Does it Work? - Low Carb Foods - deja vu???

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01-07-2004, 02:38 PM
Recently near my town, a "Low Carb Store" opened. I haven't visited them, but apparently they have a wealth of low-carb products - bars, breads, desserts, etc. I'm sure they'll do well...but this whole low-carb products thing takes me back to the 90's - remember during the non-fat/low-fat/Snackwell's craze? I got caught up in that too - eating Fat-Free Fig Newtons without noticing that there was a mere 10 calorie difference between the fat-free version and the regular version cookie, for example.

We all want to eat healthier, but bottom line losing weight comes down to CALORIES...the 'trick' with low-carb for the most part, IMO, is that many overweight/obese folks eat the majority of their excess calories in simple carb stuff like bread, junk food, etc. Cutting out 'white carbs' results for many people in a drop in calories...KWIM?

Anyway, here's the article I wanted to post - thanks to Meg for sending me the link ;)

Low-Carb Foods: Less Than Meets the Eye

A few years ago the cry was "low-fat" or "nonfat," as new food products came on the market positioned to appeal to the weight-conscious and health-conscious. You could avoid most fat but still eat your ice cream and cookies. In some ways the trend to low-fat and fat-free foods was beneficial; in other ways it was not. Nonfat milk is a good thing, but nonfat junk food is still junk food, of course. Many consumers failed to notice that a low-fat cookie often has as many calories as the regular kind, and many assumed it was okay to eat the whole box.

Now the craze is for low-carbohydrate foods. If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, or even to McDonald’s or Blimpie, you’ve seen promotions for "low-carb" foods. Many breads, sandwiches, muffins, pasta, cereals, tortillas, pizza crusts, beer, cakes, cookies, and other foods now bear "low-carb" labels. While the health claims are seldom spelled out, the implications are clear.

If you’re following a low-carb diet (such as Atkins) that forbids or severely limits bread, pasta, and other starchy foods, especially those made with white flour, you might think, well, here’s a way to eat some bread and still stay on the diet. Indeed, many low-carb products are sold under the Atkins brand name. Or perhaps you’re not on any diet but are just calorie-conscious. You may conclude, logically enough, that a food lower in carbs is also lower in calories. Or you may buy the new stuff because you’re attracted to new products, and you think that there’s a law against false claims on food labels, so you conclude that low-carb claims must be (a) true and (b) meaningful.

In fact, "low-carb" is not what it seems. And any benefits these foods might offer for weight loss or nutrition are debatable, at best. If you replace carbohydrates with protein (that’s the main change), you still have just as many calories. Furthermore, the labels are, essentially, meaningless. The FDA has no definition of "low-carbohydrate" and has never approved any low-carb labels. Any food can be so labeled.

Bringing down the carbs

Here’s how manufacturers reduce the carbs in various foods:
n They replace refined wheat flour with soy flour (higher in protein), soy protein, or wheat protein.

• They add extra fiber, such as wheat bran, oat bran, or other fiber (this is not a bad thing, but read on).

• They add high-fat ingredients such as nuts (again, not so terrible: nuts are good food, containing healthy fats).

• They replace sugar with sugar alcohols (maltitol, lactitol, or sorbitol) or artificial sweeteners. This has been going on a long time—ever hear of sugarless or "dietetic" candy?

• For beers, they use certain chemicals in the brewing process to reduce carbohydrates in the brew. But the result is not very different from "lite" beers, long a market staple.

Is the difference real, though?

None of these changes are unhealthy. But these products end up having nearly as many calories as their regular counterparts, and cutting calories is still the key to weight control. Protein has as many calories as carbs do, and fat has more than twice as many calories.

The products often have nearly as many carbs, too, but the labels disguise this fact with several tricks. Most often they subtract certain carbs, and provide a separate section listing a lower number, which designates the remaining ones "effective carbs" or "net impact carbs." The idea is that since fiber, for instance, doesn’t affect blood sugar the way other carbs do, it doesn’t count. So if a food has 10 grams of carbs, but 6 grams are fiber, the manufacturer simply subtracts the 6 and claims only 4 "net impact" carbs. (Sometimes the results are clearly impossible. Some low-carb bread labels, for example, claim that nearly all the carbs are fiber, yet the first ingredient is always some sort of flour—a source of "regular" carbohydrates.) The calories in sugar alcohols, too, can be subtracted, according to this logic, because they don’t have the same effect on blood sugar as regular sugar. None of this is allowed by the FDA.

This sleight-of-hand can distract you from an accurate comparison between low-carb foods and conventional ones. Here are just three examples:

• A slice of "low-carb" Atkins bread, for instance, has 60 calories and 8 grams of total carbs, though it claims to have only 3 "net impact" carbs. A slice of a conventional "diet" bread typically has 50 calories and 10 grams of carbs. That isn’t a significant difference.

• A 1-ounce low-carb chocolate bar has 155 calories and 12 grams of fat, but no sugar; it claims to have only 1 "net impact" carb. A regular bar has 150 calories and 10 grams of fat. (Some choice!) Low-carb candies are actually pretty much the same as the sugar-free candies that have been on the market for years.

• A 12-ounce can of Michelob Ultra ("low-carb") has 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs. Miller Lite has 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs. Coors Lite has 102 calories and 5 grams of carbs. The differences are tiny. In effect, what’s new is the label, not the product.

No way to tell

Another problem: there is no legal definition of a low-carb food. The FDA has defined "low-fat," for instance, but any food, even Wonder Bread, can be labeled "low-carbohydrate." Moreover, fiber is supposed to be listed as part of the carbohydrates—not subtracted from it. The FDA does not define nutrients according to the effects they have on blood sugar, and for good reason. As we explained last month in our article about the glycemic index, these effects vary widely, depending on what’s in your entire meal. There simply isn’t any accurate way to calculate it for a food label. In any case, there is little or no evidence for the claim that some types of carbs are more likely to cause weight gain than others just because they affect blood sugar faster.

One good idea buried in the low-carb craze: It is better to choose high-fiber products over those made of refined wheat (white) flour. But that’s hardly a new idea. If you want more fiber in your bread, there are lots of good conventional choices, made of whole wheat or other whole grains, on the shelves.

Less costs more, and tastes worse

And then there’s the question of price. Low-carb almost always means high price. Low-carb beers cost more than lite. One low-carb breakfast cereal costs nearly four times as much per serving as regular cereals. Atkins breads cost twice as much as most regular breads. And most low-carb foods sacrifice a lot in taste and texture. (Not the candies, apparently, where chocolate flavors mask a lot.) Maybe this is a good thing—people will eat less of these foods, and the fad won’t last.

In the meantime, our advice: Don’t be fooled by low-carb foods. There’s no evidence that they’ll help you lose weight. They are not significantly more nutritious or less caloric than many regular foods. And they eat up food dollars better spent on plain good healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, January 2004

01-08-2004, 07:46 AM
There's a lot of buzz on the message boards about the new SF chocolate that Hershey's has come out with -- you know, the usual "I ate the whole bag -- but it's OK because it's sugar free!" Since my son is diabetic, I wanted to check it out and see if it's something that would work for him. Here's the nutritional facts from the Hershey's web site:

Nutrition Information

HERSHEY'S Sugar Free Chocolate Candy

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (40g – 5 pieces)
Calories: 170
Calories from Fat: 120
Total Fat: 13g
Saturated Fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 10mg
Sodium: 10mg
Carbohydrates: 24g
Dietary Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 0g
Lactitol: 21g
Protein: 1g

Regular HERSHEY'S Milk Chocolate

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (40g)
Calories: 210
Calories from Fat: 110
Total Fat: 13g
Saturated Fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 10mg
Sodium: 10mg
Carbohydrates: 23g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 20g
Protein: 3g

There's really not much difference between the two. Needless to say, I didn't buy the SF chocolate! :lol:

MrsJim -- I think you're right that these new low-carb and SF products are going to end up doing just what the low-fat craze of the 90s did -- making us fatter! Yep, at the end of the day, it's all about calories in vs. calories out.

01-08-2004, 02:43 PM
Now now - before you get all worked up - perhaps you should check out some research -{5FE84E90-BC77-4056-A91C-9531713CA348}

Of course, calories matter, but I argue that it's more about proper nutrition. A suger free chocolate one in a while is nice, but it still has little or no nutritional value. If you eat things high in nutrients and cut back on the carbs, it's extremely effective!

Suzanne 3FC
01-08-2004, 03:27 PM
There have been a lot of studies lately comparing different diets, that have shown that it doesn't matter if you follow low carb or low fat, or whatever, that in the end, you only lose weight if you cut the calories and increase activity.

We are products of the media. Manufacturers are grabbing onto the low carb craze the way they did with low fat. However, it's a lot easier to charge so much more for low carb foods. Why sell a loaf of bread for $1.79 when you can get 8 or 9 bucks for it? Everyone is cashing in. The bread industry has been upset due to lack of sales lately, and so now they are getting in on the low-carb bread business. Are they thinking of our health? No, they are trying to recoup their losses. It's all about big business and $$$. Everywhere you look, you find low carb products for sale. The flip side of this is that it becomes ingrained in our minds. We assume that since everyone is selling it, and it cost so darned much, that it MUST be the only way to go.

People that have diagnosed health conditions such as insulin resistance, or that have had wls may need to pay more attention to carbs and gi. The rest of us need to pay attention to overall diet and exercise to lose weight.

What about all the people that have lost weight over the years before low-carb became the fashionable thing to do?

I'm not saying low-carb is bad or should be avoided, so please don't anyone send me hate mail :) I'm just saying that I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on it, and we have been manipulated by the manufacturers into spending too much money on something that probably isn't any better for us than "regular" food -- at least regarding weight loss.

A diet, any diet, only works if you follow it. Choose a diet because it fits your lifestyle and contains a selection and quantity of food that you know you will be satisfied, so you will stick to it. If it's low carb, then great! If it's low fat, WW, etc, then that's great too.

Diets are like religion and politics. Everyone has an opinion. Some of you may agree with mine, while others of you may be searching for a voodoo doll :p

Meg, I actually did eat a whole bag of those sugar free chocolates! (the bags are small, btw) All I can say is that for the next 24 hours, it was a damned good thing I live alone!! The next time I get a craving for chocolate candy, I'll eat one real piece.

01-08-2004, 06:21 PM
Star Princess — nice to meet you :) and congratulations on your weight loss.

I think you may have misunderstood what MrsJim and I are saying. Let me back up and tell you a little bit about us and perhaps you’ll see we’re all on the same page when it comes to calories and nutrition. :) Karen and I have both lost well over 100 pounds and are successfully maintaining our losses — Karen for more than 13 years and me for (only) 18 months. We’re both members of the Ladies Who Lift here at 3FC and are avid bodybuilders. A huge part of the bodybuilding lifestyle is the emphasis on what we call “clean nutrition”: minimally processed, nutrient-dense food consisting of complex carbs, lean protein and good fats. So you see, we’re both acutely aware of the impact that different foods have on our fat loss and overall health.

I would never tell you that “a calorie is a calorie” — of course there’s a world of difference between eating 1200 calories of processed junk food (donuts, say) a day and 1200 calories of clean food. But the point we were trying to make is that a lot of crap is being marketed today as low-carb with the message that buying and eating it will help you lose weight. But in fact it’s often just processed junk food, tarted up as “low-carb”, that no one should eat — low-carb dieter or not. Too many gullible people are looking for a quick weight loss and buying up any product that’s labeled as “low-carb” because they think it’s diet-friendly and they can eat unlimited quantities of it, exactly like the low-fat craze of the 90s.

So I completely agree with you that calories count and nutrition matters. Believe me, that’s how both MrsJim and I have managed to lose and keep off the weight! The purpose of our posts wasn't to cast any aspersions on the low-carb lifestyle; it was to point out that the giant food conglomerates are using the “low-carb” bandwagon to market junk to us and make big bucks for themselves. That’s all. :)

01-08-2004, 06:23 PM
Star Princess - curious - did you actually read the article posted? REALLY read it?

Suzanne was right on the mark with 'where I was going' with this. As I stated - this same thing happened in the 1990's with the 'Snackwells Phenomenon'. All of a sudden, every aisle in the supermarket seemed to burst with low-fat and no-fat products - that were still almost as high, if not AS high or higher, in calories than the 'regular' products, only much more expensive.

Now, as Suzanne stated, the food companies are once again seeing a golden opportunity to make $$. And in my own personal experience - bottom line - it's calories that count in the long run.

I didn't say anything AGAINST low-carb dieting (despite what I've read today in the thread in the Low-Carb forum titled "Buyer Beware??") - hey, if that's what works for you, then go for it - I myself have zig-zagged between low-carb days and high-carb days in the past (kept the protein grams and green low-calorie veggies constant and swung my intake of starchy carbs - i.e. oatmeal, yams, etc) up and down over the course of a week. If you read the article again - carefully - you might note that The UC Berkeley Wellness Letter is NOT bashing low-carb either.

Just my two cents...

01-08-2004, 09:47 PM
I was reading that article that StarPrincess linked to and the last paragraph caught my eye...'s important to look at the long-term implications of staying on a low-carb diet, both researchers point out. Lack of certain vitamins and fiber could, in the long term, cause serious health problems (participants in this study took multivitamin/mineral supplements). But as a short-term solution, a low-carb weight-loss diet indeed looks promising.

See, with me, and again not bashing low-carb at all - I'm not into 'short term solutions'. Anyone who has read my posts knows that I am adamant about PERMANENT lifestyle changes. Again, low-carb has its place - but calories DO count as the base. (we could do 'the battle of the studies' and find studies arguing both points, I'm sure). The "gold standard" of studies, as far as I'm concerned, is the ongoing project by the over 3,000 members of the National Weight Control Registry. Interesting stuff on LONG-TERM maintenance, which is (IMO) what we're all shooting for - permanent weight loss.

You can find the NWCR's site here:

01-08-2004, 09:52 PM
Hey! I'm one of the study participants! :D

01-08-2004, 10:10 PM
MrsJim - I mostly agree with you. And I always enjoy reading your posts - you have a ton of valuable knowledge and experience. And I think that a lot of companies are jumping on the low-carb bandwagon to try and make a buck. But I don't have to buy the stuff. And I generally don't. I can promise you that I'd never consider eating an entire bag of low carb chocolate. That's just not sensible eating.

I think that the people who are successful maintaining this kind of a eating lifestyle (maybe any?) are the ones who find the healthy balance for their own bodies. For me, that's lower in carbs. And when I'm maintaining, the carbs I eat will be chosen carefully. Not thrown away on sugar and white flour and a bunch of stuff that we all know isn't good for us anyway.

I just found it interesting that there is some amount of evidence that it's not just about counting calories.

01-09-2004, 04:02 PM
What a bunch of ladies I respect and admire! :D

I have to humbly agree with everything said, but now add my own 2 cents. :D

My problems with eating have never had anything to do with what was in them, it was how they tasted. The sweeter the better. That the food industry (which I belong too :lol: ) would come up with a way to market or replace sweet foods with sweet food that are made of a different thing doesn't suprise me at all. Supply and demand. It all comes down to turning a buck.


Anyway if its sweet its sweet and then its off to the races kids. I could end up in a depleted pile in the corner gorged on sugar-free, carb-free, low-fat whatever. Food no matter whats in it can be abused. So here I sit sugar-free and not a substitution in sight, because when push comes to shove for my mouth sweet is what matters.

Off the point? Probably! ;)
Miss Chris

01-13-2004, 08:54 PM
The interesting thing about the low carb phenomenon for me is that Atkins has been around for years, but it isn't until a study came out that said it wasn't all that bad that businesses began jumping on the bandwagon.

I was in TGIF's this past weekend and the whole front of the menu was dedicated to low carb and Atkin's friendly meals. I thought at the time "Gee, I never saw them do this for Weight Watchers!" ;) And it's because it's the new marketing craze.

In my WW meeting, my leader said she had bought a loaf low carb bread, thinking to see what it was like. She paid over $4 for a loaf of bread that she said tasted like cardboard, and wished she had stuck with their light brand, since it was cheaper and tasted far better.

But I wonder how many people will buy it, thinking that since it carries a low carb monniker, that it is good for them. And I wonder how long this fad will last.

Any bets? ;)


01-13-2004, 11:48 PM
Well ... low fat's been around for about 10 years ... so let's see how long this lasts.

Thing is ... in the olden days, most diets restricted carbs, particularly starch. The standard diner "diet plate" was a hamburger, a scoop of cottage cheese, lettuce tomato and sometimes a slice of pineapple (under the cottage cheese). No bread!!

The first time I did WW, it was the the early 70s ... the basic daily plan included 2 pieces of bread (no rice, cereal or crackers!), 1 serving (1/2 cup) of "limitted veggies" (peas, greenbeans, and others but NO potatoes, no corn), three fruits, 2 milks and although it was limited, the portions of meat/fish/poultry were quite large and of course "unlimitted, 'free' veggies'.

It's interesting to see how trends change.

01-14-2004, 12:37 AM
Well ... low fat's been around for about 10 years ... so let's see how long this lasts.

Thing is ... in the olden days, most diets restricted carbs, particularly starch. The standard diner "diet plate" was a hamburger, a scoop of cottage cheese, lettuce tomato and sometimes a slice of pineapple (under the cottage cheese). No bread!!

The first time I did WW, it was the the early 70s ... the basic daily plan included 2 pieces of bread (no rice, cereal or crackers!), 1 serving (1/2 cup) of "limitted veggies" (peas, greenbeans, and others but NO potatoes, no corn), three fruits, 2 milks and although it was limited, the portions of meat/fish/poultry were quite large and of course "unlimitted, 'free' veggies'.

It's interesting to see how trends change.

Trends changing or more like a blast from the past?

I well remember those "dieter's special" plates too - as a kid growing up (my parents started me on dieting when I was 7 - I might have been 10 lbs overweight at the time) that would typically be what I 'got' to order when the family ate out at 'family style' restaurants - hamburger patty, tomato slices and a scoop of cottage cheese. I don't recall the pineapple but it's been a looong time... :lol:

And I have a little book somewhere titled "They Lost Two Tons" put out by Weight Watchers Magazine (they used to sell it at meetings in the early 70's, or so I've been told). The book consists of success stories from the 1960's WW magazine...and back then YUP it was a restrictive, high-protein diet (especially compared with today when pretty much everything is allowed - I was a WW member in my pre-teen years and remember the excitement when peanut butter and hot-air popped corn were included in the "Legal" list). A couple of stories talk of eating 5 hot dogs at a meal! But no bread - bread was strictly "illegal" (remember when they had "Legal" and "Illegal" foods?).

Restaurants today offering low-carb meals: Well, actually if you think about it, that's pretty easy for them - TGIF's, Red Robin, etc. all have menus heavily based on meat - all they need to do is omit the potato and bread, so it's not like they're going out of their WAY or anything to accomodate low-carb/Atkins dieters.

Low-Fat/Non-Fat products: Oh yup, they're still out there - people still buy them...but I remember the days in the mid-90's when Safeway couldn't KEEP the Snackwells Devils Food Cookie Cakes on the shelves...I don't think they sell a third of what they used to, volume-wise, but Nabisco and the other manufacturers put so much money in the product line (according to "Losing It" by Laura Fraser, a special assembly line had to be built to accomodate the Devil's Food Cookie Cakes, which have to be air-dried because of their lack of fat) and made such tremendous profits the first few years, I'm sure there's still a market for them somewhere. My local Safeway still gives a significant amount of shelf space to the reduced-fat cookies and products such as cheese, etc - but the low-carb stuff has its own section right now and of course is at a premium price as the article above states.

01-16-2004, 03:17 PM
The thing that makes me laugh most about this is that it's missing the whole point.
For me , Atkins isn't an option. I have kidney problems and my Dr basically told me there was no weight loss greater than dialysis so If I wanted to lose a lot of weight by all means go on Atkins. HOWEVEr I know it works for some people an that's great.
But the thing that makes me laugh is that Low Carb/Controlled Carb diets at THEIR BEST tell you that the reason why you are getting big is that you are eating too many refined carbs and sugars and so on. Which is sound nutritional sense, but what does the "industry" do...create refined "low carb " foods. Which defeats the purpose of a diet like South Beach .

01-17-2004, 11:12 AM
Megan - you're right on :) The food industry is doing exactly what they did back in the 1990's - they are cashing in on a popular diet. Of course, that's capitalism for you - I'm not going to act like they're the BAD GUYS here but it behooves all of us to be aware and informed consumers.

The big buzz right now seems to be the Subway "Atkins Approved" wraps. I haven't tried it yet (and I doubt if I ever will), but looking at the Subway nutritional info, IMO it has WAY too many calories...almost 500 which I think is the same as a Big Mac and half the calories are from fat...again, I think with all these lo-carb products coming on the market, people who are doing low-carb need to be VERY CAREFUL. The food industry, which includes the Atkins Company, is cashing in on the current popularity of low-carb just as they did in the 1990's with low-fat. The thing is, even if you eat only low-carb foods, bottom line you can still get fat if you eat too much.

Interesting article from

Low-carb options cause confusion
Many dieters forget about portion size, balance

By Karen Collins

Hundreds of newly available low-carb foods are actually making weight loss more difficult. Dieters are falling into the trap of thinking that low-carb foods automatically cause pounds to drop off. In grocery stores, they try to make sense of the variety of low-carb claims on packages. Many consumers have lost track of the basics of healthy eating, like portion control and balanced food choices. What’s more: Sometimes people even gain weight eating low-carb foods.

Research news about insulin may be part of the problem. Insulin is a hormone that allows blood sugar to enter cells to be used for fuel, but it can also promote energy storage, according to a widely accepted theory. Changes in insulin levels may make it easier for the body to store more fat or to lose it. Low-carb foods appear to affect insulin levels less.

Focus on fewer calories
But even if this theory about changing insulin levels is verified, energy balance is still the crucial factor in weight control. If you eat more calories than you burn up, your body has no choice but to store the extra as fat, regardless of whether those calories are carbohydrate, fat or protein.

People who consume more calories in food and drink than they burn up need to become more active, reduce calorie consumption, or do both. Some people have grown accustomed to large servings of grain products: double- or triple-size bowls of cereal, bagels that are equivalent to four slices of bread, pasta platters that equal anywhere from four to eight “standard” half-cup servings. For these people, cutting back on carbohydrates is a smart weight loss strategy. But any consequent weight loss will be due to reducing excessive calorie consumption, not metabolic mysteries.

Don’t let food package claims deceive you. Grocery shelves are now filled with “low carb” muffins, protein bars, brownies and cheesecake. Package fronts might announce one or two grams of carb, but check the full nutrition label. For instance, a 2 gram carb protein bar could have 240 calories.

No legal definition of 'low carb'
You should be aware that no legal definition exists for the term “low carb.” Food companies use it at their own discretion. Food companies – not nutrition experts or government sources – have also generated terms like “net carb” or “effective carb” to promote new products.

Many of these products use sugar alcohols (including sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol) instead of sugar. Because sugar alcohols are absorbed more slowly from the digestive tract than sugar, blood sugars do rise more slowly. However, some companies subtract the grams of sugar alcohols, along with the grams of dietary fiber, from the total carbohydrate count to get “effective” or “net” carbs. But sugar alcohols still bring all their calories along, no matter how slowly they’re absorbed. And it’s the total number of calories that affect fat storage. Besides, too much of sugar alcohols can cause uncomfortable gas and diarrhea.

If you look at calorie balance, it’s clear that some foods on popular diets’ “no-no” lists make more health sense than low-carb “diet” foods. You have the potential to lose more weight with a snack of 80 calories from popcorn, grapes, apples or carrots, which are filling and supply important nutrients, than with 150 or 250 calories of low-carb diet foods. People mistakenly gobble multiple servings of low-carb products because they’re called “diet food.”

If you want to lose weight, remember that successful weight loss comes with eating fewer calories, not just fewer carbs. Long-term habits of regular exercise and eating only to satisfy hunger will help your results come sooner and endure.

Nutrition Notes is provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.© 2003 MSNBC Interactive

Related article:

A bunless diet revolution? Fat chance
Fast food chains try to tap into the low-carb craze

CHICAGO - It has come to this in America: Burgers are losing their buns.
Some of them, at least.

Burger King’s rollout of breadless Whoppers this week is a nod to the low-carb craze that’s sweeping the nation — and the latest evidence that the burger wars are taking a turn for the healthy.

Smaller chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. dumped the bread from some hamburgers last month, going lettuce-wrapped instead, and TGI Friday’s restaurant has started serving a bunless cheeseburger, too.

But hold the bun odes, please. Burger-lovers will have the last say, and experts say the bun shouldn’t be written off from restaurants’ regular fare, much less from its place in modern American food lore.

“This won’t be a big segment of the (burger) market,” predicted Jerry McVety, a foodservice industry consultant based in Farmington Hills, Mich. “I don’t see it lasting very long.”

Besides, he noted, a Whopper without a bun is almost an oxymoron. “The bun is almost the least of my worries,” he chuckled.

Popular diets prompt change
McDonald’s and Wendy’s, the other two largest burger purveyors, aren’t biting on bunless for now. Spokesmen for both those chains, which have added entree salads and taken other steps to assuage customers’ diet concerns, said Wednesday they have no plans to include bunless burgers on their menus.

With good reason, according to Carl Sibilski, an analyst for Chicago-based Morningstar and frequent fast-food patron. “Bunless burgers don’t sound so appealing,” he said.

The price of the new product risks being unappealing to customers, too: It’s the same with or without bun, per Burger King’s recommendation to its 8,000 restaurants.

The surge in popularity for the high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate Atkins diet is what prompted a move that once would have been unthinkable in the hamburger business. Customers who used to ask “Hold the pickle” now are saying “Hold the bun”; can “Hold the burger” be far behind?

Burger King took out a full-page advertisement in USA Today on Wednesday to tout its unlikely new product, showing a giant Whopper with dotted lines marking the outlines of where a bun would normally be. The Miami-based chain is selling them in plastic salad bowls, with knife and fork, after reporting an increasing number of such requests over the past year.

It also is introducing Whopper meals that substitute salads for French fries and bottled water for soft drinks and promising a new line of salads, so company officials aren’t staking their future on a bunless trend.

“A large majority of our customer base still enjoy fully loaded, high-quality cheeseburgers, so we don’t see this as some kind of sea change,” said Russ Klein, Burger King’s chief marketing officer. “But it’s a change that we felt was warranted in order to give all our customers options they feel comfortable with in terms of diet.”

Smaller burgers better
The bunless Whopper has 3 grams of carbohydrates, compared with 52 for a regular Whopper.

No matter how you slice it, though, such “gimmicks” as bunless burgers don’t impress dietitians like Connie Diekman.

“The issue is we need to burn more carbohydrates — more physical activity — and eat less,” said Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. “The better option would be a smaller burger, maybe less often, and still have it on a bun so you control the calories and the fat.”

Ricardo Real, a tourist from Mexico who lunched at a Burger King in downtown Chicago on Wednesday, was unimpressed when informed about the bunless burger and chose a regular hamburger instead. “A burger without bread? That’s crazy,” he said. “That’s not a burger.”

The bunless burger is hardly a new innovation at fast-food joints. The Irvine, Calif.-based In-N-Out chain has been offering them since the 1970s.

But in a sign of the times, the name has changed. Currently known as “protein style” burgers, they used to go by the less politically correct “animal style,” Sibilski said.

“It wasn’t on the menu, but if you asked for it ‘animal style’ they stuck it between two pieces of lettuce without the bun,” he said. “They kind of set the precedent for it.”

© 2004 The Associated Press.

01-17-2004, 02:59 PM
Hi Steph:
You mentioned the Weight Watchers Diet in the 70's. I remember going on it back then. It seemed to work, but I wasn't committed to really losing wieght back then. Now that I'm more focused, I started looking for it, but can't seem to find it among all of my memorabilia. If you have a copy of it, or can give me the basic legal fruits and vegetables (the daily one cup variety), I'd really appreciate it.
Thanks in advance.

01-23-2004, 12:32 PM
Here's an interesting opinion article from today's San Francisco Chronicle regarding the low-carb marketing blitz...

What's Behind the Food We Eat
Low carb means high profits for food giants
Michele Simon
Friday, January 23, 2004


With two-thirds of the nation's population now overweight (according to the the U.S. surgeon general), millions of Americans are desperate to try anything to shed excess pounds.

The latest trend in weight-loss mania is high-protein, low-carbohydrate dieting. While we have the late Dr. Robert Atkins to blame for popularizing the concept in the 1970s, plenty of enormously successful me-too books have followed in recent years. A recent survey found as many as 48 percent of Americans are cutting back on carbs or plan to go on a low-carb diet in the next year.

Now, some of the heaviest hitters in the food industry are standing up and taking notice. That's because there are big bucks to be made by cashing in on a trend that's gone way beyond the diet-fad stage. The Nutrition Business Journal estimates that sales of low-carb foods totaled $1.4 billion in 2003 and could eventually reach $3 billion. Other forecasts are even more optimistic, projecting sales of $30 billion by 2004.

The processed food industry is churning out low-carb products by the truckload, introducing more than 600 new items last year alone. Apparently, no product is too absurd to go low carb: Everything from pasta to ketchup to ice cream is being reformulated and re-introduced. Even beer companies are fighting over whose light brew contains fewer carbs.

Supermarkets are setting aside entire low-carb aisles, and low-carb specialty stores are cropping up everywhere -- even in the Bay Area, land of crunchy granola and gourmet bread. Castus Low Carb Superstores has two local shops and plans to open 5,000 franchises around the world by 2008. And 7- Eleven has partnered with Atkins Nutritionals, displaying its "Low-Carb Revolution" banners, and selling 50 brands of chocolate bars, cookies and shakes.

Because going low-carb won't stop America's obsession with eating out, restaurants, especially fast-food chains, are also jumping on the bandwagon. Burger King, for example, will begin selling bunless burgers, and Donatos Pizza is offering a "NoDough" pie with a crust made from high-protein soy crumbles. Even more astonishing are the fast-food industry's efforts to spin these menu innovations as a response to consumer demand for "healthier options. "

This week, LowCarbiz is hosting the first national low-carb business summit in Denver. Among the hundreds attending are representatives from such food giants as Frito-Lay and General Mills, and retailers such as Wal-Mart. Topics up for discussion include "The Low-Carb Economy: Understanding Just How Large and Dynamic the Industry Really Is," "Opportunities and Risks in the Low- Carb Industry," and my personal favorite, "The Scientific Case AGAINST Low Carb: Know What the Industry's Detractors Are Saying and How to Respond."

But beyond the low-carb hype, consumers are being sold nothing more than savvily marketed snake oil. Many nutrition and health experts agree that high- protein diets are not only dubious as a long-term approach to weight loss, but also potentially dangerous. That's why no major health-care organization has embraced high-protein diets, and why they've been publicly denounced by both the American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association.

To maintain their competitive edge, food makers must continually come up with new products and marketing gimmicks. The "low-carb revolution" represents an opportunity similar to the low-fat diet craze of the 1980s and 1990s, in which other kinds of highly processed foods were touted as "the answer" to our expanding waistlines. Then, years later, we learned that eating SnackWells didn't result in weight loss after all. How long will it take before we realize that eating low-carb cookies won't either?

The Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source sensibly tells us that many foods rich in whole-grain carbohydrates are good sources of essential vitamins and minerals and recommends that "whenever possible, replace highly processed grains, cereals, and sugars with minimally processed whole-grain products." In other words, eat brown rice and other whole grains in their natural state. But that's not the message the processed food industry wants you to hear, because that won't sell any highly priced, "value-added" products.

Michele Simon is a lawyer and founder and director of the Center for Informed Food Choices (, a nonprofit based in Oakland that educates about the politics of food.

01-24-2004, 10:05 PM
OY, I remember my mom putting me on a diet in the late 70's. She broiled.....BROILED I say, a hamburger, or shall I say a hockey puck and gave me a whoppin sh*t load of string beans. Dry Dry Dry, no butter, no katchup nothin. I couldn't figure out why I was being punished. My poor father would almost choke trying to eat it. They told me I HAD to eat the string beans, and I did and I threw them up. Sad what we went through and it never worked.

I am following Atkins because it makes me feel good physically.

BUT!!!! I am a firm believer that it all comes down to calories.

Its nice to have Low Carb choices in the stores, but I approach them with extreme caution. If its too good to be true, then watch it.


01-24-2004, 11:08 PM
UUGHH!!! Third time is a charm, right. I’ve lost this response twice, so now I’m typing in a Word document and will cut and paste my reply!

Carron… I don’t have the old WW diet. I was in 5th grade and did it w/ my Mom. We both lost weight … she lost 42lbs and met her goal, I lost about 25 (which was all I needed to lose at the time.) I do remember my Mom had a hard cover book which described the diet, and had some history and also some recipes. The author was the founder of WW, Jean Neidich (I think that’s how it’s spelled.) You might want to check out used book sites, such as

I’ve found this thread quite interesting and learned a lot.!! Thanks to all who contributed, especially those of you who took time to reference other articles.

As for me … I’ve just recently started my weigh loss journey AGAIN. I obviously didn’t get to be 260 lbs by eating healthy foods. BUT, for me the real trigger to over eating (as opposed eating normal portions of unhealthy foods) is not sugar or fat, but STARCH. I could always stop at one donut, or one scoop of ice cream and gave up buttering my veggies and bread when I was quite young … but when it comes to rice or pasta or bread, I don’t stop eating until either it’s all gone OR I’m souncomfortable that I can barely move! I am afraid that low-carb versions of starchy foods will be no different for me. So, I’m not rushing out to buy them.

I’ve tailored my own eating plan this time, taking from my past experiences of what has worked and what hasn’t. I DO start each day w/ starch … in the form of cereal with a reasonable amount of fiber (grapenuts, oatmeal, bran flakes) and that’ generally the only starch I eat. I finish the day w/ lots of veggies, some fruit and some protein. I also eat one container of yogurt sweetened with real sugar most days. I despise the aftertaste of the aspertame-sweetened yogurts and decided I wasn’t getting enough calcium and that I would go the sugar route, since, for me, it’s not a trigger.

OK … this started off as an educational thread and I’ve made it about me. :o I apologize! :o

02-26-2004, 02:07 PM
I think I've been on a low carb diet all my life because I'ma voracious meat eater and I really have an aversion to pastas and breads. At Mc Donald's as a kid I'd always eat the meat and leave the bun! But let me tell ya, I'm 181 pounds so obvioysly taking carbs out isn't the best idea, lol:) It's never THAT easy.

I absolutely do not believe in denying yourself certain foods. I am all about portion control. Eat what you want in moderation. That's what I'm doing with Weight Watchers. They also incorporate learning to cook, eating veggies, drinking lots of water, exercising, no "emotional eating" etc. It's an all around program I can actually live with because it addresses all of those areas.

"I was in TGIF's this past weekend and the whole front of the menu was dedicated to low carb and Atkin's friendly meals. I thought at the time "Gee, I never saw them do this for Weight Watchers!" And it's because it's the new marketing craze. "

WOW That is SO true! You know what I was thinking? Every time I see a new "LOw Carb" sign or label go up, I wonder if it's JUST the manufacturers doing that. Do people ACTUALLY even cut their carbs? It feels like a mass conspiracy to make people think they need to jump on the bandwagon. You're so right that we never see restaurants offering low point foods or telling us how many pts is in a given dish. Why not?

I'll tell ya why not! Because WW isn't a fad. Because WW is about lifestyle and Low Carb is about THE NOW. It's temporary. I bet you that in a few months we will not see those "low carb" ads anymore.

And anyway I have learned that no matter what you do with food there will be a trade-off. You either pick higher sodium or higher fat -- the taste has to come from somewhere. I try to balance everything. I have some lower fat items because they're lower pts but I sure won't deny myself a nice pat of regular butter on some mashed taters now and then or a nice squishy marshmallow snowball:)

I just don't believe the low carb thing is a good idea. I think also that those people are being manipulated and urged to join the diet by people who seek to gain moolah from them.

02-26-2004, 02:27 PM
Thanks, Dazzled, for your thoughts about low-carb diets. Unfortunately, marketing has gotten a hold of this and we will continue to see it everywhere. I don't think it will be gone in a few months.

What gets me are the people who complain when, at company functions, there isn't anything for Atkins Dieters! I was at a paid luncheon the other day and one of my coworkers was complaining mightily that there wasn't anything for Atkins people and that nearly everyone is on that diet! Well, I'm not and I don't go for the fad diets.

You are so right that eliminating certain foods from your diet doesn't do it. It really is about portion control, exercise, and eating right. That's why I also love WW. I lost 30 pounds and it's almost two years.

I'm very concerned about people having kidney problems, too. What the Atkins folks don't tell us is the high incidence of kidney stones. I know two people personally who've had them while on this diet. Also, folks aren't supposed to stay on it for a long period of time.

Dazzled, keep going; you're doing great.

02-28-2004, 10:05 PM
Hey Ladies,

I just wanted to see if anyone else watched this on TV:

My mom said she watched ummmm .... Dateline or 60 minutes maybe where she said they took a hidden camera and went around to all the chains that are offering "low carb" meals like BK, Subway, etc. and tested their carbs.

It turned out alot of the places FAILED!!!! They questioned the places about the results and they said that "that day they run out of the right yeast, grain, etc." and covered their butts.

Now don't get me wrong b/c she said some chains were right on but that alot of them failed.

Doesn't suprise me though.

Take care,


02-29-2004, 03:16 PM
In my WW meeting, my leader said she had bought a loaf low carb bread, thinking to see what it was like. She paid over $4 for a loaf of bread that she said tasted like cardboard, and wished she had stuck with their light brand, since it was cheaper and tasted far better.

But I wonder how many people will buy it, thinking that since it carries a low carb monniker, that it is good for them. And I wonder how long this fad will last.

Any bets? ;)


I am doing low carb and it's not just a diet for me but a way of life. I have PCOS and a low carb wol is highly recommended. I have yet to buy anything that says LC on it, because of several things:
1. The price is outragous
2. The food taste like cardboard
3. I rather cook and know what is going into my meals, instead of eating processed foods with added things.

I don't see a problem with low carb, but I for one would rather cook, make my own meals and not buy into the "LC products that are out on the market".

03-04-2004, 03:09 PM
I actually welcome low-carb restaurant meals. It has made it a lot easier for me to get actual vegetables without being looked at like I'm nuts. :lol Ruby Tuesday now has a large selection of veggie sides.

The main reason low-carb diets work is that they force you to give up things like sodas & junk food. Personally, I try not to eat things with more than 4g sugar a serving, and have found that limits me to pretty good foods. Kind of hard to justify a chocolate cake with that guideline!

FWIW, I have managed to lose weight on a reduced-carb, as opposed to Atkin's-type low carb, diet, & I do have PCOS. Tried truly low-carb once & it made me mean. :lol: