Foods You Can't Do Without
It's safe to say that low carb dieting can be limiting in terms of what you can eat, and this can make transitioning an irritating process. What should you always have on hand, for emergencies, or when you're short on time? Perhaps even more pressing would be the question of healthy foods. If you've spent your whole life being told grains and starch and cereal are good for you, what actually makes a food healthy, and what should you be eating with this new lifestyle? Here is a small list of things I try to eat daily, or at least several times a week. They're all convenient, delicious, and healthy.
I don't even know what is this and I'd still eat it. Cheese is a powerful master.
There are lots of different cheeses in this world, but some are better for low carb eating than others. Some cheeses tend to be carbier - mascarpone, ricotta, American - but the easiest rule would be that the harder the cheese, the less carbs it's usually going to have. Cheddar, blue, provolone, and full-fat cream cheese are all good to keep on hand. Cream cheese especially is great for all those previously mentioned "fake bread" recipes I alluded to, and can easily be mixed with heavy cream and artificial sweetener to make a quick and decadent dessert. The only caveat I would provide is that dairy is often a sticking point for people who stop losing weight. Though the carbs can be negligible in dairy, it can add up quickly, since most cheese has a serving size of 1 oz which is about a tablespoon. The same goes with heavy cream. I like strong, black coffee with a splash of heavy cream, but the carbs and calories can add up quickly, so be mindful of that fact.
I generally keep shredded cheddar, parmesan, and cream cheese on hand at all times.
Eggs used to be demonized for their "high" cholesterol content, but that was based on decades old bad science (that it itself had absolutely no research supporting it) but we now know that eggs might be one of the healthiest foods we could eat. It is also worth noting that the "link" between saturated fat consumption and negative health impacts has been largely debunked as well.
In light of science, let's eat eggs! They're amazingly versatile, help bind foods that are more complicated (like quiche, desserts, and meatloaf) and can be cooked in dozens of ways that change the texture and flavor each time. Eggs contain protein, folate, choline, and a slew of vitamins and minerals that your body needs daily. In addition, they're pretty cheap - a dozen eggs, even now with the egg shortage, will usually only set you back $2 or $3. Considering a lot of people might eat one or two for breakfast, that's potentially a range of 6-12 days worth of breakfasts for $3, .25 to .50 cents a day. Pair those eggs with the aforementioned cheese and you've got a delicious, healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Try this - one of my favorite recipes is Eggs in Purgatory, and it couldn't be simpler. Put the lowest carb spaghetti sauce you can find in a pan on the stove and get it boiling. Crack some eggs into it (your discretion based on the size of the pan), sprinkle the whole thing with crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese, and after it's cooked like that for a few minutes, stick it in a 350 degree oven for another 10ish minutes, until the eggs have set (the whites are no longer clear).
It's delicious, very healthy, cheap, and easy.
Butter has been given a bad wrap in the past because of the widely believed pseudo-science that that was the basis of our country's earliest attempts at nutritional guidelines. It was believed that dietary cholesterol and saturated fats played a major role in heart disease and clogged arteries, so we were relegated to a time of rice cakes, low-fat everything, and added sugar in food everywhere. Luckily, we now know that to be bad science, and that saturated fat has a myriad of actual health benefits. These include better mental function (nerves are insulated by fat in simple terms), to better bone health (calcium is best absorbed with dietary saturated fat). One of the most delicious ways to use fat is through butter. If you're interested in spending the money, grass-fed butters are even healthier, as they contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Butter has made such a comeback that people are even putting it in their coffee! Talk about a complete turnaround in public perception.
Coconut oil, coconut flakes, coconut shrimp, bbq shrimp, fried shr...oh, I got derailed there for a minute.
Chances are good you've heard a lot about coconut oil in the last year or two, and with good reason. Coconut is probably the healthiest source of saturated fat on the planet, filled with medium-chain triglycerides, which are harder to store for the body and are normally converted into energy, giving you a pick me up that won't stick around later. In addition, like other fats, coconut oil is satiating to a high degree, making you less hungry later on after you've eaten it, and beyond that, the way your body metabolizes the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) causes your metabolism to spike, further helping you burn fat. The MCTs in coconut oil have been found in some studies to actually reduce the amount of harmful fats in your blood, thereby decreasing risk factors for heart disease. Coconut meat itself is delicious and fits into a ketogenic diet easily, from breakfasts to desserts, and coconut flour is useful for alternative, low-carb baking recipes.
You have a window of about .7 days to use me or I go bad, but I'm so delicious
An interesting fruit, avocado has a very non-fruity nutrition profile. They're fatty, and they're not sweet at all, but they're perfect for low carb dieting. Due to the high fat, high fiber content, and the fact that they contain more potassium than bananas, plus the magnesium you'll also need doing low carb, they're basically something worth eating daily. Truth told, even if you're NOT doing low carb, an avocado a day could do more to keep the doctor away than an apple. Cut them up in salads, smashed into guacamole, or pureed into a paste with a little stevia extract (no-sugar, natural sweetener), cocoa powder, and coffee extract to make a mousse. I personally like them as a topping on a southwest frittata or in low carb tacos!
Almonds are amazing. They're high in good fats, fiber, and protein, in addition to trace minerals like copper and phosphorous that we need, and wonderfully they're another natural source of the magnesium we're generally so deficient in while low carb dieting. Like all nuts, almonds are calorie-dense, but it only takes about an ounce a day to reap the benefits.
In addition to the health benefits of just eating almonds, you can buy almond flour, which is a great low carb replacement for grain flours in baking. Though the consistency of baked goods made with almond flour is different, they are no less satisfying when you're craving muffins or pancakes and staying on your healthy track.
Here is a recipe I like that uses almond flour:
5 tbsps almond flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 or more tsps stevia powder (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
sugar-free flavors of your choice - I find sugar free coffee syrups are great to sweeten and flavor
low carb desserts.
Mix all of the ingredients together in a coffee mug or bowl, and microwave for 1.5 minutes. Let it cool, butter or frost with an appropriately low carb frosting, and enjoy!
It might seem that a diet that advocates fat and protein and lots of it leaves little room for plants. The reality here is that vegetables hold a lot of key nutrition that you'd otherwise have to supplement. You'll also need some of the fiber vegetables provide, as keto has a slowing effect on digestion. Greens are nice because, with the abundance of meat and cheese you have around, you can easily whip up a salad with a low carb dressing in no time flat, and just like that, you've got lunch or dinner. In addition, greens like spinach, kale, and watercress have a tremendous amount of beneficial micronutrients, and spinach is a good source of magnesium, something most people are deficient in, but particularly those eating a low carb diet. Eating a salad for lunch daily is a good way to get essential nutrition, keep your carbs low, and take out the thinking part of your weekly meal plan.
I hope this list helps flesh out your pantry a little. These are things I use weekly and most of them are daily parts of my diet. The health benefits they provide, particularly to a low carb lifestyle, are significant and worth taking advantage of as much as possible!