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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #96

Updated on August 8, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Letting Go

This is the first week of August, but the deciduous trees in my woods are already beginning to shed their leaves. Despite the date on the calendar, all of Nature is preparing for the next phase, the new season. They are letting go of what was.

Nature instructs us about our own cycles of creating and letting go: Trees in autumn don't stubbornly hold onto their leaves because they might need them next year. ... how many of us defy the cycle and hold onto what we've produced or collected -- those decayed leaves, that old negativity?

— Neil Gumenick, Founder/Director of The Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture, Inc.

There’s a lesson to be found in the cycle of those trees. If they were to stubbornly cling to their withered, useless leaves, we would not be able to appreciate their new growth in the Springtime.

Is there something that you cling to that holds you back, that prevents you from blossoming? Perhaps there is a disappointment—a job opportunity that didn’t pan out, a bad financial decision, a failed relationship, a missed opportunity for a new home or new career. Or maybe it isn’t something that immense. Could you be holding onto a bad habit, or finding security in your comfort zone rather than attempting something new?

Yesterday is over, and just like an over-ripe banana, there's no reverse aging process. We can't go back in time, but we can move forward. Love yourself for the person you are today and look forward to a new day tomorrow.

It’s time to let go of those dead leaves.

Let's Begin

Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

One Topic Today

I received back-to-back questions from Denise (Paintdrips) and Shauna (Brave Warrior) this past week, and I thought that what they were asking was worth doing well, so this entire episode will be devoted to answering their queries about dieting.

"I'm new with this vegan thing and I really love doing without the meat. The first year I discovered lots of things I never heard of before including Tahini and nutritional yeast. I lost 40 pounds that first year and was so happy. Then the weight leveled off and I haven't lost anything in the past 6 months. I was kind of hoping there was a way over this hump. Do you think I'm putting too many carbs in place of the meat or is it just a quantity thing? Should I back off of potatoes and pasta and bread? I just don't know." --Denise

"Linda, I love Denise's questions and your response. I've heard of the Paleo diet but don't really know what it is. I need to lose about 30 pounds. Would you consider doing an article on Paleo, what it is, why it works, and include some awesome recipes? I'm counting on you, Sis!" --Shauna


Shauna, the Paleo diet is one of the newest diet regimes; many people wonder “what is it, how does it work, is it a valid (sustainable) weight-loss program, or is it merely a fad?" I’m here to help you.

Some have called Paleo the caveman diet because, in theory, you are eating the way that our ancestors did. They didn’t have refined foods—they relied on lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. (Some practitioners of the Paleo philosophy also allow eggs, nuts, seeds, and olive or coconut oils.)

Does it work? Well, in theory, if you eat nutrient-dense foods you will feel full longer and those lean meats and fresh veggies have fewer calories than sweets, slabs of bread, and mounds of mashed potatoes. For example, one Snickers candy bar contains 250 calories. That's the equivalent of one cooked chicken breast, 1 cup of cooked broccoli, and a tablespoon of butter. Which one would fill you up more?

Bear in mind that there is a yin to every yang; there’s a down-side. If you eat caveman-style, there are some banned foods:

  • Refined sugar
  • Salt
  • Processed oils (such as vegetable oils)
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Cereals
  • Dairy products (no cheese!)
  • Pre-packaged foods (no Hamburger Helper)

With Paleo there’s no calorie counting. Stick to the plan of allowed foods and you should start to see your weight go down. Keep in mind however that although allowed, nuts are high(er) in fat and fruits have more sugars so limit your intake of those if you are looking for weight loss (rather than just eating a healthy diet).

Paleo Diet Plan (recipes/links are provided for the items in bold-face type)

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
Chinese chicken salad
Beef and broccoli with cauliflower rice
Stir fry (onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, spinach, and lean bacon crumbles)
Avocado chicken salad (rotisserie chicken, celery, and dressing made of 1 large avocado, handful of basil, 2 T olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste)
Slow-cooker shredded Hawaiian chicken
Hash (ground turkey, sweet potatoes, bell pepper, onion, oregano)
Thai chicken salad
Italian meatballs (serve over zoodles or spaghetti squash)
Chia seed chocolate pudding
Avocado stuffed with cooked shrimp, tomato, minced red onion, fresh dill
Pan-seared salmon with capers and Brussels sprouts
Paleo "No Oats" Oatmeal
Salmon patties (5-oz can salmon, 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, 4 T almond flour, 2 eggs)
Pan-roasted chicken breast with salsa verde
Fruit salad (blueberries, strawberries, mango, avocado, walnuts)
Deconstructed burger bowl
Turkey meatballs with gravy and cauliflower puree
Shakshuka (see recipe below)
Tomato stuffed with egg salad (hard-cooked egg mixed with mashed avocado)
Orange chicken

Links for Breakfast Recipes:

Chia seed chocolate pudding
Paleo "No Oats" Oatmeal

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, minced
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • Zest from ½ lemon (optional)
  • 1 cup diced canned tomato (with liquid)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 large eggs

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft (about 3 minutes). Stir in spices, zest, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Add spinach and simmer 5 minutes more. Make two indentations in the sauce with the back of a spoon. Crack one egg in each divot. Cover and cook on low heat until whites are set but yellows are still runny, about 5 minutes more.

Links for Lunch Recipes:

Chinese chicken salad
Thai chicken salad
Deconstructed burger bowl

Links for Dinner Recipes:

Beef and broccoli stir fry
Slow-cooker shredded Hawaiian chicken
Italian meatballs (serve over zoodles or spaghetti squash)
Pan-seared salmon with capers and Brussels sprouts
Pan-roasted chicken breast with salsa verde
Turkey meatballs with gravy and cauliflower puree
Orange chicken

Vegan Diet

Peanut butter tofu buddha bowl
Peanut butter tofu buddha bowl | Source

Denise, if you want to stick with your vegan diet, Paleo really won't work for you. You would have almost no sources of protein and I fear you would become bored. To achieve weight loss while avoiding all animal products, you will need to take care with portion size and calorie count. (I know, it stinks). It's easy to allow starchy foods (beans, pasta, etc.) to offer comfort, and unfortunately, those come with calories. But I think you and I can work out a plan together.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The right amount of protein for you might not be the same as the requirements for someone older, younger, taller, shorter, etc. There are many factors that play into determining the right number for you. According to, if you are average height and weight, don't do powerlifting and don't exercise much you should aim for 0.36 to 0.6 grams of protein intake for every pound that you weigh. So that equates to:

  • 56-91 grams per day for the average male

    46-75 grams per day for the average female

Sources of Protein for the Vegan Diet

I mentioned that if you are on a vegan diet you don't have as many choices for protein, but don't despair. There are still plenty of things from which you can choose.

Grams of Protein
3 oz.
24.0 g
1/2 cup
10.3 g
1/2 cup
17.9 g
1 cup
11.9 g
Spelt grain, cooked
1 cup
10.67 g
Hemp seed
3 Tablespoons
10.0 g
Nutritional yeast
3 Tablespoons
9.0 g
Quinoa, cooked
1 cup
8.0 g
Soy milk, plain, lite
1 cup
6.0 g
Rolled oats, dry
1/2 cup
5.0 g
Green peas
1/2 cup
4.0 g
Brussels sprouts, cooked
1 cup
4.0 g
Broccoli, cooked, chopped
1 cup
3.7 g
Chia seeds
1 Tablespoon
3.0 g
Asparagus, steamed
1 cup
3.0 g

Nutritional data obtained from

You mentioned in your comment that you had experimented with tahini and nutritional yeast. I'm glad to hear that you're open to trying new things. If you have not already done so, you might consider buying a spiralizer (a kitchen device used to make vegetable "noodles.") Also cauliflower can be used to make faux rice—the texture is very convincing and a cup is only about 30 calories. And, don't forget about spaghetti squash. I don't know how it does what it does; it seems like magic.

I am not vegan; I'm not even totally vegetarian (we eat a fair amount of chicken breast and lean ground turkey and allow a few eggs to slip in every week. Cheese also makes a guest appearance on occasion). But I have stopped eating bread, white potatoes, sugar of any kind, and I no longer have alcohol with or in my meals (I'm assuming that the thimbleful of sacramental wine on Sunday doesn't count). In 2 months I've lost 17 pounds.

Here are my initial ideas for some low-calorie vegan meals.

Vegan Diet Plan (recipes/links are provided for the items in bold-face type)

Rolled oats and fresh fruit (see note below)
hummus, pita chips, fresh carrot sticks
Peanut butter tofu buddha bowl (519 calories)
Avocado toast (2 slices 7-grain, 1/2 avocado = 282 calories
Carb Diva's mock tuna salad
Spiced tofu kebabs with soy yogurt sauce
Tofu scrambled "eggs" = 154 calories
Carb Diva's Cuban black beans and rice salad
Zoodles (spiralized noodles) with avocado pesto
Pumpkin chai smoothie
French dip sandwich
Carb Diva's "unmeaty" chili
Vegan quiche cups
Skinny taco soup
Carb Diva's broccoli quiche
Healthy kale and cauliflower soup
Carb Diva's tofu "meatballs"
Buffalo chickpea wrap
Mushroom cauliflower "rice" skillet (125 calories)

Links for Breakfast Recipes:

Rolled oats and fresh fruit

I have become obsessed with eating raw oats—the rolled oats that come in the tall round cardboard box. One-half cup is 80 calories. Add whatever fresh fruit you can get your hands on. In summer berries and stone fruits are at their prime. But even in fall/winter you should be able to find mango, bananas, and fresh apples (Galas are sweet and juicy). Avoid dried fruits; they are calorie dense and will sabotage your diet.

  • Strawberries (1 cup) –45.6 calories
  • Blueberries (1 cup) – 81.2 calories
  • Mango (1 cup) – 103.7 calories
  • Peach (1 cup slices) – 73.1 calories

  • Gala apple (1 medium) – 95 calories

Tofu scrambled "eggs" (4 servings)

  • 1 block (16 ounces) extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • salt and pepper
Mash tofu with potato masher. Heat oil over medium-high heat; add tofu and stir fry until water is released and tofu begins to look dry (about 3 minutes). Add remaining ingredients and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until tofu is evenly colored.
You can add sauteed onions, bell pepper, or veggie crumbles to this or serve with a slice of whole-grain toast.

Links for Lunch Recipes:

Links for Dinner Recipes:

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

The Mailbox is Empty for Now


Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Linda Lum


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