This Keto Life: How do I food?

Since the original post explaining why I’ve gone keto, I’ve had a couple of people asking what I actually do eat under this delicious regime. Let’s take today (or, actually, a day last week, which is when I started writing this, and I haven’t decided what I’m having for dinner yet, so we can deal with this teensy temporal fold).

Breakfast

First I get some creamy, fatty Greek yoghurt (I like Jalna). Then I grab some thickened cream (I like Bulla; it’s high fat and they don’t use carbohydrate based thickeners). I make a 50/50 mix of this and stir it together (about 2 tbsp of each, if anyone’s curious).

Then I grab me some nuts (mmhm). I have a nut mix which is equal parts almonds, walnuts, and macadamias with a moderate amount of brazil nuts added. I add a good dose of seed mix (pepitas and sunflower kernels) and some moist coconut flakes. Shake it all together, and you have my breakfast nut mix. I add a small handful (about 40-50g, or a ¼ cup) to my yoghurt/cream mix.

Then I sprinkle some cinnamon on top – probably about ½ to ¼ teaspoon – and hey presto, creamy nutty cinnamony deliciousness for breakfast.

In total: about 11g carbs (in the quantities at which I make it) and, for those who care, about 490 kcal.

Lunch

Today, I made scrambled eggs. Two eggs, about a tablespoon and a half of cream, whisked together before cooking and scrambling in 8g of organic butter. Then I add about 35g of grated cheese and generous amounts of salt to the scrambled eggs. Then I eat it. Then I scrub out the pan, because egg sets like concrete. I find this very filling, but if I am not in line to meet my protein minimum, I may add some bacon.

In total (sans bacon): about 2.9g carbs, and 463 kcal. You might not want 35g of grated cheese. That’s your call.

Dinner

We made coconut chicken last night, and we still have some leftovers. This is a dish we traditionally served on rice, but I’m happy to eat it out of a bowl kind of like a spicy soup (note: this is because I’ve been adding too much coconut milk. I want to cut that back and make more of a dry sauce). It contains coconut milk, chicken (obviously), lemongrass, paprika, tumeric, soy sauce, ginger, capsicum and mushrooms.

In total: 14.1g carbs, and 392 kcal.

Other stuff

If I knock back my cup of chicken stock, that’s about 3.6g carbs, and 26 kcal, although more relevant in that case is the 1,000 mg of sodium I’m getting out of it.

If I hit one of my mini protein bars (om nom nom), that’s 3.1g carbs, 98 kcal.

On a day like this, with my protein bar, I’ll wind up at about 36.1g carbs (30.2g net carbs), 110g fat, 74.5g protein and about 1475 kcal. That’s not enough calories given how active I am, even though it would be entirely possible for me to feel reasonably fed on that amount (at the moment, since I’m in the early stages of keto, I hit satiety fairly quickly. This is because my body is still adjusting to digesting fat. When it gets more used to it, I’ll need a bit more food to feel full – although still less than I would on a carby diet, because fat is a satisfying thing to eat).

So I might eat a fat bomb to get a bit more energy. Or have a piece of cheese. Or any number of things that can increase my fats and proteins, and thus my calories, without increasing my carbs. When you are first starting out on keto, it is – oddly enough – very easy to under-eat, and that can make one feel a bit crappy, since you do in fact need food to live.

For other snacks, I might grab a handful of low carb nut mix. Nu-Vit makes a good one. 1-2g carbs, so it’s not all the time, just when I’m out and about and peckish (the bag lives in my handbag). I don’t need these so much any more; appetite tends to settle as you finish out the induction process, but at the start it’s very good to have low carb options to hand so you don’t crack.

Other quick go-to options

Roo steak, pumpkin fries, aioli

This is obviously a perfectly reasonable option in Australia, but difficult elsewhere. A 150g kangaroo steak will sort out a significant proportion of daily protein requirements (about 32g, so a third of my needs) for most people, and it’s also rich, tasty and lean. While fats are not bad as such on a ketogenic diet and should be a primary source of calories, I actually really detest the taste and texture of fatty meat (except perhaps bacon), so roo really works for me. Try to flatten the steaks a bit (they’re tricky to cook if they’re too thick), rub them with macadamia oil, salt and pepper and let them sit for about ten minutes. Then whack them in the pan, maybe about three minutes each side on a high heat. It’s important not to overcook roo; it’s a bit unforgiving. You want it to be sort of medium rare to rare.

Pumpkin fries: carbs in pumpkins vary. I just recently discovered that the Japanese pumpkin is a bit higher in carbs than most (that’s the one we get at the supermarket, since it’s the organic one), so I’ll be swapping back to a more generic variety (which should be about 6g carbs per 100g). About 150g of pumpkin, chopped into fries, seasoned with paprika, coated with macadamia oil and left in the oven for about forty minutes is a delicious side.

We serve up the roo and the fries with a tablespoon or two of pesto aioli. This is a very cruisy meal. About 466kcal, 12.6g carbs. The macadamia oil is very calorically dense, just as a side note.

Thai pumpkin soup with chicken

Our local supermarket is a Maxi Foods, which is enormous, and has a wide variety of things – usually including a lot of local produce options and crafty things, as well as all the organic and fair trade options you could want. I am still amazed at the odd hippy-friendly and keto-friendly things I can find there.

They have a pre-made Thai pumpkin soup which is about 4.2g carbs per serving, and is delicious. I get some roast chicken pieces from the deli, casually shred them and add about 100g to a serving of this soup and it is a quick and tasty light lunch or dinner.

214kcal, 4.2g carbs. It’s a bit on the light side, energetically, so it’s the kind of thing I prefer to eat when I’m not exercising much that day, or if I’ve done more snacking than usual. If I haven’t been snacking, I probably will snack to supplement it.

Those are really just our very quick options. Sometimes I make garlic butter mushrooms as a side instead of pumpkin fries. Sometimes Husband makes what he calls “povo parma” where you put cheddar cheese and bacon on a chicken breast and fry it through in macadamia oil. Sometimes I just pick random delicious looking recipes off the internet and see what I can put together. Recent successes include low carb stromboli,  a jalapeno and cheese chicken dish, and a “pizza toppings casserole”.

There are heaps of possibilities out there, even though at first the elimination of rice, pasta and bread seems crippling from a dietary perspective – I was concerned, but it’s actually not so hard. There is a bit more effort here and there. I’ve found a recipe for low-carb tortillas so fingers crossed there might be tacos in my life soon. It’s a bit more fun, as far as I’m concerned, since there’s some problem solving. My pantry now has almond meal, coconut flour, linseed meal, and a whole variety of delightful things to make life more interesting, and my fridge is never empty of eggs, cream or cheese.

So I am not lost for food and I am actually enjoying kitchen time (which is almost unheard of prior to this). I do supplement, and the reason I do this is because at the absence of fruit leads to possible vitamin deficiencies: a lot of people eat very widely of veggies to work around this. The veggies I eat on keto are pumpkin, bok choy (in stir fries, mostly, thinking they would go well in my taco/wrap plans), capsicum and mushrooms for the most part. These are great but I probably don’t get enough of them, based on my MFP tracking, so I take a multivitamin.

The science is pretty clear that vitamins do more harm than good in the absence of a dietary deficiency, but since I appear to have a dietary deficiency (which I had before keto), I’m comfortable taking them. I also take calcium and vitamin D because I’m a redhead and I catch fire when I go outside, so I wear bucketloads of sunscreen. On top of that, there’s fish oil (that’s a more complex post I will write sometime), and fibre supplementation (that can be an issue on keto unless you eat lots of veggies, so a lot of ketoers head straight for the psyllium husk).

Do you have to take supplements on keto? Of course not; you can manage it entirely within the bounds of keto, but it takes a lot of planning and I’m not quite at that level yet. I’m also not a fan of salads, which makes it harder.

Anyway, that’s the how behind the why.

POSTSCRIPT: After publishing this, I just realised I left out a crucial problem: coffee! The amount of milk in a cappucino contains a fair number of carbs, particularly if you’re knocking back four cappucinos a day. There are a few ways to deal with this: switch to long macchiatos, or black/espresso coffee, or add cream instead of milk (when I do this I add some cinnamon on top). But it is something you have to factor in – sadly sugars are still counted as carbs even if it’s lactose instead of glucose or fructose.

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