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When it comes to adapting to a healthier lifestyle, that word “diet” inevitably comes up. Some of them really are diets – short-term changes in eating plans to help with quick weight loss. And I’ve done my share of them.
Some of the worst I’ve tried include the Cabbage Soup Diet which consists of eating a vegetable soup three times a day for I-don’t-even-know-how-many days. I think I lasted a two days and I don’t have any memory of any appreciable weight loss. And then there was the 7 day juice cleanse that I won. I had a refrigerator of fresh juices to drink six times per day for a week. I made it through four bottles on day 1 and then caved for some sushi.
But these are the problems with diets – whether short-term weight loss diets or longer term dietary changes to help with health and weight. We are so focused on what we can’t have that we start to obsess over it. When I was eating cabbage soup, even a peanut sounded like a delight.
Back in January, I embarked on a ketogenic lifestyle which in very general terms is a low carb, high fat diet. I read about it a lot before I started and the only negative that I could find was a dietician who was quoted as saying that it’s not a healthy diet because it’s not sustainable. Any time you cut something out of a diet, you just won’t last.
Well, that’s stupid. Of course you can last! As long as you’re not depriving your body of anything it needs.
You might argue that we need carbs. The truth is that we need energy and the easiest way for our bodies to get energy is from carbohydrates. With the ketogenic diet, you condition your body to rely on stored energy in the form of fat. And 15 pounds later, I’m here to tell you that it works.
I’m not going to preach about the diet because I’m not strict about it and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But my friends that look into it focus on the things that they can’t have. And I’m here to tell you as someone that loves food, I’ve found a substitute for nearly everything I might otherwise crave. Maybe some of these suggestions will help you down your path of healthy eating.
Instead of pizza, EAT THIS:
I never realized how much I loved pizza until it became a regular habit. A little too regular according to my waistline. I was absolutely thrilled when I found people talking about this thing called Fat Head Pizza. It’s basically a magical crust made from mozzarella cheese, egg, and almond flour. And most surprisingly? I can decided to have pizza and have it made from scratch and on the table in about 30 minutes.
My favorite recipe: Fat Head Pizza
Instead of bagels, EAT THIS:
I’m not a big bread person. And I like bagels from time to time. But when you tell me I can’t have bagels (which are LOADED in carbs), then, of course, I want one. These definitely don’t taste just like bagels but I baked them, cut them, toasted them, and slathered them in cream cheese and it did the trick.
My favorite recipe: Keto Low Carb Bagels with Fathead Dough
Instead of pasta, EAT THIS:
More commonly known as “zoodles”, zucchini noodles are one of many spiralized vegetables that are used in place of real pasta. The trick to making tasty zoodles is to cover them in salt, let them sit for about 20 minutes to draw the water out of the zucchini, blot the water, and do a quick sauté. It’s not pasta but sometimes you can trick your mind.
My favorite spiralizer: Kitchenaid Spiral Slicer Attachment (it works with your Kitchenaid Stand Mixer!)
Yes, there is real pasta you can eat with doesn’t overload you with carbs. It’s not make from wheat or rice or corn or any other gluten-free substitute. It’s made from the Konjac root and offers ZERO net carbs. I’ve found then in the Asian grocery store and in the organic section of my regular grocery store but you can also buy shirataki noodles on Amazon. I was introduced to this tasty wonder when making Korean japchae during the Winter Olympics!
My favorite recipe: Japchae (Korean Stir-Fried Starch Noodles with Beef and Vegetables)
Note: This recipe calls for Korean potato starch noodles but it’s an easy substitute to use shirataki noodles instead.
Instead of rice, EAT THIS:
I know, I know. Cauliflower rice is NOT the same as rice. It’s not even close to rice. And yes, I miss rice. But cauliflower rice is a nice substitute for things like fried rice, Spanish rice, and as a base for all of the Indian food we eat (so much of it is keto!) as well as Mexican and stir fries. By the way, Birdseye is my favorite brand and, trust me, I’ve tried them all!
My favorite recipe: 15 Minute Cauliflower Fried Rice (I use the frozen variety and skip the step of ricing my own!
Instead of pancakes, EAT THIS:
Wait a minute. These look exactly like real pancakes. I KNOW! With a little almond flour and/or coconut flour, you’d be surprised what you can make. And for these, I actually made a blueberry compote for the topping. Most of the time, we just add a little almond butter or berries to the top.
My favorite recipe: Low Carb Pancakes (we just tried this one last weekend and voted it the very best!)
Instead of cake, EAT THIS:
Is this the best chocolate cake in the world? Nope. But again, if someone tells you that you have to give up chocolate cake forever, this is a mighty fine substitute. This is actually 1/3 of a chocolate mug cake. I make it for my family as an occasional treat (it literally takes 90 seconds in the microwave) and sometimes top it with berries and whipped cream.
My favorite recipe: Keto Chocolate Cake in a Mug
Instead of Chinese food, EAT THIS:
Make-it-yourself Chinese food is one of the easiest ways to eat low-carb. It’s basically meat and vegetables stir fried in some yummy sauce. But anyone that is doing a ketogenic or low-carb diet will have heard of Egg Roll in Bowl, or what some call Crack in a Bowl. It’s basically an egg roll without the crispy skin. It’s not a perfect substitute but it is delicious.
My favorite recipe: Low Carb Pork Egg Roll in a Bowl (Crack Slaw) (you can actually use any ground meat)
Instead of Mexican food, EAT THIS:
Mexican food is full of corn and flour and rice – all no-nos on the keto diet. BUT… this is where keto dominates over paleo. We get to eat dairy! So if we use enough cheese and sour cream and avocado, we won’t even miss those tortillas. I love making the Low Carb Chicken Enchilada Casserole and I usually use store bought enchilada sauce. My favorite sauces (based on nutrition and ingredients) and from Frontera and I’ve made the recipe using both their red chile and green chile sauces. We love them both!
My favorite recipe: Low Carb Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Instead of fast food, EAT THIS:
It happens. You’re stuck traveling or out of the house and you’re STARVING. You don’t want to cave but it would be so easy to just grab some McDonald’s fries. Potatoes aren’t so bad for you, are they?
I can help. There are options for you and most of them come in a bowl. Here are some suggestion.
Chipotle bowls are perfect when you need protein and veggies with flavor. Go ahead and splurge on the sour cream and guacamole.
This delicious bowl came from a Korean chain called Bibibop. You have them build your bowl and I said no to the noodles and rice options and had them create a layer of greens on the bottom. Then I topped it with spicy beef, cabbage, kale, eggs, carrots, and cheese. I didn’t miss a thing!This was another bowl I picked up in a pinch right before I headed into the movies where I knew the temptation to buy popcorn would be huge. So I stuffed myself with Korean chicken and vegetables served over kale and topped with a spicy mayo.
You can do it!
Eating a ketogenic diet or living low-carb life is not a sentence. It’s okay to splurge once in a while. But once you start changing your tastebuds, you’ll realize that you’re not missing out on much. And when you do splurge, your body will wonder why you ever ate those foods in the first place.
Did I miss something you’re craving? Let me know and I’ll do my best to find a substitute for you!