There are many approaches you can take to finding keto-friendly meals that are easy to prepare, nutritious, and tasty. You can start with naturally low-carb dishes, substitute or omit high-carb ingredients in other dishes, or create your own meals with keto-friendly foods. We’ll explain how to get started with these approaches, and offer some examples of simple, tasty keto meals you can make today.
Start with Naturally Low-Carb Meals
One of the best ways to build meals for the keto diet is to start with a dish that is already low carb and add more fat. You may need to reduce the carb content a little more and increase or decrease the amount of protein, but it’s easy when starting with this type of recipe. Soups, salads, stir-fries, many meat or fish-based dishes, and vegetable or meat curries work well. You will be surprised how many familiar dishes you can enjoy with simple changes!
Grilled meat, fish or chicken served with lots of vegetables and butter or a rich olive oil based dressing is an easy option. So are stir-fries with lots of coconut oil, coconut milk, vegetables, and shrimp. An omelet with butter, cheese, and vegetables works well too. Or, a cream of vegetable soup with extra cream, alongside a salad topped with mayonnaise-based dressing and almonds. Make sure you get a zero-sugar mayonnaise though, like Primal Kitchen-Avocado Oil Mayo.
Substitute High-Carb Ingredients with Very Low-Carb Ingredients
Another approach to creating keto meals is substituting very low carb ingredients for common high carb ingredients in classic dishes based on rice, pasta, or potatoes. This has limitations of course, but works when you have a low-carb pasta sauce, for example, and just need something on which to serve it. Take pasta Alfredo. You can make the sauce based on a normal recipe, since most recipes call for only keto-friendly ingredients like butter, olive oil, cream, and cheese. You may need to double the serving size of sauce or add more oil or butter to meet your fat needs. Instead of serving it on pasta, lightly steam chopped cauliflower and toss it with the sauce. Add a protein source such as chicken if needed.
This approach works for nachos, tacos and spring rolls, too. Crunchy lettuce leaves can substitute for tortillas or rice paper wraps. For mini tacos, lay smaller lettuce leaves on a plate and top them with fillings such as spiced ground beef (75 or 80% lean), shredded chicken or pork, cilantro, minced poblano or jalapeño pepper, avocado, crumbled queso fresco, or sour cream. Fold the lettuce leaf in half and eat! Nacho toppings can be easily heaped on sliced, roasted broccoli or cauliflower instead of corn chips. Slice large florets into ¼” thick pieces, or break them into bite-size chunks. Toss with olive oil and garlic and roast at 400˚F until tender with browning edges. Then, top them with any keto-friendly nacho toppings you can think of, such as cheese, sour cream, browned ground beef, olives, chopped tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro.
For spring rolls, use larger lettuce leaves and fillings like shredded carrots, cucumber sticks, avocado, and marinated and grilled chicken or pork. Roll the leaves tightly and serve them with a very rich peanut sauce made from peanut butter, toasted sesame oil, ginger, garlic, a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar, and enough warm water to achieve a smooth texture.
Remove High-Carb Ingredients
A third approach is simply removing the high-carb portion of the dish, and turning the rest of the ingredients into a bowl or salad. This works well with dishes where there is one high-carb ingredient and lots of other low-carb ingredients that provide most of the flavor and nutrients. If you love sandwiches made with grilled vegetables and steak and topped with a garlic herb mayonnaise, you can make it into a keto-friendly dish by simply eliminating the bread, arranging sliced steak and veggies on a plate, and serving it with extra mayonnaise. Try this with other sandwiches or wraps. In other cases, very low-carb curries, stir-fries, or stews are served over or alongside bread or rice – just skip that and eat the meat and vegetables. You can also remove the croutons from a salad, skip adding the noodles or barley to a soup, and thicken a soup with cream instead of starch or potatoes.
Create Your Own Keto Recipes
Once you have a good sense of which foods are keto-friendly and how much of them you should eat, you can invent your own dishes. Many cooking methods are keto-friendly: baking, grilling, pan-frying, sautéing, steaming and more. Many no-cook meals are keto-friendly too, like salads and smoothies. Don’t forget to include herbs and spices, nearly all of which are compatible with the ketogenic diet.
Here’s an example of how you can approach developing your own recipes. Start with two or three of your favorite base ingredients. For example, say you love chicken and asparagus. Choose a higher-fat option, like chicken thighs with skin. Then, choose your favorite cooking method for those ingredients – grilling, for example. Next, think about what flavors will complement the dish. In this case, a marinade of garlic and fresh herbs would work well. Do an initial nutritional analysis of the dish to figure out what you still need. In this case, you would have plenty of protein and some fiber, but you would need more fat and more fiber. To create a balanced keto meal, serve the grilled chicken and asparagus on a bed of leafy greens, topped with a rich herb and olive oil dressing and sprinkled with chopped avocado or toasted nuts.
The great thing about the ketogenic diet is that there are so many delicious things you can eat! Get creative, take advantage of all the resources available, and make it a fun, tasty food experience, not a limiting one.
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