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Cutting Carbs All Over

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— February 6, 2020

Cutting Carbs All Over

By Lisa James
  • Name the national cuisine, and there’s a keto workaround for it.
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We’ve gone far past the steak-and-greens era when it comes to low-carb eating.

Today’s discriminating keto diner has an increasingly wide circle of options, as creative chefs have learned to keto-ize nearly every cusine you can think of. That includes coming up with substitutions for such popular starches as rice (see below).

Low-Carb “Noodles”

Rice is only one of the foods that Kelly Tan Peterson, coauthor (with her husband, Dan Peterson, MD) of Keto East (Cooking Inspired by Love), had to find substitutes for; noodles and “sugary, starchy sauces” also needed makeovers.

“Zucchini and other squash can be made into noodles,” Tan notes. “Other options are shirataki noodles, pure kelp noodles or tofu noodles.”

These substitutions work for Italian pasta dishes as well. What’s more, Italian food isn’t all pasta; go to a higher-end Italian restaurant and you’ll find antipastos based on meats and cheeses, plenty of  marinated or grilled vegetables and all sorts of seafood dishes.

Another noodle substitute is tofu skin, a film that forms on soymilk boiled in shallow pans. Find the dried sheets in Asian markets and rehydrate before using. And Tan’s recipe for hoisin sauce—the bottled stuff   “is full of sugar and preservatives”—uses unsweetened almond butter and the natural sweetener xylitol to produce a version that she says “tastes better and is low carb and diabetic-friendly.”

Keto Mexican

In this country, Mexican food is often thought of as tacos and nachos. But Torie Borrelli, author of The Mexican Keto Cookbook (Ten Speed), points out that “traditional Mexican cuisine is high in healthy fats and proteins, and lends itself well to a ketogenic diet.”

The foods commonly identified with Mexico that Borrelli leans toward include avocado (she suggests cutting avos in half, removing the pit, scooping out some of the flesh, pouring in an egg and baking); cacao, which is processed at much lower temperatures than cocoa; epazote, an oregano-like herb; lard from pasture-raised pigs, which she says is full of omega-3 fats and vitamin D; tomatillos, which look like hard, green tomatoes in papery husks; and (of course) chiles of all kinds.

 A number of cuisines employ breading or flouring in preparing meats or vegetables, such as veal scallopini. Almond flour, flax meal or grated Parmesan cheese make good substitutes. And while legumes, also prevalent in dishes from around the globe, are healthy, they aren’t low carb; use green beans or cubed eggplant instead.

Do you eat globally? You can sample the planet and keep to a keto diet.

Keto-Friendly Rice: Beyond Cauliflower

Rice is a big part of many cuisines, especially those from Asia. And that can be a problem, since all types of rice—including such healthy varieties as brown and black—come with carb counts that put them far beyond what’s allowed on any low-carb diet.

Riced cauliflower, now widely available in food stores, has been the keto dieter’s go-to substitute. But after a while, that can get a little, uh, dull.

Fortunately, there are other rice subs, some of which you can create yourself with a food processor.

Rutabaga, for example, is an old-school root veggie that has only 9 grams of net carbs per cup, along with tons of minerals and vitamins C, E and K. Cabbage, in the same family as rutabaga, also has a low carb count and, again, a lot of nutrition. (Butternut squash is another nutritional superstar, but at 21 carb grams a serving, it may be tough to manage on a keto diet.)

The other option is shirataki rice. Known by marketeers as “miracle rice,” it is a soluble fiber taken from the root of the Japanese konnyaku plant. Shirataki does have a bit of an odor straight out of the package, which you eliminate by rinsing and blanching it.

 

Clean Meat

One of the keys to doing keto the healthy way is to get the cleanest proteins you can find. Here are some terms you may encounter: 

Free Range—animals are allowed access to the outside and aren’t contained; time actually spent outside may be minimal

Grass Fed—the animal fed on grass until the last two or three months of its life, when it was fed grain (“grain-finished”); “100% grass fed” means the animal ate grass its entire life

Natural—minimally processed meat with no additives or preservatives; can still contain antibiotics or growth hormones

Pasture Raised—animals have year-round access to pasture, but may be supplemented with organic feed in inclement weather

USDA Organic—according to the agency’s website, this means the animal was allowed to engage in natural behaviors (example: grazing on pasture), given 100% organic food and not given antibiotics or hormones

 

RECIPE

Turmeric-Spiced Cauliflower and Broccoli with Capers

“I believe most people think of mushy steamed veggies when presented with cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli,” says Torie Borrelli. “Roasting is an easy way to prepare delicious veggies for the week without having to do much.”

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

3 tbsp slightly melted ghee* or avocado oil

1 tbsp turmeric powder

½ tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup capers in water, drained (rinse, if in salt)

2 tbsp olive oil for finishing

1 tsp mustard seed powder (optional)

*Clarified butter; butter heated to remove the solids for an essentially dairy-free product

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower and broccoli with the ghee, turmeric, salt and pepper. Tip the veggies onto a baking sheet and use your hands or a wooden spoon to spread them evenly so they are not touching.

2. Place the baking sheet on the lowest oven rack and bake 25 minutes, until golden.

3. Remove from the oven and toss in a bowl with the capers, olive oil and mustard seed powder (if using). 

Serves 4–6

 

 

RECIPE

Cilantro Yogurt Dressing

Torie Borrelli suggests selecting the yogurt you use in this recipe carefully; many commercial products are made cheaply and quickly with all sorts of thickeners and other additives. “Good yogurt is made with live cultures, which create probiotic bacteria,” she says. “Choose only organic plain yogurt, preferably 100% grass fed, and the more fat the better.”

¾ cup full-fat Greek-style yogurt

4 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp rice wine or champagne vinegar

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 jalapeño, minced

1 shallot, minced

½ cup finely chopped cilantro

In a blender or using a hand whisk, blend together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegars, cumin, chili powder and salt. Stir in the jalapeño, shallot and cilantro; if the dressing is too thick, add more oil and vinegar. Will keep, refrigerated, for 3–5 days.

Makes 1 cup

Reprinted from The Mexican Keto Cookbook. Copyright © 2019 by Torie Borrelli. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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