Low Carb Dinner
Spinach salad with quinoa, walnuts and halloumi
Ingredients for 2 people
- 120g uncooked quinoa
- 200g halloumi
- 120g fresh baby spinach
- A handful of walnuts
- A handful of dried cranberries
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 tsp grainy sweet mustard
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 squeezed lemon
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Step 1: In a saucepan, heat about 1.5 liters of salted water and then add the quinoa. Let the quinoa simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until it is firm to the bite. Then drain it through a sieve and rinse it with cold water. This way it won't stick and will cool quickly and evenly. Then put it in a bowl.
- Step 2: While the quinoa is cooking, you can prepare the other ingredients. Wash the cucumber and slice it. Wash the spinach and pat it dry with a kitchen towel.
- Step 3: In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the dressing. Season it with salt and pepper at the end.
- Step 4: Cut the halloumi into slices. Heat a frying pan and place the halloumi slices in it. If you have a coated pan, you can easily do without oil or fat. If you use a grill pan, use a little coconut or olive oil to grease the pan.
- Step 5: Fry the halloumi on both sides until golden brown and then transfer it to a plate.
- Step 6: Start arranging the spinach followed by the quinoa in two bowls or deeper plates. Then add the cucumber slices and the fried halloumi. Then sprinkle walnuts and cranberries on top.
- Step 7: Drizzle the dressing over the salad bowls before serving. Et voila!
Low Carb Dinner
People, who hear “low carb” for the first time, think at first they are not allowed to consume any more carbohydrates (carbs). There is no official definition of a low carb diet, which means there is no official number or grams of carbs that must be taken care of. A low carb diet restricts the amount of carbs, which means cutting down on starchy and sugary food, like pasta, bread, rice or potatoes for example. Those carbs are grouped as simple natural (lactose in milk and fructose in fruit), simple refined (table sugar), complex natural (whole grains or beans) and complex refined (white flour). Complex carbs, which also provide fiber, are digested more slowly and they have less effect on blood sugar than refined carbs do. Refined carbs such as sugar or white flour are often added to processed foods. The body uses carbs as its main energy source. During digestion complex carbs are broken down into simple sugars (glucose) and get released into the blood (blood glucose).
Current dietary guidelines suggest that we consume 45% to 65% of our daily calories from carbs. To meet that guideline, a calorie intake of 1500 calories per day, means 675 to 975 carbohydrate calories or 169 to 244 grams of carbohydrate each day would be necessary. Technically, anything below that could be considered a low carb diet.
There is a variety of low carb diets, each with a different focus. Most prominent should be the ketogenic diet, commonly called a "keto diet", which has the lowest carbohydrate eating plan. The exact macronutrient balance can vary based on individual needs.
But why switch over to a low carb diet? What are the benefits? The main reason for most people to start with a low carb diet is to lose weight. Other reasons might the change of the overall eating habits or the types and amounts of foods featured in low carb diets. From a scientific view, research indicates that low carb diets help stabilize blood sugar levels and ultimately drop the body’s levels of insulin, a fat-storing hormone. This process improves the cardiometabolic function and induces weight loss.
However, simply reducing carbs is not enough to achieve your desired weight. As already mentioned in our last blog, the diet must be considered as a whole package. In addition, the amount and the substitutes that are eaten in place of carbs should be carefully selected and must fit into the overall meal plan.
Spinach salad with Quinoa, Walnuts and Halloumi
After we have learned what low carb is all about, the interesting question is what to eat? The spinach salad with quinoa, walnuts and halloumi is the perfect dish in the low carb diet. Since quinoa is used only slightly in this dish, the amount of carbs is kept within limits. The vitamins from the spinach and the healthy fats from the walnuts and halloumi form the ideal base for a healthy diet.
In addition to the general guidelines of a low carb diet, it is recommended to avoid carbs in the evening. As already mentioned, carbs provide the necessary energy for our organism to be ready for physical and mental tasks. Since many of us are very active during the day, it makes sense to eat carbs in the morning or at noon. In the evening, most of us are less active, so it is advisable to eat lighter foods, because the body needs less energy. In addition, a light dinner is better for digestion and usually leads to a more peaceful sleep, as the stomach is not that full. Therefore, the spinach salad is ideal for dinner. Of course, the spinach salad can also be eaten at lunchtime, as there are also some people who still execute their sports after work and need energy there accordingly.
Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining popularity throughout the rest of the Middle East region. Traditionally prepared from goat's and/or sheep's milk, Halloumi is a white, layered cheese, similar to mozzarella. It is a semihard and brined cheese with a slightly spongy texture. Its flavor is tangy and salty and it has no rind. Halloumi is sometimes made from cow's milk which may be pasteurized or unpasteurized. It can be eaten raw, but due to its high melting point, it's an ideal cheese for grilling or frying.
Halloumi is an excellent source of protein (28 grams of halloumi contains 7 grams of protein) which is beneficial for muscle growth and recovery. Like other dairy products, halloumi is high in calcium, providing 70% of the adult recommended daily allowance in one portion. The high amount of calcium is also important for muscle and nerve function, as well as for healthy bones and teeth. The protein and fat in halloumi can help to slow the emptying of the stomach, which stabilizes the blood sugar levels after meals. Additionally, science has provided some evidence that full fat dairy products like halloumi could protect against type 2 diabetes.
Halloumi is high in sodium, containing 1250 milligrams sodium in 100 grams halloumi. High amounts of sodium are destructive for maintaining a healthy blood pressure level. It's also high in saturated fat, a type of fat that may contribute to increased levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) when consumed in high amounts. Since halloumi already contains a lot of fat in its natural state, the fat content usually increases when it's cooked, as it is fried in oil.
If Popeye the sailor man could get his strength from spinach, you could too because this leafy vegetable is considered a superfood. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a leafy green vegetable that originated in Persia. It was introduced to China in the 7th century, likely brought to Europe about the 12th century and extended to the US in 1806. There are three basic types of spinach:
- Savoy: dark green, curly leaves and most commonly sold in the US
- Flat or smooth leaf spinach: it has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than savoy
- Semi Savoy: a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves
By far, the world’s leader in spinach production is China, which represents approximately 85% of the global supply. The United States is the second largest spinach producer in the world, although it falls far below the production levels of China.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, K and is very low in calories. It's rich in magnesium and potassium, two nutrients responsible of energy production and regulation of nerve and muscle function. The leafy green reduces hunger and cravings due to compounds in the photosynthesis cells, which lower levels of hunger hormones and raise hormones increasing satiety. The high amount of beta-carotene may also help asthma sufferers reduce their symptoms. In addition to that, spinach comes loaded with antioxidants that have the tendency to destroy and prevent free radicals that cause premature ageing. These antioxidants also ease the inflammation in the skin and reduce acne.
Spinach doesn't really have disadvantages but risks at over consumption that you should be aware of. Eating too much spinach can interfere with the ability of the body to absorb minerals. This is because of the oxalic acid that binds with zinc, magnesium, and calcium, preventing the body from absorbing enough nutrients. At excessive consumption, the oxalates together with the purines can also cause kidney stones and gout, a certain type of arthritis.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is a plant species grown for its tiny edible seeds. As a member of the amaranthaceae family, quinoa is not a true cereal. The plant is native for the Andean regions, including Peru, Chile, Bolivia and for a millennia has been a food staple for the native people there. Similar to spinach, there are different varieties of quinoa that can be distinguished:
Because of its fast germination, quinoa needs a dry harvest. It’s ready when the plants dry out, turn pale yellow or red, and lose their leaves. At this point, the quinoa seed should be able to be barely dented by a fingernail. It can be harvested easily by hand or with a combine. Touted for its health benefits, quinoa is now grown in a number of countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Italy, Sweden and India, but most of it is still grown in Peru and Bolivia.
Quinoa is gluten-free and supplies complete proteins, offering all nine essential amino acids in a healthy balance that your body can’t make on its own. It contains more fiber than several other popular grains and is a good source of protein, providing 8 grams per cooked cup (185 grams). The filling nature of fiber and protein helps to manage the appetite, which is beneficial for weight loss. The low glycemic index leads to slower energy release that makes it less likely to trigger cravings and stimulate hunger. The last thing to mention is that quinoa has a dense concentration of iron, which offers around 30% of the recommended daily intake.
Quinoa is coated with saponins, which can affect the inner lining of the intestines and can contribute to the leaky gut syndrome when consumed in large amounts.
Walnut (genus Juglans) are divided into 20 species of the deciduous trees of the family juglandaceae. They are native to North and South America, southern Europe, Asia, and the West Indies and have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. They come from walnut trees which are large, stately with bold, compound leaves and graceful branching. They provide dappled shade and have deep roots making them a great shade tree for lawn areas. It terms of varieties, two basic types can be differentiated:
- English walnuts (Juglans regia): grow to 50-60 feet tall and 50-70 feet wide at maturity and begin bearing in five to eight years or two to three years if grafted
- Black walnuts (Juglans nigra): are grown for their flavorful nuts and beautiful timber and possess a property known as allelopathy which prevents many plants from growing under them
The annual harvest is around 1.5 million tons, with China as the production leader, followed by USA, Iran and Turkey.
Walnuts are significantly higher in omega-3 and have a higher antioxidant activity than any other common nut. They contain important phytochemicals, as well as high amounts of polyunsaturated fats that offer potential benefits for both brain health and function. Furthermore they contain copper and phosphorus both of which are essential in maintaining optimal bone health. The polyphenols, especially ellagitannins in walnuts can help fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Besides that, walnuts are beneficial in increasing blood levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps to sleep better.
Like all nuts, walnuts are dense in calories, so that they should be consumed in moderation to minimize the risk of weight gain.