Saturday, June 2, 2012

Low Carb Diets and a Low Carb Dessert

The weather isn’t great this weekend, I get that. It’s cold and kind of cloudy, with chances of rain. But as my favorite author once wrote,

“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny. But we can have lots of good fun that is funny!”

Yes, Dr. Seuss is my favorite author. But the reason why is for another post.

If Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) were still alive, I'd shake his hand and buy him a beer.
So, feel free to skip my review of the more popular low-carb diets and get right to the super tasty graham cracker sundae recipe at the bottom of this post. After all, it’s still Memorial Snack Week, and you should be having a good time. The recipe brings together fruits, low carb and low cholesterol tricks, wrapping up all the topics of my Memorial Snack Week into one delicious dish!

The Glycemic Index

Just over 10 years ago, the Glycemic Index (GI) gained a lot of steam. The index was a study that recorded how long it took certain carbohydrates to turn into blood sugar. Some carbohydrates, like the fructose in watermelon, turn immediately to blood sugar. That’s what causes kids to bounce around like pinballs after they eat candy.

Other carbohydrates, like peanuts and broccoli, turn to sugar slowly. These provide a steady drip of energy over a long period of time, as opposed to one quick burst. The higher the GI number, the quicker the carbohydrate turns to blood sugar.

Graph courtesy of
You’ve probably heard that the secret to not putting on weight is to burn more calories than you consume. That’s true… mostly. A typical, active human being burns 2000 calories a day. But, if that same person ate all 2000 of those calories in one meal, they’d put on weight regularly. Your body is good at using energy as needed and storing the rest. The daily calorie value changes based on sex, age and activity, so for your calorie limit, check out this online calorie calculator.

If you have small meals throughout the day, giving your body small doses of energy (calories are a measurement of energy) exactly when it needs them, your body would have no excess energy to store as fat.
 But if you were to starve yourself all day, eat an entire rotisserie chicken and then go to bed, your body would have all kinds of energy but no need to use it. It would then store that chicken around your love-handles for later.

So what does this have to do with the Glycemic Index?

If carbohydrates turn to blood sugar (usable energy) at different rates, knowing which ones give us an immediate burst of energy would help us avoid the “rotisserie chicken” scenario. By eating low GI foods, like whole grains and oats, you don’t risk giving your body too much energy at once. And this, in turn, keeps the weight off.

Diets based around this index sprang up like wildfire. The two most popular low-carb diets were The Atkins Diet and The South Beach Diet.

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet told dieters to avoid carbohydrates altogether, because your body requires a combination of carbohydrates and lipids (fat) to store body fat. (The scientific name for body fat is glycolipid, “glyco” = sugar and “lipid” = fat.) By sticking only to proteins and fats, your body cannot add weight, and instead, you trick your metabolism into breaking down its current fat stores for the carbohydrates. In the end, so long as you don’t consume carbs, your body eats its own fat stores.

So instead of having toast, hashbrowns, or pancakes for breakfast, you have full servings of bacon, sausage and ham.

Lady Gaga's dress supports the Atkins Diet

Personally, I still don’t see how this could possibly be good for your heart, with all the saturated fat and cholesterol associated with a meat-based diet. I’ll probably explore that in a different post. I do have more experience with the South Beach Diet, which I will cover next. 

The South Beach Diet

The Atkins Diet could be considered a “No Carb” diet, whereas the South Beach is a “Low Carb” diet. Although the South Beach requires a two-week ban of all carbs, it eventually allows a small amount of low GI carbs – the kind that take a long while to turn to sugar. By emphasizing moderation, the South Beach allows people to eat relatively normal meals and still drop the pounds. My mom went from 270 lbs to 160 lbs in two years using the South Beach Diet, so I’ve seen the good work it can do.

 If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, feel free to buy the South Beach Diet book off of Amazon.

The Recipe

Come on, we know why you’re really here. And if you read all that science-y stuff above, I’d say you’ve earned this tasty treat. This recipe makes use of margarine (low cholesterol,) sugar free chocolate syrup (low carbs and cholesterol,) sugar free whipped cream (low carb,) graham cracker crumbs (low fat, low carb,) and lots of tasty fruits!

Banana Split Dessert


2 cups reduced-fat graham cracker crumbs (about 32 squares)

5 tablespoons reduced-fat margarine, melted

1 can (12 ounces) cold reduced fat / fat-free evaporated milk

¼ cup cold fat-free milk

2 packages (1 ounce each) Sugar-free / fat free instance chocolate pudding mix

2 medium firm bananas, sliced

½ quart of strawberries, thinly sliced

1 carton (8 ounces) fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed

3 tablespoons sugar-free chocolate syrup (sold at Kroger)

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts – optional

5 maraschino cherries, quartered - optional


1. Combine graham cracker crumbs and margarine. Press onto the bottom of a 13x9x2 in. dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, whisk the evaporated milk, fat-free milk and pudding mixed for two mnutes or until slightly thickened.

3. Spread pudding evenly over crust.

4. Layer with bananas, sliced strawberries and whipped topping. Sprinkle nuts (optional.) Drizzle with chocolate syrup. Top with cherries (optional.)

5. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting. Yields 15 servings.

I’m a little leery of the milk for this recipe, so if you substituted coconut milk or soy milk (which taste waaay better in desserts because of their natural sweetness) you could get rid of more potential cholesterol. I’d suggest Vanilla Silk to substitute for the fat-free milk and a can of coconut milk for the evaporated milk. Just be mindful of the extra sugar these milk substitutes can add if you're trying to keep this recipe low carb!

1 comment:

  1. Yummy......This banana split desert seems really delicious.I shall try it.