The keto diet two ways: 1) easy, simple and cheap or 2) processed, packaged and expensive

Veggie market

I love grocery shopping on the ketogenic diet. It is so simple and fast.

I stick to the rim of the store. If I am in a rush I might pick up a small piece of organic chicken or beef for my husband and me from the butcher counter and make sure they wrap it in paper. These days, however, I generally skip the grocery meat section. We now buy most meat products at a neighborhood butcher who has grass-fed, local selections and who doesn’t use the ubiquitous Styrofoam trays and cling wrap. I can’t stand plastic and I want to do my bit to support local farmers doing holistic husbandry.

Next stop may be the fish counter for a piece of wild west coast salmon or farmed trout. I might stock up on smoked lox, too.

Then it’s the dairy section for butter, cream cheese, whipping cream, aged cheddar and mozzarella.

We have backyard chickens now, so I no longer need any eggs — but in my first few years of ketogenic eating we’d go through almost two dozen free-range eggs a week.

I skip the enormous sections of fat-reduced milk, flavoured yogurt and juice and go right on to the produce section. No more need for potatoes, yams, oranges, apples, bananas and other fruit which used to fill my cart. I now stock up instead on avocadoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, scallions, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. I get most of my salad greens and herbs from my own backyard veggie garden — I specialize in kale! — but if my own varieties are low, I’ll top up with something green and leafy.

Then it is on to the deli section for olives and parmesan cheese and maybe, if I am feeling extravagant, some prosciutto, liver paté and a few pungent European cheeses.
Last stop is bulk foods for almonds and pecans. And then I am done!

So simple, so fast, and actually pretty inexpensive if I don’t splurge on pricy cheeses or venture into any of the processed food aisles.

Real-food keto

Of course, every-so-often I need to top up on good quality coffee, olive oil, coconut oil, almond flour, chia seeds, sesame seeds and other staples of ketogenic baking, but that is less than once a month and usually done at a chain bulk food store. In the early keto years, I used to constantly bake replacement keto bread products, from the Diet Doctor recipes, but now, three years into keto eating, my need for something bread-like has greatly diminished, too.

Making meals is equally easy. I skip breakfast almost every day now, but if I do have something it is usually one of my own backyard eggs fried in butter with a slice of tomato and a sprig of greens. Fresh, fast and tasty.

Lunch is often leftovers from the night before. Dinner used to be, often, one of the fantastic casseroles from Diet Doctor (yum crack slaw!) These days it is just as apt to be a simple, small piece of grilled or baked meat, poultry or fish with a tasty fat adornment — chive butter, cream sauce, homemade aioli — some roasted or steamed veggies (also with fat) and a big salad with homemade vinaigrette. Some nights it might be spiralized zucchini with meatballs and a homemade tomato sauce.

Dessert, if we have it, will be a few frozen blackberries (I have a big berry patch, too) with some whipping cream. Just as often now we have no dessert at all. No need.

I remember, in the pre-keto days, I would be so ravenous when I came home from work and was getting food on the table for the family that I thought I would faint. It almost felt like a form of barely controlled panic. (Keep it together, mom!) I’d be shoving down crackers and cheese just to make it to serving out the dinner.

Now it is feels relaxed and unstressed. I am never hungry between meals and I no longer feel any need to snack during the day. Food prep occurs without frenzy. My portion sizes are smaller; I never need seconds. There are always leftovers. My husband, too, loves the simplicity. We waste less food, too. Food packaging is almost non-existent.

In all, it is simple, fast, and almost effortless. Combined with the impact on my weight (down 17 lbs [8 kg] with no effort to keep it there) blood sugar (no longer pre-diabetic) and health (feeling fantastic) it makes the keto diet so easy to sustain over the long term. That general simplicity now is the thing I love best about this way of life.

Do we really need keto products?

That is why it always surprises me, on various ketogenic Facebook forums, all the posts by others about new keto products, pills, powders, supplements, zero-calories sweeteners, and no end of commercially-made replacement breads, chips, crackers, protein bars, cookies, ice cream, fat bombs and more.

I don’t want to sound — or be — judgemental or sanctimonious. I know that each person’s keto journey is their own to travel. We all have to figure out which way of keto or low carb eating makes us feel our best, what gives us the best health and weight results, what makes this big change to one’s old way of eating the easiest to navigate and sustain. Those choices do have align, of course, with one’s values, needs, taste buds, desires — and pocket book.

There is nothing more irritating, I know, in what is supposed to be a supportive group when someone is telling you that you are not doing LCHF or keto “right” and that they know so much better what to do and how to do it. Alas, no one likes a know-it-all. I don’t want to be that person.

But I have to restrain myself from piping up and being that person (and sometimes alas, I fear that I cross a line in pointing out how unnecessary these keto products are.)

I am a member of about 10 different Facebook ketogenic or LCHF groups. I’ve joined because I like to see what people are posting, what questions they are asking, what aspects of the diet they are rocking and what parts they find hard to do. It gives me ideas for research and columns to write.

I really do want to be supportive and encouraging of people’s struggles and triumphs. It does truly befuddle me, however, when people post pictures of some new unnecessary (at least to me) keto product, especially something that is a replacement for the high-carb food that was making us sick and fat for years.

I just don’t understand why people still need it. I am so elated to be free from its hold! They will say, “Look what I found!” They’ll show a label that says “LOW CARB” or “KETO.” It often has a list of ingredients that is as long as one’s arm. Or it is a low-carb version of some high-carb treat, like candies, syrups, sweets or desserts. Artificial sweeteners abound. High-priced supplements, MCT oils and exogenous ketones are common.

“Where did you get it?” others will post, excitedly. The answer is usually Costco, Walmart, the high-end health food store, or some online portal. “Wonderful! I’m going to get some tomorrow” others will say, honestly and authentically enthused.

I guess these products may indeed help some on their journey to keto success. They are certainly helping some keto entrepreneurs on their journey to financial success. I’ll admit, I even thought at one time that I, too, would try to cash in and bring keto replacement bread products and cauliflower pizza crusts to market — picture them in freezer cases across North America! (No doubt someone is already doing this.) I did buy up a bunch of creative keto domain names just in case.

That urge of mine, however, to make low carb replacements for high carb food items has now passed. I realize I don’t need it or want it. It doesn’t align, anymore, with my values, needs, and desires.

I realize I truly revel in the freeing simplicity of minimal packaging, of food with no labels and no list of ingredients. I love the feeling of supporting local hard working farmers by consciously choosing to buy their produce.

Nothing makes me happier than to collect eggs and vegetables from my own urban back yard. I know I am very fortunate to even have such an opportunity. Not all can, of course. I am grateful for the ability to taste the hint of sweetness in kale from my garden that has come through a winter frost. I never knew such sweetness existed, back when my taste buds where obliterated by sugar and artificial sweeteners.

I am honestly no longer interested in any food or supplements, keto or not, that come packaged off a product line in an industrial plant somewhere.

I likely won’t share this post to the keto Facebook groups I belong to. I don’t want to imply that I am critical about other’s postings that happen there. Their journey, their needs.

For me, however, simple easy keto, with real food as close to nature as possible, is the most freeing, easy and joyful part of this way of life.


Anne Mullens

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79 Comments

Top Comments

  1. Adam
    I’m torn by this post. Actually, no, I’m not. You claim that you don’t want to sound sanctimonious or judgemental, yet the overall tone of your post (or at least how I interpret it) is “look at me, I’m so great! I grow my own LCHF-friendly fruit and vegetables in my very own garden and you should too, you consumerist, corperate-slave to the system!”. Whilst I support the ethos of your intentions, I question their validity in the real-world. I would never, ever have the time to grow crops in my back-yard. I live in Cardiff; please feel free to visit my city and experience my day-to-day life before you judge me for not priortisting buying organic, grass-fed chicken over the readily-available, low-carb supermarket alternatives. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a snooty, judgemental or class-oriented post on this site. I’m off to buy any old LCHF meat I can find in my local Tesco; it’s cheap, it’s low-carb, it’s within my budget and it’ll p*ss you off! I wish my life was a perfect as yours!
    Read more →
  2. Lucy
    You took it the wrong way. After a year on Keto I agree with the points being made. There are a lot of unnecessary products on the market and a lot of people are capitalizing on the emotional uninformed decisions of people who just want to be healthy.
    Reply: #34
    Read more →
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All Comments

  1. Jen
    Thank you : )
  2. Cassandra
    Well done Anne, I totally related to your article, I also cannot see the point in all these commercial Keto/LC doughnuts, bread, desserts, so simple to eat fresh veg, cheese, meat etc. I too grow most of my vegies, work full time, leave home in the dark, get home in the dark. I love the simplicity and freshness of eating Keto. I loved your article - thank you
  3. Kandace
    Vancouver - that actually explains *quite alot* of how the post was written and how it was received. I live outside of Seattle and ... wow, you really just won't find too much more elitist and snooty with the best intentions in the world as you will in Vancouver. I agree 100% with the basics of her original post but yeah - SO BC!
  4. Gavin
    You are judgemental and sanctimonious. This is exactly the kind of content that keeps making me want to quit coming to this site. There's just too much of it.
  5. Catherine
    Thanks Anne. Interesting reactions to your article! I have been LCHF now for about a year (so early days!) and my tastes have changed. I think you are right that we learn and go through phases as our bodies (and minds?) adapt. My personal experience has been that eating fewer breakfasts, taking lunch as leftovers rather than purchasing (even something cheap), and shopping for non-processed food has SO decreased my food bill overall that I have been able to choose to increase quality and the variety of proteins and vegetables I buy. I am a full-time student on a very fixed/low income, living in an apartment. I could relate to your writing regardless! I'd love to have chickens. They are so cool!!
  6. 1 comment removed
  7. Keith
    Love the article Anne. It's a shame it was met with such scorn. People need to lighten up a bit. I'm probably an elitist or some other negative quip just for thinking that.
  8. Amanda
    Thanks for this, a good reminder to keep things simple.
  9. Squeaker
    Karen, I have done Keto cow-dairy free for 1 1/2 years. I recommend you try goat and sheep cheeses - they have very small amounts of lactose. Soft goat cheese can replace sour cream. I have severe lactose intolerance and can eat a couple of ounces around 3 days a week without much, if any, discomfort. That takes care of the cheese items in recipes. I use full fat unsweetened coconut milk as a substitute for cream and a combination of the coconut milk and unsweetened almond milk as milk. Unrefined virgin coconut oil is a life saver - I use it for everything - definitely every recipe which calls for butter. If you look at recipes on line these ingredients usually make it possible to convert almost any recipe to dairy free. Using coconut oil for fat bombs works great - you can put it with coconut, unsweetened cocoa powder, pb2, pecans and macadamias. Any combination you can think of. The oil melts when warm and solidifies when cold so you can make little pb cups, macadamia nut clusters... Hope this helps!
  10. Mary
    I for one loved this article, and my very first thought after I read it (and before I read any comments) was I could have written this article! I thought the point of the article was how simple it is to eat this way....and how freeing it is....and therefore sustainable...finally! A way of eating that in its simplicity is sustainable for life. I could have written that article, right down to living in beautiful B.C. (Kootenay boundary) with a huge vegetable garden and access to farm eggs, meat, butter and cheese and “buying local” whenever I can. Part of the reason I started this way of eating was because I wanted to get away from prepackaged food, from reading labels, from someone else having control of what I eat...and those companies can be sneaky with their ingredients. So for me anyway (and I’m retired with time on my hands, no judgement here to anyone) I just prefer to make it myself...and I’m also finding the longer I do it, the simpler it is becoming, just like Anne. I only wish I had realized sooner just how simple it was going to be to change my life in such a positive way.
  11. Ben Callicoat
    Wow. I cannot understand how this article (excellent, by the way) has inspired such approbation.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Anne -- the best keto is the cleanest keto.

    Personally, my gf and I *do* shop at Walmart Neighborhood Market, and so we don't buy the grass-fed beef or free-range eggs. Nonetheless, if we could - we absolutely would. I endorse her observations in this regard. I didn't take her observations as snooty or judgmental in the slightest.

    I also agree that too many Keto enthusiasts - at least the newer ones maybe - tend to want to replace the bad-old processed carbs, with allegedly keto processed substitutes. I get that it's perhaps difficult to make the break, but once you do you can absolutely make it work.

    (I'm with you on the plastic thing too, Anne. Tired of seeing all the garbage in our streams, lakes and waters.)

  12. Mary Mejlholm
    I’m so glad I read your article, Anne! It’s really resonating with me, hours after reading it. Why? Because it is exactly what many of us have been searching for, in a way of eating (diet), and you’ve wrapped it up so succinctly. If, after 3 years of eating and preparing food this way, you find eating keto this easy, simple and sustainable, and it meets your ethical needs at the same time, then you’ve really shone a light in the direction most of us would like to go with this. As a relative newbie of a couple of months on keto, I am inspired, relieved, encouraged, to approach this lifestyle in a less info-laden, more simplistic way after reading your excellent article. Thank you for sharing it.
  13. Cheryl
    Thank You, I’m not completely where you are yet, but agree whole heartedly and working my way there.
  14. Cheryl S
    I have just been to a supermarket where an area was dedicated to low carb foods, fat bombs etc , healthy choices- supposedly? I for one could not justify paying nearly $13 Aus dollars for 5 little biscuits plus I don’t need them. I agree with the ethos of the original article. I do believe some are cashing in on the LCHF/Keto WOL and can potentially make the LCHF approach appear expensive when fresh seasonal foods are so much cheaper and do the job!!
  15. Jason
    People like Adam are miserable people, really. Unfortunate that Anne even had to respond with those comments that should have been implied.
  16. Yaechan
    Dear Anne, Thank you for a wonderful post on the virtue of simplicity. After being raised by a cook-it-from-scratch mother, I thought I was being smart and independent and grown up in revelling in going to restaurants and trying every new processed food on the market, until I woke up one day at 179 pounds and 14 years a diabetic type 2. A return to real food and cooking from scratch reduced my weight to 140 pounds (which would not budge for a dozen years) and did away with my diabetes medications. Then I discovered Dr Fung and through him, Diet Doctor, and after a couple of years of reading their posts and waffling, nine months ago decided to cut out grains and fruit, and skip breakfast. What a surprise to get to below 120 pounds with really no effort. At first I went to Bulk Barn and stocked up on strange baking items but now they are sitting in the pantry getting stale. The feeling of freedom as you mention, like no longer carrying the equivalent of two 10-pound bags of potatoes around all the time, just eating essentials and no fillers (carbs), no longer living by schedules (breakfast, lunch, dinner) has given me much more free time to enjoy life. Yes, shopping is easy, twice a week fr fresh produce, no packaged stuff in my basket -- just real food!
  17. Derek
    I liked the article. I do wish I had the possibilities to buy some of the produce that Anne can, but sadly I can't. I didn't take it the wrong way as we each have our own options and choices. I'd very much like Annes purchasing opportunties but living in Gujarat India this isn't possible.

    I've been doing this for 2 months and its getting to be habitual . I agree with most things I read on here hence why I took this article positively.

    Thanks. Wish I was in BC. :)

  18. Ursula
    Great to read. Totally agree. Initially looking for "special" products put so much pressure on me that it almost became effort and just easier not to eat keto. Until i realised how simple it can be. No need for complications. Few basic items, few basic principles - only 7 months but I'm really compliant and comfortable with my recipes and eating and the results. And shopping is super easy. Just need to get my son onboard now ☺
  19. 2 comments removed
  20. kib
    The more I read and research, the more clearly I see a pattern: More man made intervention in our food = more problems.

    The more we try to take Big Ag subsidized foods and extract this, that and the other to fit some idea of what is "healthy", the more we dose our foods with poison to eliminate the competition - weeds and pests that would like to eat it too, the more we encase our food in plastic shrines and ship it across the world over days weeks or even months, the more we cage in animals and feed them diets they would never eat in the wild, the more we tweak the genetics of our food to be bigger, sweeter and more shelf stable, the more we take some innocent mushroom or herb and pound on it with every last tool known to mankind to get every last bit of "benefit" out of it, the less healthy and the less usable it becomes as far as our bodies are concerned.

    I would like to think that there are things our species make that are better for us than what we evolved eating, but when I really consider that idea, it doesn't fly. Eat the edges!

  21. Ben
    I can only guess, but since I too have been active on several keto / IF Facebook groups, I'd suppose its because reliance on processed "Keto" products and shortcuts like Atkins bars is *rife* on FB.

    I'm with Anne Mullens - if you want to really get the benefits of Keto, it's probably not a good idea to simply replace sugary processed garbage with FAKE sugar(y) processed garbage.

    Trying to help newbies understand this, is really frustrating ("Whattya mean I can't buy this "keto" ice-cream?") and is probably why she assumed she could be slightly more straightforward with DD readers.

  22. Sara
    But the grass-fed, organic meat and dairy you talk about is twice the price (if not more) than regular meat and dairy so no this is definitely not inexpensive...
  23. Anne
    Wow everybody, I really had no idea this post would spark such debate and exchange. I am actually enjoying reading what everyone has to say, even if I am being chastized and condemned by some. At first, honestly, I was a bit shocked at being attacked (I am a down-to-earth person, honestly!) But it is eye-opening to hear the different perspectives. I would love to hear from others about how one does keto in India, and Wales, and other dense urban centers around the world that don't have the same access to choices. Truly, share your pespectives! It will help others. What makes it simple, sustainable and cheaper for you?

    I am used to everyone in the rest of Canada sneering at us in BC. (Now that extends to some in the US, too, I guess. More often most in the US don't even know we exist; we often have to say "just above Seattle.") It all started decades ago when British Columbia decided to put "Beautiful BC" on its licence plates and in all its marketing. Albertans got especially incensed, not helped now by the fact we are in a heated dispute between the two provinces about pipelines vs environment. BC tends to attract people who put a high value on the environment, gardening, nature, having backyard chickens. All BC cities have bylaws that allow chickens - there are lots of coops in my urban neighborhood. This is my normal.

    Two comments: 1) Why I didn't post to FB groups: FB are "friends" and I am just one among them. It is like we are in a common shared space. To me, it would be like going into someone else's house or yard or shared dinner at a cafe and commenting on what others are doing without people asking me to do that. That to me is condescending. At Diet Doctor, however, I am employed by them to write and share about keto research, opinions and experience. I am hired to have an opinion and perspective. It is kinda like Diet Doctor is my own house (or at least co-housing co-op!) If you are visiting me at my place, I personally feel more autonomous to describe my opinion and experience.

    2) Cost of grass-fed beef etc.... I agree with the commentator that for some of us who have GF beef sold near where we live, when you are not eating out, and you are making your own food, and able to skip meals easily, the food budget can go toward higher quality items for the same monthly output. I actually find we are eating less meat, but of better quality and appreciating it more. I do look for sales and cheap cuts of meat that I slow cook in my 20-year old crockpot. (If anyone follows "This is Us" we hope it does not spark, set fire to the curtains and kill us!) We are also eating a lot of liver (who knew? so yummy!) -- organic chicken liver and GF beef liver is unbelievably cheap - $4 for two, usually with left overs.

    So share your tips, people. What do you find works bests in places were fresh veggies are hard to come by and meat is expensive? Cheers, Anne

  24. C
    Love the simplicity this way of eating can be. Wish i was there myself. Thanks for sharing a picture of where i could be someday. I also appreciate your sharing your past reliance on factor keto recipes to get you where you are today. It's a process for some, maybe others can just jump in whole hog and be fine. Im transitioning. I'll know ill get there, too. Thanks to everyone here and all you do to help us all on our own unique journey
  25. Mike
    I have been, I would say attempting the Keto way of life for a few years now and have been for the most part successful. I do have my cheating moments but I always stay in the Low Carb Range even on a cheat meal. I felt Anne's article was spot on and if you want to be and stay in a Keto state, which is tough, Anne,s plan could help anyone be successful. I feel anyone who has adapted to the Keto or Low Carb world in our world today and is successful does have some bragging rights and you should be proud of the accomplishment. After Approx. 13 years now I myself am down a solid 115 pounds and am able to maintain my weight with the Low Carb and sometimes the Keto way of eating. It started out with following the South Beach Program and as the Low Carb Info. became more and more prevalent I started leaning the Low Carb direction. There is a lot of good information on this sight from the Diet Doctors and their subscribers so we should not be so critical of someone who is willing to share their experience with their Keto/Low Carb Journey and lifestyle. Keto and Low Carb Diets are saving and improving more and more peoples lives every day so thank you Diet Doctors and thank you Anne.

    P.S. For the last couple of years I have been a strong advocate of Intermittent Fasting in some form and feel it has been a strong player in my personnel success. I go for yearly Physicals/Check ups and my Doctor always tells me, Don't Change a Thing.

  26. Kathleen
    I like the spirit of keeping it simple in the article. However, I also see a benefit to buying some specialty keto mix for a special occasion or a change of pace. Also, I think it can be helpful early on when one has not yet accustomed such a basic diet and needs to ease into it.
    Most people will probably not be able to grow their own, however. It sounds lovely though!
  27. Denise
    Can anyone explain the difference between Keto and Low Carb (LCHF)? The more I read, the less I know. There are many conflicting definitions on Google.
    Reply: #80
  28. Carly
    I do understand where you are coming from, of course it's better to eat straight from your garden and keep it simple. I carefully buy products that 1. are worth the money 2. save me time 3. Don't have scary ingredients. So for example I do by some flax crackers from rude health, because the crackers I make never turn out crispy no matter what I do. I also buy some frozen cauliflower rice with nothing else added because I can't be bothered with the mess.

    Keto/low carb requires time and effort to cook, so if it there are some time savers out there why not? As long as it doesn't hinder our goals....

  29. Carly
    Denise, keto or ketogenic essentially means extreme low carb, as low as you can go and there's a sweet point for all of us that keeps us in ketosis. I can get away with 40grams of carbs and stay in ketosis. some people need to be under 20g if they are extremely insulin resistant. However LCHF is still slow carb, but for some maybe it's 50g to 100g of carbs and that works for them? Carbs are the most important macro to get right, have moderate protein and eat the fat! Hope that helps.
  30. Denise
    Carly, Thanks for your response! I'll just keep plodding along and do the best I can. My husband is diabetic, has dementia and is 25 lbs. overweight and have read this can be reversed by following this lifestyle. I see Cooking with Kristie from this site has her own blog and she is instituting a 4 week keto plan with menus, shopping lists and, for me, more importantly are the printable Counting Macros sheets. I have been struggling for several months with this and hope it will do some good. Can't seem to wean my husband off his 1-3 beer a night though. ?
  31. Teresa
    "BC tends to attract people who put a high value on the environment, gardening, nature, having backyard chickens. All BC cities have bylaws that allow chickens - there are lots of coops in my urban neighborhood. This is my normal."

    I am originally from Quebec, lived in BC for years, BC tends to attract welfare cases, drug addicts and people who want government handouts. They also attract people who complain about pipelines while taking ferries with their cars from the island onto the mainland, while filming everything with their smartphones ( made of plastics from oil) and their high end cars, towing their trailers and boats.

    I left, because while British Columbia is BEAUTIFUL, often the people are sanctimonious snobs.

    With the price of the average house in Vancouver over a million dollars - you are an elitist.

    But your article about the food - bang on - the more real you can keep it the better - whatever your budget allows.

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