Ketogenic diet success. That was my number one goal for the New Year. I had read about the benefits of a high fat/low carb diet in a book by Gary Taubes, entitled Why We Get Fat. The results sounded compelling. Not only could I lose weight, but I could improve my blood chemistry at the same time. My problem was, I had miserably failed at low carb diets before. I could do them for a few days, but the lack of natural food replacements meant I had little or no variety.
I know what you are saying. How can you lose weight and get better blood results with a high-fat diet? Sounds impossible. As someone who has had high cholesterol for years, my ears perked up. I’ve always been told to stay on a low-fat diet. Keep to the food pyramid, my doctor would say. Take this statin pill and maintain the fat to less than 20% of your calories.
Unfortunately, the lower the fat my diet was, the higher my cholesterol and triglycerides would go. Replacing fat with sugar and processed carbs over the years didn’t help my numbers except for my weight. That number kept going up and up.
When In Doubt, Test For Yourself
It was time for a change and a test. I would pull a Tim Ferriss style experiment and try this diet for three weeks and see how it went. At the end of the month, I would get a new blood test and see if any of the numbers were improved. I picked up a Keto book with a plan overview and recipes. (If you are unfamiliar with this type of diet, this site explains the advantages and drawbacks. A good primer on why you might want to consider it)
In December, as I was preparing to do this diet for the New Year, I knew that better low carb food choices would be needed if I was going to have any inkling of success with this. I looked online and then at the supermarket. My number one problem was bread. No one seemed to offer a suitable low carb alternative that tasted good.
My number two challenge was cookies and candy. I had become a sugar addict after the low fat craze introduced me to Snack Wells. Those little packs of goodness added many pounds to my waist. Each cookie had 30 carbs. No way would those find entrance to a diet that limited carbs to 20 grams a day.
Unfortunately, I’m a busy person, and I don’t have much patience in the kitchen. I’m not a chef. If I can microwave it, toast it, or bake it, I’m golden. Most of the low carb cookbooks I looked at have you doing pretty extensive food prep. No time or patience for that. Ketogenic diet success was not as easy as I thought.
Why Does All This Low Carb Food Taste So Bad?
I asked some friends for help and did some online searches. Meat and salad were the mainstays. Bread and cookies were out. Oh, there were some bars with yucky sugar alcohols that left a bad aftertaste, but nothing that you would actually want to eat. No suitable replacements found.
That’s when I decided to walk around a few grocery stores. I went to Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and my local supermarket. At first, the labels were ugly. Everything seemed to have massive amounts of sugar and carbs. The higher end places tried to trick me by renaming sugar to unrefined dehydrated cane juice or some nonsense, but the nutrition label gave them away.
It wasn’t until I looked at the top shelf of my local Winco market that I found something that might work. Pulling down the package of Special K Crustless Quiche, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one quiche only had six carbs. Now we were on to something.
I looked further and discovered Frittatas by Jimmy Dean that only had three carbs apiece. I picked up a box of each flavor and headed home. The kitchen testing would begin. I microwaved one of each. After the bell had gone off, I opened the door and put them on a plate. Unfortunately, each one came out mushy. They tasted OK, but the consistency was off. That’s when I tried baking the soft items in my Panasonic Infrared Toaster Oven. After three minutes, they came out amazing. Crisp, with a cheesy top that was browned to perfection. Each one now tasted so good; I knew I was on to something.
A Low Carb Bread Replacement?
After working with these a few times, I realized that they might be a good bread replacement, especially after they were toasted and firmed up. I took one of the Quiche, and sliced it horizontally, making two thin slices. Toasting it some more, it took on bread like firmness. I tried adding some deli meat and made a sandwich. WOW, is all I can say. Open faced or covered; the results were incredible. At only 170 calories and four net carbs, the quiche “bread” has been a new staple in my diet.
With the Fritattas, they come in a muffin shape. Toasted up and sliced in half, they work very well open faced with turkey sausage. The different shape gives me a number of meal options, while the cheesy taste goes well with a lot of different side dishes. The great thing about both of these products is they have a number of varieties.
Now I had bread under control, but what about a tortilla? Could I find something that would work for tacos and burritos?
How To Create a Ketogenic Taco
Having found the Quiche and Frittata in the frozen foods department, I headed out to the dry goods section on my next trip to the store. I seemed to remember that there was something called a carb controlled tortilla. Looking through the huge variety of sizes and contents, I came upon two different brands that said the were low carb friendly. Each had 32 grams of carbs, but 26 grams of fiber. Since fiber is not digested, this left six net carbs for a burrito sized tortilla. I picked up a package of each and headed home.
To test these out, I made a cheese quesadilla in a frying pan. Using a coating of butter on the outside and cheddar cheese on the inside, I folded the tortilla in half and browned it over low heat for a few minutes. Taking it out, I sliced it in half and had my wife join me for a taste test. We tried two different brands.
The first one we tried tasted like cardboard. I was rather dismayed at the gritty taste. While I could tolerate it, it would not be making my replacement list. Fortunately, the second brand (Mission) was truly unique. With the toasted butter flavor on the outside and the golden cheddar goodness on the inside, it came out magnificent.
The difference seemed to be how fine ground the fiber was. While these tortillas are made from wheat, the high fiber content made them much less reactive to insulin spikes. I didn’t get the normal blood sugar drop after eating one.
Now I needed a salad.
Finding a mobile salad solution, that works for you.
One of the staples of any low carb diet is a salad. Unfortunately, salads can be expensive, and don’t have a very long shelf life. To make leafy greens work, the source will need to be convenient. Thankfully, I have a Trader Joes nearby. They offer a variety of pre-made salads with different condiments.
One of my favorites is their Pasadena Salad with chicken and two types of lettuce. It comes in a convenient plastic clamshell that includes a fork. I leave off their carb based condiments and enjoy the salad with either ranch or oil and vinegar dressing. I can store an extra one or two in the refrigerator. The packaging makes it portable, and the price is right at $3.99. I usually have half at lunch and the rest at dinner. The taste is great, and the packaging makes it a real staple of the diet.
But as veggies go, salads with lettuce only go so far. I get exhausted of eating just lettuce after a while. I needed a better variety.
Veggies That Don’t Brown Out or Spoil.
Given my displeasure at having to cook often, I was looking for a way to get delicious veggies without the frying pan. I love stir fry vegetables with chicken or beef, but the prep time and cleanup make them impractical at times. I found a couple of solutions at the store. A standard refrigerated veggie platter was good but expensive and has a limited shelf life.
As I was walking down the aisle of the store on one of my searches, my eye caught a jar of vegetables. Call Giardiniera, this Italian assortment of garden goodness has become a surprising addition to my Ketogenic plan. Packed in a vinegar brine solution, the assortment includes cauliflower, peppers, carrots, onions and a few more.
At first, I wasn’t going to buy this, but the jar was on special, and it looked intriguing. It was what I needed to eat, but I didn’t know about the brine taste. As I got it home, I tried a few pieces along with my wife. She hated it, but I found the tangy and salty taste to be good. I ate half a bottle as I was watching TV. Very low carb and low calorie, this is a solution that would work on many diets. The beautiful thing is, the veggies don’t turn brown or spoil. An excellent edition to a ketogenic diet habit.
You Certainly Can’t Have Candy On A Ketogenic Diet.
After all my carb reducing strategies, I ended up with a very pleasant diet, yet after a meal of meat and veggies, I always want something sweet. Going to the store, I looked for a low carb dessert. In the nutrition bar area, I picked up a few Atkin’s low carb bars. Unfortunately, most all of them have a lot of sugar alcohol in them which leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. With this type of bar a small piece goes pretty far.
One of the bars that I picked up was different. It said it was made of Power Foods (almonds, coconut) and it didn’t have sugar alcohol. Instead, it had tapioca pudding fiber and only had four net carbs. This was a surprise. The bar had a great flavor and no aftertaste. While I probably wouldn’t want to eat a complete one after a meal, dividing one into four pieces seems to work well. It gets rid of that nagging sweet tooth after a regular meal. I found a good price on these at WalMart.
Ketogenic Diet Success
With these five different low carb alternatives, you can create a ketogenic diet plan that you can stay on without many compromises. While many ketogenic plans have a very restrictive introductory phase (20 carbs), most have a weight loss phase (40 Carbs plus/minus) and a maintenance phase (60 to 100 depending on weight gain). The secret is to find enjoyable food replacements for items you already eat. By replacing a piece of bread that has thirty carbs with Quiche at four carbs, you not only have something that tastes better but will also aid in weight loss.
Make It An Ongoing Habit
Meal replacement is an excellent way to change a bad habit into a good one. If you find that a low carb weight loss plan works for you, using products like I have listed here will make weight maintenance much easier. Changing a current habit is much easier than creating a new one. If you find you currently consume sugary drinks, this replacement habit strategy may help by not only reducing calories but carbs as well.
My Results So Far
I’ve been doing this plan since the beginning of the year (almost two weeks as I write this) with the goal of weight loss and an improvement in blood chemistry. Currently, I’ve lost seven pounds. I also have lost much of the brain fog I used to experience after eating, and I feel better when working out. The diet took a few days to get used to, but the addition of the five items above really helped out. I’ll post updates as I go along. I highly recommend the book by Gary Taubes. Even if this diet is not for you, it will give you a different perspective on food and weight loss backed up with the latest science. It is an excellent read if you have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
How about you?
Have you tried a low carb diet before? What type of plan? (Atkins, Paleo, Mediterainian) What were your results? Did you experience ketogenic diet success?
Leave your comments below.