Fennel Walnut Chicken Salad

If you were to judge me solely on the contents of this blog, it would probably seem that I am a very good low carber. And sometimes this is the case. Sometimes I am dedicated to counting each carb that passes my lips and carefully regulating my blood sugar. And sometimes I am not. Sometimes, when life gets too busy and overwhelming, I fall off the wagon. Well, truth be told, I always have a hand or a foot, or some extremity or other, still firmly attached to the wagon. When I slip, I am still very aware of what said slip could do to my health. So it’s never an all-out carbalicious binge. It’s a single cookie or a scoop of ice cream, savoured slowly, with the knowledge that I will have to work to clamber back on the wagon afterwards.

But it doesn’t matter how good or how strict we are, we can all use a little help. And this is why I agreed to review a new book by Steve Parker, M.D. called “Conquer Dieabetes & Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet”. This is a book devoted to controlling blood sugars by following a low carb version of one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean diet. Notice that Dr. Parker uses the term “conquering” diabetes, not curing it. As of this moment in time, diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed and controlled, and I suppose that is what the author means by “conquering”. I wouldn’t normally do a book review on this blog, but this one hit close to home. So this may be a long post and if what you are after is the recipe, feel free to scroll on down and ignore me!

Here is what I like about the book. Dr. Parker has practiced Internal Medicine for over 20 years, and he starts his book off with an apology. To us, the diabetics. He is apologizing for the “atrocious job” the medical community has done for us over the years, by recommending that we eat exactly what our bodies cannot handle: carbohydrates. This is a seriously divisive issue, but I fall in with Steve Parker and have from the beginning. See, the mainstream medical community is still telling diabetics to follow the good ol’ Food Pyramid (or its new counterpart, the Plate), the one with a heavy reliance on whole grains (carbs), low-fat dairy (often carbs), vegetables (some carbs), and fruits (often lots of carbs), with minimal fats. But there is a huge body of data now that suggests that everyone, not just diabetics, might be better off with less carbs in their diet and more protein and (gasp!) fat. Because maybe it isn’t fat that is making us fat or unhealthy. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a carb-heavy diet.

So Dr. Parker apologizes and proceeds to lay out his reasons for doing so. And his reasons for following The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet. Well, in my case he was mostly preaching to the choir. When I figured out that my gestational diabetes wasn’t going away after the birth of my child, I turned to the internet for information. Early on, I came across some diabetes-support forums, and I read and read and read. This may sound terrible to you, but I felt like I learned more from those messageboards than I did in the 2 1/2 months that I saw my drug-happy endocrinologist while pregnant. The one who kept wanting to put me on insulin, despite my excellent blood-sugar control through diet and exercise. What I learned was low-carb, low-carb, low-carb. I didn’t want to believe it at first, because who wants to have to give up the foods they love? But continued reading, including medical journals and studies, plus the resulting blood sugars, made a relatively quick convert of me.

So the question is, would I follow Steve Parker, M.D.’s Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet? Well, no, but this is not because the diet or the book is in any way lacking. It’s simply that I have found my own way to be low carb and it appears to be working for me (minus those occasional slips). And that I love experimenting with food and new ingredients, so I wouldn’t want to limit myself to the foods that are eaten on a Mediterranean diet. I love Asian cuisine, I love Indian, and those too can be healthy, low carb foods. But I am already following the essence of Dr. Parker’s diet, staying mostly within the bounds of 70 to 100g of carbs a day, eating mostly whole, fresh foods and steering clear of processed junk that’s high in carbs and hydrogenated or trans fats.

Here’s what I really think. I think that this book and its diet plan are both excellent and really designed for someone who is struggling and looking for guidelines. If you are diabetic and/or overweight and you need a plan to follow, this is definitely one to consider. There is a huge amount of variety in Mediterranean-style eating, so boredom shouldn’t become a factor. For the Low-Carb version, Dr. Parker takes the best attributes of the Mediterranean Diet, the fish, the meats, the vegetables and the heart-healthy fats, while cutting out some of the higher carb parts like bread and pasta. Really, it’s an ideal plan for almost anyone to follow, let alone diabetics.

So, in the spirit of the book, I decided to create a recipe that could be considered a part of the plan. My first inclination was to do something with fish, since the book emphasizes a reliance on fresh seafood. However, I had some fennel bulbs from my local farmer’s market and a hankering for chicken salad, and this is what I came up with. And the inclusion of the walnuts and a touch of walnut oil will surely make the author happy. I am a nut-aholic anyway, he didn’t need to convince me to eat more of those! But I have tried to make a conscious effort to include more fish in my diet, with this book in mind.


Fennel Walnut Chicken Salad

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 1/2 cup fresh fennel, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp walnut oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fennel fronds
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/8 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss cooked chicken, fennel and walnuts until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, walnut oil, lemon juice, chopped fennel fronds, garlic, cayenne until smooth.

Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Allow salad to chill in refrigerator for an hour or so. The longer you leave it, the more the flavours meld together. The leftovers were almost better than the first day.

Serves 6. Each serving has a total of 3g of carbs and 1 g of fiber.

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Comments

  1. Cassie @ Bake Your Day says:

    I try to do a good job at balancing my carb intake with other nutrients but can't cut them out. I get that low blood sugar feeling too and know exactly when I need a little extra sugar. This sounds so good Carolyn! I love making chicken salad and the fennel sounds like an awesome addition!

  2. Parsley Sage says:

    I think I may need two copies of this: one for me and one for my mom and stepdad :) Great post, and fantastic chicken salad! Buzzed

  3. I'm trying to reduce my carbs now hat marathon training is over, but I do have those moments where I feel like I'm gonna die if I don't eat some bread ;) This chicken salad looks fantastic

  4. I think that you are doing great with your recipes and diet! This salad looks so perfect to me, love the chicken, walnuts and flavor of fennel! Have a wonderful week!

  5. Heather Jacobsen says:

    Yum! I love chicken salad, especially with fennel. I love the idea of the walnut oil, too.

    What you've learned through your diabetes research is similar to what I've been learning through my gluten-free research. That people who don't have celiac disease or a known gluten intolerance, can still benefit from a gluten-free (or gluten-lower) diet. Its interesting, isn't it? Obviously, there is a connection between gluten-free and low carb, although unfortunately, I think a lot of people replace their gluten favorites, with gluten-free, but still high-carb equivalents.

  6. I think I would have a really hard time going mostly carb free. Kudos to you!!

  7. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    I really need to work on my carb intake. I think I gain weight mainly from carb because I really like it so much. :-( I tried cooking fennel bulb this year and I love it. This salad looks delicious Carolyn!

  8. marla {family fresh cooking} says:

    I am a protein junkie, so this chicken salad offers me everything I would ever need!

  9. Foodness Gracious says:

    Is Dr Parker focusing mainly on type 2 diabetes? I think type 1's have a little less choice regarding his diet. It sounds definetely healthy and we would all benefit from eating like that but the other carbs like fruits and vegetables still have to be consumed. Bread and pasta are complex carbs which I would restrict to almost minimal intake.
    Just my 2 cents..:)

  10. OMG this salad looks like out of a cafe. Now I want to go on vacation and have it!

  11. Thanks Foodness Gracious, I should have been more clear that Dr. Parker is talking about Type 2. Going to see if I can work that into the post.

  12. Carolyn, what an excellent book review! You do such a great service to all the cooks who are watching their carb intake with your lovely, creative recipes. This chicken salad sounds amazing!

  13. Alex is going to love this! Me too! What a great thing to serve at a luncheon or a baby shower!

  14. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. says:

    What a great combination of flavors

  15. Brewed Coffee says:

    This is really great! :-)

  16. Great post Carolyn – it is interesting that there are so many different "diets" around whether you're a diabetic or just trying to eat more healthily. I think it's all about balance, eating whole foods, and eliminating processed foods and sugars. This chicken salad looks really good by the way.

  17. Happy When Not Hungry says:

    I love fennel but haven't seen it used in chicken salad before. This looks and sounds delicious!

  18. Island Vittles says:

    After years of paying attention to my body, I've figured out that I'm better off with lower carb diet…so many of us are — I'd be very happy to down your chicken salad with fork — no sandwich required! theresa

  19. The Harried Cook says:

    What a beautiful combination of flavors in this salad.. I love chicken with walnuts, but I have never tried them with fennel before! Thanks for this recipe, Carolyn!

  20. Great post Carolyn! Sticking to any diet can be a challenge – you do a wonderful job for yourself and for your family of sticking to yours. Your chicken salad looks picture perfect!

  21. MikeVFMK says:

    Love all chicken salads and walnut with fennel sounds delicious. Also looks great!

  22. Kate@Diethood says:

    I could really hang out with that salad…that sounds delicious!

    Believe it or not, I eat a low carb diet :)… I know you can't tell from the food that is on my blog, but I really do watch what I eat… I have one doughnut, and give the rest to family and friends! :)

  23. Baking Serendipity says:

    I agree….I think at times we all fall off the wagon. In fact, I'd say it's only human. This chicken salad looks fantastic though! I love chicken salad in pita bread packed up in my lunch :)

  24. kitchenarian says:

    I love the chicken and walnuts together. I have never used fennel in my chicken salad before; it sounds wonderful. I am definitely making this recipe soon. Thanks for offering delicious and healthy recipes.

  25. Your definitely an inspiration Carolyn! So many people in this country are over-medicated (in my opinion, it's like they rely on the stuff), when all they have to do is change their diet.

    This was definitely a great review and I will be passing this book along to my diabetic friends!

    The chicken salad is great too – love the idea of fennel added in!

  26. Annie Oakley's Kitchen says:

    Great book review! I am going to have to pass this information on to my Mom who is always struggling with "staying on the wagon."

  27. Eating Deliciously says:

    We try to balance our daily carb intake too but I love carbs and sometimes it's difficult. This salad looks fantastic.

  28. I'm one of those weird people, fennel creeps me out!

  29. Cajun Chef Ryan says:

    Great salad with the toasted walnuts and fennel tops!

  30. Veronica Gantley says:

    What a wonderful and yummy salad. It would be great on a hot day like today. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Megan@foodalution.com says:

    Thanks Carolyn about the info on this book. My husband just received the warning signs that he is on track for adult onset diabetes. (no more cake!)
    Anyhow….his diet is changing and I thank you for the great tip on this book – Megan

    Plus the chix salad looks delish!
    xo meg

  32. Love the fennel in this chicken salad!

    Im pretty sure my BF could live on carbs alone… It worries me somedays and stresses me others when I didn't prepare bread or heavy pasta for the meals. Other days I can see that Im slowly sneaking him away from the huge load of carbs he consumed every day when we first got together. Small victories….

  33. Way to make it work for you! I love that you totally took a "vary flavor" message away from this book; way to create a great dish using its inspiration.

  34. Carolyn, this is a great review. Thank you so much! A number of people in my fam have diabetes and they are always looking for more resources on "conquering" it. Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!

  35. megan @ whatmegansmaking says:

    I've been wondering what to do with the fennel from my CSA bag – never thought about chicken salad. thanks for a great idea!

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