Living Low Carb in a High-Carb World

"Low-Carb Lifeboat" by Anne Lopez Studios

"Low-Carb Lifeboat" by Anne Lopez Studios

New on the Eat the Butter blog... a practical guide for sticking with your real food plan while living in the real world! This post first appeared on the awesome low-carb website, Diet Doctor, but was written by ETB! It is perfect for anyone trying to navigate a real food, low-carb life in our mainstream (and often pretty junky) food culture. 

Living Low Carb in a High-Carb World

Ahoy, low-carb eaters! Rough seas lie ahead.

Take a look at your surroundings. Cheap calories are everywhere. Lousy, outdated ideas about diet and health dominate. Clueless doctors and dietitians supervise. Lame government health officials put their heads in the sand. It’s a perfect storm.

The cruise you didn’t choose

America, like most modern nations, is like a bad cruise ship headed into bad weather. The buffets on-board are overflowing with processed food — sugary drinks, starchy snacks, and meals dominated by additives, refined vegetable oils, and more starch. The restaurants are always open and the all-you-can-eat buffets encourage large plates piled high with food.

The cruise director promotes the ever-present food and drink over the ship’s loud speakers, reminding you to head on over to the restaurants, anytime. Whether you are hungry, bored, or lonely, the answer is a visit to the ship’s bars, buffets, and snack stands. Occasionally the Captain ruins the mood — he picks up the microphone and admonishes, “Passengers should eat less and exercise more.”

And so it goes — the endless cycle of heavily marketed and ubiquitous bad food, weight gain, ill health, misguided scolding, and guilt. This is our crazy (dare I say hellish?) world.

Abandon ship

Living low carb means abandoning the cruise before it takes you down. Once off the ship, you can avoid the buffets that set you up for failure.

Your low-carb lifestyle doesn’t just save you from the storm. It can help fix the broken system. The example you set each day matters. If enough people catch on, we can change the world.

Low-carb living requires extra planning and an independent spirit. But we know you can do it. This post is designed to make low-carb living in a high-carb world easier.

Here is your five-part guide to swimming upstream.

  1. Provisioning Your Low-Carb Home
  2. Living Low Carb in a High-Carb Home
  3. Living Low Carb Away from Home
  4. Parenting Low-Carb Kids
  5. Knowing What You Are up Against

1. Provisioning Your Low-Carb Home

low carb fridge

A low-carb home is like a lifeboat bobbing alongside the enormous cruise ship that holds our toxic modern food environment. When you hop off the cruise ship and come home to your lifeboat, you can surround yourself with delicious real food, eliminating the highly processed choices onboard the cruise.

Provision your lifeboat with the best food you can afford. Time well spent in the grocery store is the most crucial step for setting yourself up for low-carb success. Shop wisely. And remember, if you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it.

Build your basic grocery list

You know what to buy — meat, fish, seafood, eggs, full-fat dairy, colorful vegetables, tart fruit, and nuts. Plus butter and olive oil, of course! Here is a more detailed grocery list organized by section of the store. Print it and bring it with you when you shop.

Master online grocery shopping

Some of us live in rough food environments. Your local grocery store may not offer the delicious fresh meats, tantalizing vegetables and the healthy low-carb extras you seek. Fortunately, online grocers are expanding. Here are a few who might deliver in your area:

Amazon for next-morning service
Amazon Fresh offers next morning delivery to many locations.

Instacart and lookalikes for speedy deliveries
If you live in a major metropolitan area, Instacart might provide speedy grocery delivery to your home. Their model is grocery delivery in under an hour. Local players like this one offer similar services in many large or mid-sized cities.

Walmart and regional grocers for curbside pick-up
Walmart offers online ordering and curbside pick-up in many markets. Many regional grocery chains are also offering on-line ordering with curbside pick-up. This saves time and is usually free.

Safeway, etc. for home delivery
National supermarket chains like Safeway will accept online orders, pick out your groceries, and deliver to your door for a fee. See what is available in your area.

Thrive Markets for organic-ish non-perishables at a discount
As Fortune put it, “If Costco and Whole Foods had an online baby, it would look something like startup Thrive…” If you want to stock up on low-carb staples like macadamia nuts, jerky, dark chocolate, coconut products, and lard, all delivered to your door at prices that are better than Amazon’s, Thrive is a good option. Note that there is a membership fee of ~$60/year, but you can try it for a month free of charge.

Postmates delivers from grocers and restaurants
Whether you want groceries or a gourmet meal, Postmates is on duty, 24/7, in many markets. They promise speedy, courteous delivery in under an hour.

Consider a meal delivery service

Cook new recipes with fresh ingredients shipped to your door
Like to cook but hate to shop? Like variety? Upscale meal delivery services are newish and en vogue. They package whole food ingredients for meals, along with a recipe, and mail them to you in an insulated box. You do the cooking.

Perhaps you have heard of the mainstream choices – Hello FreshPlated, and Blue Apron. You could try one of these and simply throw out the starch and add some healthy fat from your refrigerator or pantry.

Better yet, for a meal service that is closer to low carb, check out the options at these three subscription services:

  • Green Chef (scroll down to paleo offerings)
  • Sun Basket (click on paleo tab for offerings)
  • Chef’d (many options — look for low-carb offerings)

Try completely prepared low-carb meals
For ready to serve low-carb meals that you don’t have to cook, delivered to your door, check out these national options:

Search for local Paleo meal services
Many enterprising chefs scattered about our country offer fresh, ready-to-serve Paleo meals that might satisfy your low-carb needs. Although these services may not deliver, multiple pick-up points can make them convenient enough to justify a weekly stop. Even mid-sized cities in the Rust Belt have local options, like Pittsburgh Fresh!

Atkins offers a line of frozen meals that can be purchased at a discount online as the Frozen Foodie Meal Kit, which includes 14 individually packaged low-carb frozen dinners. You also may be able to find Atkins’ frozen dinners in grocers near you.

Take advantage of farmers’ markets

If you have access to a farmers’ market, it can be a terrific place to shop. Most of what farmers sell is real, unprocessed food, so you will not be dodging aisles of processed snacks while picking out locally grown produce, meat, and dairy.

You might pay a little bit more at these markets, but you are supporting both a healthy local foodshed and the local economy with your food dollar – hard to do at most grocery stores.

Assemble meals without (really) cooking

Everyone has busy days and needs an easy meal. And some of us don’t like to cook and need an easy meal every night.

Diet Doctor's guide, “How To Stay Low Carb When You Don’t Want To Cook” can be a great resource for simple, low maintenance meals from items on your grocery list.

Understand organic and other labels

Should you buy organic? It depends. Is it available? Can you afford it? Focus on the food first and the pedigree of the food second. Organic is a nice extra, but it is not required for healthy eating.

For more on prioritizing the potential upgrades such as grass-fed/free range/wild-caught, this page addresses them all and suggests what matters most.

2. Living Low Carb in a High-Carb Home

Consensus is not always possible, even in loving families. Many of us share our homes with —gasp!— higher-carb eaters. Living with people who eat a high-carb diet can be challenging.

Here are six tips that will make it easier:

Control the grocery list

Keeping your refrigerator and pantry stocked with low-carb favorites is an absolute requirement. You must have healthy, full-fat real food on hand to make low carb work.

If your partner buys the groceries, a list of staples that you would like to always have on-hand can help spell out your needs. If cooperation is not enthusiastic, add a stop at a well-stocked market to your weekly routine. Here is a link to an LCHF grocery list for weekly basics.

If possible, eliminate the most tempting carbs

It is really hard to say no to temptation, night after night. Cooperation from family members is a huge bonus. Perhaps you want to discuss your goals and what you’re trying to do, and ask if they would consider supporting you so that you’re able to reach your health goals.

This could mean preferably not eating cookies, chips or ice cream when you’re spending time together. If your family really wants to do everything to support you, perhaps they could even imagine not having that kind of foods at home.

How hard to push depends on how hard it is for you to resist this sort of temptation. If you’re really addicted to sugar or junk food, then it’s an absolute requirement to get it out of your house in order for you to succeed.

Add fat to eliminate the starch

If your family dinner is a classic mix of meat, starch, and vegetables, you know what to do — skip the starch and ask for extra vegetables. But that might leave you feeling a little hungry. Adding fat to your meal is the ticket to great taste and complete satisfaction.

If your refrigerator and pantry are well stocked, you will have lots of options. A drizzle of olive oil. A spoonful of sour cream. Diced bacon. Grated cheese. Melted butter.

For more delicious ideas, check out our guide, The Top 10 Ways to Eat More Fat.

Freeze bread, buns, and treats

Storing sliced loaves of bread, hamburger buns, and dinner rolls in the freezer keeps them on-hand for the high carber in the family but makes them less tempting for you. Frozen bread stays fresh for months, which eliminates waste. Bread can be warmed when needed by others.

Add enjoyable sides to your low-carb meal

If you are doing the cooking and making a low-carb meal, it can be easy and inexpensive to add a starch for a high-carb eater in your midst. Keep it simple, small, and not necessarily too appetizing:

  • A frozen dinner roll or biscuit
  • Single-serve mashed potatoes, stuffing, or mac and cheese
  • Single serve precooked frozen rice

This way, you won’t add much extra work in the kitchen.

An even better way is to cook low-carb sides that your family likes equally well. For example cauliflower mash or cauliflower rice or another delicious low-carb side dish. This way you can cook the same food for everyone – no extra work at all, and everybody is happy.

Generally, you can make low-carb meals so satisfying, they won’t even miss the bread or side of potatoes. The best way to achieve this is to start with a delicious recipe designed with low carb in mind.

Say thank you

If your partner has gone out of his or her way to make a delicious, low-carb recipe like meat piecreamy chicken casserole, or bacon mushroom cheeseburger lettuce wraps (yum!!), a little gratitude goes a long way. Express your appreciation for his or her efforts with lavish thanks and compliments to the chef.

A household with a mix of different dietary preferences really is doable if you work together to keep everyone on-track and satisfied.


3. Living Low Carb Away from Home

travel low carb

You can’t spend your entire life on your lifeboat. You will want to venture back to the cruise ship for work, play, and social engagement. Fear not. Your low-carb habits travel with you like a life jacket. They can protect you from crappy food, anywhere.

Here’s how to survive dangerous food environments:

At Work…

Office environments can wear you down.

Vending machines sell mostly junk; break rooms are full of cookies, crackers, and microwave popcorn. Some companies even offer refrigerators stocked with free soda. Then, there is the classic bowl of candy sitting on the receptionist’s desk, tempting everyone all day long. Ugh.

What is a low-carb worker to do?

Set a firm rule of no carbs at work
Commit to never eating the food at your workplace except in the rare instances that it is something completely safe, like cheese. Nibbling on freebies from the office is a slippery slope. A little bit here — a little bit there. Before long, you have ruined your eating plan for the day. Instead, draw a line in the sand and never cross it. No questionable office food. Period.

Pack your own food
Bring in leftovers from last night’s low-carb dinner for your lunch. Keep low-carb snacks on hand in your desk or in the refrigerator. When hunger strikes, you won’t be tempted by the high-carb offerings. Instead, you can feast on your own delicious food.

For more ideas for snacks, check out Diet Doctor's guide: Low-Carb Snacks — the Best and the Worst.

Choose drinks with care
Often working means finding focus and energy even when you are bored or tired. It is key that you find a way to avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages as a mid-day pick-me-up.

Here are a few ideas to make this easier:

Craft your story
Be prepared for curiosity, concern, and perhaps even amusement from your office colleagues who watch you eat. When you are questioned, be ready to share your story.

Think through the basic narrative. What caused you to switch to a low-carb diet? What problems has it solved? Why does it work for you? Here are a couple of example:

“I was always hungry and had to work out constantly to not gain weight. Plus, I had pretty severe acne. As soon as I cut back on carbs, my skin cleared up and my hunger has changed — I’m just so satisfied by the food I eat. And, although I still exercise, I don’t need it to keep my weight stable.”

“I always struggled with my weight, even as a kid. I was ‘officially’ obese for 20 years. When my doctor told me I was diabetic, I knew I had to do something. After finding LCHF, I completely changed my eating habits. I lost 50 pounds and haven’t looked back. And the best part of my story is that my diabetes is in remission — no meds!”

Practice your story a few times. Knowing what you are going to say makes these encounters less awkward. It can be fun to share your path to improved health! Perhaps you will spark an interest and change a life.

When dining out…

You can enjoy a low-carb meal almost anywhere — ethnic restaurants, buffets, or even Aunt Martha’s. Enjoy yourself without a setback by mentally preparing for your meals away from home.

Common sense should rule — say no to bread, and ask for double veggies instead of the starch with your main course. Sometimes a large salad with protein is the easiest way to go; choose olive oil and vinegar dressing. For a boost in fat, melt butter on your cooked vegetables and protein. Choose coffee or decaf instead of dessert.

Drink mostly water — champagne, dry wine, light beer, and straight spirits are okay in moderation. (Diet Doctor's guide to low-carb alcohol is worth consulting.)

For more detailed tips on how to order and enjoy low-carb meals at restaurants, check out our guide: How to Eat Low Carb When Dining Out.

Don’t miss the section in this guide entitled At a Friend’s Place — perfect to consult when you are invited to dinner at a friend’s, colleague’s, or relative’s home. It also works for an invitation from your boss!

When traveling…

Are you headed out of town on vacation or do you have a business trip coming up? Don’t let travel interfere with your commitment to low-carb eating. With a little planning, you can stride through airports and hotel breakfast buffets with confidence.

As always, packing low-carb snacks can be a lifesaver. Eating well before you leave helps, too. In addition, you can use coffee to stave off hunger. You can even pack butter to add to your coffee in this BPA-free soap dish!

For a complete guide to hitting the low-carb road, please read our guide, How to Eat Low Carb When Traveling.

4. Parenting Low-Carb Kids

low carb kids

As a parent, letting your well-fed child venture from your lifeboat into the big, bad high-carb world can be challenging. Sometimes you’ll just have to let go and accept that perfection may be unattainable. Concentrate your energies on the recurring situations that you can control, like the food environment at home.

Almost everywhere they go, sugar and starch will be served. Your children need to learn to make their way in this environment. Fortunately they will have a giant head start, due to the example of their parents and their food situation at home.

Teach your kids to peel back the carbs

For kids, carbs are often layered, one on top of another:

Preschool Snack ⇒ apple juice | animal crackers | pretzels or Goldfish
School Lunch ⇒ submarine sandwich | French fries | lemonade | pie
Birthday Parties ⇒ pizza | cake | ice cream | a bag of candy to bring home
Soccer Games ⇒ Gatorade | Doritos | gummy fruit snacks

This happens everywhere — even at seemingly safe places like public schools. (Especially public schools, actually.)

Consider talking about our bad food environment with your child – especially if he or she is a bit older – and see if there are things to do to avoid excessive bad carbs when away from home.

Can she or he reduce carbs by eliminating the sugar-sweetened drinks and substitute water? That is probably the most effective single thing to do. If it’s not possible, you can always fall back on serving only water at home.

Suggest that she come up with her own plan. Empower your child to figure out what she really wants to eat and how to say “no thanks” to the rest. But remember it has to be her own choice.

Don’t fight every fight. Accept that there will be some bad carbs eaten at birthday parties and other social situations. Try to focus on what gets eaten every day.

Pack lunch for daycare and school

You can minimize the amount of conventional food kids eat by packing lunch for them to take to school. If your child attends a school with unusually good food, this may not be necessary, but in most cases, it is a commitment that really pays off. Packing a lunch gives you greater control and is usually cheaper, too.

Here is a nice guide to 30 kid-friendly low-carb lunches.

Plan for official high-carb advice

To top it all off, your kids are likely to be taught about the dietary guidelines in school, so they will have to endure lessons about the ‘importance’ of drinking skim or low-fat milk and eating only lean meats. They will learn about the ‘importance’ of eating plenty of whole grains and vegetable oils for heart health.

Prepare them for these lectures, explaining that you believe many people still have it wrong; in your family, you see and do some things differently, because it works better.

Remember YOU are your child’s biggest influence

Your kids are watching YOU. What you eat is the best predictor of what they eat. The science backs this up. Eat well for your own health, and your kids will follow your lead, naturally.

Take comfort in the good news

Before you decide to homeschool your children and never let them leave the house (obviously a poor choice!), consider the good news:

For kids, it’s low carb, not no carb

Kids are usually pretty insulin sensitive. Youth is on their side. Although the conventional food they will eat outside your home is not ideal, chances are it will not ruin their health.

Sugar is public enemy #1

One area where you will find common ground is avoiding sugar. Almost all adults agree that sugar is bad for kids, especially sugar-sweetened beverages. Increasingly, even sports drinks are getting called out as unnecessary for most kids. This trend fits well with low-carb objectives.

Many mainstream parents agree that sport team snacks should be reduced

Talk to other parents about eliminating unnecessary snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks at weekly practices and games. Most children do not burn anywhere near the calories in these treats while playing their sport for an hour.

If every parent brings water instead of fruit punch to soccer practice, that is a gift you give to all the families on your child’s team. Here is a thoughtful post about how to start these conversations in your community.

Let teenagers be teenagers

For teens, grabbing a soda and handfuls of potato chips can be part of blending in with the crowd. Or it can be part of the natural rebellion against whatever habits their parents might want them to cultivate. Either way, go easy — too much of a reaction may backfire. Your years of sharing a carefully stocked low-carb home with them were not wasted. It is a phase. They will find their way back to higher-quality food before long.

More on feeding your kids

Low carb is delicious. You can make it fun, too. Here is a family-friendly collection of low-carb recipes.

If you have questions about low carb and kids, consult Diet Doctor's guide, “How to Raise Children on Real Low-Carb Food.

If you are new to low carb and want to transition your children from a conventional diet to a low-carb lifestyle, check out Diet Doctor's guide, How to Help Transition Your Children to Low-Carb Real Food.

5. Knowing What You Are up Against

swim upstream

Look around. Crappy food is everywhere. And with it, we see the crappy results one might expect — raging rates of chronic disease and an always hungry, always snacking, population of over-fed, undernourished citizens.

Knowledge is power. If you concede that mainstream food and ideas about food are deeply flawed, all the appalling junk food and junk science that surrounds you might drive you a little less crazy.

Realize people are woefully misinformed

The problem goes so much deeper than the piles of junk food in every grocery store and every office break room — the very ideas about food and health that dominate public discourse are compromised.

Turn on the news and you will hear our nation’s unconfirmed ideas about diet relayed as established facts. Understandably, your neighbors, colleagues and family members have been swayed by this barrage of misinformation.

Take saturated fats. Almost everyone believes these naturally occurring fats in intact whole foods are bad, while vegetable oils, which are industrially extracted from seeds that aren’t traditional foods (and some of them, like cotton and soy seeds, were actually once considered waste by-products), are healthy. It’s backwards.

Most people in your social circles are likely to have believed in the health benefits of eating a grain-heavy, canola oil infused, low-fat diet for so long that they may think you are a little crazy when you skip the ‘whole-grain goodness’ and drop a tablespoon of butter into your coffee.

Understand that our authorities are dogmatic

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
— Mark Twain

Worse, the authorities we trust — our dietitians, doctors, scientists, journalists, and public health officials are stubborn. The abject failure of low-fat dietary guidelines has NOT led to a ‘back to the drawing board’ moment. No.

Instead, bad ideas are tweaked and massaged into slightly less bad ideas. We started, back in 1992, with a recommendation of 6-11 servings of grain each day (in the original Food Pyramid). Today, we dutifully fill slightly more than a quarter of our plate with processed whole grain products (if we are following MyPlate, introduced in 2011).

Terrible results cry out for a food revolution, not minor modifications, but the establishment is so sure its old, bad ideas are correct, it can give us only same-old, same-old advice.

Know that what you do matters

A low-carb lifestyle is your lifeboat. You must navigate next to the cruise ship full of bad food, bad ideas, bad advice, bad science, and sick passengers. Stay out of its wake and set your course. Ride through the storm.

And know that you are a key part of the solution. Your commitment to low carb matters. Grassroots movements like LCHF spread by word of mouth. As you share your success with others, some will come on board.





Dodging Midlife Death—on Making It to 75

I want to live to be (at least) 75. This may not seem very ambitious. Dave Asprey, nutrition entrepreneur and host of Bulletproof Radio, regularly insists, on air, that he plans to live to 180—a classic overachiever.

Sure, living vibrantly well into my 80s (even 90s, maybe?) is on my wish list. But my first priority, what I absolutely want, is to avoid dying in midlife. I have (perhaps generously) defined this as dying before age 75; before nearing American life expectancy and entering old age. When friends or loved ones die before age 75, it feels like a takedown—like they were robbed of prime years. How to avoid that seems like a worthwhile question.

Let’s take a quick look at what kills Americans in midlife.  What do people die of between age 45 and 74? And what can we learn from that, and specifically, does it tell us anything about what we should be eating?

First, the bad news. In 2014, almost a million 45-74 year-old Americans died. Over 2,700 midlife folks each day… gone. That is a lot of premature death. 

Some good news… Your risk of death during the early part of this age range is quite low.  When you are 45-49, your chance of dying (from any cause) each year is only 0.31%. But by age 70-74, it has crept up to about 2.25% each year, which adds up; overall, you have a 11.25% chance of dying in your early 70s (2.25% each year for 5 years).


Cancer Dominates

Heart disease may be the leading cause of death for all Americans, but not in this group of middle-aged folks. Not even close. Cancer wins easily, causing almost one third of all deaths of 45-74 year-olds. Heart disease causes roughly 21% of middle-aged death, trailing cancer by over 100,000 deaths in 2014.

As you can see from the lead graph at the top of this post, some causes of death, like accidents and suicide, are meaningful contributors at 45-49, but they stay pretty steady or even decline as we age. By 70-74, they have become almost unimportant, dwarfed by the rapid growth of cancer and heart disease deaths. I wish I could say that avoiding risky behaviors like texting while driving moves the needle on middle-aged death, but the numbers suggest otherwise. Of course, in your n=1 life, it only takes one accident, so definitely STOP texting and driving. But can we do more?

Want to make it to 75? Avoid cancer and heart disease, and you double your chances. What can be done, from a diet perspective, to minimize cancer and heart disease?


Avoiding Cancer

Our multi-billion dollar war on cancer has been pretty unimpressive. In spite of a greater than 40% drop in rates of smoking, we now see higher (age adjusted) rates of cancer than we did in 1975.


Other than quitting smoking, what can we do to dodge the cancer bullet? Is there anything diet-related that might help? What does the science tell us about cancer and specific foods? This cleverly conceived figure in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows us that it is all over the map. This explains why newspaper headlines go back and forth, reporting countless observational studies about food and cancer, all showing meaningless associations.

All foods cause cancer? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 28, 2012.

All foods cause cancer? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 28, 2012.

So what do we "know" about food and cancer? Turning to clinical trials, we know that low-fat diets do NOT seem to reduce cancer mortality. Large RCTs, like the Women’s Health Initiative (an enormous, expensive trial that had tens of thousands of middle-aged women eating a low-fat diet with more fruits, vegetables and grain) showed no statistically significant reduction of breast cancer and no reduction of colon cancer.

In his 2010 lecture, Dr. Craig Thompson, President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, states that consensus is that overfeeding carbohydrates increases cancer risk, while overfeeding fat does not; protein is halfway in-between. Watch below for about 60 seconds...

UPMC oncologist, Dr. Colin Champ, offers his personal tips, “10 Ways I Cancer-Proof My Life Everyday,” if you subscribe to his newsletter. It is a thoughtful list. I can tell you the top two tips are to cook and eat real, nutrient dense food, low in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Just one cancer researcher’s opinion, and it fits right in with vintage eating.

There is a meaningful amount of speculation in the alternative nutrition world about vegetable oils contributing to cancer. Authority Nutrition, an evidenced-based site, wrote a review article on the many evils of these heavily processed oils, including a section on cancer. One clinical trial showed substituting vegetable oil for saturated fat almost doubled cancer mortality. Vegetable oils are unstable when heated, leading to the release of lots of toxic byproducts like aldehydes. They are not real food... no traditional population could have made them.  We should be suspicious of them; look here for vintage fats to eat instead.

 Of late, I am hearing a lot of rumblings about viewing cancer as a metabolic (versus genetic) disease, and the promise of very low-carb diets as an adjunct therapy to enhance conventional cancer treatments. As a result, there is speculation that keeping blood glucose, insulin, insulin growth factors, and inflammation low, as low-carb diets do, could be a prudent step toward preventing cancer. Unfortunately, it is early, and most of the completed research is in cell lines and rodent studies, not humans. Definitive answers are a long way off. For a nice summary of the state of the emerging and promising science, check out this lecture, Exploiting Cancer Metabolism with Ketosis, by Dr. Angela Poff.

Given incomplete science, what does culture and common sense tell us? Science journalist Gary Taubes talks about the link between sugar and cancer (beginning around p. 253) in his bestselling book, The Case Against Sugar.  He documents how rare cancer was in native populations eating traditional diets, and how, as Western diets (full of sugar and flour) spread, cancer incidence soared.  And he talks about the well-documented links between both obesity and diabetes and cancer, fingering insulin as a potential driver.  So a vintage diet, low in sugar and processed grains and refined oils, one that emphasizes whole foods found in nature (like the foods that our ancestors ate), is an obvious possibility for prevention. It fits as a potential antidote to the standard American diet (SAD) and the Western diseases, including cancer, that travel with it.


Avoiding Heart Disease

But could a low-carb diet, higher in natural fats including saturated fat, lead to more heart disease? Entire books have been written about this question. The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz is an award-winning one. (Summary article in the WSJ: “The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease.”) Evidence exonerating saturated fat continues to emerge, as buried evidence is unearthed, and large data sets show no significant link between dietary saturated fat and cardiovascular disease mortality. It would seem that the war against dietary fat was long adventure on the wrong track.

Perhaps this is why, after 40 years of low-fat advice, the American Heart Association just reported heart disease prevalence among all American adults of 41.5% and rising... Holy moly, think about that!!!! And, for those between 45 and 64, prevalence of heart disease is around 50%. There has to be a better way.

In fact, most people find that heart health markers like blood pressure and cholesterol profiles improve on a low-carb-healthy-fat eating plan. But there are exceptions; every body is different. Carefully monitoring heart health markers and your own, individual response to your diet is always prudent.

To truly assess heart risk, I would consider the CAC (Coronary Artery Calcium) test. It is a non-invasive CT scan that takes about 10 minutes. It is far more predictive of heart risk than typical markers like LDL levels, which are actually quite poor at predicting heart events. The CAC test sees the actual disease, rather than assessing risk with a guess based on blood lipid levels. Learn more about it from this short, 11 minute, informational video.

Finally, note that prominent Canadian cardiologist, Dr. Salim Yusuf, President of the World Heart Federation, presented a new robust (albeit observational) dataset, the PURE study, suggesting the association between saturated fat and heart disease is neutral or even protective. His data suggests that a diet high in carbohydrates is associated with higher rates of CVD. It is really a remarkable 22 minute lecture and worth watching. If you don't have time, a nice summary and balanced analysis (by Alex F. Sigurdsson MD) of the key points of this eye-opening lecture can be found here.


Avoiding (or Resolving) Diabetes

A 2017 study out of Boston University School of Health and the University of Pennsylvania suggests that our national death statistics severely understate the “contribution of diabetes to mortality in the United States.” In the CDC data used for this post’s analysis, diabetes is noted as the cause of only 3.8% of middle-aged death. Yet the study authors write that their analysis of death certificates reveals that diabetes is the underlying cause of approximately 12% of US deaths.

Further, according to the authors, having diabetes more than doubles one’s chance of dying in any given year, especially for women and those younger than 75. The hazard ratios are presented in Figure 2 from their paper:


Hazard ratios expressing the association between diabetes status and mortality for all participants and by population subgroup.  Source: NHIS years 1997–2009 with prospective mortality follow-up through Dec. 2011. (Figure 2)

Hazard ratios expressing the association between diabetes status and mortality for all participants and by population subgroup.  Source: NHIS years 1997–2009 with prospective mortality follow-up through Dec. 2011. (Figure 2)

Beating diabetes can add years to your life and life to your years. Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes is too often treated as a progressive, irreversible condition in our pharmaceutically-heavy health care system. Considerable evidence demonstrates that low-carb diets offer the greatest promise for resolving T2 diabetes and prediabetes. A new VC-funded Silicon Valley startup, Virta Health, is betting on this approach, with a very low-carb diet and a tech-centric ‘virtual clinic’ model in its toolbox . If you have T2 diabetes, consider trying to reverse it with the help of Virta’s coaches and doctors. If you want to learn more about how to use low-carb diets to resolve type 2 diabetes, check out all of the free resources at Diet Doctor.


Making It to 75… and Beyond

Overall, the promise of a vintage diet dominated by whole, full-fat foods, and missing processed carbs and refined oils is tantalizing. Minimizing blood sugar, insulin, and systemic inflammation with a low-sugar, low-processed-starch, low-refined-oils diet is a potential WIN-WIN-WIN.  Less cancer, less heart disease, and less diabetes. Taken together, these wins enhance your chances of surviving middle age. So check out the six lifestyles on this site that can help you accomplish this goal.

One more WIN for low-carb, real food? Less hunger. Not being hangry all the time makes midlife more fun!

And there is one final huge WIN. Brain health. Minimizing sugar and refined carbohydrates is a promising way to avoid the next chapter that none of us want to face — severe cognitive decline in our golden years. Alzheimer’s disease becomes a major cause of death as we exit middle age, and many experts believe that high blood sugar levels play a causal role. Amy Berger documents the emerging science in her new book, The Alzheimer’s Antidote. That should serve as one final motivation to cut out processed carbs and fuel your body with real, full-fat food—because not only do we want to survive midlife, we want to remember it.



Swedish Mom's Stand Against Sugar Goes Viral (BBC NEWS)

Anna Larsson has inspired thousands of moms, as her story about cutting daily sugary treats out of her 4-year-old's diet goes viral.

So what happened? Larsson posted about her experiment, and the fabulous results, on Facebook. Her post has been shared thousands of times! This is the grassroots mother-to-mother movement we need to restore the health of our families.

Anna shared that her daughter got 'new taste buds' and no longer rejected healthy meals. Plus, "She was calming down so quickly, falling asleep so quickly in the evenings - and she did not want to look at the television all the time, she wanted to do things."

Read the entire article on the BBC News site.

A timely story, as Gary Taubes' book, The Case Against Sugar, published in December, makes the case that sugar is driving major chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Yet we routinely feed so much sugar to our kids. It doesn't have to be this way.

For more on what diets help you quit sugar and what to eat instead, explore the rest of this site! You can sign up for our monthly newsletter, here.


Photo Credit: BBC NEWS, Sara Jonasson



106 Years Young... and Still Eating Butter!

Amy Hawkins turned 106 recently. She credits her longevity to a "quiet life and a healthy diet – but [adds] that you can have lots of fat and butter!"

This easy going Welsh centenarian is considerate of others but gently feisty about doctors and pills... she avoids them. She reports it has been 10 years since she has seen a doctor.

When reflecting on her healthy, long life, Hawkins says, “I think my diet is pretty good. I eat a lot of fish because it is good for you, but I also love butter, I always have lots of it.”

Mmmm... very wise. And very vintage.

Read more about Amy Hawkins in The South Wales Argus

'Lots of butter is the secret,’ says 106-year-old on birthday celebrations

For more reasons to eat more fat, check out this page. And for more on the benefits of eating butter, check out my post "Why Butter?"



Processed Food—An Experiment (ON YOU) That Failed

Dr. Robert Lustig, a prominent UCSF pediatric endocrinologist , is no fan of processed food. In today's JAMA Pediatrics, he makes his case with an article, "Processed Food—An Experiment That Failed."

In Lustig's view, the subjects of the experiment are the American people. (Yes, YOU.) And the principal investigators conducting this experiment? Big Food... COca-COla, Pepsico, Kraft, Unilever, General Mills, Nestlé, Mars, Kellogg, Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson.

So in Lustig's mind, the experiment began in the 60's when people started chowing down on processed food, or food that:

  • is mass produced,
  • is consistent batch-to-batch,
  • is consistent across countries, 
  • includes some weird, specialized, commercial ingredients,
  • consists of pre-frozen macronutrients,
  • stays emulsified (doesn't separate), and 
  • has a long shelf life (or is frozen).

And this processed food is different, nutritionally, from real food, in the following ways:

  • too little fiber,
  • too few omega 3's,
  • too many omega 6's,
  • too few micronutrients, like antioxidants,
  • too many trans fats,
  • too many branched-chain amino acids
  • too many emulsifiers,
  • too many nitrates,
  • too much salt,
  • too much ethanol, and, of course,
  • too much fructose (from SUGAR).

The results? Not so good. We're eating more calories from carbohydrates, especially sugar. And we're spending about double the percentage of our food dollar (from 11.6% to 22.9% in 30 years) on processed food. I am sure the principal investigators like this!

Our health has declined. Metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia (cholesterol and triglycerides out of whack), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease... they are all tightly linked to sugar consumption.

Sugar production and crop monocultures (for key processed food ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat) lead to soil erosion, loss of arable land, increased atrazine use, nitrate contamination and herbicide resistance. Not nice.

And then there are the bills for this little adventure. Lustig estimates we could eliminate $1.8 trillion each year from our health care spending if we changed back to real food. That's TRILLION with a 'T', folks. This is about triple the profits that Big Food pockets each year. 

His conclusion? Experiment failed. Go back to real food. Totally agree.

Okay. So here's what to eat. And six real food diets to choose from.

For more, check out this post on why some foods that we think of as healthy are actually highly processed...







Sumo... Up Close and Personal

I spent last Saturday night ringside, watching live Sumo wrestling... both professional exhibition matches and some amusing amateur antics. This is not your typical weekend activity in Pittsburgh. Funny to see some brave friends and local celebs wearing a mawashi (over lycra shorts, because... well, just because).

In the professional match, it was former world champions, Yama (600+ pounds) vs. Byamba (350+ pounds)... You might know Byamba as the figure skating sumo wrestler in the recent Geico commercial. (Worth 30 seconds if you haven't seen it.)

Although Byamba seemed pretty agile for a big guy, Yama labored under his 600 pounds. So how do these guys get this big? What do sumo wrestlers eat? Lean protein, vegetables, and grain. (Lots and lots of rice.) A low-fat, high-carb diet. Sound familiar? Like MyPlate?

If you want to stay as far away from the Sumo physique as possible, try the opposite approach to eating—low-carb, full-fat. Take a look at these six real food diets.

Food for thought.





"Let's Move" On

The Obama administration took on obesity. Michelle Obama, a widely admired first lady, made combating childhood obesity a central part of her legacy. The Let's Move campaign was founded. School gardens were planted. A portion of the White House lawn was converted to an organic garden. In spite of ernest effort and well-intended, high-level attention, little real progress was made.

In last Thursday's edition of US News and World Report, staff writer Kimberly Leonard reflects on the Obama Administration's victories and failures, and what's to come:  

Article: The Obamas' Other Health Legacy—Obesity increased overall despite an administration that made addressing it a priority. What will happen under Donald Trump?

"...Progress against obesity has been limited, and rates among adults continued to climb from 33.7 percent when Obama took office to 37.7 percent by 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention... [Although] national obesity rates among 2- to 5-year-olds declined from 13.9 to 8.9... [overall] rates of obesity didn't fall among young people, but growth appeared to slow..."

"Many nutrition advocates believe the initiatives should continue, saying that progress will take more than eight years and will require even more federal investment."

Hmmm...  eight years of moving in the wrong direction, and nutrition advocates want to stay the course? What?

School gardens are lovely. So is Michelle Obama. But perhaps there has been no progress on obesity because the mainstream understanding of obesity is wrong. If the paradigm is wrong, the action steps are likely to be wrong, too, thus leading to bad results. It's time for a complete redirect, folks.

What if throwing a few more fresh vegetables (even home-grown vegetables) into a sea of refined food hardly makes a difference? What if cutting back on calories doesn't help for long term weight loss? What if exercise doesn't really work to take off pounds? What if sedentary behavior doesn't contribute to obesity, but rather, is caused by obesity?

Instead of pushing people toward more freshfruitandvegetables and away from saturated fat, instead of distracting people with an emphasis on exercise, what if we started over with a fresh, new idea: DON'T EAT PROCESSED CRAP.




Let's look for some meaningful food sources in the modern diet that were consumed in much smaller portions 100 years ago. It's not hard to pick them out: sugar, processed grains, and refined vegetable oils. 

Let's start there. Let's encourage people to cut way back on SUGAR, GRAINS, AND VEGETABLE OIL. In exchange, we'll encouraged a return to whole, full-fat vintage food. Like meat, fish, eggs, nuts... butter, olive oil, coconut oil... even lard. And cheese, cream, full-fat yogurt and whole milk. Veggies with butter! Just like grandma's table. But minus the Crisco.


We've tried hard with more fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, and plant-based low-fat. We've failed. Vintage eating worked 100 years ago. It will work again if we give it a chance. Let's move on.






Oxymoron? A Healthy Convenience Store

What's for dinner? Customers in Texas, Chicago, and Philadelphia can stop by Snap Kitchen for a quick, creative, real food answer. This is a concept I can get excited about... lightening the load for busy eaters, especially moms.

As Forbes put it, "If Whole Foods And 7-Eleven Had a Baby, It Would Be Snap Kitchen"... I want to visit that baby. Check out the article for more details about a new retail concept that is making 'dinner' less of a time sink.

Get 'er done.



Our Theory of Obesity Is Wrong... #Problem

Doctors and nutritionists think they know what makes people fat: "It's because they take in more calories than they expend." But if that theory is wrong, all of the analysis and advice that falls out of that paradigm is likely to be wrong, too. Which might explain why, in spite of kale, My Fitness Pal, and yoga pants, so many of us just can't keep our weight under control. 

So, what is really causing Americans' struggles with weight? Nutrition expert and contrarian Gary Taubes thinks hormones and metabolic defects should take center stage. And SUGAR is a key offender. Read on and also listen to Gary Taubes live on Bite's podcast, "You Don’t Get Fat For the Reasons You Think." (2nd of two guests.)

MOTHER JONES reports: The Most Popular Theory About What Causes Obesity May Be Very Wrong



Top 10 Ways to Eat More Fat


New on the Eat the Butter blog... a practical guide for eating more fat! This post first appeared on the awesome low-carb website, Diet Doctor, but was written by ETB! It is perfect for anyone trying to enjoy more real, vintage fats for better health (and better food).

The Top 10 Ways to Eat More Fat

Flavorful, full-fat ingredients topped with creamy, satisfying sauces… Low-carb eating can be decadent! Fat is an amazing flavor enhancer – it makes everything taste better. And if you eat enough fat, it’s filling, too. Get ready for a new, luscious take on deliciousness!

Remember that a low-carb diet needs to be higher in fat, to make it satisfying. Don’t fear fat (natural fat is good for you). Don’t stay hungry. Add enough fat to feel satisfied after eating.

This can sometimes be a challenge for people who are not used to eating natural fat. Here are the top 10 tips on how to eat more fat – plus tips on HOW much fat you should aim for.


1. Start with whole, full-fat ingredients

Say goodbye to low-fat and fat-free products. Say good riddance to Egg Beaters, artificial creamers, and reduced-fat peanut butter. Banish any item labeled ‘light’ or ‘lite’ from your pantry and refrigerator.

Forget nonfat and low-fat dairy. (If your grocery store doesn’t carry plain, full-fat yogurt, buy the plain low-fat version and add back the fat by stirring in heavy cream, sour cream, or crème fraiche.)

Rethink your grocery list and stock your refrigerator and pantry with real whole food, including fat-rich options like avocados and eggs. Try to add natural fat rather than avoid it.

Fatty cuts of meat can be more flavorful, tender and inexpensive than leaner cuts. Salmon and sardines contain plenty of healthy fats and are a terrific addition, too. Invite these delicious items back onto your plate.

Learn more about low-carb, high-fat foods.


2. Cook with fat

No more limp steamed vegetables or dry chicken breasts. Cook your vegetables, meat, fish, and eggs in tasty natural fats like butter. Or the other ones listed under point 3, below.

Use as much as you need.


3. Use different fats for different flavors

Fats can change the flavor of a dish, which adds variety to your meals. For example, top green beans with butter for a comforting, familiar taste. Or, sauté them in peanut oil and drizzle with sesame oil for a delicious, Asian-inspired variation.

Experiment with new combinations to see what you like best. Stock several of these healthy fats in your fridge or pantry:

  • butter
  • lard, tallow, duck fat, and other animal fat (available at Fatworks)
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • peanut oil
  • other nut oils (macadamia, almond, walnut, etc.)
  • sesame oil


4. Prepare low-carb recipes

Low-carb recipes are designed to deliver delicious meals, with plenty of fat built right into the ingredient list.

 Click through for dozens of delicious low-carb recipes from Diet Doctor!


5. Top any dish with oil, dressing, sauces, or butter

Drizzle on oil… Pour on dressing… Spoon on Hollandaise… Ladle on flourless gravy… Dollop on sour cream… Spread on mayo… Melt on butter. Top off your dish with one of many fat-rich options. 

What sounds delicious to you? For more, check out our recipes for low-carb dressings, condiments, dips and sauces.


6. Garnish with high-fat foods

Cheese. Avocados. Cured Meat. Olives. Seeds. Nuts. These whole-food toppings add flavor and nutrients, including plenty of fat, of course! Sprinkle some on almost any dish. Here are a few ideas to mix and match:

shredded parmesan | chunked blue cheese | grated cheddar
smoked gouda | balled buffalo mozzarella | crumbled feta
melted gruyere | baked brie | grilled halloumi
cubed avocado | mashed guacamole
diced bacon | sliced pancetta | ground sausage
minced black olives | stuffed green olives
sautéed pine nuts | roasted pepitas | toasted sesame seeds
slivered almonds | chopped macadamia nuts | spiced walnuts | flaked coconut


7. Ensure snacks contain fat

As a rule, it is best to avoid snacks, but if you are too hungry to make it comfortably to the next meal, reach for a real-food snack with plenty of fat. Obvious choices include cheese, nuts, and hard boiled eggs.

For more ideas, check out our guide to low-carb snacks.


8. Add a cheese course

Cheese is a simple addition to any meal. It works as an appetizer. It works as a topping. It works as a dessert. If you need a lot of calories, cheese can help you feel satisfied.

Top low-carb recipes with cheese.


9. Blend fat into coffee or tea

Melting butter or coconut oil into coffee or tea is quick and easy. Pouring in heavy whipping cream works, too. This warm and comforting shot of fat can replace breakfast, stave off hunger between meals, or substitute for dessert if you aren’t quite full. 

Use this tool wisely; for some people, too much can stall weight loss or spike cholesterol. Especially if you drink it despite not being hungry, adding tons of fuel you don’t need. This is a potent tool – use it wisely.

Bulletproof coffee recipe. Or, a personal favorite: keto hot chocolate.


10. Consider a fat bomb for dessert

Our first advice is to skip dessert. If you do decide to treat yourself, look for recipes that are heavy in fat and low in sugar and artificial sweeteners. Unsweetened heavy whipped cream on raspberries is a perfect choice. Here are a few more of our favorites:

Low-carb snack and dessert recipes

How Much Fat Should You Eat?

Are you hungry? Don’t be. When you cut back on carbohydrates, the trick is to fuel your energy needs with fat instead. Eat enough fat at your meals so that you are not hungry for at least 5 hours.

Shoot for feeling pleasantly satisfied, but not overfed. After dinner, you should make it easily through the night – 12 hours without hunger (if not more). Work towards finding this balance. 

Below are a few refinements to this advice, if you really want to maximize the effectiveness of your low-carb diet. Most people never care about these things and they do well anyway. But for bonus points check out these five extra refinements. 


1. Ease into fat adaption

When you begin your low-carb journey, you may find some high-fat foods taste ‘too rich.’ Be patient. As you transition to your new way of eating, both your body and your taste buds will adjust. Work up to eating enough fat to avoid hunger and allow your body time (at least a month) to settle into its new pattern of burning fat instead of carbohydrates.

When you find that balance, hunger will diminish as your body enjoys easy access to the body’s fat stores that were locked away by a high-carb diet.


2. Dial it back for weight loss

Hoping to lose weight? If the answer is yes, once you are at ease with your low-carb diet, experiment with reducing the extra fat you add to meals.

When hungry, always opt for additional fat rather than cheating on your low-carb plan. Eat just enough to avoid hunger – let your body burn its internal fat stores rather than that extra pat of butter. This will accelerate weight loss.

But don’t go too far – when hungry, always opt for additional fat rather than cheating on your low-carb plan.


3. Add fat as needed for maintenance

Once you reach your goal weight, you no longer have the internal fat stores necessary to fuel an energy shortfall day after day. Tune into your body’s hunger signals. Now is the time to gradually add more fat to your diet until you find the satisfying balance of hunger-free weight maintenance. 


4. Eat an adequate amount of protein

Part of the trick of minimizing hunger is making sure you eat the right amount of protein. For most people, this happens naturally. But, if you can’t beat your hunger by adding fat, or if you are eating very low-carb but stalled in weight loss, take a look at how much protein you are eating. 

How much is enough? Individual needs vary, but about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (each day) may be optimal for weight loss. You may need more if you are active though, especially if lifting weights and building muscle.


Fat makes life tastier, easier, healthier, and more satisfying. So add the fat! Mmmm…




Five Lunchbox Favorites Masquerading as Nutritious Food

Today's guest post comes from Heather Martin, N.D. -- a naturopath, mother, and wellness blogger from Eastern Canada. Heather is a curator of all things awesome on her excellent blog, The Acorn -- Wellness, Inspiration, Beauty.



It may come as some surprise that many of the biggest lunchbox villains are marketed as healthy choices for kids. These companies, after all, want to make money, not feed your kids nutritious food. Labels like ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’, or ‘all natural’ are purposely deceptive. A quick perusal of a food’s ‘Nutrition Facts’ often bears out a far different story than the one being trumpeted in splashy print across the front of the box.

The following childhood standards are widely viewed by parents as nutritious options. And who could blame them; the marketing budgets behind these products could fund some small countries. Remember, packaged food is BIG business - whereas an apple is just an apple.


1. Granola Bars

With names like ‘Nutri-Grain’, ‘Oats n’ Honey’, and ‘Fibre One’, you would expect granola bars to be packed with good stuff for your kids. The reality is that they contain anywhere from 9 to 20 grams of sugar. To put that in perspective, 5 grams equals roughly 1 teaspoon of sugar. At the top end of the spectrum, that little bar contains a whopping 4 teaspoons of sugar. Let’s call a spade a spade: at this point, it’s a chocolate bar.

Swap for a homemade version or high-energy snacks, like nuts or a banana.


2. Luncheon Meats

This sandwich staple should be avoided at all costs. Freshly sliced cold cuts from the deli counter are fine if they are nitrate-free. But pre-packaged meats, unless you can find an organic brand, are usually loaded with preservatives, sodium, and most problematically, nitrates, a known carcinogen.

Swap for canned salmon, hard boiled eggs, leftovers, or fresh, nitrate-free cold cuts.


3. Yogurt Cups

Yogurt cups are, quite simply, dessert masquerading as a healthy lunch staple. Even when they’re devoid of questionable preservatives, the sugar content is sky high. At 19 to 29 grams per cup, flavored yogurt manages to make even granola bars look good. That’s more sugar than a Twinkie!

Swap for plain kefir or plain, whole fat yogurt.


4. 'Low Fat’ and ‘Fat Free’ Foods

First, if it advertises this on the label, you’re automatically buying a processed food. Second, fat is often replaced with sugar, which your body ingests and then turns into fat. Third, there are many, many, healthy fats, and your brain (amongst other organs!) needs these healthy fats to function. Last but not least, naturally occurring fats help us digest our food; once removed they can cause all sorts of digestive issues. Do not, I repeat, do not fall prey to this marketing gimmick. It’s making us all sick.

Swap for real food from your kitchen. Do your best to avoid packaged and processed.


5. Juice Boxes

Back to those pesky added sugars again. Any label that reads ‘fruit punch’, ‘fruit blend’, or ‘all natural flavour’; beware. This is Kool-aid in disguise, my friends. Even 100% juice contains all the sugar and none of the fibre or vitamins of a piece of fruit (that part has been processed out).

Swap for fruit and a reusable bottle of water.


Knowledge is power: learning to steer clear of these ‘healthy’ imposters in your grocery aisles gives you the power to opt out of a system that enriches itself at the cost of our well being. Far from making your kids healthy and happy, these products are high in preservatives, sugar, sodium, trans fats, and ingredients no normal person can pronounce. In other words, the very things that are making our kids sick.

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at The Acorn Wellness.

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at The Acorn Wellness.

When packing their lunchbox, keeping it real is your best bet. If you stick with whole foods, you’re already way ahead of the curve. Think hummus and raw vegetables, a homemade bean salad, or almond butter and an apple. With a little advance planning, it’s easy to get into the habit of swapping lunchbox villains for real food favorites. A very little extra effort will pay off in a delicious, nutritious meal to help your family feel their best, both in and out of school. 




How to Eat Low-Carb When Dining Out

This post first appeared as a guest blog on, a terrific LCHF website. But whether you eat LCHF, Paleo, or are just trying to eat more real food and less processed stuff, this post should help you stay on track when eating out. Vintage eating made easy...  almost anywhere!


Going out tonight? Wonderful! This guide will help you eat out AND maintain your low-carb lifestyle. Get ready for delicious food – anywhere

The Basics

Low-carb eating works anywhere. Here are six awesome tips:

1. Eliminate the starch

Bounce the bread. Pass on the pasta. Purge the potatoes. Refuse the rice. Keep temptation off your plate by ordering your meal without the starchy sides.

  • If ordering an entrée, most restaurants will substitute a salad or extra veggies for the starch.
  • If ordering a sandwich or burger, most restaurants will substitute lettuce wraps for the bun.
  • If they will not substitute, simply eliminate the unwanted item, regardless.

If, in spite of careful ordering, your plate arrives with a starchy side, consider your options. If you are certain you can leave it there, untouched, feel free. If you will be tempted to eat some of it, immediately ask the waiter to replate the meal without the starch. If you are at a more casual place, take care of the unwanted food yourself by discarding it in the trash.

If you feel you must explain yourself (to the waiter or your fellow diners), simply suggest stomach issues or a restrictive diet.

2. Add healthy fat

Restaurant meals can be low in fat, making it hard to feel satisfied without eating carbs. But this problem can be fixed.

  • Ask for extra butter and melt it on veggies or meat.
  • Ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing and drizzle the oil liberally on salads and your meal.
  • Some restaurants serve cheaper vegetable oils (full of omega 6 fat) rather than olive oil. This is not as healthy, unfortunately. To avoid this many seasoned low-carb eaters carry a small bottle of olive oil with them.

3. Keep an eye on sauces and condiments

Some sauces, like Béarnaise sauce, contain mostly fat. Others, like ketchup, contain mostly carbs. Gravies can go either way.

If you are unsure about the sauce, ask about the ingredients and avoid it if it contains sugar or flour. You can also ask for the sauce on the side so you can decide how much to add to your meal.

4. Choose drinks with care

Perfect drinks are water, sparkling water, tea, or coffee.

If you chose to add an alcoholic beverage, champagne, dry wine, light beer, or spirits – straight or with club soda – are all great low-carb choices. For more details, check out this low-carb alcohol guide.

5. Rethink dessert

Are you really still hungry? If not, preferably enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea while you wait for others to finish their sweets. Perhaps you don’t want to drink coffee if it is late? Good thinking — ask for decaf coffee or herbal tea instead.

If you are hungry and need more food, look for a cheese plate or berries with heavy cream. Sometimes just cream or butter in your coffee is enough to satisfy.

6. Get creative if necessary

If nothing on the menu seems to work for you, feel free to improvise.

  • What about the Spaghetti Bolognese item – could the restaurant serve just the sauce in a bowl, like soup, with a large serving of sautéed veggies on the side? Both would be perfect sprinkled with Parmesan cheese!
  • Or, might you order two or three appetizers? A salad paired with a shrimp cocktail and a cheese plate makes a delicious low-carb dinner.

Just ask – you’re the customer, and the customer is always right.

At Buffet Restaurants

The beauty of buffets is that there are plenty of choices, including low-carb dishes. Don’t eat to get your money’s worth – eat for health and enjoyment instead!

1. Set rules before leaving the table

Before walking past the many tempting offerings, take a moment and re-commit to skipping the biggest offenders. Remember GPS – grains, potatoes, and sugar. Don’t put these on your plate.

2. Use a small plate?

Consider starting small if you’re trying to lose weight. You can always go back for more, if it’s not enough to satisfy you.

3. Focus on fats, vegetables, and protein

Focus on the healthy food: the salad bar, carving stations, seafood spreads, and vegetable platters are the real sweet spot. And you can usually find some healthy fats to add to your plate: olive oil, butter, sour cream, and cheese. If you don’t see them, ask the servers to bring some to your table.

After savoring your delicious, low-carb selections, any cravings for the ‘carbage’ should diminish.

4. Take your time

Enjoy your dinner companions and the conversation. Drink your water and sip your coffee or tea. Sometimes it takes a bit of time before you feel satisfied, so don’t rush back for seconds if you’re trying to lose weight. Perhaps you’ll feel satisfied soon anyway.

At a Friend’s or Relative’s Place

Don’t fret about that dinner party or holiday gathering. Hosts are typically understanding and cooperative. Here are four tips:

1. Communicate as needed

Before the party, consider sharing your food preferences with your host. If you are very strict low-carb, you host may appreciate some advanced notice so he or she can accommodate your needs.

Have an excuse ready if you think you might need it. (“I have been having some stomach issues, so I am experimenting with eliminating sugar/bread/potatoes/etc…”). Any mention of stomach issues usually silences all inquiries.

2. Take the edge off your hunger at home

Eat a fatty snack before you leave for the party. Nuts, olives, or cheese are all good choices. This takes the edge off your hunger and makes it easier to resist starchy hors d’oeuvres and dinner rolls. Check out this low-carb snack guide.

3. Pick and choose

Remember, this is only one meal. Some people choose to eat more liberally when dining at a friend’s home. Perhaps you elect to enjoy the crispy coating on the fried chicken that is served– a relatively small indulgence.

That said, feel free to pass on the breadbasket and avoid putting starch on your plate. If your meal is presented with a starch, do not hesitate to leave it untouched.

As for dessert, with all of the talk about cutting back on sugar, skipping dessert is becoming more accepted. At least there’s no need to eat it to please others. Perhaps you’d be happy with a cup of coffee or tea instead?

4. Bring a low-carb dish

Call ahead and arrange to bring part of the meal. Your host or hostess will be grateful and you will be sure to enjoy the healthy fats included in your dish.

Fast Food Restaurants

Grabbing lunch or a quick dinner? Make it low carb at any of these common restaurants.

Delis, Sub Shops, and Bakery Cafés

Often, the best choice in these casual eateries is a large salad.

  1. Order a Chef’s salads or Chicken Caesar salad. Add delicious foods such as chicken, ham, shrimp, cheese, hard boiled eggs, olives, and avocado to your salad.
  2. Pour on olive oil (plenty of it!) and vinegar, Caesar or blue cheese dressings. Avoid any dressing that might be sweet, including raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette, poppy seed, French, or honey mustard. Double-check with your waiter about the dressing if you are not sure if it contains sugar.
  3. Add coffee or tea. Ask for whipping cream or butter to add fat.

Burger or Chicken Joint

Skip the fries and the soda – this is half the battle.

  1. Choose a burger with a lettuce wrap (instead of the bun). If unavailable, simply discard the bun.
  2. Load up on toppings like bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and sprouts. Avoid ketchup – regular mustard (but not honey mustard or sweet mustard) and mayo are fine. If you are really hungry, order two burgers or double down on the patty.
  3. Order fast-food chicken grilled, not fried. This eliminates both the flour in the batter and the vegetable oil in the fryer.
  4. Enjoy chicken with a salad or go with a sandwich (ditch the bun) and veggie sides.
  5. Avoid barbecue sauce, as it is full of sugar.


Lots of nice options here — but pass on those tortilla chips!

  1. Order a burrito bowl. Carnitas (pork), steak, chicken, or fajita veggies all work.
  2. Eliminate the rice, go easy on the beans, and load up on meat, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa. You can usually pay a little extra to get double servings of these ingredients.
  3. No bowls? No problem. Unwrap your burrito and eat the contents with a fork. When you are finished, discard the tortilla.


Proceed with caution at Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants.

  1. Focus on staying away from choices that are battered or taste sweet.
  2. Order a dish made with brown sauce — usually a safe, savory option. Ask your waiter to be sure. Stir-fries or curries made with meat, seafood, and low-carb vegetables taste great without the rice.
  3. Ask for coconut oil. It’s a great way to add fat to your meal. Peanut, sesame, or olive oil might be available as well. And most restaurants have butter if you ask for it!
  4. Order crispy Duck (ensure that it comes without a sweet sauce) or Chop Suey (without thickeners in the sauce, if possible). If you find Shirataki noodles on the menu, note that they are very low in carbohydrates.


Indian cuisine offers many good options for adventurous low-carb eaters.

  1. Ask for ghee, and Indian staple; it is clarified butter – pure fat! It is perfect for low-carb — add to any dish!
  2. Choose kebabs, curries (without potatoes), meat in creamy sauces (like tikka masala and butter chicken), and tandoori dishes. Skip the rice and the naan.
  3. Try adding Raita (a creamy dip made from plain yogurt – hopefully full-fat – and shredded cucumbers.)
  4. Indian homemade cheese is fine, but watch for hidden carbs (flour or other thickeners) in some of these dishes. Ask your waiter about the ingredients.


The flavor of pizza is a near universal favorite — and it’s in the sauce and toppings, not the crust! If you will be too tempted to leave most of the crust on your plate, choose a different kind of restaurant.

  1. Load up on toppings and eat as little of the crust as possible. Most toppings are low-carb. Consider doubling your favorites.
  2. Ask for a knife and fork to help you avoid eating most of the crust.
  3. Skip ordering and make pizza at home instead! Try a cauliflower crust, a Fat Head crust, or our super simple egg and cheese crust.

Bon Low-Carb Appétit!





Classic Cooking Tips From Gail Becker


Today, something new: A GUEST POST!

Gail Becker, an amazing mom and an amazing cook, shares her thoughts about vintage food.  Her six classic tips can help any mom put healthy, tasty food on the table every night of the week.  

Here is Gail's take on real-food-more-fat cooking for a family:

Classic Cooking Practices Create Healthier Eating

By Gail Becker

The best gift I ever got from my mother was her appreciation of delicious home-cooked meals. Back in the 60s and 70s, when kids roamed the neighborhood with their friends, playing kick the can, kickball or baseball, every night around dinner time, all the moms would ring a bell, signaling not only a great meal but quality time with the family.

Those were simple times with simple meals.  The prep time for a dinner was usually under an hour and the food choices our parents had were fewer but healthier.  Now, in an era of processed food and too many choices, today's mothers find themselves easily overwhelmed by the idea of coordinating hot dishes which simultaneously arrive on the dinner table just when the family sits down to eat.  If you stop at your local grocery store, you'll see that the number of prepared meals has increased in the last decade, signaling the lost hope many parents have in cooking a simple but enjoyable dinner. 

But the modern American diet is failing millions of families as they concentrate on the wrong foods and pay little attention to what's going into their meals.  Vintage cooking, in which nutrient dense foods predominate one's diet, will not only help reduce America's rising obesity rates but it will also address the issue of inflammation, a big factor in many chronic diseases. 

Since parents are the lead educators on helping our children to eat right, teaching our children by example is the smartest and most immediate way to change the direction of their health and the health of our country.  There is no need to be overwhelmed if you follow a vintage eater’s classic cooking practices:

Tip #1 Avoid Eating Processed Foods

If people haven't been consuming something for hundreds of years, it is probably not healthy enough to eat.  Think about "Little House on the Prairie" books.  Ice cream and butter were churned, soups were made by bone broth and food was smoked for flavor.  Nothing was processed chemically like half the products in today's market.

Tip #2 Choose Organic Whenever Possible

Back in the mid 1900's, all the animals that were part of our food chain ate grass that was free of chemicals and no one used pesticides in their gardens so it is a wise choice to eat organic whenever possible.  If buying organic produce becomes too costly, visit your local farmers market or get involved in a farm coop.  Another option is to start your own home garden and grow tomatoes, basil and other costly produce/herbs.    Produce treated with pesticides may be affecting the microbiome in our digestive systems, a possible cause in the increased incidence of dementia, autism and many other brain disorders.

Tip #3 Enhance Your Vitamin Absorption with Smoothies

Learn to purée or blend vegetables and fruits so that the vitamins within these foods are released.   Fruits and veggies that are puréed are more easily digestible and stay in your stomach longer, making you feel full longer. Many foods can easily be processed in a blender, creating sauces, soups and smoothies and replacing dishes that are laden with sugar and sodium.

Tip #4 Choose Oils that Contain Real, Natural Fat

Be selective when cooking and baking with oils.  Use only those that contain real, natural fat and limit the use of vegetable oils like canola, corn, Crisco and soy.  The classic choice was cooking with butter but using heat stable oils such as coconut, olive, avocado and palm are also wise choices.

Tip #5 Create Simple Marinades and Dressings

When marinating foods, avoid using store-bought marinades.  The best marinades are quickly and simply made: whisking together olive oil, garlic, and lime juice and marinating fish for five minutes is the easiest preparation. Adding salt, pepper and other spices to meat and poultry well in advance of grilling or roasting will ensure that it is very tender and has good flavor.  The same tip can be applied to salad dressings; the simplest dressing is olive oil combined with either lemon or balsalmic. 

Tip #6 Choose Snacks that Provide Long-Lasting Energy

Choose nuts, olives and avocados when snacking as they have plenty of naturally occurring fat, which is needed for normal growth and development of your body.  These fats provide long-lasting energy and help you feel full longer.


I hope these classic tips that have been used for many generations will make it easier when preparing your own home-cooked meals.  Remember, a sentimental mood is unable to say farewell to an unforgettable time.  That's the way I feel about vintage cooking that originates from our parents and grandparents!

Three generations of vintage cooks! Gail Becker, at home in the kitchen with her mother and three daughters.

Three generations of vintage cooks! Gail Becker, at home in the kitchen with her mother and three daughters.




How to Eat Low-Carb When Traveling

Photos by Anne Lopez Studios

New on the blog: a guide I wrote for the terrific LCHF site, Diet Doctor. Whether you are low-carb or not, this post should help you eat more real food (and more healthy fat) while traveling. Now that's vintage... enjoy!

Are you tired of lousy food options at every airport, train station or rest stop? Hit the road with confidence. A little preparation goes a long way. We've made it easy with this guide to low-carb travel.

Six tips–


1. Eat well before departing

real food breakfast

Fill up on your low-carb favorites before you leave. Home is the easiest place to eat right. Don’t rush – start your journey nourished and satisfied.

A filling low-carb breakfast before your travel begins can be quick and easy – hardboiled eggs, cooked bacon, reheated egg muffins, or plain Greek yogurt with cream, berries, and nuts. If you have more time, sauté sausage with mushrooms and tomatoes or slice an avocado and enjoy with olive oil or mayonnaise.

2. Pack low-carb snacks

When the flight attendant passes out pretzels, resist temptation and reach for one of these delicious and portable snacks tucked in your carry-on:

  • Nuts and nut butters (Which nuts are best? Check out our guide.)
  • Peeled hard-boiled eggs – don’t forget some salt!
  • Cheese of any type – packaged Babybel cheese is a popular option
  • Jerky, dry salami and cooked bacon
  • Low-carb Sesame Crispbread
  • Parmesan Cheese Crisps
  • Celery filled with cream cheese or nut butter
  • Ham and cheese roll-ups
  • Crudité with dip
  • Salmon and Cream Cheese Bites
  • Leftovers (yesterday’s low-carb dinner makes a great snack or meal)
  • Butter (for coffee, tea and crisps)
  • Olive oil (for salads and veggies)
  • Dark chocolate (≥ 70% cacao; no more than a couple of squares per day.)


You could pack your snacks in their original containers or in a plastic bag. But you could also get creative, like in the picture at the top.

Here are some smart containers to make travel easier, and keep your food fresh for longer:

When in doubt, pop your container into a large zip-lock plastic bag for extra protection against leaks.


3. Use coffee to keep hunger at bay

butter coffee

Coffee, either black or with heavy cream or melted butter, can take the edge off of hunger until you make it to a place with better food. This works with tea or bullion, too.


4. Try fasting

If intermittent fasting is part of your low-carb routine, use it strategically to skip meals and make travel simpler. Perhaps you rush to your early morning flight and wait to eat until lunch. Or, eat a hearty low-carb breakfast before leaving home and don’t eat again until dinner at your destination. One nice thing about fasting is that you can do it anywhere.

Look here for more on why intermittent fasting can complement LCHF.


5. Master restaurant dining

Eating out with confidence is a key part of success when traveling. Common sense should rule – say no to bread, ask for double veggies instead of the starch with your main course, and choose olive oil and vinegar for your salad. Ask for butter to melt on your cooked vegetables and protein. Skip dessert, or choose a cheese plate or berries with heavy cream.

Drink mostly water – champagne, dry wine, light beer, and straight spirits are okay in moderation. (Our guide to low-carb alcohol is worth consulting.)

For more expert tips to help you enjoy low-carb meals at restaurants, check out our dining out guide.


6. Commit to success

No excuses. Traveling is not a reason to cheat on your low-carb lifestyle. Make health your priority and decide to make low-carb work before you leave for your journey.

For more on low-carb travel, check out our tips for longer vacations – holidays, cruises, camping, and more… coming soon.




Do You 'Eatwell?'

ChooseRealFood plate first seen on Twitter @yoguruso

ChooseRealFood plate first seen on Twitter @yoguruso

This month, the UK introduced the latest version of its Eatwell Guide. This is a graphic, designed by British public health authorities, to communicate a basic framework for healthy eating to citizens. So the Eatwell Guide is, in some ways, the British version of MyPlate.

Below, you can see the two graphic depictions of a nation's 'ideal' diet, side-by-side:

In the US, the USDA's My Plate.

In the US, the USDA's My Plate.

In the UK, the NHS's Eatwell Plate.

In the UK, the NHS's Eatwell Plate.

The Eatwell Guide gets a bit more specific than MyPlate, showing pictures of the food that might actually be part of each segment on your plate. This makes it easier to take a critical look at the dietary guidelines – in the UK, yes, but also in the US, since the countries have a very similar outlook on the ideal diet to promote health. Both recommended diets are quite low in fat, high in processed grains and other carbohydrates, and in favor of refined vegetable oils over natural fats like butter.

If you believe in real food as the path to health, there is quite a bit about the Eatwell Guide that falls short. For example, the large yellow segment of the plate dedicated to mostly processed, crappy carbs does not seem likely to be helpful advice, especially given current concerns about the global obesity and diabetes epidemics. And there is more to criticize.

But this is a graphic piece. I will respond with a more graphic critique. Below, you will see a quick mark-up I did, in my attempt to ‘fix’ the Eatwell Guide. In a sense, it all comes back to eating real food rather than processed grains and refined oils. Check it out:

Eating well requires some reimagining...  real food, more fat.

Eating well requires some reimagining...  real food, more fat.

Although we can't change the Eatwell Guide or MyPlate, we can ignore them. Grassroots change is powerful.  Pass the word, mother-to-mother. Ignore the dietary guidelines and EAT REAL FOOD. 




Get REAL With Your Food

Vintage Food

An interesting study, out of University of Sao Paulo, (with prominent American nutrition voice, Tufts’ Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian as co-author), took a look at the amount of ultra-processed food consumed by Americans. The study found that a whopping 58% of our calories come from ultra-processed food.  That is a really big number, and, in my opinion, the root of our collective health problems. The study points to the high sugar content of most processed food, reporting that 90% of the added sugars in our diet come from these ultra-processed foods. A problem, no doubt, but there are many things about processed food that set off alarm bells. Doritos are ultra-processed, but contain zero grams of sugar. They should not get a free pass.


It's Not Just the Sugar

For a very thorough look at why we shouldn’t be too quick to blame the rise of obesity and diabetes over the last four decades solely on increased sugar consumption, please check out this thoughtful Eathropology post, “As the Calories Churn (Episode 2): Honey, It’s Not the Sugar.” For those of you who prefer the CliffsNotes version, here are two key sentences from Adele Hite's post:

“Teaspoons of added (caloric) sweeteners per person [per day] in our food supply (adjusted for waste) went from 21 in 1970 to 23 in 2010… the math doesn’t work out so well if we are trying to blame added sweeteners for 2/3 of the population gaining weight.”

This is an increase of about 34 calories per day.

Packaged, industrially produced foods are a package deal; a very bad deal. They are loaded with refined sugars and starches, laced with refined vegetable oils, and topped off with fillers, texturizers, additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients that mess with our health. Exactly what does the worst or the most damage is still unknown. We need to minimize the entire package.


Eat Real Food

When I speak to mothers about feeding families, I emphasize vintage eating. I suggest that we need to get back to ‘real food.’

What is ‘real food?’

Whole, unprocessed food. Food that has one ingredient. Food that probably doesn’t come in a box. Food that is probably not made in a factory. Food you could buy from a farmers' market – produce, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts… Real food is back-to-basics.

If most of our calories could come from these vintage foods, rather than ultra-processed food, we would be on the road to vibrant health.


Minimize Ultra-processed Food

Let’s take a quick look at how the study authors defined ultra-processed food:

“Ultra-processed foods were defined as industrial formulations which, besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, include substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations.”

This is a decent definition. If your food contains ingredients that no typical American keeps in her kitchen, or, as the authors word it, “substances not used in culinary preparations,” it is probably processed food. The study’s supplement goes into greater detail, providing examples of the kinds of food included in the ultra-processed category:

“Confectionery, soft drinks, sweetened juices and dairy drinks, powders for juices, sausages, chicken and fish nuggets or sticks and other pre-prepared frozen dishes, dried products such as cake mix, powdered soup, instant noodles, ready-seasonings, and an infinity of new products including packaged snacks, morning cereals, cereal bars, and ‘energy’ drinks. Sugar substitutes, sweeteners and all syrups (excluding 100% maple syrup). Breads and baked goods become ultra- processed products when, in addition to wheat flour, yeast, water, and salt, their ingredients include substances not used in culinary preparations such as hydrogenated vegetable fat, whey, emulsifiers, and other additives.”

This, indeed, is the bad stuff -- the stuff we should cut back on. But this categorization is decent, not perfect. The authors naturally bring current nutrition biases to their definition of ultra-processed food. Two major calorie sources that are processed are NOT included in their list of ultra-processed food: wheat flour and vegetable oil.  Why? Because these two foods have an (undeserved) aura of health and are encouraged by our current nutrition paradigm. To point out that they are processed would undermine the conventional wisdom about what we should be eating.

Wheat flour, a popular ingredient in our modern conception of a ‘healthy’ diet, is finely ground – think pulverized into a very fine powder – and, thus, is quite processed. (Yes, even whole-wheat flour is pulverized.) Yet, when made into whole grain cereal or artisanal bread, flour is excluded from the ultra-processed category. The flour contained in industrially produced bread, cereal, crackers and desserts is counted as ultra-processed. So flour is split – some of it falls in the ultra-processed category, but some of it is excluded. To eat cereal grains in an unprocessed state, we would really have to eat items like boiled wheat berries, pearled barley, and steel cut oatmeal. Not that enticing, I know, but there is a key difference. The glycemic index (GI) for these intact preparations (where the grain remains whole) is much lower – less than half – than the GI for whole wheat bread or whole grain cereal; the latter spike blood sugar pretty much just like the white flour versions of these foods. You can find more about this in my post about grains.

Secondly, the authors have excluded ‘plant oils’ from the list of ultra-processed calories. I agree that some high quality plant oils, like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and nut oils, are not ultra-processed and provide excellent, vintage nutrition. We should eat more of these. But the common vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, safflower, etc.) are highly processed products of our industrial food system. Producing them requires a factory with solvents, high heat, bleach, and deodorizers. These refined vegetable oils (and the margarines and spreads made from them) are some of the most processed ingredients in our modern food supply. They are inventions of food science and anything but vintage. Their presence in our food coincides with our decline in health; our consumption of added fats and oils increased 66% (over 200 calories/person/day) since 1970. This should make us suspicious of these newcomers. Yet, they are not counted as ultra-processed unless they are included in a food that has other ingredients that classify it as ultra-processed. So it would seem that 58% underestimates the average share of ultra-processed calories in our diets.


Vintage Meals - The Original Fast Food

What if we could flip that ratio around?  Go back to 60% (or more!) of calories from real food? Not fancy real food – just real food.

Real food meals can be simple… Fry up a piece of meat or fish or a couple of eggs. Warm up some frozen veggies with butter. Add a handful of nuts or a few slices of cheese. Done.

Our current national dietary goals suggest tweaking our current paradigm – cutting back on added sugar and eating even less saturated fat in exchange for even more processed whole grain products and refined vegetable oils. Forget that. It isn’t working. How about a new – well, vintage – path back to health. Eat real food and the sugar diminishes naturally.  In addition, you will remove other modern ingredients we cannot trust and add back time-tested favorites we can – like butter!





Got Milk?

Got milk?

Whole milk versus skim? Or split the difference with 2% or even 1%? What about chocolate, so the kids will actually drink it? Is organic worth it? These are the questions mothers face when staring at the dairy case in the supermarket. We do our best, but do we really have the information we need to make this call?

Go For Whole:  

When it comes to milk, I think we have to start with a look at essential nutrients. We want our kids to get as many vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients out of the milk as possible. Milk that has been altered can be an incomplete package. Skim milk may have the same amount of protein as whole, but without the fat, critical fat-soluble vitamins A and D cannot be fully absorbed. Without these vitamins, calcium absorption is impaired. Nature designed milk intelligently -- the fat is there for a reason, and in fact, it is the key to making the most of the rest of milk's components.

Can you skim the fat off milk, refortify it with vitamins, and then consume enough vegetable oil (in place of the milk fat), perhaps in a muffin, so that your body can fully absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, and hence, the calcium? Probably, but doesn't that seem a little convoluted? Why would humans need to go through such a bizarrely elaborate process? 

Replacing nature's saturated fat with vegetable oil becomes particularly troubling when we consider where most vegetable oil (soy, corn, canola, safflower, cottonseed, etc.) comes from: a factory. Think about the process that converts rapeseeds into canola oil, for example. It requires high heat, solvents, deodorizers, and bleach. Or, as my delightfully sarcastic friend, Adele Hite, who blogs at Eathropolgy points out, "Y'know, stuff you do to dirty diapers." Wouldn't it be easier to skip all the industrial complexity and serve whole milk?

Don't Add Sugar:

Whole milk tastes better than skim milk, so you are less likely to have to pour sugar into it to get your kids to drink it. Now, I know some kids are so used to skim milk that they find whole milk a little hard to swallow, but children can and do gradually adjust to either. It seems, however, that with fat-free milk, stripped of the natural flavor the fat would typically deliver, chocolate or strawberry is often the choice. These fat-free, sweetened milk-like beverages are served with a smile in our school lunchrooms, by the way, and they are the worst choice for kids. Weighing in at 23 grams of sugar per cup, this is the same amount of sugar as a cup of cola. Perhaps we could just add a scoop of whey protein powder to soft drinks? Instead of fat-free chocolate milk, we could offer our school children protein fortified Coke -- bottoms up, kids! Choose Happiness... And, with no fat to slow the absorption of this sugar, the buzz of a blood sugar high awaits. (Just what the teachers want -- kids bouncing off the ceiling and then crashing.)

Grass-fed is Best:  

Is organic milk worth it? It depends. Some organic milk comes from cows fed organic corn in fairly conventional, confined environments. That may not be worth much. Personally, I look for 'grass-fed' or 'pastured' on my milk carton. Cows are meant to eat grass, not corn, and their milk -- especially the fat in their milk -- is altered by the unnatural corn-based confinement diet. It also seems prudent to avoid milk from cattle that have been treated with hormones to enhance milk production. Organic is one way to get that, but you can also find non-organic brands that do not use bST and note that on their cartons. These local dairies often price their milk close to conventional prices, which is a considerable savings versus organic. When I can find it, I buy non-homogenized milk, as it has been treated more gently and seems more natural; if I lived near a trustworthy farmer with a clean dairy, I would serve raw milk to my family. But as a practical matter, I typically buy whole, grass-fed, pasteurized milk. The basic idea is not messing with milk, or messing with it as little as possible. That is the central principle.

But wait a cottonseed-picking minute...  

Won't whole milk make my kids gain weight? There are lot of calories in that fat-- shouldn't we be skimming it off? The science, like this large study in JAMA Pediatrics, tells us that dairy fat is not associated with weight gain in adolescents. However, consumption of skim milk (for girls) and 1% milk (for boys) is associated with weight gain. Perhaps the skim milk or 1% milk leaves children less satisfied... almost as if something was missing from their glass (like the fat)? Never underestimate the power of saturated fat to assuage hunger.

What about heart disease? Doesn't saturated fat contribute to heart disease? Several large meta-analyses reveal that dietary saturated fat is not clearly linked to heart disease. Read more about the science, here, on Eat the Butter. I just came across a study done in Costa Rica, where the cows eat grass and the butter is grass-fed. Those who ate the most butter experienced half as many heart attacks as those who ate the least. There is something fundamentally wrong with the mainstream idea that saturated fat clogs arteries.

Further, the nutritional needs of children are distinct from adults. There is little to no evidence that saturated fat consumption in childhood is associated with future heart disease or any negative health outcomes. However, there is decent evidence that children on low-fat diets get "less than 2/3 the Recommended Dietary Allowances for calcium, zinc, and Vitamin E. They also [get] less magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin." (Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise, p. 152) We have to ask ourselves, why are most American children eating low-fat diets, including drinking skim milk? And how is it that our federally-funded school lunch programs are prohibited from serving our children whole milk?

Gif from David Smith's Youtube video. More footage, here:

Gif from David Smith's Youtube video. More footage, here:

Vintage wisdom:

Back in the day, farmwives served mostly whole milk, plus plenty of cream and butter. This antique cream separator* partitioned the skim milk (left), from the cream (right), and the cream was the prized commodity -- they savored it in cheese and other dishes or churned it into butter. Skim milk was the byproduct of their desire for cream. Sometimes they drank the skim milk; often, they fed it to the pigs.

*A special thank you to Nina Teicholz for bringing this vintage machine to my attention!



Not Seeing What is Right in Front of You?

Where's the butter?.jpg

Most of us have experienced this, either personally, or with a partner. Some women even call it ‘Male Pattern Blindness’– he is looking for something, it is right in front of him, but he can’t see it. In my experience, this ‘blindness’ has a couple of causes.

Cause Number One:  he isn’t looking very hard. He is preoccupied with something else, and just wants someone else (usually you) to deal with finding whatever it is he needs– let’s just say it is raisins. Perhaps you have put the raisins on a different shelf, and he is only looking on the one shelf where he usually finds them. A wider search would produce results, but, unfortunately, a narrow one is programmed. For this and other reasons, a distracted searcher is far less likely to find what he is looking for, even when it is right in front of him.

Cause Number Two: his preconceived notions about what he is looking for are wrong.  For example, say he is looking for raisins, and thinks they are in the white cylindrical tub you usually buy. But this time, you purchased a different brand in a red box. He is staring at the red box, clearly labeled ‘Raisins’, but he can’t see it. He is blinded by his expectation that the raisins will be in a white cylinder. Expectations shape our searches, so the wrong mindset can indeed impede our ability to find what we seek.

In the search for a healthy diet that will help prevent chronic disease, could ‘Male Pattern Blindness’ be a factor? Definitely. Cause Number One comes into play – doctors and dieticians are busy people with many demands on their time. When it comes to nutrition, many health professionals keep their heads down and recommend standard, status-quo advice, without looking further for an approach that delivers better results. A narrow search or half-hearted search for a better diet makes most cling stubbornly to the current paradigm that is not working.

Cause Number Two is even more of a factor. Health professionals have been trained to believe that diets low in saturated fat lead to better health and longer lives. They glance at high-fat alternatives and dismiss them outright, without reviewing the growing body of science and success stories documented in the literature. Given their training and expectations, higher fat diets are the last place most mainstream doctors or dieticians would look for solutions to our burgeoning chronic disease rates. They can’t see higher-fat solutions because they are looking for lower-fat solutions. And, most consumers rely on these health professionals and dismiss options that are labeled by the medical community as a fad or even ‘risky.’

Going back to whole, real food is a possibility that lies right at our fingertips. It is almost an obvious move. It’s back to basics; back to a way of eating that worked in the past. Modern science (like this study in Cell) demonstrates that different people respond differently to identical diets. If low-fat options are not working for you, vintage eating, with real food and considerably more fat might be your answer. Don’t be blind. See the alternatives that are right in front of you and find a diet that makes you feel good. Here are six alternative diets that work well for others – pick one that suits you and give it a try!



Why Butter?

butter is the new black

For many, 'eating clean' means eliminating animal fats like butter from their diets. A better way of 'eating clean' would be to eliminate sugar and flour from your diet so you can eat more butter! Butter is an amazing food in so many ways.

Butter is the new black because, like black, it goes with everything. Try some on your bacon... that is a little extreme, but really, butter adds flavor and great mouth-feel to almost any dish. Butter is delicious, satisfying, wholesome, and nutrient dense. Melting some on your veggies helps you absorb all of their vitamins and minerals.

Butter is the new black because, like black, butter is slimming. It provides satiating calories that do not affect blood sugar. By eating butter instead of carbs, you can stay in fat burning mode and access that 'pantry within' -- so your own fat stores can feed you. This allows you to burn fat and lose weight. Check out this Facebook page or this Youtube video from Butter Bob who knows (from personal experience) that 'Butter makes your pants fall off.'

Like basic black t-shirts, butter is affordable. You can buy 100 calories of delicious, grass-fed butter for about what it costs to buy 100 calories of processed grains -- crackers or cereal. Butter is an economical way to feed your family, so don't be afraid to help fill everyone up by using butter liberally. Conventional butter costs about nine cents for 100 calories (similar to cheap bulk cereal) -- that is much less than, say, inexpensive chunk light tuna, which costs about $1.12 for 100 calories. Butter is a bargain in your grocery cart.

Butter is a great vintage food; back in the day, Americans used to eat a lot more butter. In the 1920's, we ate almost 18 pounds of butter per person per year. Today, our consumption is around 6 pounds per person per year. OK people, when were we healthier? Imagine what would happen to our national health care spending if we could get chronic disease rates back to the low levels of the1920's. Do your part and eat more butter!

For more about the benefits of eating more fat, please check out this page on the Eat the Butter site.

And, here's what some pro-butter experts are saying about butter (especially butter made from grass-fed cows' milk):

Weston A. Price Foundation: Butter is a rich source of easily absorbed vitamins A, D, E, and K. Butter is also an important source of trace minerals such as selenium. Butter helps boost metabolism and fight infection. Butter is a good source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a compound that protects against cancer and helps the body build muscle rather than store fat.

The Bulletproof Executive: The vitamins in butter protect against heart disease, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and degenerative disease. Butter's secret ingredient is butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation.



Chocolate - An Amazing Food

chocolate pregnant

Chocolate is a gift from the universe. It is everything you could ask for in a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals? Check. Loaded with antioxidants? Check. A good source of healthy energy? Check. But is it delicious? CHECK!

I love chocolate, and the good news is that we can feel good about adding some dark chocolate to our diets. By dark chocolate, I mean chocolate that contains at least 70% chocolate liquor, the liquified paste made from grinding roasted cacao beans. Why so dark? To minimize the sugar, of course! Sugar is enemy number one, but chocolate without some sugar is pretty bitter. In the spirit of moderation, I make sure the number of grams of net carbs (excluding fiber) in my chocolate is less than the number of grams of fat. (Here is a link to a page on my site that lists some of my favorite bars.) Usually, if you find a bar with at least 70% cacao and no added candy, you will be close. Dark chocolate is a great substitute for the empty calories in desserts like cakes, cookies, and candy; it offers the amazing taste and creamy texture of a satisfying dessert, yet packs the nutritional punch of a superfood.

A highlight of my family's trip to Peru was the chocolate making workshop at the Chocomuseo in Cusco. There, we learned that the Inca were known to eat the fermented and roasted cacao beans right out of the shell, and legend has it that they lived long, healthy lives. Today, after the beans are ground into a paste, the cacao solids are separated from the cacao butter (the natural fat in chocolate), and they are either recombined into bars or sold separately as cacao powder and cacao butter. Because of the misguided American low-fat mindset, some participants in our workshop were tempted to skip the natural fat and add extra sugar, non-fat milk, and other ingredients to their chocolate. But remember, the Inca ate the whole cacao bean for longevity, fat and all. So should we!

Pittsburgh local, Will Clower, PhD, has written a book entitled, Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight. Don't you love the title? In Clower's book, chocolate is a microcosm for the challenges in our overall diet.  If you can get your chocolate right -- real ingredients, full-fat, not too much sugar -- you can get your overall diet right, too. (Real food. More fat. Less sugar.) As Clower trains your palate to enjoy darker chocolate, he is also training your palate to expect less junk and sugar in your total meal plan. 

Personally, I love salt on my chocolate. Have you tried it? There are many brands of high-quality dark chocolate with salt added! Here is one from Cusco, Peru.

Happy Thanksgiving... What is on your gratitude list? Mine includes chocolate! For more ideas about healthy, vintage food, check out this link.