Trying Keto and Timed Eating

Since I’ve discovered (just the other day) that “timed eating” and the Keto diet offers hope for curing PKD, I am looking closely at the Keto diet plan.

Timed Eating is Daily Fasting

Timed eating means eating only during a small section of the 24 hour period. It is fasting each day during hours that make fasting easiest. I began my own schedule on August 24th. I eat only after 11:00AM and then eat all my food before 5, or 6:00PM. I tried to end at five, but found it too difficult so I’ve moved it up an hour.

I’ve found this schedule to work very well for me. I do drink black coffee in the morning. Drinking things that do not contain calories are okay during a fast. Tea and water are other liquids are okay. The benefit of this fast is that I’ve now gone 17 hours without food, if I stop at 6pm the night before and eat at 11am.

The only problem I have is trying to eat enough good food within those 7 hours. And reducing carbs, to help get into ketosis, is a challenge. It means giving up lots of food I normally eat. Bread and pasta are obvious, but also milk and juice are not Keto friendly.

Eating The Keto Way

The Keto diet plan is also something I’m trying to grasp. It’s a high fat (good fat) and low-carb eating plan that is meant to raise ketones. From everything I’ve read, ketones burn fat, not sugar, which benefits us in many ways. To get to that point, carbs (that turn into sugar) and sugar supplies in the body, must be used up first. Hence the low carb diet. We want our bodies to burn fat.

Although there is much to be said about Keto and low-carb diets (good and bad) this article mentions it’s ability to Boost Brain Health. The page mentions Alzheimers, Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease. And now I see that ketosis could reverse PKD by reducing cysts on the kidneys. It really sounds like a cure-all.

Guess what? You won’t hear doctors telling you about this. In fact, the PKD website doesn’t even mention it. But they have lots of information on fundraising to “find a cure”. What if food and fasting is the cure?

Can we cure disease by eating the right food? What if we fast, or go without eating for hours at a time, will that help us be healthier? Gosh, it seems crazy to think that we have the ability to heal ourselves, doesn’t it?

More to come.

My Favorite Low Carb Vegetable Casserole Recipes

I am not a big follower of recipes, but online recipes can give me ideas. Now that I don’t eat pasta, my favorite low-carb, vegetable casserole recipes are Keto and (mostly) kidney friendly.

Before I continue, I am not a medical professional nor am I a dietician. Do not consider this post as a recommendation for any type of diet. Do your own research or ask a medical professional if you have PKD or CKD. I’m still learning how to eat.

Eggplant casserole ready to bake
Small casserole with eggplant layered meal – ready to bake.

Pinterest and Keto diet sites are loaded with food ideas, but many include tons of cheese and too much salt. My advice is to cut down on the cheese and salt that seems to be the basics of many Keto foods, and concentrate on eating more vegetables.

Most Diets Have Nothing Against Vegetables, But…

Usually you are perfectly safe when eating organic, fresh or frozen vegetables. However, some vegetables can be high in carbohydrates (anti-Keto) and high in potassium and phosphorus (anti-kidney).

Balancing a low-carb diet with safe foods for those of us with kidney disease can be tricky, but not impossible. We have to be careful of dairy also, so a little cheese on top of the casserole is better than layering it throughout.

Tomatoes are not kidney friendly due to their high potassium levels, but adding small amounts of sauce with the vegetables, or a few slices of tomato within the layering will add great flavor. Remember, this is a dish that should feed 4-6 people. So, how much tomato (or cheese) would you be eating per serving?

Sliced veggie casserole is Keto food
A simple casserole that is Keto friendly

The basics to creating a simple vegetable casserole is to slice, layer and bake. That’s it, and you can choose what vegetables to use.

I enjoy making my own tomato sauce using herbs from my garden, but organic, store bought (low sodium) is fine too. Just don’t go overboard if you have kidney problems.

Favorite Vegetables to Use in One Dish Meals

My favorite casserole uses eggplant, but I can’t always find decent eggplant at the store. My second favorite vegetables are zucchini and summer squash. It’s always best to buy what is in season because it will be the freshest. Spicy and yummy peppers can add great flavor.

I‘ve included some potassium info for those who need to watch it.

  • Eggplant, peeled or not *I slice it and sprinkle with salt, which is suppose to help with bitterness. The salt is rinsed away! Read here on How to Salt Eggplant.
  • Summer squash: Zucchini and /or yellow
  • Peppers add great flavor. Red bell pepper (251 mg.potassium) / Poblano pepper (410 mg. potassium)
  • Broccoli (288 mg. potassium, 1 cup chopped)
  • Cauliflower – I prefer a white sauce with this.
  • Sliced tomatoes (go easy if you have CKD / PKD) *High in Potassium
  • Sliced onion
  • Mushrooms (cook first)
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach *High in Potassium
  • Herbs, either dried or freshly chopped, add flavor and nutrients

Usually I choose whatever vegetable I have, or use a combination of two. I’m cooking for myself only, so my casseroles need to be smallish. One eggplant will usually fill my baking dish!

Keto casserole with eggplant and tomato sauce
Eggplant casserole

Make some tomato sauce or use from a jar.

Shred some of your favorite cheese.

Once the vegetables are sliced (which I do by hand) I begin to layer.

Make the Casserole

Think as if you were making lasagna.

  • Grease a baking dish – I use Ghee (Ghee is just clarified butter.)
  • Begin layering with one layer of veggies, a little tomato sauce, meat (if you are using it) and some cheese – or cut down and sprinkle cheese on top only.
  • Keep going until the dish is nearly full – it will bubble over if too full!
  • Pour the rest of tomato sauce over, if any is left, and sprinkle with cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350 until the vegetables are soft – around 30-40 minutes.

This type of casserole can contain pre-cooked meat if you want. I’ve made meatballs and sliced them up for one of the layers. Usually I avoid adding meat because too much red meat / protein is not good for kidneys. I prefer an all-vegetable casserole.

Layering the meatballs and zucchini
Layering the meatballs and zucchini

Simple and Healthy Eating

My goal was to help my readers see that recipes are not needed when it comes to baking healthy casseroles loaded with vegetables. And who needs pasta?

Honestly…. I have to eat! It does feel overwhelming while I try to do Keto and keep my kidneys going. I cannot cut every food out of my diet…!

Variety is best, and being aware of personal body needs and limitations should be the guide to creating awesome, guilt-free, vegetable casseroles.

For more Kidney health information read: Top 15 Healthy Foods For People With Kidney Disease. And this page is a good one: 17 Foods to Avoid if You Have Bad Kidneys.

Let’s Eat!

Meatball and zucchini casserole is Keto meal
Keto casserole

Mistakes I Made When I Began a Keto Diet

I have now surpassed my six month Keto diet anniversary (I began in August 2020). Overall, I am pleased with how I feel. Since I don’t go to a doctor, I don’t have medical results to share, only my own personal observations.

The breakfast I used to eat was something like the one pictured below. Black coffee with lots of coconut oil, and yogurt with nuts, coconut and bananas (or other fruit). I thought it was a great meal, and it’s not bad, except for the carbs in bananas.

The little bananas came from my neighbors backyard here in Florida. They are the perfect size since bananas are a no-no on Keto. (Hint hint, I don’t give up everything because I believe that variety is good.)

coffee yogurt little bananas
Florida bananas in yogurt

Since I began Keto, I also do intermittent fasting so I don’t eat until noon. Sometimes I eat a “breakfast” and other times I eat a regular meal – low carb of course.

Balancing Good Foods and Keto

Which brings me to one of the things that bothers me about Keto. I don’t want to give up fruit. So I have been eating a little, like the tiny bananas. Or I add a few blueberries or a couple strawberries to my yogurt – (Cabot Creek, full fat, plain Greek Yogurt is my favorite.) I’ve stopped drinking juice, but still eat a little fruit. If I eat more carbs than usual for breakfast I am careful the rest of the day.

I don’t count my carbs. For a few days I used a carb counter app but I just can’t spend time entering all the foods I eat to see how many carbs I’m getting. I feel like I know the basic foods to avoid, and I read labels if I’m not sure.

I’m cutting back on the Keto breads and biscuits which really have no nutritional value.

Keto breakfast of quick bread and omelet
My breakfast of spinach and egg with a keto biscuit containing poppy seeds

I Was Eating Too Much Cheese, Bacon and Replacement Bread

After a few weeks on Keto, I stopped losing weight. In fact, I gained a few pounds! This was depressing after having a good beginning and dropping a few pounds every week. Something was wrong.

Lots of online Keto recipes are loaded with cheese and I was eating too much of it. I’ve gone back to eating more normally and using less cheese in my dishes. I also quit eating so many Keto biscuits. Once I did these things, I stopped gaining weight. Keto replacement food can be yummy but loaded with calories!

***Eat healthy, using lots of organic vegetables, grass-fed proteins, and good oils while greatly reducing carbs is the goal. Stay away from processed foods.

Read more about the differences between a clean Keto diet and a dirty Keto diet.

Keto cheese biscuits
Keto biscuits with cheese have little nutritional value and lots of calories

Where to Find Keto Recipes Online

I bought Maria Emmerich’s Keto recipes book (Amazon affiliate link), but she also has a website with recipes. In fact, many popular food sites also list Keto dishes. Just eat sensibly and watch the sodium as many Keto foods don’t worry about sodium content.

Eating to Help My Mind and Body

My original reason for trying Keto is to help with my PKD, so I had to remind myself of this constantly. Since I don’t go to a doctor, all I have to go on is the way I feel, how I sleep, and my own blood pressure readings. I do Keto and think about what is best for my kidneys at the same time.

My mother, and now my younger sister, have had dementia. Before my mother, no one in my family had impaired mental abilities at all, especially at a fairly young age – my sister is only 63! So this is scary. I tell myself it is lifestyle and food that contributes, and I especially believe in eating correctly.

Dementia forgetting puzzle pieces missing
Losing brain power is a scary thing

A big plus from eating this way is that my mind feels good. I do not get tired in the middle of the day, and I am sleeping very well most nights. Because I don’t bother with food for the first five to six hours of my day, I get more work done (I own an online business). I am very focused and do not miss breakfast, nor do I believe it is necessary to eat first thing in the morning.

I’ve actually come to like the fasting part of this diet. It might sound odd, but not eating all morning has been a good thing for me. I stop eating by at least 6:00 pm and that gives me 18 hours total without eating. When I get up in the morning, I make a regular cup or two of coffee then I drink watered down versions of coffee – or Dandy Blend (this is an Amazon affiliate link to a Dandelion coffee replacement drink) – until I can eat. I do get hungry, so when you hear people say “you won’t be hungry on Keto”, if you fast, you will probably get hungry.

Use that non-eating time to think about a healthy meal you will cook for your first meal of the day.

A Keto food shopping trip

Identifying Florida Trees and Shrubs in My Backyard

My Florida yard is very small but I have wild growth on two sides. A vacant lot behind the house is full of trees, brush, and vines and it’s where I set up my bird feeders for the Painted Buntings. I have identified some of the growth thanks to a good site I finally found.

Searching for photos online has proven difficult because often there is no image of the leaves. The whole tree or bush is not really helpful without some up close images.

I’m adding photos from my yard to this page to help me remember what is what. I have to know what to keep and what to destroy as I clean up.

Unknown Tree or Shrub – Laurel Fig?

This plant was uncovered as I cleaned up for a small garden space in January. The leaves are widely spaced and are dark green and oval in shape. The bark is very light gray. Possibly the Laurel Fig and if so, it is an invasive tree. I was hoping this was a nice bush to save, but it seems that I may have to cut it out.

Dark green small leaves tree type?
No name for this yet.

Read, and see amazing photos, on this interesting page on Strangler figs and how the roots cause havoc.

The Brazilian Pepper Tree is an Invasive Species – Non Native

I have a group of Brazilian Pepper trees just over my lot line. During the winter months loads of red berries appear which bring robins and other birds to feed.

It is an attractive tree, but is an invasive species and not a Florida native. In fact, the trees should be destroyed when possible according to many articles I have read. This clump of trees is huge, with a large root system. It is also not on land I own but the branches arch over my yard.

  • Dahoon holly tree with red berries
  • red berries dahoon holly
  • Robin on branch of a Dahoon holly tree
  • backyard
  • Multi-trunks of the Brazilian Pepper tree

Florida Maple Trees

The Florida maple trees lose their leaves during the cooler months. This photo was taken in February. Soon new leaves will form. I saved this little tree which is growing on the edge of my property when it was covered in potato vines (see below) and unable to grow. Now this maple tree is thriving and has tripled in size.

Leafless maple tree in winter
The Maple tree loses leaves in winter

The Elderberry Shrub – Florida Native

I’ve included a new volunteer Elderberry with a photo of the larger Elderberry in the woods. The tree has pretty white clumps of flowers and dark berries during the warmer months. The berries are toxic to humans when raw, but edible when cooked. Many animals and birds can eat the berries, but I think I will pass!

  • White flowers of the Florida Elderberry
  • flowering Elderberry in woods
  • Elderberry leaves and flower head
  • Elderberry flowers
  • Florida Elderberry
  • Elderberry white flowering tree
  • Elderberry flowers

The Beautyberry – Florida Native

When I came across this stem of berry “bubbles” I took some photos not knowing what it was. The Beautyberry bush is a Florida native plant and this one is located in my backyard.

  • Long beauty berry stem with purple berry clusters
  • purple berries
  • purple beauty berry
  • purple berries

FYI: UF Plant Directory Page for Native and Non-native plants, with photos

The Annoying Potato Vine / Air Potato

There are many obnoxious and non-native vines in Florida. Most were purposely brought here for some reason and then they grew out of control. The potato vine is one. See my photos below and more photos at the UF site.

Because of the long months of agreeable weather for growing, vines can easily take over a landscape. The potato vine creates loads of potato-looking things of all sizes that become more vines. Native trees and shrubs can become smothered.

  • air potato vine leaves
  • large air potato in Florida
  • Hanging flowers on air potato vines
  • Potato vines smothering vegetation
  • Potatoes dropped along the edge of my yard
  • Florida air potatoes
  • potato vines
  • bags of air potatoes

Thorny vine – unknown

Leaves and thorny vines
Unknown vine with thorns

Pink Wood Sorrel – Clover

I call this pink wood sorrel plant a “clover” because of the leaves. I don’t know if it is a relative to clover, but it blooms with the prettiest little dark pink-purple flowers. I’ve had it pop up in my front garden bed all on it’s own, but this plant below I photographed along the shrub line out back.

It does die down and disappear, but comes back.

  • clover flowers pink wood sorrel
  • dark pink clover flowers pink sorrel
  • Flower cluster of pink wood sorrel

Elephant Ear – Non-native / considered invasive

I was surprised to see that the Elephant Ear plant is not a Florida native. I always associated it with this tropical climate, but it came from South America. An interesting note: The tubers of this plant can be eaten.

  • flower of the elephant ear plant
  • banana trees and elephant ears

Muscadine Grape Vine – Native (no photo)

The Muscadine Grape vine is not unwanted like the other vines mentioned here. It is a Florida native and grows all over the state.

Bottlebrush

Along the back of my lot an overgrown shrub border contains a couple of bottlebrush trees.

Lantana?

I photographed these little flowers without knowing what they were. Possibly they are Lantana, which is also an invasive plant here in Florida. It is listed as a non-native plant at the UF site.

  • pink flowers
  • Lantana

Unknown Flowering Vine – Probably the Invasive Japanese Honeysuckle

I took this photo of what I think was a vine with white flowers resembling the honeysuckle. I’m not sure if it is the invasive Japanese Honeysuckle or not. I will look for it again in the side yard when plants begin to flower. Unless….

I have been pulling out long vines with leaves similar to this vine. The description is that it grows over everything blocking out light and killing smaller plants, and the vines are definitely long enough to do that. Some of the vines I pulled have black berries, which can be seen in a photo at the link above. I’ve been dealing with the vines while cleaning up a space for my new backyard garden.

So not be tempted to plant this as it is a real pain to remove. It is NOT a Florida native, so choose a vine that is.

Florida invasive species Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle?

In Closing

Once I began to add photos and identify the growth around my yard, I have found that many of them are invasive and unwanted. Trees, shrubs and vines are labeled “invasive” when they block out native growth by taking over spots where native things should grow.

When shopping for yard plantings look for “native” plants. I will have to remove as best I can the plants that should not be allowed to grow. The new garden area I am creating already has a small Brazilian Pepper tree which is small enough to cut down.

Once I have cleaned out the vines, I’ll look for native plants to add to the landscape.