This will be a series in which I introduce you to products I’ve found that make following a low-carb or ketogenic diet more tasty and pleasant. I specifically said low carb or ketogenic, and not “Paleo,” because some of the things I plan to write about will have ingredients that would make a strict Paleo eater cringe. There might be artificial sweeteners. Some of these products might have sucralose or stevia, instead of organic, non-GMO erythritol defecated by rainbow-maned unicorns. There might be gluten (*gasp!*). There might even be a bit of soybean or canola oil. (Even though I wrote this post about canola being not-so-great. What can I say? Prominent low carb & keto researcher Stephen Phinney MD, PhD, who has been conducting primary research on ketogenic diets almost longer than I have been alive, promotes canola as a good fat source in his books, and even though I don’t use much canola in my own diet, when Dr. Phinney speaks, I listen.)
If you’re looking for dietary sainthood, move along; my blog isn’t for you.
Cool Find Friday will feature food products, cooking gadgets, and maybe even some helpful websites or podcasts I stumble upon. I might also include mini-book reviews – my take on a book I’ve read, but not one detailed enough for me to make it one of my too-long full-length book reviews. *Shrug.* I dunno. It will probably evolve over time, but for now, those are the types of things I see myself covering here.
First up: DaVinci sugar-free syrups!
Food purist trigger warning: these are sweetened with sucralose and contain artificial colorings. (Move along; nothing to see here!)
I have been using these for years, and I have not found them to interfere with either fat loss or maintaining weight – meaning, they don’t prevent me from losing weight, and if I’m aiming to stay at the same weight, they don’t cause me to gain. I can’t say whether or not they interfere with ketosis, because I very rarely test for ketones. I have a hard time believing they’d interfere if you keep them to reasonable quantities—a couple tablespoons here and there, but not glugging down cups of this stuff at a time. Based on measurements of my blood glucose and insulin, though, these don’t seem to have any negative impact in terms of increasing risk for the ol’ diabeetus, and based on routine bloodwork, they have no adverse effects on overall metabolic health.
What do I use these sugar-free syrups for?
I’m usually a purist when it comes to my beloved coffee. I want coffee to taste like coffee. But every now and then, I do get in the mood for something else, and DaVinci syrups make it easy to mimic the flavor of your favorite mocha-frappa-hazelnut-vanilla-whatever, sans the sugar. Yay! The flavors that go great in coffee (in my opinion) are coconut, crème de menthe, peppermint, English toffee, toasted marshmallow, raspberry, and orange. (Orange? In coffee? Yes. You’d be surprised. It’s delish! Raspberry works very well here, too.) They make “traditional” coffee flavorings, like hazelnut, amaretto, Irish cream, French vanilla, and Kahlua, and they also have white chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, pumpkin spice, and gingerbread, but I haven’t tried these flavors so I can’t vouch for them.
2. Yogurt & Cottage Cheese
The fruit flavors are great in plain yogurt and/or cottage cheese. What, you didn’t know you can eat these things on a low carb diet? Cottage cheese is fairly low in carbs and high in protein. (There’s a reason bodybuilders and fitness models eat a ton of it.) Yogurt—plain and unsweetened—is just fine for low carb. According to Dr. Phinney and his co-author Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, (in their book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance), a half-cup of plain yogurt is only about 5g carbs. (Even if the container you see at the store says it has more than that, this is a good ballpark per ½ cup serving. Some of the carbohydrate [lactose] is consumed during the culturing process, and I don't think all manufacturers account for this in the carb counts they put on labels.) Both regular and Greek yogurt—plain—are great ways to have a fix of creamy dairy without racking up a lot of fat. (What? Not racking up a lot of fat? On a low carb diet? Amy, have you gone crazy? No. Read this especially if you’re struggling to lose weight on a ketogenic or LCHF diet.)
I specify plain yogurt because if you buy any of the flavored varieties, they tend to be mucked up with a ton of sugar—sometimes to the tune of 25+ grams of carbohydrate for a 5oz container! Not worth it! But if you buy plain yogurt and doctor it up yourself—with cinnamon, sugar-free maple syrup, toasted nuts, or DaVinci syrups—then you can have your fix of cool & creamy minus the blood sugar bomb.
Flavors that I’ve found go great with yogurt and/or cottage cheese: banana, peach, strawberry, cherry, and pineapple. (Several years ago, my post-workout food was half yogurt and half cottage cheese with some added protein powder and a splash of DaVinci. I was in demon shape back then, so I must’ve been doing something right. Or, at the very least, this didn’t stand in the way of me achieving a nice physique. I wasn’t ketogenic at that time. I was low carb, high-ish protein, and ate plenty of fat but didn’t go out of my way to add tons of it to my food.)
For a truly decadent low carb treat: Mix half yogurt and half ricotta cheese or cottage cheese in a bowl or cup. Add a pack of Splenda, Sweet & Low, or a few drops of liquid stevia. Mix in a splash of vanilla extract and cinnamon to suit your taste. Mix everything together well (can be done by hand with a spoon), and enjoy! Add some canned pumpkin and it’s even better – like a little high-protein pumpkin pie treat. (Be sure to buy 100% pure pumpkin, unsweetened; don’t accidentally get the pre-sweetened pumpkin pie mix. The cans are very similar.) Alternative version: half yogurt, half ricotta or cottage cheese, cinnamon, and some DaVinci pancake syrup or some other brand’s sugar-free maple/pancake syrup. Oh man…
The pancake syrup can be used for anything you’d use maple syrup for. It goes great with yogurt and cottage cheese, and would also be perfect for those of you who do low carb or keto waffles and pancakes. (Full confession: I don’t like DaVinci pancake syrup all that much. I much prefer this one from Maple Grove Farms brand. And their butter flavored one is great, too.)
If you prefer to avoid alcohol altogether, that’s cool, but for those of you who like to imbibe from time to time, did you know that most alcohol is actually A-okay on a low carb diet? Sweet liqueurs are not a great idea, but believe it or not, the hard stuff is fine. The problem with alcohol on low carb or ketogenic diets isn’t the alcohol itself. It’s what we typically add it to: orange juice, cranberry juice, sweet mixers, cola, etc. So, think rum & diet cola, or some other hard liquor or distilled spirit with club soda or a sugar-free beverage. And most wines are pretty low in residual sugar. Even sweet-tasting wines are lower than you might think. (For more on the alcohol issue, here’s a helpful guide to alcohol on low carb from the people at dietdoctor.com.)
If you want to approximate the flavor of your favorite fruity cocktail, start with whatever your base is (rum, vodka, gin, etc.), and use DaVinci pineapple, coconut, banana, raspberry, cherry, strawberry, orange, lime, blueberry, peach, or watermelon. Mix with seltzer or your favorite sugar-free flavored beverage and you can join in the fun.
(Fun aside: when I was in the Air Force, there was a bar right outside Offutt Air Force Base where my friends and I were regulars. These days, I prefer wine, but back then, I generally stuck to light beer. Once in a while, though, when I wanted something else, I would order a glass of water and a shot, typically vodka or rum. I kept those Crystal Light “to go” packs in my purse, and I would make my own sugar-free cocktail by pouring the booze into the water and adding the Crystal Light. After seeing me do this a few times, my friends christened this drink “the Berger.” HA! It’s all good, though. The bartenders didn’t mind, because I was still ordering alcohol, and I got to have a yummy, fruity-type drink without wrecking my low carb ways.)
Where to Buy These
Where can you buy these? I get mine from Netrition.com. (That link is to my Netrition affiliate. If you buy anything from them after clicking through, they’ll send me a couple cents.) I love Netrition because they have a flat $5.99 shipping fee anywhere in the continental 48 states in the U.S., no matter how large or heavy your order is. (Sorry to my overseas readers!) This is great, because if you order multiple DaVinci syrups, the weight can add up quickly. (They all come in glass bottles, except for the raspberry flavor. No idea why plastic for raspberry.) You might be able to find these elsewhere online, and I see them once in a while at places like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Cost Plus World Market in the U.S. That’s hit or miss, though. Sometimes they have them, sometimes not.)
P.S. Another brand, Torani, makes basically the same things—sugar-free flavored syrups—but I prefer DaVinci. Torani has a couple of flavors DaVinci doesn’t make (such as mango), so I do buy Torani once in a while if I specifically want one of those.
Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.