Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Low Carb On The Go

It's been quite a busy social season for me. Normally I am a bit of a homebody. Lately on my calendar there there have been several weddings, anniversary parties, graduations and a few book clubs thrown in for good measure.

Being good at parties and events where the carbs are flowing as much as the wine is not an easy task. Traveling to and from these events and meeting up with fellow travelers involves coffee shops, restaurants and gas station stops. Temptation is everywhere.

While the smart thing would be to pack a cooler and a bag full of low-carb goodies, my schedule was so pressed for time the goodie bag was not very well planned out and I had to "live off the land" so to speak. Despite the rush and temptations, I had NO weight gain over the past weekend and also did not turn in to a giant whale during my other events during this busy spring. Here are a few ways I navigated the carb infested waters....

  • Sandwich rolls: At a few of the party buffets I was still able to make myself some sandwich rolls out of lunch meat, veggies and full-fat mayo. Don't stress too much about the fillers in the lunch meat, but shy away from anything that says "honey roasted" if you can. That is code language for "loaded with high fructose corn syrup". Lay out the meat flat, put a good size layer of mayo on the meat, add some chopped lettuce or spinach, tomatoes, etc... and roll up the meat slice in to a roll. At our vacation rental, as my friends chowed down on oatmeal, muffins and pastries, I made sandwich rolls for breakfast with a side of fresh strawberries.
  • Go nuts! Two of the carb-smart goodies I was able to grab before hitting the road included a large bag of smoked almonds and a container of cashews. As bowls of M&M's, pretzels and chips were placed out once we hit our destination, I placed out the delicious nuts and had no trouble steering clear of the bad foods. 
  • Chocolate is your friend: It's hard to feel deprived when you have good dark chocolate on hand. Green & Blacks, Dagoba and Lindt all have good dark chocolate bars that contain 85% cocoa and little sugar. Some stores have excellent house brands that are cheaper and just as tasty. For my last weekend I grabbed 3 bars of dark chocolate with espresso beans from Sunflower Market. When my friends were hitting the sweets, a square or two of my dark chocolate was all I needed.
  • Build a better latte: As many low-carbers have already discovered, Starbucks will make you a latte with heavy cream instead of milk and they also have some tasty sugar-free syrups. Unfortunately I also try to avoid dairy and Starbucks only offers soy as a non-dairy alternative. Instead of looking to a well-known chain for your coffee house gatherings, look around for an independent coffee house. All throughout Colorado we were able to find great coffee places that not only made the standard coffees, but had more options for freaks like me with allergies and dietary restrictions. One of the tastiest coffee's I had was an iced latte with almond milk and sugar-free caramel syrup in old town Salida. Just remember to check if the almond milk is sugar-free before you go ahead and order. 
  • Mexican food is flexible food: One of the easiest places I have found to stay in the low carb end of the pool is at restaurants that serve mexican food. At Lulu's in Fort Collins, they will turn any regular burrito in to a burrito bowl. Just skip the rice and ask for extra lettuce. At the Boat House in Salida, their chimichunga is loaded with pork and cheese and contains no rice. Even if you go ahead and eat the fried tortilla, the rest of the dish is fresh salsas, lettuce and avocado. Not a good option for people with dairy issues, but there is also the option of a taco salad minus cheese. Just don't eat the fried tortilla bowl. 
  • Go Mongolian! Mongolian BBQ restaurants are a new thing in many parts of Colorado, but these are quickly becoming one of my favorites. At Hu Hot in Ft. Collins, a friend an I were able to load up on all-you-can-eat veggies and meat while skipping the carby rice. The only potential pit fall is the sauce bar. With about a dozen different options, it is pretty easy to grab a sugary sauce that will send your blood sugar through the roof. Stick to mostly soy sauce and chili or garlic oil and you are pretty safe. A tiny splash of the other sauces will give you a bit of sweet flavor without the diabetic coma. 
  • Make your own liquor store stop: You never know what people are going to serve at weddings and parties, so it doesn't hurt to make sure your low carb favorite is on hand. Michalob Ultra is a good beer option for low carbers and white wine tends to be less carby than red. Get a few of your favorites, but buy extra to share. You never know if a fellow low carber is lurking in the shadows that may need some low carb support. If you are toasting at a wedding, take a sip to honor the happy couple, but don't feel obligated to slam the whole glass. At one of the weddings I recently attending, sparkling cider was served instead of champagne. It was so sweet even a regular sip would have bad news for me. I barely wet my lips, thought happy thoughts for the newly weds and inconspicuously dumped the rest behind a shrub.
The low carb lifestyle can be difficult during party season, but with a little though and planning, it doesn't have to be a dietary disaster. Even if you do slip up and eat the wedding cake, drink plenty of water and make a fresh start tomorrow. 

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