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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 Lousy, outdated ideas about diet and health dominate.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.



"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.






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…




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!





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.




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!





When It Comes to Carbs, Don't Be Dense

As the obesity and diabetes epidemics progress, the search for causes and explanations becomes ever more urgent.  Why, now, are so many people struggling with these diseases? There are many theories…  I recently came across one interesting idea that appeals to my sense of possibilities, and it came from a 2012 paper entitled, "Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity." Quite a mouthful. But author Ian Spreadbury makes a pretty simple and interesting point in this paper. The notion is that ancestral foods, (foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years), are not particularly dense with digestible carbohydrates, but many modern foods are.

Maybe our body’s mechanism for managing carbohydrate calories is gradually overwhelmed by our modern low-fat diet, rich with foods that are very dense with carbohydrate calories. Could these modern foods be driving the twin obesity and diabetes epidemics? The low-fat diet, introduced and encouraged by our government in the late 70’s and early 80’s, pushed us away from some traditional foods (they asked us to decrease consumption of  meat, animal fats, full-fat dairy, and eggs) and toward modern foods (they asked us to increase consumption of grains like bread, cereal, and pasta). And, since that is when these epidemics picked up speed, it seems like a point in time that deserves some scrutiny.

Calculating the carbohydrate density of a food is simple. In a 100 gram serving, take a look at the grams of total carbohydrate and simply subtract the grams of fiber.  Like so:

Although the author provides his own nifty graph in Figure 1 of his paper (scroll down a bit), let me offer a more colorful version of the carbohydrate density of various modern and ancestral foods. Note that the scale (0-100g) is the same in these two graphs...  You will see that there is very little overlap. With the exception of cassava, taro, and plantains, ancestral foods are all less dense (from a carbohydrate perspective) than the modern creations listed.

Carb Density of modern foods.png
Carb Density of Traditional Foods.png

Are there modern creations that I left out that are lower in carbohydrate density? Yes. I cheated a little to make the graphs look better. For example, the mysterious creation, Kraft Free Singles (fake, fat-free cheese), has a carbohydrate density of only 11.5. Although low, this is more than triple the carbohydrate density of real cheddar cheese (3.1), so the pattern of higher carbohydrate density in modern foods is intact. Likewise, low-fat fruit yogurt scores 19.1 -- again, lower than most modern creations, but quadruple the carbohydrate density of plain full-fat yogurt (4.7).

Of course, one of the reasons most of these modern foods score so high on this scale is that they are not a real, whole food full of fiber and/or water. So, might it help to drink a lot of water when chowing down on that granola bar? Maybe... it certainly could not hurt. Note, also, that it definitely does NOT help to wash the granola bar down with soda or Gatorade or Snapple or Red Bull or apple juice.  Nor does it help to add a big glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice to your breakfast of Post Honeycomb cereal. VERY BAD IDEA. That would add to your body's carbohydrate load, now wouldn't it?