Monday, August 17, 2009

What Can I Eat On This Diet Anyway?

At the moment my kitchen is covered in what very well could be alien baby vomit. Or you would be forgiven for believing so. It's actually the makings of blueberry ice cream that went wildly wrong, my largest most colorful cooking disaster to date.

It's in the refrigerator thinking about what it's done for now. If I put it in the ice cream maker and it turns out delicious I will forgive Dorie Greenspan and this evil recipe and tell you all about it later. If it doesn't turn out I may not be speaking to my purple stained kitchen for a bit we both may need a couple days to think about what we want out of our relationship after this argument.

So rather than typing up a recipe and instructions and boring you with another salad, I'm going to instead keep it basic. Lets talk about the two hardest things to get used to when eating the Montignac way: sugar and carb substitutes. A little primer of what you should and shouldn't eat and how to substitute in things like almond flour or agave nectar in your favorite recipes that call for plain old flour and sugar. This will also be something you can point your friends and family towards when they ask for the millionth time “well, what can you eat?” if they are kind enough to try to want to cook for you while you're on this adventure.

Sweet stuff first. What sugar substitutes can I eat on the Montignac Method?

The only two sugar substitutes that won't spike your blood sugar and freak out your pancreas into storing fat are fructose and agave nectar. Montignac insists on fructose only but he's an old French fuddy duddy that doesn't believe in dessert so we're going to mostly ignore him on this issue and concentrate on what actually works.

Fructose is what happens when you split a sugar molecule in half and isn't to be confused with high fructose corn syrup which is bad, bad, bad. It's a good substitute for when you're baking things like quick bread or cookies where you don't want to mess with the ratio of liquids or when you just need a pinch of sweetness in savory dish or sauce. One warning though, it doesn't act like sugar so it won't make yeast bread or soufflé and torte type things rise.

Agave nectar comes from the same plant that tequila does so it has some of the same tart fruitiness of a good tequila that adds richness to your cooking. There is some research that points towards it negatively affecting triglyceride levels however so if you're dealing with cholesterol issues you will want to take it easy with the agave nectar. It's best to use as a honey, brown sugar, or molasses substitute and will work in pretty well in anything else if you make sure to lessen some of the other liquids in the recipe.

Brown rice syrup also technically works in a pinch. I've never cooked with it personally as the price makes it not something I'm likely to experiment with. However it is relatively kind on the blood sugar so when it shows up in pre-made sweets or a sweetener in organic type cough drops and such it is alright on occasion.

How do you use these in recipes?

1 cup of sugar = 1/3 cup fructose
1 cup honey or molasses = 1 scant cup agave nectar
1 cup brown or raw sugar = 1 scant cup agave nectar and a couple tablespoons extra dry ingredients

Carbs get a little more complicated.

Except for the very high fiber whole grain bread you have for breakfast there is absolutely wheat or gluten free substitute flour (sorghum, teff, rice, tapioca) allowed. There is also no corn meal allowed. Nut and bean flours are your only options. This involves researching a lot of flourless recipes to find substitutes as there is no easy way to just swap out almond flour for white flour in a recipe and end up with anything you want to eat.

Gluten free, raw food, vegan, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and Anti-Candida recipes are your friend. These are all people that are often in the same boat carb and sweetener wise and have worked out clever substitutes for your favorite foods. When you're missing something like naan or pancakes use your google-fu to find someone else who missed enough to make up a flourless or low carb recipe. There''s usually a way to make it work so that the urge to eat something you miss doesn't make you tempted to break the diet.

Straight to Bed, Diet Desserts and Dogs and 101 Cookbooks are all good blogs to start your search for carb friendly goodies in. To make life even easier on you here is a list of recipes I've written about that are healthy substitutes for something not allowed on the diet.

Put simply what is allowed? What carbs or carb substitutes can I eat on the Montignac Method?

Almond and most other nut flours (naan, pancakes, pizza crust, fruit crumble)
Ground flax seed (peanut butter cookies)
Bean flours (savory appetizer base)
Canned beans (black bean brownies, chick pea brownies)
Brown and wild rice (vegetable burgers to be eaten only in low fat/high carb recipes)
Xanthan gum and arrowroot (lower GI thickeners to use only if absolutely necessary)
Baking soda and cream of tarter (alternative to baking powder)
Cauliflower (faux potatoes)
Pistachios or hazelnuts (use to encrust meats instead of flour)
Shredded squash (flourless breads, pancakes, or faux pasta)
Raw squash (a base for things like bruschetta you would usually put on baguettes)
Raw Vegetables (for dipping in tapenades and dips instead of bread and chips)
Whole wheat pasta (only in very low fat/high carb recipes)
Dried beans and lentils
Quinoa (oatmeal alternative, couscous substitute)
Soy Vermicelli (only in low fat/high carb recipes)
Sugarfree chocolate (cocoa powder or baking chocolate in cakes and other flourless desserts)
Whole Grain or Rye Bread (for breakfast only)

That should give you a good idea at least. If there is something you're desperate for leave me a comment and I'll try to point you towards a substitute you can eat.


Sharon said...

Did you try the pasta noodles? How were they?

Emily said...

I did and they were great. Thanks for the link, by the way.

Theodoric said...

Thank you for this. I may have to make you something. The ice cream sounds like a delicious purple mess.

Anonymous said...

I love the book of Will Clower's on the French diet and it sounds like the answer to my problem.....I have one question so far though and that is about honey. I like Greek Yogurt but it is so tart I like to put a little honey on it. Can not find if this is permitted.

Emily said...

Rob, it depends on if you're in the weight loss phase or the maintenance phase, and I can only speak for the version of the diet I'm on.

Honey has a GI of 60 so it's a no no if you're trying to drop weight. Agave nectar is a nice substitute as it tastes a lot like a fruity honey.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Emily,
Yes I am in the weight loss phase. I am just getting started and have only been following this for 5 days and I am down almost 2lbs. I am not a big eater at meals, it is between meals that has always been my problem. I know I will lose weight by just stopping the snacks. Tell me how much you have lost and how long have you been following this? Actually when I think about it I did not think of this as having a weight loss phase as there should not be a maintenance phase. It is simply changing the way we do things, Right>
I have never tried agave nectar, and I doubt it will be in the local supermarkets. I will try our natural food store. Thanks Rob

Anonymous said...

I just reread some of the posts and realize the diet you are on is not the same as the one I am on even though they are "French?" Montignac is the one you are using and I am following Dr. Will Clower "French Women Don't Diet". He does not talk about the GI of the foods. I believe it will be much more compatible than the Montignac method.