definitive guide to low-carb snacking for weight loss (and who should eat low carb)

wpid-20131128_125938_edit0.jpgI never ever recommend the same diet to every client I work with. We are all way too genetically and “environmentally” different. That is, no two people have the same nutritionally-significant gene mutations and no two people were raised with the same chemical exposures and stresses. Each person deserves a diet crafted specifically for them.

That said, there is a certain metabolic type that I look for when a woman with thyroid disease or autoimmunity comes to me, hopeless about weight loss. A few things I always consider:

  • Could she be Leptin resistant? Leptin is a hormone that controls satiety. It is super common (due to stress, other hormonal imbalances, low neurotransmitters, a history of obesity, a history of stress eating/over-eating/night eating, consistently eating a high carbohydrate diet) to be Leptin resistant.
  • Could she have low GABA? GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps keep us relaxed and calm, and not have nightly sweet/starch/alcohol cravings. Low GABA can cause high stress hormones, but also the insatiable desire to eat sweets in the late afternoon or evenings.
  • Is low Serotonin causing her cravings?
  • Does she have signs of Candida Albicans overgrowth? This can be a cause and result of a high carbohydrate diet.
  • Does she feel better eating a high protein diet but struggles to maintain it?
  • Does she feel better when she eats animal fats?
  • Does she feel horrible when she skips meals or goes too long without eating? Does she need to eat frequently?
  • Does she have a diagnosed thyroid disease?
  • Does she have adrenal fatigue or low or high cortisol?
  • Does she tend to gain weight in her mid-section?
  • Does she prefer sweet foods to salty foods? Or does she crave both?
  • Does she have significant weight she would like to lose? Has she had difficulty losing weight in the past?
  • Is there a Diabetes diagnosis or family history?
  • Does she feel fatigued shortly after eating carbohydrates?
  • Does she feel moody after eating carbohydrates?
  • Does she have estrogen or testosterone imbalances?
  • Does she use caffeine or other uppers in the late afternoon to stay awake?

All of these can lead me to believe this woman may not metabolically tolerate a high carbohydrate diet. And a low carbohydrate diet may be just what she needs to improve her hormone status as well as lose weight. Low carb, high fat, moderate protein. But because high carbohydrate foods are so readily available and easy to carry on-the-go, finding snack options may be difficult. So here are my low-carbohydrate snack ideas for thyroid weight loss. 

  • hard boiled eggs. I know these are not everyone’s favorite food. That’s okay! You don’t have to love eggs to keep these guys handy for when you are hungry. As soon as you know you need a snack or begin craving a high-carb food, eat two hard boiled eggs (preferably sprinkled with a little unrefined sea salt). You probably won’t love the flavor, but they will fill you up, maintain stable blood sugar, and keep you from reaching for a convenient high-carb snack. They are also easy to carry on-the-go thanks to the protective outer shell. If you are eating low-carb, always carry four eggs with you whenever you leave the house. You will be prepared no matter what your schedule is like! Make an entire dozen of these on a Sunday before your week starts. (Note: you may have to avoid eggs if you have CBS gene mutations, due to the sulfur content)
  • nuts and seeds. I will say, in my health coaching practice, I see a ton of people with nut and seed intolerances. That is because nuts (and some seeds) are one of those foods that overlap into almost every food intolerance category: high salicylate (except cashews and poppy seeds), high oxalate (except small amounts of flax, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds), histamine, and sulfur. So please identify your intolerances to these before eating a ton of nuts and seeds. But if you are one of the rare people who can tolerate them, carry a container of high-zinc and selenium nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews. Preferably you would buy these soaked or sprouted or do that yourself.
  • coconut flakes/coconut chips. You can buy plain unsweetened coconut flakes from most any health food store. Snack on these plain, or put them into a warm medium heat dry pan to toast up — and add spices and salt if you prefer (curry powder, chili powder, galic powder, etc). You can also find coconut chips which are pre-prepared from several different companies and are usually thicker and crunchier than the flakes, as well as pre-seasoned. Just be careful of hidden sugars. Some brands use lower glycemic coconut sugar or coconut nectar. Avoid if you are salicylate or histamine sensitive. 
  • homemade jello. Use a good quality gelatin like Great Lakes or Vital Proteins. Use a low sugar fruit juice (dark cherry, cranberry or blueberry would be good) as the liquid and sole sweetener. Cut into squares or pour into a mold and keep in a container in the fridge for easy access. Bonus is that it’s high in protein without having to eat meat.
  • flax crackers. Mix equal parts flax meal and Parmesan cheese, a tablespoon of fat/oil, a pinch of salt, and any additional seasonings you want (I like to add an “everything bagel” seasoning to these). Add enough water to make a thick paste. Spread thin on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees until crispy and cooked through. Break into crackers and store in bag.
  • sourdough bread products. In general you’ll want to avoid bread on a low-carb diet but keep in mind that sourdough bread products are naturally lower carbohydrate because the bacteria consume the sugars in the grain. So find a gluten-free pancake or flat bread recipe and soak the flour overnight in yogurt or a sourdough starter to reduce the carb content. 
  • cheese. Obvious choice because it’s portable and quick to eat! You can also find non-dairy cheese recipes that use nuts if you tolerate them, or zucchini and nutritional yeast. 
  • low glycemic fruits. Blueberries, apricots, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit, guava, nectarines, oranges, pears, watermelon, peaches, plums.
  • coconut flour truffles. Mix coconut flour with water, butter or coconut oil (or other oil), a splash of honey or maple syrup (very small amount) until the consistency of a thick dough, pinch of salt, and vanilla extract. Then roll into truffles and store in fridge. 
  • herbal teas. While these lack significant calories, they are flavorful when you are craving something to eat but aren’t technically hungry. 
  • jerky. You can find gluten-free, organic, and all-natural jerky without MSG or other flavor enhancers. You can find turkey, chicken, beef, salmon, and other meats.
  • protein bars. These days you can find all sorts of Paleo or grain-free protein bars that do not contain nuts or grains. I like the Caveman Primal brand of chicken jalapeno bars.
  • chia pudding. Mix chia seeds into liquid of your choice (milk, non-dairy milk, water) plus flavoring (cocoa, vanilla extract, maple extract, etc) plus chopped dried fruit or a tiny splash of honey or maple syrup. A little sweetness goes a long way when you’re mostly eating chia seeds. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to gel. Then refrigerate.
  • pre-chopped vegetables. Find your largest Tupperware container and fill with sliced cucumber, bell peppers, jicama (small amount), cauliflower, asparagus, celery, green beans. Be sure to be mindful of your food intolerances and avoid veggies you don’t tolerate.
  • homemade sour cream or mayo-based salad dressing. You can find organic dip and salad dressing mixes without artificial ingredients or de-natured milk products. French onion dip from Simply Organic is decent and naturally dairy-free. You can mix it into either sour cream, or mayo if you cannot tolerate dairy. Try to find a “healthy” mayo made from avocado oil. This will act as a healthy fat to stabilize blood sugar and fill you up. Dip veggies into it or put on salads.
  • yogurt or kefir. Eat alone, or add to low glycemic smoothies.
  • cottage cheese
  • homemade trail mix. You can tailor this to your food sensitivities, but these ingredients are low-carb, nutritious, and filling: dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, raisins , apple or banana chips — not too much, freeze dried cranberries or raspberries), coconut flakes, nuts or seeds, cacao nibs, chicharron (pork rinds), veggie chips/dehydrated vegetables
  • Veggie chips/dehydrated vegetables. You can dehydrate (and spice) your own veggies in the oven on low, or you can buy them. Be sure the store bought veggie chips don’t have added sugar (they often do!)
  • chicharron. Eat then alone or with guacamole
  • Guacamole with veggies
  • black unsweetened coffee with cream. Choose decaf organic coffee if you can. The cream is best if organic and raw, as ultra-pasteurized creams can cause lots of gas and bloating. Cream is a healthy fat and blood sugar stabilizer, if from quality sources. 
  • flavored unsweetened sparkling water. Again, this lacks calories so while not a real snack, it is a source of flavor, which we often crave even when we’re not hungry. 
  • olives, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and other cured probiotic foods. Not only are these super low in calories and carbs, they’re often probiotic (if you find raw fermented products). Or make my soaked flour kimchi pancakes.
  • lunch meats and cured meats. Buy Applegate or other natural brands. Very portable too.
  • coconut flour wraps. You can buy or make these. They’re like tortillas but made with low carb coconut. Add savory fillings and eat like a taco, or add “sweet” flavorings like nut butters, cream cheese, coconut cream, cinnamon, or low glycemic fruits.
  • bone broth. Yep! Make some bone broth and warm up and drink plain for snacking. Carry in a thermos for easy portability. Or to make your own super food, warm up broth on the stove top then crack in an egg yolk or two and stir vigorously until the yolk melts into the broth to create a velvety sauce. Drink and savor. For more flavor, add scallions, ginger, chopped garlic, and greens of your choice.
  • fresh pressed juices. Have a juicer or a local juice shop? Get low carb veggies and fruits to create your own fresh juices. Romaine, cucumber, celery, bitter greens (wheatgrass, parsley, mustard greens, etc), apple or pear, etc.
  • canned fish. This isn’t for everyone but some people love love love sardines, oysters, clams, and other portable canned seafood. Personally I think smoked oysters taste like a delicious beef jerky. Not only that but they’re super high in zinc and iron — great for most thyroid patients. Avoid if you’re histamine intolerant.
  • baked egg cups. You can customize these. To greased muffin tin, crack in one raw egg, then add any toppings you like (scallions, bell peppers, cheese, salsa, bacon pieces, sausage, etc).
  • collard green wraps. Ever heard of “raw foodism”? Well take a note from the raw foodies and use collard greens as wraps for your sandwiches. It’s healthier than bread and actually has a nice flavor. Add tuna or egg salad, lunch meat, or spreads like cream cheese or guacamole, plus vegetables of your choice before rolling up. Prepare a dozen small wraps with fillings of your choice and store in fridge for quick snacking. 
  • nut or seed-based salad dressings. Can’t eat dairy or burnt out on it? Use raw almonds, cashews, or hemp seeds to create a delicious creamy salad dressing. I like my friend Natalia’s Creamy Peppercorn Ranch
  • kombucha. It may contain fruit juice and white sugar but the healthy cultures consume a great deal of the sugars, leaving you with a lower carb beverage. 

 

What are your low-carb snack ideas?

 

 

 

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