What are your favorite low(er) fat primal/ low carb meals and recipes?
November 1, 2014 2:43 AM   Subscribe

It has come to my attention, via the scale, that I have been taking the "fat is good" aspect of primal eating just a little too literally. I need to reduce calories, and would like to do so as painlessly as possible. Could you please share your recipes and meal suggestions for tasty things that are on the lower end of the fat spectrum? Bonus points for anyone who has found a primal- friendly alternative to the fatty deliciousness of cheese.
posted by rpfields to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Not all cheese is fat. Actually, quite the opposite.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:22 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I gather that soy is controversial for primal and paleo diets and have no idea whether the fact that miso is fermented really makes a difference as the author I linked to claims.

That said, miso gives me a lot of the same satisfaction as cheese. I think natto would too, if I liked it. Can you have brewer's yeast? Brewers yeast with soy sauce (soy again) on vegetables is incredibly satisfying.

Also, you are not giving up cheese so I suggest you check out stores that sell parmesan rinds. Where I live, Whole Foods and Marianos often do. These are a treasure trove of cheesy flavor which simmered in soups and sauces.
posted by BibiRose at 4:54 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cauliflower rice is the best. Take some cauliflower, grate it coarsely, pan saute it in some - but not a lot, you don't need a lot, just maybe 2 tsp - oil, cook until it smells nutty and tastes done, and then finish by mixing with whatever seems good to you. I find that salt, pepper and a T of grated parmesan (which is cheese, but not that much) are good, as is basically anything else that tastes good with cauliflower - butter and sweet paprika and lemon; indian curry pastes; sauces like harissa and sambal and so on. (Obviously, you have to look for sauces that don't have inappropriate ingredients, but for instance the harissa and the imam bayaldi that I use are just vegetables, seasonings, salt, oil.)

You can also pan-fry some cashews (watch so they don't burn) and mix them with the cauliflower rice and curry paste.

I also love broiled bell pepper strips - they have a great flavor on their own with just oil and salt, but you can mix them with a little goat cheese (I also like broiling thick onion slices with them, but aren't onions forbidden because of the sugars? I don't worry about it because I'm just "lower carb meaning no breads, potatoes, things with sugar as an ingredient, etc")

I also like to grate and saute zucchini. Depending on how you like your zucchini, you can grate it and saute it straight up or you can grate it and squeeze it in cheesecloth (or several layers of strong paper towels) to extract moisture.

All these things provide a simply enormous plate of savory, tasty food without too much fat or too many calories. Everyone I know loves the cauliflower rice, too - it's one of the very few things I've ever made where it really lives up to the whole "replace your starches and fats!" billing.
posted by Frowner at 6:31 AM on November 1, 2014 [11 favorites]

In the afternoon when I'm hungry, I squeeze half a lemon over a haas avacado and sprinkle with salt. The avocado is 250 calories, so not super low-cal snack but is super filling and satisfying and takes the edge off until dinner. Sometimes all I need is an avocado and some raw veggies for a meal.

A hardboiled egg is 90 calories. Chicken, shrimp, fish, salmon, sweet potatoes are good choices.

Seconding Frowner on the grilled peppers. Grilled or sautéed peppers, mushrooms, and onions sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and worcestershire or balsamic vinegar have that meaty taste but low on calories.

One of my favorite salads: Raw baby spinach, spring mix, sliced london broil, sautéed or raw onions, peppers, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, a sprinkling of feta and a handful of walnuts. Sometimes I top with sautéed fresh green beans or asparagus if I have them.

I think with any way of eating, it's important to remember portions. I am always more successful when I try to stretch my meals out (more time spent not eating) and have three meals a day (one plate of food, no seconds) with an afternoon snack. The more time spent not eating the better. 7-8 am breakfast, 12noon - lunch, 3-4pm snack of fruit or veg, and 6-7 pm dinner. Done.
posted by Fairchild at 6:51 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do veggie centric meals. I've had a few Paleo meals where I was all "hey, accidental vegan meal!"

-huge salad with 4oz grilled chicken
-sautéed mushrooms, onions, and greens
posted by DoubleLune at 7:25 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you tried cashew cheese?

It's simple, savory, and super-delicious -- all you need is raw cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt. You can use it in place of dairy cheese in stuff like lasagne, baked ziti, stuffed shells, and jalapeno poppers, or as a dip/spread with crackers or vegetables, a la hummus or baba ghannouj.
posted by divined by radio at 7:30 AM on November 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Turkish eggplant
Cut an eggplant in half, then cut a diamond pattern being careful to not cut through skin. Brush top with olive oil and bake face down for 40 minutes at 350
While it's baking sautee sliced onions, mushrooms, add garlic.
Take eggplant from oven, and squeeze juice of lemon over top. Press down to form a space for filling and add the sauteed items. Sprinkle 1 tab feta, add a dollop of Greek yogurt and some torn up mint leaves.
Eat-Yum! Filling.
posted by SyraCarol at 11:08 AM on November 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Honestly, for me (especially as I get older) I just need to eat less cheese. I eat largely primal/low-carb, but I do not put extra fat on everything.

Eat meats, especially lean, and more fish. Eat more green things, with less cheese on them - like, aim for at least 50% green in your meals, and if that means you eat stir-fried green beans with sauteed spinach and a kale salad, so be it. Put more umami in your diet - mushrooms, very browned/roasted/broiled foods, use coconut aminos, sesame oil (a drizzle goes a long way). Up your avocado intake. Use a little canned coconut milk instead of a lot of cream.

Don't forget to season. More garlic and onion, peppers mild and hot, keep multiple hot and not-hot chili and curry spices, sriracha, sumac, nuts to grind and dust for crusts. Depending on your position on tomatoes, tomato sauce with a sprinkle of cheese is plenty satisfying for me on all kinds of things.

I love cheese too but I can't tolerate it like I used to. I tend to finish with just a little instead of making sauces, and I don't snack on it anymore.

I just cannot with the effort of cauliflower rice, but I will chunk up a head of it to broil and use as a sauce-carrying base. I also stock up whenever the grocery store has a sale on steamer bags of frozen cauliflower. I also use broccoli slaw or shredded cabbage as "noodles" in pasta-like or noodly-like dishes.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:43 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding using nutritional yeast, which has a very cheesy flavor, in your recipes.

We just chop a variety of vegetables and sautee them with ground beef or chicken, add some spices and a few dashes of soy sauce or fish sauce, and then sprinkle on about three tablespoons of nutritional yeast and mix it up. Yum.

BTW, the best deal I've found online is The Vitamin Shoppe. Not only is the price per unit the cheapest, but if you buy two, you qualify for free shipping!
posted by danabanana at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love Shrimp in Lobster Sauce, but it's not the same without rice so I came up with a soup version. Depending on how strict you are with carbs you can reduce or even eliminate the corn starch, and if you want to get really low fat you can cut out some or all of the yolk.

Shrimp in Lobster Sauce Soup
(Quantities are all rough estimates. Serves at least one!)

4 quarts of chicken stock (low sodium, if canned, etc.)
1" piece of Ginger
Soy Sauce
White Pepper
Sesame Oil
3/4 lb raw shrimp, peeled and cleaned
2 eggs, lightly scrambled
1/2 c scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 t corn starch mixed with a few T cold water
1/2 c frozen peas and carrots
1/2 c water chestnuts, rinsed and sliced/coarsely chopped/whatever

1) Add ginger to chicken stock and until it barely comes to a simmer.
2) Add a few dashes of soy sauce, white pepper, and sesame oil to taste.
3) Add shrimp and cook until just cooked though, 4-6 minutes. (Do not heat too quickly or shrimp will get tough. They will continue to cook until the soup is finished.) Optional: Add peas & carrots and/or water chestnuts with the shrimp.
4) Stir in the corn starch slurry.
5) Remove from heat and drizzle egg across the top of the soup. Do not stir! Let it sit there a minute or so until the egg sets and then gently stir the egg into the soup with a fork.*
6) Top with scallions and serve!

*That's the secret! Thanks, America's Test Kitchen!
posted by Room 641-A at 12:37 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have no idea how it ranks in terms of fattiness, but my go-to is a hash: dice up a sweet potato, get it sauteeing in coconut oil; throw in salt, pepper, paprika, coriander, and a dash of cinnamon; once the potatoes have mostly cooked, add a pound or two of ground beef, sliced bell peppers and mushrooms and garlic. Once that's mostly cooked throw in a bunch of shredded greens like kale or chard. Boom, dinner. I imagine you could use extra-lean beef and it would meet your criteria.
posted by hishtafel at 1:33 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The secret with cheese is to use a microplane grater to put a very fine, flavorful layer on top of your food. Your tongue gets a burst of great cheesy flavor while actually consuming very few calories. I use parmesan but any other strong, reasonably firm cheese (like a good cheddar) will work.
posted by metahawk at 6:33 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd like to 3rd? the recommendation of nutritional yeast! If you like savory, complex flavors, it is sooo good. I'm obsessed with crock cheez (link to a blog, but Jo Stepaniak's cookbooks and other vegan cheese recipes are pretty great), despite being someone who eats traditional cheese all the time. But I also eat nutritional yeast from the can with a spoon, so I'm not really traditional at all here.

I also love fatty mouthfeels/textures and tastes. But one of the things I like to keep in mind is that the most delicious meals I've had have been those where a fine balance of different flavors was struck: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Fat is a great carrier of flavors, but it is not itself necessarily a strong flavor--it just makes those flavors that much better. So, try to amp up those flavors independently.

I find that I often neglect the acid component of dishes, and it's a pleasant surprise when I remember not to. A little lemon juice or vinegar can really add that something special to a dish. I like hot sauce, so that's a nice way to amp up flavor and complexity too. So is mustard. As far as the umami, there are all kinds of great ways to ramp that up too: anchovies, tomatoes, the aforementioned parmesan, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, fermented things like miso/soy sauce, dashi or bonito flakes, and so on are all good natural sources of glutamates (not sure if any of those are verboten on a primal diet). I'll have to think about specific suggestions for complex-flavor-balanced recipes that follow your diet.

Finally, try different foods, techniques, and cuisines than you're used to. I've really been into braises and soups lately, and find that the long, slow cooking can meld certain flavors in a way I really like, and/or make palatable things I don't care for as much. Roasting, also (as you probably already know) makes almost any veggie delicious. Lots of cuisines are or can be made naturally low in fat but very flavorful--curries and stir fries (adapted with an eye to your diet restrictions) come to mind. Despite not being vegan/vegetarian, I personally find vegan/vegetarian cooking really inventive and interesting in terms of creating flavor despite restrictions (although they're not very low on the carbs)--herbs, spices, unusual ways of treating ingredients or adding texture or richness. YMMV.
posted by spelunkingplato at 8:37 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, these answers are extremely helpful. In particular, I had never heard of nutritional yeast and will definitely check it out.
posted by rpfields at 6:51 AM on November 2, 2014

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