An epiphany for me has been that, as a person with hypothyroidism, I really SHOULDN’T be on a very low-carb diet. More than most people, hypothyroid people need a certain level of carbohydrate to aid in the conversion of T4 to T3 so it’s usable. That’s a process that’s already impaired in my body, and I don’t need to get in the way of it more, thinking I’m doing something good for myself and trying to conform to what “the experts” say I should do.
What I have experienced with the times I’ve tried to do anything very low-carb is that I’m an absolute zombie, and that’s not really what we’re going for, right?
An aha! moment came, though, was when I realized that that need is part of why I gravitate towards sweets like a moth to a flame. My body senses that I need carbs and that I’m in deprivation mode (although that deprivation might be of protein or fat just as well as carbohydrate). When my tank is low in whatever way, my body wants that quick shot in the arm. It wants to feel better fast. And it senses that the coke or ice cream will indeed make me feel better fast. People talk about feeling so awful when eating badly, but I think that’s part of my problem: I don’t feel awful–at least not right when I do it. As a more systemic trend, yes, but right when I do it, I actually feel an intense relief and and even maybe a momentary bit of euphoria. I think that’s because my “right now” needs are getting met.
Here’s the thing though: I could meet my needs for carbohydrates in another way that doesn’t also come with a biological tax.
The way I’m choosing to meet those needs when I eat sugary things, bread, pasta, chips, crackers, and other simple carbohydrates comes with a definite downside down the road: diabetes, liver problems, continued thyroid problems, dental cavities, depression, and more, some of which I already experience. Few people experience those things when meeting their carb needs through vegetables, certainly, or even through moderate intake of potatoes, yucca, plantain, and sweet potato.
Secondly, if I’m proactive about it, I don’t back myself into a corner where I feel desperate for the quick jolt. When I let myself go hungry completely, or when I don’t feed myself the things I need to feel truly satiated–saturated fat and protein–then I get wild-eyed, weak, and sapped of energy, leaving me vulnerable to bad decision because I need to regain my energy quickly.
So the solution is to think a bit ahead and not neglect myself by postponing a meal too long or by not having enough fat and protein and to realize that while carbs are vital and necessary, there’s a smart, healthy way to get them that won’t cause collateral damage.
Once I’ve gotten myself into a jam, I’m usually so sapped of energy that I can’t even think straight, and I certainly don’t have the energy to prepare something that would truly nourish me. So it’s important to keep on hand a few things that meet this criteria but are extremely easy to pull together on a moment’s notice. (I also love to have a go-to list for what to pick up at the grocery store, so that if I’ve been out and about without eating for too long, I don’t reach for the candy bar at the checkout aisle or drive through a fast-food line.
Olive Oil-Smothered Lubneh with Veggies
Lubneh is a Middle Eastern milk product that is somewhere between yogurt and cream cheese, with a wonderful, pillowy texture. Unlike cream cheese, it spreads easily straight out of the fridge. It’s a little tangy and definitely lends itself more to savory flavors. The traditional way of eating it is to spread a bunch in a thin layer on a plate, drizzle olive oil all over it, and then sprinkle salt, pepper, oregano, and minced garlic on top. Plant a few olives near the center for garnish and sprinkle with a little parsley, if you like, and you’re groovy. The virtue of this dish is that it’s gives you two kinds of healthy fats at once. Plus, it gives you an excuse to eat fresh garlic! (If you don’t like that, just eliminate it. But seriously, if you don’t like garlic, we can’t be friends. Seriously.)
The traditional “vehicle” to get this stuff into your belly it, of course, pita bread. But never fear! Cucumber rounds and strips of bell pepper make great, tasty shovels as well. If you like celery or baby carrots, they could work, too. Eating a massive plate of lubneh always satisfies me and is easy enough to prep that I can fathom making it, even if I’m running on fumes.
Nuts & Apple
Nuts are not my favorite thing. It’s not that I hate them, but when I eat them, it’s more in the way that people take their vitamins. Not with a lot of relish. I was heartened to read that an ideal serving of Brazil nuts is actually just 4 or 5 nuts. No wonder I don’t usually want more. Maybe you’re a nut lover or maybe not. When you’re woozy with hunger, I can’t promise nuts will make you feel instantly awesome the way a soda might. But eat as many as you’re body seems to direct you to (maybe a handful, maybe somewhat more) and give it 10 minutes. I think you’ll find you’re tided over, even if you don’t feel a dramatic shift.
Apples are a great companion for nuts because you’ll get a little sweetness and a little sugar, but it’ll come wrapped in a lot of fiber so it doesn’t hit your bloodstream all at once. Plus, apples are very portable, so you can throw them in your purse or the car for when you’re on the go.
I feared cured meats for a long time, but there’s evidence that we really needn’t fear the nitrites used in the curing process. Certainly, some nitrates are better than the damage done by long-term dependency on sugar instead. Animal protein can be tricky to get without a lot of cooking. Keeping a cured meat like pepperoni or prosciutto on hand in the fridge can give you some quickly.
Brie or Goat Cheese
Some cheeses pack a powerful punch of fat in small portions. Brie and goat cheese are two delicious cheeses that are much higher in fat than cheddar or Monterrey jack. You usually don’t have to have a lot to feel satiated. All real cheeses make good snacks. If you’re looking for something you can take with you, provided it won’t sit out for a very long time, consider some of the laughing cow cheeses.
Yogurt with Fruit
Yogurt is a great, satisfying snack, but I personally haven’t gotten used to having it salty or without so much as a drop of honey. What I have found makes it sweet and palatable enough it to put some strawberries or other fruit in it. We usually keep some frozen strawberries on hand for smoothies anyway. Those don’t go bad and can be had year-round. I like to pop a few in the microwave to thaw them just enough, and the juice that comes out is nice when it distributes throughout the yogurt–though fresh strawberries are just as good. (I know, microwaves have their drawbacks, but one problem at a time for me.)
Canoli without the Shell
Ricotta is an alternative to yogurt that’s denser and creamier. It pairs great with some chopped pistachios, a little bit of 80%+ dark chocolate and a bit of vanilla. It’s like a little piece of Italy–only Italy is covered in carbs and this isn’t!
Get yourself a pack or two. Broil them for about 10 minutes. Keep them in the refrigerator. Insert into your face. Need I say more?
Guacamole & Veggies or Jicama “Fries”
Again, the problem with guac (as with many dips) is not the avocados, which turn out to be great for you and very satisfying. It’s what you use to get it into your mouth (usually corn chips). I admit, there is something lacking in the crunchy department with this, but a bell pepper or a piece of jicama still gets the good stuff in your tum and tastes good. There are paleo chip options, but those require prep, and we’re going for the completely lazy, no-think-ahead options in this post.
If you, like me are thinking “Step into a Slim Jim!”, I’m here to tell you, jerky can be so much more. I have never been overcome with love for jerky, but a few years ago, I noticed Krave jerkies at the store, and I really like them. This comes with a disclaimer, though, that Krave is NOT sugar-free. You’ll get about 10 g of sugar in every ounce of jerky, so weigh your options. Way better than a soda, but especially if you’re in detox mode, sugar is still sugar. Taht said, they are delish. If you want to get into the realm of making your own, the Krave flavors could be a source of inspiration, but again, this post is all about stupid easy option.
Peanut butter Banana Milk Fortified with Coconut Oil
As I said, I don’t usually crave nuts, but lately, I’ve been wanting peanut butter. I found an inexpensive brand with no sugar or any ingredients other than, uh…peanuts. Although Laura Scudders’ gets a layer of oil on top that some people might find less than ideal for sandwich-spreading, I’ve been dumping two large spoonfuls in a shake with a cup or 2 of milk, a banana, and a handful of ice. With the right coconut oil, this won’t taste like coconut but will get you some wonderful medium-chain fats, which will also further satiate you and up your calorie content for the day. (I’m not much for calorie counting, but I do know I’m aiming for about 60% of calories from fats other than trans or polyunsaturated fats–so, saturated, medium-chain, and monounsaturated is what I’m going for–and I know this boosts me in the fat department.) Something to keep in mind with this is that a banana is pretty high-carb, so you have to weigh for yourself what else you’ve eaten lately. If you already had a sweet potato for lunch and 6 apples, this is probably not your best choice, but if your other eating has been mostly veggies, meat, and fat, a banana shouldn’t stall weight loss or otherwise hurt your health.