Think the Keto Diet Is Limiting? Think Again!
By Kristi Storoschuk
When you think of the ketogenic diet, the first things that come to mind may be butter, bacon, and excessive amounts of oils. While these are all ketogenic foods, there is so much more to consider when meal planning. The ketogenic diet is restrictive, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.
Think of the ketogenic diet as a chance to get creative in the kitchen. Recently, we have seen cauliflower transformed into pizza crust, rice, and even “mashed potatoes.” Zucchini can turn into pasta.
One of the biggest mistakes people make on the ketogenic diet, besides not including enough fat, is neglecting vegetables. Not only do they supply us with important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and soluble fiber, they can also spruce up a meal such as the cauliflower and zucchini examples above.
Why is fiber so important for a ketogenic diet?
In the colon, soluble fiber is fermented by gut microbes into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as butyrate. This SCFA not only contributes to a healthy gut microbiota, but can actually stimulate ketone production.1 Fiber is also very important to consume with protein, especially lean proteins, because it can slow the digestion of protein, which is good for ketosis. A big spike in amino acids can cause a small release of insulin, which can halt ketogenesis (i.e. kick you out of ketosis). So eat your veggies!
Examples of meals and side dishes that are either already ketogenic or can be made ketogenic:
|Ratatouille||Already low-carb; make keto by adding extra sources of fats in the form of oils|
|Curry||Use full-fat coconut milk and low-carb vegetables†|
|Pasta (with meatballs, Bolognese, alfredo, carbonara, cheese sauce, etc.)||Zucchini noodles, konjac noodles, palmini|
|Chicken pot pie||Made without the crust and substitute starchy vegetables with low-carb vegetables†|
|Chicken fingers||Breaded with almond (or any nut) flour or coconut flour|
|Stuffed peppers or mushrooms||Use any ground meats, spices, and cheese (omit for dairy-free)|
|Mashed potatoes||Mash steamed cauliflower with butter or butter substitute|
|Rice||Pulse raw cauliflower until rice consistency, heat on stove top in oil until lightly cooked, serve as you would rice|
|Pizza||Cauliflower-based or almond flour pizza crust|
|Chili||Use any chili recipe, remove the beans and starchy vegetables, and sub low-carb vegetables†|
|Pancakes & waffles||Use almond (or any nut) flour or coconut flour instead of all-purpose flour and low-carb sweetener instead of sugar|
|Chicken wings||Baked, not deep-fried|
|Taco meat||Already keto; serve in a deconstructed taco bowl with low-carb vegetables† and full-fat sour cream|
|Broccoli cheese soup||Already keto|
For each of these dishes, include healthy oils like extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, butter/ghee, and avocado oil.
†Low-carb vegetable examples:
|Cabbage||Eggplant||Lettuce and leafy greens (arugula, beet, collard, dandelion, endive, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, Romaine, watercress)|
Spice up your life
Utilizing herbs and spices can be a game-changer. They can transform a boring meal into something worth bragging about.
Stock your pantry with:
|Herbs (fresh or dried)||Spices (fresh or dried)|
|– Dill||– Chili|
|– Basil||– Cardamom|
|– Chives||– Cinnamon|
|– Cilantro||– Coriander|
|– Parsley||– Caraway|
|– Mint||– Cumin|
|– Marjoram||– Garlic|
|– Oregano||– Onion|
|– Rosemary||– Paprika|
|– Sage||– Cayenne|
|– Bay leaves||– Ginger|
|– Thyme||– Turmeric|
Use these herbs and spices to season meat, vegetables (roasted, steamed, sautéed), and in dips and dressings.
You don’t have to give up your favorite meals on a ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet is not devoid of flavor and variety; it is just a matter of knowing what ingredients to swap in. Here are some examples of keto ingredients to replace their carbohydrate counterparts:
- Frozen vegetables for a smoothie: This may seem odd, but don’t knock it ’til you try it—frozen cauliflower and/or zucchini. Both of these add a creamy consistency to a smoothie, just as a frozen banana does!
- Hint: Steam your cauliflower and zucchini first, lay it out on a baking sheet, stick it in the freezer overnight, and then transfer to a freezer bag or container. This way the pieces won’t stick together and have you bringing out the hammer when you want to make a smoothie.
- Sweeteners: Stevia, xylitol, erythritol, and monk fruit are all acceptable sweeteners on the ketogenic diet. Use these in place of any form of sweetener called for in a recipe. Try to avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose.
- Flours: Low-carb flour options are nut flours such as almond, pecan, or hazelnut flours. Coconut flour is also a great substitute. The conversion from all-purpose flour to nut flour is roughly 1 ½ cups of nut flour for every ¾ cup all-purpose flour. Coconut flour is much more absorbent and only requires 1/3 cup to every 1 cup of all-purpose flour, in addition to 1 extra egg and possibly extra liquid.
Easy Keto Mug Cake Recipe
Makes 1 Serving
- 2 Tbsp. almond flour
- 1.5 Tbsp. coconut flour
- 1 egg
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ cup nut milk (or dairy milk)
- 1 Tbsp. nut butter (e.g. almond butter)
- 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil, MCT oil, or butter
- 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Sweetener to taste (e.g. stevia, monk fruit, erythritol)
- Mix all dry ingredients together, then add wet ingredients, combine well.
- Heat in the microwave for ~2.5 minutes until cooked fully (if a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, it’s ready!). Alternatively, you can bake in the oven in a small baking dish at 350° F for 15-20 minutes depending on the depth of your baking dish.
- Ice cream: Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, an expert in ketogenic science, has shared his keto ice-cream recipe across multiple platforms. It calls for 1-2 cups of full-fat coconut cream or sour cream (or a combination of both), 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of stevia. He mixes this together and sticks it in the freezer until it turns into an ice-cream-like consistency.
- Cavaleri F et al. Potential synergies of β-hydroxybutyrate and butyrate on the modulation of metabolism, inflammation, cognition, and general health. J Nutr Metab. 2018;2018:7195760.