My Low Carb Journey

After years of struggling to maintain a healthy weight following low fat diets, I finally switched to a Low Carb Healthy Fat lifestyle at the beginning of 2016. Since making the switch, I have lost 14KG. I am so enthused by the positive changes in my life that I decided to share some of my experiences and tips here in this Blog!

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So who am I?

First and foremost, this is a blog about food.  I love my food!  When I first dipped my toe into the Blogosphere a number of years ago, my focus was on baking, bread making, preserving and anything else that took my fancy.  In those days my moniker was Cookbook Addict and my blogging was patchy and random to say the least!  I have since been forced to upgrade to a new platform but I will share some of those old archive materials here from time to time because I find it interesting to look back and compare – Then and Now!

Baking and preserving aside, I have always been a pretty healthy eater (or so I thought!) but I still struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I had some success with low fat diet plans and intensive exercise off and on but I was never able to sustain the weight loss.  The main problem was that I just felt deprived on a low fat diet – I mentioned that I love my food, right?  I really missed the tasty things that I love to eat – butter, cream, cheese and most of all eggs!  (I keep hens in my garden and there is nothing better than nipping out to grab a fresh egg or two for breakfast on a Sunday morning – but that’s a whole other blogpost!)

At the end of 2015, I met a up work friend for coffee.  We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was thrilled to see that she had lost a lot of weight.  She looked amazing and I was really surprised when she told me how she had done it – Low Carb High Fat was new to me.  I had never even tried Atkins because I had been so indoctrinated by the fat-phobic dogma of the last 40 years of nutrition advice.  She recommended a South African website with great resources and tools where I could learn all about it, have access to great recipe demos and track my meals online.

I signed up for the Beginner Banting Course with Real Meal Revolution [RMR] thinking I would give it a go for 3 months.  I mean seriously, a diet that advocates butter, bacon, eggs and cheese?  I thought – What the hell!

Epiphany time!  I soon realised that I had really not understood the science behind the various eating plans that I had been  following.  This fueled a pretty extensive period of research where I read everything that I could get my hands on regarding low carb and nutrition science.  (Sample below – that’s just the books!)

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Within 6 months of starting to eat Low Carb Healthy Fat (a.k.a Banting), I was 14 kilos lighter and hooked on this lifestyle!  Soon my husband joined me and almost by osmosis (because I do the bulk of the cooking in our house) he lost a substantial amount of weight and is now the fittest and slimmest he has been since his early twenties.

You notice I use the word Lifestyle rather than diet because the word diet triggers thoughts of deprivation in my food focused brain and eating this way is simply no hardship for me. It does require that you make changes and it does require sacrificing things that you might feel that you simply cannot live without – like bread and potatoes (I am Irish – that’s practically a crime here!)  The simple truth is that I got over it very quickly and very easly – because I feel so much better without them.  I do not want to go back!

The key learning for me when I was losing my weight was that there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to weight loss and weight management.  Professor Tim Noakes the sports scientist, author and running guru was responsible for popularising this way of eating in South Africa when he discussed in interviews how he had used it to manage his own diabetes.  He basically read New Atkins New You by Dr Eric Westman and worked with it until he found a food mix that suited him.  He describes us all as being an “experiment of one” and this has become a personal mantra.  It reminds me that if an approach is not working for me as it worked for someone else, then I can tweak something to find the right path for me. There is no failure, simply a series of experiments to find the formula that works with my biochemistry. I have embraced my inner bio-hacker and I encourage others to do the same.

You can do it – get bio-hacking!

I am already qualified as an Executive and Life Coach, so having lost my own weight, I quickly realised that I wanted to use those skills to help others achieve the same results and signed up to join the RMR Banting Elite training Program.

You can sign up for my weight loss coaching programs through this link Real Meal Revolution or simply follow my blog here for tips and recipe ideas.

It is liberating to be free of the notion of dieting.  We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing Farmer’s Market near our home so the majority of our food is locally sourced direct from the producer.  This is a luxury, I know and I am grateful for it.  In simple terms, we eat unprocessed real food.  Without getting too scientific, we follow a low carb, moderate protein, healthy fat lifestyle (there it is again!).  We avoid refined sugars, carbs, and seed oils.  To say that we love it is something of an understatement.  I am passionate about eating for our health as well as for our taste buds and I will try to share some of those experiences here because it turns out that it’s OK to eat the fat!

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Flourless Banting Chocolate Cake

During our Staycation last year, we had a particularly good lunch at Union 8 Cafe on the Sth Circular Road and I treated myself to a rather indulgent slice of Flourless Chocolate Cake – Not wholly Banting friendly, I know, but it gave me the inspiration to come up with a fully Low Carb version!

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Here is my Banting take on a Rich Dark Chocolate Cake recipe I found in an old Rachel Allen cookbook. This was very easy to adapt and I’m happy to say that the first test came out beautifully.

One of the tricky things with adapting recipes for baked goods is that baking is chemistry, it’s a more exact form of cooking, and less forgiving when you tinker with the fundamentals.  The trick here was getting the sugar replacement right.  I went with a xylitol/stevia mix in a ratio of 2:1. I also used a mixture of cocoa solid strengths in the Chocolate that I used.  For this test it was a combination of 90% and 70%, again in a 2:1 ratio.

 

Ingredients:

Melted butter to grease the tin

Chocolate 150g

Butter 125g

Xylitol 100g

Stevia 50g

Eggs 3 (lightly beaten)

Ground Almonds 55g

Fresh Raspberries handful (optional)

Preheat oven to 160℃.  Butter the sides of a 20cm spring form cake tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.  Place the chocolate, butter, and xylitol/stevia in a bowl over a saucepan if simmering water.

Once melted, stir in the beaten eggs and fold in the ground almonds.  Pour the mixture into the cake tin and gently press the raspberries into the cake mix if using.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the centre is just set.


Allow to cool in the tin.

I should add…it tasted really, really good!

Super Simple Salad Dressing

One of the key lifestyle change that I made when I switched to LCHF eating was to start making my own lunches and bringing them to the office with me.  Once I have made sure to stock up in the market at the weekend, and done my Sunday food prep, it just takes a couple of minutes to pull it together in the mornings.

One of the critical ingredients to have on hand is a nice homemade dressing to mix in with salad combos like avocado and cucumber – a particular favourite of mine.  The dressing helps protect the avocado and keep it from discolouring in my lunch box.

This week I made a variation of the Vinaigrette recipe from The Ketogenic Kitchen cookbook.

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The original recipe called for whole grain mustard but I only had Dijon!

1 clove garlic
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp black pepper
Pinch of salt

I whizzed all the ingredients up in my mini food processor and bottled the tasty results. This will keep for about a week in the fridge.

I find this is a handy way to add apple cider vinegar to my daily diet.


Note: the amount pictured here is double the recipe above

Not so bullet proof!

In 2016, I qualified as a Certified Banting Coach.  When one of my clients asked me what I thought about Bullet Coffee, I had to confess that I had never tried it.  I am strictly a black coffee drinker, no sugar, no sweeteners.  I like it ‘unadulterated’ – plain and simple.

Using coffee as the mechanism to inject extra healthy fat into my diet simply did not appeal.  I am more drawn to buttery, cheesy scrambled eggs with spinach and bacon.

However, it’s a popular Banting/LCHF breakfast staple so a while back I decided to finally give it a try!


I used two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of coconut oil per the Real Meal Revolution cookbook with an Americano made on two shots of Nespresso.



Confession time..,

I’m not a huge fan of the flavour of coconut so that did not work for me.  I think I would need to reduce or remove the coconut oil to make this palatable for me. The texture was fine though so if I tinker with it and try adding some other ingredients like high cocoa solid chocolate it might appeal to my taste buds better.

For now though…it’s a thumbs down for me!

Low Carb Leftovers

It’s Saturday and, unusually for us, there is still some food in the fridge from last week’s trip to the Honest2Goodness Farmers Market in Glasnevin, Dublin.

Being somewhat allergic to waste, I wanted to use up the leftovers before tucking in to this week’s purchases.  On these occasions, I would generally make a big frittata to swallow up all the odds and sods in the fridge, but on this occasion I also wanted to make use of the beautiful fresh batch of homemade Banting Mayonaise that I whipped up on Thursday.

So with some smoked bacon, cooked broccoli, leftover roast chicken, and slow cooked ham on hand, I opted to add some hard boiled eggs and create savoury low carb bacon cups for dinner.

I used a silicon Muffin tray to shape the cups.  


This approach didn’t fully deliver the crispy finish I was after. Next time I will use streaky bacon and create the cups on upturned greased ramekins or dariole moulds. I love the iterative nature of kitchen experimentation – there is no failure only feedback!

Despite not yielding exactly the results that I was looking for, I still ended up with tasty little bacon cups!


Once these had cooled, I set about making the filling. I mashed together two hard boiled eggs, about four large cooked broccoli florets, a diced chicken breast (including the skin), a thick cut slice of slow cooked ham (also diced) and two large dollops of homemade mayonnaise.


These little savoury cups were a delicious treat. The Banting Mayonnaise was made with half extra virgin olive oil and half avocado oil. The flavour has matured beautifully over the last couple of days so the only seasoning added was some maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This was such a simple dish, quick and easy to prepare and amazingly tasty!

When is breakfast really a Break Fast?

When I switched to a Low Carb Healthy Fat lifestyle, it was not long before I noticed a significant change in my appetite. I soon found that I simply needed to eat less often and furthermore, mid-afternoon slumps and sugar cravings became a thing of the past.

In fact, I had fallen into a mode of Intermittent Fasting before I even knew that Intermittent Fasting was a thing! As it turned out, I had naturally adapted to a 16:8 cycle, whereby, I fast for 16 hours (that includes my sleep time) and eat during the remaining 8 hour window.  I now generally don’t eat until after 1pm and rarely eat after 9pm at night.

So to break my fast, I lean towards something really tasty and that brunch/lunch meal is one that I have come to savour!

At the weekends, or if I am working from home, this meal generally revolves around eggs. I keep my own hens in our suburban garden and have been used to having a ready supply of ultra-fresh eggs at my disposal, but our little ladies are getting older and so their output has slowed somewhat.  Thankfully, I have ready access to fabulous hens’ eggs from Spring Cottage Organic Farm at Honest2Goodness Market in Glasnevin, Dublin.img_5089

In the last year I have also started adding Duck Eggs to my diet. The Whole Hoggs, another fantastic stallholder at the market, have started supplying them and I love the creamy texture, luscious orange yolks and the full flavour they add to a dish.

As this has become my favourite meal of the day, I thought I would share some of ideas from my Low Carb repertoire of Break-Fasts!

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On Friday’s, the cupboards in our house are usually pretty bare. I do my weekly food shopping at the market on Saturday mornings, so we tend to be down to the bare minimum come Friday. This state of affairs has been know to fuel my creativity in the kitchen and often results in something new and interesting.

Last Friday, I had to work from home, and when faced with the meagre contents of my fridge – home-made salad dressing, mixed seeds, boiled eggs and some leftover roast chicken. I threw in some cucumber and salad leaves to conjure up a delicious warm chicken salad. Tasty and satisfying!.

Scrambled Eggs are another big favourite of mine. img_7319 I make them with lot’s of lovely Irish butter, and generally add in some mature cheddar cheese, gruyere or manchego while cooking.  These taste great with a side of bacon and avocado, or simply serving them with seed crackers is guaranteed to set me up for the rest of the day.

There are so many interesting combinations for scrambled eggs, I could spend all day talking about them. If I have a little leftover cream and some spinach, chives or spring onions on hand, these also get thrown in. I know a lot of people (my husband included!) have a Marmite like reaction to Salmon (love it or hate it, no middle ground!), but I love it paired up with scrambled eggs.

img_6067-1Another favourite of mine is homemade guacamole served with Banting Seed crackers and crispy bacon. Like most people, my consumption of avocado has increased dramatically since going Low Carb. I love playing around with different ingredients to make my own versions of guacamole as its a great way to sneak some extra healthy fat into your meal. In addition to Olive oil, I have variously added yogurt, butter, ricotta and other soft cheeses to create different textures and levels of creaminess.img_4202

These Banting seed crackers are so simple to make and they keep really well in an airtight tin for about a week. Rather than wasting time moulding them into individual rounds I make large slabs of cracker and then break off what I need, as I need it.

In our house, no conversation about breakfast/brunch/lunch would be complete without some reference to omelettes and frittatas. In my pre-Banting days I regularly made Spanish omelettes, packed with waxy potatoes and sweet onions. Low Carb eating has removed the potatoes and moderated the amount of onion in use but lovely thick frittatas are still firmly on the menu chez nous.

We always have plenty of eggs in the house; the state of the larder has reached truly tragic proportions if there isn’t an egg on hand to form the foundation of a tasty meal. In fact, I seem to have a ridiculous number of photos of frittata’s in my iPhone because this is a staple that we tend to lean towards after exercise. There is nothing nicer than a one pan dish packed with delicious protein and healthy fat after a run or a trip to the gym.

I have made endless variations, too numerous to mention here, but usually guided by the contents of the fridge. There really is no limit to the flavour combinations and possibilities; broccoli and salmon, bacon and spring onion, sundried tomatoes with goats cheese, Chorizo and spinach, and always topped off with a generous coating of grated cheese. I have used both duck and hens eggs, and adding a little double cream and some grated cheese to the whisked eggs adds to flavour and texture.

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This of course begs the question; what do I do between the time I get up and the time that I eat my first meal, some 6 hours later? Well, I drink water, black coffee and/oIMG_8408[1]r herbal teas. I avoid black/breakfast tea because I can only take it with milk, the addition of which would break my fast too early.

Recently, I have started to break my fast with either Kefir or Bone Broth about 30 minutes before I have my lunch proper. I make my own broth using a variation of the recipe on the Real Meal Revolution site and I source amazing Coconut Milk Kefir from Anastasia of Ambrosia Greek Snacks at Honest2Goodness Market.

While I recognise that this approach to eating may not be for everyone, I am a strong advocate of listening to your own body and really challenging whether you are actually hungry before eating out of habit or boredom. Through improved self awareness I was able to introduce and adopt new habits which have since become automatic behaviours.

As a coach, I am all too familiar with the difficulty facing anyone trying to make a positive change in their lives and the challenges around changing diet can be greater than most because eating is such an emotionally charged experience for many of us – we eat when we are happy, sad, disappointed, angry…the list goes on. I started this blog to share my experiences. This works for me and I am happy to say that it has helped me to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy diet, consistently, for over a year now.

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As Dr. Jason Fung, author of The Obesity Code, says the great thing about Intermittent Fasting is that it costs nothing to give it a try!

 

Dutch Rhubarb Cake the Low Carb Way!!

It’s Spring in Ireland and I have a nice crop of Rhubarb growing in the garden.  Today I thought it would be interesting to try adapting an old favourite of mine – Dutch Apple Cake – to Low Carb and adding some lovely fresh Rhubarb instead of the more traditional apples.

The original recipe is from Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake’ cookbook. I am fond of this book because it reignited my interest in baking a number of years ago and what followed was a culinary adventure that was a whole heap of fun!

Revised Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs
  • 125g xylitol/20g stevia (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 85g butter
  • 75ml milk
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • Two handfuls of chopped Rhubarb 

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Line a cake tin with parchment paper (I use a loaf tin).
  • Whisk the eggs, sweeteners and vanilla extract in a bowl until it forms a mousse-like consistency (about 5 minutes).
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk then gradually add to the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the batter being careful to ensure there are no lumps. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  • Sprinkle the chopped Rhubarb on the batter and then sprinkle a dusting of stevia on top. Don’t worry if the rhubarb sits on the surface, the batter will rise around it.
  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 180 degrees centigrade and bake for a further 20 – 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool in the tin before cutting into slices and serving!

Fail to Prepare = Prepare to Fail! 

It is always important to examine what supports you need to put in place in order to achieve success – to reach that goal, solve that problem or nail that project!


Examining past successes is a great way to find personal insight into the things that make YOU successful. It’s an exercise that I have done myself and the learnings are something that I lean in to again and again.

For me, research, planning and preparation are key elements. Since I started eating Low Carb, there are two things that just have to happen for me to have a successful week.

1. Having Real Food at my fingertips

I have to get to the Honest2Goodness Farmers Market on a Saturday morning, no matter what else is going on. 

Once I got into the swing of Low Carb eating I found myself falling into a new pattern of shopping. I love checking out what’s in season at the organic veggie stall and coming up with recipe ideas as I shop.


I am very fortunate to have this great resource available to me. I get to support a wonderful community of committed food producers. I get to speak to the farmers who rear the animals that provide my meat. I know where my food comes from and I contribute directly to the success of their businesses because there is no middle man.


No matter what your resources though, there are good choices that can be made when doing your weekly shop by keeping it real and seeking out the best quality food that you can afford.

2. Preparing for the week ahead

It’s always important to find time at the weekend to do food prep for the coming week. I generally do this on a Sunday when we are chilling out at home.
This was a great habit to form early on because now it has become part of my weekly routine and I look forward to taking that time to get organised for the week ahead.

I typically make a few roasted vegetable tray bakes.  These are great added to lunch boxes as part of a healthy salad with mixed leaves, avocado, cucumber, cooked broccoli and home made dressing.

Another staple is Cauliflower Colcannon made with butter and spring onions.  I find it so handy to have a batch to fall back on when I come home after walking the dog.  It’s great with a steak or some lamb chops.

I also precook organic chicken breast, salmon darnes and hard boiled eggs to add to lunch boxes and I use my slow cooker to cook a lovely small ham from Peter at the Whole Hoggs every week. I have found that making your own lunch has been critical in my success.

You can make good choices in restaurants and canteens but your choices are limited and usually involve some level of compromise.  A seemingly healthy option can be anything but if it contains hidden sugar and seed oils, which processed food invariably does.

I also like to know where my food comes from, and not just from a health or ethical standpoint. I want to support my local economy as much as possible and small producers in particular.  

Having finished all my prep I can then happily chill out with my gorgeous big dude and enjoy a well deserved coffee and some high cocoa solid chocolate from The Proper Chocolate Co…HEAVEN!


http://www.honest2goodness.ie/