Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Review: Mama Lupe's Low-Carb Tortillas

Product: Mama Lupe's Low-Carb Tortillas, 7"
Purchased From: Netrition.com
List Price: $3.69 for 10 tortillas
Store Price: $3.19 minus volume discounts

Summary: Highly recommended -- and quite indispensable, in my opinion.

Mama Lupe's tortillas are a staple on my low-carb diet. Weighing in at only 3 net carbs, these are the perfect companion to a meal. The two most common ways we use them are as sandwich wraps (simply heat for 20-30 seconds in the microwave first), and, for a quick and dirty side, "cheeseadillas", which is a simple quesadilla-style side that is made by melting cheese on top of the tortilla, folding it over, and cutting it into wedges.

Cut into 6 wedges, the plain tortillas can also be deep-fried and lightly salted to act as tortilla chips, which themselves can then be reused as a base in other recipes or simply to be eaten plain, or possibly with salsa (a nice low-carb condiment in and of itself).

Traditional Mexican-style dishes such as tacos, fajitas, and burritos (albeit, small burritos) are also obvious uses of these tortillas.

There really isn't much of a downside to these. They aren't quite as thick as traditional flour tortillas, but they essentially look and taste like whole grain versions otherwise. There really isn't much taste to them at all, but regular flour tortillas don't have much taste either.

Recipe: "I Can't believe It's Low-Carb" Cheesecake

In general, I find that mixing Splenda and sugar alcohols works well to control the net carb count and provide a sweeter taste while using fewer artificial sweeteners overall. As a result, this cheesecake uses about 1/3 less overall sweetener than the amount of sugar it would otherwise replace. Since maltitol and sorbitol tend to have nasty side effects, I prefer using erythritol and xylitol.

The taste is more "natural", too. Combine that with the nut crust (replacing a flour- or graham cracker-based crust), and you could could serve this to people who'd never know it was low-carb!

New York Style Low-Carb Cheesecake

  • 1 cup shelled walnuts
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. Splenda
Place a pan of water on the lower rack of the oven, and set the upper rack to about the middle. Preheat oven to 350.

Place a square of parchment paper over the bottom of a 9" springform pan. Place the pan "sides" over this, and close the latch. Trim off any excess parchment paper, and spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray.

Start with the crust. Chop the walnuts into crumb-sized pieces (use a food processor for this). Melt the butter, and mix with the nuts and the 1 tablespoon of Splenda. Press the mixture in the pan, and put in the refrigerator to set quickly.

In a mixer, start with the cream cheese, sour cream, and salt. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add the sweeteners, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly (and very carefully at first, or you'll have a "cloud" of sweetener in the air). Add eggs one at a time until fully blended. Pour filling into prepared springform pan and bake for 70-80 minutes, until set.

Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before removing springform pan ring. Continue to cool to room temperature. Place a plate on top of the cheescake, flip the rack over, and peel off the bottom of the pan and the parchment paper. Flip the cheesecake back over, onto the serving/storage dish.

Makes 12 servings, appx. 5 net carbs (plus 9 grams of sugar alcohols) per serving.

Variation: Chocolate Cheesecake

Use the above recipe, except for the filling, remove the lemon juice and add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and, if desired, 1/8 to 1/4 cup sugar-free flavoring syrup (such as raspberry!). For the crust, the walnuts can be kept or replaced with almonds or hazelnuts.

This adds roughly 0.5 net carbs per slice.

Variation: Key Lime Cheesecake

Using the base New York style recipe, omit the lemon juice and 1 cup of the sour cream. Add 1/2 cup key lime juice.

Counting carbs... the easy way!

Ok, so, I'm an Atkins guy, which means book-keeping. My daily net carb limit (currently 25) means I need to track foods as I eat them to ensure I'm staying within that limit.

So, either I keep a daily diary (yuck), or I have to remember everything I've eaten and recalculate on the fly, right?


The answer here is to use a mechanical or electrical counter, like a lap counter, stroke counter, or pitch counter found in any decent sporting goods store. I found a nice, cheap lap counter at Target -- it goes up to 9999, but I only need the first two digits, and it has a manual dial reset so I can bring it back to 0000 at the start of the day. Eat 1 oz of peanuts (3 net carbs)? Simply click the counter 3 times. Just carry it with you, click as you go, and you'll always have your daily count current!

My General Philosophy of Low-Carb Dieting

First and foremost, it helps to understand that not all diets work equally well for everyone. A "one-size fits all" approach to dieting simply doesn't take into account the fact that some people respond differently to different diets than others do. I'm not here to evangelize the low-cab lifestyle, but rather to provide tips to those who wish to try it or maybe incorporate some new ideas, information, and approaches.

At the same time, I don't expect lectures in return about the supposed "evils" of low-carb dieting. The fact is -- for me -- it works, and works well. I'm losing weight and feeling healthier in general, and doing an order of magnitude better than any other type of program I've ever tried.

Now, what I have found is that low-carb dieting tends to work well for those who are a) significantly overweight, and/or b) male. On the first point, I think that if you have managed to "balloon" up, odds are that other types of diets just don't work, for one reason or another, and so low-carb may just be the approach that works for you. On the second point, I'm guessing it's genetic, but my own observations indicate that men are more likely to have faster and more consistent (fewer "plateau" problems) results than women. That isn't to say that women won't do well, it's just a warning to not be too worried if your husband or boyfriend is losing weight faster than you are.

It's a Diet, Not A Prison

While any diet requires some form of dedication, there has to be some form of flexibility out there as well. It's not a low-carb world we live in, and there are going to be times when you're going to be in situations where you're going to be in a social setting where low-carb eating will be problematic. It's ok. As long as it's infrequent and you don't go overboard, you'll be just fine.

In fact, my wife and I have a reward/fallback program we call "cheat meals". Once a month, we allow ourselves a single meal where we ignore any low-carb dieting restrictions. We try to be on our best "diet" behavior immediately before and after this "cheat meal". This allows us to plan for parties or other gatherings, or even just a special occasion for the two of us (our next one is actually for my birthday and our anniversary at the end of the month).

The benefits here include not only the ability to mingle with "normal" folks once in a while, they also include an incentive or reward for sticking with the plan. It's a lot easier to pass on a donut in the break room if you know you're going to have pizza next Tuesday. Also, and this is purely subjective and anecdotal experience here, the occasional (and I mean occasional, not frequent!) high-carb meal seems to spur weight loss a couple of days later (of being "good").

The Low-Carb Plan For You

I've got nothing against South Beach and its variants. Personally, I'm an Atkins guy myself. The good doctor had a sound philosophy and the results bear out his theories. To me, South Beach isn't as sound, but it's a lot easier and mainstream in terms of what can be eaten. (On the whole, I think South Beach might be better for those trying to lose 20-30 pounds as opposed to those trying to lose 30+.)

That said, go back to the original statement at the top, and do what's best for you.