Saturday, July 22, 2006

Debating The Merits Of 'Low-Carb' Foods

During my recent blog discussion of what makes up a "healthy diet," a very interesting comment came up from one of my most devoted readers at my blog.

Newbirth, aka Victoria from the Stumbling to Bethlehem blog, wrote in response to my posting of a sample day's menu from my low-carb lifestyle lately that "you're eating too many low-carb 'products.' Try real food in place of the bars."

Those "bars" she was referring to were GoLower nut bars and ChocoPerfection chocolate bars. What's wrong with eating products like these that are sugar-free, made of healthy ingredients, taste great, and oh by the way, YES THEY ARE LOW-CARB? Aren't they "real food," too?

This isn't the first time Newbirth and others have mentioned my consumption of "low-carb" foods as they have previously referenced it many times at my blog and in e-mails to me. So their comments have had me thinking about this topic for quite some time now. What is wrong with eating "low-carb" foods?

I know I'm jumping right into the middle of a debate that's been ongoing for years, but from all observations I have made there are two primary schools of thought on the spectrum regarding the use "low-carb" foods.


People who are on this extreme end are extremely serious about livin' la vida low-carb and believe everything they put in their mouths should be only organic, whole foods that don't need any packaging whatsoever. They've lost their weight "naturally" without the use of anything labeled "low-carb" and highly discourage other low-carbers from picking up these "Frankenfoods." They have kissed the days of packaged foods goodbye forever.


People who are on this extreme end are wayfarer low-carbers who are gullible enough to buy virtually ANYTHING that blares the words "low-carb" on the packaging whether that claim is accurate or not. They love to find a "low-carb" version of just about anything and everything so they can eat like they always have and call it "low-carb." Then these people get mad at their low-carb diet months down the road when they haven't lost any weight despite the fact they have been eating all of these "low-carb" products.

Of course, these are obviously the two outer ends of the debate and most of us fall somewhere in between these two. For me personally, I am most definitely in the middle of these two and have been from the very beginning. Just as low-carb itself varies from person to person depending on the needs of their particular body, so too are the ways people are livin' la vida low-carb going to be different.

When I was losing weight in 2004, I stayed away from most of the "low-carb" foods I saw in the grocery stores and Wal-mart because most of them just look absolutely disgusting. Shakes, powders and bars reminded me too much of that scary Slim-Fast diet I used to be on and I didn't want any part of that. So I avoided them almost entirely.

However, because I wanted some sweets to eat when I kicked sugar for good in January 2004, I gravitated to the sugar-free sections and would stock up on Russell Stover chocolates, Z-Carb bars (which has since gone out of business, by the way!), and the like. There would be some days I could eat up to a POUND of these products early on in my low-carb plan.

GASP! A pound of chocolate on a diet?! Yep, that's what I did to help me get through those first few weeks and months when I wanted something sweet but had committed myself to NOT eat any sugar. It was a HUGE step for me to do this and I definitely credit those "low-carb" products for helping me eventually reach my goals.

That was the extent of the "low-carb" foods that I used and ate in 2004 and I will never regret it since the results are that I lost 180 pounds that are now gone forever. WOO HOO!

Could I have been as successful without the use of those "low-carb" products? If I'm being honest, I don't think I would have. They gave me exactly what I needed in a form that fit into my new eating lifestyle perfectly. I transitioned from eating sugary products to sugar-free products which helped give me consistency at a time when I very well could have thrown in the towel on my weight loss efforts. That would NOT have been good.

There's no way you could have gotten me to eat straight-up organic, whole foods and nothing else from day one. Nor would you convince me that eating a "low-carb" version of Rice Krispy treats, French fries, and milkshakes would be the right way to get healthy either. I am not ashamed of the way that I lost weight using the "low-carb" products that I did.

Now it's 2006 and there are a lot of new products out there which happen to be "low-carb" that can help people who are livin' la vida low-carb. GoLower and ChocoPerfection are just the beginning. There's also Dreamfields pasta, shirataki noodles, R.W. Garcia Lo's Tortilla Chips, and many, many others. And I have it on good word that there are some exciting new product lines coming out that are going to blow you away by how good they taste and still remain good for you, too. IT'S COMING!

Whereas during the height of the "low-carb craze" a few years ago, everybody and their momma was tripping all over themselves to come out with their own "low-carb" products which were mostly low-quality junk products which still had a lot of sugar in them (no wonder they failed so badly!), today's "low-carb" food manufacturers are the people who are in this to sincerely help people have products they can use that will help them on their low-carb lifestyle and taste great. I don't see anything wrong with this since eating healthier in an incremental process for so many of us.

Weight loss is a tricky issue and I don't think we should be so short-sighted into thinking these "low-carb" products are not serving a greater purpose by their very existence. I believe they are because they did play a major role in my own weight loss experience as well as many other people that I know.

But the battle to make them taste better and better without compromising their nutritional quality is currently on. Let the competition begin to see who can make nutrient-dense, high-quality, and great-tasting products for people to use and enjoy on their low-carb lifestyle. I personally can't wait to see and taste what they come up with because it could very well revolutionize the health food industry and move us away from the low-fat fad we've been on for the past three decades.

While the media has just about stopped talking about low-carb in the hopes it will just go away, the fact of the matter is that several BRAND NEW lines of "low-carb" products are well on their way to the marketplace beginning in the next six months and into 2008 which should have low-carbers thrilled. Unlike those garbage "low-carb" products from years past, these new products are going to fit well into the lifestyle of anyone who is trying to eat healthier and, of course, for diabetics. They may not be described as "low-carb" per se, but they will be. ALWAYS READ THE LABELS!

What say you? Do you see ANY merits in the "low-carb" foods that are out there? If you regularly use "low-carb" products and have found them to help you lose weight or keep the weight off for good, then please share your story. Or, perhaps you've tried some of these products and experienced weight stalls or even a weight gain. Tell us what happened.

The longer I am maintaining my weight loss, the more I am moving away from using these "low-carb" products in favor of the more organic, whole foods just because my tastes have changed and I demand the best quality foods I can find. That's why my menu isn't filled to the brim with "low-carb" foods galore. I only allow the VERY good ones that I proudly put into my mouth knowing they are helping me keep my weight off forever. And that right there is the bottom line for me.


Blogger Leigh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/22/2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Sorry I missed this the first time. I think your sample menu looks great, and if it works for you, stick with it. I can't eat anything with sugar alcohols, so the CarbSmart ice cream is out for me, but Coe eats it every evening. I think the distinction between low carb foods and frankenfoods needs serious thought. I don't consider the Go Lower bars to be a low carb frankenfood as I do any number of other low carb bars, i.e. some Atkins, CarbWise, Carbolite, etc. One mistake many new low-carbers make is to replace the high carb junk food with low-carb junk food, instead of replacing all junk food with nutritious fruits and veggies, which the uniformed will swear low-carbers never eat. This phenomenon is also what has given low-carbing a bad name. Bottom line, people can justify anything. I am doing what I know is best for my body. If I am going to do the wrong thing, I want it to have been my informed choice, rather than let the medical/pharm community sucker-punch me.

7/22/2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger Cathy Calvin said...

So many times I think the ones that have lost their weight forget about the ones who are still trying. The closer we stick to the true low carb way I believe the better off we are. I mean we would'nt be overweight if we had'nt over eat the junk food. I read somewhere the other day, maybe here. That we this person started eating lowcarb junk it caused him to slip. Maybe we should look at that stuff as treats to have every blue moon instead of an everyday thing.

7/22/2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger Kent said...

It very much depends on the person. My wife (a successful Atkins Centurion - lost 100 pounds) can eat and be satisfied with low carb ice cream. To me, the leap to real ice cream if the low carb stuff was out would be too minimal. That's the other thing about getting accustomed to certain "low carb" foods or crutches. What happens when that particular product goes off the market as many have done? I used to use Carbsense Zero Carb baking mix all the time in my fried chicken recipe. Carbsense has now changed their name and their low carb stance and dropped many of their former products. There are alternatives -- make your own low carb baking mix, but the convenience is gone.

I am personally all about making this journey as easy for this guy as possible. Easy for me is eating and preparing most of my meals from scratch or eating whole foods. Easy for someone else might be skipping a meal and having a GoLower bar. During the main weightloss phases (Induction and OWL), I would be less likely to support convenience foods as most people are still learning what it means to be low carb and learning how their body will react to some foods. However if you are settled in your diet and getting proper nutrition without overdoing it, whatever keeps you at goal the better.

7/22/2006 10:49 AM  
Blogger detox said...

Since most of the so-called low carb products are simply not available in my part of the world, I am somewhat out of the equation. I would love to try a low carb baking mix that actually tastes good - if even for my carb burning hubby who loves baked goods. My only 'lowcarb' food is Torani sugarfree syrup, and I use it for a very rare homemade low carb icecream or as very little sweetener in my coffee.

I think it is good that there are some low-carb foods, and if you feel great using them, and it helps you to stay on plan, use them. But, as you pointed out in your article, for some people this is what low carb means: eating low carb products. And I feel that eating low-carb means eating whole natural nutritious foods our body was designed to eat - and to learn to appreciate these tastes. Man-made foods simply aren't what God designed our bodies for. So while I do see the convenience of the products, I'd rather not use them - I haven't been using convenience products before low-carbing, either, because of the poor quality and yucky ingredients, because of transfats, MSG, modified starches, you name it. And so - even if there was something like bake mix, I'd still use almond flour and herbs and parmiggiano cheese to coat chicken and not bake mix from the store - YMMV, as always.

7/22/2006 12:30 PM  
Blogger diamondwife said...

During induction I used protien shakes and protein bars for my "sweet fix" as meal replacements. As I continue through OWL I use low carb fudge bars, ice cream, and candy to satisfy this craving. I do not eat these things every day, but I do eat them between 3 to 5 times per week. I know they are not as good for you as whole foods. I know they are still junk, just low carb junk. That's not the point to me at all. These things are helping me stay with my lifestyle change (as well as continue to lose weight). If I had gone into this knowing I could never have chocolate again (I'm a chocoholic, I can admit it) I would have failed miserably. These foods keep me from going on carb binges, and I think that is what is most important. I started Atkins in February and have only had one big carb binge. All that did is convince me that I never want to do that again. I think that is pretty darn good

7/22/2006 3:22 PM  
Blogger megadittles said...

Let's lighten the mood here: My mom gave me a box of Whitman's diabetic chocolate peanut butter cups. I didn't realize the effect sugar alcohols could have on the body and ate 6 in a row before it hit. Oh man, you can guess what happened next. Yeap, visiting the toilet gods for a loooooong time. Just be aware you new low-carbers wanting to over induldge in the sugar free sweeties, it could happen to you.
I do still like my sugar free chocolate, but not 6 at a time.

7/22/2006 3:25 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

I think the people who are 'trying' low carb and give up because they eat too many convenient foods, were always going to be the ones to fail. I don't blame the bars etc.

I actually find Atkins Advantage bars one of the best of the market. I think people like bashing it because it has the name Atkins.

I use the convenient food, and it has saved me from cheating many times!

7/23/2006 5:45 AM  
Blogger TESS said...

I see nothing wrong with using low carb products. As with anything you need to make good choices. I don't think they should be used daily but rather as a treat to keep you on track.If one can go with out ever using them then that is terrific, but most people need a little help now and then and I belive these products provide that. Total dependence on these products tho is a step on the road to failure.

7/23/2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Darleen said...

I think the goal is to eat whole organic foods only but that's just not reality for me. I agree with you Jimmy, I NEED some of those junk foods but try to make more healthy choices by using the low carb products. I limit them to a couple times a week tho. Also there is the cost factor. Along with low-carb eating also came all the knowledge of what my body really needs and how to choose nutritious food. Even when I over eat real food (like pigging out on cherries this time of year) I'm not doing the damage I used to do by consuming a half gallon of ice cream with a bag of corn chips. Tough decison but my vote is eat as well as you can and when you need a kick, fill in with the next best choice - low carb products (reading all labels carefully).

7/23/2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger Mr. and Mrs. Fat said...

Mrs Fat and I have given up on the low carb products for now, for us, it has helped to stall our weight loss.

Now that we are back in serious diet mode, myself in Atkins induction and Mrs Fat on Nutrisystem, it's just best if we stay away from these products. Everyone seems to lose weight differently, so it really is an experiment. Heck we've both put on 40 pounds over the holiday season.

In a pinch, the Atkins bars are nice. Aahh heck, I think I'll just get some Ben and Jerrys. I hear the voices again. Gotta work in some Tai-chi.

7/23/2006 9:47 AM  
Blogger branruadh said...

There's a psychological aspect to food that some people deal with by substitution and others by denial, I think. There's this insistence by many that there's something inherently "purer" in achieving full-blown abstinence from what they see as the problem (as opposed to those who actually have to practice abstinence, like recovering alcoholics). The low-carb substitute products are too close to the high-carb stuff for their mental comfort, so they declare them equally anathema.

From where I sit, there's also the cultural factor. American cuisine features things like pasta, chocolate, and ice cream. Never being able to have any of those again can make a person feel like they're separated from their culture. It's fine for some, but not others. And if people like Dreamfields, Russell Stover and Dreyer's/Edy's are up to filling those gaps for those of us who can't have the sugar and both the food companies and the consumers approach them sanely, it helps those of us who'd rather have the cultural touchstones in our food.

I prefer to have certain options out there. I'm very glad during the current heat wave that I can go to a local frozen yogurt shop and get a serving of Carbolite or Wow Cow alongside the people getting the high-sugar yogurt and not have to fret about what the treat will do to my blood sugar.

7/23/2006 2:03 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

I don't believe in using them every day and believe the best way to break my sugar addiction is to stay away from most sweets. I eat sugar free chocolate, but it is a TREAT, not a daily thing. (MY only daily sweet is sugar free Jello.) I use the shakes after my workouts as it's the easiest source of quick protein at the gym, but again, this isn't everyday. I get to the gym 2-4 times a week. The rest of the time I just walk and don't use the fake food shakes.

I really have to wonder if all the fake food isn't driving your cholesterol up.

7/23/2006 9:59 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Shirataki noodles and Dreamfield's are REAL food, though, as much as any high-carb pasta is real food. GoLower bars are NOT, no matter how much someone might want them to be. They are as fake as any high carb candy bar. They are should not, IMO, be consumed every day.

If you wouldn't eat the high-carb version every day, don't eat the low-carb version every day either.

7/23/2006 10:07 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Oh, now I'm curious Newbirth. What makes the GoLower bars "as fake as any high carb candy bar?" Please elaborate because I could not disagree with that statement more. :)

7/23/2006 10:13 PM  
Blogger TeaJay said...

When I have my monthly chocolate attacks, I make my own. The only bars I rely on are some of the Atkin's bars - a half of one in the morning 2 hours before breakfast, and I do use them if I am traveling and not able to keep to my regular food schedule, but for the most part, I do up my own food and don't rely on too many low-carb options.

I just tend to shy away from prepackaged food anymore. About the only things I will extole virtues on are the canned El Pato spicy tomato sauce (hardly any carbs at all) and the Eden's Organic Black Soy Beans. I indulge in Dreamfield's pasta every now and again, but even their product being low-carb, I still feel wonky after the fact, as if I am hung over on carbs.

I just find that the more I cook myself, the better I feel. And I am able to maintain a certain level without having to worry about yet another company going out of business......

7/23/2006 10:54 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I disagree, Newbirth. I ate low-carb chocolates and other "products" throughout my weight loss and my LDL cholesterol and triglycerides went DOWN while my HDL went up.

7/24/2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger Hellistile said...

Those of us who are overweight got that way because carbohydrates are poisons to us. Why would we want to ingest facsimile's of those very same high-carbohydrate foods. If you are eating "fake" foods and there are more than 1 or 2 ingredients in them is like eating "low fat" or "no fat" foods thinking you can get away with eating them and not getting fat. Even if I make my own home-made, low-carb cheesecake, knowing exactly what ingredients I put into it, what is to prevent me from eating the entire cake in one sitting once my cravings get the better of me. So, IF I really need something sweet, I have to walk or take a bus to the nearest place that sells low-carb bars and buy just 1. Or I can make a cup of coffee with heavy cream and artificial sweetener. What I'm trying to say, it's best to try and feel full on whole, natural foods than rely too heavily on processed foods.

7/24/2006 3:16 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Great question, Hellistile. But I think your comments are only half correct. What you are neglecting to mention is my insistence that anything I put in my mouth is quality products that are devoid of sugar and/or other harmful carbohydrates that your body does not need.

With that said, I'm not eating what you call "fake" foods at every meal, but I do see benefits of using them as snacks, especially GoLower bars and low-carb chocolates. They are a lifesaver to me and have not adversely impacted my weight or health.

I always tell people I am still a work in progress and perhaps I'm not moving fast enough to the organic whole foods, but I'm getting there.

All I know is that I'm eating healthier and better right now than I have my entire life. And nobody will convince me that eating GoLower bars and low-carb chocolates is JUST AS BAD as eating high-carb candy bars. That's utterly ridiculous!

It's about as moronic as saying drinking diet sodas are worse for you than sugary ones. STUPID STUPID STUPID! I'm not buying it!

7/24/2006 3:30 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Oh, now I'm curious Newbirth. What makes the GoLower bars "as fake as any high carb candy bar?" Please elaborate because I could not disagree with that statement more. :)

Bars are fake food, period. Whether they are a high carb bar or a low carb bar or an Atkins meal bars. None of them are real food and we experience better health when eating real food.

As for you HLD and LDL, yeah, mine did the same thing IN THE BEGINNING. Then my LDL went up. I have to eat cleaner and better now if I want to have the same good results. So I'm backing off the eggs a bit (no more than 6 a week) and adding flax meal to my diet. I didn't have to do that at first.

7/24/2006 11:29 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

And I didn't say it was "worse" to eat a "GoLower" bar. I simply said it's as fake as a high carb bar. It's a bar. It's not real food. It's fake food.

Try something else for a snack - like cheese or nuts or last night's leftovers.

I don't eat the Atkins meal bars every day, much less my sugar free candy bar of choice. I use the shakes 2-4 times a week after my workout, and sometimes use it for lunch on Saturday.

But I am not kidding myself that it's better - or even as good as - real food and a real meal. It's not.

7/24/2006 11:35 PM  
Blogger branruadh said...

Newbirth, GoLower bars are primarily made of nuts. The most "unnatural" ingredients are the oligofructose syrup that binds the nuts and the soy nuggets. He's just eating nuts in a different formulation than a handful out of a jar.

Jimmy has said he uses the bars occasionally. You use shakes occasionally. I'd lay money the shakes have more artificial ingredients than the GoLower bars you denigrate. Maybe you should switch?

7/25/2006 2:31 AM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Jimmy listed TWO bars in a sample daily menu. That tells me it's more than "occational." It's daily.

The shakes have 20g of protein, so no, I won't switch. They help me build muscle mass after a workout. Do the GoLower bars have 20g of complete protein? I didn't think so.

7/26/2006 9:28 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

I'll also add that the shakes and bars I use are meant to be MEALS, not snacks. That means they have fairly complete nutrition.

I don't eat sweet snacks (well, rarely). Sweet stuff just feeds the sugar demon and why would I want to do that?

7/26/2006 9:31 PM  
Blogger mo-better43 said...

Well, some of us need a little sweetness. I know that after I eat some foods, I actually would like to end it on a sweet note. I sometimes have a slice of cheesecake. I don't eat the choc bars too much as I sure have a real low tolerance to sugar alcohols, so why bother. I do use Breyers Carbsmart icecream and that does NOT contain sugar alcohols like some others. I can eat that as it is made with real cream and splenda. Very good choc variety too. It gets me over the chocolate cravings. I eat the granola breakfast bars from Atkins. I like the berry ones, it reminds me of my granola bars (which are full of sugar). I also use the shakes every week and they also help with protein and the choc cravings......I think everything in moderation is ok. Keep up the great work Jimmy!!!

9/29/2006 8:41 AM  
Blogger chipperthorn said...

I find that my weakness isn't chocolate bars, it's breads and muffins. On Induction, I really missed being able to make a sandwich or have a muffin with my morning coffee. I've done some research, and found some really good low carb baking mixes to keep me on the straight-and-narrow (Bob's Red Mill products are some of the best ones). Now I can enjoy a muffin or a slice of bread on occasion without blowing my diet.

7/04/2008 11:06 AM  

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