By Jodi Zulueta

It seems like I have been struggling with weight-loss forever.  Before I had my first child, I was able to eat whatever, whenever, however, (WHYever?). Now I’m a forty-something mother of four and I got frustrated over weighing more than I did when I was nine months pregnant, so I decided to go low carb. My main struggle with this decision was “how do I do a low carb diet while still feeding my family what they need?”


Jodi Zulueta with her three youngest children

Apart from our four kids to raise, I work days, run a jewelry design business on the side, I’m on the board of a cooperative gallery, I paint, and my husband works nights – time to plan meals? Um, yeah, sure. I had pizza and Chinese food on speed dial before I became a premium member of Julie Anne Rhodes’ website and her Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™). The weekly menu plan means I don’t have to think about planning healthy dinners – I just print, shop and cook. I didn’t want to lose the convenience, time, and money it saves me, so I posted my dilemma in the premium members online community. “What do I do when the menu plan contains pasta, breadcrumbs, sugar, flour – all the things I can’t eat on my low carb diet plan?

It turns out with a little creativity, I can still cook directly from the menu plan for my husband and kids while at the same time, with a few tweaks here and there for myself, it still falls into place beautifully for me too. I’ve even expanded my cooking skills beyond what I thought was possible!

Penne & Zucchini Arrabiata

Penne & Zucchini Arrabiata

For example, penne and zucchini arrabiata was on the menu the other day. Penne? On low carb? Pasta is my downfall (along with rice, bread, STARCHES, etc.). So what did I eat while my family enjoyed this insanely yummy pasta dish?  While the pasta was cooking,  I took a whole zucchini, sliced it thinly into ribbons, sautéed it a couple of minutes in olive oil, and voila, the bed for the sauce (which I had doubled, because I froze the rest for later enjoyment). I didn’t miss the pasta one bit, I was fully satiated, and I felt great.

Another favorite of Jewels’ versatile recipes, is the maple glazed Brussels sprouts and pancetta hash. The recipe calls for maple syrup. I found a sugar-free maple syrup, used that, and the dish tasted just as good as I remember eating it with the regular syrup. Sugar-free maple syrup is something I also use in recipes which call for molasses too, like her molasses marinated flank grilled steak (another big hit here).

Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Hash

Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Hash

For recipes which call for flour – I either eliminate it altogether (thanks to the advice I got in the “cyber living room” forum from Julie Anne and the other great folks hanging out in there), or, if I absolutely need to include it, I found an Atkins version. While this is very pricey, it’s worth it because the bag lasts a long time. I only use tiny amounts when I need to use it at all.

Recipes which call for panko breadcrumbs –  for example, Jewel’s Oven Fried Parmesan Chicken Tenders – I use shredded Parmesan cheese.  In this case I doubled the amount of cheese to compensate for the lack of breadcrumbs. And you know what?  My kids loved them!

Jodi Zulueta

Guest blogger Jodi Zulueta

So my low carb journey has not only benefited me health-wise because I’m now making smarter choices by increasing my vegetable intake (using them to substitute for starches). As a result of this change, I’m far more active, sleep better, and I’m in much better physical condition than I’ve ever been.  

Yesterday I ran 1.35 miles for the first time!  Six weeks earlier I couldn’t run half a block without feeling like I was going to hyperventilate.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this without premium membership. The weekly menu plans, the recipe library, and the forum have made my low carb journey not only tolerable, but a solid lifestyle change I can manage thanks to a little finesse and the Personal Chef Approach™.

Julie Anne Rhodes

Hi - Jewels here now...

I can’t thank Jodi Zulueta enough for writing this blog post, because it is the perfect illustration of how adaptable the Personal Chef Approach™ truly is for all different types of dietary needs, even within the same household. Not sure how to make the needed adjustments? Just ask in the forum for help. BTW, spaghetti squash is another great low carb substitute for pasta Jodi, and congratulations on getting so healthy and fit!

Jodi’s words inspired me to make this new dish today, but first – I’m interested in knowing (in the comment section below) what recipe adaptations have YOU made to fit your own personal preferences or special diets? Also, feel free to ask any questions you may have about premium membership to my website.

Fusion Chicken with Grilled Vegetables

Fusion Chicken with Grilled Vegetables

This marinade will definitely shake you out of any dinnertime boredom, with your taste buds firing on all cylinders. The addition of smokey grilled vegetables just adds to the fiesta in color, flavor, and texture. You could even round it out nicely with some of my cauliflower mash – with or without the chipotle peppers. Please sign-up here for FREE membership to view all of the above recipes (if you are not already a member). If you’re on a low carb diet like Jodi, either omit the brown sugar or use a sugar substitute.

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  • April 4, 2012
    9:14 am

    Jodi, your post is so bang on! I am always fighting the war against extra pounds and it’s crucial that I keep my weight in check because of joint problems. So, I hear you when you talk about carbs! I’m going to try the zucchini noodles today. I love bread, and that’s a major problem, but I do try to limit my consumption if it to around 130 calories/day if I do indulge. And I try not to have it two days in a row if at all possible. I’ve gained 20 pounds over the holiday season and have managed to lose 8 of them.
    In terms of substitutions in recipes, I have to admit to not always using meat. I try to make as many meals as possible into vegetarian so I’ll substitute with a pseudo meat product or tofu. I always have a few bricks of tofu in the freezer for times when I use it instead of meat. A gal can never have too much frozen tofu in the freezer!
    One problem I’m not sure how to resolve is with last week’s recipe that called for marsala wine. I don’t drink at all and hesitate to put it in. I understand that the alcohol burns off, but I really am not keen on using it. Would vegetable stock with other flavourings be a good substitute?
    Wonderful post Jodi! You are such a busy lady and I can’t help but wonder how you do it all.
    Thank you Jewels for all the recipes and new way of eating. Even my sister seems to be interested in what I’m eating and asks about the recipes. That in itself is amazing. I think she really believes that my cooking has improved over the past two years. Maybe she’ll come for a visit this year. Sure hope so!
    Hugs to you and Daisy!

    • April 4, 2012
      10:07 pm

      Ruthee – you’ll want something with acidity for best results. It would depend on the specific recipe, but I would recommend trying vinegars like cider vinegar or rice vinegar if you are not keen on the flavor of wine (red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or Champagne vinegar). You could also try various fruit juices.

  • April 4, 2012
    9:56 am

    Great post Jodi! I use spaghetti squash a lot and I also found tofu shirataki noodles, they’re pretty good.
    A friend of mine has her son on the GAPS diet. She makes cashew flour and uses that for making French toast and things like that.
    I love how the Personal Chef Approach brings out everyone’s creativity. I know there is always someone in the premium member forum ready to share ideas, get advice or just to vent about different situations. I love it!

    • April 4, 2012
      10:09 pm

      I need to find some time to experiment with making my own flours in the Vitamix – that cashew flour sounds interesting.

  • April 4, 2012
    11:31 am

    Thank you for the additional recipe, Jewels! This looks heavenly!!!

    • April 4, 2012
      10:10 pm

      Tatjana is crazy about the spaghetti squash (which unfortunately, she has not been able to find in London).

  • April 4, 2012
    12:03 pm

    I’m also constantly mindful of my weight, and my husband has just been placed on the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension). You really need to be a master chemist to understand some of the ingredients in prepackaged food, so I’m really working to ensure that the whole family is eating as healthy as possible. Part of that also includes portion control… which I’m not always that great at.

    The flexibility that I see by using the Personal Chef Approach is huge – the array of recipes to choose from, suggested serving sizes, the helpful hints on potential ingredient substitutions and the suggestions for entree-and-side combinations really is useful for everyone who isn’t afraid of their kitchen.

    • April 4, 2012
      10:21 pm

      Hopefully I’m helping people get over their fear of the kitchen, too. With the forum you’re never really alone – there are always other members and myself to rely on for advice.

      I hear you about labels – there are so many studies showing a direct link to life threatening diseases and all those chemical additives they insist on putting in our food. Our only recourse is to cook with as many whole foods, preferably organic, as possible. I hope DASH helps your hubby get his hypertension under control quickly!

  • April 4, 2012
    9:14 am

    Yum! I’m making this recipe tonight. My tummy is growling already. Always have wanted to try mashed cauliflower, knowing my kids/hubby love this tasty veggie I will be using them as “guinea pigs”

    • April 4, 2012
      9:59 pm

      Just like mashed potatoes, you can make it with a variety of flavors added too – like Parmesan, chipotle pepper, roasted garlic, etc. I rarely eat potatoes anymore.

  • April 4, 2012
    9:24 pm

    JODI!!! Excellent blog, lady! Love how you are adapting the meals to your low carb lifestyle and I think this is in order for me too! As a vegetarian, I was struggling before joining because my husband is not a veg nor are my two little ones. After joining, I still figured I would be cooking two meals but this was not the case! With advice and suggestions not only in the weekly menu itself but also the cyber living room, I just add in my soy products or tofu or beans. I even became aware of a company other than Yves that makes veggie versions… Canadian and better than Yves! So like you, it not only saves an obscene amount of time for regular families, it saves more time for families with special diets!

    Love this post and the photos are stunning! Is there an eating plan that can make me look like you?

  • April 4, 2012
    11:50 pm

    GREAT guest blog, Jodi, and your children are beautiful like their mama!

    Jewels, I cannot WAIT to eat the fusion chicken! Will be doing our PCA on Friday. Since I doubled some last time and made a few family fav recipes, I only had to PCA once for two weeks!!! My finicky 3 & 5 year olds live Jewels’ recipes, and so do my husband and I! I am now whole/raw juicing twice a day, then eating dinner. (kids and hubby eating normally although they love the juicing) So, even on my limited food diet the plan works for me, too! Thank you, Jewels!

    • April 5, 2012
      9:25 am

      It’s on the premium members weekly menu plan I will be posting later today. It’s really the fusion flank steak recipe only with chicken – a client that doesn’t eat red meat requested it, and who knew – I like it even more so on chicken! I’ve also even done it on tofu for all you vegetarians out there.

  • April 4, 2012
    11:55 pm

    Fantastic Jodi! We need to do this in our house! I never thought of adapting the meals to fit a low carb lifestyle…I really need to do this. As a “plus sized” woman low carb would be beneficial for me for sure. What a truly brilliant addition to the PCA’s own brilliance! Thanks Jodi!

    Not to mention with me working such odd hours and the hubby home with the kids (one of which is…or *was* a very fussy eater!) the PCA is the ONLY way my house functions semi-normally. I’m eating upon getting home late from work and sometimes part of the house is already in bed! I can’t imagine going back to the way things were!

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! 🙂

    • April 5, 2012
      9:27 am

      One of my favorite things about the approach is that you stop being a short order cook for the household – if one member won’t eat fish and another won’t eat red meat – you have all the choices already made for them.

  • April 4, 2012
    10:24 pm

    Thanks Rachel, but those recipes could definitely do with being re-photographed! There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day lately, but I’ll get around to it eventually.

  • April 5, 2012
    5:29 pm

    “Short Order Cook” was a pretty common role for me before I started using the PCA. With a meat-and-potatoes husband, a picky 5-year old, and a baby just learning to eat table foods, I found myself making 3 and sometimes 4 meal variations come dinner time. Even though I still have to take a few minutes to cut my kids’ food into small pieces, getting dinner on the table takes much less time now that I’m using the PCA. And instead of resorting to serving my kids boxed mac-n-cheese when all I have in my pantry and fridge are things my kids can’t or won’t eat, I know that all the meals I prepped ahead of time include the ingredients that everyone can agree on.

    Customizing the PCA menus can’t be any easier, whether it’s for dietary reasons or simple taste preferences. Thanks for giving us recipes that accommodate these variations, Jewels!

  • April 6, 2012
    12:32 pm

    Jewels, my sister is actually asking me what I’m cooking and taking notes. LMAO This is all because you’ve taught me how to cook and even better, not to let others change my menu. PCA is perfect for single people! I cherry pick the meals from several menus, get the groceries and usually on a Sunday, cook, portion, cool, and freeze. I then have meals for anywhere from three to four weeks. I waste less, actually eat what I cook and enjoy it. When you’re promoting PCA stress that it’s not just for families, it’s just as much for singles. Maybe “The Chew” needs to devote a show, featuring you, to PCA and how anyone and everyone benefits from planning ahead and following this approach to getting meals on the table and not losing their sanity in the process. Now looking for FB pages to nudge a few cooking shows in your direction. [[[hugs]]]

  • April 6, 2012
    8:39 am

    My favorite part of cooking for my clients was knowing I was helping them sit down to dinner together as a family again, but now I see how you all use the PCA™ at home – knowing you are no longer doomed to be a short order cook is a new favorite. That and when I hear your families are eating healthier and broadening their culinary horizons.

  • April 6, 2012
    8:42 am

    PS. I also get a major kick out of hearing that the PCA™ has converted people who either never cooked or lost interest in it to actually ENJOY cooking! Passion can be contagious.