KetoLife: With Keto, Thou Shalt Cook

It’s maybe sad, but it’s true— if you go keto/low-carb, you have got to know how to cook. At least, you need to know some simple basic low-carb recipes and cooking skills.

Sometimes YouTube can help with this— there are a number of different videos showing how to make ‘Diet Revolution Rolls,’ a kind of bread-substitute made from separated eggs which is a recipe in the original Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution book (1972). I learned that I had to beat the egg whites longer than I had been doing. From a non-video online source, I also learned what a good idea it is to bake such rolls in a muffin top pan or Yorkshire pudding pan. (I currently have 6 such pans of different types.)

But it’s also a good idea to have a supply of good low-carb recipe books. I have all the Atkins books and cookbooks, most of the Dana Carpender cookbooks, and a couple books with recipes by Maria Emmerich (both from books co-written with Jimmy Moore.) I like to look through my many recipe books and find ones to try, even though I’m not normally a girl that’s big on cooking or trying recipes. I do like to eat, though.

Here is a big secret about cooking for those non-cooks out there: when you find a recipe you like, as you make it multiple times it gets simpler to do. My mom used to make a great (but high-carb, alas) tuna casserole. She got so good at making it she could throw it together about as easily as she could put a frozen dinner in the oven. So, here are some recipes that I have tried that might be worth doing again.

CREAMY SCRAMBLED EGGS

Recipe Book: 200 Low-Carb High-Fat Recipes, Dana Carpender, (2015.)

Dana is kind of famous for giving explicit directions for how to make omelets in every cookbook of hers. I’ve done them, but this is simpler and better, at least when I do it. After trying it the way Dana says to do it, I’ve also tried mixing the cream into the eggs directly when I prepare the eggs, Either way works, and the eggs are delicious. Of course, I’m lucky enough to get eggs that come from my own laying flock, but store-bought eggs also work well when the hens are being unproductive.

GEORGE HOLLENBECK’S HAMBURGER STROGANOFF

Recipe Book: 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, Dana Carpender, (2004.)

I was looking for some recipes that I could make and freeze, so I’d have some low-carb meals I could just heat up in the oven. This is one recipe I tried. It’s quite good. I would suggest ignoring the instruction to use ‘lean’ ground beef— it’s an old cook book, relatively speaking. The recipe suggests serving it over ‘spaghetti squash’ which kind of adds to the carb count. I serve mine over heated frozen veggies, usually green beans. I thaw the frozen stroganoff overnight and heat it in a mini loaf pan in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. I heat the frozen veggies for about 15 minutes in a disposable mini pie pan which I get from Amazon. For serving I pour the stroganoff on top of the veggies. I found that dividing the stroganoff into 6 servings was not enough for me. The second time I made it I divided into 4 servings, which is more satisfying. I might also add a small can of mushrooms to the next batch.

HAMBURGER CURRY

Recipe Book: 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, Dana Carpender, (2004.)

This recipe calls for making cauli-rice to serve it over, but I omitted that step and just serve it over whatever veggies I have. It’s very good and a nice change of pace. The recipe calls for 16 ounces (two small cans) of tomato sauce. Be sure and read your sauce labels in the store— some have sugar added and some don’t. We want the kind without added sugar. Since the tomato sauce adds carbs, you might try cutting the amount in half and see if that agrees better with you. I’ve also considered making it with one can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes & green chilies (10 ounces) just to see how that would turn out.

I froze the individual servings in 1 pint, wide-mouth Ball canning jars. I take out a jar the evening before I plan to eat it, and stow it in the fridge. I heat it in the mini loaf pan in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes, and heat the veggies as mentioned in the recipe above. I haven’t done it with cauli-rice yet, but do have some frozen that I could take out of the freezer next time I heat some curry.

More Recipe Notes to Come:

I see this blog post is getting a bit long, so I will write about some other recipes I’ve tried recently with special notes for freezing and re-heating, including Salisbury Steak and Asian Meatballs. I hope that this post will inspire some other ketonians to get in the kitchen and start cooking! (Order the cookbooks from Amazon— Since the recipes do not belong to me I’m not going to steal them for this blog.)

Have you had any success stories in learning keto cooking skills? What helped you?

 

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KetoLife: The Learning Curve

In The Complete Guide to Fasting, Dr. Jason Fung tells how he got started using fasting for his diabetic patients. He had been trying to get them to adopt a low-carbohydrate diet. He gave them information about it, and then had the patients keep food diaries. And found that many of his patients had no clue. They proudly announced they had given up bread— and their food diaries showed that they were eating crackers, pasta, or even pita bread in its place. It was easier to tell some patients to eat nothing at all!

The biggest lesson that we need to learn when we are starting keto/low-carb is that it is different than low-calorie/low-fat dieting, and that the rules are different. We don’t count calories, we count carb grams. We don’t embrace hunger, we take it as a sign to eat something (on our allowed-foods list.) We don’t shun fats as long as they are natural, more-healthy kinds of fats— our bodies actually need fats, and they keep us from being hungry and get us into ketosis (which is where we want to be.)

One of the major rules we have to learn is how to avoid carbs. We need to know what foods have carbs in them, and that all carbs count. We can’t eat the carbs in bananas just because bananas are fruit. The carbs in a slice of whole wheat bread count just as much as the carbs in white bread. Carbs are carbs!

In the early learning phases, we need to learn lists of what foods have carbs in them and are to be avoided. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes (french fries) and sweet potatoes are as forbidden as bread and oatmeal. Even non-starchy vegetables, since they have carbs in them, need to be limited to the allowed quantity. Some low-calorie diets allow you as much lettuce as you can stuff down. We can’t do that— even small quantities of carbs add up when you take the ‘free-food’ approach to things like lettuce.

Dr. Atkins recommended that if you can’t get into ketosis in the Atkins Induction phase, you cut back on your allowed vegetable salad— having one a day instead of two. Some people these days try the ‘carnivore diet’ to get into ketosis— after all, our Paleolithic ancestors probably ate meat alone during the winter seasons, or when the kinds of vegetable food they ate were not currently in season. They couldn’t go to the supermarket and get apples and salad greens year round!

This is why it is so important to measure your state of ketosis. Those urine test strips Atkins recommended are better than nothing, but the best approach is to test your blood for ketones. It’s a similar procedure to testing your blood sugar, but you need the right kind of meter and test strips. Since the test strips are $1 each, I can’t afford that system myself (I’m on SSI disability) but I have a Ketonix breath ketone analyzer which I use daily.

You may have read (on ‘keto’ diet food packaging) that you are supposed to count the ‘net carbs’ or even ‘sugar carbs.’ That is not currently recommended. I’d suggest keeping your eye on the total carbs of a food item. The important thing is what carbs are measured by your body. A high-fiber keto tortilla may not be something you want to eat too regularly if it sends you out of ketosis.

KetoLife: Dr. Atkins’ Fat Fast Diet

You may have heard the term ‘fat fasting.’ Maybe you think it’s a kind of fasting. Maybe you think it is fasting from fat, as the low-fat diet advocates seem to want. But the truth is, Fat Fasting is a kind of temporary diet, used by Dr. Robert Atkins with his patients who had hit a weight-loss plateau. That is, they were continuing to do low-carb but the weight loss they were expecting had stopped.

‘Fat Fasting’ is not fasting at all. It is a kind of low-carb and low-calorie diet, based on some scientific research, that helps some low-carbers. It usually calls for 4-5 mini-meals a day, which have to be composed of certain percentages of the macronutrients. Dr. Atkins might have had people eating 4 to 5 handfuls of macadamia nuts on a Fat Fasting diet day.

Dana Carpender, author of many low-carb cookbooks, has two cookbooks out especially for the Fat Fasting diet. These recipes open up the Fat Fasting diet, and give you a lot of choices for your mini-meals. You still can’t do the Fat Fasting diet for too long at a time— it’s meant to be temporary. (That’s why we can call it a ‘diet’— it’s not our lifestyle!) Get her Fat Fasting books to learn more about Fat Fasting.

Many modern Ketonians don’t use the Fat Fasting diet, but use actual fasting to deal with weight-loss plateaus. Dr. Jason Fung has some books out, including The Complete Guide to Fasting, which can help you learn more about how to use real fasting safely and effectively.

But sometimes the Fat Fasting diet may be what you want to do. Maybe you are having a hard time getting into deep ketosis, or staying there. Maybe you just have a hard time not eating anything at all— or you live with loved ones who will get frantic if you skip even one meal, no matter how heavy you are.

I have tried the Fat Fasting diet a few times, before I got Dr. Jason Fung’s book on real fasting, and it worked, though I’m lazy enough to like the break from actual cooking you get while you are real-fasting. I also use a few recipes from the two Fat Fasting books in my regular low-carb life. A few I adapt— the two mac-and-cheese recipes call for shirataki noodles, which I dislike, so I use a good serving of green beans or perhaps canned bean sprouts as a substitute for the noodles.

The advantage of the Fat Fasting recipes is that most are single-serving recipes— which is grand if you are cooking low-carb for one and don’t fancy eating the same meal again and again. And the recipes are high in percentages of fat, which is good if some of your regular low-carb foods are also too low in fat. (Remember, fat in your food is what makes you not-hungry!)

KetoLife: Funner Than Water

Nothing is worse torture than to be sick, barely able to ‘watch’ TV with my eyes closed, and have that dreadful Vitamin Water commercial come around again and again and again. They say ‘Vitamin Water’ is funner than water. You know what would be even more fun? Frosty chocolate milkshakes!

I was appalled when they first started marketing drinks with flavorings, sugars or sugar substitutes, possible carbonation,  carbs and calories as ‘water.’ That’s so unfair to consumers! We are all taught when we are dieting or trying to be more healthy we don’t have to restrict our ‘water’ amounts. But when they sell us a soft drink called ‘flavored water,’ what does that do to us? We may think we can consume any ‘water’ freely.

The purpose of water— actual water— is not to be fun. It is to hydrate our bodies. Without enough hydration, human beings die. That’s why it’s a popular method to execute disabled people— just quit hydrating them and they die quick, though probably not without a lot of suffering.

Before putting any soft drink called a ‘water’ into your body, check the nutrition facts on the label. How many carbs does it have? How many of those carbs come from sugars? How many from fiber? How does it compare to a typical sugared soft drink? A diet soft drink? And you are expected to be drinking it as a ‘water?’

Water has zero carbs, zero sugars, and, for those who still care, zero calories. That’s why you can drink as many glasses of water as you like without worrying about breaking the low-carb/ketogenic lifestyle OR a low-calorie hunger plan.

Need more flavor to your water? The traditional solution is to make the water into tea or coffee. Both tea and coffee are now held to have health benefits— though if your drown your tea or coffee in sugars, artificial sweeteners, and non-cream ‘creamers,’ you have only yourself to blame for bad results. But if you can manage to learn to drink plain tea or black coffee, you are set with ‘funner’ water for life. There are also keto things you can put in tea or coffee to make them ‘bulletproof,’ or more helpful for getting into ketosis and staying there.

What about the vitamins? If there are vitamins in your bottled drink, it’s because someone put them there, artificially. But you don’t need those vitamins. If you are on keto, you are taking your vitamin-and-mineral pills every morning (plus probiotics, I hope) and these plus the vitamins in the actual real food you will be eating will tide you over, vitamin-wise. You don’t need vitamins in your bottled drink! You are already getting those— and your real-food vitamins are of higher quality than any you get from bottled drinks.

But what about when you need hydration but can’t drink enough cups of actual water to achieve that? As when you are sick? I had that problem recently. I did not resort to buying  Vitamin ‘Water.’ I looked at it, in the shop, found the kind they carried was sweetened with sugar, and bought something else called ‘Bai’ which is sweetened with stevia, which is one of the few fake sweeteners which is considered mostly safe even in the keto community. It has a few grams of carbs per serving (and more than one serving per bottle,) but since I intended to drink it in small amounts— thinned down with actual water in most cases— just to add some variety in my hydration when I felt too ill to bother much with food or water. (I also purchased some Atkins drinks— my standby food when I’m sick— which they now carry at the Dollar General store in Stephenson, MI.)

Hydration is an essential in our ketonian way of life. But don’t let the ‘funner’ ‘water’ sellers fool you. Water is water. Other things are not. (‘Bai’ drinks don’t claim to be ‘water,’ even though they are more water-like than sugared ‘Vitamin Water.’)

Keto Life: Evidence that Calories don’t Count

We all have to unlearn all the ‘common sense’ slogans about healthy diet and weight loss parroted by advocates of the low-cal/low-fat ‘hunger games.’ ‘A calorie is a calorie is a calorie,’ goes one slogan. But slogans are not science.

One bit of real science everyone on the keto lifestyle ought to know is the 1957 study by Kekwick and Pawan. These two respected British doctors/researchers experimented with a 1000 calorie diet. The dieters were divided in groups. One group got 90% of their calories from carbohydrates, another got 90% from protein, and another got 90% from fat.

If ‘a calorie is a calorie is a calorie’ is a slogan with any validity, all of those diets should have had pretty much the same results. But the 90% carb dieters lost very little weight, the 90% protein dieters lost more, and the 90% fat dieters lost the most. The macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat) in the food made more difference than the sheer calorie count!

Maybe that makes you wonder what a calorie is, anyway. It is the measure of the energy in food, if you burned it in a lab. But we don’t burn our food in a lab. We metabolize it in our bodies, and our bodies treat the different macronutrients in different ways.

That’s why on keto we can’t substitute a 100 calorie candy bar for 100 calories worth of our low-carb vegetables, or 100 calories worth of butter. Our body handles different foods in different ways. In my own case, 100 calories of a candy bar would likely trigger a carbohydrate binge which would send my blood sugar and my weight right up. 100 calories worth of low-carb veggies would not, and 100 calories of butter, perhaps in a bulletproof coffee, would prevent my carb cravings and make me forget to eat the next meal. (Yes, even a chow-hound like me can say ‘no’ to food on keto!)

Since keto/lowcarb is not a temporary fad diet but a lifelong way of eating, we need to know about the science behind the approach. Memorize those names— Kekwick and Pawan— and the year— 1957. The study in question was published in the journal Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, and the study was called “Metabolic Study in Human Obesity with Isocaloric Diets High in Fat, Protein or Carbohydrate,” by authors A. Kekwick and G. L. Pawan.  Sadly, I could not find this study on the Internet.

If I had a medical degree and the ability to get things published, I would love to publish a short book with medical journal articles supporting the keto/low-carb lifestyle, and one of the first articles I would love to reprint in the book would be the Kekwick and Pawan study. Such a book would be a great little thing for us Ketonians to pass on to our skeptical doctors and non-doctor ‘health-care providers’ who would rather we use pills and, if necessary, low-cal/low-fat hunger diets in a vain attempt to improve our health.

I tend to post ketogenic lifestyle topics on Thursdays. I hope some of my readers find these posts useful. 

Keto Life: Keto/Lowcarb without a Food Diary or App

What is the most dreaded thing that might happen to you? Having to keep a food diary— a record of every bit of food that goes in to your mouth. And since Keto/Low-carb is a lifestyle not a temporary diet, you might have to do it FOREVER.

Or not. The original Atkins (1972), created by a doctor who had real-world patients, didn’t require anyone to keep a food diary. Look at the original ‘diet sheet’ portion of ‘Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution.’ There were some foods you could eat in unlimited amounts— like meats,  fish, eggs, butter and mayonnaise. Other foods were allowed, but in rationed amounts— 2 salads of less than one cupful, four ounces of hard cheese, four teaspoons of heavy cream. You didn’t have to formally write down even the limited things, so long as you could remember to stay within the limits.

That was in Atkins Induction. Induction was a time for your body to adapt to being in ketosis. Atkins wanted everyone to use urine test strips to see if they were really in ketosis. We now also have the ability to test for blood ketones or breath ketones. At any rate, if you are really on Keto, you should be testing.

Atkins also has levels— in which you could add back small amounts of carbs, so long as you stayed in ketosis. And then when you got to ‘Maintenance’ you could have even more carbs even if you were out of ketosis. On a more modern Keto lifestyle, we know how healthy ketosis can be, so we want to be in ketosis even when we are at a normal weight. So we keep lower in carbs than an early Atkins dieter might have in ‘Maintenance.’

Learning the Atkins way does require study. You need to know, for example, that you can have shrimp but not scallops, and why. That you can have real lobster but not that fake lobster that’s manufactured from fish and has carbs in it. That you can put a bit of heavy cream (or sour cream) in your coffee, but not skim milk.

The great part of Atkins is that there is always something you are allowed to eat. After you have gone through your carb-containing limited foods, you can still have a feast out of the zero-carb foods. During the first few days of Induction, if you are used to the low-calorie hunger diets, you will feel like you are always eating. Go right ahead and eat! Until you get in ketosis, you have to keep eating the allowed foods so you feel not only full, but not-deprived.

Once you are in ketosis, you won’t feel hungry. You may be able to skip meals and fast pretty easily, but don’t go overboard. You will have to be eating food for the rest of your life, and your Keto/Low-carb meals are your way to train yourself to eat your allowed foods when you do eat.

What helps me is that I find allowable foods that I really like— such as baked chicken thighs, or bacon strips, or deviled eggs, or cheese sandwiches on a ‘Diet Revolution’ roll or a low-carb tortilla. And of course a bulletproof coffee or a keto hot chocolate. I have these pleasure-foods every day. Because my body needs me to eat this way for life, and that won’t happen when I’m eating foods I don’t care for.

I recommend that EVERYONE on the  keto and/or low-carb lifestyle own a copy of ‘Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution,’ if only to prove to yourself that the Keto lifestyle is not just a ‘fad diet.’ It also has some good recipes such as ‘Diet Revolution’ rolls or bread. The book is on Amazon in paperback, or you may be able to score a copy at a used-book store. My hardcover edition came from a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. Get one!

KetoLife: You Need to Cook

One unpleasant fact of Keto living is that you need to do home-cooking. You can’t just go out for Keto food! Restaurants, especially fast-food ones, are notorious carb-pushers. Your burgers come with buns, and urgings to order fries and a sugary soft drink. Kentucky Fried no longer has the low carb roasted chicken, but the new menu looks to be rich in carbs, as well as requiring a biscuit. I think they made you pay for the biscuit whether you actually get the biscuit or not.

We have a societal inhibition about home cooking. Men don’t want to do it because it’s traditionally women’s work. Women don’t want to do it because we are brought up thinking we have to be good feminists and doing women’s work instead of delegating it to a man is bad feminism. But we have to man up (or woman up) and realize that eating the product of food processors every day is too bad for us to be sustainable. Do we want to be fat, diabetic and/or have Alzheimer’s disease?

To learn Keto (low-carb) cooking you need to have keto recipe books. Yes, actual books. Preferably NOT on Kindle, as you don’t want to spill low-carb gravy on your Kindle. Not every ‘low-carb’ cook book is good. I have one I bought on sale years ago that has not one recipe that is actually low-carb. It’s more of a ‘moderate carb’ approach.

The best book to start with is not a recipe book at all, but Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which has recipes in the back. The advantage to this old book is that it came along before there were any low-carb specialty food in the stores. The problem with low-carb specialty foods is that the companies that make them go out of business whenever low-carb popularity dips, and so you are stuck finding substitutes for ‘Carb Countdown dairy beverage’ in your recipes.

Dr. Atkins’ first book came out before any of that (1972) and his patients had to get regular food ingredients from regular grocery stores. And the advantages of the recipes in that first book is that they are well known in the low-carb community. The trickiest recipe in the book is the Diet Revolution Rolls a bread substitute, which require separating eggs and whipping the egg whites. There are actual YouTube videos that show how to make Diet Revolution Rolls!

YouTube videos are actually a great way to improve your cooking/baking skills. You can also Google (or DuckDuckGo) any cut of meat you want to cook and get instructions. Don’t know how to make pork chops or a ribeye steak? Google! (Duck!) You can learn no matter how hopeless you are. And if you have no internet access, try your local library. My small-town library has internet connected computers you can use for free for a  hour.

Dr. Atkins also has a lot of recipe books out. The two I use most are the two earliest, Dr. Atkins Diet Cookbook (1974) and Dr. Atkins New Diet Cookbook (1994). The first contains a very simple recipe for ‘cream sauce’ (like white sauce) and ‘mushroom sauce’ (can sub for cream-of-mushroom soups). Later Atkins books often have recipes which call on ingredients that are specialty products from Atkins corporation that are no longer available.

When you are ready to go beyond Dr. Atkins approved recipes, we have two cookbook authors that are dedicated to low-carb/keto: Dana Carpender and Maria Emmerich. Both have co-written cookbooks with low-carb health podcaster Jimmy Moore, both have a number of cook books available. Look on Amazon.com or your favorite online book seller and pick one that sounds good.

A final note: how many recipes do you, personally, need? My aunt Pat who loves to try new recipes all the time would need a lot. My mother tends to stick with a smaller number of ‘tried-and-true’ recipes. I myself prefer to be in a rut, making the same few meals most of the time. How many good keto recipes do you need? Don’t settle for the first few you try if you only eat them because they are ‘diet’ food and you are on a ‘diet.’ Keto/low-carb food should taste great! Try new recipes until you find ones you like.