This is a brief review of dieting and some dieting options I’ve run across. To note I really don’t eat diet food. I eat regular food in controlled amounts. That isn’t to say my wife hasn’t gone out and bought this diet food or that diet food; she has. But if they look like snacks my daughter eats them, and I have no clue who ate my sugar free jello. So, in practice, I am having a hard time even trying to live on anything specific. I make do with what is at hand.

We’ll start with the 2000 calorie ADA style exchange diet I was given, which was:

13 starch/carb exchanges.
6 vegetable exchanges
10 (lean) meat servings
6 fat servings.

This is a fairly balanced diet, with a ratio of 42% carbs, 24% protein, 34% fat. If you’re not carb restricted, you might want to pull up an exchange calculator (here or here) and try replacing some fat with carbs. I am carb restricted so that’s a reasonable baseline diet for me to work with. If the exchange concept confuses you, the link on the side bar to the ExRx site gets you to a great list of exchanges.

The 1800 calorie exchange diet I was given is not much different, something like:

13 starch/carb exchanges
5 veggies
9 (lean) meat servings
4 fat servings

And right now, according to Web MD, my optimal calorie intake for 1 pound a day weight loss is a just a bit more than 1900 calories. So I can sit anywhere in between 1800 and 2000 and be pretty happy.

The 13 starch/carb exchanges fold in fruit exchanges and milk exchanges. That was kind of mind blowing to me, because I thought meat and milk were more similar than milk and potatoes. But the kicker here are the 12g of carbs in a cup of milk. Yes, milk is full of protein but it’s also full of milk sugars, so it gets lumped into the carbs overall.

With these kinds of diet numbers, I have to eat a lot of meat. It doesn’t matter too much what kind of meat I eat, but keeping track of how much and what kind matters. A single “serving size”, or exchange is usually one ounce. A single lean meat serving has approximately 7g protein and 3g fat. Medium fatty meat has 7g protein and 5g fat. A fat exchange is 5g fat. So, using these definitions, chicken without skin is called a lean meat. Chicken with skin is treated as a medium fatty meat. Salmon is lean meat without skin, I suspect it’s medium fatty with it.

A hot dog is both a medium fat meat exchange and also a fat exchange. It has so much fat two exchanges are needed to handle the “cost” of it. But in hot dogs size matters. The hot dogs served at Target are so big they count as 2 medium fatty meats and two fat exchanges; they’re twice the size of a typical hot dog.

Cheese fits in as filler. When I don’t have the inclination or desire to eat huge servings of meat, I pad my diet with cheese. Since cheese lacks carbs, it’s generally treated as a “meat” in an exchange diet. Lighter cheeses, like the Baby Bel light cheese, have a protein to fat profile similar to lean meat. Baby Bel Lights are 6g protein and 3g fat, so I treat them as a lean meat serving. One mozzarella stick (specifically, Andrew and Everett Mozzarella String cheese) is 8g protein and 5g fat, so mozzarella sticks act as one medium fatty meat exchange.

One ounce of the Kraft reduced fat cheddars are 7g protein and 7g fat, so they fit pretty well as one lean meat plus one fat. Also in this category is parmigiana reggiano, at 9g protein and 8g fat per ounce. Cheddars (a good tasting example is Black Diamond old cheese; Kerry Gold Dubliner is in the “cheddar category”) are usually 7g protein and 10g fat per one ounce serving, so they break down pretty well as one medium fatty meat exchange and one fat exchange. In other words, cheddar is about as good for you as a hot dog, and should be used the same as you might a hot dog in a diet. The light Laughing Cow “pizza slices” are 2.5 g protein and 2 g fat, so if you ate 3 of those, the sum would be 7.5g protein and 6g fat.. pretty close to reduced calorie cheddar. Softer cheeses, like camembert and brie, probably have to be treated in ways similar to hot dogs, as meat-fat hybrids.

At one extreme of the protein to fat cheese scale are products like Alouette Gourmet Cheese spread. They have so little protein and so much fat they’re a pure fat exchange. The other extreme are products like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a choice that can be used for no fat, high protein, some carb additions to diets. Another interesting choice are the plain Greek yogurts available. They add servings of milk, but their protein content is so high they are treated as a milk-meat hybrids.

So why not just eat fatty stuff all the time? You can take care of your meat and fat needs at the same time. The answer is you really want some “good fats” in the diet, vegetable based unsaturated fats, and you also want some omega 3 sources in the diet as well (i.e. wild fish). So trying to keep your meat (and cheese) profile as close to lean as possible gives a dieter the versatility to add things like olives, olive oil, nuts and so forth – even chocolate – into the diet. And as can be seen, if you’re a cheese lover, you don’t have to lose out either.

Chow Down Atlanta is reporting that the Super H Mart, to be built just off Peachtree Industrial and near Brands Mart, has been delayed until at least November.

I dropped by the strip mall where Snellville Diner is found and I can confirm Darla’s report that it is being closed. People were moving the contents of the restaurant out as I dropped by. I spent some time looking around the mall. They appear to be adding an American Deli.

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American Deli is a chain, and there is one in Stone Mountain, though I’m not sure if the one in Snellville is open.

There is also this intriguing grocery in the strip mall, named Garden’s Best European Grocery:

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They appear to sell foods from the Adriatic area. I saw items from Macedonia, from Bosnia, from Zagreb in Croatia, from a lot of what was formerly Yugoslavia. There are three tables outside and men gather and speak there. Inside I see a lot of interesting things, such as canned fish, breads, sausages, fruit drinks, preserves, desserts of various kinds, etc. It’s as confusing to me as the Eastern European aisle of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market and equally as enticing. It’s easy to get lost in a place like that. They are open 7 days a week, 9:30am to 6pm.

Niko’s Corner has a sign up promoting a wine tasting. I didn’t get the date as I passed by. And Little Mexico has a Tuesday $1.00 taco special.

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I recently tried Little Mexico and will review it soon. In the meantime, check out SallyAnne Wagoner’s guest review of Little Mexico on the Snellville Eats site.

The DeKalb Farmer’s Market is the grand daddy of all the large markets in this city, and huge doesn’t begin to cover it.  It’s at the corner of Laredo and Ponce De Leon, and the entrance to De Kalb is one of the four ways you can go at that light.  The parking lot is about a block in size and as large as the lot is, it is equally as large inside. Once inside, there is a vast array of vegetables, about as ordered as any market could be, with the produce marked by country of origin, name, and with a drawing of the produce to boot.

The wines, two aisles of them, are separated by country of origin and type. In between the wine are stacks of beers, everything from Miller Light to Belgian ales. Grains and beans? Just to look at two examples, they had red, green, yellow, brown, and French green (a smaller variety) lentils, along with whole mung beans, and plenty of dals. Quinoa? Not only did they have the white and red varieties, but also wild black quinoa, not seen anywhere else that I’ve looked. Nuts and candied fruits are available in large quantities, neatly sealed in plastic bags.

They have good breads, and one thing I bought the day I was here was a sack full of whole wheat rolls. They were tasty and chewy once I got them home, just perfect. Just past the breads and vegetables is the fish section, which in my opinion is the very best part of this store. When my wife is after the freshest fish she can get, she comes here. She comes here because of the selection of live fish, and the ease with which this place can clean those fish. Perhaps something compares in this city, but I haven’t found it yet.

Meats are past the fish, and they serve a startling variety of product. Besides fine beef, you can get rabbit here, quail and cornish hens, duckling, goat from Australia, and lamb from Colorado. You can get bison, if you want it. A selection of fine cheeses is nearby, slices off large wheels, and the dairy section, also nearby, has items unavailable anywhere else.

Before I do nothing but sing praises to this place, I’ll note a few downsides. It is full of people and often cramped here, more so in the smaller aisles. There are shoppers who park in those narrow aisles with their flock of full grown kids for eternity it seems, blocking everything. If you take a cart inside, PUT SOMETHING IN IT IMMEDIATELY. If you do not, your cart will be taken. Though this is an international market, with international vegetables, it is not a particularly good Asian market, and Asian staples like Asian (often called “Korean”) yams just aren’t here. Go to Super H Mart for those kinds of goods. Meats tend to be pricey and if you want cheap meats, a market like Lilburn International Farmer’s Market is a better choice.

Still, there is nothing like it in the city, and it comes with the highest of recommendations.

From Snellville, perhaps the fastest way to this market would be to head down 78, then south on 285, and take the Ponce De Leon exit westward. An alternative path is to take 78 to Scott Boulevard, Scott down to Clairmont Ave. Head south, and take Clairmont until it ends at Ponce De Leon (hang a left when Clairmont ends). If you get forced left on Commerce, just keep going. It runs into Ponce De Leon as well.

My wife was the one who asked me to check this place out, and in all honesty I was resistant to the notion. But it was an unusual day, I was heading home down highway 29, and it was there, at the southwest corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Indian Trail, just opposite the Tacqueria Los Hermanos. So I stopped.

Before I took a look there I checked in at a restaurant named RJ’s, which is French creole, a fusion of Caribbean and French cuisine. I had no time to eat but it looks too interesting to ignore forever.  I picked up a take out menu and headed into the market instead.

Lilburn International Farmer’s Market isn’t a farmer’s market in the traditional sense. It’s more an oversized grocery, a ethnic market on steroids. In this respect it’s no different from the Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market or DeKalb or Super H Mart, for that matter. It’s maybe a quarter of the size of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market or Super H Mart, but it has a decent collection of vegetables.  There is a competent and useful collection of peppers.  About the only complaint I could have was the cilantro that day didn’t have leaves all in a tight bunch, but was a little leggy. They had habanero, jalapeno, red jalapeno, long hot peppers, poblanos, etc.

But it was the meat collection that most impressed. You could see the butchers behind glass working and I didn’t have any doubts I could get one of them if I needed to. Meats were good looking, sealed in plastic, and at the price you expect when international markets price meat – meaning low low low. Ribeyes were 4.99 a pound. New York Strip was 1.99 to 3.99 a pound – hard to believe that was New York Strip. I bought a nice looking Sirloin for 1.99 a pound. Prices were so low I was pinching myself and asking, “Is that really the right cut of meat?” The sirloin, which I bought to try, certainly looked the part.

I checked some of the other aisles. The beans aisle was merely half an aisle as opposed to a whole aisle, but had most of the essentials. There was one rare find and that one was worth noting: they sell quinoa, and the quinoa is between 2.09 and 2.40 for a package that is slightly less than a pound. That makes it the least expensive source of this pseudocereal so far.

Inexpensive quinoa can be found at the Lilburn market.

Inexpensive quinoa can be found at the Lilburn market.

When I was checking out, the grocery carts I saw were full of meats and greens. The amounts were so large that people must have been doing a week’s or a month’s worth of shopping. This is a trend my coworker, Veronica, identified for me some time ago, this shift to international markets for low priced meats and ethnic butchers taking over for families looking to cut their meat prices.

Verdict? The price of meats alone makes this place worth a drive from Snellville. It’s easy to get to. You can head west down Ronald Reagan and then south down Highway 29 (will end up on your right, as you pass the 29-Indian Trail intersection), or you can head down Five Forks and turn right at Killian Hills, and continue just past the Highway 29  intersection and turn left.

When I found this place on the Internet it was called La Jalisco Carniceria. On the front of the building it called itself La Jalisco Ranch Market. It’s in a modest strip mall about two blocks south of the Highpoint-US 78 intersection, on the north side of 78, and it is the only butcher open at hours I can get to during the week (open until 10pm). I called ahead and asked if they had lamb. After some moments the lady answering me said, “They had some lamb.” What the heck, you only live once.

Lamb is perhaps my favorite meat these days. Lamb can be cooked any way that beef steak can be cooked, and a typical price for lamb (ca $5.00 /lb) is about half the price of a good cut of beef steak.  There is lamb available on my way home, generally from the Publix on Pleasant Hill, just east of the I-85 intersection, but they have had fewer and fewer lamb steaks and these days are restricted to lamb chops. I stopped at that Publix, and bought a couple Kashi frozen entrees: I like their Ranchero Bean entree and I bought the Black Bean Mango to try. I find the Kashi frozen dishes are great sides for a meal like this. They had a sale on Australian wines so I bought two bottles of red wine. I’ve tried both white and red as reductions with lamb and red is markedly superior in flavor.

So I get to La Jalisco and I’m pleased when I enter. It’s a neat grocery store, with a vast array of peppers, vegetables, canned goods, dried beans, and spices. Virtually all the signs are in Spanish, and the clientele was pretty much 100% Spanish. So, I go to the meat counter and ask for lamb. Once the butcher understood me, he went into the back and pulled out a sheep. Yep, pretty much a whole frozen sheep.

After some words and some pointing I made it known that I wanted steaks off the leg of lamb. I ended up with 4 of them, about twice as thick as I asked for. However, the price was really good (2.99 a pound, roughly half that of Publix), and I was entirely pleased with my purchase.

I had to work this weekend, and while coming home, decided to stop at the Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market and see if they had red lentils. Now I know that Return To Eden has red lentils; but they’re deep into Atlanta and not at all convenient to the northeast side of town I’m on. I will sometimes shop this farmer’s market because they are a good and cheap source of asian yams and kimchi. Also, if you really want the small single serving size of white rice, in microwave containers, they have them too.

When I went there, I was surprised at the variety and quality of fresh peppers they had on sale, and in general at the quantity of Central American and Caribbean foods they had on sale. There is an excellent collection of Japanese and Korean foodstuffs. There were some Thai spices and foods. I bought mung beans, and a can of coconut milk, to try later, and then sat for a long time in an aisle containing nothing but packaged dried beans. I had never seen the small red bean they called the “frijol rojo de seda“. Later I found it is sometimes called the “silky red bean”. I bought a package of those, to try later.

Mung Beans on the left, Central American red beans on the right.

Mung Beans on the left, Central American red beans on the right.

While looking for general advice on how to cook these things, I ran into this recipe for Drew’s Tres Meat Chili. So in the case of silky red beans, you treat them much like black beans, with an overnight soaking and a couple hours of cooking. Too bad. I’d love another legume that is as easy to cook as lentils.

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