Basic Label Reading Skills, American Meat and Pork … with Vanilla?!

This and That

I usually start my blog with something along the lines of “This and That”. There tends to be a little something, right at the beginning. This week, it’s … AMERICAN MEAT!

I feel it’s important to know where foods come from. I alluded to this, while discussing my experience with a large market in Mexico City. In the US, the meat may have been raised in one state, transported to another for slaughter, moved to another to be butchered, further moved along to be packaged, and finally divvied up and sent to grocery stores, all around the US. Significant time and distance may have occurred between the time the animal had its last meal, and has become your most recent.

What about what and how the animals are fed?

It should be said that I’m not a political animal. My motives for seeing the movie were rooted in the desire to learn more about the origins of meat in the US, while also learning about different agricultural practices. Is organic and grass fed beef better than the regular stuff? If so, why? Why is it so much more expensive? Is it really worth the cost? Is it sustainable? What’s the story? My desire to learn is largely about health, nutrition and the cost to feed myself delicious and nutrient dense foods, while also trying to participate in the process.

The movie does start out somewhat political, which … for me … is a big snoozefest. The fact remains that … those issues do exist and can’t be easily extracted from what I want to know. Zzzzzz … Then, we start meeting the farmers, from a wide variety of places, angles and agendas. This is where it got interesting. Through the farmers’ stories, I became sucked into the issues.

Did you know that the average age of the American Farmer is 60? They’re a dying breed. We need young people to start farming. This movie does a good job of recruiting them.

Go check out the movie. It’s very well done and quite inspirational. If I were young … it would inspire me to farm! It presented a challenge that captivated me and made me want to do something about it. My steak (*snicker*) in the ground is … suggesting that you go see the film. It’s probably coming to a state near you. Bring your young people! (not too young, though … a few animals are filmed … *ahem* … having a bad day)

You can see their website here, or their Facebook page, here.

On with the Coming Attractions!

(recipes still in development)

Baked Cheese & Greens Stuffed Tomatoes

Mini Ham and Cheddar Quiche

Blueberry-Vanilla Protein Shakes!

Back to Basics

This blog has strayed from its roots. It started strong, with a 30 day foray into a zero carb diet. That was fun, interesting, great fodder for the blog and generated a good 30 zero carb recipes for the website (some are still in the can). When the move to Seattle and Mexico City appeared on my radar, the whole thing took a sharp turn down some strange winding road. I feel I kept it interesting, and the recipes never stopped, but … it’s time to get deep back into the Low Carb concepts that founded this blog.

I want to take this opportunity to pull WAY back and discuss something very basic. I almost want to start over. Venture back to the beginning.

For you seasoned low carbers, this is old boring material. However, there are many people directly within my world that are interested in these ideas and are even practicing them, but … it seems clear that some of the most basic information is being overlooked or misunderstood. This next passage is for them, as well as anyone else that struggles with starting a low carb way of life.

I’m speaking of … reading labels; that “Nutrition Facts” label on the back of cans and boxes. Can you read the nutrition panel on the back of a carton of milk? Do you know what the various sections mean? Do you REALLY?

Knowing how to read these labels and understanding what they mean is vital to success, both short and long term. This can be complicated and can involve knowledge of weights and ingredients, including some that sound like science experiments. In time, I’m sure I’ll cover all of that, but … for now, I want to very simply present the most important information.

Before I proceed, there is 1 simple question I believe every one of you should know the answer to.

What is your daily “net carb” allowance?

It’s vital you know the answer to this question. You need a benchmark, so that you can move it and adjust it. Feel free to set it relatively high, but … set it.

Mine tends to waiver. It’s usually around 30, but I try and stay closer to 20, per day. Yep, that’s pretty low! I’ve discovered a mammoth selection of delicious foodstuffs that allow me to stay under 30 “net” carbs a day, but it is definitely on the low end of the spectrum.

Net Carbs: Likely, the most basic definition for a “net carb” is “carbohydrates minus fiber”, or written with less characters … “carbs-fiber=net”. There are variations, however. A common one is to subtract “sugar alcohols”, as well. For the purposes of this simple explanation, I’m going to suggest that our definition is “carbs minus fiber”, without exception. I’ll cover all the exceptions, at a later date.

I’ll ask again … what’s your daily limit? About 2 months ago, I ate a limit of “zero” for 30 days. So … zero is an option! 150? 200? 20? It’s imperative that you have a number. What’s yours?

I’m going to present a low carb distillation of the “Nutrition Fact” panel (in my opinion, and within the scope of how I see a Low Carb Way of Eating). Yes, I’m leaving all kinds of information out of the equation, even many things that strongly relate to “Low Carb”. However, what I’m about to discuss gets most new folk a good 80% of the way there. We’ll explore details, nuance and exceptions in future posts. For now, I want to be clear, without muddying the waters.

Here’s a “Nutrition Facts” Label for Mama Lupe’s Tortillas (a very tasty low carb tortilla!). It’s kind of complex and involved. It’s got the important stuff, like serving size and carbs, but also the recommended daily percentage, calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, some vitamins and minerals, a suggestion on how to calculate carbs and … a LONG list of ingredients (listed in order of quantity, by weight).

Looking at this monster, it’s no wonder that so many are confused by what it contains.

Before looking at any Nutrition Facts Panel, you must know your Daily Net Carb Allowance. Let’s say it’s 30 (like mine), just to throw a real number into the discussion.

The second question you need to ask yourself is, “How much do I plan to eat?” Without knowing how much you plan to eat, you’re entering a calculation that has no logical conclusion. It’s like asking “A train is going to Las Vegas. How many minutes until it arrives?”. Impossible to answer without knowing its speed!

Many of you may be rolling your eyes at this point, thinking “That’s too much!” Can’t I just skip flour and sugar? Sure. Yes. Sure you can, and you’ll achieve some level of success, too! However, it’s my belief that this knowledge is imperative to arrive at permanent and life changing goals. In the grand scheme of things, this miniscule little bit of effort will pay significant unforeseen dividends down the line. I don’t often promise or guarantee things, but … if you learn this information and pay attention to it, you’ll carry with you the keys to success.

What’s your daily net carb allowance?

How much do you plan to eat?

Ok, here’s a simplified label for the same product. This one has a lot of the intimidation removed or faded out, but it’s still got the information WE need. My goal is to reduce and remove the anxieties of these labels, and point out the most immediately meaningful parts; Serving Size, Overall Carbs and Fiber. I’ll get into variations, later. For now, focus on “Serving Size” and “Carbs and Fiber”

In this case, a single tortilla contains 7 total carbs. However, because net carbs don’t include the fiber, we can deduct 4. Carbs (7) minus Fiber (4) equals Net Carbs (3).

One tortilla counts as 3 net carbs! This implies I can eat 10 of them suckers a day. Yay! While this may seem like common sense, many go cross eyed when they see these labels. People are also often deceived by the labels, sometimes because of intentionally deceptive labeling and other times … frankly … because people see what they want to see.

This is where the second question becomes important … “So … how much of this thing are you going to eat?

These particular tortillas aren’t that big. They’re not like those giant burrito blankets that were so yummy, back in the day. These are lil’ guys. It’s highly unlikely that I’m going to sit and eat just one. It’s more likely that I’ll eat two or 3!

Somehow, some kind of strange mutant mathematics starts to occur, at about this point in the game. Logic breaks down. People that have taken the time to sit and read the label know they’re 3 carbs per tortilla. So, they’ll eat one. 3 carbs. No problem. So, they’ll eat another one. 3 carbs. No problem! Ok, one more. It’s just 3 carbs!

Here’s the mutant math … if I were to walk up to any of these folks and ask them how many carbs were collectively within their 3 tortillas … almost unanimously, I suspect they’d all innocently retort, “Three Carbs!”

You know it’s true.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news … 3+3+3 almost never equals 3. More often than not, 3 tortillas, each at 3 net carbs is going to be NINE carbs. Plus, there’s the filling, too! Meat’s ok. You get a pass, but … how many net carbs are in that cheese? Did you read the label? What about in the sour cream? Did you pay attention? What about the Pace Picante Sauce? That’s another couple of carbs!

It’s very easy to pile on the goodies, and … with each new addition comes a few more numbers to pile onto our calculation.

With 9 net carbs already being used by the tortillas, we’re left with 21 of our original 30. But … don’t forget breakfast! Or lunch! You probably had a few carbs there, too!

At this point, you may be feeling squeezed or … squozin’. Like, I’m suggesting that you count every little carb and eat only 30, per day. Nope! … not my motive at all!

Start at 200 per day, if you’d like! That’s fine. But, learn how to utilize this skill. Learn how to read the label, ignore the other stuff and simply lazar focus on the serving size, carbs and fiber. Block out, zone out, tune out or … otherwise totally ignore that other stuff, for now.

At 200 carbs a day, there stands a good chance you’ll stop losing weight, at some point. You’ll probably stall. Then, you’ll need to go to 190. Thankfully, you’ll have developed the skills to make that transition painless and seamless. Then, perhaps to 180! Some people do really well at 180. Some do well at 100. Others do well at 500 (although … probably not). It seems to be that the “sweet spot” is around 40 to 60 for most, but … that’s just a hunch from lots of message boards …

I’m down at about 30 per day, after having lost near 150 lbs, and … the food is absolutely delicious down here.

Won’t you join me?

Helpful Do Gooder

My primary goal is to help people, wherever possible. Ultimately, my goal is to write cookbooks, but … if I’m not helping anyone, then … no one will care about the books. I’ll just be a guy with a lot of books!

One area in which we could all use some help is … in saving money.

I’d like to throw a “Shout Out” (I think that’s what the kids are calling it, these days), to a great friend and my old boss, Jami Coulter. She is constantly running coupons through her Facebook page. I receive her offers in my newsfeed, daily, and … they are aplenty. Lot’s of savings! Click the image below to check out Jami’s Facebook page and like it. You’ll get all sorts of great price reductions through Firefly Coupons!

This Week’s Recipes

This week I’ve got two exotic spiced bone-in meat stuffs! An earth shattering Jerk Pork Chop, as well as a Tunisian Style Lamb Rack. They were both completely out of this world! I’ve also got a fun and simple stab at the concept of a pizza. I won’t win any awards with it, but it’s tasty none-the-less. I’ve also got a nice side dish, appetizer or salad toppings … Asparagus wrapped in bacon … from Italy! Finally, I’ve got a pasta making system that you should check out. It’s a tiny amount of pasta with cream and lots of other stuff. Fills that big pasta hole you may or may not have (I have two!).

Ok, that’s all he wrote. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving Holiday!

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!


ALL NEW Weekly Recipes!

Pizza Attempted on Tortilla
I really feel as if I’ve managed to find a version of everything I could ever want, and have it be low carb. Unfortunately, there’s one major part of my history that I’ve failed to duplicate. That part is … pizza. I was, and still am, a massive fan of pizza (I’m not alone, the average American family eats 30 pies a year!). I’ve tried to use all the carbquiks and protein isolates. I’ve tried cream cheese and eggs to make a sort of deep dish pizza quiche, etc. These yielded impressive results that looked and smelled like the real deal, but … the taste was always a bit … funky.s
Pasta à la Stuff in DJ’s Fridge
This is another recipe not entirely unlike “Poorly Cooked Eggs”. Its design is more to indicate a blend of ingredients tossed into pasta, with a hearty cream based sauce. It’s not a “fixed” recipe, per se. In fact, It’s a dish or … a “method” which I lovingly call “Pasta à la Stuff in DJ’s Fridge” (I usually replace “stuff” with a stronger term, but … this is a family blog). When I tell people I might make “Pasta à la Stuff in DJ’s Fridge” … they come a runnin’!
Tunisian Spiced Rack of Lamb
A friend of mine was the chef at a Kosher Tunisian restaurant in Los Angeles. He was always talking about the food and influence from that region of the world. It’s North Africa, but with strong European ties, especially with the French. Sounds pretty interesting, right? The food is a kind of spicy Mediterranean. Yum, right? I’d never really heard of “Tunisia” … short of its involvement in those famous books with Witches, Lions and Bed Knobs.
I don’t remember where I was when I first tasted Harissa, sad to say. Some part of me just feels like it’s always been there when I’ve needed it. It’s a spicy, exotic, complex blend of spices hailing from Tunisia (Northern Africa).
Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus
This is a very simple, but surprisingly elegant and extremely delicious little dish. Alone, it’s wonderful, but you could also lean 3 of these onto a nice salad, with a goats’ cheese vinaigrette, a couple of toasted pine nuts and a grilled fig (just one!), and you’d have something impressive!
Grilled Peach-Vanilla Pork Skewers
This is a very simple and basic fruit and meat skewer, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious! I wouldn’t recommend eating a lot of these, due to the fruit, but I like to eat these kinds of things, from time to time, just because I can. It reminds me that I’m not confined to a fruitless world.
Jerk Inspired Pork Chop
If you’ve never tried this before … try it. Right now. Seriously. Get into your car, go get the stuff and come and … start cooking. You’ll be glad you did!

“Jerk” isn’t what it sounds like. It’s actually a mind melting spice blend from Jamaica. Additionally, it’s also a cooking method, but we’re not going to cook over a barrel (you can, if you want to, though!).

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