For seasoned cooks and those new to the kitchen, cookbook author and nutritionist Robin Miller gets back to basics with great family recipes worth repeating.
If you’ve made a resolution to cut carbs this year, you’ll be pleased to know that your menu options are extensive. The truth is, you can enjoy whole meals so satisfying you’ll forget they’re virtually carb-free.
Studies consistently show that when people reduce their carb intake and eat more protein and healthy fats, they ultimately consume fewer calories. This is partly because protein and fat lead to a greater feeling of fullness and reduced appetite. And the recipes below are about as satisfying as it gets.
But first, let’s talk about what carbohydrates are.
What is a low carb diet?
According to the Mayo Clinica low-carb diet is one in which you limit your daily intake to 20-57 grams of carbs, or about 80-240 calories from carbs.
When we eat carbs our body breaks them down and if we need fuel they are immediately used as energy. If we don’t need fuel, the body stores it in our muscles and liver. If we don’t use these excess stored carbs, they get converted to fat.
Can a low carb diet help with weight loss?
If weight loss is your goal, you’ll be pleased to know that people who follow a low-carb diet generally lose more weight faster than those who follow a low-fat diet. This is true even when those on a low-fat diet actively restrict calories.
What explains the rapid weight loss? Low-carb diets rid the body of excess water, which leads to rapid weight loss in the first week or two. There’s also fat loss, and the good news is that a large percentage of that is belly fat, harmful adipose tissue linked to serious health problems.
It should be noted that to maintain any newly gained weight loss, you must maintain a healthy, balanced diet and exercise routine.
Are there other benefits to a low carb diet?
A healthy, low-carb diet can help lower blood sugar and insulin levels, blood triglycerides (fat molecules that increase the risk of heart disease), blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol. A reduction in carb intake can also raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.
In a nutshell, a sensible low-carb diet can effectively reverse the five main symptoms of metabolic syndrome: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. This group of conditions increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and a low-carb diet can help.
What can you eat on a healthy low carb diet?
I hate to break the news to you, but cutting carbs doesn’t mean gorging on bacon.
A nutritious low-carb diet means a diet high in lean protein, healthy fats, and nutritious produce. In general, a low carb menu includes lean meats (sirloin, chicken breast, pork tenderloin), seafood, eggs, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli), unsweetened nuts and nut butters, seeds, oils (coconut, olive, canola), certain fruits (apples, blueberries, strawberries) and unsweetened dairy products (plain whole milk, plain Greek yogurt, cheese ).
As you can see, the range is huge, which means you shouldn’t feel deprived when eating low carb.
The main products to avoid are sweets, white breads and pastas, white rice and most starchy foods, including potatoes.
Don’t despair, the recipes below show how you can create easy weeknight dinners so delicious you won’t miss a single carb.
Recipe: Florentine steak with spinach cream
Seared steaks served with a silky blend of fresh spinach, garlic, parmesan and cream are delicious, but this unique dish couldn’t be easier and is ready in less than 20 minutes.
Makes: 4 servings
- 4 lean steaks, about 4-5 ounces each
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 ounces of fresh spinach leaves
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- Crushed red pepper flakes, for serving, optional
- Season both sides of the steaks with salt and black pepper and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side for rare to medium-rare, or longer for more done meat.
- Transfer the steaks to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
- Melt the butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, 1 to 2 minutes, until wilted but still bright green, stirring frequently to move the spinach from the bottom of the pan to the top.
- Stir in the cream and parmesan and cook until the liquid reduces. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Transfer the steaks to individual plates and serve with the cream of spinach. Garnish with red pepper flakes for a little heat and serve.
Recipe: Turkey Meatballs with Parmesan
You’ll only need one pot, a handful of ingredients for these juicy, Parmesan and herb meatballs, swimming in marinara sauce and covered in gooey cheese. Put it all together and let the oven do the work for you.
Makes: 12 meatballs (4 servings)
- Cooking spray
- 1 pound ground turkey or ground chicken
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups marinara sauce of your choice or tomato sauce
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or more if desired
- Chopped fresh basil or parsley for serving, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Mix well and shape the mixture into 12 meatballs.
- Transfer the meatballs to the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and pour the marinara sauce all around the meatballs. Bake for 5-10 minutes more, until the meatballs are cooked through (a meat thermometer should register 165 degrees).
- Top the meatballs with the mozzarella cheese and bake for 2 to 3 minutes more or until the cheese melts.
- Garnish with basil or parsley (if using) and serve.
Recipe: Cajun Baked Salmon
These tender salmon fillets, flavored with soft butter, fresh lemon and tantalizing Cajun seasoning, will cook to perfection in less than 10 minutes.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 ½ pounds of salmon (either a larger fillet to share or 4 individual fillets)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
- Chopped green onions, for serving
- Lemon slices, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and arrange the salmon on the prepared dish. Season with salt and black pepper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together butter, lemon juice and Cajun seasoning. Spread the mixture all over the salmon.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the salmon is tender.
- Garnish with green onions and serve with lemon slices on the side.
Questions or comments? Email the culinary team at [email protected].