No-starch, no-sugar. Please help me make meals.
January 18, 2019 11:13 AM   Subscribe

For health reasons, my family needs to switch to a no-starch, no-sugar diet. Fats are okay, but it's not actually keto. I am having a really hard time figuring out what to cook. Please, if you have heard of this diet, bestow your best recipes upon me!
posted by corb to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a reason keto/Atkins meals are not suitable?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:15 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Note that things like broccoli and eggplant have some starch and sugar in them. Is a small amount allowed or zero?

Options are eggs, lean meat, cheese and fish, according to LiveStrong. How to Stick to a No-Starch Diet from has some good ideas, too.
posted by soelo at 11:39 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Look up Whole 30 recipes, there's a ton of them online and on instagram, and very delicious! If you're still allowed dairy you can usually just add cheese or whatever to a dish to make it even better.
posted by katypickle at 11:48 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Are you able to eat fruit?
posted by Amy93 at 12:01 PM on January 18

Allowed four ounces of cheese, no other dairy. We were specifically told 'you don't have to do keto', I'm not sure if that means keto recipes won't work or not. We are not able to eat fruit, but can eat broccoli, eggplant, and 'anything with a leaf'.
posted by corb at 12:02 PM on January 18

I (at long last, and extremely reluctantly) switched to a keto-adjacent diet this year. Things I have eaten:

- Roasted chicken/beef/cauliflower/brussels sprouts
- Fritatta (so much fritatta - eggs, cooked spinach, mushrooms sauteed in butter, cheese is the basic one, but you can put in just about anything)
- Deviled eggs
- Steaks and similar cuts
- Pork shoulder slow-cooked with various spices
- Various stewing cuts of meat in a casserole with veggies and, again, lots of spices

Honestly, don't worry about keto as such but use keto-friendly recipes (and Whole30-friendly recipes) and just adjust for cheese and/or starchy vegetables. Those two keywords should get you lots of options. ("Keto" is a reference to how many total non-fiber carbs you can have in a whole day - no one recipe is "keto", but it's the current buzzword for "low-carb".)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:07 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]

Keto message boards and recipes will be of great use to you. Keto is a fairly specific dietary protocol that has been watered down a lot as it has gotten more popular; I'm going to guess that by "you don't have to do keto" your practitioner means you don't need to get obsessive about counting carb grams and making sure you stay under 20 g/are actually in ketosis (which for most people requires being moderate about a lot of things like onions/tomatoes/green peppers that have more grams of carbs than most people realize). Most keto recipes should work, except those that call for non-cheese dairy.
posted by drlith at 12:48 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]

Oh! Also, the thing that made this suck way, way less than previous attempts is that I have been regularly supplementing my potassium and magnesium (and making sure I'm getting a reasonable amount of sodium.) It pretty much eliminated the "carb flu" that I'd previously gotten every time I dropped carbs down fast. (Potassium supplement: "Lite" salt from the grocery store. Magnesium: Natural Calm, which is also a nice mildly-sweet-tasting treat after dinner.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:03 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]

Eggs in the a.m., p.m. a ton of salad and nuts. I get myself to eat the salad by cutting up meat on it, and avocado. Once a week I roast some large carcass and then use that all week for my salad add. Once it's picked pretty clean, throw the remains in the crockpot and then drink the resultant broth. I don't hate sardines, so sometimes I eat a pile of arugula with sesame oil and vinegar and dump a tin of sardines over it.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:24 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]

I'm pre-diabetic, which means my doctor told me to cut sugar from my diet. I think it has a lot to do with being obese, so losing weight should work. I've lost about 5 kilos since Dec 1. My next checkup is 6 weeks from now.

Anyway, I had developed a dumb habit of snacking on the kids' school snacks, all of which contained refined starches and sugar. When I cut those out I decided to cut out all carbs from my diet, something I did four years ago.

This means no potatoes or bread or rice. I've also stopped eating fruit. I also avoid salt if at all possible.

This leaves me with a somewhat limited number of things to eat, but it's not too bad.

I eat a lot of hummus and falafel (we make it at home). Experiment a bit with vegetables by roasting them, serving them with curried. I still eat meat, poultry and fish. I also love coleslaw, and make it with a dressing that is mostly 2% yogurt, some mayo, lemon juice and crushed garlic.

I also eat a lot of celery. I love celery. You can eat it with hummus, or with a tzaziki sauce.

My one bad habit is nuts. I love nuts, especially cashew nuts, which are high in carbs. I also drink a couple of cans of beer and half a bottle of wine on the weekend. I probably shouldn't. Whisky has a lower GI.

Actually my other bad habit is Swiss cheese.

It's not been too bad for me since I don't really need to eat a lot. Giving up salt also means vegetables are more tasty.

The first week is hardest.

If you have kids who can't do carbs, that would be really, really tough, though. But us adults just don't need as many calories, so I've found that without the surge of insulin triggered by, say, toast, I don't feel as hungry, and I am satiated more easily.

Good luck!
posted by JamesBay at 1:41 PM on January 18

Salads, soups with meat, seafood, or vegetables, and roasted vegetables will all work for you. For soups, if you can't have cream you can use coconut milk. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, and green beans are all low-carb vegetables that roast well. Stirfries with meat or seafood are another option.

You can also steam vegetables and add ghee or butter. I get frozen collard greens or kale, microwave them in a bowl and add ghee. It's delicious, easy, and nutritious. Cauliflower and green beans can be steamed as well.

Guacamole, tahini sauce, curry, and pesto might be possible sauce options for you.
posted by Surprised By Bees at 1:47 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

Nth find keto recipes. My favorite source is, and her books. You can always dial down the amount of fat if you find you have to, adding some additional vegetables since you don't need to be truly keto, and substitute coconut oil for the butter.

It's an adjustment at first no doubt, but the benefits are tremendous and in many cases immediate.

What sort of things do you like? When you go out to a restaurant, what are you excited for? We can help you dial it in if you give us some parameters.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:11 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

There are two reduction-diet plans that would meet your low-carb needs, the 5/2 diet (google recipes for intermittent fasting and find dinner recipes for the fasting days) and the Pounds and Inches protocol (google hcg diet recipes). Since you aren't trying to lose weight quickly you can double or triple the portions to make a reasonable meal. One of my favorites is a low-calorie white fish such as tilapia or sole slathered with mustard or salsa and baked.
If you can find them, the steamer bags by Zip-lock make eating more veggies much easier. Find list of low-glycemic vegetables and try everything on it until you find what you and your family will eat.
If you are allowed beans, the Tuscan Pork Steak recipe linked on this website is really good, as is the chicken with cannelloni beans and chorizo. Their mushroom and tarragon stroganoff is also really good but may exceed your dairy allowance.
posted by The Devil's Grandmother at 2:47 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

You will be fine with keto recipes, and on any recipe that has an obvious generosity of fat (heavy whipping cream, extra butter, etc - a lot of keto recipes with a looot of fat will have a comment at the bottom to the effect of "reduce if you don't need the fat" or "optional unless you need the fat to hit your macros") you can swap another liquid or cut your dairy with water.

Also, anything indicated as low-carb, Atkins, South Beach (check the ingredients), THM (Trim Healthy Mama, also check ingredients), and most Paleo recipes will do. Learn the words that appear on labels that actually mean "sugar" or "starch", and check for them and use something else instead.

If you have an electric pressure cooker or slow cooker, I've been making a number of these for our meal prep. They're fine - a little bland, feel free to get a diced jalapeno or red pepper flakes or something in there if everyone will eat it, or put hot sauce on the table. We have the cilantro-lime chicken, coconut lime chicken, and cauliflower curry on regular rotation right now. Here's a list of 101 low carb casseroles.

Currently beloved in my keto circles: egg roll in a bowl, kalua pork, bacon egg and spinach casserole.

Bottom line, my advice to keto/lc/Atkins newbies when confused: eat meat and green vegetables plus cauliflower. Put them next to each other, put them on top of each other, don't forget to season them.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:54 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]

Re: the cauliflower, my two favorite ways to eat it are:
1.) chopped up finely and roasted with just a bit of olive oil, until the edges of the pieces begin to caramelize.
2.) steamed and mashed together with white beans

I also enjoy roasted parsnips.

You can sautee a big bunch of spinach without almost no fat. I add finely chopped garlic to the hot oil right before adding the spinach. (I mean not even a full tablespoon. The spinach provides its own moisture.)

You might try marinating a skinless chicken breast in Italian dressing, then baking it. You get very little of the oil and the flavor is nice.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:11 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

We just went through over a year with someone on this diet (they can now have legumes, huzzah.) Here are my major hacks, she still did some onion and garlic:

Stir fries without sauce but with spice mixes, or if the cheat is ok, soy sauce.
“Hash” - ground chicken/turkey/etc. cooked with Greek herbs or Tex-mex, and diced acceptable veggies (peppers, zucchini, green beans)
Crust less quiche/frittata
Slow cooker hack: turkey meatballs, carton of broth, caned of diced tomatoes, green beans/peppers, cubed butternut squash, cook as per any meatball soup
Protein (fish is awesome) + massive plate of veggies
Salad (vinegar/oil dressing) + protein
Lettuce wraps around ground pork + pickled veg
Lettuce wraps around pulled pork + coleslaw (watch the dressing - make your own vinegar + mayo)
Butternut squash soup, cauliflower soup, etc.
Zucchini or squash noodles + meat sauce (homemade no added sugar)
posted by warriorqueen at 5:57 PM on January 18

BTW I am a real gadgethead and have almost all the things, and definitely use my Instant Pot a whole lot and the sous vide some, but I just picked up a grill-griddler and it's been something of a game-changer for a la minute food. I use it to make proteins while veg is in the microwave or oven, or veg as protein is coming out of the Instant Pot, and we use it almost every morning to make 10-minute breakfast for two.

Which is: head the flat plates closed with 2-4 ounces precooked crumbled breakfast sausage or ground meat, while scrambling 4 eggs. Use a little egg to make a dam in front of the lower plate's drain opening so the rest of the egg doesn't instantly fall out. Pour egg slowly over plate/sausage, close top plate, cook 4-6 minutes. Open top and sprinkle cheese over, turn off heat and let sit 1-2 minutes. Slice in half (or quarters, for small breakfast-eaters) and serve. I also use the grill plates to cook up double-batches of 90-second bread because look, sometimes you need something like bread.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:52 PM on January 18

Roasted eggplant! Wash and slice eggplant into 1/2 inch (1 cm ish) rounds. Put on a greased baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and any other seasonings you want. Roast at 350-375 for 30-45 minutes. Serve with spaghetti sauce, veggies, meat, any pizza seasonings or toppings that work for you.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:55 AM on January 19

My household has been eating low carb/keto for about a year now. Guessing that by "not actually keto" your doctor means not to focus on eating lots of fats*. Wholesome Yum and Low Carb Yum are good recipe sources, I also find stuff to try from Pinterest. Here's a few favorites:
crockpot chili
bacon-wrapped chicken tenders
Italian meatballs
"eggroll" bowl

*< soapbox > Keto does not require eating lots of fat, especially if you are trying to lose weight, but it's a common misconception to the point where message boards are full of "started keto and having trouble eating enough fat, help!" posts . The point is to keep carbs under your limit, protein within your range, and consume fats until full or hit your limit, whichever comes first. < / soapbox >
posted by superna at 7:59 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Also big salads make a good meal, use spring mix/baby spinach, low carb dressing (Trader Joes Feta and Goddess are both nice), nuts (sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans are relatively low carb), plenty of whatever protein you have on hand (chicken/bacon/salami/ham are on rotation for us), optionally cheese.

One more recipe favorite that is nice over salad greens:
slow cooker bacon ranch chicken

And if you get into low carb baking:
the best chocolate chip cookies I've found so far
pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting

The Joy of Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Baking is great too. Originally got it from the library, it was so good I finally bought my own copy.
posted by superna at 8:23 AM on January 20

My mom made this cabbage thing and it was insane. She got it off Lydia's Kitchen or whatever that is on PBS. It's fast and good.

Fry a few strips of bacon.
Mandolin a head of cabbage. Lydia said to use red, but mom had a Savoy cabbage, so we used that.
Shave an onion really fine. (Onions are pretty sweet, so you could use just a little bit of one, not a whole one. I wouldn't leave it out entirely because without onions in life you could die of boredom.)
Toss the onion and cabbage together and sweat them over high heat in a big skillet in a mixture of bacon grease and olive oil 'til they're all warm and mingled and yummy-looking/smelling. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar (I didn't have any, of course, because it's both sweet and ruinously expensive, so I tend not to replenish right away when I run out. We used apple cider vinegar and it was fine.) Salt and pepper it and garnish with the bacon, crumbled up.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:55 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

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