Rita’s Excellent Keto Adventure

While most squash (and carrots) are “out” on a low-carb diet, high-fiber, low-net carb Spaghetti Squash is fine to eat and very nutritious. You can use it as a replacement for spaghetti with your favourite pasta sauces, or as a replacement for high-carb squash in your favourite squash recipes – a double win! I have found the biggest challenge people face using Spaghetti Squash for the first time is that they tend to under-cook it. In order to get the long, stringy strands you want for your recipes, the squash needs to be thoroughly baked – easily 90 minutes or more at 350 degrees for an average size squash. Here’s a video I made some time ago to help you figure out the basics:
New Year’s Day seems as good a time as any to ask, “Is there alcohol on a Keto diet?” Generally speaking, no. I gave up all forms of alcohol when I went on Keto, which I think helped a lot. The reasons eliminating alcohol helped a lot are so complex (your liver naturally processes alcohol before carbs….) that it’s just simpler to skip alcohol. If you go on Keto AND skip alcohol as part of your 2019 program, you’ll have a massive weight loss advantage. This video is helpful and reasonable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCh1yHr_jVw
Over the past 6 years, I allowed myself to slide from half-marathon condition to almost 200 pounds. I never could have imaged it would happen so fast! I did not weigh this much in any of my 3 pregnancies. I was short of breath all the time; climbing a flight of stairs was a giant effort.
This is one of my favourite “after” photos – at an event with Jax the Wonder Drug-Sniffing Dog in September 2018, after 7 months on the Keto Diet.
There are A LOT of videos on YouTube that can get you started on Keto; I’ve watched hours and hours of them. Some are so complex you almost need a degree in biochemistry to stay awake for them; others are extremely short and simple.  I will post a few of the most helpful ones that I’ve found below. Before I do that, I’ll give you my short summary of “The Keto Experience.” 
  1. I was never hungry, and have never felt in any way deprived, on the Keto diet. 
  2. Our grain-based diet is a horrible, harmful lie. 
  3. A high fat, low carbohydrate diet seems counter-intuitive and maybe for some people, it is. However, for myself and several others in my family (diabetes runs in my family) have found ENORMOUS success on this diet – including all measurable blood metrics including cholesteral, tri-glycerides, HDL and LDL.
  4. Once you get your mind around the idea of “no white” (no rice, pasta, bread or potatoes) everything else is pretty easy. 
  5. Tons of green vegetables are a lot more palatable when you can flavour with fats (fry in bacon fat, top with butter or toss with salad dressing). You’ll come to enjoy it! 
  6. You are probably already eating all the protein you need; once you start paying close attention to protein (as I did) it was not hard to make sure I got enough. 
  7. For several months, I tried to keep my daily carb intake below 20 grams. This took effort and A LOT OF LABEL READING! You’ll be shocked at all the places you find carbs, which will surprise you. (Even in sugar-free gum? C’MON……) 
  8. You will need to give up virtually every fruit except berries. Fortunately you can get those all year (fresh in summer, frozen in winter) so you’ll be OK. Apples, oranges, melon and grapes are out, full stop. 
  9. Juice, pop, beer, wine, Gatorade….all forms of liquid sugar will be GONE from your diet. On the bright side, water from the tap is a lot cheaper! Herbal teas (hot or cold) are also flavourful and inexpensive. Coffee is still good! And you get to put real cream in it. 
  10. When I lost 60 pounds and reached my goal, I looked around for something to add to my diet to maintain my weight and settled on seeds: roast melon seeds (which feel crunchy and salty, like chips) and Chia seeds in my breakfast shakes. This seems to be working. 
Here are two of my favourite videos to get you started:  And here are my best, most useful recipes. Some I videoed years ago; others I have developed just recently specific to a Keto Diet. For fun, I’ll start with delicious Sugar-Free Chocolate, so that you can see there are LOTS of great things to eat while losing weight on this diet. I’ll update this post with new recipes in the weeks ahead. Good luck! Sugar-free chocolate – a hands-down favourite recipe! This is low carb but NOT low calorie (the recipe is half butter. And it tastes like it!) Eat it as a treat, not a meal, and you’ll be fine on your Keto diet. Fruity Fluff – thick, rich, tangy with strained 6% fat yogurt and frozen berries. Better than ice cream! Chia Puddings and Shakes – use one of nature’s “superfoods” to add fiber & omega 3s to your diet. Shiritake Noodles – put your favourite pasta sauce on this! Tomato sauce, meat sauce, clams, creamy or cheesy sauces, everything you love works on these low calorie, low carb noodles. The Smithopoulos Greek Dinner – every item on this menu is a perfect Keto food (just skip the rice or pita bread). The video for Tzatziki also details how to strain yogurt with cheesecloth, which you will want to do for the Fruity Fluff recipe above. Opa!! (Oh also – one of the few videos in which you can see me before my weight loss.) Perfect Eggs – Hard boiled or soft boiled Did you know that the USDA has removed cholesterol from its list of dietary substances of concern? Eggs have ALWAYS been good for you; and if you are on a Keto diet now, eggs are virtually the perfect food. Eat the whole egg, yolk and all. How to fry an egg – on a Keto diet you are not only allowed but ENCOURAGED to fry your eggs in a bit of butter. You can also eat bacon and eggs. Mussels – are almost pure protein and so easy to prepare (they do not need to be pried apart like oysters). I dip my steamed mussels in soy sauce and wasabi mustard and eat with pickled ginger like a rice-free sushi/sashimi experience. Pho – replace the rice noodles with Shiritake noodles. With that small change, Pho is a perfect Keto dish! Vitamin Supplements on a Keto Diet I figure it’s less a matter of what you take (you can always switch products anytime) as a matter of finding a system/process/routine that works for you, which is what I was able to develop over a period of a few months. I really HATED the handfuls of vitamins and avoided taking them whenever possible; I actually enjoy the supplement beverages, made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge. Find out what YOU like, and what you WILL do – Keto Slaw – this really helps when you are trying to eat 8 cups of green vegetables per day.
Roast vegetables are a real mainstay on a Keto diet! I ate two ziploc bags today while on the road….you can add cauliflower, broccoli, onions, celery, red green or orange peppers – the variations are endless! It’s a bit of a trick to cut the pieces to sizes which allow everything to cook to roughly the same doneness. You don’t want anything to be too soggy if you plan to eat them out of a bag, but they are also great for stir-fries, pasta sauces and just as hot vegetables with dinner.
Here is the biggest reaons I felt compelled to commit to recovering my health and getting back into shape: the birth of Adeline Grace in November 2017, and then Ada Nightengale in September 2018.

Ada is so beautful and happy! I can’t wait to meet her. It’s hard to be a Gramma from across the ocean.

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