Living Low Carb in a High Carb Culture


When I was an enthusiastic vegetarian in my twenties and early thirties, I found it challenging to be “the odd person out” amidst my friends and family–and mainstream food culture.  Between my evangelizing and explaining my choices, meal time was not always very relaxed–for anyone.

Funnily enough, vegetarianism is much more accepted in the last 20 years and there are very few restaurants that don’t offer a “veggie’ option.  These days, no one looks at you strangely at potlucks if you ask whether or not a dish is vegan.  I actually have more friends who identify as vegan or vegetarian than not!

And here I am, once again striking out from mainstream food culture, but this time I am eating the foods I used to rail against–for many of the same reasons I used to avoid them in the past.

Read Lierre Keith’s intense and brilliant book “The Vegetarian Myth“–it sums up a lot of my thought processes in going vegetarian–and why I now choose to eat humanely-raised meat.  Here’s an excellent review of the book.

Most of the foods I lived on in those vegetarian days are foods I no longer eat.  I said goodbye to the bread, pasta, corn, beans, potatoes and rice–cheap carbohydrates that make up the bulk of most American’s diets.  I now limit fruit to mostly berries.  We grow most of our own greens.

I just finished reading Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers, a new book by Dr. David Perlmutter.  It has given me even more reason to avoid carbohydrates.

So how do I live low carb in a high carb culture?  Well, Andrew is a brilliant chef, so I am happy to eat at home most of the time.  I’ve also learned how to cook eggs, steak & burgers to perfection!

We buy our most of our fish, meat, dairy, eggs and seasonal veggies direct from the local producers/fisherfolk at the Farmers Market.  Cheese, dark chocolate, condiments and occasional non-local fruits & veggies are from the Food Coop.

Fortunately, I’m not a stranger to eating differently from other folks and dealing with the challenge of finding food I can eat when dining out.  Burgers without a bun?  No prob!  I can even find something at a pizzeria, if they offer substantial salads or antipasti.  Thanks to the Atkins craze 20 years ago, low carb options are starting to become mainstream.  Local and organic food is not quite as available in restaurants, but it is growing in popularity.    We have found that local farms+foodie culture breeds better eating-out options.

Potlucks used to be tricky, with so many vegetarian friends, but we bring some paté for me and a tortilla española for the non-low carb folk and it all works out.

Interestingly, several of my former raw vegan friends have recently gone Paleo!

When I travel, hard-boiled eggs, pre-cooked bacon, cheese and dark chocolate are my staples.

Fellow low-carbers; how do you get by in this high carb world?

7 Responses to “Living Low Carb in a High Carb Culture”

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  1. Hi sondra! I’m curious: What else besides information from the books you mentioned changed your mind? Were you having physical symptoms or other indications that vegetarian/carb based diet wasn’t working for you?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Sondra Rose says:

      Hi Sarah~
      My decision to stop being a vegetarian was based completely on how I felt; I read the books I mentioned in the blog post years after I stopped being a vegetarian.

      My allergies, eczema and asthma were getting worse and I had IBS symptoms all the time. I also kept getting sick 5-6 times a year. Low energy and insomnia. I was seeing an acupuncturist/homeopath for my symptoms and nothing was working.

      It was a gradual healing process for me. In 1997, after 14 years of an ovo-lacto vegetarian (and occasionally pescaterian diet), my intuition told me that I needed to start eating meat again, so I did. My energy went up within weeks and I wasn’t sick as often (due to getting more iron and zinc, methinks!) It took me another 12 years to finally drop the gluten completely and then my digestive system was finally able to heal and start absorbing my food properly. The eczema and IBS disappeared. Four years ago, I added Vitamin D3 and Magnesium supplementation and my asthma went away and my allergies were greatly diminished. Insomnia is gone, too!

      Going very low carb has allowed me to drop 20 pounds of peri-menopausal belly fat without effort.

      • wowza! now that’s a testimonial!! So glad you’re feeling good. From what I read a paleo style diet makes a lot of sense but I’m having trouble adjusting to this style of eating because I was raised as a vegetarian and have no desire for meat…it totally grosses me out in fact. Luckily I do not have any major health concerns at this time so I’m just wading in slowly and eating a lot of fresh veggies.


  2. jenifer says:

    we discovered that we prefer eating at home, too. particularly since returning to the US.

    we love our simple diet and lifestyle. it’s awesome. 🙂

    • Sondra Rose says:

      Hey Jenifer~
      Welcome back to the States!

      I feel doubly fortunate to be living in this fantastic foodshed of the Pac NW, plus having a chef husband who keeps me well supplied with delicious pastured pork liver paté and bone broth. Hard to eat out these days, since our food quality at home is exemplary.

  3. Nala Walla says:

    So glad to have you as a fellow low-carber in town, Sondra!

    My favorite thing about going low-carb is that I simply no longer have cravings for sugar. I can pass right by all the cakes and cookies that used to tempt me, no problema. And when I do indulge in the occasional piece of sweet cake, the subsequent sugar spike (and crash) makes it pretty self-limiting because I feel so shaky and jumpy.

    For me, the key to killing the sweet tooth is to eat what I formerly thought of as “obscene” amounts of fat. And since I enjoy fatty, creamy foods immensely, I include lots of ’em in every meal, and I feel satiated and energetic. I now render my own lard and tallow from local pastured pork and beef, eat tons of grassfed butter, and coconut oil, too. What’s not to like?

    And it’s done wonders for the dental problems in our family: decay has been halted, and teeth are even remineralizing!! My son looks forward to his creamy yummy “snacks” everyday– they have so little sugar that I really consider them FOOD, so I have no qualms about giving them to him. Parenting is way easier when he thinks of his food as a “treat.”

    Low-carb simply makes a lot of sense, for myself, and my family. I look forward to sharing more recipes for staples and travel foods with you over the years.


    • Sondra Rose says:

      Great to know all the benefits you are experiencing from low carb, Nala! I am really enjoying being able to go 6-7 hours or more between meals when I am deep into a garden project, or have back-to-back clients.