Steak Salad with Avocado Cilantro Vinaigrette

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I love salad! But! When I eat a salad I want one FULL of nutrients and one that has a large variety of textures, colors, and flavors! When I eat a salad I also want to feel FULL. I do not want to be left craving unnecessary calories. This steak salad is all the things and more! I use it often as a part of my weekly nutrition plan to ensure I am meeting my macro goals, loading up on vitamins and minerals, and feeding my body what it needs in order to cut the sugar cravings.

Salad

INGREDIENTS:

6 cups fresh spinach or mixed salad greens

2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced

½ red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 avocados, pitted and sliced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cucumber, peeled and sliced

4-6 ounces crumbled goat cheese

⅓ cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds

Steak

Marinate and cook 1 pound of steak using Chelsea’s Messy Apron: The Best Steak Marinade.

Avocado Cilantro Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS:

1 avocado

1 cup fresh cilantro

1 lime, juiced

½ lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Salt & pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Marinate and cook steak using Chelsea’s Messy Apron: The Best Steak Marinade.

Saute sliced peppers and onion with olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat till soft and tender (3-5 minutes).

Add avocado, cilantro, lime juice, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, cumin, and salt & pepper to a blender or food processor. Blend until combine and smooth.

Lay salad greens on the bottom on a large bowl and add thinly sliced steak. Top with sauted peppers & onions, sliced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, crumbled goat cheese, and sunflower seeds. Serve with avocado cilantro vinaigrette.

Chann's Favorite Party Appetizers

There are few things better than getting together with those you love, celebrating the holidays, and creating new memories. All of these things are made even better by a smorgasbord of yummy food to snack on while enjoying the festivities. Unfortunately, most snack food is packed with unnecessary carbohydrates and sugars. Here are just a few of my favorite low-carb party go-tos.

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Meet, Cheese, and Fruit Plate

I am a total sucker for a great cheese plate. Pair the right cheese with the right meat and fixings and WA-LAH! Heaven on earth! There are SO MANY different kinds of delectable cheeses, meats, and spreads out there. You really want variety on your platter. Here are a few of my favorite combos.

INGREDIENTS:

Option #1

Brie (soft cheese)

Prosciutto (Italian dry cured ham)

Pepper jelly

Option #2

Parmigiano Reggiano (hard/firm cheese), thinly sliced

Sopressata (Italian dry salami)

Honey

Option #3

Smoked Guoda (smoked semi-hard cheese) or Farmhouse Cheddar (aged semi-hard cheese)

Dry cured salami (made of beef or pork and mostly air dried)

Chutney

Option #4

Herbed Goat cheese (crumbly soft cheese)

Apples

Walnuts

Fixings

I also always add something…

  • Sweet: like berries, grapes, or chocolate

  • Salty: like pistachios, cashews, or almonds

  • Crunchy: like carrots, celery, or cucumbers

INSTRUCTIONS:

Arrange cheese, meats, and fixings on a large platter with small cheese knifes and meat forks.

Place spreads in small bowls or dishes and place strategically around the platter.

Consider labeling items with small pieces of paper taped to tooth picks.

Serve with a selection of bread and/or crackers.

RECIPE NOTES:

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Stick to the cheese and meat alone and then load up on the veggies for stacking and dipping.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

Bacon! Cheese! And shrimp! Oh my! Three of my favorite things put into a simple, yet seriously delicious, appetizer.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of bacon

1 pound of jumbo shrimp, raw

1 8-ounce brick pepper jack cheese, sliced

Garlic salt, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Wash, peel, and devein shrimp. Leave the tail on. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Place a small cube/slice of cheese on top of each shrimp.

Wrap each shrimp with 1 slice of bacon (or a ½ slice of bacon if your shrimp are smaller). If the bacon is not staying in place you may stab a toothpick through the middle to hold everything together.

Place shrimp on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.

Lightly sprinkle the shrimp with garlic salt.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until bacon is at desired crispiness and the shrimp is pink.

Serve warm.

Sausage Cream Cheese Dip

This one is a Thompson family favorite! It is SO EASY to make and is packed full of flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1 pound ground sausage, Italian or regular/plain

1 10-ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked all the way through and no longer pink. Drain excess grease.

Add cream cheese and mix until melted.

Stir in Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies.

Serve warm with tortilla chips.

RECIPE NOTES:

I have a small, dip sized, crock pot I keep the dip in to keep it warm and/or to take to parties.

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Serve with celery sticks, cucumber slices, and/or thick-sliced bell peppers.

9 Tips for Healing Insulin Resistance

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Insulin Resistance

Are you insulin resistant? Do you know what that means?

Insulin is a hormone released from the pancreas. Its primary purpose is to trigger our cells to absorb glucose (sugar) from our blood and keep our blood sugar (energy) levels regulated.

Sometimes, the cells in our body become less sensitive to the insulin triggers. As a result, our pancreas releases more and more insulin to get our cells to react. This can lead to many different complications.

First, weight gain. With too much insulin in your blood, your body begins to store the excess glucose as fat. Too much insulin can also lead to diabetes. There are other serious complications you can read about here.

The best way to test for insulin resistance is to have your fasting insulin levels tested by your doctor.

I’ve been dealing with insulin resistance for years, so I know first-hand how difficult it can be to combat! I wanted to share with you 9 things I am doing to help heal my insulin sensitivity naturally. I don’t want to be on medication if I don’t have to be, so practicing good habits and using natural remedies always come first.

1. Eat Clean.

This one may seem obvious, but it’s perhaps THE most important! The food we use to fuel our body will cause spikes in blood sugar, and, therefore, spike in insulin. Any time you eat food, insulin is released into the blood. It’s because of this you want to be sure you’re eating food that is low on the GI scale (or won’t dramatically spike your blood sugar levels).

I like to eat whole foods low in simple carbohydrates. I eat lots of protein, vegetables, some fruit, and healthy fats. I typically avoid grains, starchy veggies (corn, white potatoes, etc), flours, oils (other than coconut, olive, and avocado), sugar, dairy, and artificial sweeteners.

The one exception I make with artificial sweeteners is the occasional stevia or erythritol product. These sweeteners typically do not raise or elevate blood sugar. I like to use these in my baking with almond or coconut flour!

Eating clean is probably the hardest part of the entire process because it’s so individual! It’s going to take time and dedication for you to find out what works and does not work for your body. One way I suggest testing your body’s reaction to food is to check your fasting blood sugar levels in the morning and then throughout the day. Do this for three days. This practice will help you find out your carb tolerance, and also help you discover what foods spike your blood sugar.

2. Get Moving!

I’m not saying you need to be a professional athlete, but even 30 minutes of WALKING can drastically reduce the amount of insulin running through your blood. Get outside, go to the gym, walk your dog, just do SOMETHING every day ti get your body moving. It’s much simpler than you might think.

Another great way to reduce blood glucose levels is to weight lift or strength train. Our bodies use the glucose stored in our muscles for energy and then make room for more. When we use the stored energy, our bodies can use the excess to replenish those stores. So, USE YOUR MUSCLES! Your body is amazing and built to do hard things! AND it might even be fun.

Find something you love to do that will get you moving and do it for yourself every single day!

3. Drink Smart.

Did you know your bodies hold anywhere from 5-10 pounds of water weight? Yep! It’s vitally important you are drinking enough water. I like to drink half of my bodyweight in ounces every day (the recommended amount).

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to give up all those “other” drinks besides water! I’m not perfect and I treat myself sometimes, but I would say 97% of the time, I drink only water. Now to be fair, I will occasionally throw in a Crystal Light packet or something to add some flavor. When I do treat myself, I’ll have a Diet Dr. Pepper. Again, it is only every once in a while. I also love herbal teas. They have great health benefits. Also, I think everyone should drink more green tea. But that is just me!

Drinks like juice, soda, coffee (not black), milk, etc. all contain sugar and can have very negative effects on your insulin levels. So, keep it simple, stick to water.

4. Don’t Get Hangry.

Regulating your blood sugar levels is imperative! When you go too long without eating and your blood sugar drops, it causes cravings, fatigue, and all kinds of other negative side effects. Avoid going longer than 3-5 hours without food. Do your best to keep your levels stable.

By doing this, you can avoid hunger, overeating, emotional eating, binging, and/or caving and eating something you shouldn’t.

5. Customize your plan.

Now, as I mentioned before nutrition is very personal. Not all recipes on the internet or at restaurants will fit in your dietary lifestyle! That’s totally fine! I recommend doing your best to make substitutions in order to make your meals fit your lifestyle.

I have worked at making a lifestyle change to control my insulin resistance and you can do the same! Find a well-rounded nutritional plan that you can follow!

I follow a mix of paleo and keto diets. My main focus is eating low-carb, whole, natural food! If it’s processed or coated in flour, sugar, or gluten, I avoid it. It took me testing, evaluating, and learning my body to know what worked for me. I encourage you to do the same.

6. Reduce Stress.

I don’t just mean mental stress either. I mean all stress. Lack of sleep, lack of water, bad food, too much exercise, work, life, family, and so on. There are so many things that can put our bodies under stress! Do your best to meditate, go for a walk, shop, or just do something for yourself that will help you to relieve the stress of day to day life.

7. Sleeeeep!

GET ENOUGH SLEEP! This is such a huge one! Your body does its primary healing while you are asleep. Do your best to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. I know it can be difficult trying to balance work, school, life, a boy/girlfriend, family, etc. But I have done my best to make sleep a priority. This means I am often one of the first people to go home on a night out or the one who choose to not go out at all. It’s about balance! My sleep has become very important to me.

Make a goal to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night for the next week. If you can do that, I promise you will notice a huge difference in how you feel.

8. Try Supplements.

Supplements are natural approaches to medication. I don’t want to give any false perceptions here. I still treat supplements as a form of medication, so I don’t suggest starting a new one without consulting your healthcare professional. Some supplements I take include:

  • Multivitamin: I take a multivitamin with healthy amounts of Magnesium, Zinc, and Potassium.

  • Fish Oil: Proven to promote fat burning and is an anti-inflammatory.

  • Probiotic: Promotes gut-health.

  • Inositol: Proven to improve insulin sensitivity.

  • Folic Acid: Supports cells.

  • Vitamin D: Promotes fat loss, regular menstrual cycles, and reduces inflammation.

9. Plan Ahead.

You still have to live your life. Your diet and nutrition do not rule you, but it is important to make them a priority. If you are going out (to dinner, to a BBQ, or to a special event) make the effort to plan your food ahead of time. Find out what they’re serving and be prepared. There will be foods that don’t fit into your lifestyle, so start mentally preparing yourself to simple say “no thank you” before you go.

I have found doing this keeps me on track and prevents me from straying. It’s so much easier for me to know what I am eating beforehand. There’s no stress and no guessing, I just know! Preparing myself this way helps me to feel confident in my decisions and focus on other things. Take the stress out of eating and focus on making memories with friends and loved ones.

Mom On Timeout: Chocolate Mint Cream Cheese Buttons

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Mom On Timeout.

Everything “mint” and “chocolate” SCREAMS Christmas time to me! Mint hot chocolate before going caroling, mint chocolate M&Ms in the wooded Santa candy box in the kitchen, Andes mint thins left in my stocking on Christmas morning, and so on. While I have worked hard to let go of any emotional attachment to food and to simply view food as fuel, it is difficult to not associate food with some of my favorite holiday memories.

While I cannot magically zap the sugar out of all my favorite holiday treats, I am finding some scrumptious recipes that allow me to enjoy the season while also taking care of my body. With a few simple substitutions, these Chocolate Mint Cream Cheese Buttons bring all the YUM without any of the consequence.

*See ketogenic substitutes and modifications at the end of the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon mint extract

Several drops of green gel food color

1 cup heavy whipping cream

10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine cream cheese and one cup of powdered sugar in a large bowl and use a stand mixer or hand mixer to combine.

Add the extract and gel food color and mix until combined.

Gradually add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use your hands to combine the ingredients if your mixer is not up to the task. (I usually end up using my hands because it's faster.)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop out a teaspoon of the dough and form into a ball using the palm of your hands. Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Use the end of a wooden spoon or a small measuring spoon to create indentations in each bowl. Dust the measuring spoon with powdered sugar if it sticks at all.

Chill the mints until firm, about 1 hour.

Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl or large measuring cup.

Bring heaving whipping cream just to a simmer and then pour over the top of the chocolate chips. Stir once or twice and then let sit for 2 minutes.

Continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and incorporated.

Transfer the ganache to a ziploc bag and let it set for 30 minutes or so until it has thickened up - think yogurt consistency. You can speed up this process by placing it in the refrigerator, but keep an eye on it or it will get very firm.

Cut the corner off of the bag and pipe the ganache into the center of each mint.

Chill for about an hour, or until the ganache has set up.

Store in refrigerator.

RECIPE NOTES:

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Substitute the powdered sugar with a Xylitol sweetener. I use Swerve Confectioners Sweetener. The confectioners is like powdered sugar and the granular is like granulated sugar. Be sure to use the confectioners version.  

For the chocolate, I use Lily's Dark Chocolate Baking Chips.

One Size Does Not Fit All

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This is a subject I have been particularly passionate about the past few weeks. As many of you know, I did not have the healthiest start to the ketogenic diet. I was restricting my calories in an extreme way (literally starving myself). On top of that, I was intermittent fasting (starving myself further). It caused a lot of further health issues I am still healing from! My metabolism slowed and my hormone levels were all out of whack! I’m happy to report I am no longer doing starving. While researching the best way to reverse some of these issues, I learned one very important thing I want to share.

There isn’t one way to live a ketogenic lifestyle….or any diet for that matter.

Since the ketogenic diet is very popular right now, there is a lot of information out there about what people are doing, how they have achieved success, etc. It can be completely overwhelming to someone looking for direct answers! Well let me offer you some advice that really helped me. Realize that what may have worked for someone else, may not work for you.

For example, I have a sensitivity to wheat. It makes me bloat, spikes my insulin levels, and will kick me out of ketosis. However, some ketoers don’t have the same sensitivity and can eat a low-carb tortilla and not get kicked out of ketosis or experience inflammation. Yet I see so many people tearing others down because they ate a low-carb tortilla and that’s “not keto”.

You guys, this needs to stop. We can’t focus on what is or is not ketogenic approved. We should shift our focus from what others are doing and focus on what works for us. What is our bodies reaction to the foods we eat? How many carbs should I eat to maintain ketosis? How much fat? There are not hard numbers to follow. A good place to start would be with the 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5-10% carbs approach to your macros.

Bottom line, let’s not focus so much on what others are doing and find out what works for us. I would recommend you pay your doctor a visit and get some tests done! Check your metabolic panel, hormone levels, and find out what food sensitivities you have. This is a great place to start! From there, it’s completely possible for you to start testing and playing with your diet!

I love keto. I am literally in the middle of my journey and am still learning new things every single day! There is so much information out there, so I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, because there are people out there WAY more qualified than I am to talk about this. But I wanted to share my opinion and my experience because I think it’s so important we hear from professionals and the experiences of everyday people trying to improve their health with keto.

So here is a list of foods (some keto-friendly and some not) I have a sensitivity too:

  • Grain

  • Starchy veggies

  • Any sugar

  • Peanuts

  • Man made oils

  • Milk (not cheese)

  • Soy

  • Sucrose (artificial sweetner)

  • Splenda

  • Eggs

Now, some of these foods are staples to a lot of ketoers, but some are not!

The Takeaway

Test, test, test! Get yourself a blood glucose meter and once you are in ketosis, start to discover how certain foods effect your body! AND, please don’t shame others because their keto lifestyle is different from your own. Our bodies are extremely individual and your diet is no different! Put in the work and figure out what works. Your body deserves it!

Chelsea’s Messy Apron: The Best Steak Marinade

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

I come from a meat loving family! I was raised to appreciate a nice cut of meat, seasoned and cooked to perfection. If I were to ask my Mama Sal Sal, “What do you want to eat?” at any given time the answer would always be the same. “Steak! Duh!” Her relentless request for steak sent me on a search to find a timeless marinade.

Every great marinade should have the perfect blend of fat, acidity, and seasoning. “The Best Steak Marinade” really knows how to bring a steak to life and quickly reached the top of my list. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup olive oil

⅓ cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 large lemons (¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ teaspoon lemon zest)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons dried basil

1 ½ tablespoons garlic powder

1 ½ tablespoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Coarse sea salt, optional

Steaks of your choice

Canola oil, for grill grates

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium-sized bowl, add in the olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and lemon zest, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, dried basil, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried oregano, and white pepper.

Whisk until ingredients are combined and incorporated.

Pour the mixture over steaks of your choice

Cover (or seal the bag) and place in the fridge for up to 6 hours (too much longer than that and the acidity starts to "cook" the meat).

About 20 minutes before grilling, remove the steaks and let sit (still covered) at room temperature (not outside).

Heat the grill to high heat. Once the grill is hot, clean it with a wire brush. Roll up a few paper towels and drench them in canola oil. Using tongs, rub the paper towel wad along the grill grates generously.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and sprinkle coarse salt over the top (Optional. Don't add salt if you didn't use a low sodium soy sauce or are sensitive to salt). 

Place the steaks on the grill and cook about 4-5 minutes (rotate 90 degrees at 2 ½ minutes for diamond grill marks)

Using tongs, flip the steak over and continue to grill for 3-5 minutes for medium-rare (internal temperature of 135 degrees F).*

The grill time will GREATLY vary based on your actual grill, your steak (thickness), and the actual temperature of your grill. For best results, use a meat thermometer and remove the meat when it is 5 degrees below your desired internal temperature. (It will cook a bit more after being removed from the grill.)

Once the steaks are cooked to your desired doneness, remove them to a plate or cutting board and tent loosely with foil for 5-10 minutes to give the juices chance to re-distribute (juicier steaks!)

Enjoy!

RECIPE NOTES:

Different temperatures for the doneness of steaks are found in the last section of text for this recipe along with tons of other grilling tips!

Creme Da La Crumb: Mediterranean Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Creme Da La Crumb.

While most of my weekly meal prepping consists of simple, yet flavorful-packed food, I am always seeking for recipes that "dress to impress". This is one of my all time favorite keto-friendly main dishes from Creme Da Le Crumb. It is simply delicious, full of flavor, and always brings out the "ooooo"s and "ahhhh"s from my dinner guests.

Ingredients:

4-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts

⅔ cup chopped roasted red peppers (see note)

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided

4 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Thinly sliced fresh basil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONs:

Combine roasted red peppers, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender, pulse till smooth.

Grease a large skillet. Season chicken with remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook chicken in your greased skillet over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side until cooked through and lightly browned on the outside. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Transfer red pepper mixture to the pan and stir over medium heat 2-3 minutes until hot throughout. Add heavy cream and stir until mixture is thick and creamy. Add chicken and toss in the sauce to coat. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese and fresh basil and serve.

Recipe Notes:

You can buy jarred roasted red peppers in most grocery stores near the olives.

House of Yumm: Autumn Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on House of Yumm.

I have spent a lot of time searching for recipes I can use over and over again for my meal prepping. I look for three things.

#1 Recipes I WANT to eat again and again.

#2 Recipes with a variety of nutrients.

#3 Recipes that fill me up and don’t leave me wanting more.

This recipe, my friends, from House of Yumm is one of those WINNERS! I make it at least once a month, and it really is a perfect addition to your fall repertoire. Bon Appetit!

*See ketogenic substitutes and modifications at the end of the recipe.

Salad

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups baby spinach

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup halved pecans

2 tablespoons feta cheese

½ granny smith apple, sliced

½ fuji apple, sliced

2 slices bacon cooked and chopped

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 ½ teaspoon dijon mustard

Salt & pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add the spinach to a medium size bowl or plate.

Top with dried cranberries, halved pecans, feta cheese, sliced apples, and cooked bacon.

Add all the ingredients for the maple dijon vinaigrette to a small mason jar. Shake to mix. Pour over the salad. The dressing recipe makes enough for two salads.

RECIPE NOTES:

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Leave out one of the fruits, the dried cranberries or the apple slices. I leave off the dried cranberries and account for the apple slices in my daily net carbs. I like to add another vegetable in its place. I personally add red onion.

I also add additional protein, like a ½ chicken breast.

Replace the maple syrup in the dressing with Swerve sweetener.

Keto What?

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Chann: Tasia and I both have received so many questions from our followers about our ketogenic lifestyle. We have LOTS to say on the subject, but in order to do so adequately we feel we need to give you a general overview of “ketones”, “being in ketosis”, and “the ketogenic diet” (aka “keto”).

We could attempt to reinvent the wheel, but there is already a lot of great information out there. So, below we have compiled some information from a wide range of sources, and added in some of our own information, from personal experience, as well.

Burning fat instead of sugar

Diet Doctor

A keto or ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet, which turns the body into a fat-burning machine. It has many proven benefits for weight loss, health and performance, as millions of people have experienced already.

The ‘keto’ in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it makes the body produce small fuel molecules called “ketones”.

This is an alternative fuel for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.

Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).

Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose… or ketones.

On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low, and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy, keeping you alert and focused.

When the body produces ketones, it’s said to be in ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but nobody can fast forever.

A keto diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss – without having to fast.

What does a keto diet look like?

Macros

Kiss My Keto

Keto macros are the most important part of a ketogenic diet. They include a breakdown of the three nutrients that your body needs in large amounts – fat, protein, and carbs. Get them wrong and your chances of reaching ketosis are close to zero!

Macros (short for “macronutrients”) are nutrients that your body needs in large quantities for a wide range of metabolic processes and tissue-building. Medical and nutritional experts site the following five nutrients as macros:

  • Carbohydrates

  • Proteins

  • Fats

  • Fiber

  • Water

However, what most people are referring to when talking about macros are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These macros are most important on a ketogenic diet as they give your body energy which is calculated in calories.

Keto macros is a term that refers to the macronutrient balance of a ketogenic diet. This balance looks something like this:

  • 60-75% of calories from fat

  • 15-30% of calories from protein

  • 5-10% of calories from carbs

Net carbs

Bulletproof

Net carbs are the carbohydrates in food that you can digest and use for energy. Net carbs usually only count starches and sugars; most other types of carbohydrates have no energy value or impact on your blood sugar, so you don’t count them towards your daily carbohydrate limit.

To calculate net carbs, take a food’s total carbs and subtract:

  • Fiber, a type of carbohydrate from plants that humans can’t process. Your body doesn’t have the enzymes to break down fiber, so it passes through your digestive system unchanged. That means, for people at least, it has zero carbs and zero calories.

  • Sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol. Sugar alcohols taste sweet, but their molecular structure is slightly different from that of sugar molecules, which leaves sugar alcohols either partially or entirely indigestible by humans.

Note that certain sugar alcohols do impact your blood sugar, and you should factor them into your net carb count if you eat a large amount.

Calories

Chann: What some people love most about the keto diet is not having to count calories. I personally have found great success in ensuring I meet a calorie target range. At first, I felt as though I was working hard to decrease my calories for weight loss, but as I continued to live a ketogenic lifestyle I simple wasn’t hungry. I stopped eating very much all together and my electrolytes plummeted. I found it necessary to then find a way to eat enough calories. Tracking calories in the beginning helped me to ensure I wasn’t overeating, and then, as my appetite changed over time, to ensure I was giving my body the fuel it needed to thrive and continue to shed the extra pounds. If you are tracking your macros it is easy to track your calories right alongside it with an app such as MyFitnessPal.

What to eat

Tasia: The idea behind keto is to keep those carbs at about 30g (net carbs) per day and fill up on healthy fat. What is a healthy fat? Think butter, avocado, sharp cheeses, and nuts. I like to mix it up when it comes to my protein, some lean and some fatty. The primary focus of keto is to eat whole, natural food.

Chann: While some people focus entirely on fat and protein on a keto diet, eating things like lettuce wrapped hamburgers every day, it is also important to fill your body with as many essential vitamins and minerals as possible. I have discovered the more veggies I eat along side my healthy fat and protein and the more variety in my diet (within the macro limits) the better I feel and the more efficient my body works. So the majority of my net carbs each day come from low-carb vegetables and low-carb fruits, such as berries.

Ruled Me

  • Fats and Oils – Try to get your fat from natural sources like meat and nuts. Supplement with saturated and monounsaturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil.

  • Protein – Try to stick with organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed meat where possible. Most meats don’t have added sugar in them, so they can be consumed in moderate quantity. Remember that too much protein on a ketogenic diet is not a good thing.

  • Vegetables – Fresh or frozen doesn’t matter. Stick with above ground vegetables, leaning toward leafy/green items.

  • Dairy – Most dairy is fine, but make sure to buy full-fat dairy items. Harder cheeses typically have fewer carbs.

  • Nuts and Seeds – In moderation, nuts and seeds can be used to create some fantastic textures. Try to use fattier nuts like macadamias and almonds.

  • Beverages – Stay simple and stick to mostly water. You can flavor it if needed with stevia-based flavorings or lemon/lime juice.

What not to eat

Tasia: Read every label you come across. It’s vital you learn to identify hidden carbs, and, trust me, they are EVERYWHERE. Here are some things to avoid if you are living a ketogenic lifestyle:

Ruled Me

  • Sugar. It’s typically found in soda, juice, sports drinks, candy, chocolate, and ice cream. Anything that’s processed and sweet you can think of most likely contains sugar. Avoid sugar at all costs.

    • Sugar/Artificial Sweeteners – Sugar has many names and almost all of them will spike your blood sugar and kick out out of ketosis. If you want to use sweetener, use things like stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit. These are natural sweeteners from plants. They won’t spike your blood sugar and have very little carbs. (Tasia)

    • Sauces – Most sauces are made with sugar or flour of some kind. Stick to simple options like olive oil, lemon/lime juice, sugar-free marinara, buffalo sauce, coconut aminos (for soy sauce), ranch, and blue cheese dressing. (Tasia)

  • Grains. Any wheat products (bread or buns), pasta, cereal, cakes, pastries, rice, corn, and beer should be avoided. This includes whole grains like wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa.

  • Starch. Avoid vegetables (like potatoes and yams) and other things like oats, muesli, etc. Some root vegetables are okay in moderation – be sure to read the section on vegetables.

  • Trans Fats. Margarine or any other spreadable replacement butter should be avoided as they contain hydrogenated fats (bad for us).

    • Man-made Oils – Avoid canola, sunflower, corn, grapeseed, peanut, rapeseed, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oils. (Tasia)

  • Fruit. Avoid any large fruits (apples, oranges, bananas) as they’re extremely high in sugar. Some berries can be consumed in moderation – be sure to read the section on fruits.

  • Low-fat foods. These tend to be much higher in carbs and sugar than full-fat versions. Make sure you read the package to make sure a mistake isn’t made.

***Check out this article for clear and easy guide to keto eating.

Benefits of the ketogenic diet

  • Weight loss

  • Suppressed appetite

  • Mental focus

  • Blood sugar control

  • Increased energy

  • Health benefits for conditions like epilepsy, acne, and many others

Disadvantages of the ketogenic diet

Chann: There are some common and well talked about side effects to going low-carb. As I have lived a ketogenic lifestyle I have been careful to pay attention to my body and adapt according to its needs. Here are just a few of the things I noticed:

  • Keto flu

    • Some experience flu-like symptoms when beginning a ketogenic diet as their body makes the transition into ketosis. To avoid this, drink lots of water, replenish your electrolytes, get plenty of sleep, limit strenuous exercise for a few days, and eat plenty of fat (all things you will want to do on keto anyway).

  • Maintaining electrolytes

    • This one was difficult for me at first. If I stood up to quickly or worked out too hard at the gym I would feel lightheaded and fatigued. There are a few things you can do to help maintain a balance in your electrolytes. 1) Don’t being afraid of salt. 2) Drink a cup of bouillon or broth every day. 3) Take a magnesium supplement. 4) Take a potassium supplement. I personally take a magnesium supplement daily and eat plenty of salt.

  • Hair loss

    • Weight loss, a change in diet, a calorie deficit, nutrient deficiencies, stress, and a shift in hormones are all common causes for hair loss, many of which can easily happen as you practice maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle. I experienced this about 6 months into my keto journey. Ensuring I was getting the proper vitamins and minerals through my diet and supplements, as well as taking a biotin supplement once a day, eliminated the side effect.

  • Muscle cramps

    • Yup, I got to experience this one for a few weeks before I realized it was connected to my diet. Ugh! Muscle cramps. You know the kind. The kind that wake you up from a dead sleep and seize your body with crazy amounts of pain. Once again, I was simply nutrient deficient. The magnesium supplement came in to save the day. I am also more conscious about eating foods with magnesium in them. I would much rather eat my vitamins and minerals than take them in supplement form.

  • Constipation

    • I have not experienced this one personally, but I have heard constipation can be a common side effect of keto. Once again, sodium, magnesium, and potassium for the win! Also, stay hydrated, be active, and up your fiber through plant foods and green vegetables, all of which are recommended on a keto diet anyway.

How to get started on keto? 

  • Drink lots of water

  • Get plenty of sleep

  • Do not be afraid of eating fat

  • Track your macros

  • Consider supplements

  • Consider exercise

  • Consider intermittent fasting

Common mistakes made on on keto diet

Bodybulding.com

Getting impatient with adaptation

Not getting enough fat

Eating too much protein

Not getting enough electrolytes

Eating hidden carbs

Over exercising

*For more information, link the link above.

How to know you are in ketosis

Tasia: Chantelle and I can now tell when our bodies are in ketosis, but it hasn’t always been this way. There are a few different ways to test where you are at. First things first; everyone’s body is different. It could take someone 2-3 days to reach ketosis or more than a week. Be patient with yourself and keep the course! If you’re doing everything as you should, you will get there.

Ketosis Testing Methods:

  1. Urine Testing – You can purchase strips that will measure the level of ketones present in your urine. When your body creates a large amount of ketones you excrete the excess. Urine strips are great for the first couple weeks of a ketogenic diet to help you determine when you are or are not in ketosis, but as your body adapts to using ketones to fuel your brain (and fatty acids to fuel your muscles) the less ketones will be excreted in your urine. This means the readings won’t accurately help you determine whether your body is functioning completely efficiently or not. The reading could be low while your body is effectively maintaining a state of ketosis and giving you all the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle.

  2. Breath Testing – Keto breath is a real thing. Ketones are present in your breath. You can purchase a special breathalyzer that will measure the amount of ketones present. Again, this isn’t the most accurate method since your body will adapt over time.

  3. Blood Testing – This is perhaps the most accurate method of testing. You can purchase a blood glucometer to measure the amount of ketones present in your blood. I would recommend you use Keto Mojo to measure your ketones levels over long periods of time.

Going Cavewoman: Butternut Squash Soup

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Going Cavewoman.

YOU GUYS! First, I love goingcavewoman.com. The author, Monica McGuiness, is a boss lady.

Second, Tasia and I are both obsessed with this soup! It is so yummy and easy to make. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to throw a bunch of fresh ingredients in a blender and WA-LAH dinner!?

*See ketogenic substitutes and modifications at the end of the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves

Not Chick'n Stock Cubes

3 cups water

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

To Serve:

Coconut cream, optional or heavy cream for non-paleo

Chives, finely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

Brown onion in a pan with a little oil (coconut or avocado). 5-8 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and cook until squash is soft. 20-30 minutes.

Blend with a hand whisk or a blender.

Add a tablespoon cream and a sprinkle of chives and serve.

RECIPE NOTES:

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Instead of adding cream as a garnish, add 1 cup of heavy cream straight to the soup/blender.

Low Carb Yum: Easy Gluten-Free Pumpkin Donuts

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Low Carb Yum.

When October rolls around the #basic girl in me starts craving EVERYTHING pumpkin spice and I ain’t even ashamed of it! There is something about fall flavors and smells that makes me want to wander through a pumpkin patch, drown my home in holiday decor, or bundle up in a blanket while sipping on a hot steamer.

As fall approaches I have been on a hunt for the best recipes to substitute my favorite sugar loaded holiday treats. One of my favorite family traditions of all time was coming home from school on Halloween day to find a giant pot of homemade chili and “spud-nuts” (donuts made from potatoes) laying out to dry while the wet icing slowly hardened.

These Easy Gluten-Free Pumpkin Donuts will most definitely be on the menu this Halloween! All the treat you can ask for without any tricks to your waist line.

Donuts

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ cups peanut flour*

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk

½ cup steviva blend or ½ cup erythritol and ½ teaspoon stevia extract powder**

3 large eggs

1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine peanut flour, salt, baking powder, and spices.

In a separate bowl, mix coconut oil, almond milk, sweetener, eggs, and pumpkin until smooth.

Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture.

Grease donut pan. Spoon batter into the donut molds.***

Bake at 350° F for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool and top with donut glaze.

Glaze

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup powdered erythritol

2 drops stevia glycerite

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth.

Use glaze immediately as it will harden as it sits.

RECIPE NOTES:

*I have made this recipe with both peanut flour and almond flour. Both were good, just a little different.

**As mentioned by the original author, I also would add more sweetener next time. My recommendation is to the double the recommended amount in the donut batter from ½ cup to 1 cup.

***I purchased a Wilton® Doughnut Pan from Michaels.

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

I added 2 ounces of cream cheese to the glaze, because 1) Yum! and 2) it adds a little extra fat to the donuts.

Chann’s Shrimp Tacos with Cucumber Mango Salsa and Avocado Sour Cream Sauce

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I love tacos! Ok, that is an understatement. I REALLY. REALLY. LOVE TACOS! When beginning to practice a keotgenic lifestyle, one of my first questions was, "YEAH BUT! What is life really worth without tacos?" (I was kidding, of course) So I set out to make the best damn keto tacos I could and here they are; a keto-twist on my favorite shrimp tacos, created by yours truly! Enjoy!

Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)

2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Taco seasoning to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

½ lemon, juiced

Instructions: 

Melt butter in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and dust with taco seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and stir.

Cucumber Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

1 english cucumber, diced

2 roma tomatoes, diced

1 mango, diced

¼ red onion, diced (optional)

¼ cup cilantro, minced (less if you want)

1 teaspoon chili powder (less if you want)

1 tablespoon honey (For a ketogenic lifestyle, use a xylitol sweetner, such as Swerve)

1 lime, juiced

Salt to taste

Instructions: 

Mix cilantro, chili powder, honey, and lime juice in a medium mixing bowl. Add cucumber, tomatoes, mango, and red onion (optional). Mix and salt to taste. Refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving.  

Avocado Sour Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

1 avocado

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup heavy cream

2-3 tablespoon fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: 

Mix all ingredients in a bowl or blender.

Recipe Notes:

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Place shrimp, mango relish, and avocado sour cream sauce over a bed of lettuce with some queso fresco for a salad or in a cheese taco shell. For simple and easy, one-ingredient, instructions check out Crispy Cheese Taco Shells on LowCarbMaven.com. Serve immediately.

For a non-ketogenic lifestyle: 

Place shrimp, mango relish, and avocado sour cream sauce in a small corn tortilla with some queso fresco. Serve immediately.

The Mindset Behind Meal Prepping

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Every once in awhile I find individuals who think and function the way I do. We connect quickly, trust openly, and find joy in understanding and being understood. I like to call these people my kindred spirits, my alter egos, my confidants, my humans, my people.

I met one of these like-minded persons about a year ago. My friend Alex is someone who thinks deeply, lives passionately, and sees life clearly. When turning 30 years old he decided to share “30 life lessons” with his community of friends and family on the inter-webs.

In one such post he described a powerful concept:

“I believe we have a finite amount of self-control during the day. This can be grown and developed, but, overall, you can only expend so much discipline in any given day before it is gone. I spend some [discipline] to get up on time [and] to make it to work. I spend some to get myself to the gym. I spend some to eat properly. I spend some to not buy frivolous purchases online. I spend some to not eat delicious junk food. I spend some to make myself go to bed on time.”

He goes on to say, “If I have had a particularly bad day, the self-control wears thin… Maybe I have way too many obligations between work, volunteer activities with church, and helping out friends. Maybe I’m struggling with a relationship issue that has me worn thin. When these things pile up, it becomes much harder to make the cognitive decisions to do the important things that take up my discipline. I will skip the gym. I will sleep in. I will eat junk food. I will bail on obligations.”

I so appreciate Alex’s honesty and vulnerability. We all have been here. We have all had times when our mind, body, and heart are battling in an epic tug-of-war. I was here last week! I had an especially tragic day. I was mourning and easily threw my awareness to the wind. It was not long before I found myself at IHOP eating a pancake combo; eggs, hash-browns, bacon, and all. Can we say emotional eater?

Over time we can practice being more conscious and making choices that better serve us, even when difficult days come. As we practice, however, it is crucial to set ourselves up for success. When we are working through physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or even social issues we find our time and attention diverted and our capacity to make the best choices diminished.

So what is the answer?  

Alex goes on to say, “I try my best to remove as many of these daily decisions as I can. For example, I prepare all my meals for the week at once… When I prepare all my meals, I can make sure they are all healthy, they are easy to [assemble], and I know they will be readily available to eat so… I do not need to be troubled by the question ‘What will I eat today?’”

CONSISTENTLY meal prepping allows me, and other with this habit, the opportunity to make the BEST decision ONCE. I have held a space once a week to write a menu, grocery shop, and prep my meals. If I make this ONE healthy decision each week it protects me from making 21 (7 days, 3 meals a day) potentially difficult decisions throughout the week. If I put only healthy food in my fridge and on the shelves of my pantry, that is the food I eat. If my meals are proportioned, that is how much I eat.

There are times when I go out to eat with friends, my coworkers bring food/treats into the office, or someone offers me something OTHER than what I have prepped. It has becomes easier and easier to say, “No, thank you” or to make a healthier decision when so many of my other food decisions are already made.

It also allows me the freedom to say, “Yes! I would love some dessert today!” (or a steak and mash potatoes), and allow myself to enjoy, on occasion, without shame, blame, or guilt. How? Because I am confident I have and I will continue to make the healthy choice the rest of the time.

Remember, it is about consistency, not perfection. Make your job easier! Be kind to yourself. Keep practicing.

Food Network Kitchen: Flourless Chocolate Torte

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RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Food Network.

If there is one thing I have missed the most since beginning to practice a ketogenic lifestyle it is chocolate cake. Though I do not crave sugar near as much as I used to, when the craving hits, it hits hard. This Food Network Kitchen Flourless Chocolate Torte has always been a favorite of mine, and with two simple substitutes, it hits the spot. YUM!!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

6 large eggs

½ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the chocolate and 1 ½ sticks butter in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until melted and combined. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let cool slightly.

Combine the eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and thick, 5 to 8 minutes.

Gently fold half of the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until just combined, then gently fold in the rest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is no longer shiny and barely jiggles and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the springform ring and transfer to a platter; dust with cocoa powder.

RECIPE NOTES:

For a ketogenic lifestyle:

Substitute the sugar with a Xylitol sweetener. I use Swerve Confectioners Sweetener. The confectioners is more like powdered sugar and blends more easily into the cake than the granular. 

For the chocolate, I use Lily's Dark Chocolate Baking Bar.

Keto Connect: Easy Buffalo Chicken Dip

RECIPE REVIEW

This recipe was originally posted on Keto Connect.

Okay guys, this summer I had TONS of delicious potlucks at my work. Often times, it was hard to find anything keto-friendly I could eat. So, I decided to make it easier on myself and bring a keto item to the party!

After a few hours of searching I found this dip! Keto Connect is one of my favorite resources to get recipes! Matt and Megha are seriously amazing! If you are a member of the keto community, these two are no strangers to you.

I modified the recipe a little by using a mixture of Franks Buffalo Sauce and Frank’s Original sauce. I also used a rotisserie chicken. It was glorious.

I cannot tell you how amazing this dip is! It takes the cream cheese a second to melt, but once combined it’s the most delicious appetizer I’ve ever had.

I suggest serving it with celery sticks. The crunchy and warm combination made the perfect combo.

Whoever said eating keto was restrictive is lying! This appetizer was a HUGE HIT at my company party and is now requested any time we have a potluck!

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups shredded chicken (cooked)

¾ cup blue cheese dressing

¾ cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce

12 ounces cream cheese (softened)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup jalapenos (optional, for topping)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add cream cheese and hot sauce to a medium heat saucepan.

Once fully combined stir in the blue cheese dressing and chicken.

Once fully incorporated, slowly mix in 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Once fully incorporated transfer mixture to an 8x8 baking dish. Layer the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Nutrition: 346.5 calories per serving | Fat 28g | Net Carbs 2.4g | Protein 20g