As you get further down the (ostensibly, lifelong) road to low-sugardom, you’ll probably phase out some “go to” substitutions that you initially relied upon when you changed your diet.  I for one gave up Vitamin Water Zero as my OJ replacement six months in. At that point, you may want to answer the question, what can I eat that’s not sweet with something besides, protein, aka meat! It’s all too easy to turn to meat when trying to get over baguettes and bon-bons. Kudos to those of you who quit sugar without doing so! I myself wasn’t able to—though I think the pendulum is starting to swing the other way.

At the outset of my diet change, I often ate meat roll ups as a convenient protein snack and relied on meat to fill me up at mealtime—usually poultry, but I also consumed a fair amount of red meat outside home. Red meat is of particular concern for blood sugar. Scientists haven’t yet identified which compound or ingredient in red meat causes insulin resistance but they believe sodium, (naturally occurring) nitrites, and iron—are likely suspects, and what raised study subjects’ risk of type 2 by 19% (daily red meat consumption) and 51% (daily processed red meat consumption). From the same study, nitrites and nitrates have also been shown to increase insulin resistance and to impair pancreatic cell function, while the iron contained in meat can lead to chronic inflammation for some. And when you purchase “nitrate free” deli meats, they are a better choice and lower in nitrates than conventional meats but are usually preserved with celery extract, which contains high levels of naturally occurring nitrate. Further, many people have become increasingly aware that when processed meats are cooked at high temps, carcinogenic compounds are created.

There is another compelling reason not to eat processed meats—even ones without added nitrates—and writing this post today has given me the impetus to part ways even with my favorites of these—lox—and its runner up, jamón serrano. A few years back, WHO reported that consuming 50g of processed meat a day —described as a tapa of thinly sliced jamón—increases a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent. That’s astounding!

Finally, if you are a greenie like me, you’ll want to reduce your carbon footprint and the environmental impacts of all your activities, including meat consumption. While I now try to eat meat sparingly and only organic meat if possible, all meat is still resource intensive in the aggregate (though chicken is much less so than grass fed animals) and in some cases—such as eco-friendly chickens—humane farming uses more resources than what’s used by factory /indoor farms!

It’s been four years since starting my low-carb diet, and a year since my first normal blood sugar reading. Now that I’ve gotten to a ‘steadier’ place, it seems like the right time to start tweaking, and go through another round of phasing out those initial fallback substitutions. Meat looks to be the next step—though I’m nut sure about saying goodbye to fish, seafood and the occasional turkey burger.