Kara's Keto Plates

Fatty Food Blogging

Category: Cerebral (page 1 of 2)

Woo boy, I have been putting off making progress reports. Mostly because I have no progress to report. I’m losing no weight, haven’t lost since February despite counting calories and carbs, hitting my macros and upping my physical activity (significantly). I’m waiting out allergy season, on the off-chance ongoing histamine reactions cause me to carry additional water weight (apparently the nasal steroid I take could up my blood sugar, although I have a hard time believing that would have a significant effect) .  It seems kind of dumb, but I’m hoping once the tree pollen settles in the next couple weeks, I’ll magically experience a huge woosh of weight loss. In the meantime, weight loss is a bust. I’m trying to re-arrange my focus: if weight loss isn’t happening, what should my focus be? Is low-carb a healthy long-term strategy? I believe it may be, but the episode with scurvy has been frightening to me. Are there nutrients I’m just not getting? I’m taking a multi-vitamin now, but a by-it’s-nature deficient diet doesn’t sit well with me. If I’m not losing weight eating 30 g net carb a day, is it healthier for me to go back to losing no weight on my vegan + fish diet where I ate 100 g net carb a day (almost entirely from beans/lentils and fresh fruit)? Do I feel any better on that diet? These are questions with no easy answers for me, and it’s been disheartening to completely stall out on weight loss despite all my best efforts. But then, I’ve been spending time reading up about nutrition and health and specious claims about the damage obesity actually does and I’m starting to wonder whether I’ve spent my entire life hating myself for being fat and thinking my death was imminent when I should have been focusing on how to eat smart and how to keep my body moving in fun ways. I start to feel like this blog is just kind of worthless: I don’t have any advice and I have had limited success on this diet, hell, on every diet that didn’t amount to starving myself on 800 – 1000 calories a day. My original goal was to prove keto could be healthy and full of variety and vegetables but then I got scurvy.

When I was a strict vegan, I remember a furor in the community because people would quit eating entirely vegan for their health and then pretend they were still eating vegan. One blogger talked about it and  it pissed everyone off. But I get it, I mean, I get the pressure to eat and present yourself eating in this idealized, perfect way: in real life and on the internet. I haven’t found the one true path for weight loss or perfect health or perfect ethics. I am starting to doubt I personally ever will. So, how do you choose a path? How do you determine and prioritize your values, your health, your ethics? Which aspects of your health matter most: is weight loss more important than anything else? I’m torn because I watch people succeed and of course I want to succeed, I want to be thin. But at this point, I have worked for 5 years to find a way to be thin and I’m coming up empty.  I weigh what I’ve weighed for most of my adult life, what I weighed in high school. I have never,  ever in my life been thin. At this point, I have undone all the weight I put on for the two years when I was depressed and bingeing. I’m eating as reasonably and exercising as often as I ever have in my life. When I’m not hating my body for holding on to all this weight so well, I actually feel good. I’m stronger, I have big, bulky muscles, I find myself just doing these physical things without even thinking that would have been so impossible for me in the past. I should be proud of the changes I’ve made and all I feel is torn that I can’t be happy because I’m not losing weight. And this blog starts to feel like an albatross around my neck.

Birthday Celebrations and Recipe Testing

Birthdays when I was a kid were awesome because in my family you got to choose what we ate for dinner and dessert and you could choose *anything*. You could go out to eat or order in (which we almost never did normally) and choose to eat anything you wanted. Some people ordered in Chinese food or subs or pizza. I had a particular sandwich restaurant I loved (which is now closed, shame) and we would even order appetizers there (very special to me as a child). The youngest forced us to McDonalds for many, many years. But dessert was always, always homemade, because my mom was an amazing baker. One year she made these sculpted piano cakes (recipe from Jacques Torres, I think) for my birthday, complete with keyboards made of white and dark chocolate and raspberry sauce for drizzling. So, birthdays for me have always been wrapped up into this impossible extravagance that somehow becomes possible, magically, for 24 hours.

All that being said, a birthday is just another day. A magical day but a day. Normally, Michael and I would probably just skip the diet for a day and eat whatever we wanted – but we’ll be traveling soon and we’ve made up our minds not to worry about the diet for that week. So, we decided to stay keto for his birthday last  week. Dinner was Italian Sausage with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms and this breadsticks recipe. The breadsticks turned out pretty good – we cooked them on foil and they stuck mercilessly, but once they cooled for a few minutes, it was easy to pull off the foil and eat the breadsticks. They were surprisingly breadstick-like. I spiced up Contadina canned sauce (3 g net carb per 1/4 cup serving) with a couple fresh garlic cloves, oregano, crushed red pepper to serve on the side. It was a well-received meal.

For dessert, I made this recipe: low carb salted caramel brownie cupcakes. I made the brownie cupcakes a day ahead of time and despite my worry about the recipe (so many eggs! so little almond flour!) the cupcakes turned out great. I used King Arthur super finely ground almond flour (which I recommend for baking recipes) and the grain of the cupcakes was really good for such dense, chocolate-y little beasts. This recipe will make it into my dessert rotation. The salted caramel became an issue though – which I should have figured out before even making it.

I use Erythritol, plain Erythritol as my sweetener. The author uses Swerve. Swerve is mostly Erythritol but they add oligosaccharides (ie, starch, like Maltodextrin) to make it behave more like sugar.  The problem with Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin is that they do spike blood sugar and insulin. Hence, why I choose to use Erythritol (no blood sugar or insulin spike at all) instead of Swerve or Granular Splenda in recipes.

So where does this affect the salted caramel? Plain old Erythritol will not brown (it crystallizes instead). Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin will brown. I put my butter and my erythritol in a saucepan and heated it and heated it. It kept forming a skin (crystallizing), so I couldn’t even tell if it was boiling. After a while, I figured the solution must be hot as hell. I touched it with a fingertip because I am a glutton for punishment. It burned like a bitch. I put my finger under cold water and then found my infrared thermometer. The solution was 259 degrees Fahrenheit. I figured that was as caramel-y as I was going to get and took it off the heat. I still finished the recipe and used the “salted caramel” in the icing but it was kind of a bust. Cupcake recipe good, icing recipe only really works if you’re willing to use a sweetener with a starch (and possibly spike your blood sugar/insulin levels). The cupcake still looked pretty, though:

Brownie Cupcake

And we had a solid keto birthday dinner and dessert for Michael’s birthday. There was also an enormous Pokémon banner and streamers and fun presents. The cat stole and ate so many ribbons, and then barfed them back up for us. All in all, it was a good experience and proof that we can do a birthday right, even on keto.

Moving Again

I figured that I owed an update after my stall entry last week — I’ve started losing again. I’ve now hit the lowest weight I ever hit on Medi-Fast (which, coincidentally, was pretty much my weight upon exiting high school), so it’ll be a long slog (about 20 pounds or so) until I hit my next new low: the lowest weight I have known in my adult life. And after that, I have no idea. My ideal weight is about 60 pounds below that, my personal goal weight is somewhere in the middle but I have no idea what my life will look like or feel like at that point. It’s more than a little terrifying, to be blunt.

I moved off the stall by upping my calories to a 25% caloric deficit, as discussed in the previous progress entry. The good news is that since I have a lot more energy again, I’ve been cleaning and yoga-ing with new fervor. Michael and I also walked a couple miles outdoors last weekend, taking advantage of the unusually nice weather. The additional good news with the energy resurgence is once again having exercise as a tool to deal with the days I feel low, emotionally. Nothing works for malaise/depression/etc like a nice sweat.

So what have I been eating this week? The usual. Leftover egg casserole (which was amazing, froze very well and which I intend to make again and again). Creamed spinach. Baked salmon. Canned tuna. Caesar salad. Atkins shakes. Roast turkey. Steamed broccoli. Lots and lots of roast seaweed, still. My goal for the next week or so? Up the fatty fish to a couple more servings a week (likely by eating canned kippers) and to try to start incorporating tofu or TVP or tempeh in our lives, at least one meal a week. Tempeh is interesting because it’s higher protein than tofu, but I’ve only cooked with it once, to mixed success. And for some reason, it’s really difficult to find tempeh recipes which are also low carb. I’ll have to brainstorm.

I’m also in the midst of planning my gardening for this year. I have a pretty big raised bed and I’m looking at planting eggplant, zucchini, peppers (probably a few types) and plum tomatoes. I’m considering planting cool Fall produce: as well (ie: kale, broccoli) but I’ve never grown those things before. The herbs I’ll likely do in smaller containers: a couple types of basil, oregano and thyme at least. Maybe chives, cilantro, mint.  I haven’t gardened in years (since the first year Michael and I were married) and pretty much the only thing we grew successfully that year were cayenne peppers and basil (and a few Brandywine tomatoes).  But if it all works out, we’ll have plenty of tasty vegetables this Summer, hopefully limiting our grocery store needs.

Stall

I’ve been stalled out for about a month, now. No weight loss, no weight gain. Just sort of sitting at about 230 pounds. It’s a cruddy feeling, and you start picking everything apart. Should I cut calories? Should I work out more? Should I try intermittent fasting or a fat fast?

Truthfully, I believe I started my stall in December, when I said to myself that I wanted to meet a dumb goal by the end of the year. I wanted to weigh less than my lowest weight on Medi-Fast, my lowest weight since college. Essentially, I wanted to lose about three pounds in 10 days. So I cut my calories pretty significantly. And instead of losing weight, I just lost energy. It’s kind of a rookie mistake and I don’t think of myself as a rookie.

I’ve made a lot of changes over the month: I paid a lot more attention to my macros and brought my protein back up to where it should be (I was regularly getting 10-15 g less protein than I need to maintain my current lean mass). I upped my sodium intake since my blood pressure got too damn low (84/52) and I was experiencing pretty severe orthostatic-hypotension (almost passed out one afternoon upon getting up and going to the fridge for a pickle since I felt “low”). I hadn’t been eating as much fatty fish as when I started and got concerned that I might be deficient in iodine so I’ve added seaweed as a daily snack (and it has led to me feeling much more energetic). But none of those worked any magic on the scale.

So, I went over my food logs this weekend, thinking I was missing something huge. The only thing that had changed was that I had cut my calorie intake significantly (500-800 calories below an already generous 25% deficit). In December, when I cut the Atkins junk out, I never really replaced those calories with anything.

I’ve decided to stick to my 25% deficit (which means a generous 1600 calories daily) and hit the protein macro consistently and see what happens over the next month. My blood pressure is back to normal (100/70), my energy is coming back (likely a combination of the increased calories and the iodine) and my hope is that I will see some loss again, hopefully on par with how I was losing before.

That being said, I think it’s pretty normal to stall out every once in a while. I know the set-point theory is pretty much baseless, but I’ve been stuck at this weight before and then basically lost 15 pounds, all of a sudden, in one month. Having sorted out the blood pressure and energy issues, there’s absolutely nothing about this diet that feels unhealthy and it’s easy enough to maintain that even without seeing consistent loss, it doesn’t bother me to stick to it. But maybe that’s my perspective, too. I have absolutely seen this as a lifestyle change, not a quick-fix weight loss solution. And so, a stall is an engineering challenge, but not an invitation to quit and eat a dozen doughnuts.

Grocery Shopping and Meals

I realized, in all the excitement of cooking and posting recipes, that I haven’t really talked about grocery shopping or meal planning. So, I thought I’d post the groceries I got this week, and my planned meals. This is a particularly interesting week because there’s really a lot of variety in what we’re eating and frankly, it feels like a metric butt load of vegetables for two people.

We have our groceries delivered intermittently by GreenBEAN (some weeks we don’t do GreenBEAN and instead I head to our local grocery store). The following are the groceries we got from GreenBEAN on December 18, which should get us through most of the next week.

Groceries, Week beginning December 18:

Avocado (2)
Bell Pepper, Green (1)
Blackberries (1 pint)
Broccoli (2 heads)
Bok Choy (16 oz)
Cabbage, Green (1 head)
Kale, Lacinato (1 bunch)
Kiwi (1)
Limes (3)
Mushrooms, Cremini (16 oz)
Onions, Green (1 bunch)
Orange (1)
Romaine (1 head)
Snow Peas (8 oz)
Tomatoes, Cherry (1 pint)

Astute readers will have noticed that many of these foods are not particularly low carb: tomatoes; snow peas; the orange. But since Michael and I have cut out the Atkins junk we’d been eating, we’re both eating about 20 net carbs a day – which leaves plenty of space to eat half an orange or kiwi; a handful of blackberries or cherry tomatoes; and add the snow peas to a stir fry. The meal plans for the next few days are as follows:

Friday, December 19: Baked kale chips; scrambled eggs; breakfast sausage and cherry tomatoes
Saturday, December 20: Taco salad with romaine; cherry tomatoes; avocado and ground beef. Baked low carb tortillas for crunch.
Sunday, December 21: Pan-fried tofu and stir-fried snow peas, mushrooms, green pepper, broccoli, bok choy with Peanut Sauce. Avocado, lime, and green onions to garnish.
Monday, December 22: Pulled Pork (storebought) with coleslaw
Tuesday, December 23: Leftovers from Sunday (if not already eaten as lunch) or beef stroganoff with mushrooms; steamed broccoli on side

That meal plan uses up all the vegetables we have on hand. The orange, the kiwi, the blackberries? Sweet treats. The extra limes? For use in gin rickeys or gin and tonics. The leftovers we have from dinners are usually eaten the next day for breakfast/lunch. I imagine we may have sufficient leftovers to not have to cook on December 24. If I do have to cook? Frozen salmon and frozen steam-in-bag vegetables to the rescue. And my plan for December 25, as a holiday meal, is a low-carb cheese fondue with steamed and fresh vegetables and salami for dipping (which I will shop for separately, early next week).

Dinner, 3 December

I promised to photograph my meals more often. Here’s a half-eaten photo of the dinner I made last night:

Dinner December 3

Salmon with sour cream
Half of a red bell pepper, sliced
Half of a medium tomato, sliced
Homemade ranch dressing (Michael’s ranch seasoning with a base made from mayonnaise, sour cream and heavy whipping cream)

A lot of folks will tell you that tomatoes and bell peppers are not particularly low carb, and they’re right. But they’re also not especially high in carbohydrate either. In total, the vegetables on this plate added maybe 5 grams of net carbohydrate to my dinner. That’s really not much, especially when you consider what the tomato and bell pepper add, in terms of micronutrients:
a significant amount of potassium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C – all micronutrients which can be difficult to get on a keto diet.

I bring this up only because I see so many people limit themselves to 10 or 15 net grams of carbohydrate a day and then experience health problems because they’re not getting sufficient fiber, or Vitamins C and A. I’ve been actively trying to limit myself to 25 grams or so in the hopes it would accelerate my weight loss (before I was eating about 35 grams – and after a month the lower carb intake honestly hasn’t accelerated the weight loss at all). When I made the decision to limit myself to 25 grams of net carbohydrate, I decided I would do so by cutting back on things like: atkins bars and shakes, low carb tortillas and carbsmart icecream, in favor of incorporating more whole foods in my day: which meant more salads, more raw veggies, more hard boiled eggs, more bacon, more broth. I do believe there’s a place for all the frankenfood and the keto-friendly treats but limiting those is a much smarter (and healthier) way to bring daily net carb counts down than eliminating vegetables like bell peppers or tomatoes. I’m not making the argument that some carbs are better (all carbs are carbs), just arguing that you can use your carbohydrate limit in smarter ways or in ways that may make you physically ill (vitamin deficiencies don’t play around).

Nothing New

I haven’t been posting much here, because I’ve been cooking pretty boring-ly.

For example, this weekend:  chopped Romaine with baked low-carb tortilla strips (slice tortillas, spray oil on cookie sheet, spray additional oil on top of strips and salt, bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for fifteen to twenty minutes); sliced avocado and tofurkey Italian sausage.  I also cheated at making a Caesar dressing last week (used mayonnaise instead of raw eggs and oil) and we had big Caesar salads with Italian sausage on the side (I took the sausage out of its casing and crumbled it into a non-stick pan, then cooked it through). Michael also made the waffle recipe here (minus adding the batter to the frosting, because food safety), we split one waffle – and it was good (the waffles were surprisingly fluffy and dense; the frosting was glorious, and Michael made extra frosting for me).

Last night, we had eggs scrambled with green peppers and cremini mushrooms, topped with nacho cheese sauce, chopped tomatoes and avocado. It was a supremely easy meal. Tonight, I’m making the Italian wedding soup again, since I have a bunch of curly kale to use up.

Truthfully, I haven’t been taking many pictures of my meals, which I intended to do when I started. I will try to get better about that – especially since most of what I’m trying to show is that a low carb diet can include a wide variety of foods and the way I’m cooking is truthfully not all that different from how I cooked when I ate vegan (I actually find myself panicking about cooking a protein, but vegetable “sides” come easy to me).

There’s a few recipes in the pipeline to post: pan-fried tofu and veggies in peanut sauce; Michael’s low-carb baked crab cakes. And I’ll be experimenting with some more baking and possibly candy-making for the holidays.

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