Low-carb diets are a great way to improve health. By cutting out the sugars, grains, and low-nutrition carbohydrates, you can lower your blood glucose, prevent type 2 diabetes or help manage it far better than medications can, and overall improve your health.
There are many low-carb diets out there. Any one of them is a better choice than the usual Standard American Diet (SAD) that is chock-full of sugar, grains, and other low-nutrient and often high-toxin ingredients. Here are a few of our favorite diet books that advocate consuming far fewer carbs and emphasizing those that are much more nutritious than the usual SAD choices:
But what do you do when you don’t have the time or cooking facilities for a typical low-carb meal? This can easily happen when you are travelling. Most restaurants offer the usual garbage SAD food, and it can be harder than it should be to find low-carb meals. Even salads are often ruined by sugar in the dressing.
So is there an option when you don’t want to break down and buy one of the pervasive Suicidal American Diet fast-food offerings such as a toxic burger and fries with sweetened soda death in a can for $4.99 or the “bargain combo” of a blood-glucose-skyrocketing GMO candy bar plus huge container of liquid genocide soda for $2?
Fortunately, there are in fact some reasonable options.
Beverages — Drink Water!
Let’s start with the easy part. For low-carb beverages, nothing beats clean water. Be sure to bring plenty of your own filtered water, preferably in glass or stainless steel containers that are less likely to contaminate the water as plastic bottles are prone to do. If you must use plastic containers, look for those using types 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE), or 5 (PP) plastics as those are less likely to use toxic ingredients such as BPA.
If you think water is too plain, try mixing in a little bit of lime or lemon juice. It adds some electrolytes and once you are used to low-carb foods, it doesn’t need added sugar to taste good.
For food, consider your eating situation in more detail. Can you sit down and eat with a fork? Do you have access to a sink with water and soap? Or are you on a trail or in a moving vehicle (car or plane) where none of those are options?
Snacks for Sit-Down Eating
Canned seafood is one of the best sit-down snacks around if you can wash up afterwards. A can of sardines or tuna, packed in olive oil or its own juices, is packed full of protein and health-enhancing omega-3 fatty acids along with essentially zero carbohydrates for fish or relatively low carbs for oysters, mussels, and clams.
When selected canned seafood, be sure to skip those packed in unhealthy oils such as soybean and cottonseed oils that are used by some canners to save a little money.
Here are some good options:
Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lightly Smoked (12 pack): These are one of the only canned fish to use higher quality extra virgin olive oil. They include the skin and bones, so you get even more minerals. Don’t worry, bones in canned fish are so soft you may not even notice them. The cans are free of BPA.
Season’s Skinless and Boneless Sardines in Pure Olive Oil: These are skinless and boneless, if you don’t like that nutritious part of the fish. The cans are free of BPA. They are also commonly offered in US Costco stores for $9.99 for a pack of 6 which is sometimes on sale for $6.99, making this a fantastic deal on a low-carb high-protein snack for the dollar.
Crown Prince Natural Smoked Oysters in Pure Olive Oil: Oysters are reputed to be the most nutritionally dense food, even better than pastured beef liver. They also contain significant levels of DHA, but are higher in carbs (8 grams per can of this brand, along with 11 grams protein and 8 grams fat) so it would be good to eat them along with other foods containing fat, fiber, and protein to slow down the carbohydrate absorption. If you can’t do that, they are still far lower in carbs versus typical SAD snacks.
Highly Portable Snacks
Nuts are some of the very best highly portable minimally processed low-carb snacks, just be sure to not overeat them which is unfortunately easy to do as salt and fat is a tasty combination. Most nuts are low in carbs, have some fiber, a bit to a moderate amount of protein, and lots of fat. Some of the best choices for low-carb are macadamias and almonds. Macadamias are one of the nuts with the most saturated and monounsaturated fats. Almonds are among those with the highest protein per serving. Cashews are a bit higher in carbs, and have more polyunsaturated fats.
Avoid peanuts both as a nut snack and in ingredients in other foods because they are commonly high in mold toxins that can impair your health to downright wreck it if you are highly sensitive to mold.
Slices of aged cheeses are generally low carb and high in protein and fat, helping to satisfy appetite and stabilize blood sugar. The best cheeses come from pastured dairy, especially goats and sheep. Cow cheeses are best from A2 dairy cows such as the Jerseys common in France and New Zealand as they make an easily digested casein protein in their milk. The A1 dairy cattle such as Holsteins grown in the US make casein that is difficult for humans to digest. If you have problems with mold sensitivity, pick cheeses fermented entirely with bacteria, not yeast, such as Gouda.
Low-carb protein bars typically offer a higher ratio of protein to fat than nuts do. Be sure to avoid those that use soy protein as it is probably GMO and even if not soy contains trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion. Protein bars based upon whey protein, collagen, or hemp protein are better choices. We looked at dozens of products to pick a few that seem to get better reviews and use somewhat better ingredients than others. There is a ton of competition in the low-carb protein bar segment
Quest Nutrition Protein Bar Double Chocolate Chunk Flavor (pack of 12): These avoid the sucralose (an artificial sweetener raising health concerns) used in some of the other Quest Bar flavors and taste reasonably good. They offer 20 grams protein from milk and whey proteins, 13 grams of fiber, 6 grams of erythritol (a natural sugar alcohol that has nearly zero digestible carbs — don’t worry, it can’t make you drunk) and only 4 grams net carbs.
Other Quest Bar flavors that have similar low net carbs and don’t use sucralose or peanuts include:
Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Banana Nut Muffin
Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Cinnamon Roll
Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Coconut Cashew
Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Lemon Cream Pie
Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Strawberry Cheesecake
Costco has introduced a new low-carb protein bar that is competitive with the Quest bars. Distribution is starting in US West Coast stores in May 2016. The US Midwest should have them by June 2016. No word yet from Costco on the US East Coast or overseas. With prices of $17.99 for 20 bars in California if you buy it in the stores, it is less than half the price of Quest bars but of course with a limited number of flavors — right now just chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate brownie. The sweeteners are erythritol and stevia, and fiber comes from tapioca starch. Online, it is more expensive but you can take a look here: Kirkland Signature Low-Carb Protein Bar
Some other options:
Bulletproof Vanilla Collagen Bar (12 pack): These are made by Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof brand that aims to use low-toxin high quality ingredients. The protein source is collagen, something most people don’t get enough of for healthy joints, skin, and hair. hey are not as low-carb as the Quest Bar products, coming in at 8 grams net carbs along with 12 grams protein and 14 grams fat. The chocolate version is still a bit higher, coming in at 10 grams net carbs. Unfortunately, these are fairly pricey but it’s still way more cost effective than buying a seemingly cheaper cancer-in-a-bag fast food snack. By the way, we highly recommend supplementing your foods with collagen powder as a mix-in ingredient.
Cacao and Chocolate-like Products
Compared to protein bars, sugar-free high-fiber chocolate bars are more ketogenic in nature as they are both very low in carbs and much higher in fat than in protein.
Chocoperfection Bars – Almond Dark Chocolate: With only 4 grams of protein, this isn’t strictly a protein bar but it is definitely low carb. By using chicory root (which contains the fiber inulin) and 6 grams of erythritol as sweeteners, it racks up 13 grams of fiber and only 3 grams of net carbs. With 12 grams of fat, it would work well for either low carb or ketogenic diets. Customers rave about it tasting more like typical chocolate bar than any other low carb bar, but then again it should as the price is quite a bit higher than the Quest bars. Many competitors use maltitol in their sugar-free chocolate, but diabetics and others very sensitive to sugar may still have problems with their blood sugar going too high in products that use maltitol. They also offer other flavors including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate raspberry, and in smaller size bars dark chocolate orange and dark chocolate mint.
ChocoRite Dark Chocolate Bars: These are a competitor to Chocoperfection and also use inulin and erythritol, but are a smaller bar offering 10 grams fat and 2 grams protein.
If you are really into dark chocolate, you might like to try raw organic cacao beans. They are low in net carbs, at just 1g after taking 9g of fiber out of the total carbohydrate amount of 10g per 28g serving. This comes along with 12g fat and 4g protein. You may find them more tasty if they are eaten together with another food that tastes a little sweeter such as coconut chips that have similar macronutrients per 28g serving size of 18g fat, 2g net carbs (7g carbs composed of 5g fiber and 2g sugar), and 2g protein.
Here are some brands to consider:
Jerky and Meat Bars
Meat snacks such as jerky or meat bars might be another good option. Look for those that avoid synthetic ingredients such as artificial sweeteners as well as avoid high levels of sugar (surprise, many such products are loaded with several grams of sugar per serving).
One of the more unusual meat bars is made of wild caught salmon, so you can get your seafood even more conveniently than canned fish.
There are some quality control concerns with meat bar products as all the brands we considered had numerous complaints about packaging failures leading to some of the bars growing unwanted bacteria or mold, so be cautious with your selection.
Make It Yourself
The best way to get exactly what you want from low-carb snack food is to make it yourself. The following are some thoughts on ingredients and tools you might consider using.
For sweeteners, erythritol and stevia are the best choices.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is not digested but tastes sweet. It occurs naturally in some plants, but commercial quantities are manufactured form corn. Since GMO corn is sprayed with the probable carcinogenic chemical glyphosate at high levels, you want to get a non-GMO or preferbly organic product.
Unlike most other sugar alcohols, erythritol has nearly zero calories (0.24 calories per gram) and does not cause digestive upset. You can use it in cooking and baking as it is heat stable up to 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit). Erythritol can offer some bulk as it is 70% as sweet as the same volume of sugar. If you have gone low-carb, you may regard regular sweetness levels other people eat as far too sweet, so this may be fine with you. It does not taste exactly the same as regular sugar. To get closer to the taste, you may want to mix it with another low-carb sweetener.
Erythritol does have an unusual temperature-lowering effect in which it absorbs heat from foods in which it is used. This could make it have a cooling sensation in your mouth if you use a lot of it.
Stevia is extremely sweet, often cited as around 150 times sweeter than sugar so you’ll only need a tiny amount. It is also stable for cooking and baking up to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit). Some stevia products have some aftertaste, but this can often be overcome by combining them with another sweetener.
If you mix a small amount of erythritol with a small amount of stevia, you can better simulate the taste of sugar at about the same volume and reduce the stevia aftertaste while ensuring you are using little enough of the erythritol that for most people it should not cause significant insulin release or raise your blood sugar much. People with diabetes should be cautious and experiment using their blood glucose meter to verify just what effect erythritol has on them, but if you keep it to 5 grams (or less) then at about 1.2 carb calories it is not likely to have much impact.
Another option is to get a pre-mixed sweetener that gets closer to sugar taste. Lakanto is a premixed non-GMO erythritol and monk fruit sweetener that is as sweet as regular sugar and tastes very close to it, too.
Look for pure sweeteners with no fillers, preferably at least non-GMO and even better organic. It is important to be aware that many of the fillers used, such as maltodextrin, are carbohydrates with significant glycemic effect and often come from GMO corn or glyphosate sprayed wheat.
Some suggested sweeteners to try:
One of the best ways to get a strong chocolate flavor is to use cacao paste and melt it in a double boiler such as one of these:
They both are stainless steel and have glass tops so you can watch the melting process without having to take off the top to see, thereby releasing heat.
Coconut oil is a great fat to use with cacao. One technique is to melt the coconut oil in the double boiler, then add small pieces of a raw cacao paste to it so it melts while monitoring and adjusting the temperature so it stays under about 110 degrees Fahrenheit so as to not damage the enzymes and antioxidants in the raw cacao.
Some suggested cacao paste brands to try:
Terrasoul Superfoods Raw Organic Cacao Paste/Liquor, 1.5 pounds, From Peru=
The Raw Food World Raw Organic Cacao Paste, 1 pound, From Peru
Divine Organics Raw Organic Cacao Paste/Liquor, 1 pound, From Ecuador
If you want to have total control over the type of fat in your chocolate food, cacao powder may be the way to go. This is what is left of the paste after the cacao butter has been removed, so you can mix it with coconut oil, palm oil, or MCT oil that has lots of ketogenic medium chain fats versus the longer chain fats in the cacao butter. Watch out for cadmium and heavy metals in cacao powder as independent testing has found some high levels in some brands.
A suggested cacao powder brand to try:
If you’re looking for a low-carb chocolate chip, try cacao nibs. These are fragments of the cacao bean that can add a crunchy dark chocolate taste without the added sugar in typical chocolate chips.
A suggested cacao nibs brand to try:
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