Monday, February 25, 2013

Spent the weekend perusing a cookbook calculating calories

Well, on my off time I did. I had other "duties" this weekend too - not just time to read a cookbook!

So,  I have this cookbook, The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking. 80 Low Carb Recipes that Offer Solutions for Celiac Disease, Diabetes and Weight Loss by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace.

I had mentioned it before, but this time I actually dove into the cookbook, figured out some nutritional stuff and tried my first recipe.

The recipe I tried was the blueberry pancake. I was making pancakes for everyone else, so I thought, "why not some for me?" I haven't eaten a pancake in over two years. The big test was also to see if I would get a sugar crash 2 or so hours later as I always get a sugar crash with regular pancakes and even whole grain pancakes.

First, the ease of making the recipes. One thing I like is that these recipes are basic. They aren't full of weird little ingredients. Well, maybe nut flour seems weird to non low-carbers, but it's a staple for those trying to keep carbs lower. They even tell you alternatives you can try. Since I'm doing low carb, I have gotten a lot of the nut flours and bean flours and they are pretty easy to make if I can't find them already ground. It's more expensive than wheat flour, of course, but wheat flour isn't an option.

The pancake recipe was almond meal/flour, hazelnut flour/meal, baking powder, soy milk (though I used regular milk), splenda (or the like), egg, vanilla and blueberries. That's it. Next time I'm going to take out the splenda and vanilla and put in a scoop of vanilla protein powder for more of a nutritional boost.

One complaint I have about the book is that there aren't any nutritional breakdowns. I can see that it's low carb by the ingredients, but how does it compare to other things?

Well, what I discovered of hours of computing different recipes from pizza crusts to muffins to cookies to pancakes is that calories wise it's about the same as traditional baked goods. A slice of cake, a muffin, a cookie, a pancake that is low carb and that is traditional flours came out about the same. They even have similar protein counts - depending on the recipe. These recipes just replace a lot of the carbs with fats.   And, maybe that's why they didn't configure the nutritional contents - people are still fat phobes. Though, most of this fat is from nuts which are the good fats, chock full of nutrients and way more satiating than white flour or even whole grain flour.

Anyway....let's compare blueberry pancakes.  Here's what a traditional blueberry pancake breaks down to nutritionally (6" diameter):

Calories: 170
Fat grams: 7
Carb grams: 22.3
Fiber grams:  0
Net Carbs: 22.3
Protein grams: 4.7

Here is what the low carb recipe with almond flour and hazelnut flour breaks down to for the same size/weight:

Calories: 161.3
Fat grams: 13
Carb grams: 7.8
Fiber grams: 2.8
Net carbs: 5
Protein grams: 5.84

If I were to take out the splenda and add muscle milk vanilla protein powder instead (replacing one for one):

Calories: 174.6
fat grams: 13.8
Carb grams: 7.1
Fiber grams: 3.1
Net carbs: 4
Protein grams: 8.1

Can you see where the big differences are? It's taking the carbs down and the fats up (and a more so on the protein if you take out the fake sugar and put in protein powder - which also has sweetener).

And, how did it turn out? And was I satiated from the homemade blueberry pancakes? It turned out great and, yep, they were filling. I ate 2.5 pancakes for breakfast with a few additional fresh blueberries. Now, could I have eaten more? Heck yes. I could have eaten 5 of these. Portion control is still important, of course. And, I should say, I never eat it with jam or such. If I had to put something on them, it would be a nut butter or a fresh fruit blended with plain yogurt, not syrup or jam. But this time I ate them plain at 9 am.

At 1 pm I was feeling hungry and I ate my protein bar and a handful (one serving) of nuts. That's all I had with me as I was out of the house. That held me until dinner at 6 pm when we had a nice salad and roasted fish.

In the past, pancakes at 9 am (for the same caloric amount) would have had me shaking by 10:30 am so that I would need to eat. I would eat another snack/meal then and would probably still need a lunch as my snack would probably be something sugary to fix the sugar low I was experiencing. It just becomes a vicious circle. So, in the end a pancake breakfast would have resulted in another 200-500 calories for the day.

Moral of the story? Some foods fill you up better than others and keep you full even those with the same caloric count. And those filling foods can taste really, really good!

What was really great was that my husband and older son really loved these pancakes. They preferred them to the plain old pancakes. So, next time, I'll make some more of these as they certainly could use less simple carbs too.

What I'm really excited about though is finding ways to have treats during traditional sweets times (holidays) that won't derail me. I want to be able to have a cookie without it causing me to get sugar spikes so that I then eat 5 cookies. It's not about self-control. It's about controlling the sugar so that I can control my cravings. And craving is too light of a word. That makes it appear mental. My sugar highs and lows are physiological. If I can stop that up and down cycle, then my weight should be able to stay more stable because I won't have to keep feeding the sugar demons.

I can't wait to try more recipes from the book now! And since they are chock full of nutrients, it might replace my go to bag of nuts or protein bar when I'm in a pinch.

And now... time for lunch!


  1. I'll have to look harder for some places that sell nut flours, as its not something I can get at our local grocery. I kind of quit looking after I cooked something experimental with soy flour (I can't even remember what) and it didn't turn out well.

  2. I can find almond flour anywhere. At Trader Joes it's called almond meal. $3.99 for 14 ozs. More expensive bags can be found at any grocery store. Bob's Red Mill, but that can be $6.99 to 9.99 depending on the store. I can find it at every single store in my parts. Either with the gluten free stuff, the health food area or with regular baking - depends on the store. Almond flour is realllllly tasty. I use it also to batter fish and chicken (the part that would be flour).

  3. Hmm...I'll have to try almond flour to lightly batter chicken. My wife and I have chicken a lot because it works into our plan well, but we can definitely get in a rut with it preparing it the same couple of ways.

    Just dip it in egg, roll it in the flour, and pan fry in a bit of oil?

  4. That's one way to do it. Or bake it on a baking sheet - like this recipe I found here:

    Other variations - mix equal amounts of unsweetened shredded coconut and almond meal and do the same.

    All kinds of spices - the recipe above uses paprika and chicken seasoning. The coconut/almond one could be spiced up with either cilantro/coriander and/or a dash cayenne pepper - or after it bakes, splashing it with a bit of lemon juice. Endless possibilities.

    If you fry, remember to line your plate with a paper towel. Put the cooked cutlets on the towels and get another for over top to and press lightly to get the excess fat away from the chicken. Not an issue with baking it.