From Diet to Lifestyle
Allow me a few moments to outline a vision for you. This vision is of the ketogenic lifestyle beyond the initial stumbling blocks and confusion that always confronts those transitioning to a new way of life. The strict reduction in carbohydrates that one requires to maintain ketosis can seem daunting at first and needlessly restrictive in a world dominated by carbs. However, what I discovered through my own experience was that for every carbohydrate-rich food I craved; I soon found a keto alternative that I craved even more. This process of culinary discovery and creativity rocketed me through many kitchen experiments; some complete works of art … others less so.... But because of these failures, I gained a little wisdom about cooking and living keto that I would like to share with you. The emphasis being on taste and pleasure, while still keeping those carbs at bay! So lets take on three of the biggest carb sources: sweets, pasta, and bread; explore what you can replace them with while providing a few tips and tricks to keep your body in ketosis. If you want to know more about any of our recipe's just follow the internal links and try them for yourself.
Before we get much further, I want to address the whole butter-coffee concept known as “Bulletproof Coffee.” It is essentially melted butter and/or coconut oil whipped into your morning coffee with a blender. Due to the caffeine and pure fat content of the drink, it can wake you up in the morning while giving your body a zero-carb fat source to spur on ketosis. That's the basic idea at least, in practice this can sometimes amount to sipping a half-inch of butter off your coffee in the morning. I'm not trying to knock anyone who loves their bulletproof coffee here, I'm just trying to reassure those who might not see the appeal of butter and coconut oil in their morning coffee. Or those of us who don't relish the thought of having to add a loud blender to their pre-coffee morning routine. So let me quickly suggest a keto-friendly, no-nonsense, make-it-while-you're-barely-awake solution.
Cream! Don't worry about whether the butter and coconut oil will blend with your morning coffee. Just pour cream! It mixes well with a spoon so you won't need a blender. However, if you do choose to blend your coffee and cream, I would recommend throwing some ice in as well. You'll be happy to notice that the cream does not turn into frozen chunks of butter and coconut oil as you blend it. Better yet, when you look on the back of your cream jug, you'll notice that there are zero carbs listed in the nutritional info!
If you have a sweet tooth or prefer that your coffee have a little peppermint or hazelnut undertone, I would recommend NOW's Better Stevia line of liquid stevia extracts. For a simple and non-overpowering sweetness look to their plain stevia extract. Many of you may have tried a powdered solid extract of stevia and been put-off by the sickly-sharp sweetness that some brands have. If you have had such an experience, let me reassure you that the liquid extracts are an entirely different product. The sweetness, although concentrated, is more balanced and blends well with other ingredients. If you're the kind of person who loves having a flavored creamer, then explore NOW's line of flavored stevia extracts. You can find coconut, chocolate, cinnamon, English toffee, etc. They have a huge selection. Mix and match until you have a blend that is entirely your own. So, there you have it! Pour yourself a decent cup of coffee and stop worrying about drinking butter, lets move on to conquering that sweet-tooth!
Having to give up my nightly bowl of ice cream and the occasional chocolate bar came as a real let down for me. Especially before bed which was my habitual dessert time. Fortunately, there are numerous options available to those of us with a sweet-tooth. The simplest and quickest one that I discovered was our Keto Chocolate Mousse. With an immersion blender and five ingredients: cream, coco powder, vanilla, liquid stevia, and a pinch of salt, I can have a bowl of thick chocolate mousse in under five minutes. Variations on this are just as simple and quick, trade out the coco-powder with a little lime zest and add a few drops of NOW's coconut stevia extract and you have a wonderful lightly-textured tropical mousse. Add a dollop of peanut butter instead of coco and now you have a Peanut Butter Mousse, I think you're starting to see the versatility of this. How about folding in a few raspberries or blueberries into your next mouse? This one technique, varied by your own creativity and experimentation, will open up a world of dessert options for you.
Another huge sweet-craving that many of us have is for sugary sodas. The simplest option is to purchase a zero-carb soda for yourself. There are a few brands that are sensitive to these low-carb trends and have started making their own zero-calorie versions of our favorite recipes. Virgil's for instance has a zero-calorie root beer, cream soda, black cherry soda, as well as their own versions of Coke and Dr. Pepper that are labeled “Real Coke” and “Dr. Better.” Another brand that I've tried and enjoyed is Zevia's line of sodas; my two personal favorites are their cola and their ginger-beer recipes. Zevia is unique in that they don't add any kind of coloring or artificial ingredients to their beverages. I really enjoy this but some people can be surprised when their cola pours out clear. Don't be put off. They taste great! The cheapest option, of course, will always be to make your own sweetened drinks. This can be as simple as a squeeze of lemon and a few drops of liquid stevia in a glass of water for lemonade. Or, if you have a craving for fruit juice in particular, check our Hibiscus Juice. You get the idea, just remember that a little stevia goes a long way.
Now lets consider pasta. Most of us have fond memories of eating pasta. Before I started eating keto, I would make pasta at least once a week. Think macaroni and cheese, gnocchi covered in a bleu cheese sauce, or just spaghetti noodles covered in butter and tomato sauce. But how many of us have fond memories of eating plain pasta, you know, right out of the pot without even any butter or olive oil on it? And would you want to eat that plain pasta every night? I certainly wouldn't. The secret here is that most of our favorite pasta meals are only our favorites because they're covered in some kind of fatty sauce. Really, ketogenically speaking, many of these sauces are perfectly acceptable on the diet. The only problem is deciding what to pair your fatty-delicious sauce with that won't spike your insulin and trigger your body's fat storage to go into effect. Here's the answer: greens. It's that simple.
For those of us who grew up in the south with memories of eating collards covered in bacon fat and topped with a little vinegar, the idea of “grease n' greens” isn't anything new. The old-time moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton, lived well into his nineties on a diet consisting largely of bacon grease and greens, if you took away his moonshine, he'd basically be living keto. So here are some recommendations for pairing your fats with your greens. For starters, collards and kale are incredible greens for how they can take the place of noodles. Use collards for flat noodles and kale for wrinkled noodles that can hold more sauce. All it takes is a proper cutting technique. Simply layer together five or six leaves and roll them lengthwise into a very tight roll, kind of like you would roll sushi. Hold the roll together with one hand and then use a sharp knife to slice thin 1/8 inch noodles out of the roll. Lightly pan-fried in butter or bacon fat, these “noodle greens” are perfect for holding any of your favorite pasta sauces.
In the same way that collards are a great replacement for spaghetti, white cabbage is a great replacement for rice noodles. Simply cut a cabbage in half and slice thin noodles out of it! It might take a little bit of time (15 minutes) to cook these down in a wok with a little coconut oil, but when they're done you'll be able to string them around a fork or a pair of chopsticks as easily as you would a rice noodle. In this same vein of thought, you can replace nearly anything served with rice as a base with cauliflower rice, which is just cauliflower finely chopped and cooked in butter. I use chopped cauliflower and broccoli as a macaroni n' cheese base.
You'll find that eating in this manner without any large starch sources will leave you feeling full and content but rarely ever bloated or gassy, (at least not once you adjust to the fat.) After eating this way for over a year, I now prefer greens to pasta. In fact, I eat more greens than my closest vegetarian friends. You'll be amazed how much a green mass of leaves can be reduced with just a little light cooking. Spinach cooks down to a fraction of its original side and pairs well with a bleu cheese sauce topped with toasted walnuts and bacon pieces. Just find your favorite sauce and start experimenting to see what set of greens it pairs with well. Click here to Learn How To Make Collard Greens Pasta.
Lets explore one of the most common cravings that people get while on the diet... bread. There's something deeply satisfying about the smell of toast and the convenience of pulling out a slice of bread to make a sandwich for lunch. The thought of leaving this behind will steer many people away from a LCHF diet. Let me make a few suggestions.
For starters, that toasty taste we've all come to love can be had again quite simply. I've found one of the most satisfying elements of a keto diet to be Toasted Nuts and seeds. I usually make a blend of lightly toasted flax seeds, chia, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and crushed walnuts. For a ketogenic diet, most seeds and nuts are well balanced in their macro-nutrient ratios. Just be sure to exercise portion control because it's easy to chow down on this toasted snack. This particular combination has a well-balanced blend of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. A gentle toasting on a low heat will not harm these delicate oils when they are protected in their shells the way it might when cooking with an oil high in polyunsaturated fats.
A Toasted Seed mix will fill your home with that wonderful smell of toasted bread once again, but it will also bring with it a depth of flavor that few types of bread can offer. I use my toasted seed mix as a replacement for croutons on salads, to lend a little crunch and toasty taste to my noodle-greens, or as a replacement for cereal. If you want to use the mix as a cereal, make sure to add a few handfuls of sliced toasted almonds into the mix as they make a great cereal flake. This goes great with a little stevia-sweetened milk or served on Yogurt. If you are in a rush, simply grab a handful of the seeds and treat them like you would trail-mix.
One note of caution is required when it comes to seeds & nuts. You need to be aware of the role that phytic acid plays in the diet. Phytic acid is found in large amounts in many cereal grains but is also present in nuts and seeds. Phytic acid is a protective element for seeds but can cause harm to you when consuming them by binding with the available minerals in your stomach and thereby depriving your body of these much needed minerals. There are a number of techniques that people have developed to remove phytic acid from foods. For example: cooking, sprouting, fermenting, and soaking seeds in water for extended periods of time will remove phytic acid from many foods and we'll explore these techniques in greater detail in future articles. For now, just know that toasting is one of the simplest ways to reduce phytic acid content and that if you haven't been toasting your seeds and nuts, then start doing it! In a similar manner, black walnuts contain a compound called thujone, which can cause a mouth-numbing effect if you eat too many of them. This compound is also broken down with a little bit of light toasting. So if you've noticed a little mouth/stomach sensitivity to them, try toasting and see if it helps.
Now a toasted seed mix can go a long way as an ingredient, but it is rather difficult to build a sandwich between two handfuls of seeds. So lets discuss one of my favorite things to bake, keto flatbread! Flatbread is the low-hanging fruit that all of us, even those not gifted at baking, can quickly learn to do well. Whether you are longing for a pizza, need some sandwich bread, or just want something to toast in the morning other than seeds, flatbread will do the trick. One of my preferred keto flatbreads for making pizza is our cauliflower pizza crust. The two primary ingredients are finely chopped, steamed, and strained cauliflower mixed with a large amount of mozzarella cheese to bind everything together. Different versions of this flatbread can incorporate various nut & seed meals to create a variety of flatbread flavors and textures. Alternatively, one can ditch the cauliflower altogether and simply use a seed or nut meal along with mozzarella cheese and eggs to make your dough. The guiding principle in baking a keto flatbread is to use however much cheese and egg it takes to hold everything together. With the binding power of cheese and eggs, a world of baking is within your reach. Pretzels, bagels, chips, etc. we'll post them as we make them so keep an eye out!
So there you have it, between the Chocolate Mousse, Collard Greens Pasta, Toasted Seeds and flatbreads you should have the tools to re-envision and recreate some of your favorite meals. For additional interesting variations using these same ingredients come explore our recipes. We have “cauliflower mashed potatoes,” Keto Stuffed Peppers, Keto Milkshakes, Keto Oatmeal, fried cauliflower-rice, Keto Smoothies, Quesadillas, stir-fry etc. So take a tour of our recipes and use them to outline your own meal plans. And remember that all of these recipes are only suggestions. Once you get the idea of how we go about pairing our ingredients, mix and match to your heart's content. Just because we pair one sauce with one set of greens doesn't mean that you have to as well. Go make your own discoveries! You won't be disappointed. And if you want to share any of them with us, don't hesitate to send us your ideas. Or just let us know what you would like to see more of on the website. We'll do our best to post it. Thank you for reading!