Starting a specialized diet is a huge lifestyle change that many people face with great trepidation. Whether the dietary changes are by choice or by necessity, it can rock your world to find that many of your old favorite foods are now off-limits. When you embark on a diet that cuts out sugar and gluten and limits carbohydrates, you will at first feel that your food choices are incredibly limited. And you may be very disheartened, thinking that cooking, baking and eating with such limited ingredients will lose all pleasure. I know that feeling all too well, as I was there myself a few short years ago. A diagnosis of diabetes and a desire to stay off insulin led me to the low carb, gluten-free lifestyle; I thought my days of cooking and eating delicious foods were over.
In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. First, I had to get over the common misconception that low carb diets consist of little more than eggs, meat and cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of those things, but I think anyone would tire of that menu pretty quickly. One can only eat so many cheese omelets before craving a different sort of breakfast. Thankfully, there is this little thing called the internet; perhaps you’ve heard of it? I will always chalk it up to the power of Google Search that I discovered early on a veritable goldmine of information about eating low carb and gluten-free. And my own experimentation with low carb cooking and baking has added greatly to my understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and how to stay focused and on track. I feel fortunate that I am able to share that knowledge with you.
Upon embarking on a low carb diet, you do need to be prepared to cook and bake a lot of your own foods at home. Low carb, gluten-free recipes tend to take rather specialized ingredients which, thanks to companies like Bob’s Red Mill, are becoming more and more widely available. Almond flour is available in many grocery store chains now, as are coconut flour, flax seed meal and chia seeds. Nut flours/meals and coconut flour form the basis of the vast majority of low carb baked goods. And believe me, baked goods made with these ingredients can rival their high-carb, gluten-filled counterparts in both taste and texture.
Don’t confuse gluten-free with low carb or vice-versa. This is a common mistake, and many well-meaning friends and family may offer you something that is gluten-free, but is made with high-carb ingredients like rice flour or contains added sugars. And many pre-packaged low carb items are actually made with wheat-based products, so if you need to be gluten-free, steer clear of these. The sugar-free or no-added sugar labels are also not a guarantee of a low carbohydrate item. When in doubt, read the nutritional information on the packaging. If it’s a homemade item, don’t be afraid to ask what’s in it. It’s not rude when your health is at stake.
Although you do need to limit your consumption of things like grains, legumes and potatoes on a low carb, gluten-free diet, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of delicious foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates. Did you know chocolate is low carb? Well, the unsweetened variety is, and although few people like the taste of unsweetened chocolate, adding a little sweetener of your own can produce delicious results. Most vegetables are low in carbohydrates and even some sweet-tasting fruits like strawberries and raspberries are naturally low carb as well.
All is not lost when it comes to enjoying decadent desserts either. The fact that sugar is the predominant sweetener in our culture is something of an historical accident. There are numerous other sweeteners out there, and you aren’t limited to artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Stevia, erythitol, and xylitol are all naturally-occurring and have little impact on most people’s blood glucose levels. They all have their limitations in low carb, gluten-free baking, however, so I keep several of them on hand and often use them in combination to get the desired results.
Like any healthy eating regimen, you need to make sure you are getting enough fiber in your low carb, gluten-free diet. Fortunately, many high-fiber foods are also quite low in carbohydrates and dietary fiber can actually count against the carbs in any given food item. Although fiber is technically considered a carbohydrate (at least on US nutrition labeling), it largely passes through the system undigested and has little effect on blood glucose levels. In fact, a significant amount of dietary fiber can actually slow the absorption of other sources of glucose into the bloodstream. You will quickly become familiar with the term “net carb counts”, calculated by subtracting the total grams of dietary fiber per serving from the total grams of carbohydrate per serving.
If all of this sounds confusing and a little overwhelming, don’t worry. A little bit of effort in figuring out what does, and what doesn’t, fit the low carb, gluten-free lifestyle, and it will soon become second nature. And you won’t be limited to meat, cheese and eggs for the rest of your life, either. The foods available to you are much more varied than they first appear. Better yet, you are bound to discover new foods and new ingredients that you heretofore knew little or nothing about. You will find new ways to cook and bake, and you will enjoy your food all the more knowing it’s good for you.
Cranberry Orange Drop Scones
- 1/2 cup Coconut Flour
- 1/2 cup Almond Flour
- 1/3 cup Swerve Sweetener or other erythritol (other sweeteners may be substituted)
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 cup fresh Cranberries
- 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
- 4 large Eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh Orange Juice
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil, melted
- 2 Tbsp Orange Zest
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ¼ cup powdered Swerve Sweetener or other powdered erythritol (if you substitute another sweetener here, it must be a powdered version)
- 2 to 3 Tbsp fresh Orange Juice
Preheat oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together coconut flour, almond flour, sweetener, baking powder and salt. Stir in cranberries.
Add Greek yogurt, eggs, orange juice, coconut oil, orange zest and vanilla extract and stir vigorously until well combined.
Drop by large spoonful onto prepared baking sheet. You should get 10 to 12 scones in all. Bake 24 to 27 minutes, until firm to the touch and the tops are lightly browned.
Remove and let cool 5 minutes on pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the glaze, whisk powdered sweetener and 2 tbsp of orange juice together in a small bowl. Add more orange juice if glaze is too thick.
Drizzle over cooled scones.
Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.
NUTRITIONAL INFO: If the recipe makes 12 scones, each scone contains: Calories: 110, Calories from Fat: 60, Total Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 3.5g, Cholesterol: 65mg, Sodium 180mg, Total Carboyhdrate 13g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 3g, Protein 5g.
Carolyn Ketchum is the writer, photographer and almond flour wizard behind All Day I Dream About Food, a low carb and gluten-free food blog. Her mission is to prove to the world that special diets need not be boring or restrictive and that healthy dishes can be just as good, or better, than their sugar and gluten-filled counterparts. It’s astonishing what you can do with a bag of almond flour, a stick of butter, and a willingness to experiment. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest for inspiring ideas for the low carb, gluten free lifestyle.