Z is for Zucchini and Zevia

Writing about zucchini for my last post in the A-Z challenge probably isn't all that original, but this vegetable definitely has its place in a low carb plan. We grow zucchini in our garden, and have used it to make flourless pizza crust and lasagna noodles. No kidding. You can check out Your Lighter Side's recipes to see how its done, if interested. 1/2 cup zucchini=about 1.5 net carbs.

My fluid intake each day consists of 1/2 to 1 cup of coffee and 64 ounces or more of water. I sometimes have 2 flavored waters per week. I usually consume just one diet soda per week. When I do, I usually have Zevia. Zevia is considered "natures answer to diet soda." It is sweetened with stevia.

I have tried a few flavors, but my favorites are Dr. Zevia and the plain Cola. I have been getting Dr. Zevia through Amazon's subscribe and save program because it less expensive than buying it locally. Because I'm only drinking one can per week, a 24 pack will last me 6 months. If you are looking for a sugar-free soda that is sweetened with a more natural ingredient, you may want to give Zevia brand a try.

Because this is my last post for the A-Z challenge, I want to say a big THANKS to people who stopped by to comment or simply read. As I move into May, I am going to keep this blog going with the intent of using it to personally chronicle how I became obese, the struggle with diets, my food issues, and how I'm progressing with current weight loss. I have some very specific reasons that I have chosen low-carb as my lifelong eating plan, and that decision is not likely to change. I pray that by sharing what I've been through with food, body and health struggles, it will give others a sense of knowing that I, too, have been there, and there is hope for everyone who wants to improve their health. I hope you'll stick around or drop back by for a visit soon.


Y is for Yogurt

Before going on a low carb plan back in 2007, I wasn't a big fan of yogurt. Frozen yogurt, possibly, but not the almost-good-for-you variety in little cups that my coworkers had eaten for lunch for years.

Yogurt always tasted sour to me and had a strange texture. Even with the fruit added, it just didn't whet my appetite for some reason. Even though I had read about the "healthy, live bacteria" that yogurt can provide, I wasn't convinced I could choke it down just for improving my gut. Apparently yogurt can improve your immune response, in addition to being a good source of calcium and vitamin B2, too.

Something changed within my taste buds, or just with my taste preference, after I reduced the sugar in my diet. Yogurt didn't taste nasty to me anymore. But, when I looked at the sugar content in most commercially-prepared yogurts, I was shocked.

Some low carb cohorts on a forum convinced me to try Kroger brand Carb Master yogurt, and it tasted surprisingly decent. For a long time, I ate this brand of yogurt on the side with my salad and protein for lunch. I do like the newer carrot cake flavor, and enjoy it a few times per month. The strawberry and vanilla flavor of Carb Master brand continue to be my favorites, though. Check the containers if you are concerned about added sweeteners. Carb Master yogurts have about 4 carbs per serving.

Organic unsweetened greek yogurt has about 7 carbs per serving. You may want to give it a try in place of sour cream or as a dip. Add some berries to it for a snack. Just make sure to look closely at the label of the flavored types if you are watching your sugar and carb intake. Some people like the lower calorie versions, but the regular versions are lower in carbs, in general. And since this is a blog about low-carb, that's what I recommend for a low-carb plan.


X is for Xylitol

Xylitol is a non-artificial sweetener derived from plants. Although I have used XyloSweet in drinks in the past, my consumption is usually confined to chewing it in sugar-free gum.

Xylitol is actually good for your dental health. This natural sweetener has about 75% fewer carbs (and fewer calories) than sugar, and does not raise my blood sugar. There are other claimed medical and nutritional benefits to using xylitol, and you can read about them on this xylitol website.


W is for Water

H2O is my drink of choice. I wet my whistle with at least 64 ounces of plain water per day. There's not much more I can say about it except that I hope you take in enough fluids each day, too. Oh, and here's a really cool video showing what happens when water droplets are slowed down to 2000 frames per second and captured on video.


V is for Vitamins

Yes, I know- vitamins aren't foods. You should strive to get your vitamins from the healthful foods you eat, but most people need supplementation regardless.

There is a specific vitamin that has been getting quite a bit of attention in the last few years: Vitamin D. Many people are deficient and don't even know it. Scan down a few paragraphs if you want to know why you should probably be supplementing.

In late 2006/early 2007, I was having a myriad of health issues that I won't elaborate on, for now. My doctor began running tests and sending blood off to labs, and making the same recommendations I had always been given from him. Lose weight, and here's a script. I was trying desperately to lose weight, as I had been, for the majority of my life.

Some of my blood work returned with results that were out of the normal range. I was vitamin D deficient, which coincidentally explained some of the symptoms I was having. I was put on a prescription for Vitamin D that I took once per week for a few months. Afterwards, as I read through the research, I realized I needed to actually be on a Vitamin D3 supplement (NOT Vitamin D2 white caplets- there is a difference.)

That year, I did manage to lose 65 pounds, but not from any plan my doctor of 10 years had given me. I do think having correct vitamin D levels, though, jumpstarted my weight loss efforts. Over the years, I stopped taking my D3 and many of the same problems I was having before returned.

At your next check-up, make sure to ask for a Vitamin D blood test. Or, go to the Vitamin D Council website and order the blood kit for yourself. Each person's level and the amount of supplementation will be different. Not everyone needs the same amount per day.

Why is Vitamin D important and why should you be looking into supplementing if you are low?
For starters, correct vitamin D levels have been linked to reduced tumor formation and assists in the reduction of symptoms associated with depression-related seasonal affective disorder. Here are some links for more research in other health and wellness areas.

Don't take my word for it, though. Please spend some time perusing the information that is out there concerning Vitamin D from trusted health and wellness websites.

Even people who believe they take in enough Vitamin D through dairy, fish and other vegetables are often deficient. Some of my good friends in sunny California supplement because they work indoors or are covered in sunscreen the majority of the time.

Vitamin D supplementation has improved my quality of life.


Ultimate Snack Mix

When thinking of "u" food words, I just kept coming up with the words "unsweetened coconut." In admission of not having any real "u" words to write about today, I am flaking out and giving you some simple directions for my Ultimate Snack Mix. Although I really want to call this trail mix, there isn't any fruit (or granola or oats) hiding inside; therefore, it isn't technically trail mix. The total and/or net carbs in this mix will depend upon how many nuts you throw into it. Unsweetened coconut has right under 2 net carbs per 1/4 cup serving.

Mix together:
plain sliced almonds
whole macadamia nuts
sunflower seed kernels
unsweetened coconut flakes
Nevada Manna sugar-free semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Although I enjoy dried fruit, I cannot tolerate the sugar content of most.

Do you have an altered version of a snack mix or trail mix that contains unsweetened or low/no sugar ingredients?


T is for Tilapia and Taubes

I could also say that t is for tuna and turkey, two of my favorite "t" foods, but I thought I would just share a tilapia recipe with you and some favorite links to Gary Taubes' work.

Baked tilapia is a fish dish that everyone in my family will eat. We usually just bake it with some lemon-pepper seasoning on it and eat a side of broccoli, and call it a meal. An almond meal coating makes the tilapia even tastier, though. I "eyeball" a lot of things when I cook, so there are no specific measurements here.

Baked Almond-Crusted Tilapia
real butter
almond meal
grated parmesan cheese (optional)
lemon pepper spice (optional)

Spray coat a baking pan or glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 400. Melt real butter. Put almond meal in a separate, shallow plate or large plastic zipper bag. Coat each side of tilapia filet with butter. Dip fish into almond meal mixture and put in pan. You can also use a beaten egg with the butter to help the coating stick. Depending on the thickness of your filets, bake for about 20 minutes. Most tilapia filets are thin, though, so just watch your baking time. Some filets are thicker and can bake just a little longer.

Some links to Gary Taubes' articles and other works follow. Gary is a science journalist who has done a phenomenal job of gathering and evaluating research on obesity over the years. His book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" was one of the best pieces of informational writing I have invested my time in reading cover to cover. His latest book, "Why We Get Fat and What to do About It," is an easily-digestible read.

"Is Sugar Toxic?"
A Q&A on the Well blog- (Gary answers follow up questions from readers)
Lectures by Gary Taubes (well worth the time to watch at least one if you are interested)
"What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?"