Recipes

Keto: Come for the Bacon, Stay for More Bacon

As I talked about in my bullet-proof coffee post, there are some Holy Grails of the Ketogenic lifestyle. These are foods and drinks that everyone on keto is crazy about. For today, I am going to talk about one of my favorites: bacon.

IMG_1209

Bacon is amazing. It makes so many things better. Bacon can be paired with all sorts of meats and veggies. Bacon is also delectable all by itself. Bacon is even used in some desserts. You can (and should) save the bacon fat to make other things better. I am in danger of drooling on my keyboard right now.

One of the reasons bacon is so popular in the keto community is not only because it is delicious, but because it is high in saturated fat. Bacon’s content is about 50/50 on fat and protein, so it is a good way to get more fat in the diet.

Bacon is easy to find, but keto-friendly versions can be trickier.  Pretty much all bacon is going to have sugar as an ingredient because that is part of the curing process, but do not freak out. It is still keto. Just look at the nutrition information to make sure that it has lists <1g and it should not kick you out of ketosis. Also, avoid ones that are Maple-flavored. They will have sugar added that sticks around after curing. Also, look for dextrose as an ingredient. It’s a more chemical-ee type of sugar, so avoid that if you can.

What I like to do is go to the butcher counter instead of getting prepackaged for my bacon. It is usually so much better than the prepackaged stuff. I am a classic introvert, so if I am willing to ask a person for bacon instead of grabbing a package that requires no human interaction, then you KNOW fresh from the butcher’s counter has got to be worth it.

My first choice in bacon, the Cadillac of bacon if you will, is from a little butcher shop called Falatic Meat Market in Sawyer, Michigan.  It is the definition of “a hole in the wall” type place, but their bacon is to die for. I have a friend who owns a nearby vacation cottage and when I go with her I get five pounds of bacon at a time. She goes up to get the cottage ready for guests and brings back bacon for various people because it is worth the trouble.  I am afraid to try anything else from Falatics because one addiction is enough. I know that this may not seem too helpful, but if you find yourself anywhere near Chicago then you might want to make the hour drive over to Sawyer. You will not be sorry, unless you count the sorry you will feel when you run out of bacon.

A respectable second in bacon hall of fame is from Fresh Thyme Market. This is a bit more accessible since it is a chain that is expanding throughout the Midwest. I like their applewood smoked bacon and thick-cut bacon from their butcher counter.

My favorite way to prepare bacon is to bake it. There are three reasons I prefer baking bacon.

    1. The bacon does not shrivel up to a quarter of its original size. I am not saying

      you don’t lose some volume, but it does not shrink as much and it does not turn into an impossible to manage curly-q that makes you wonder if bacon comes from the pig’s tail.

    2. No death by splattering. Bacon does not always go into that good night peacefully.  IMG_1219Some times it likes to spit white-hot oil at you as it cooks. Baking leaves you protected from splatters on your skin. Bonus: it also cannot splatter on your clothes, then everyone is hovering around you asking if you’ve got bacon because you smell from being sprayed with grease.
    3. Bacon grease. Nuff said. When you bake bacon, you are left with a treasure trove of bacon grease. This versatile and delicious fat can be added to all sorts of dishes to to give it that extra kick of bliss.

 

Baking bacon is super simple.

I take a baking pan and line the bacon in a single layer. The important part is that it has sides. No cookie sheets! I am not positive, but I think that would result in a waterfall of flaming fat in your oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once heated, bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes orIMG_1217 to desired crispness. I like my bacon chewy. I refer to it as floppy bacon because I have a way with words. You will want to go for longer if you want crispier.

Once your remove your bacon (to your mouth or storage container, depending on your level of self-control), pour the bacon grease through a fine wire mesh sieve into a container for storage. I put mine in the fridge with a lid on it because I have pets that cannot be trusted, but I have heard of lots of people who store theirs by the stove. Pouring it through the mesh should remove any solid meat bits that could spoil.

Enough talking. I need to go get me some bacon!

Advertisements
Diets

First Day of the Project

Like I mentioned in my last post, I am using a program called The Fat Burning Female Project (FBFP.) I do not want to blow up Shawn Mynar’s income by giving away her trade secrets, so I will not go into too many details on how the program works.

The FBFP is a six week program where a cohort is eased into ketosis so we can learn to listen to our bodies, discover our carb tolerance, and do it all as a supportive community through a Facebook page and occasional group chat.

The FBFP starts off with one of my dieting weaknesses: tracking. I have never been good at keeping up with tracking food. I like variety and I make some strange specialty dishes, so I feel like figuring out points or macros or whatever the tracking system of the day calls for takes longer than eating the food. The FBFP uses a proprietary tracking system that is much easier than others I have tried and Shawn does not want us to get obsessive, so she encourages guesstimating. Guesstimating is something I can get behind.

The best part of of her tracking system is IT ENDS. We will only track the first four weeks and then we are expected to have an idea what we are doing. I hope I can do a better job tracking if there is an end in sight. During a former dieting attempt, I got the My Fitness Pal app and I have friends on it. The app will send me notifications to congratulate my friends for doing their food diary for hundreds of days in row.

No thank you. I am trying to break my addiction to food, obsessing over it like this seems counterintuitive to me.

The FBFP and successful tracking in general also depends on my other dieting weakness: meal planning. I am terrible at planning my meals. I have staples for breakfast and lunches I often take to work, but dinner is a free for all based on what is in the fridge and what I have enough time/energy to cook. IMG_0042Too often I decide take-out is all I have the time/energy for.  At the end of the day I am in no mood to cook. Sometimes I plan ahead, but I inevitably have forgotten an ingredient or I have waited so long to get around to making my planned meal that an ingredient has gone bad. I could probably pay off my mortgage, student loans, and sponsor a small village in India if I had back all the money I have wasted on food I have let go bad.

So for my first day of tracking in true me fashion, I waited until the end of the day.  Luckily, I was fairly spot on except for carbs. Pleasantly, my problem was too few carbs instead of too many. That meant I got to find a snack to close the gap. I have never been a big snacker, but I did have a bag of freeze-dried blueberries in the house. I might have to get more carbs in the house for the first few weeks as we wind down our carbs. That was a unexpected surprise.

The third thing we jump off with is taking supplements. Guess what! Remembering to take supplements is another weakness of mine.  Part of what attracted me to keto is its emphasis on real food. I have never been one to turn to medication when I am sick if I can help it. Keto is to help me avoid the health issues that will require me to carry around a shoebox full of daily medications like my grandma did. I do a pretty good job with morning and lunch supplements during the week. Dinner and weekends are when I lose track.

So here I am at the end of day one and we are starting out with all the hard stuff for me. I guess I can be happy we are getting all the hardest parts out of the way right off the bat. The other theme seems to be I have breakfast and lunch down, but dinner needs work. I am two-thirds of the way there!

This is the hardest part, right? Right?

Wait, there are needles coming. I forgot about the needles part.

Oh no.

Diets

Why Keto?

By now we have all heard about the report where Keto was ranked last in safe diets by doctors, so why is someone like me choosing it? I am highly educated, my day job includes not just knowing how to research, but also knowing how to recognize reliable information. Heck, one of my siblings is even a Registered Dietician! So why is this the conclusion I have come to?

Like most things, it is complicated.

I have had some temporary success with more traditional diets. In college, I put my twenty-year old metabolism to work and took up running. After a few of months of working my way up to running a half hour four days a week and eating a low fat diet, I finally lost around forty-five pounds over the course of a year. Then, winter came and I stopped running and the pounds came back and they brought friends.  I took up running again at 22yo, and this time nothing budged. My fat can only be fooled once by a diet.

In my mid-twenties, I tried Weight Watchers and worked out religiously.  That time, I lost about twenty-five pounds. I stopped Weight Watchers (I am terrible at tracking and counting calories), but kept up my workout routine. Then I got a new job that proved to be very stressful and time-consuming, so I started eating out more and the weight crept back on. A trainer at my gym suggested I was gaining because I was working out too much (45min-hr/5 times a week), so I scaled back and quickly fell back out of the working out habit, too.

(Sorry any guys.) Then in my late thirties, my period started coming with massive cramps the likes of which I had not seen since I was in high school. I had always had some, but these were bad enough for me to leave work sick so I got an IUD. The first few months of the IUD, my hormones were insane. I wanted to eat everything. My cravings were as intense as a pregnant woman’s. All I wanted was sugar and fat. At one point I had the thought that a stick of butter rolled in sugar would really hit the spot (this was one of the few cravings I did not follow through on btw.) By the time my hormones settled, I had gained forty pounds to reach my highest weight ever.

I tried Weight Watchers again. Nothing. My wallet was the only thing that lost weight.

I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. Weight did not budge. The fact that my trainer was also a server at The Cheesecake Factory seemed the perfect metaphor for my lack of progress.

I went hard core and joined a CrossFit gym. My weight still was not moving, but at least I was seeing progress in my strength. Then two years ago, the CrossFit gym had a competition.  They like to do the occasional nutrition challenge and this one was a 30 day sugar detox to see who could lose the most weight in one month by cutting all added sugar out of their diet. The rules were no added sugar, only one serving of fruit per day, and we had a Facebook group to record our meals. In thirty days I lost twenty pounds, but sugar is addictive and this junkie reverted to her old habits.

But something was different this time. I did not gain back the weight. I got more consistent in my workouts and did not lose any more weight. This confirmed for me that exercise alone does not help weight loss. I have summers off and the lack of a schedule got me out of my gym schedule and I still did not gain any weight back. More proof that this was more complicated than Calories In, Calories Out.

Once I was back on a schedule, I got better about going to the gym consistently, but the lack of movement on the scale was wearing on me. Also, my blood pressure and blood sugar were still borderline high and I was still pre-diabetic.  So about a year ago I decided the obvious solution was no sugar again.

Screech…..

Nope. My body will only fall for a diet once, so I needed to take things to the next level.

I had heard of the ketogenic diet very briefly in relation to treating epilepsy.  I think that is the big reason I have never bought the whole “keto is dangerous” narrative. Then Joe Rogan started talking about it on his podcast (I swear I do not base all my life choices on Joe Rogan, it is just a coincidence he has came up two posts in a row.) What he was saying made sense to me, so I started poking around the internet. From there I found The Ketovangelist Podcast with Brian Williamson and started listening to him which led to Jimmy Moore’s Podcast Keto Talk. Brian added the Ketovangelist Kitchen segment to his show, which turned into its own show with Carrie Brown. Jimmy had Shawn Mynar as a guest, so I added The Keto for Women Show to my podcast rotation.

Let’s just say, I was researching this to death to avoid the truth that it was time to give up sugar and grains for good. I had already reached the conclusion on my own that weight gain was more complicated than the “a calorie is a calorie” model, so the hormone (namely insulin) explanation made a lot of sense to me. My family history makes me a hormonal time-bomb. Both my grandmothers were diabetic, both my grandfathers died of heart disease, my dad is diabetic and had two heart attacks before the age of sixty, and my grandma and one sister have hypothyroidism. The more I listened to and read about ketosis, the more I was convinced my weight was a symptom, not the disease. I had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, my cholesterol ratio was troublesome, and prediabetes.

But still, I wavered because my addiction to sugar is strong. I decided the best course of action for me was to join Shawn Mynar’s Fat Burning Female Project. What I liked was for one it is geared toward women.

History lesson: years ago, a drug was approved in the UK that ended up causing devastating birth defects. In the aftermath to try to prevent this from ever happening again, drug trials were made as homogeneous as possible. This meant that many drugs were only tested on men, because a woman’s monthly cycle meant more variables to account for in studies. Recently, scientists discovered how dangerous this could be based on how many women reacted to a sleep drug because the dosing sizes were based on only men, so women were sleep walking or even sleep driving! So drug trials are starting to get a bit more diverse, but still a lot of tests, protocols, medications, and recommendations are based on how men’s bodies react. Since I have deduced my problem is hormonal, it does not make sense to base my solution on what works for a man. If there is one way everyone can agree men and women are different, it is our hormones.

So Monday, I will join the new round of the Fat Burning Female Project. Besides being based on women’s bodies, I also like that it has a simplified and more importantly, temporary tracking system that is used to make us intuitive eaters instead of requiring me to keep a lifelong list of my macros. Several tries with Weight Watchers taught me tracking food is not my forte. I also like that we are eased into ketosis (no or mild keto flu) and that Shawn’s focus is healing the hormones. Heal the hormones and the symptoms will disappear.

The last reason I am choosing keto is that I have been doing keto-lite and even that has been helping. I have not seen weight loss (which is a hard metric of health to let go of because you can see it on the scale and feel your clothes fitting differently), but I have seen other improvements already. My blood pressure has normalized even under the new stricter guidelines, my cholesterol ratio is spot on, and my resting blood sugar is dropping. None of these metrics healed when I tried low fat/exercise. As a matter of fact, that is when some started. How is the lifestyle that has started to show real healing the unhealthy option?

There is progress, but not visual progress. That is why I am doing this blog, to keep me on track so I can be patient while my body heals from decades of hormonal hijinks.

I can do this.

I have to do this.

 

 

Recipes, Uncategorized

Holy Grails of Keto

As I have researched and lurked in so many keto groups, I have picked up on some keto holy grails. Foods and beverages that everyone loves and newbies panic about if they do not like or allergic to any one of the ingredients involved. So, let us just start off by unequivocally stating: THERE IS NOT A SINGLE KETOGENIC-FRIENDLY FOOD OR DRINK THAT IS REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE KETOSIS. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EAT ANY CERTAIN FOOD TO BE KETOGENIC. There just so happens to be some that lots of people find work great and are prime sources of healthy fats.

OK? Are we good? No one is going to panic if they do not like coffee, are dairy intolerant, do not eat pork, or do not have a Trader Joe’s in their tri-state area? Great! Then let’s go over one of the staples: bullet-proof coffee.

IMG_0040

Bullet-proof coffee is usually abbreviated to BPC. (Another keto love is acronyms. They are all over the place on blogs and podcasts, so start your keto-dictionary now.) The really basic definition of BPC is that it is a coffee with (usually more than one source of) fat blended in and no sugar.  One thing you will learn about me is I love podcasts, so I first heard about bullet-proof coffee years ago on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. (Yes, the introverted middle-aged librarian lady listens to Joe Rogan. I am a very complex person with a rich inner-life.) The idea then was pairing fat with caffeine made for a slow energy burn instead of being hit all at once with all the caffeine.

I started drinking coffee in my twenties when I had a part time 2nd job doing deliveries from 7pm-7am on the weekends. Since my weekday schedule was a more standard 7am-4pm job, caffeine became a matter of life or death for me, so I learned to love coffee and of course I learned on sugar laden lattes made “healthy” with skim milk.

I was not grossed out by Joe’s descriptions of BPC with butter and later MCT oil added in, I just did not see the point until years later.

Fast-forward to now and I am a BPC convert. It is my favorite thing on this diet. It is delicious, hot, and endlessly customizable. One of the posts I see on the keto-centered Facebook groups I follow is some form of “What’s your recipe for BPC? Go!” Seriously, I am in just three groups and that post is on my feed daily. So, my first recipe post will be my version of BPC.

Beginning my keto journey, I had a few versions of BPC until I settled on this one:

I use a blender that was made for smoothies, so I put everything in the cup, screw on the blades, mix it up, and throw on a lid.

In the cup,

  • 1 tablespoon of Kerrygold butter
  • 1 tablespoon of MCT oil
  • about 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups of coffee

Blend for a few seconds and enjoy!

All of these measurements are approximations. The only thing I measure is the MCT oil. Helpful hint: MCT oil is something you ease into. Start out with a teaspoon or half a tablespoon and work your way up to one or even two tablespoons. Take your time, unless you enjoy diarrhea.

That BPC was heaven and I did not even miss Starbucks, but all was not well in Who-ville so I had to make some modifications.

One of the things I began to suspect about my body is that dairy and I do not mix. I am not at a lactose-intolerant level where I am unpleasant to be around in a small areas after I have ingested dairy. No, I have just noticed that it is suspect numero uno for stalling my weight loss, so I had to come up with a new dairy-free BPC.

  • 1 tablespoon of 4th & Heart Himalayan Salted Ghee
  • 1 tablespoon of MCT oil
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • small squirt of Sweet Drops (liquid Stevia, salted caramel is my fav)
  • 2 cups of coffee

Ghee is a clarified butter. The clarification part removes whatever it is that makes ghee difficult for people whose bodies cannot handle dairy. I sometimes sub in Vanilla Bean Ghee, but it took some getting used to. At first I thought it tasted like I was drinking a candle, but ghee is too expensive to waste so I powered through and now I am used to it when Himalayan Salted is not available.

Sweet drops is one of the few generally “keto-approved” sweeteners because it is liquid stevia. That means it comes from a natural plant source and does not cause insulin spikes. (Guess what! Acceptable sweeteners, if any, are a hotly contested subject in the keto world.) My deal is many artificial sweeteners have an aftertaste or give me a headache. I think the sugar-free syrups that Starbucks uses have a horrible aftertaste, so the money I have saved not going there has gone toward my ghee fund.

I have also subbed in extracts for the Sweet Drops and various other nut milks (that phrase makes me giggle). Just read labels and find the concoction that works best for you and the ingredients available in your area. They are not always easy to find, and often they are not cheap once you do, but chronic illness and Starbucks aren’t all that cost-effective either.

IMG_0039So, do not panic if you are not a coffee drinker. BPC is just popular because coffee is popular and this will get you a lot of fat and caffeine to start your day.

And what a great way to start the day!

 

Uncategorized

New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s resolutions: a new year, new me? An exercise in futility? We will see.

Based on this blog, you have probably figured out that my resolution this year is to go keto.  I am not entirely new to the low carb lifestyle, but I have had problems staying on the wagon. As a matter of fact, I like to say I don’t just fall off the wagon; I dive under the wheels. My sweet tooth is out of control and every time I need to reset after a “fall” I do this fun thing of binging for the “last time” on all my favorite foods like pizza, ice cream, and pasta. It is a self-destructive habit that I need to break for good before I damage my health beyond repair. Based on the hours of podcasts I have listened to, documentaries I have watched, and books and blogs I have read; keto sounds like the logical way to go. I have had decades of low fat not working. The 80-ish pounds I have to lose, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and low energy are testament to that.  Maybe you are thinking, “Hey, maybe you just need to exercise more?” Granted, I will concede you that my exercise regime needs work, but when I have exercised religiously and followed a low fat diet I have not lost weight. It is not as simple as calories in, calories out.  Some say keto is too hard to do forever and I am proof that it can be hard to stick to, but being diabetic looks a hellva lot harder to me and with keto I still get bacon.

So here’s a little of my background: I am a middle aged woman who lives in a large for the Midwest city. I grew up near a small town with literally a corn/soybean field on all four sides of our house. All to say that I am not in a keto-friendly area. Corn, soy, and gluten are everywhere and it is hard to escape. That has been my biggest challenge with sticking to keto. This is for sure a mono-crop kingdom that has embraced the SAD (Standard American Diet) wholeheartedly and the false narrative of fat makes you fat has not lost any believers.

As this blog goes along, I plan on sharing what I have learned, what I am struggling with, simple recipes that I know work, weird and wonderful keto-friendly products I have found, and other ketogenic gems. This is all to help me keep accountable to myself for my health and maybe I can drag a few others along with me or we can catch each other before we fall of the wagon.

That is a very short preview of where I am coming from and where I want to go. I hope you will come along for the ride. Please like and share this blog so we can spread the word about how keto can help and heal.

Happy New Years and here’s to health!