The right way to start a low-carb/keto diet

atkins-diet-revolution-1972I read once about a hapless couple who decided to try the low-carb Atkins diet but weren’t the kind to read a book about it first. They had heard that the Atkins diet forbids bread. And so they ate crackers instead.

Sadly, especially for writers, there are people out there who just don’t want to READ. They know how, but reading isn’t something they do. Or perhaps they read only one kind of thing— romance novels, hunting magazines, graphic novels— and they don’t think they can plow through a whole book about how to go on a low-carb diet.

For those people: think of it this way. A person in Alcoholics Anonymous may not be a big reader, but he often makes a point of reading from Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book every single morning.

If you need to change your diet, you are in recovery, too. If you are not the type to read a whole book on low-carb dieting in an evening, try this: get a good basic book about low carb dieting, such as:

Atkins Diet Revolution, Robert Atkins, 1972

New Atkins for a New You

Keto Clarity

Now, every morning read a chapter or part of a chapter from the book. Or do it in the evening if your mornings are hectic. If the book has a ‘diet sheet’ as the Atkins Diet Revolution does— a short list of allowed foods and forbidden foods— look that part over daily as well.

It’s not just that the books tell you precisely how to do the diet. They explain why it works, give some of the scientific research that backs up this way of eating, and also in many books you will find recipes. The more facts you learn, the more you will be able to follow a healthy low-carb diet accurately. It will keep you motivated.

You might also make a point of reading a low-carb blog or two, or follow some of the low-carb Facebook pages.

The problem with eating a healthy low-carb diet is that we are surrounded by misinformation about diet. We have to almost un-brainwash ourselves to keep us from going astray with the daily temptations— such as those sugar-filled, carb-filled breakfast cereals with the words ‘heart-healthy’ on the packages. KetoClarity

A source of low-carb, ketogenic Christmas cookie recipes.

Coco-Flour-5X8-JPEGBeing on a ketogenic or low-carb diet at Christmas time sucks. You have to turn down so many invitations and not make so many traditional family foods, just to keep from breaking your diet. And unlike other diets, breaking a low-carb/ketogenic diet can mean your metabolism changes back to running on glucose instead of ketones, and getting back on your healthy diet makes you feel miserable for a couple of days. Other people may be able to jump back on the LC/keto diet right away, but I’m weak. One serious slip-up can mean a month or more of being constantly tempted by the carby foods I’m addicted to.

But Christmas cookies are not something you have to give up. One source I use is this cookbook— Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife. It has a whole chapter of cookie recipes. The down side is that the recipes come in two versions, one with sugar, one with half the sugar plus stevia. I adapt them by eliminating ALL sugar and using stevia— either the powdered kind or the liquid. If the recipe has brown sugar in it, you can buy the ‘English Toffee’ flavor of liquid stevia— available from Amazon.com— to give your recipes that brown sugar flavor.

I noticed, last time I made cookies, that without sugar you have to flatten the dough balls for the cookies because they won’t melt down like sugared cookies do. Also, NEVER add cold ingredients to melted coconut oil in a recipe. The coconut oil hardens and becomes rock-like. I fixed that by putting the whole dough bowl into a bigger bowl of hot tap water until the coconut oil re-melted.

You can get the necessary coconut flour from Walmart— even in the small town where my nearest Walmart is, they carry it. They also have unsweetened flaked coconut, called for in some of the recipes.

If the book doesn’t have a cookie recipe similar to the carby cookie you used to love, some can be adapted. Look at the spices in your carby recipe, and use that spice mix with your coconut flour cookie recipe. You may have to settle for a round-cookie version of something you used to make with rolled-out dough and cookie cutters, but you may end up with a similarly satisfying flavor.

If you are a confirmed carbohydrate addict and haven’t been low-carbing long, these cookies won’t taste that great to you. Not because they AREN’T great, but because you expect the taste to come along with a satisfying ‘hit’ of your addiction substances, sugar, fast-acting carbs, and wheat. It’s like offering a smoker a cigarette with no nicotine. But don’t despair, the longer you low-carb, the better low-carb treats will taste. When I’ve been ‘good’, if I break the diet to eat a carby comfort food, I sometimes think that my current low-carb equivalent of that food actually tastes much better. By going off the diet, I’m just feeding the monkey.

Last year, I packed up some of the cookies I made and put them in the freezer. They were perfectly good when thawed. If you live alone, freezing some is a good idea. They keep you from binge-eating the cookies out of boredom. Which is bad, because these cookies do have SOME carbs and eating a whole batch in one day is NOT recommended. Also, you can make a habit of keeping some low-carb cookies in the freezer at all times, for when temptation strikes.

Keto/Low-Carb Recipe: Cheese Pancakes

Blintz step 1Sometimes eating healthy can be a real pain first thing in the morning. All those traditional breakfast things— toast, French toast, Pop-Tarts, Cheerios, hot oatmeal— all now on our Not For Us foods list.

But how about some pancakes? Tasty pancakes smothered in butter, perhaps with some sugar-free syrup? We can do that. Here is my favorite pancake recipe, which makes one serving of pancakes.

Cheese Pancakes

2 T (tablespoons) full-fat cottage cheese or cream cheese (or 1 T each)

1 egg

1/2 T ground flaxseed

1/2 T melted butter or melted coconut oil

1/8 t (teaspoon) sea salt or seasoned salt

Put all your ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Yes, even the butter/coconut oil, it’s part of the batter. Use a hand blender or mixer to blend the ingredients until smooth. You can also use a hand-crank egg beater/mixer if you are off the grid, but this will be harder work if you’ve used cream cheese.

Heat up your frying pan for about 5 or 6 minutes. Then add the butter or cooking oil you will be using to fry your pancakes.

Add the batter to the pan. I have used this recipe to make a large pancake of the crepe/blintz variety, but for breakfast pancakes I used to make three pancakes. These pancakes are thin and hard to flip, so you might do 6 or so little ‘silver dollar’ pancakes.

Since I fry my pancakes in butter, I pour leftover melted butter from the pan onto the pancakes once they have been put on my dish. Easier than putting cold butter on them and hoping for it to melt.

You can use this pancake recipe for a variety of purposes. I’ve made a filled low-carb blintz with it. I’m thinking of making a hamburger/cheese filling and making a blintz version of my mom’s cheeseburger turnovers.



Notes on ingredients

Cottage cheese, cream cheese: don’t use low-fat versions of these. You need the fat to make you feel full, and to keep you in a state of ketosis. Most people on ketogenic or strict low-carb diets will find their cholesterol numbers improving on the diet, so don’t worry about the fat.

If you are worried about the dairy— well, it is possible to make a yogurt out of coconut milk (the kind you buy in cans). Don’t use a low-fat variety of coconut milk, and check the labels of different varieties, some have added ingredients you don’t want in your coconut milk. If the coconut yogurt doesn’t work so well in the recipe, perhaps you could make coconut yogurt cheese— you put yogurt in a strainer lined with a coffee filter overnight, letting the whey (or whatever that stuff is) drain off. I have done this with home-made dairy-milk yogurt, but haven’t tried it with coconut milk yogurt. Dana Carpender’s recipe book 200 Low-Carb High-Fat Recipes has a recipe for coconut yogurt on page 51. I find her recipe books VERY useful, so I’d suggest giving her a try.

Ground flaxseed: In the original recipe I adapted for these pancakes, it called for soy flour. I don’t care to put soy in my diet, except for soy sauce, so I have tried alternatives. Ground almond, pecan or walnut is nice but the batter will be thinner. Ground flaxseed plumps up the batter a bit. A little bit.

Butter/Coconut Oil: You may have read old-fashioned recommendations to avoid butter at all costs. The up-to-date science says otherwise. And coconut oil is very good for a ketogenic diet— a diet which is proven to be good for your heart.

Salt: When you stopped eating a processed food diet and started eating a healthy low-carb/ketogenic/Paleo diet, you cut out most of the sources of salt in your diet. Many of us when we start cooking healthy omit the salt. Don’t do this. Salt makes food taste better, and tasty low-carb food helps you resist the temptation to have ‘just a little’ processed food. Also, you can actually feel sick after a rapid switch from salty processed food to very-low-salt home-cooked low carb food. And your blood tests can show that your sodium is low.

 

Low-Carb Diet: How to Do it Right

Keto ClarityI knew the low-carb diet had finally gone mainstream when General Hospital mob boss Julian Jerome stopped eating carbs. It was about time. Low-carb first became part of American diet culture in 1972 when Dr. Robert Atkins’ book, ‘Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution’ made the best-seller lists. Atkins created the diet for himself, based on things he’d read in medical journal articles, but the medical establishment called him a heretic for not promoting a calorie counting or low-fat approach.

Low-carb, also called ketogenic, diets are different from temporary weight loss diets. You have to change your eating patterns for life to reap the benefits.

The problem with low-carb is that everyone has heard of it but precious few people know how to do it. Look at this scene, which takes place at a buffet:

Husband: Look at those bread rolls! Don’t they look great?

Wife: We can’t have them, dear. We are eating low-carb now, remember?

Husband: Then let’s have these buttermilk biscuits, then. Or that corn bread.

Wife: We can’t have those, either. They are bread, too. Sort of.

Husband: Well, what can we eat, then?

Wife: Well, how about this mashed potatoes? It’s a vegetable. Surely no diet can restrict our vegetables? And this fruit salad— I’m sure we can have as much fruit as we like.

Husband: What about this macaroni and cheese?

Wife: Well, it’s got pasta, but pasta isn’t bread. And cheese is a low-carb diet food— go for it!

This, as you may have guessed, is NOT the way to do low-carb. In order to do it right, you have to get a sound low-carb diet book with good instructions on how foods fit in to the low-carb eating plan. In this plan, there are three classes of foods:

  1. Foods to eat freely: meats (beef, pork, lamb, venison, chicken, turkey), fish and seafood (salmon, tuna, cod, smelt, perch, shrimp— all kinds except clams, scallops and oysters), eggs, mayonnaise, butter, coconut oil, olive oil.
  2.  Foods to ration: salads, non-starchy vegetables, heavy whipping cream, cheese, nut products such as almond flour, coconut flour. (A good low-carb diet plan will tell you how much of each you are allowed.)
  3. Foods you may not eat: bananas, figs, candy, cake, bread, muffins, pasta, milk, pancakes, corn, cornstarch, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, jam, honey, potatoes, raisins, sweet potatoes, yams, sweetened yogurt.

The low-carb diet is a trade-off. There are some foods you just cannot eat at all— unlike the calorie-counting approach where you can have tiny portions of such food. In exchange, there are foods you can eat without restrictions.

When you are consuming no more than 20 or 25 grams of carbohydrate per day, your metabolism changes. It stops running on glucose— sugar— and starts running on ketones. Ketones result when your body is running on fat instead of sugar. It’s very healthful, not just for weight loss but for many other conditions. A ketogenic (ketone producing) diet has been used to treat epilepsy for decades, and helps in diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, kidney disease, and other conditions. Read ‘Keto Clarity‘ for more information, much of it contributed by doctors.

When choosing your Basic Diet Book for your eating plan, beware of these things: first, some ‘low-carb’ diets are not low carb. They just reduce your carbs a little. So you don’t get the benefits of a low-carb/ketogenic diet.

Also, the Atkins approach has steps. You start at a healthy 20 or so grams of carbs, and then after two weeks you start adding more carbs back. This triggers your food cravings for carb foods and can lead to food binges on carb foods. This is why people go off Atkins and swear it didn’t work for them. Advice: ignore the instructions for the steps, except that if you are healthy you might try the first addition of 5 more carb grams, which you can use on nuts or certain fruits (berries, mostly).

The ‘Carbohydrate Addicts Diet’ is another plan to avoid. On it, you eat two meals a day of low-carb food, and one reward meal in which you can eat any foods you like, so long as you finish the meal within one hour. This plan doesn’t work on some people at all, and with others it works initially but then quits working. It can lead to food binges on carb-foods. Remember, for most people who go on diets, carb foods are like alcohol is to an alcoholic. They must be avoided.

The Paleo diet is NOT a low-carb ketogenic diet. It does not restrict fruit consumption, for example. The book Neanderthin is a more low-carb approach to the Paleo diet, but even there you will have to get another eating plan to provide your carb restriction plan. It adds more restrictions to the diet— you will have to give up cream, butter and cheese— but some people like a low-carb Paleo approach.

Some recommended diet plan books:

Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution

Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution

The Diabetes Diet

The Four Corners Diet

How to use the diet plan books: Buy one or more of the books above. Everyone should probably have a copy of the original Atkins book, even if your eating plan is based on The Diabetes Diet or Four Corners. Read them cover to cover. Find the section of the book that is the ‘diet sheet’ — that sums up what foods you can and can’t eat. Make two copies of it. Keep one in your billfold or purse. Put the other up on the refrigerator or somewhere else handy in the kitchen. You can put it on the inside of a cupboard door if you like.

Make a point of reading in your diet plan book for ten minutes every day. This will keep your enthusiasm up, and it will help you remember all the things you need to know about your new diet.

You will also need other books for your low-carb/ketogenic lifestyle. Books like Keto Clarity which show you the benefits of the diet. Recipe books, like those by Dana Carpender.  But you don’t need all that to start with. I started out with just the original Atkins book which I bought at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. Later, I added an early Atkins recipe book.

Have you ever tried Atkins or another low-carb diet plan? Did you commit to it as a lifelong eating plan? Did you try it for weight loss or for one of the other health benefits? Are you still on it? Do you think it helps you?

Fairlife: Low-Carb Milk!

fairlifemilkHave you seen the commercials for the new milk called ‘Fairlife?’ If you did, you must know there are a couple of things that the commercial won’t tell you.

Number one is that Fairlife is also available in healthy whole milk instead of just the fat-reduced versions they show on TV.

Second is that the filtering process that Fairlife brags on reduces the carbohydrate in the milk. Regular whole milk is 12 grams of carbs per cup. Fairlife whole milk is 6 grams per cup.

One of the big things I’ve missed about my low-carb/ketogenic diet is that I can’t have milk because of the high carb level. There used to be a ‘Carb Countdown dairy beverage’ but first they eliminated the healthy whole milk version, and then it disappeared altogether.

I’m mystified as to why Fairlife doesn’t mention the carb factor. Is it that the government is getting more heavy-handed about its view that low-fat dieting is the only permissible kind of dieting, and Fairlife feared interference?  Or is it just that Fairlife’s part of the Coca-Cola company which sells so many high-carb soft drinks?

At any rate, Fairlife’s brought milk back into my life. In much moderation, of course. It’s so much better than the heavy-whipping-cream-plus-water that I had been using as a milk substitute.

I got my most recent bottle of Fairlife at Walmart. It was three-dollars-plus at Walmart, while it was five-dollars-plus at the local grocery chain Angeli’s.

When buying Fairlife be sure and look for the milk in the red packaging, which is the healthy whole milk. And avoid the chocolate milk! If you like chocolate milk, add your own sugar free chocolate mix.

I got on the low-carb/ketogenic diet because of the scientific studies that showed that it helps out with certain of my health problems, particularly diabetes. But as a writer, I’m also intrigued by the fact that the ketogenic diet seems to help people with Alzheimers. If it helps the brains of Alzheimer patients work better, it might help mine. And brains are important in writing. Especially if you write about zombies.

For more information on the ketogenic diet, I recommend the book Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet by Eric Westman MD and Jimmy Moore. It’s got a lot of references to research studies and quotes from a number of doctors using this science-based diet to treat many medical conditions, including, of course, weight loss. Jimmy Moore’s blog is at http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/

Recipe: Keto Bone Broth Mug Soup

Keto Bone Broth Mug Soup

Ten Benefits of Bone Broth by The Coconut Mama http://thecoconutmama.com/2012/11/nutrient-dense-bone-broth/

Ten Benefits of Bone Broth by The Coconut Mama http://thecoconutmama.com/2012/11/nutrient-dense-bone-broth/

Here’s a keto/Paleo convenience meal that you make in your mug! Great for breakfast.

1-2 T coconut oil (regular, unless you want the coconut flavor in cold-pressed oil)

dash of seaweed granules— kelp, dulse whatever you like (optional)

dash of sea salt

1 T sour cream, heavy cream or coconut milk, not ‘reduced fat’ versions (optional)

1/4 to 1/2 cup of reduced bone broth, depending on broth’s strength

Hot water

Put the coconut oil, kelp, sea salt, cream and reduced bone broth into a large/double sized coffee mug. Pour hot water into the mug to fill. Stir until the coconut oil and sour cream melt. Taste— if your bone broth was weak, you may need to add a bit of something to bring up the flavor, such as a bit more salt, more seaweed granules, a bit of vegetable broth powder, reduced grocery store broth, or even grocery store bouillon granules (I’m trying to give that up, really….)

This is as close to an ‘instant breakfast’ type of keto/Paleo food you can find. (It may seem complicated the first time, but before long you can do it in your sleep.)

Note on the bone broth: ‘reduced’ bone broth means that you’ve boiled it down a bit to reduce the water content and intensify the flavor. This is a good idea for storing the bone broth in the freezer. When the bone broth is stored in the refrigerator there may be a solid layer of healthy fats on the top. You will need to place the bone broth container (I use canning jars) in a pan of hot tap water to bring it to room temperature to melt the fat so you can shake up your bone broth to mix up the components.

To make bone broth: google for ‘bone broth’ recipes. You can use bones from leftovers— beef, chicken, pork, lamb, goat, venison— whatever you’ve got. (Put a gallon-size freezer bag into your freezer and put in leftover bones to save up enough bones.) The version of bone broth recipe I use calls for cooking it 48 hours in a 3 quart crock pot.

Substitutions: when your bone broth is all gone, you can substitute reduced grocery-store broth, reduced home-made vegetable broth, home-made dashi, or store-bought dashi or bouillon powder (which you probably can’t get without MSG).

Keto diet questions? Read Keto Clarity: http://www.amazon.com/Keto-Clarity-Definitive-Benefits-Low-Carb-ebook/dp/B00MEX9B4C   It, and other books like it, literally saved my life— I have diabetes with complications that made my doctor cut off my diabetes meds. My blood sugar, blood pressure and kidney test results have all improved as a result of the ketogenic diet.

Benefits of bone broth by The Coconut Mama: http://thecoconutmama.com/2012/11/nutrient-dense-bone-broth/

Recipe: Keto Rescue Bouillon

I can't get cool-looking Maggi beef bouillon where I live.

I can’t get cool-looking Maggi beef bouillon where I live.

 

I have been tweaking my diet into a more ketogenic form lately. Ketogenic diets are good for a variety of health problems, from epilepsy to obesity to diabetes to autism. It may also be beneficial for kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Here is a book that tells more about it:

Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet – Eric Westman MD & Jimmy Moore

The book recommends using bouillon as a drink to help add back electrolytes/salt when you drop the typical American diet. Author Jimmy Moore also recommends adding butter to whatever you eat. This recipe is the result.

Keto Rescue Bouillon

Bouillon— cube or powder, enough for 1 cup, NOT the low-sodium kind. I have not been able to locate bouillon without sugar, but at least I found a brand without MSG!

1/2 Tablespoon butter

pinch kelp/seaweed powder (optional)

Hot water

~~~~~

Add the bouillon, butter & optional seaweed to your cup. Add hot water. Stir.

I was sick with flu-like symptoms from my flu shot when I first made this. I felt a lot better. NOTE: do not use this recipe if you are still on the Standard American Diet eating lots of pre-salted foods! This is for ketogenic and low-carb diets where you are essentially making all your own food at home (other than ordered eggs over-easy and bacon or ham at restaurants), and you are at risk for not having enough sodium in your diet.