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I hear this A LOT… an LCHF diet is simply not sustainable. It is difficult to follow long-term. It’s too restrictive. It can cause nutritional deficiencies. It can lead to heart disease and kidney problems. And so on and so forth. I’ve heard all these arguments, time and again. And my only response is – LCHF is sustainable, nutritious and downright easy when you do it the right way. While LCHF works for most people, in particular, it is highly beneficial for people with diabetes and PCOS. Here are some of our top tips on how to make LCHF sustainable.
The first step to adopting LCHF is to know where to get your daily quota of carbs from. Apps like MyFitnessPal make it very easy for you to track all your macros on LCHF diet. Simply enter what you’re eating and how much you’re eating, and it will list out your macros for you. Since carbs are the only things you need to worry about limiting, know the best sources. Your first choice should be vegetables. Think artichoke hearts, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, okra, parsnip, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, mushrooms, white potatoes and sweet potatoes.
You can also eat fruits with their skin on. Also, dairy, nuts and seeds contain some carbs. And since we eat low-carb and not no-carb, you can eat fibre-rich quinoa, steel-cut oats, brown rice, and sourdough bread for a meal on the days you haven’t reached your daily allowed carb limit.
When I started eating low-carb, I automatically started eating more protein to fill up. Now this is something you want to avoid. Keep your protein intake to moderate. I recommend a piece of protein no larger than your palm at each meal. You have to amp up your fat intake, which can sometimes feel like a challenge. To make this task easier, eat foods that are naturally high in healthy fats.
Add coconut, avocados, cheese, nuts, and seeds to your salads. Make full-fat salad dressings like Caesar Dressing and Hollandaise sauce. Cook with olive oil, coconut oil and coconut milk, ghee, grass-fed butter, and animal lard. Buy fresh meat (none of that processed/packaged stuff) with the skin and little fat on, and cook the meat in its own fat. Aim to eat fatty fish 2-3 times a week. Eating more fat adds a lot more flavor to your meals and also ensures you stay full for longer.
If you want to make an LCHF diet sustainable, you can no longer go to the grocery store and buy ready-to-eat foods off the shelves. But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy stuff from your local supermarket. No, LCHF doesn’t have to be expensive; you don’t have to buy fancy grain-free breads and crackers. Eat simple, eat right.
Now to do that, fill up your cart with a wide variety of fresh vegetables. The more varied the better. Pick lots of leafy greens that can go into salads, add a colorful array of root vegetables to add healthy carbs – think carrots, beets, turnips, radish and sweet potatoes. Go to the meat section and buy fresh, organic meats for every meal. Leave the packaged bacon/sausages/salami behind…look for fresh options at the butcher if you love luncheon meats too much. Also, load up on seafood. I find buying tinned tuna, sardines and salmon makes it so much simpler to put together a quick salad for lunch. Just add a bunch of lettuce, chopped cucumbers, some olives and open up the tin…and you’re done!
Do pick up options for snacks. I like to buy baby carrots and cucumbers and also pick up tubs of hummus. That’s a great snack right there. Always keep your pantry stocked with herbs and nuts. A handful of nuts make quick munchies a lot easier. Gently roast nuts and add dried herbs for something different. Cheese, coconut milk and cream and cream cheese are also a must-add to your shopping list.
You no longer have the luxury to come home from a hectic day at work, open up a packet of food and eat your dinner. You have to prepare in advance. And that’s not all that hard. Come to think of it, just like any healthy diet making LCHF sustainable requires a bit of pre-planning and prepping.
The key to a quick dinner or lunch is to have all your essentials handy and prepped in advance. Use a couple of hours on the weekends to meal prep. If you like smoothies for breakfast, chop up a big batch of fruits and vegetables over the weekend and make one-serving packs for the whole week. That way, all you have to do in the morning is to grab a pack from the freezer, blitz in the blender and your breakfast is ready. Cut up a variety of vegetables and stow them away in the freezer for quick curries and stir-fry recipes.
Once you buy fresh meats, come home and plan a quick menu for the coming week. I make individual packs of diced chicken, full chicken breasts for grilling, and a mix of chicken with bone in pieces for roasting. That way I only have to remove, thaw and cook what’s on the menu that day.
If I have extra-time on any day, I pre-prepare 2-3 dishes and store them in individual serving air-tight boxes in the fridge. That way we have a couple days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners ready to eat.
Vegetables are a great way to bulk up any meal. You will no longer miss out on breads and rice when you add a side of vegetables to every single meal. I like to add 2 cups of vegetables to every meal, and that helps keep me full. On most days, my dinner consists of a piece of grilled meat/fish/cottage cheese with a side of roasted vegetables. It’s easy to put a large batch of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, beets and mushrooms on the baking tray and roast the vegetables. With some protein, it makes for a complete meal.
Since I meal-prep, I make individual bags of vegetables to roast at a time to simplify my life. I pull out a bag, drizzle coconut oil over the vegetables, and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Sometimes I may even add dried herbs or powdered cinnamon for some extra flavor. In the time I get changed, have tea, and grill meat, the vegetables are ready to eat.
Nuts and seeds make a great snack. If you are busy like me, make one-serving packs with a handful of mixed nuts and keep in your fridge/drawer/bag. Nuts are also great to add to salads for crunch and some extra fats.
You can also use almonds to make your own almond meal at home (can be quite expensive when store-bought.) Blanch almonds to remove skin, dry them, and then grind into a powder. For me – almond meal makes LCHF a lot easier. I use some to make crunchy, crispy chicken. I also use it to thicken gravies, as a base for my LCHF pizza and dosa and add some to my smoothies as well. There is SO MUCH you can do with an almond meal. Similarly, sunflower seeds and chia seeds can also be ground into a fine powder that can be used in place of flour for crispy chicken or vegetables.
As I mention above, you can still eat your favorites while making an LCHF diet sustainable. Use almond flour or coconut flour to become the base for LCHF bread, cookies, crackers, dosas and even desserts. Almond flour mixed with cheese and coconut milk becomes the perfect batter for pancakes, crepes, and dosas. Use almond meal with shredded mozzarella and dried herbs to make your own LCHF pizza base. If you love curries and miss eating rice with them, try making cauliflower rice. Grate up a head of cauliflower and cook it as you would any rice dish!
Love noodles and pasta? Try zoodles! Made from zucchini, these make it possible for you to enjoy your favorite Chinese and Italian meals again! I love zoodles with meatballs for a comforting Sunday night dinner. Think innovative ways to make burgers and tacos too. Instead of the bread, use large firm lettuce leaves to hold the burger patty or the taco filling.
You can find recipes for almost anything and everything online, if you are a newbie. As you start cooking with these new ingredients, you will learn to adapt recipes to your own personal taste.
If you are worried that you may have to give up on fruits on an LCHF diet, don’t be. You can still eat the fruits you love, as long as you count these carbohydrates into your daily carb intake. A piece of fruit makes for the perfect snack on the go and is also great as a post-workout snack. Berries, cherries, plums, cantaloupe, apples and peaches are great options to make an LCHF diet sustainable.
We recommend you eat all fruits to begin with, but recommend you limit your portion sizes. As you start tracking your macros, you will instinctively know which fruits fit best into your diet.
Sometimes, people think that an LCHF diet is not sustainable because the food is so bland. A meek salad with broiled chicken breast day in and day out doesn’t sound appetizing to anyone! But, that’s far from the truth. Just because you can’t eat salt and sugar-laden processed foods doesn’t mean your food will lack flavor!
There are many ways to add flavor to your meals and make an LCHF diet sustainable. Fats add more flavors. But herbs and spices reign supreme in my book. Sprinkle cinnamon over cauliflower before roasting and something amazing happens! I also like to infuse my olive oil with a few cloves of garlic and couple sprigs of rosemary. I add them straight to the bottle and it’s a game-changer.
Another easy way to add quick flavor is to use flavored butter for cooking. To make your own – melt butter. Chop a variety of herbs. Now add a teaspoon each into individual holes of an ice-tray and pour in the butter (you can use coconut oil too). Freeze. Now you can use a cube of flavored oil/butter to cook everything.
In the end, all the above tips point us to one direction — rethink the way you cook and eat. LCHF can be nutritious, delicious and highly satiating. You just have to stop thinking of what you CAN’T eat and start enjoying everything you CAN eat.
Firstly, it’s time we all got rid of the concept of ‘diet’. LCHF is not a “Diet” but a “Lifestyle”. And the minute you start to believe that processed carbs are nutritionally empty of healthy nutrients and don’t do your body any favors, you will realize what I am talking about.
I am not alone in my belief that LCHF is sustainable. Take a look at blogger Casey Durango who writes the blog Go Keto With Casey and loves the Keto diet (a diet similar to LCHF.) Or look at the health markers for Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt who has been on the Keto diet for 11 years and feels his healthiest ever. There’s Chris from Edify who has been eating LCHF since May 2013 and knows it’s for life.
The sooner you adjust your thinking to believe that processed foods and refined carbs are just not essential for you, the sooner you will embrace LCHF for life and stop worrying about relapse.