The keto diet two ways: 1) easy, simple and cheap or 2) processed, packaged and expensive
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!
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.
All earlier posts by Anne Mullens
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.)
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. :)
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!
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.
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
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.
Most people will probably not be able to grow their own, however. It sounds lovely though!
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....
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.
I have been taken aback by some of the comments - after all we are talking about a Keto diet here - not World War Three.
I thought you handled the negative comments with grace and assertiveness -- and Vancocour has gone up on my list of places I would like to visit.
I pan fry a small portion of meat in olive or avacado oil, throw in a handful of veg at the end, along with more fat (cheese, butter, oil) as I dish it up. One pan, 10 minutes, cheap, easy. One meal per day and I’m never hungry between meals. There is so much more to life than food.
The folks who are upset by your article must be hangry.
Thank you for a simple grocery list that i can leave in my purse without a bunch of 25 ingredient recepis
Hi Sara -- one way I make keto gravy is to just add whipping cream to the drippings of the roast, or to deglaze a pan (such as one I have fried liver in.) It makes a super yummy sauce. You can also deglaze with a bit of wine or water, then add less cream for a less thick sauce.