How do you define “healthy recipes?”
I believe that “healthy” means homemade; not mass-manufactured and factory-processed; fresh and wholesome, with no preservatives, weird additives, or trans fats. A recipe that uses a short list of recognizable ingredients. This is the very basic definition. In addition, ideally, the recipe would be low in sugar and carbs, and high in protein and healthy fat.
You say that your recipes are healthy, but they are not low-fat!
Low-fat diets are harmful. Our bodies need fat. The only fats you should avoid are man-made trans fats and industrial seed oils (soybean oil, canola oil etc.).
Having said that, I’m not one of the keto purists who believe that the more fat the better and that calories do not matter on a low carb diet. I don’t think pre-agriculture humans evolved on eating huge amounts of fat (wild game isn’t exactly fatty), and too much fat can cause weight gain, not to mention unpleasant digestion issues. So you will see quite a few of my recipes using extra lean ground beef, reduced fat cream cheese and low fat sour cream. Especially when it comes to desserts, I think it’s important to limit fat and calories, not just sugar.
How do you feel about artificial sweeteners?
These days I use stevia almost exclusively when making low carb baked goods and sweets. I used xylitol for a while, but one of us is sensitive to it. I don’t use Swerve for the same reason – although erythritol should be gentler than xylitol, it does cause gastric distress for some, and Swerve also contains oligosaccharides, which are contraindicated for people with digestion issues such as IBS.
As for stevia, I believe it is very safe. I use stevia glycerite, which has no bitter aftertaste. Here’s a conversion chart in case you want to use another sweetener, but keep in mind that I have not tested these recipes with any sweeteners other than those listed.
In an ideal world, I would use honey and maple syrup to sweeten my recipes. But this is not an ideal world, and sadly, for many of us, our broken metabolisms mean that a high carbohydrate diet is the real danger (potentially leading to metabolic syndrome and diabetes), not stevia.
Can you post a recipe for diet coke cake?
Sorry, I can’t. I only use real food, so many classic “diet” recipes are absent from this blog. Such as “diet coke cake”; anything made with Cool Whip, Egg Beaters, boxed cake mixes or margarine; or any other recipe that attempts to reduce calories and fat by using food-like substitutes and artificial chemicals.
Yes, I would choose heavy cream (in moderation) over Cool Whip any day, and I also prefer butter to rancid, highly processed, easily-oxidized, omega-6-rich vegetable oils.
List of ingredients in Cool Whip, Original:
Water, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and Palm Kernel Oils), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Skim Milk, Light Cream, Contains Less than 2% of Sodium Caseinate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan and Guar Gums, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Beta Carotene (Color).
List of ingredients in Straus organic heavy cream:
Pasteurized organic cream.
Are you familiar with a recipe for chicken breast coated with mayonnaise for baking? If so, can I use a mayo substitute such as Smart Beat instead of the real thing?
The list of ingredients for Smart Beat is filled with franken-ingredients that I would not like to put in my body:
Water, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Vinegar, Maltodextrin, Salt, Cellulose Gel, Egg Whites, Lactic Acid, Artificial Colors, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA Used to protect quality, Lemon Juice, Flavors, Colored With Beta Carotene, Onion Powder, Garlic Juice Concentrate, Oleoresin, Paprika.
Why not just rub the chicken with a tasty rub of olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and paprika? Delicious and healthy. Here’s a good recipe.
Your blog’s tagline says “Real Food, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Paleo.” Do all your recipes conform to these criteria?
No. All of them are made with real honest food and no weird ingredients. But not all of them are low carb AND gluten free AND paleo. Many are, but many others are low carb but not paleo, for example; or paleo but not low carb. Personally, I eat low carb, but my teenage kids eat a higher carb diet that’s mostly gluten free and paleo.
So for example, I have this great recipe for twice baked sweet potatoes. I don’t touch the stuff (except to taste test), but my kids love it and eat it often. Real food, paleo, but not low carb.
Or this wonderful low carb chocolate mug cake. I love it, and consider it as wholesome as a dessert can be, but since it’s sweetened with stevia, many will not consider it paleo.
I do love the paleo insistence on clean eating, and I agree that grain and legume consumption is best minimized, but I’m not super strict about it, and I do use whole milk dairy and stevia often.
Why low carb?
Over the past few years, I have become convinced that the government-prescribed diet of the past three decades – a high-carb, high-grain, low-fat diet, was a mistake. Unless we’re professional athletes or otherwise extremely active, our bodies do not need and cannot handle these huge amounts of carbohydrates.
Most of us thrive on a lower carb diet, where carbohydrates come from vegetables, low-sugar fruit and perhaps root vegetables if our metabolism is not completely shot; not from bread and pasta, and certainly not from Oreos and Gummy Bears.
I find that what works best for me is eating low carb (around 80 grams of carbs per day, so not super low carb), enjoying healthy fats in moderation, minimizing grains and sugar, and completely avoiding processed junk.
When my husband was first diagnosed with prediabetes, we tried using whole-wheat flour and “healthy” grains (brown rice, quinoa) while keeping our carb intake at around 50% of total energy. But his blood sugar kept climbing, so we gradually moved to low carb, grain free, and moderate fat. This has worked well to bring his blood sugar back to normal levels, and resolve my frequent hypoglycemia episodes.
Where do you stand on organic and/or GMO?
I try to buy the highest-quality food I can, which often means local, organic, pasture-raised, wild caught and GMO-free. However, these foods are expensive, and I still think that the more pressing goal is to rid our diets of processed foods. If your diet consists of conventional fresh produce, meat, fish and dairy, and does not include processed junk, I think you’re doing quite well actually – possibly even better than someone who relies on a lot of organic processed, sugary foods. For example, a breakfast of a vegan, organic, GMO-free donut and coffee is inferior, in my personal opinion, to a non-organic breakfast of a three-egg veggie omelet with a cup of fresh berries and coffee.
How do I know these recipes work?
I have made all of the recipes in this blog- most of them more than once – so they are all tried and tested. In fact, I had to make several attempts at many of the recipes here until I got to perfection. I never publish a recipe unless it’s a success, not just by my definition but by my family’s standards. So once I’m satisfied with a recipe, I serve it to my family, and I ask them, “Is this blog-worthy?” Only the recipes that are deemed blog-worthy by at least three of us (we are a family of four) find their way into this blog.
I tried one of your recipes and it did not work for me. Why?
I wish I knew. As much as my recipes are exact, there are so many variables that can influence the result. The exact ingredients used (freshness of eggs or baking powder, type of salt – a Facebook fan recently complained that a recipe came out too salty. Turns out, she used fine sea salt instead of coarse kosher salt); the pan (nonstick, aluminum, cast iron, dark, light, heavy, lightweight); the oven – you wouldn’t believe how different ovens vary in temperature; even the humidity – all of these can make a difference. Even when I make one of my own recipes under slightly different conditions, I sometimes need to make minor adjustments.
My advice? Try to view the recipes in this blog – any recipe in fact – as general guidelines, but always use your own judgement and try to adjust along the way according to the flavors and textures you’re getting in your own kitchen, with your own ingredients and tools. Kind of like following a GPS in your car but still looking around and making sure the virtual directions make sense in reality.
Why did you stop including Weight Watchers points in your recipes?
As far as I can tell, Weight Watchers points calculate all fats as bad. I disagree that fats are bad, and I especially disagree that *all* fats are bad.
Weight Watchers just changed their program. It now includes watching calories, saturated fats, sugars and protein. Love your recipes, are there plans to include saturated fats in the nutritional stats?
Sigh. I strongly believe that Weight Watchers is wrong on this – that saturated fats are completely harmless and should not be singled out or limited. Weight Watchers has a way of always being a couple of years behind current science, and the SmartPoints program is a good example. But since this will make life easier for those who use Weight Watchers, I will go ahead and include saturated fat info for future recipes.
Why don’t you include cholesterol in your nutritional info?
For most people, cholesterol in food does not raise bad serum cholesterol, so there’s no need to single it out or to try to avoid it.
Doesn’t all this healthifying result in food that simply does not taste very good?
A friend recently asked me, “what do you miss the most ever since you gave up junk food?” and I honestly didn’t know what to say. Sure, I mostly gave up white sugar, wheat and other grains; I avoid commercial processed food and I don’t touch fast food. But my meals have never been so flavorful or so varied. I eat better than I ever have, and without all the added sugar, flavorings and preservatives, I also enjoy my food more than ever – I think our palate tends to become more sensitive when we eat cleaner. So I can’t agree that healthy food is inferior to unhealthy food in terms of flavor. I think it’s far superior, although you do have to go through a period of adjusting.
Why do you sometimes change already-published recipes?
Occasionally, I go back and change recipes if I make an even better version of them. This doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the original recipe – just that I found a way to make it even better or healthier.
How do you stay fit?
I avoid sugary, calorie-dense junk, stay active, and eat to satiety – not until I’m stuffed.
“Stay active” – can you elaborate?
I walk five miles every day, do an hour of pilates three times per week and lift small weights three times per week.
So you eat healthy, stay active – you must have *some* vices? Do share!
Of course I do. But I don’t consider the occasional unhealthy treat a vice. Surely you’re familiar with the 80/20 or 90/10 rule of eating healthy most of the time, not all of the time.
Can you translate your annoying American measurements into European?
Sure – here’s my cooking conversions page.
Who is the photographer behind this blog?
I photograph the vast majority of recipes. Very rarely, I use a purchased stock photo, in which case I credit the photographer.
What camera/lens do you use?
In 2011, I started out with Nikon D60 Digital SLR Camera with an 18-55mm lens. In 2013, still with the same camera, I started using a new lens – Tamron SP 60mm F/2 Macro. And in 2016 I upgraded to a Canon EOS 6D 20.2 MP CMOS camera with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens.