3 Ways To Eat Low Carb
+ Asian Beef & Zucchini ‘Noodles’

Steak with Asian Zucchini 'Noodles'

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] O[/dropcap]n Monday I got a phone call which made me feel like a bit of a failure.

It was from my doctor saying they had the results of a recent test and that I basically have gestational diabetes.

My mind was screaming…

“That can’t be right… I eat so well. There must be a mistake.”

But the results were there.

You know the ironic thing??

I was already planning to write this week about eating low carb. I had a request from a Stonesoup reader which went something like this…

“I am supposed to eat a gluten free diet also no carbohydrates (according to Quack ). Because of blood problem.

How to get a list of food that is free of above. I am old so not too smart with these things.”

Weird coincidence, right?

Anyway now I’m used to the idea, you’ll be happy to know I don’t feel like a ‘failure’ any more. I’m actually looking forward to learning what I can about the whole diabetes, insulin, blood sugar and diet puzzle.

And finding ways to improve my diet. After all I’m far from perfect!

My 3 Favourite Ways To Eat Low Carb

1. Swap grains for veggies (and legumes).

For most of us the biggest source of carbs in our diets comes from grain based products like breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and rice. About 5 years ago I started experimenting with reducing and even eliminating grains from my diet and I can easily say it’s had the biggest positive impact on my waistline.

These days I have eggs and some sort of vegetable for breakfast instead of a bowl of All Bran. For lunches my go-tos are salads, soups or leftovers instead of a sandwich.

Then for dinners my fave substitutes for grains are to use vegetable ‘noodles’ made from zucchini or carrots instead of pasta or rice noodles. I also love cauliflower ‘rice’ (raw grated cauli) instead of steamed rice. Or sometimes I’ll just serve my stir fry, curry or ragu on a big bed of baby spinach instead of rice or pasta.

For wrapping things I love iceberg lettuce leaves or (my latest discovery) cabbage leaves instead of tortillas or flat bread.

The possibilities are endless but best of all I never feel like I’m missing out.

2. Choose savoury over sweet.

Sweet treats are the other big source of carbs. So there’s a big opportunity to go for a handful of nuts over a cookie at snack time and a cheese plate instead of dessert.

3. Focus on real food. Not ‘low carb alternatives’

If you switch to processed packaged foods labelled with ‘low carb’ you’re really just swapping one problem for another. And usually paying a premium in the process.

Real food with lots of veggies is the way forward.

How about you?

Got any tips for eating low carb? Or are you a confirmed carb lover? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…


Steak with Asian Zucchini 'Noodles'-2

Asian Beef & Zucchini ‘Noodles’

I took this photo a while ago before I invested in a spiralizer. So the ‘noodles’ in the picture were made using my mandoline to slice the zucchini into fine strips and then hand sliced into thinner noodles. While that method is good, I have to say the look and feel you get from the spiralizer is so much better! More on that soon. But if you don’t have either, no stress – see the variations below for suggestions.

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

2 steaks
2 medium zucchini
2-4 red chillies, sliced
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Remove steaks from the fridge (up to an hour ahead).

2. Wash zucchini and slice into ‘noodles’ either using a mandoline or spiralizer. Sprinkle with a little salt and stand at room temp to soften.

3. Heat a frying pan on a very high heat. Scatter a very fine layer of salt over the bottom of the pan and add the steaks.

4. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side for medium rare (or 3-4 minutes for medium) or until cooked to your liking.

5. Remove steaks and place on 2 warm plates. Carefully wipe out the excess salt from the hot pan.

6. Add zucchini ‘noodles’ and chilli to the hot pan without returning it to the heat. Allow the noodles to warm through then add the soy sauce. Taste and add more soy as needed. If you want the noodles hotter, pop the pan back on the heat but I find there’s usually enough residual heat to get things warm enough.

7. Spoon zucchini, chilli and sauce over the steaks and serve hot.

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no mandoloine / spiralizer – either slice the zucchini by hand as finely as you can or use a vegetable peeler.

budget – replace steak with minced (ground) meat. Just brown it in a little oil (without the salt crust) then toss in the zucchini, chilli and soy.

vegetarian – replace steaks with cooked white or black beans. Just warm everything in the pan.

more veg – feel free to use more zucchini or add other ‘noodle’ veg such as carrots and/or red peppers. Some fresh herbs like mint or coriander (cilantro) would also be lovely.

paleo / soy-free – use fish or oyster sauce instead of the soy or replace with coconut aminos.

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve with steamed rice OR toss cooked rice, singapore or hokkien noodles in with the zucchini.

See also: 16 Tasty Ideas for Zucchini.

Big love,
Jules x

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  • Hi Jules, I love reading your blogs and wish you well in your pregnancy. It occcurs to me you might be able to beat the gestational diabetes by introducing some fermented foods into your diet. Kefir would be a great start, especially for your child and you. There is a huge amount of information available but I suggest that you look up Donna Schwenk, she has healed her mind body and family on fermented foods.

  • Must be a shock to get that call from your doctor, but I admire the way your handling it. Also, I believe that diabetes can be cured. Ever seen that documentary where 8 people get cured from diabetes just by eating healthy?

    It opens new doors and makes you more of a creative cook. I wish you all the best :)

  • For many women eating a lower carb diet, they will have a false positive on the “glucose drink” diabetes test. Since your body is not used to all of that glucose all at once, your body overcompensates a bit.

    Ask you doctor if you can do a food diary with home blood glucose measurements, as this will give a better view of how your body is acting day to day.

    Also, the diet for gestational diabetes is probably very similar to how you have already been eating (if on the lowish carb side of things), so you already know how to cook for yourself and the growing baby :)

  • We eat crustless pizza. Just brown the Italian sausage. Put a cup of shredded cheese on a non-stick pizza pan. Top with the sausage and any other toppings. A tablespoon or so of a low carb pizza sauce and top with another cup of shredded cheese. Bake at 400 until cheese is melted.

    Pizza slides off onto a dinner plate. Use knife and fork to eat but still very satisfying.

  • Thank you for the special anniversary offer on ‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy‘.
    I have just downloaded it and I am astounded at the amount of information and details you managed to pack in this eCookBook!
    Off to explore and discover!
    Thanks again :)

  • Another option for low carb is also spaghetti squash. You can bake it and then it just pulls out with a fork like spaghetti.

  • Spaghetti Squash for pasta dishes, lots of bean dishes, eggs and meat. Lettuce for wraps as you mentioned, soups and come up with a few favorite non-carb or low-carb meals to use regularly. Ful medames made with beans other than fava (high GI), some beanitos or chicpea flour Indian flatbread for scooping and this has become my new go to breakfast.

    • Ooh I’ve just planted some spaghetti squash Jason… Can’t wait to try it out! And love the idea of chickpea based Indian flat breads… I’m really getting into chickpea flour at the moment :)

  • I am trying to eat somewhat lower carb, but not completely, because I believe in balance. What I’ve ended up doing is eating more legumes and whole grains, rather than processed foods. I do still go for the occasional tortilla (hey, I live on the border with Mexico!) but basically don’t do bread any longer. I would probably do more zucchini noodles, except my husband likes to have those carbs as part of his meals. We will do breakfast cereal occasionally, but we’ve gotten away from it as a regular meal, except: I do overnight oats fairly frequently and have homemade granola with a couple of breakfasts. I have come to believe that whole foods and balance are the key to the healthiest eating.

    • I’ve done much the same thing with some success. The biggest hurdle is getting hubby to go along. My mom’s nutritionit had a great suggestion. In meals where the no carb or whole grain option doesn’t fly (spaghetti in my house) she suggested adding a few spoonfuls of wheat germ to the sauce. It ups the fiber, thickens the sauce, and isn’t noticeable. Helps balance out those white noodles. I’ve also added it to soups and casseroles with good results.

      • Brilliant Kathy! I’m guessing psyllium would be another good option for adding extra fiber for those of us who aren’t great with wheat :)

    • Lucky you living close to Mexico Susan! I love their food. You know if your husband really wants his carbs you could always cook the spaghetti for him and do zucchini noodles for you… Although maybe you should try some on him. I even got Fergal to eat zucchini noodles the other day and he’s normally a complete carb loving 2 year old :)

  • I was a ‘gestational diabetic’ with both my pregnancies, Jules. The boys are wonderfully healthy and smart, and the ‘diabetes’ vanished before the extra pounds did!

    BUT…those of us who are gestational diabetics are almost guaranteed to develop Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes after age 50. I’ve eaten low carb for most of my adult life and assumed it wouldn’t be a problem. I will turn 62 on Saturday and my doctor told me today that I am now officially ‘pre-diabetic’. I attribute the late onset to my low-carb diet, but the question is how to avoid going the whole way into Type 2. I am convinced the right diet and regular exercise can do it!

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Karen! And so glad to hear your boys are well. Have you ever experimented with fasting in any form to help improve insulin sensitivity? Good for you for keeping a proactive approach! Jx

    • To improve your insulin sensitivity add in a ‘restricted eating window’ in addition to the low carb diet. Exercise also helps.

      I restrict my eating from 12pm to 8pm. This gives my body 16 hours with reducing insulin levels. It is surprisingly easy to do and it quickly becomes a habit.

      It maybe all you need to stop the progression to type 2 diabetes.

  • I hope your gestational diabetes goes away once you have had the baby. Your body has to cope with a lot of changes when pregnant.

    I have just finished listening to “Nutrition made clear” by Professor Roberta H Anding M.S. . A very interest lecture series, medically backed and statistically proven information about healthy eating and living. You may like to listen to this.

  • I recently found out I have a corn and wheat sensitivity… but I love my crunchy foods- especially corn chips and toast. We don’t always have access to Beanitos where we live but we do have yams/sweet potatoes, so I started baking my own chips. I love them with guacamole, or with my eggs in the morning. I understand sweet potatoes are great at stabilizing blood sugar, good news for diabetics! Jules, thanks for sharing and good luck with baby number two… and you are right, my waistline slimmed right down once I dropped wheat and corn from my diet!

  • This is really interesting listening/reading. I was diagnosed with GD a couple of weeks ago but so far pretty much all of my glucose readings have come under the set limits. As the pregnancy continues, it can get worse so I won’t take these initial readings for granted. My last baby was 4.5kg and a very complicated birth and it’s thought that maybe they missed my insulin resistance because the diagnostic range was less (it’s been widened in past couple of years) – so hoping for a different outcome this time. http://robbwolf.com/2015/05/12/episode-269-lily-nichols-gestational-diabetes/

  • Hey there! Love your stuff, Jules! A little tip if you don’t have a mandolin or spiralizer (like me): just grate your zucchini sort of lengthwise. Works like a dream and you get that pasta kind of texture. :-)

  • Hi Jules, What Amanda said in her comments is what happened to me -false positive. I was already eating low carb. I even asked them if there was anything I needed to know before I took the test. After a food diary and pricking my finger at an 1hr and then 2hrs after every meal with extreamly low blood sugar levels they rang the labratories and realized. Apparently the only other people they had had fail the test and be false positive were all elite athleats. Prick your finger and monitor your levels yourself. You will soon know what spikes your levels!

  • Hi Jules, I was wondering if you could share what type of spiralizer you use to make your zucchini noodles (or zoodles!), I’ve been eyeing these off for a while but have been looking for one that is efficient & speedy at noodlising veggies, but doesn’t take up too much space? Thanks!

  • Hi Jules. In addition to keeping a food diary and pricking yourself, you can also request a “fasting” glucose test. This often overcomes false positives – which as other commentors have said, is a pretty common result for slow carb eaters.

  • I had the exact thing happen to me. My first two pregnancies I did not have gestational diabetes. My third pregnancy was very healthy (working out regularly and eating healthy) and I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I am 5’3″ and weigh around 115 lbs normally and had only gained about 15 lbs by the 6 month mark. I thought it was something I had done to myself and it just made no sense. The more I researched I found out it has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t done. Every pregnancy is different. I tested my blood sugar just as instructed and kept a food journal to make sure I stayed on track. My numbers stayed below 120 as my dr. wanted and I delivered an 8lb boy vaginally without being induced (they were worried he’d be bigger.) All this to say, just keep doing what you’re doing and it was a great way for me to be more vigilant about a healthy pregnancy. A year layer and my blood sugar is just fine- no diabetes. Good luck!

  • Thanks for sharing this Jules, and wishing you all the best for the rest of your pregnancy ?

  • Oops further to my previous comment, a stray question mark appears to have intruded, sorry about that! xox

  • This post is really helpful.It gives me several ideas about foods with low carb. Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Jules
    I’m going through all my old Emails and found this one and decided to comment.
    Food what to eat? High protein, no carbs, eat fat and bating now as well.
    A complete turn around, from what’s been said or written before.
    I’m almost a vegan, I love nuts and probably eat too many, I love oats, I’m now eating Future life, you can google it, quite an interesting product. I love pasta and rice and not to forget potatoes any form and don’t have the will to cut them out of my diet.
    What I want to say is, first it was eat this now it’s eat that, it makes the head spin. Regarding your diabetes a colleague of mine swears by cactus leaf pulp, and I recall years ago a TV article on Peru regarding this and by reverting back to their traditional diet which included the above their problem was solved. Sterkte (Good luck) as they say in South Africa.

  • First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! And join the club – I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes too. You are mostly certainly not a failure and there’s nothing you could’ve done to prevent it. Like you, I am a carb lover and it was a steep learning curve to change my diet to meet these new needs. I’ve found trading grain for legumes great, as well as adding more vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower to my diet. The benefits of having gestational diabetes and managing it well are that you won’t put on excess weight and can recover to your pre-pregnancy weight quickly.

  • Hi Jules,
    I am attempting to eat to some degree lower carb, yet not totally, on the grounds that I put stock in equalization. What I’ve wound up doing is eating more vegetables and entire grains, instead of handled nourishment. I do even now go for the periodic tortilla (hey, I live on the fringe with Mexico!) however fundamentally don’t do bread any more. I would most likely accomplish more zucchini noodles, aside from my spouse likes to have those carbs as a major aspect of his suppers. We will eat grain every so often, yet we’ve made tracks in an opposite direction from it as a normal dinner, aside from: I do overnight oats reasonably much of the time and have hand crafted granola with two or three breakfasts. I have come to trust that entire sustenances and equalization are the way to the most advantageous eating.

  • Have you read the Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes. He is a South African (Nutritionist, Sports Scientist? can’t remember!) promoting the Banting way of eating. I make flaxseed bread, and cauli rice and cauli mash. Dr Noakes promotes the green, orange and red list of vegetables and fruit – and sorry, carrots are on the orange/caution list as most root vegetables are sugar storehouses. Anyway, you should read it. You are young and sensible and should gain some benefit from the ideas.

    • I don’t know about being sensible Anne – but thanks for the recommendation – I’ve heard of Tim Noakes but haven’t read his stuff.

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