Low-carb meal suggestions for weekdays (and weekends)?
December 2, 2017 2:34 AM   Subscribe

So my partner has decided he wants to do something about his paunch, and that step one is going to be avoiding carbohydrates (that is what I mean, right? Rice, noodles, bread, potatoes...) for the month of December. What can I/we cook that will be reasonably healthy, filling, and not impossibly fiddly to put together?

Difficulty level: a) basically stovetop cooking (no oven, sadly, and I hate microwaves). b) urban Japan, meaning that quite a lot of non-Japanese ethnic foods are also available, but not some staples (chicken broth in cans, for instance, is as rare as, well, hen's teeth).

We are used to rice with most dinners, and if not rice, pasta, and if not pasta, crisp potatoes or soft tortillas, so I'm kind of stumbling. I am a much fussier eater than he is on the whole. We both like spicy food, me more than him. Neither of us is a vegetarian or has any dietary restrictions other than the one in the title.

Many thanks for any suggestions. (Am thinking of buying an InstantPot, incidentally, thanks partly to bookmammal(?)'s super-useful question about them a little while ago. Would that help?).

(In regrettably unrelated news: another thing you usually can't get in Japan is long-grain, Uncle Ben's orange box 17-minute type rice. BUT. YOU GUYS. This weekend I found a little Indian food store two stations away, selling big bags of basmati rice! Even if it's out for Dec., this is going to make the New Year exciting. BASMATI RICE YAY.) Sorry.
posted by huimangm to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely get the Instant Pot. And then check out kalua pork at nomnompaleo.com and all the other fantastic recipes there. She has a whole section dedicated to Instant Pot recipes. Also check out the Low Carb Instant Pot, Keto Instant Pot, and Paleo Instant Pot groups on Facebook. Endless fast, easy delicious recipes. The IP is also the very best way to hard boil eggs so that they practically peel themselves. As for broth, it’s so easy to make your own. I keep a bag in the freezer and add chicken bones and veggie scraps - the ends of carrots, outside layers of onions, mushroom stems, cauliflower cores, etc. when I have a bag full, I dump it all in the IP with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, a bunch of water, salt, pepper, garlic and let it go for 2 hours. Freeze into ice cubes and use what you need when you need it for soups, stew, etc. Have fun and happy eating!
posted by ms_rasclark at 3:15 AM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've been eating low carb/keto for a long while (down 75 lbs and counting in 15 months), so I will cheer your partner on.

Reddit is usually a totally nightmare, but the /r/keto sub is incredibly supportive and helpful. You and your partner may want to check it out. DietDoctor is the best all-purpose recipe site, I think.

My framework for meals is meat + vegetables, where vegetables are of the non-starchy variety (any type of leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, celery, radish, cucumbers). Also, something that can be hard to adjust to in moving to this diet is that it actually is good to dial up the fat. Fatty meats, butter, olive oil, cheese. Heavy whipping cream is king among dairy. Nuts can be good though need some policing.

So, specific things I like to eat:

Meaty salads (like cobb; steak and blue cheese; chicken Caesar w/no croutons)
Zucchini noodles as a spaghetti stand-in (pesto on top, or a dab of tomato sauce and a ton of sausage)
Scrambled eggs a la Gordon Ramsay
Cheeseburgers with sautéed mushrooms, no bun.

Hope this helps. Good luck!
posted by Sublimity at 4:13 AM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Stir fry is easy. There's a ton of stuff you can put in there, just leaving out any noodles.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:52 AM on December 2, 2017

I've been doing low(er) carb for about 5 months now. In addition to everything Sublimity have already said...

1) My own experience is that suddenly cutting out carbs is REALLY. REALLY. HARD-- you'd suddenly be hit with all kinds of cravings, you'd have no energy to stand up from a chair, you feel awful and depressed. I've done that a few times and always failed miserably after a week. Your body needs time to adjust. On the other hand, tapering off carbs (e.g. <2>
2) My go-to meal, which I've made in a lot of different countries (I travel a ton): sautee a cup of lean ground meat of some sort with whatever aromatics you have/want. salt and pepper a little. When the meat is almost done, dump in a ton of fresh leafy vegetables or chopped carrots and the like. Throw in a little bit of potatoes if you need just a tad carbs. Endless varieties and takes 5 minutes to make.

3) For a cold lunch, a big tamagoyaki without sugar with a side of vegetables (carrots, cuke, tomatoes) or seaweed salad-- cheap, filling, delicious.

In general I'd say it's much easier to control calories if you eat low carb. Protein and fat are really filling.
posted by redwaterman at 4:58 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anything that you would put in a tortilla can be turned into a lettuce wrap. Mix up the leafy green for different flavors and stability needs - larger perilla leaves go great with bbq meats, kale is typically quite strong and will hold chunky things securely, smaller nappa cabbage leaves can be used like you would a chip to scoop things up. Bump up the fats like avocado, oils in dressings, nut butters and so-on to help with satiety.

I think it's probably easier for you to get a spiralizer than me - if you're willing to invest a bit in an instant pot and have room in your kitchen for another device, consider one to make vegetable noodles. I love a combination of carrot and beet "noodles", blanch them and dry them once cooled, then dress with sesame oil, vinegar, a bit of chili paste and fish sauce. Top with chunks of chicken or pork and thinly sliced cucumber and scallion. I've seen a bunch of recipes for zucchini noodles done in an Italian style with butter and lemon, which I bet would be delicious under a few pieces of chicken piccata or with a seared piece of fish.
posted by Mizu at 4:59 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

For some meals, you can sub grated and sauteed cauliflower or cabbage for starches. Heat a large, heavy frying pan over medium high heat and grate your vegetable. Using about 2 tsp (or more if you prefer) of oil, cook the grated vegetable, stirring frequently, for about seven minutes or until it tastes cooked. Grated cauliflower in particular is good with dishes with sauce.

Also, sauteed grated zucchini is good in tortillas with cheese. It's best to saute in two batches, but cooks very quickly. (I also like it on its own with salt and pepper, finished with a little butter.) Once sauteed, mix with a white cheese. (I'm assuming since you can get tortillas that standard cheeses are also available.)

Also, tofu and vegetables in a ramen-type broth - I don't know if you can get pre-made tonkatsu type broths but if you eat meat, a simple pork or chicken one should be possible at home. I just cook up a bunch of tofu, leafy greens and then break in/stir an egg at the last minute - the egg makes the broth deliciously rich.
posted by Frowner at 5:46 AM on December 2, 2017

There was a Japanese cooking show that made "noodles" out of moyashi. I haven't tried it, but it looked pretty good.

When I eat alone, I like to fry some abura-age and throw it on top of a pre-packaged salad. Mushrooms would work as well, but champignons are expensive here and I haven't tried it with Japanese mushrooms yet.

You could also make spicy curry and eat it without rice or bread, maybe with cauliflower rice instead?

Other than these, I second a nice stirfry or an omelette with vegetables inside.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 5:56 AM on December 2, 2017

I've done low-carb before (it totally works!) and found that it was easiest NOT to try and replace carby things with inferior substitutes (for example, I am not a fan of cauliflower rice). I usually build meals with a meat/protein - you can do really good roasts in slow cookers if you brown them on the stovetop first - and then multiple vegetable sides. Eggs are also your friend, since you can make omelettes and tamagoyaki and all sorts of other things with them.

I also got really into pickles, since they add some flavor to a meal and give you crunch that you may miss when things like crackers and crispy breads are off the table.

Also, totally random, but Japan-specific, if you run into used copies of What Did You Eat Yesterday, it's a series about two middle-aged men who love food and includes lots of health-conscious recipes.

When I get back to my computer I will have more specific ideas!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 7:06 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

(Low-carb for 15 months, down quite a few pounds)

The trick is high fat. The fat is how you can still be satiated despite the sharp reduction in sugar in the diet -- lean proteins, to say the least of greens, simply don't get you there. Plenty of cheese and yolk-in eggs; beef, pork and higher-fat fish; and cook your greens and lean proteins in butter or olive oil. Nuts, excluding cashews, are great, although they have a high enough net carb count that moderation of nuts is in order.

And, alas, while low-carbing is by design non-fanatical and non-will-power-taxing ... that doesn't extend to rice, pasta or bread. Those things are right out: metabolize to almost pure sugar, far too many grams of net carbs in even what seems like a very paltry serving.
posted by MattD at 7:18 AM on December 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

I will also agree with bowtiesarecool that "fake carbs" are kind of a loser approach to low-carbing. The low-carb internet is full of fake carbs and they are all pretty terrible tasting (IMO) and often they can run 5-10 net carbs a serving and that's not especially constructive. I also tend to that they undermine the whole idea: low carb is about the joy of weighing in lower despite having enjoyed a wedge salad with bluecheese and bacon and a porterhouse steak the night before, not about being the sad dude who tries to persuade himself that some almond-flour abomination he slaved over for two hours was actually pizza.
posted by MattD at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

One thing I really love is making cauliflower kimchi "mac and cheese" - I can't have gluten so I can't eat regular mac and cheese anyway unless I get some kind of rice pasta and I like this better. I literally just chop up a head of cauliflower and roast it, though you could just saute it until it's a little crispy seeing as you don't have an oven. Then I pour melted cheese over it and throw in some kimchi and sometimes sauteed ground beef. It can be either a low-carb cheese sauce you make or if you're lazy/not picky some "processed cheese" like velveeta or whatever, which I think is actually really good with this.

I am a fan of cauliflower in general and I also like to rice it and make "burrito bowls" which is just whatever you would stick in a burrito on top of it. (I think the key to them is a lot of guacamole though, and I'm not sure how easy that is to get in Japan)
posted by primalux at 9:41 AM on December 2, 2017

Eggs. Lots of eggs. Scrambled eggs with stir-fried veggies (mushrooms! peppers! zucchini!) and cheese is a fast, cheap, low-carb, filling meal at any time of day.

Chicken or tuna salad: take either white meat chicken or canned tuna. Honestly it winds up tasting the same. Plenty of real (full fat, no carb) mayonnaise. PLENTY of diced celery and pickles. Salt and pepper. Lemon juice. Bell peppers work too to add bulk.

Chicken soup: take chicken, with both bones and fat. Simmer with carrots and onions and celery. Make sure there is plenty of salt. (You can season this however you want, like make it Mexican with lime and garlic and cilantro for instance.)

But know that low-carb for weight loss doesn't work unless you completely cut out sweets, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes. I've even had to eliminate fruit. You can't just add a low-carb, high fat meal here and there when there are carbs elsewhere in your diet. That will make you gain, not lose. You have to go all-in.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:02 PM on December 2, 2017

Just as some suggest cauliflower rice, consider a pile of greens in place of rice or potatoes. We get a big clamshell mix of “super greens,” which are lovely lightly sautéed, or just wilted (no cooking necessary) under a pile of, say, hot pulled pork, stew, eggs, stir fry, curries, etc.

Also take a look at the guidelines for the Whole30. Maybe try it together for a month. It’s a great exercise in really assessing what you eat and how your body responds to it. We changed some habits and developed some new ones. There’s a book and cookbook out there, but also tons of Whole30-compliant recipes to be found online if you need inspiration.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:29 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry to respond to this so late; thanks for the useful advice! I've marked some best answers which seem especially close to our tastes, but all are helpful. Many thanks.
posted by huimangm at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2017

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