While looking for something else, I came across this review of packaged low-carb foods in Salon.com written in May 2004 at the height of the low-carb craze. The reviewers, all chefs and/or food writers tried a number of the products available and had little good to say for them. I tried most of these same products back then and felt pretty much the same way.
But man cannot live on rump steak alone; occasionally, he may also want corn chips. And these days, thanks to the wizards in the prepackaged-food industry and their new faux-carb substitutes (including unlikely products like low-carb ketchup, ice cream bars and milk), he might be able to have a few. Instead of using the delicious but deadly white flour and sugar, these products use alternative staples: spelt, soy, nut flour, etc. (The good news? They are all made with fat, the bane of the ’80s dieter’s existence.)
A few of the companies that made the test products are no longer around, so don’t bother looking for these delicacies, should you want to, because you won’t find them. Which, to my way of thinking, is not a bad thing. I would put most of this stuff in the category of low-carb junk food. But I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as junk food–there is junk and there is food. If that is true, I would then classify most of this stuff as junk.
As I told my patients and as I tell anyone who asks, the best diet is a whole-food, low-carb diet. People who got fat eating bagels, brownies, chips and ice cream aren’t going to get skinny eating the low-carb version of those same things, no matter how much they want to believe they will.
CarbSense Soy Tortilla Chips — Original flavor (lightly salted)
Ingredients: Masa corn flour, soy protein concentrate (non-GMO), safflower oil, black beans, oat bran, rice flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, salt. 140 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat.
CarbSense Soy Tortilla Chips — Pico de Gallo flavor
Ingredients: Masa corn flour, soy protein concentrate (non-GMO), safflower oil, black beans, oat bran, rice flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, seasonings (salt, torula yeast, chili peppers, onion, garlic, tomato powder, lemon powder, spices, cultured whey, celery, natural smoke flavor). 140 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat.
CarbSense Soy Tortilla Chips — Habanero flavor
Ingredients: Masa corn flour, soy protein concentrate (non-GMO), safflower oil, rice flour, black beans, oat bran, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, seasonings (salt, spices, chili peppers, onion, garlic, autolyzed yeast extract, lactic acid, extractives of paprika, citric acid). 140 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat.
Schoenfein: [Takes an “original”-flavored chip.] They taste brown. Like cardboard.
Bittman: Yes, like sawdust glued together. [Takes a pico de gallo chip.] You know, if you put these flavors on it, it actually masks the sawdust.
Miller: [Takes an “original”-flavored chip.] This is horrible. [Munches thoughtfully.] Unless … you think of it as some sort of health snack. Like some hippie side dish. They just shouldn’t make it in the shape of a chip.
Bittman: As a health cracker, it’s excellent. As a chip it’s a failure.
Schoenfein: There’s a toasted sesame flavor that’s actually kind of nice.
Miller: It’s just the damn soy aftertaste that lingers.
As the taste test wraps, one of the participants sums it up nicely:
When the taste test was over, all four testers were rubbing their bellies with some unhappiness, and a few were opening and closing their mouths, as if trying to remove a sticky substance from their tongues. “We’ve determined that low-carb food tastes worse than low-fat food,” Miller said.
After a pause, she reconsidered: “I think this is actually unfair to low-carb diets, because you don’t need to eat this stuff to be on one. You can eat fresh, lean foods that have nothing in common with these mixes.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’m often asked if it isn’t better to eat this low-carb junk than to eat low-fat junk or even the real junk. My answer is that if you’re on a low-carb diet and you’re going to succumb to a bagel, then you’re probably better off eating a low-carb bagel once in a while. But if you want to recreate the diet that made you fat in the first place, using all these low-carb faux foods instead of the real ones, and think you’re going to lose weight and get healthy because you’re going low-carb, you will be living in a fool’s paradise.
Eating ‘low carb’ crackers and cookies and pasta and cereal and chips all day will leave you unsatisfied and fat. If you’re going to eat all that crap, just eat the real stuff, enjoy it, and stay fat. Why knosh on cardboard and sawdust all day instead and still stay fat?