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Shopping keto just got a little easier
By The Low Carb Clinic, 12 July 2019 - 1292 words (7 minutes)
Once you start looking for them, you realise how common carbohydrates are in the supermarket – from bread, cereal, pasta, rice, sauces and dressings, pre-packed dinners, bars, biscuits and dried fruit.
The key is to keep it simple. For the most part, ignore packaged and processed foods – especially the ones that make health claims! Focus on whole, unprocessed foods that make you feel satiated after you’ve eaten them.
At first, when shopping for low-carb or keto, prioritise the fresh food areas (meat, vegetables, eggs, fish and dairy) - the majority of these foods are nutrient dense and low carb, so you don’t have to put in too much effort at the supermarket. Once you’ve got your keto eye a little more trained, you can venture further into the store. There’s not a lot in there besides carbohydrates wrapped in colourful packets, though, so avoiding most aisles won't do you any harm! Here are a few secrets to shopping for keto.
Know your carbohydrates
Starting with the obvious: avoid carbohydrates and sugar. It sounds simple, but they’re hiding in most kinds of food. The easiest way is simply to avoid all processed and packaged food. Some fresh foods do contain carbohydrates, but it's normally in the form of fibre (like in vegetables). A bit of fibre is great for your digestion.
Most ‘healthy’ snack foods, ‘energy’ and trail mixes, dried fruit
Most jarred sauces, pre-made spice mixes, marinades, salad dressings,
Pre-packed dinners, pre-made frozen food
Pre-marinated meats, breaded fish or chicken, meat glazes
If you are buying packaged foods, take some time to learn how to read ingredient lists and nutrition labels. In particular, check ingredient lists for added sugar. There are more than 60 names for sugar – and just because sugar is “raw”, “organic”, “natural” or made from fruit, doesn’t mean it is good for you. Avoid them all: from coconut sugar to corn syrup, dextrose, agave nectar and date syrup, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar and honey.
Every nutritional panel will have two sections – “per serve” and “per 100 grams.”
Ignore the “per serve” section, it’s easier to see what is really in food when we look “per 100 grams”. Avoid foods with any sugar in them, or if it’s a food you are going to eat in moderation, pick something with less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams. The same goes for carbohydrates.
Be aware of drinks – they’re almost all high in sugar, including:
Vitamin and sports waters
Energy and soft drinks
Fruit and vegetable juices
Drinks marketed as ‘healthy’ like coconut or aloe vera water, kombucha, and probiotic drinks (some kombuchas are sugar-free, check the label)
Plain soda or mineral water, tap water, tea and coffee are the best options.
Know your fats
Not all fats are created equal. We want to be consuming real fats – ones that satiate you and reduce inflammation – not industrially produced ‘vegetable’ oils, high in polyunsaturated fats that oxidise easily and wreak havoc over the body. These include canola, grapeseed, soybean, sunflower, peanut, corn and cottonseed.
In the chilled section, you’ll find great sources of saturated fat, great for cooking:
Lard (pig fat)
Tallow (beef fat)
Butter (for lower temperature cooking)
Avoid margarine or spreadable mixes, high in unstable polyunsaturated fats. You can leave portions of butter out in a butter keeper if you want a softer spread.
With the pantry items or oils, you’ll find oils that are good for cooking, or for putting on top of other foods, like salads:
As well as oils good for very low heat cooking, or for putting on top of other foods:
Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin avocado oil
Virgin coconut oil
Pumpkin seed oil
When buying pre-prepared food, look at the ingredients list. Canned tuna in olive oil is delicious – but check it’s not mixed with sunflower oil, sugar, flavours and fillers. A bag of macadamias is great – but check they haven’t been fried in peanut oil or coated in sugar and flavourings. A pre-cut salad can be an easy fix for lunch – but beware of the pre-made dressings, croutons and dried noodles that tend to hide inside, high in polyunsaturated oils, carbohydrates and sugar.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
They may be tempting, but they’re not going to help you in the long run. Artificial sweeteners increase the palatability of foods, promoting over-consumption – and they also harm your digestion and gut bacteria. Artificial sweeteners are likely going to be found in “low-carb” or “keto” bars, shakes, sweets and treats – but there’s no need for any of these processed foods in your life!
If you’re looking for sweets, treat yourself to low-carbohydrate fruits – berries (raspberries, blackberries and strawberries), and small amounts of watermelon, coconut, plum and cantaloupe.
Don’t be so picky with protein
Try different cuts of meat! We are so used to eating chicken breast and steak that we often shy away from the huge range of animal proteins available. Go for organ meats: liver, heart, kidney as well as bone marrow or tongue. You can fry them in your choice of fat and salt – they offer a huge range of nutrients.
Try big roasts or meat that is still on the bone in the slow cooker: you’ll end up with meat, plus the nourishing extras – broth, fat and collagen. Get friendly with your butcher and ask for grass-fed meat – it’s got a far better mix of fatty acids.
Canned tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel are very convenient – but choose fish in brine or water and add your own fats (most fish ‘in olive oil’ is actually an olive oil blend, with vegetable oil).
Try fresh fish – with the skin on, which you can fry until it’s crispy in your choice of fat! Try salmon, mackerel, cod, eel, trout, snapper… and seafood – how about shrimp, squid or oysters?
Eggs are a fantastic source of fat and protein, but try to buy pastured eggs – for both the chickens and for you – the fats are much better quality when the chicken has been raised on grass.
Dairy can also be a great source of protein (and fat) if you tolerate it. Choices include:
Heavy cream (without added sugar)
Cows, goats, and sheep’s cheese
Full cream milk
Cream cheese (as long as it’s not mixed in with sauces and flavours)
Make friends with market go-ers
Weekly trips to the market to stock up on low-carb vegetables and cuts of meat, that you can slice and freeze, will save you money, and save you queuing at the supermarket! Invite friends along – you can buy in bulk, enjoy the atmosphere, and split the goods at the end.
In summary, focus wholly on whole-foods.
The easiest way to stay keto is to choose low-carb, whole foods. This means shopping on the outskirts of the supermarket – where the meat, vegetables, and chilled sections normally are. In the middle sections of the supermarket, you’ll find temptations – it’s easier to avoid walking down these aisles altogether!
Need ideas to replace your ‘staple’ carbohydrates like pasta, bread, rice, cereals, oats? Try:
Vegetables sautéed in fat, with garlic and chilli
Baked eggs with cheese and rosemary
Salads with nuts, seeds, herbs and spices
Leftover chilled roast with sour cream
Low-carb fruit (like berries), seeds and nuts topped with cream
Avocado with cottage cheese or feta, pepper and lime
A tray of vegetables roasted in olive oil, garlic and herbs
Olives, cheese and cold meats
Yogurt topped with tahini and lemon juice
Mini frittatas with eggs, bacon, spring onion and cottage cheese
Cooked spinach with feta
Bunless beef burgers with Dijon and salads (lettuce leaves for the ‘bun’)
Salmon patties with almond meal and dill
Shepherd’s pie - bolognese topped with creamy mashed cauliflower with butter
Remember that ‘breakfast,’ ‘lunch’ or ‘dinner’ foods aren’t set in stone – they’re just a marketing tool.
Feel like lamb for your first meal of the day? Feel like eggs and avocado for dinner? Go for it! It’s true that in India, a typical breakfast is a curry.
The possibilities are endless, and so much more nutritious than what we would typically think of as a ‘normal’ for a meal.
Finally, a note on whole-food carbohydrates
Some whole-foods contain high amounts of carbohydrates and might best be avoided on a ketogenic diet (depending on your individual needs). Generally, they are ok in small amounts, if you tolerate them. While they contain carbohydrates, they also contain fibre, vitamins and other nutrients – plus add variety to the diet, so if they are included in your daily carbohydrate goal, they can still be eaten. Examples include: