The keto diet: Its highs and lows plus 5 recipes – The Gazette

By Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

My friends Mike and Robin have been on the keto diet for a couple of years. They lost a ton of weight, and they look fit and trim better than Ive ever seen them, and Ive known them more than 30 years.

Their results are not unusual. The keto diet often leads to rapid weight loss.

The trick lies in keeping it off. Mike and Robin have done it well, but a lot of people cant. And therein lies a problem, according to Jennifer McDaniel, a registered dietitian and the owner of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy in St. Louis.

While you might gain benefits in the short term just like any other restrictive diet, most people like, 90% of the people have trouble staying on it. When they lose the weight and they cant maintain the weight that they attained, thats just another failed diet, she said.

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrates diet its like the Atkins diet on steroids, McDaniel said. People on the diet strive to consume 70% to 80% of their calories through fats, as little as 5% through carbohydrates and the rest through protein.

This helps us lose weight because it forces our bodies to burn fat for energy instead of its preferred fuel, carbohydrates.

McDaniel recommends that her clients not go on the keto diet. The diet changes the microbiome in their bodies (the bacteria, fungi and more that live inside us). It is difficult for people on the diet to consume enough fiber, which can lead to constipation and other gastrointestinal nastiness. And because carbohydrates hold onto water, people on the diet are often dehydrated, she said.

And yet, as Mike and Robin and thousands of others can attest, it works. So I decided to try a few recipes to see how they tasted.

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The rules of the keto diet are highly restrictive, which can make cooking difficult. You need to avoid fruit, sugars, grains, beans and legumes, rice, potatoes, candy and juice.

Ingredients to be encouraged include meat, fatty fish, eggs, butter and cream, cheese, nuts and seeds, certain oils (olive, avocado, coconut) and low-carb vegetables most green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers and the like.

Its a lot to take in, so I began with a simple and entirely wonderful dish of Citrus-Marinated Olives. These are a marvelous treat, combining the heady earthiness of olives with bright notes of orange and lemon. Though the flavors are disparate, they work surprisingly well together.

Best of all, you make them in mere minutes.

Another winner was Keto Egg Cups, a dish that concisely presents everything that is good about keto cooking: Little cups made from prosciutto hold eggs mixed with cream, spinach, roasted red peppers and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Its a delightful conglomeration of high-fat goodies that come together into a hand-held snack. And its just as fun at room temperature as it is warm.

Two entrees came next. First, I took a recipe for Instant-Pot Keto Mediterranean Chicken and made it a recipe for Keto Mediterranean Chicken Without an Instant Pot. It only took about five minutes longer than the Instant-Pot version, and it was deeply satisfying.

Ill admit, though, that I could not commit to full keto cooking with this one. As written, the recipe calls for searing six chicken thighs and then cooking the dish in the resulting fat.

My six thighs rendered out a half cup of fat. I just couldnt do it. I couldnt cook with and I certainly couldnt eat that much fat. I know the keto diet requires what seems like a shocking amount of fat to work, but I just couldnt see it. I poured out half of the fat, and the dish still felt greasy to me.

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Greasy, but delicious. Meaty chicken thighs are paired with olives, capers, oregano and a cutting splash of vinegar. Its presented with a fresh-tasting yogurt sauce, making an impressive presentation. Id happily eat it anytime, especially if I poured out all but one tablespoon of that fat.

The other entree, Keto Breaded Chicken Cutlets, isnt bad but Id only make it again if I were on the keto diet. The chicken is dredged through almond flour before frying, which gives it a duller flavor than wheat flour.

With wheat flour, the same recipe would be excellent, if familiar. If youre on the keto diet, almond flour is definitely the way to go. Just be sure to use a lot of salt.

The last dish I made was a dessert called Black and White Keto Fat Bombs. Seriously, thats the name, and seriously, thats what they are. They are chocolate-and-vanilla candies that are made with coconut oil and almonds, plus low-carb, powdered sweetener, sugar-free vanilla extract and unsweetened cocoa powder.

How did they taste? Not bad, actually, or at least not too bad. But the texture was so oily and off-putting that most taste testers threw away their samples. One said it was like eating butter.

If youre on the keto diet and youre looking for an extra infusion of fat, then Id say to go ahead and make it. Otherwise, this is one to avoid.

My friend Robin swears by the keto diet and says she is passionate about it. Her health indicators are all great, and she says she has higher energy and alertness. And though the diet is restrictive, she likes what she can eat: cheese, olive oil, butter, nuts and dark chocolate.

The biggest thing she misses is fruit, but she does not miss the 40 pounds she lost.

Then again, I have another friend, Roger, who lost 65 pounds. He just eats more healthfully and mindfully, and walks every day. That sounds easier.

BLACK AND WHITE KETO FAT BOMBS

Yield: 15 servings

2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup coconut oil

1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite low-carb powdered sweetener

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (sugar-free if on keto diet)

Small pinch salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Line a mini-muffin tin with mini liners.

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Pulse and then process the almonds, oil, sweetener, vanilla, zest and salt until smooth except for small chunks of almond (like chunky peanut butter). Remove half to a small bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.

Fill half of one liner with the vanilla mixture and then quickly fill the other half with the chocolate mixture (it should remind you of a black-and-white cookie). Repeat with the remaining vanilla and chocolate mixtures. Tap the tin on the counter a few times.

Freeze until solid, about 30 minutes. You can remove the liners if youd like. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Per serving: 243 calories; 24 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 4 g protein; 5 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 155 mg sodium; 53 mg calcium

Source: Food Network

KETO MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup pitted kalamata olives

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Liberally sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and cook half of the pieces, skin-side down, until the skin is deeply browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is deeply browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.

Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the fat (if on the keto diet, keep all the fat in the pot). Return pot to heat and add garlic; cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add the olives, capers, vinegar, oregano and 1/2 cup water; stir to combine and to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Return chicken pieces to pot and stir to mix.

Cover and cook at a simmer until chicken is done, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and boil the sauce to reduce it by half.

Meanwhile, mix the yogurt, parsley, mint, lemon zest and lemon juice, plus a large pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve the chicken with its sauce, and the yogurt sauce on the side.

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Per serving (nutrition calculated using all the fat from step 2): 627 calories; 48 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; 285 mg cholesterol; 42 g protein; 5 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 1,146 mg sodium; 91 mg calcium

Source: Adapted from a recipe by the Food Network

KETO EGG CUPS

Yield: 3 servings

1 tablespoon butter, see note

6 large, thin slices of prosciutto

1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup packed baby spinach leaves, chopped

1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

6 large eggs

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Note: To make this recipe even more keto-friendly, instead of greasing the muffin tin with 1 tablespoon of butter, melt 2 tablespoons and brush the tin with it. It will pool in the bottom of each cup, but that is OK.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Grease the cups of a muffin tin with the 1 tablespoon of butter (or brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter). Line each cup with a slice of prosciutto, folding and overlapping so that the entire surface of the cup is covered and no metal is peeking through. Divide the mozzarella evenly among the cups. Repeat with the Parmesan, spinach and roasted red peppers.

Whisk the eggs and cream in a large measuring cup or small pitcher; add some salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pour the egg mixture in each cup, making sure not to overfill.

Bake until the eggs are set and wobble only slightly, 10 to 12 minutes (the eggs will continue to cook after they come out). Let cool 5 minutes, then use a thin knife or offset spatula, if necessary, to loosen the prosciutto from the edges of each cup. Transfer to a plate for serving.

Per serving: 321 calories; 22 g fat; 10 g saturated fat; 426 mg cholesterol; 28 g protein; 4g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 1,779 mg sodium; 272 mg calcium

Source: Food Network

CITRUS-MARINATED OLIVES

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 strip lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

1 strip orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

Salt and pepper

1 cup Castelvetrano olives

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange juice

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, orange zest, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is pale golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in olives and cook until just warm, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and orange juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving (based on 4): 167 calories; 18 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 4 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 829 mg sodium; 39 mg calcium

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The keto diet: Its highs and lows plus 5 recipes - The Gazette

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