After nine months on the Keto diet, my low carb meals have evolved to become simple and healthy.
Meals don’t have to be difficult and I rarely follow a recipe. Vegetables are at the top of my list when I shop, and they make up the bulk of the food I eat. Often I eat vegetables, with an egg, for my “breakfast”, which I eat at noon.
Many Meals Begin With Homemade Broth, or Stock
One thing I do quite often is make my own broth, or stock. The beef broth is made with bones I buy from the butcher. I bake the bones first to brown them, then add to water in my LeCrueset along with the bones, and fat that leaks out of the bones while they bake. Don’t skim off the fat! This is the good fat we need in our diets!
Chicken stock is made from the carcass of a baked chicken. Vegetable broth is of course made from only using vegetables.
Vegetables such as onion, celery, carrots, peppers, and herbs such as parsley and basil can be included. The vegetables don’t have to be perfect – use up older veggies this way. I usually add bay leaves too. The vegetables I add depends on what is around the house. Nothing has to be added, but the veggies add nutrients and flavor.
Simple Scallops and Green Beans Meal
Seafood is a favorite of mine and this simple meal consists of fresh scallops which cook up quickly in a frying pan. The frozen green beans were boiled in water then topped with butter. That’s it! Serve with a salad if you like.
Ground Turkey, Asparagus and Shallots
Cook ground turkey (or chicken) in a pan. Remove the meat. Add butter and / or oil with pieces of fresh asparagus and sauce until nearly tender, then add sliced onions and return ground turkey to the pan.
Tamari or soy sauce can be added at this point, unless sodium is a problem.
Beef and Cabbage Keto Meal
In a large pot brown ground beef. Add spices and herbs as you like. Remove the beef once it’s cooked and use the same pot to cook the cabbage. Slice a head of cabbage into “noodles” and boil them until tender. Either use water with (sodium free) bullion, or use homemade beef stock if you have it. I cook the cabbage in a small amount of liquid and don’t drain it.
Add the beef back to the pot, and some tomato sauce, or chopped tomatoes. Cook a bit longer (10-15 minutes) for flavors to combine.
Cheeseburger Using Lettuce as “Bun”
Buy lettuce with big leaves and wrap a juicy bacon-cheeseburger inside. I honestly don’t eat much bacon, but this burger was delicious with onions, pickles, cheese and bacon.
To cook this super easy, one pan, Keto dinner all you need is three ingredients. Buy some lean ground beef (1 pound), a can of organic, low sodium, diced tomatoes, two medium size zucchinis, and some chopped onion, which is optional.
Order of Preparation
Brown the ground beef in a large frying pan. While the meat is cooking, dice a zucchini into pieces. The easiest way to do this is to cut off the ends and cut the zucchini in half. Stand each half and make cross-cuts all the way down so the piece is in quarters. Lay it down on a cutting board and slice.
Open a can of diced tomatoes. Chop some onion if you want. I did to add flavor.
When the meat is cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside. I put it into a bowl I would be using to eat from to save dishes.
Add a pat of butter and heat the frying pan to cook the zucchini. Stir and cook, with the onions, until it is mostly tender. Dump in the can of tomatoes and add the cooked ground beef. Simmer for a few minutes to heat the tomatoes and blend the flavors.
This delicious and quick meal is now ready to eat! Add salt and pepper as you like.
Any vegetable you like would work in this dish. Some options would be broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant, and peppers. To stretch it, for those who eat carbs, eat it with rice or pasta. Crusty bread would be good too.
I began the Keto Diet in August 2020. Now it is mid-February 2021. After years of basing my eating on kidney friendly foods, for my PKD, I still felt horrible. I knew I needed to do something about the way I felt.
I’m not skinny, but after following a low carb diet for six months, I am feeling much better. Because I wrote, but never got around to publishing notes from my first weeks, I’m including them here.
After One Month on Keto, Notes:
When I cut carbs I saw changes right away. I lost about 10 pounds. I was weighing my self and taking waistline measurements on every Monday. But, I wrote this at the four week mark:
“The Monday morning weigh in was not impressive this past week. I lost less than 1/2 a pound and lost 3/4 inch around my waist. This seems ridiculous because I have cut out 1/3 of my meals every day. How do you eat seven fewer meals a week and not loose weight?
But, I am not going to worry about that. I want to see changes that tell me my kidneys are being affected. That would mean getting thinner around the waist and lowering my blood pressure. The bad kidneys make my BP high and I would love to see that come down. So far, not much difference.”
Weigh In Notes and Measurements
I’m hesitant to share my weekly logged weights and measurements, but by listing them here you will see how I did lose weight in the beginning. I am in my 60’s and haven’t lost weight at all in probably 20 years – no matter how much I exercised or watched what I ate. All I did was cut out the carbs and the pounds began to go, but I did not lose a lot of weight.
Aug. 24, Day 1 : 171.6 lbs, waistline: 40.5 inches
Aug. 31, Week 1 : 165.2 lbs, waistline: 39.5 inches
As you can see, the pounds dropped off quickly in the beginning. Then I stopped weighing myself. I threw my scale away (in frustration – just kidding) so I couldn’t post my weight, but I suspect that I today I weigh around 160 pounds.
I really wanted to see my waistline get smaller as an indication that my kidneys were shrinking – losing all the cysts. I suspect that will take a very long time, if it will ever happen at all.
After Six Months of Intermittent Fasting
The fasting part of this plan is going very well. I really believe in this part of my diet plan.
I stay busy all morning, working usually, until noontime, then I cook something low-carb for my first meal of the day. When I need a snack, I usually eat a few nuts. No more chips or crackers. Sometimes I have a few slices of cheese.
I eat one more meal for supper anywhere from 5:00-6:00 and try to be all done eating by then, or at least by 7:00. I drink water all evening. So, in general I don’t eat for 18 hours out of the day.
My mind feels very good and I have no trouble concentrating on work. My younger sister was recently diagnosed with dementia, and my mother died of Alzheimers, so keeping my mind going is one of my top priorities.
I am sleeping fine most nights and continue to NOT have heartburn.
I do not get much in the way of exercise, but I do Yoga stretches. If I moved more it would be helpful. I have my excuses, and I know I should. I just can’t seem to get myself motivated to care.
Shopping and Cooking
Like all things, getting started may be the most difficult part of making a change. Eating is a huge part of life. Food and drink are the fuel for our bodies. We can choose to add useless junk to our system, or beneficial nutrients. We only get to eat so much in any given day and most, if not all, should be working to increase our health.
At the beginning of this diet change, I boxed up my high carb, unopened foods and gave them to the Boy Scout’s who came around at holiday time.
Grocery shopping is easy, and I know what to buy and what to avoid. The only “food” troubles I have is keeping track of bad kidney food while eating Keto. An example is avocados. Look up any page on eating for Keto and I bet you will see an avocado! But, avocados are high in potassium, which makes them a food to avoid with kidney disease.
I’m also still careful of sodium, which the Keto diet plan seems to ignore. I do not count carbs, just avoid high carb foods. Some days I think I do eat too many carbs, but most days I believe I stay under the 50 grams recommended for ketosis.
These Days Staying on Track is Easy
My shopping list looks different these days. I’m careful of my kidney needs, but mostly I try to stick with Keto friendly food. I’m eating more vegetables than ever. I feel like I am eating the healthiest I ever have!
If you are curious about Keto and intermittent fasting, take a look at the documentary “Fat Fiction”. This show opened my eyes to a better way of looking at food. I’d already tried to become healthier because of my kidney problems, but in reality I was not eating all that great.
The Fat Fiction show, along with Dr. Weimbs’ study results on reducing cysts in animals with PKD by fasting, is what opened my eyes. (Read Ketosis Slows the Progression of PKD if you have PKD and need some hope, because finally it seems there is some.)
Here is a link to a list of food documentaries on Netflix and Amazon for more information about the Keto diet and how to change the way we look at food. Even if you think it’s stupid to follow a specific diet, these shows will make you think.
All information on this blog is to help myself, and share my journey. I am not suggesting anyone do this diet, but to keep an open mind. I am not a qualified nutritionist, or any type of medical professional. Please read my blog disclaimer here.
Credit for the giraffe photo at the top goes to Howard Wilks at Pixabay.
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.
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?
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
Mushrooms (cook first)
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!
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.
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.