How Carbs Can Trigger Food Cravings

Are all calories created equal? A new study suggests that in at least one important way, they may not be.  The New York Times reported on research showing that sugary foods and drinks, bread, and other processed carbohydrates that are known to cause abrupt spikes and falls in blood sugar appear to stimulate parts of the brain involved in hunger, cravings and reward. The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shed new light on why eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates like sweet, bread, pasta, crackers etc. are associated with weight gain.  The more you eat, the more you want.

A much more satisfying nutrition plan is to eat healthy, lean protein at every meal, vegetables at almost every meal, and enjoy some fruit and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.  You’ll stay full on fewer calories, making it easier to shrink your waist line.

7 Low Carb Breakfast Ideas

Start your day with a low calorie breakfast that will keep you full for hours. No more mid morning carb cravings after a high carb breakfast of toast, cereal or pancakes. It’s a great way to not only lose weight, but ensure optimal energy throughout the day.

1. Egg white scramble:                                        egg white scramble
Just stir fry some vegetables, like tomatoe, kale, spinach, onions, basil, celery – whatever you’ve got on hand, then add lightly scrambled egg whites and a bit of salt. I have come to appreciate the convenience of the egg whites that come in a small cardboard “milk” container. It is so easy to just pour about ½ cup per person. I put the scramble in a bowl and tell myself it’s a casserole, so I don’t miss the toast. I figure this filling breakfast comes out to about 100 calories, which is a great way to start the day if weight loss is your goal.

2. Egg white omelette:
Do the same as above, just don’t stir. Gently lift the edges of the omelette and tip the frying pan to allow some of the egg white to slide under the edge. If you can put your frying pan under the broiler for a minute you can speed the cooking of the top.

3. Hot Coconut Flaxseed Cereal:
½ cup coconut milk or your favorite “milk”
½ cup ground flaxseeds
¼ cup unsweetened coconut
¼ cup chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds
Ground cinnamon to taste
¼ cup sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries

Combine the milk, flax, coconut and walnuts / seeds in simmer in a pot for 5 minutes (or microwave in a bowl for 1 minute if you prefer). Serve topped with cinnamon and berries.

4. Chickpea flour pancakes:Chickpea flour comes from garbanzo beans / chickpeas and is a source of protein and vitamins as well as some carbs. It is gluten free and you can find it at Edible Island in Courtenay. I love it and use it regularly when I want to dial down the carb factor in muffins / zucchini loaf, and yes, pancakes. There are many recipes on-line for chickpea pancakes, which are also called Socca or Farinata.

5. Left-overs:
Chicken, fish, veggies, stirfry all make perfectly good breakfast food. Say what? That’s right, get outside the box and you’ll discover that healthy food tastes good at any time of the day.

6. Protein smoothies
Smoothies are a great way to pack a mountain of nutrition into a fast and easy breakfast. I always have chopped kale in the freezer ready to throw into smoothies. If that sounds strange, start with a little spinach and frozen mango. With a good blender and an adventurous heart, you can add carrots, beets, frozen broccoli as well as fresh and frozen fruit. We try and eat blueberries several times a week, so they always go in smoothies. For protein, you can add a protein powder, like the professional product we have at our clinic called Ultra Protein Plus (pea protein and vitamins) . You can also experiment with soft tofu, yogurt, almond butter, even sprouted raw mung beans! A couple of drops of Stevia sweetens up the smoothie without having to add the carbs and calories that honey or agave would.

We recently purchased a great little blender that works as well as a Vitamix (the gold standard of blenders, but expensive). It’s the NutriBullet, available for around $100 at Canadian Tire in Courtenay / Campbell River / Powell River.

7. Tofu scramble

My husband wasn’t sure the first time I served him a tofu scramble, but was a quick convert to the yummy flavours you can add to tofu to make it quite palatable. Here’s a recipe we enjoy:

Ingredients:
• 1/2 yellow onion, diced
• 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
• 1 block organic extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
• 2 tbsp oil or margarine
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)

Preparation:
Slice the tofu into approximately one inch cubes. Then, using either your hands or a fork, crumble it slightly. Sautee onion, pepper and crumbled tofu in oil for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook 5-7 more minutes, stirring frequently and adding more oil if needed.
Serve with a bit of salsa or top with soy or dairy cheese. Serves two.
Experiment with spinach and tomatoes, curry powder and more.