multiple as it contains a much better balance of nutrients than other brands.

The 2 Week Challenge

I realized several weeks ago that my food habits were slipping and in danger of falling down completely into a giant tub of Breyer’s ice-cream! So I said to myself, I’ll just be bad for a few more days, and then I’ll start back on my locarbolicious diet afresh. Those few days dragged into 2 weeks! It’s just so hard to swim out of that gooey tub of ice-cream!

To celebrate my return to low carb, or rather “to punish myself for straying from the diet,” I’ve decided to embark on several 2 week diet challenges. I plan to try various low carb diets and examine their “effectiveness” and difficulty. First up will be the Atkins induction diet, and then there’ll be the paleo (caveman) diet, the South Beach Diet, and the raw food diet. There might be some other diets thrown into this experiment if I can deal with it. I have never been particularly good at keeping to diets, so this will be a serious test of my mental strength. Fingers crossed!

Low Carb Pasta

4 Great Low Carb Pasta/Noodles

4 Great Low Carb Pasta/Noodles

It’s hard living without noodles and pasta, especially when instant ramen noodles and quick pasta dishes played such an important part of my college life! Here’s 4 noodles/pasta you can eat on a low carb diet – they all have practically no calories and no carbs (the 3rd and 4th noodles are different variations of each other)!

1. Zucchini Noodles Start with 3 zucchinis and a Julienne peeler (kinda like a potato peeler but it cuts everything into thin strands at the same time). Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise, place the flat side down onto your chopping board and start peeling away with the Julienne peeler. It’s easy to use – just pull down like in the photo. You end up with strands of zucchini noodles ready to cook.

Making Zucchini Noodles using a Julienne Peeler

Making Zucchini Noodles using a Julienne Peeler

There are various ways of cooking the zucchini noodles. The easiest is to put a bit of olive oil into a frying pan. Add some minced garlic and chopped chives and then put in the zucchini noodles. Cook in the frying pan for a minute, add salt to taste, drain and serve. Out of the 4 noodles, these were definitely my favorite!

Zucchini Noodles Cooked with Olive Oil, Garlic and Chives

Zucchini Noodles Cooked with Olive Oil, Garlic and Chives

2. Kelp Noodles I picked up this packet of kelp noodles for $2.49 from my local Korean supermarket (H-Mart on 32nd St., New York). Kelps are large seaweeds according to Wikipedia – they’re fat-free, gluten-free, low-calorie (55 cals per 12oz pack, which can serve 2 people) and 0 net carbs (11g of fiber).

Kelp Noodles from Local Korean Supermarket

Kelp Noodles from Local Korean Supermarket

The noodles are edible straight from the packet, but are rather crunchy and have no flavor. I washed the noodles in cold water and then squeezed out the excess water. I then added some soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and chives, and then mixed it all together in a bowl. I put the bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds on high and poured out any excess liquids afterwards. The noodles were still rather crunchy, but not bad.

Kelp Noodles Microwaved with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic, and Chives

Kelp Noodles Microwaved with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic, and Chives

3. Shirataki Noodles (White) I tried these noodles a while ago as Wholefoods sold them and they had gotten a lot of press as a diet food. They’re made from the root of a type of asian yam (sometimes called konjac or elephant yam), but unlike the yams that we’re used to which contain a lot of net carbs, these so called “yam” plants have pretty much all fiber. Each 1 oz packet contains less than 1g of net carbs and 0 calories. The packet pictured below are white Shirataki Noodles (also called Yam Noodles) that contain no tofu or soy. Some manufacturers make a tofu Shirataki noodle, which as you might have guessed contains tofu. Supposedly, the tofu makes the noodles less rubbery, but it also adds some carbs to the noodles.

White Yam Noodles

White Yam Noodles

How to cook them? Take them out of the packet and wash them with cold water 3 times. I find the noodles to smell a bit fishy (literally), and so I like to rinse them well. Then place the noodles into the microwave and cook on high for 30 seconds – this helps to get rid of the fishy smell and makes them less rubbery. Rinse again in cold water. Add in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and chives and mix together. Cook again in the microwave on high for 20 seconds. Drain the excess liquid and serve.

White Yam Noodles Microwaved with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic, and Chives

White Yam Noodles Microwaved with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic, and Chives

4. Shirataki Noodles (Brown) These are basically the same as the white shirataki noodles except they have some seaweed food-coloring in them! They taste pretty much the same too and have the same nutritional values – it just adds a bit of variety to our meals.

Brown Yam Noodles

Brown Yam Noodles

More recipes on how to make delicious low-carb meals with these noodles will follow.