Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

Q&A with Linda Gassenheimer

Author of Low Carb Meals in Minutes, More Low Carb Meals in Minutes and Dinner in Minutes

How does the low carb diet work to reduce weight?

Many carbohydrates are digested quickly, requiring the body to produce enough insulin to absorb them. Eating a high level of carbohydrates (such as would be found in a low-fat diet) over stimulates insulin production, which causes peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels. Excess insulin is not utilized and sends signals to the brain commonly called hunger pangs. It is not unusual to feel hungry only a few hours after you have eaten a high-carb meal. This leads to snacking or more food consumption, which leads to gaining weight. On the other hand, protein is digested more slowly and over a longer period of time, which promotes more even blood sugar levels. Eating lean protein, fewer carbs and monounsaturated fat, promotes weight loss by decreasing fat storage, increasing fat burning, and delaying the onset of hunger pangs.

Do you recommend zero carbs?

Carbohydrates are a very necessary part of a diet and should not be eliminated. To do so would be dangerous. My book recommends an initial stage with 10% of calories from carbohydrates. The next stage provides for the reintroduction of complex carbohydrates (the "right carbs") at a level of 25% of the calories consumed. Finally, I provide a permanent lifestyle level where 40% of the calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from monounsaturated fats (olive or canola oil) and 30% from lean proteins.

Is it better than other diets?

This is the best diet for people who are prediabetic or insulin resistant (also called, Syndrome X or metabolic syndrome). If you are an apple shape, carry your weight around your middle or have a "beer belly", then it is very likely you are insulin resistant. and if this is the case, you're not alone. According to government statistics, nearly 30 percent of our nation is prediabetic.

What about the rest of us?

Following my well-balanced approach which concentrates on a nutritionally correct mix of unprocessed carbohydrates, lean proteins and monounsaturated fats, you will be eating a healthy diet and have more energy. I have worked with 2 cardiologists, 2 endocrinologists and several registered dieticians to create these flavor-packed, nutritionally correct meals.

Can I be sure it is healthy and not harmful?

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, is a major proponent of this style of eating. He writes, "From the standpoint of carbohydrates, we can become very fat if we eat too many of them. High amounts of carbs also reduce the levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood (the good cholesterol) and that can lead to higher risk from heart attacks." In addition peer-reviewed papers have been given at several meetings of the American College of Cardiology. I have worked with several cardiologists, endocrinologists and registered dieticians over the past seven years to make sure all of the meals are nutritionally correct. In addition, each recipe has nutritional analysis so that you will know exactly what you are eating.

Does it matter how old you are? How do I decide if this diet is for me?

Reducing carbohydrate intake along with increased physical activity for all age groups is vital for our nation's health. Sixty percent of our nation is overweight, including a high percentage of school-age children. In fact, type II diabetes, that used to be called adult onset diabetes, is at epidemic levels in children of all school ages. Warning signs for those who should consider a low-carbohydrate diet are: being over weight, carrying weight around the middle, having high triglycerides, low HDL, being hungry 3 to 4 hours after eating.

This is a sensible diet and can be beneficial to everyone. As with all diets, it's best to check with a doctor first. This is especially true if taking any medication under a doctor's care.

How would you describe your low-carb diet in a nutshell?

In general cut back on the amounts of carbohydrates and eat lean proteins, monounsaturated fats (olive oil and canola oil), high-fiber vegetables, fruits and beans of all kinds. The emphasis is on using vegetables, lean protein and the type of carbohydrates that do not send blood sugar skyrocketing.

Is your 3-stage plan similar to other plans?

This is a unique approach. It's the only book I know of that presents a lifestyle that shows you how to start reintroducing the right carbohydrates without regaining the weight lost. Many other low-carbohydrate books provide the diet phase only. People using these approaches are either afraid to start eating a more balanced diet including some carbohydrates or don't know what to eat and go back to their old eating habits, regaining all of the their lost weight.

What differentiates your book from other low-carb books?

More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes is a "no-brainer" blueprint to quick, delicious and healthful meals. The shopping list, helpful hints and countdown are all tools to help you have a meal ready in minutes. All of the ingredients can be bought in one-stop shopping at a local supermarket. I give a shopping list that gives specific amounts needed (example: for 1-1/2 cups mushrooms you will need 1/4 pound). You can hit the kitchen on the run and follow the countdown that tells you what to do for each step of the meal.

Compare your book with Atkins' books.

More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes is different from Atkins' books. It gives complete meals (you don't have to worry about what side dishes can go with what), they are low in saturated fat (Atkins' books use unlimited amounts of saturated fat), and there are plenty of foods containing fiber (vegetables and fruit).

What are the most important differences between your first low-carb book and the new one?

In addition to more meals for the 3 phases, Quick Start, Which Carbs and Right Carbs, there are new sections:

Super Speed Suppers using ingredients from the supermarket that can be quickly assembled into a meal in less than 15 minutes at home.

Weekend Meals has dinners using ingredients that are a little more special than those for midweek (Garlic Stuffed Steak, Dijon Chicken, Pork Chops with Apple Relish.) They are still quick and easy to prepare.

Entertaining. There are several complete party menus ranging from casual to elegant. There's an Italian Supper for Friends, a Barbecue, a Casual Soup and a Sandwich Supper, and a Dinner Party for Eight.

Is this just another fad diet?

This book is a sensible approach to a low-carbohydrate style of eating. There are no gimmicks, you don't have to eat in certain blocks of time or with certain foods, there are no time restrictions on what foods you can eat when. This is a normal way of eating, using real food in the correct portions. It gives a practical blueprint for food that is easy to prepare using everyday ingredients and sensible proportions.

Is this a cookbook or a diet book?

This is a book that leads you to a permanent eating lifestyle, and makes it simple by providing recipes for complete meals. The helpful hints and countdown help anyone who is unfamiliar with the kitchen turn out perfect meals with ease.

Which recipes in the book are the ones that you are most proud of?

I love every recipe in the book. There are a few that I come back to for our family meals.

Hot Pepper Shrimp with Red Pepper and Endive Salad
Mediterranean Steak with Minted Couscous and Spiced Peaches
Savory Sage Chicken with Italian Zucchini and Tomatoes
Mock Hungarian Goulash with Caraway Noodles
Black Bean and Bacon Soup with Quick Brown Rice

For weekends:
Garlic Stuffed Steak with Linguine and Asparagus

One of my favorite parties is:
Barbecue Party Menu
Spicy Tuna Spread
No Fuss Salad Bar
Lime Barbecued Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
Green Bean and Orzo Salad
Melon with Marinated Strawberries and Hot Cookies

Would you characterize the recipes as American? Ethnic? California? Mediterranean?

The recipes are inspired from flavors around the world, from Mediterranean and Chinese to Creole and Caribbean and many All-American favorites. When I travel, one of my favorite activities is to ask chefs from the area to take me to their local markets and share their culture and recipes. The book is filled with exciting flavors and variety.

I've tried a dozen diets and I always fall back into my evil ways. Does your program offer anything new that might work for me in the long run?

This book not only helps you lose weight, but the three-step program helps you keep it off. Unlike other books, More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes shows you how to achieve a permanent balanced eating lifestyle without regaining lost weight. You can eat good food that's good for you too.

Am I going to be hungry all the time? Is it basically a diet of deprivation?

You won't feel deprived at all. Most people tell me they can't eat all of the food in the meals. The meals are so tasty and satisfying that you won't consider this a diet.

Can I overdo it sometimes and still be okay?

Yes, you can have a blow-out weekend or take a holiday. Coming back to the meals won't be a chore. They are delicious and filling.

Are wine and beer a problem or must I quit them too? What about a cocktail?

You can have one glass of wine or one cocktail a day. Beer is very high in carbs and should be avoided. If drinking a cocktail, make sure the mixer is a low-carb one (diet soda, sparkling water)

What are the features in the book that you think are really special and that are rarely if ever found in other cookbooks?

Shopping list—quick shopping is as important as quick cooking, list is broken down into supermarket departments so that you don't have to go back and forth in the store searching for ingredients. with this list you can get in and out of the supermarket fast.

Helpful hints—give easy cooking techniques, food substitutions, answers most frequently asked questions.

Countdown—helps you organize your cooking time to get entire meal on the table at one time.

Complete meal plans so that you don't have to think about what goes with what.

Two week meal plans where you can mix and match different breakfast, lunch and dinners within that period to suit your own individual tastes.


More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes

About the Book


Tuscan Chicken with Tomato-Basil Relish
Toasted Almond Broccoli
Greek Shrimp with Feta
Romaine and Fresh Cabbage Salad

More Articles

Ten Tips for Eating Out Healthfully
Q & A with Linda Gassenheimer
About Linda Gassenheimer
Low-Carb Meals in Minutes (the previous book)


Kate's Global Kitchen for March 2003:
3/07/03     The Bourdain Identity
3/14/03     Leaping Leprechauns! More St. Paddy's Day Menus
3/21/03     The Progress of Food Processors
3/28/03     Linda Gassenheimer's Latest


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