Thursday, September 8, 2011

Healthy Thinking Thursday

I'm still working to actively improve my health and cutting back on my carb intake has been a large part of that.  One of my favorite dishes is macaroni and cheese, which unfortunately is loaded with carbs.  So I have made it my mission to create my own low-carb version.  My first attempt was a disaster, but my second attempt (pictured above) not only looked tasty - it actually was!

Just to give you and idea of what you are up against when you eat macaroni and cheese here are the nutrition facts:

Valu Time Shells & Cheese
(this is a generic version sold in stores like Food City - compare to Velveeta Shells & Cheese made by Kraft)
Serving Size:  1 cup prepared
Calories:  380
Total Fat:  16 grams
Total Carbohydrate:  44g (dietary fiber 2g so net carbs would be 42 grams)

And here is my version:

Jessie's Low-Carb Mac'n'Cheese
Serving Size:  1 cup prepared
Dreamfields Penne Rigate:  1 cup = 380 calories, 2 grams of fat, Total Carbohydrate 41 grams (dietary fiber 5 grams, soluble fiber 3 grams, insoluble fiber 2 grams, "protected carbs" 31 grams, so net carbs would be 5 grams*)
Kroger Original Cream Cheese:  1 ounce = 100 calories, 10 grams of fat, 0 carbs
Kroger American Singles:  2 slices = 140 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 carbs
I cooked the pasta in boiling water for 9 minutes.  I put the 2 slices of cheese and the cream cheese along with 1 teaspoon of water into a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds then stirred until it was a nice thick consistency.  The cheese was really thick, but since the pasta was still so hot after being drained it coated quite well.
Total for one cup prepared:  620 calories, 22 grams of fat, 9 net carbs

*Dreamfields is a low-carb pasta that you may have heard of before.  There is quite a bit of debate about the product itself.  The total number of carbs for one cup of their pasta is 41 grams, but they use a special manufacturing process that Dreamfields claims only allows 5 grams of carbs to be digested - thus 5 net carbs per serving.  I have read arguments from both sides of the fence - some people say there is no way to guarantee that the other 31 carbs pass through a person's system before breaking down and being digested.  On the other hand I have read personal accounts from diabetics who have tried the pasta and then checked their blood sugar at intervals of 2 hours, 4 hours, and even 8 hours after eating and noted no blood sugar spikes.  So really I guess it's one of those buyer beware situations - you can read more at the Dreamfield's website and make up your own mind.

Even if I do trust Dreamfield's nutrition facts to be correct you can still see that the calories and fat in my recipe are much higher.  My recipe has 240 more calories, 6 more grams of fat, and 33 less grams of carbs.  This is something that I have found to be true in other foods as well.  For example low-calorie dressings are often higher in carbs than their full fat counterparts.  I have no idea what the correlation means.

As far as taste goes the plain cooked Dreamfield's tasted just like every other pasta I've ever had.  My cheese was very creamy, but not quite as "cheesey" tasting as I would have liked.  I can say that my version tasted far less salty than the Valu Time brand.  I am not a diabetic but do have IBS so I am very sensitive to certain foods and I had no problems with the Dreamfields pasta - I actually stayed full longer and felt less bloated than I do with regular pasta.

For my third attempt I would like to try 2% american cheese, which has fewer calories and grams of fat, but should still have only about 2 carbs per slice.  I would also like to see what low-fat or fat free cream cheese would do for the recipe as well.  I've had fat free cream cheese before and I didn't like it.  I may try more water next time as well, but only a teaspoon at a time because runny cheese was the biggest problem with my first attempt.  I'd also like to try out other cheeses - I know that parmesan has less than 1 gram of carbs per ounce, but I'm not so sure about the taste.

I'll update again once I've perfected my recipe.  If anybody out there is brave enough to try this then please let  me know how it goes.  Until then I hope everyone has a happy and healthy Thursday!

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