“New Year and back to keto,” I always like to say in the first month of every single new year. I’ve come to accept that keto is not going to be a way of life for me. I know for some that really works and I’m truly sorry that it doesn’t work for me. I would LOVE to tuck into all the saturated fats at every meal but my body sends me very clear signals, let’s just say, via my bowels, if you know what I mean, that reduce my keto diet to vegetables and select oils. That’s no way to fucking live, I say.
That said, following a keto-style plan every now and then for as long as I can does help kind of reset the blood sugar, the electrolyte balance, might help me shed a few pounds…you know the spiel. And with all those free-wheeling ketones coursing through every vein, you can’t beat riding that keto high straight into the sunset.
So I’m gearing up for maybe a 6- or 8-week keto run and I’m reacquainting myself with the good, bad, and ugly of the keto world. Yes, of course, I aim for “clean keto” whatever that nonsense means to people (like, I go easy on the pork products and try to steer clear of sugar alcohols) but let’s not ignore the technology that allows us some keto joy. So, as I’ve been reviewing my records, I just figured I’d share where I think the keto community goes right and terribly wrong in enthusiastically sharing “swaps” that make the transition and sustaining of a keto plan either acceptable or completely, soul-crushingly disappointing.
Four Bomb Keto Swaps
Now, of course, the standard disclaimer applies here as it does everywhere: “This is my opinion. I’m allowed to have it. Don’t come at me.” Also, these are things I consider swaps but these are not things that exist because of keto–I think that might be why they’re so good. So in no particular order:
Neruto-style Sushi rolls.
If you’re like me, sushi is life. But even in my non-low-carb life, I don’t eat it much because I’ve always got my eye on my blood sugar and white rice, like nothing else, can really jack that up fast. Neruto-style rolls are whatever the rolls contain rolled in cucumber slices instead of rice. Trust me when I say, mwah “chef’s kiss.” Not only does it immediately turn my favorite spicy tuna, California, or whatever other kind of roll I want (except the fried ones, y’all, because…batter) into a GREAT, pretty balanced keto meal but it’s incredibly delicious and satisfying as a meal. Extra points for the tanginess of the white vinegar they splash on to keep everything nice and green. 10/10
Okay, now, I don’t count this as truly clean keto…but honestly who gives an everliving eff, you know. Over the years I’ve come to accept that one serving of some kind of bready thing is all I need to feel the joy and, I’ll be honest, the Mission Low Carb tortillas do the job when my will grows weak. I don’t eat them every day but I could: they’re super soft, taste like regular flour tortillas, and they’re pliable like regular flour tortillas. It’s essentially like putting on your favorite sweatpants–they might not be pretty but they make life better. There is a risk of going nuts on these because they’re so delicious and some of the ingredients are truly sketch but GOT-DAM, they’re lifesavers. Extra points for putting butter and cinnamon on them and rolling them up for keto-man’s ghetto cinnamon rolls. I swear they scratch the itch every. single. time.
Allulose and/or Monk Fruit Sweeteners
Even discussing sweeteners makes me nervous because it’s so easy to head down the slippery slope back to sugar. It’s incredibly easy to overconsume. That said, sometimes ya need something sweet and for those intermittent keto cookies or maybe some maple-like-flavored syrup for keto pancakes, this stuff is phenomenal. Allulose looks, feels, and mostly tastes like regular granulated sugar. Monkfruit, when not the star of the show but playing a supporting role, can’t be beat for flavor. Skip the stevia and erithyrytol (and any ensuing, certain diarrhea) and go straight here. Love them. Extra points for being easy to find and not breaking the bank.
This is not a specific keto swap but coconut aminos are SO MUCH BETTER than any kind of soy sauce. They’re ever so slightly sweet and pretty salty–if you weren’t aware of the difference, you’d probably never really guess it wasn’t soy sauce. An easy way to avoid the gluten of soy sauce as well!
And Three Keto Swaps That Are Just Lies
I remember when I was starting keto, I looked for anything that even vaguely would satisfy my cravings for usual carby foods. There are more than three I’ve found over the years but these three make me SO ANGRY, they win for this post.
Keto donuts of any ilk.
The adage that says, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” should be the tagline for any, any, any kind of keto donut either that you buy or try (and fail) to make at home. I suppose I could go higher upstream to talk about the real problem which is the lack of substitutable flours that aren’t wheat. Almond meal (whether they call it flour or not) and coconut “flour” are so bizarre and require so much extra machinations to get them to even somewhat work that there’s no way they could meet the delicious expectation that the title of “Donut” requires. Save your tears and don’t even try. And don’t try to tell me that putting them into that toric shape (PhD word) and dredging them in granulated Swerve will “make” them. JUST STOP. It’s a complete waste of money no matter how you look at it.
Again, not designed for keto (I don’t think) but a “hard pass” for me. It could be user error but they stink from beginning to end. They’re slimy and weird. They will never substitute for pasta. Just don’t.
You can probably see a theme emerging here. When we try to swap for inherently carby things, only disappointment follows. It annoys the fuck out of me when chirpy keto moms are like, “And I subbed cauli rice for rice in this rice casserole and it was perfect…I didn’t even know the difference.” Um, PLEASE. There is certainly a difference, the main of which is that cauliflower rice will release a ton of water unlike rice rice that will ABSORB a ton of water. So get your waders on because your cauli-rice dishes will be swampy. And your house will smell like a cabbage patch. Ugh.
One Extra Bonus: A Hugely Successful Keto Swap That I Reject on Principle
I don’t know why but as soon as I start keto, I start craving cinnamon rolls (see my tortilla comment above). I’ve looked into making fathead dough because so many people have sworn that it acts and tastes like regular yeasted dough.
Now…y’all…this dough is made of eggs, mozzarella cheese, and cream cheese. And somehow they magically become like yeasted dough?!? I want to throw up just thinking about it. And, as someone moderately lactose-intolerant, my stomach has wound itself into a knot just at the thought. JUST NO.
The amount of swaps that exist in keto-world are legion…I think it’s because our world and the structure of our industrialized food cultures revolve around carbs So naturally, we all look to recreate the foods that bring us nostalgia…and probably comfort, joy, satisfaction. We are a world of emotional eaters and I’m fine with that. But because of that I have to actively remind myself of the ultimate goal of a keto cycle for me. Here are the truths I keep in mind as I head back into keto-world:
- If keto is part of a weight loss plan, the amount of calories going in still matters. One fathead cinnamon roll (that I won’t be making because…see above) could easily add up to 600-700 calories because of the fat content. Sometimes the swaps make an item way more of a calorie-bomb than we’re used to the regular item being. Food for thought.
- Keto offers us the opportunity to lean in to the glory that are higher fat foods. Instead of heavy swaps to recreate really carby dishes, lean in to what keto does offer instead. I love a good custard–with allulose or monkfruit sweetener, that’s a great keto dessert. Add some berries, even better. Whipped cream–not only fair game but a keto favorite. Fat bombs are essentially truffles. Yes! Any of the nut butters minus sugar are easily incorporated. Go with keto instead of trying to re-invent carby foods to medocrity or worse…a fathead life.
This is exactly why keto, for me, is a tool and not a lifestyle change. Can I imagine not ever eating a cinnamon roll again? NO. Can I imagine holding off on desserts for a couple months? Yes sure. For me, keto as a tool frees me up from feeling boxed in to the point that my only recourse is a keto donut. That’s a soul-sucking place to be.