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Who Said You Can’t Eat Low-Carb at Carrabba’s?

Sirloin Marsala with Sauteed Spinach, topped with Fresh Parmesan

Eating out low-carb is not really that difficult at all.  Today, we went to Carrabba’s Italian Grill.  At first, I thought my choices would be limited, since pasta and bread are part of most Italian dishes (at least here in the U.S. & Germany, but not so much in Italy – but that’s another story).

Before we left, I did a quick online menu check and discovered that Carrabba’s actually has a gluten-free menu.  I looked it over and actually found several dishes that I would like to try, like the Shrimp Scampi, the Sirloin Marsala, or the Chicken Bryan.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I asked the greeter if they have a gluten-free menu I could look at.  She nodded and brought me the menu.  A few moments later, the waiter took our drink-order and I asked for my usual unsweetened ice-tea with a lemon, no sweetener required (I quickly adapted to the slightly tart taste when I quit diet coke).

I looked over the menu again and decided to go for the Sirloin Marsala.  I let the waiter know that I was ordering from the gluten-free menu and to please let the chef know not to use the basting sauce for the meat.  He nodded and asked me what veggie I’d like with it.  I opted for the sauteed spinach, something I have never tried before.  He then asked me if I wanted soup or salad, and I chose the side-salad with Parmesan cream dressing.  My husband, a non-low-carber, then ordered his baked Seafood Cannelloni and an order of Shrimp Scampi as an appetizer for us to split.  The waiter kindly asked if we wanted the garlic bread that comes with the dish, so I told him that he can bring it and my husband would eat it.

A few minutes later, the fresh dipping bread appeared.  Don had a slice, then put it aside.  I, then, took my spoon and took a taste of the seasoned olive oil.  I know, it sounds strange, but I did get the flavor without the added carbs and wheat, that makes me swell up like a balloon.  Yes, I love that bread, but it was not worth the set-back and puffiness, so instead, I was looking forward to the shrimp scampi.

When the waiter brought the shrimp, we set it in the middle of the table and we ate it straight out of the dish.  The sauce was so flavorful and creamy, the few pieces of shrimp were gone way too soon.  I took one more spoon-full of the sauce and hubby mopped up the rest with his garlic bread.  It was so tasty, that I tried to taste out the ingredients and wrote them down, so I could replicate the dish at home one day.

Side Salad with Parmesan Cream Dressing

Next came the salads.  Mine was a basic lettuce with tiny bits of celery, a few olives, and a few pieces of shredded carrots, topped with a creamy Parmesan dressing.  It was wonderful and light.  I’m not a fan of olives, so I pushed them to the side of the plate, and I took it easy on the carrots, though there weren’t that many slivers on the plate to begin with.

Once we were finished with our salads, the main dishes arrived at our table.  I looked at my plate and then said to my husband: “Whoever said that you can’t eat good stuff on low-carb, doesn’t know what they’re missing.”

My dish was a nice piece of sirloin steak, cooked medium done, and was covered with a creamy mushroom sauce.  My sauteed spinach looked yummy, too, with oil still glistening on the perfectly cooked leaves.  The waiter offered some fresh, grated Parmesan for my husband’s dish, then I asked him to put some on my spinach.  It was a new taste for me, the spinach, not the cheese, and I really enjoyed it.

When I was finished, Don snuck the last bite of steak off  my plate (I done anyway).  The waiter offered us some dessert, but  we have gotten out of the habit of eating desserts at restaurants, especially since I started eating low-carb, so we declined.

We left the restaurant comfortably full.  The outing wasn’t exactly cheap, since we basically ordered 3 entrees, but it was well worth it.

Hints for the road:

  • Check online for a menu to see what foods are available.
  • Check if the restaurant posted a gluten-free or special menu for people with food allergies.
  • Decide or narrow down beforehand what you will eat.
  • Remember why you are eating low-carb, before you order and when you’re tempted to eat off of someone else’s plate.
  • Make the best choice from the items that are available.

Enjoy your next dining out!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Dining Out, Low-Carb Diet, Reviews

 

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Subclinical Hyperthyroidism – Now what?

English: Scheme of the thyroid gland. Français...

Scheme of the thyroid gland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I wrote about going to our military hospital to request some lab tests.  (Click here for previous post.)  That Thursday, my PA’s nurse called me to see if I could come in before my scheduled follow-up appointment to discuss my thyroid test results.  I figured something was up, but of course, she couldn’t tell me anything about the results, so I had to wait and ponder until Tuesday after Memorial day to see my PA.

At the day of my appointment, I sat in the small room where the Red Cross volunteer took my vital signs again.  I was nervous, because of my recent elevated blood pressure readings and having to go back onto blood pressure medication if my numbers didn’t improve.  But as it turned out, my reading that morning was only 124/82, much better than the reading from the week prior of 154/105.  Relieved that I was almost back to normal, I could now return to worrying about my possible thyroid issue, while waiting for the PA.

Thyroid Panel Results

She didn’t waste much time and told me my thyroid panel test results.  I added normal ranges in parentheses:

♥  Thyroxine            10.0               (4.8 – 10.4)
  T3                      1.32               (0.970 – 1.69)
  FT4                    1.29               (0.78 – 2.19)
  TSH Sensitive     0.245   Low     (0.465 – 4.68)

The PA then explained that a low TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone value accompanied by normal T3 & T4 values is a sign for subclinical hyperthyroidism, which could eventually turn into full-blown hyperthyroidism.

I must have given her a blank stare, so she continued questioning me about symptoms, and if I noticed any of the following:

  Hair loss (notice more hair on the brush)
  Fatigue
  Palpitations
  Weight loss, etc…

Yes, I have these symptoms, but figured that the hair breakage was due to the dry air in Colorado, the palpitations due to the altitude, and the weight loss, yet slow, was intentional with eating low-carb.

The PA checked my neck again for any growths, but did not feel anything abnormal.

The plan for now is to repeat the blood test in 2 weeks, and if the results are the same or worse, she will order a scan of my thyroid and we’ll go from there.  If the test comes back normal, we’ll just follow-up with tests in 3-month increments.

Lipid Panel Results

My lipid-panel wasn’t that great, either, but the PA said, that we’ll keep an eye on the numbers.  There is NO WAY I’ll go on statins for cholesterol, because of the horrible side-effects they cause and science has proven, that especially women see no improvement in taking them.  Chris Kresser has a lot of resources and scientific backup to prove this point.

Here are my numbers:

  Cholesterol         206         (<200)      okay, a bit up
  Triglycerides         86         (<150)      thanks low-carb
  HDL                     36         (40-60)     gotta work on that
  VLDL                   17         (5-40)       not bad
  LDL Direct          154         (<100)      oh, oh – but I do not have particle size
  Risk Ratio           5.7         (0.5 – 3.5) high

A1C Results

My A1C was excellent with 5.3.  I’m down by .3 points from 2010, when I had it tested the last time.  It should be under 6.  Yay!

Outstanding Test Results

I’m still missing the Vitamin D and the standard test results.  I also do not see LDL particle size on the report, which I requested.  Maybe this test is not done at this hospital – the PA gave me a confused look when I asked her for the LDL particle size as we were discussing the results.  Instead, she kept referring back to the risk factor value.  I’ll ask her again at the next appointment. Stay tuned for updates of my next Dr. visit.

To be continued….

 

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A Low-Carb Friendly Military Healthcare Provider – Really?

English: Blood pressure measurement.

English: Blood pressure measurement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago, I scheduled an appointment at the clinic of our new duty station to get some blood work drawn, mainly to have a baseline to measure my progress for next year’s low-carb cruise.  I was so inspired by the success stories of this last cruise, that I made a promise to myself to make this year count.  I was particularly inspired by the stories of Andrew DiMino from Carbsmart, Dana Carpender, Amy Dungan, Susan Winkler, Kent Altena, Kim Eidson, and Vanessa Romero, just to name a few.  With all this motivation, this is definitely the year to get healthy!

At first, I was worried about the reaction of my new doctor, because every time I went to see one at the military clinic at our last duty station, which was usually a different physician each time, and mentioned that I was eating low-carb, they were appalled that I did not eat any HEART-HEALTHY GRAINS and that I ate SATURATED FAT.  Of course, they told me that what I was doing wasn’t healthy.  At that time I didn’t have any ammo to counter with yet.  But this time would be different!

Before my appointment, I made sure to do my homework.  I asked my new expert buddies at the Low-Carb Cruise Facebook Group, which additional blood tests I should get done, and made my list:

  Standard tests
  Full Panel Thyroid
  LDL Particle Size
  A1C
  Vitamin D Level

 I also played out in my mind what I’d say to the doctor, when the low-carb thing would come up.  None of my previous physicians were open to this lifestyle, so I wanted to be ready.  Some things I wanted to say were:

  I eat more veggies than ever in my life.  What’s wrong with that?
  Isn’t this how diabetics should eat?
  Isn’t this how food addicts in recovery eat?  Nobody says that that’s unhealthy.  Why can’t I?

So, confident that I was ready for my appointment, I drove to the post hospital, ready for battle, if the need would arise.

At the clinic, a Red Cross volunteer took my vital signs.  I was shocked that my blood pressure was 154/105.  What?  It’s never been that high!  Yes, I had high blood pressure for years around 145/95, which was easily controlled by meds.  Then, after I lost some weight by eating low-carb, I stayed off my low-dose HCTZ and monitored my blood pressure, which was usually fine.  When I returned from the cruise, it was still normal for a few days, then shot up to the 150s/90s and I thought my machine at home was broken.  Since I had no way to test it, I just waited a few days for my appointment to verify that my blood pressure machine indeed went belly-up.  But I was wrong.  We checked twice.  Yep, I was really up there.

The volunteer then told me that my physician assistant will be with me shortly and left the room.  What?  I’m seeing a PA?  Nothing against PAs, but I really expected a doctor.  Oh well, nothing I could do at that point.

A few minutes later, the PA came in.  After some small-talk, she asked me why I was here.  I told her that I’m due for a physical and that I just came off the Low-Carb Cruise with a lot of experts and that I wanted some blood work done, so I can compare results right before the next cruise.  She nodded and got her pen ready:  “What tests do you want?”

Really?  No push-back?  I like that lady!!!  So, I rattled off my list to her.  She repeated the tests to me to make sure she got them all, did a quick physical and then we discussed the blood pressure issue.  She thinks that it could be the altitude, since I just came from a week at sea-level back to Colorado at 6200 feet.  She wants me to come back in two weeks for a follow-up and to see if my pressure goes back down.  We’ll then discuss my test results and if I need to get back on blood pressure meds.  As I went down to the lab, I was still amazed about my PA’s reaction, or non-reaction.  That was easy!

Update:  Thursday afternoon, I received a phone call from the nurse.  My PA wants me to come in sooner to discuss my thyroid test results.  Great, now I have to wait until Tuesday to find out what’s off on my results…

To be continued…

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Low-Carb Cruise, Low-Carb Diet

 

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2013 Low-Carb Cruise Success-Story in the Making

If you have never been on a Low-Carb Cruise, you’re missing out!  This year’s cruise departed from Galveston, TX and stopped in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel, Mexico.  When we weren’t having fun playing with the stingrays and sea-turtles in the Cayman Islands, we got to hang out with all the low-carb experts (and yes, they are normal people, just like you and me), learned a lot from awesome lectures during sea days, and made tons of new friends.

The talks were so informative and motivating and I have learned that even a little bit of wheat acts like an opiate and can wreak havoc in the body, in my case, my hands and ankles swell nicely.  Who needs that?  Another interesting fact I picked up was that consuming artificially sweetened food, can still cause an insulin response, when the food passes taste receptors in the intestines.  If you ask me, I am not interested in increasing my diabetes risk even more than it already is.  Especially motivating was the touching presentation of success stories from some fellow low-carbers on this cruise.  Wow, if these people can make such a huge difference in their lives, I thought, so can I.

My biggest motivator, however, was winning the Low-Carb Cruise grand prize of $500 towards a stateroom of the 2013 Low-Carb Cruise, which is setting sail in New Orleans next May.  I’ll post more about that when I know more.  Anyway, my goal for next year’s cruise is to have a success-story myself.  I really want this!!!

So, What Would I Consider Success?

  No more swollen ankles
  Awesome blood-work
  Comfortably wear a size 14 (or smaller) jeans

My Action Plan:

♥  Stay entirely off wheat (which causes my swelling)
♥  Ditch the diet coke (can cause weight-loss stalls)
  Lay off all sweeteners (can cause insulin response)
♥  Shape-Shift (tone up twice a week)
  Journal and blog at least once or twice a week about my progress
  Get blood-work done ASAP & again before the cruise
♥  And, of course, continue to eat low-carb

So, one day after my return from the cruise (did I mention that I did not gain a single pound on the trip), I’m off to a good start.  I finished off my last diet coke, stayed low-carb all day, and my ketostick was a nice pink.  I like it when I burn fat and make ketones!

Stay tuned for more progress…

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Low-Carb Cruise, Low-Carb Diet

 

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Culture Shock – Primal Living in the USA

Whole Foods MarketAfter a 3 year tour in Bavaria, Germany, we finally set foot on U.S. ground again.  Since then, my mind has officially been blown with the low-carb opportunities that are available to me here in the States.

During our move, I have been off my primal plan, not only because I wouldn’t be able to eat many of my favorite German foods for a long time, but also, because I knew it would be extremely difficult to stay on track while living in hotels for an extended time, with only microwaves to cook with.  It was a conscious decision, yet my body did not thank me.

As soon as I went off program, I immediately started to feel puffy, sluggish and irritable, although, the crankiness could be attributed to all the stress of getting the house ready for the movers to come, selling the cars, and working until the last minute.  We’ve been living in hotels for 3 weeks until we moved into an extended stay place, where we actually have a small kitchen to make our own meals.  I never thought that I would ever get tired of eating in restaurants, but over the last 2 weeks, my body was screaming for real food.  Yes, the fresh waffles and bagels in the mornings at the other hotel were nice, but come lunch-time, I was a shaky, wobbly wreck… I hate when my bloodsugar drops like that and my addiction runs rampant.

Today, I made an effort to stay off of sugar and flour.  I didn’t have much suitable food in the fridge, but I made it through the day.  Not surprisingly at all, I felt calm and my head seemed clearer for the first time in weeks.  Then, while we were in town in the evening, we ate at a restaurant.  I had no problems with staying on plan.  I wanted something light and stuck to a Cobb salad, which left me comfortably full and satisfied. In retrospect, I easily could have been back on plan as soon as we arrived here, because most restaurants will work with their customers, but it just seemed too tempting to try to eat all these foods I thought that I missed out on in the last 3 years.  Again, that’s the addiction talking.

Culture shock really hit me when we walked into the Whole Foods Market for the first time in 6 years.  The assortment of primal foods in the store were overwhelming, and I didn’t buy anything other than some coconut hand creme for my psoriasis on my hands.  I did try some yummy salmon samples and a small cup of sports tea, while cruising the isles, but my head is still spinning, when I think about the massive inventory of foods they carry.  I made a mental note to do my homework before I shop there again (some of the food, I saw at our Commissary for much cheaper.)

Finally, now that we’re in Colorado, I want to explore the nearby farms and farmers markets for free-range eggs, grass-fed beef and local produce.  I can’t wait to get started with that.  I’m ready to let go of the junk!

Until next time,

Nickie

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Binging, Food Addiction, Low-Carb Diet

 

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Sunday – Day 7 Back on Low-Carb – Danger Zone

It’s not over yet – I’m still in the danger-zone for binging, since I have another day off tomorrow for Columbus day. But it’s not all doom and gloom.  My plan is to stay busy and productive and spend some time out of the house.  Usually, a change of scenery does wonders in lifting my spirits.

So far, this is day 7 back on low-carb after an all-weekend binge last week.  I’m not back to my pre-binge weight yet, but I can’t change that, so I’m not stressing over it.  Today I was 99% on track (other than drinking diet coke, but that’s something I don’t really want to give up just yet), and I’m happy with that.

Today’s project was to spend some time learning about blogging.  Wow, I still feel like a newby when it comes to writing a decent blog and getting people to read it. I’m going to cut today’s post short, so I can add some of my favorite low-carb blogs and podcast links to my blog page.  I meant to do this for a few months now, just didn’t get around to do it yet.  Feel free to click on a few of them.  Maybe there’s something you like.

What I’ve learned: 

Using better tags and categories, writing better headlines, searching and following other blogs & tags. Wohoo, watch out WordPress, ’cause here I come!

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Food Addiction, Low-Carb Diet

 

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Cooking Tripe – Banned!!!

Tripe stew is a common dish in southern Germany, where I am from.  It’s actually parts of cow, pork, or lamb stomachs and has a neutral taste and kind of a chewy texture. My Grandma used to spend all day in the kitchen preparing it and cooking it in a white thick stew.  After living 18 years in the United States, we came back to Germany and I figured that I should give cooking tripe stew another try, just hadn’t been that successful over the years – after all, nobody can make it as good as Grandma made it!!!

So I went to the Commissary and bought a frozen pack of tripe and made myself smart online on how to prepare it, while it defrosted.  To my dismay, when I opened the pack, I realized that my tripe was still green, not the already pre-boiled type you get from the butcher shop. Green tripe is supposed to be excellent to make dog food out of.  So, I googled some more and found out how to clean and prep it myself.

I dumped the contents of the bag in a colander and rinsed it several times.  Peeeyew!!!  It smelled so bad like stable, but I knew it was supposed to.  Then I took each section and peeled off the inner membrane, the stomach lining, and picked the “green” bits of grassy material from it.  Then I transferred the cleaned tripe into a bowl of cold salt water to soak overnight in the fridge.

Only one minor problem remained – my hands stank to high heaven and not even dish-soap could get rid of the ode a’la pig style.  It was really bad.  I was desperate, so I tried some spa hand-scrub stuff I had in one of my bathroom drawers.  It actually worked and my hands smelled like I just took a nice bubble bath…

The next day, I poured the tripe into a colander and rinsed it again.  Now it was time to boil it in some salt water for a while.  Again, I knew it would smell kind of stablely again – that’s normal.  When my husband and teenage sons came back, they almost walked out backwards.  “Holy crap, what smells like a..?” my husband asked.  My sons were a little more polite.  I told them that I was making “Kutteln” and we’d have it for dinner tonight.  I used the German word, so they didn’t know what they would be eating and at least give it a try.  They about gagged.

Finally, after it cooked for about 3 hours, I rinsed the tripe again and cut the pieces into thin strips.  Since I’m following a primal lifestyle, I didn’t want to use the thick, white soup, since it’s prepared with flour.  Instead, I heated up some ghee (clarified butter) in a pan, glazed some onions, and added the tripe strips.  For a finish touch I spiced the dish with some salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a bit of ground cloves and let the stuff cook for a bit.

When my tripe was finished, I put it in a bowl and sat down at the dinner table, not knowing what to expect.  For some reason, I felt very lonely at the table.  Yet, I got over my initial aversion and tried a fork full.  Actually, it didn’t turn out too bad.  It was chewy, as I thought, and the flavor was surprisingly not like the smell.  I called my kids down from their rooms to have them try some of my yummy dish.  Reluctantly, they took a bite – gotta give them that much credit – then, when I asked them if they wanted a plate full, they politely declined.  Somehow, my starving children were no longer feeling hungry.  I didn’t even attempt to ask my husband to try it.  He made it clear the day before that he will not have a single bite of that stuff.  Well, after about half of a small bowl, I had enough, covered the rest, and put it into the fridge for consumption at a later day/time.  My husband told me: “You better put it out in the sun to heat it up, because you’re not cooking that sh.. in the house!”

This morning when I went into the kitchen to feed my begging kitties, the smell of tripe still lingered in the air and my family had no problems in saying so.  My husband finally said that tripe is “FORBIDDEN IN OUR HOUSE, FOREVER MORE!”

Moral of the story:  Just because something smells like a.., it doesn’t have to taste like sh..!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2011 in Low-Carb Diet, Recipes

 

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