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Argh! Low carb diet -- any place that caters to that?

I gotta avoid: liquor, caffeine, white bread, regular pasta, rice, potatoes, fried foods, high fat dairy and processed foods. It's a foodie nightmare. Most places have things I can eat (like salad at a pizza joint), but I have to pick and choose. Is there a restaurant in Toronto that actually does this sort of diet really well? I was at Café Vert a few weeks ago and had their quinoa eggplant dish. While it fits the criteria, it wasn't very tasty.
Any help would be appreciated.

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  1. Haven't been so can't vouch for how well they do it but Live Oganic Food Bar, which specializes in unprocessed foods, would by definition offer meals with those criteria.

    The most difficult part for me would be giving up wine, beer, caffeine and french fries. Good luck with the diet!

    Live Organic Food Bar
    264 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M5R1V7, CA

    1. I have been eating this way for about a year. Haven't found any restaurants that specifically cater to this, like you said, you pretty much have to pick and choose what to order. I find the hardest thing about eating in restaurants is the amount of sugar that's added to everything.

      I don't know if you are aware but there is a low carb store at Yonge and Lawrence called "Low Carb Grocery" They have a lot of products that are not available generally in Canada such as Dreamfields pasta, various low carb baking mixes and cereals.

      4 Replies
      1. re: paper_bag_princess

        Never heard of this place. Sounds interesting. I'd be keen to try the low carb baking.

        1. re: paper_bag_princess

          I love this store, you can check out the website too www.thelowcarbgrocery.com and order online. My favourite products are the wraps and pita breads

          1. re: paper_bag_princess


            Low Carb Grocery
            170 Esna Park Dr, Markham, ON L3R, CA

            1. re: paper_bag_princess

              I too have never heard of this place...thanks for posting!!!

            2. Any good steakhouse will meet your needs: start with a chopped onion and tomato salad (dress yourself with oil and vinegar) or some smoked salmon or a beef carpaccio; go on to a great big steak with a caesar salad - and you won't notice the missing taters, breads and dessert.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bigtigger

                Thanks but steak is a high fat food, so it's also forbidden. See how tricky this gets?

              2. Many places have entrees that come with potatoes or rice, you can just ask them to hold the carb. When Low-carb first appeared on the scene, I'd go to an Asian restaurant and asked them to hold the rice, they'd go "No rice???" with eyes as big as saucers. But now they're used to it and may even give you some more veggies as substitution.

                1. Many of the menu items at fresh would fit your criteria. I prefer the food/atmosphere at the bloor location.
                  Also a few doors east there is a great takeout counter at the back of noah's. Healthy soups, lots of whole grains and legumes.

                  1. the magic oven, while much maligned by some hounds, is the place for gluten-free, spelt, whole wheat, etc, pizzas.

                    Magic Oven
                    788 Broadview Ave, Toronto, ON M4K2P7, CA

                    Magic Oven
                    798 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1L6, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: LemonLauren

                      Just for clarity, are you looking for low-carb, or selective carbs? The quinoa-eggplant dish you mentioned would be virtually 100% carbs. Aside from carbs, your choices are protein and fat. Since you want to avoid fat, high-protein seems to be what you're asking for.

                      Some options are chicken breast, shrimp, lobster, beans, soy, and lean red meat (I love stews for this reason). You can order these foods almost anywhere, of course.

                      One nice treat is dark chocolate with either a low cocoa content (usually the cocoa butter is lower then), or a very high quality dark chocolate which lists cocoa solids before cocoa butter. No dairy there, and the fat isn't so high.

                      Good luck!

                      1. re: bellywizard

                        Lower the carbs, up the low-fat protein.
                        It's low in bad carbs, or "sin" carbs, as I prefer to term them.
                        Like chocolate croissants from Le Gourmand. Or gelato from Solferino or Il G. Or a California roll...

                    2. May I pipe in and ask why you are eating that way? Is it for weight-loss or other reasons? Either way sounds like no fun. . . . and very concerning re:ones overall health and balanced nutrition. Carbs are good brain food!

                      There are resto's that cater to the whole grain thing, if those are not off limits.

                      Have you tried those places that serve mainly raw foods. They tend to be focused mainly on veggies, etc, and would be suited.

                      I would also recommend trying thai food. Ordering a curry, minus the rice, which is just veggies and chicken. At least you will get added flavour, mind you coconut milk is high in fat content as well. They also have shrimp skewers, stir fry's etc. . . . all very meat/veggie focused. Of coarse you can always replace tofu as a meat substitute as well..

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pancake

                        Just a note: if you do order Thai food, you probably want to mention that you're on a low-carb diet. Many Thai recipes have some palm sugar added to them, but I'm sure that you can request that it be left out.

                        And skip yellow or musaman style curries, which would have potatoes in them. Red, green, and panaeng are all safe. I'm not sure how enjoyable they'd be to eat without rice or noodles...

                        I wonder if you could eat bean thread noodles... they're made from ground beans instead of rice, and they have a lovely consistency. You might want to look into this.

                        Tom kha gai (coconut soup) would also be a very good, flavourful choice.

                      2. Chinese restaurants are probably your best bet. Just skip the rice and noodle dishes.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Kasumeat

                          Actually, Chinese restaurants are one of the worst choices for a low carb diet, unless you order the meat and veggies plain.

                          All their sauces are FILLED with sugar.

                          1. re: paper_bag_princess

                            So it looks like I'm resigned to home-cooking then :)
                            My diet isn't that strict (this is for weight loss), so I can have some sugar in my food. I just have to make sure there's lots of protein with it. I do have to be careful with high fat food, so I'd like avoid any creamed sauces or curries.
                            My ideal diet is straight out of the granola-crunching 70's in California: cottage cheese and peach slices for breakfast, lentil barley soup for lunch and pear with walnuts for snack... what's a foodie to do?

                            1. re: merlot143

                              eat fish :)

                              ah healthy eating, a topic after my own heart (see previous posts about brown rice sushi). i am big fan of the "no rice Thai" option - chicken and veg and yummy sauces are just fine without starch for me.

                              do be sure, labelling a diet "low carb" when you plan on eating fruit and healthy grains like barley, is a misnomer. anyone interested in long-term health would do well to eat a balanced diet such as this, including whole grains and good sugars like those found in fruit. there are no shortage of options at most restaurants - a grilled or steamed fish with a veg/grain side, as can be found at Quince, 93 Harbord, Five Doors North, for example, would be perfect. when you're looking to keep fish intake lower, a poultry or pork dished, as long as it's not breaded, would be safe.

                              at less-foodie-oriented places like Red Room, Butler's Pantry, Utopia, Insomnia, i usually get a sandwich or wrap with a side salad, then only eat the bread selectively. these places make salads too, but you'll find it's cheaper to get the sandwich and side salad and then to de-construct your sandwich and distribute the contents over your side salad.

                              the other option to consider is mediterrenean and middle eastern food - everywhere from Tabule to Mezzetta to Sababa - think tabule salads, lentil soups, chicken skewers, greek salad (olive and feta are good fats), eggplant dips and dishes - just don't eat the pitas :)

                              really, the diet you detail shouldn't be a challenge in today's society. here's hoping.

                              Five Doors North
                              2088 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4S2A3, CA

                              2110 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 2A5, CA

                              563 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y6, CA

                              2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

                              586 College St, Toronto, ON M6G1B3, CA

                              Butler's Pantry
                              591 Markham St, Toronto, ON M6G2L7, CA

                              93 Harbord
                              93 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                              681 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C1A7, CA

                              390 Steeles W, Thornhill, ON L4J6X6, CA

                              Red Room
                              444 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

                              1. re: LemonLauren

                                Maybe we should called it a low "bad" carb diet. I get my carbs from fruit and whole grains.

                                I avoid refined sugar like the plague and rarely consume things made with white flour. Like the previous poster said its not hard to find whole grain items and such in restaurants now, you just have to be selective in what you order.

                                In order to avoid the temptation of bread in restaurants, I will usually ask the server not to bring it at all.

                            2. re: paper_bag_princess

                              When you say "all" of their sauces are filled with sugar, you are wrong. Many are not. Avoid the cloying dishes like sweet 'n' sour xxx and you'll be fine. The glycemic load of most meat and veggie dishes is going to be WAY lower than the quinoa in the OP, so if that's fair game, then there's nothing to worry about in the sauces.

                              1. re: Kasumeat

                                That's not necessarily true either, if you take into account the corn starch used to thicken many of the sauces--corn starch is a definite no no in a low carb/low GI plan.

                                To bring this back to Toronto, when I eat that way I really enjoy Portuguese--lots of tasty grilled fish and veg and olives. Chiado and Adega are good choices for a nice night out.

                                1. re: Kasumeat

                                  Ok, maybe I shouldn't have said ALL the sauces are filled with sugar but I still disagree that only things like sweet n sour whatever have a lot of sugar in them.

                                  General Tso Chicken, lemon chicken, cashew chicken, spicy peanut chicken, schzewan chicken, kung pao chicken....I can taste the sugar in all of these dishes and minnow is right about the corn starch as well.

                                  While quinoa is a carbohydrate its still better than the g,loopy chinese dishes at most places.

                                  1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                    The sugar content of many of the dishes you mention is quite low in traditional chinese recipes. The trick is finding a place that hasn't 'westernized' their menu and sticks to the flavours and ingredients of China.

                                    You are correct about the cornstarch though. But a teaspoon or two in a serving for four people isn't above the "bad" threshold, is it?

                            3. Low carb as in "good carb from a GI perspective"? I think home cooking is your best option, although all the suggestions here are nearly as good. The problem is that carbs and fats and salt sell meals, so restaurants just pile them on unless you ask. Also thanks for the link to the low carb grocery store, will definitely be checking it out!

                              1. If you're avoiding "bad" carbs i.e. white flour, sugar, potatoes etc you can still do loads of places

                                Ethiopian: even their high carb stuff like the sheero wat and azifa are lentil based (good carbs) and the injera is a high protien grain.
                                Japanese: Sashimi, Miso & Edamame
                                Chinese: order selectively, avoiding flour based or sugary sauces. A nice plate of snowpea leaves and garlic with a sizzling plate of meat would be just fine though

                                If you're doing Atkins though, and trying to get into ketosis, you're going to have to go way lower carb than that so protien only options would include stuff like breakfast places. For example Daybreak's Meatlover's Omlette (sausages, bacon and 3 huge eggs) can be ordered with a salad replacing all the carbs, Tulip's Steak & Eggs again will replace the hashbrowns with tomatoes. The Keg on Church will replace the mashed potatoes with asparagus.

                                Thai is tough but only Italian is impossible to do low carb, imho.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: orangewasabi

                                  the problem with those breakfast places is that those items are very high in fat/calories, so in my opinion, it wouldnt be the best route to go if you are trying to lose weight.

                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                    Therein lies the rub.

                                    The point of the Atkins approach is not to limit fat/calories, but instead to limit carbohydrates. So the meat lover's omelette and steak and eggs aren't a problem at all.

                                    1. re: xtal

                                      yes, I know all about the atkins approach (Im just finishing a degree in nurtition), but merlot said that high fat foods are also off limit, so this is not a true atkins style diet. It seems to me like merlot is looking for healthy, options that are not high in bad carbs. For that description I would recommend going to restaurants that offer meat dishes that dont come with starch and chose dishes that are fairly low in fat naturallly ie. poultry and fish. Red meat doesnt have to be fatty either as long as you chose the right cuts (aka a small filet , not a porterhouse or t bone, even a small strip is pretty lean). I would just pay the most attention to the sauces, because thats where the most calories come in . If your dish comes with a sauce thats thick, sweet or creamy (as it will have alot of fat) at all, simply ask if your meat can be grilled simply without added fats or sauces. Most restaurants are very accomodating of those types of requests

                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                        My apologies. I was responding to orangewasabi's mention of the Atkins approach, and specifically, ketosis.

                                2. Copacabanna at Yonge and Eglinton is a Brazillian steakhouse. They have lots of meat but ALSO an amazing food bar with tons of vegetables including low carb ones such as brussel sprouts and artichokes. I ate very well there on a low carb diet.

                                  The food was really, really good and the selection was amazing.

                                  Copacabana Brazilian Steak House
                                  150 Eglinton East, Toronto, ON M4P 1E8, CA