Keto Lasagna and Garlic Portobellos

My family is Italian, hailing from Abruzzo. I can trace my lineage to the town of Calascio, and I was fortunate enough to interact daily with my great grandfather (who came from Italy) on a daily basis until I was 8. I love Italian food naturally, but being low carb kind of throws a wrench in my ability to enjoy pasta and that makes me sad. I don’t need to sing the praises of pasta here; anyone who has ever eaten even jarred marinara and spaghetti can attest to the wonder of carby noodles and delicious sauce. I am however interested in ensuring that I can continue to placate that part of my palate, and so when my wife wanted lasagna a few weeks ago, I thought about how I could indulge her craving.

Luckily, I am nothing if not dedicated to inventive ways of staying keto while eating my favorite foods. I thought about the various ingredients in a classic lasagna – meat, cheese, ricotta, eggs, noodles, tomato sauce. Well, all of that is fine, save for the noodles and sauce, and honestly even the sauce in small amounts would be fine (not to mention low carb sauces like Rao’s exist), but what about noodles?

If you’ve ever made low carb pizza, then you might be familiar with the various cauliflower, chicken, or cheese-based crusts that exist. I wanted something that would fit, taste-wise, with lasagna, so I made a pizza dough recipe and cut it into strips for lasagna noodles. It worked, and the result was a perfect marriage of cheese, sauce, and noodles that ended up even better the next day. I wanted to pair it with a semi-indulgent side and I had some big dumb portobellos in the fridge. Mushrooms fried in butter and garlic are a simple pleasure but they’re easy and satisfying.

I am having lunch flashbacks and I’m hungry now.

 

Keto Lasagna and Garlic Mushrooms

For the mushrooms:

6-8 large portobello caps
5 cloves garlic, crush and finely chopped
4 tbsp butter (salted)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 Parmesan, and in this case, I mean green shaker Parmesan – no shame here, as this functions better for our purposes.

Start by washing the mushrooms and removing the stems. Use a spoon to scrape out the gills if you want – I prefer it this way, but you don’t really have to. Chop the shroom caps into 1/2 inch thick strips and set aside. He 2 tbsp butter over medium heat in a large pan or skillet, and toss in the garlic. After 4 minutes or so, when it starts to brown and become fragrant, toss in your mushrooms. Sprinkle the salt over the mushrooms and allow them to release their liquid. As it cooks off, after about 5 minutes, add the olive oil and garlic powder. Keep on medium heat, stirring occasionally, and start on the lasagna. You’re going to keep the heat medium to medium-low, and continue stirring to get most of the liquid out while you prep and start the lasagna. This gives the mushrooms a much chewier, meatier texture.

For the noodles:

3/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
3 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp salt
Black pepper and garlic powder to taste (I used 1 tsp of each)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven heats up, mix all of the ingredients roughly in a bowl, and microwave for 1 minute. Remove, stir, and place back into the microwave for another 30 seconds. When it’s done, mix it up well and it should form into a doughy ball. Place dough between two silpats or pieces of parchment paper and roll it out thin, maybe 1/8 of an inch. Bake it for about 10 minutes, until it’s cooked and golden brown but still somewhat pliable. Cut it into 3 inch strips and let it cool.

Repeat this process.

Layers of low carb lusciousness

For the filling:

15oz ricotta cheese (you can use cottage cheese if you don’t mind the souls of millions of Italian grandmas judging you for eternity in the beyond)((just kidding, don’t use cottage cheese))
2 eggs
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Mix all of this together very well. Set aside.

Other ingredients:

1 cup Rao’s or any other lower-carb tomato sauce.
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Shredded Parmesan (optional)

Assembly:

Add a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish, and add three noodles. Spread an even layer of ricotta filling over that, followed by a thin layer of tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. You can add in a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese now as well, or meat, if you so desire. I prefer lasagna without meat in it, opting instead for meatballs or Italian sausage on the side – that’s how my grandmother did it, that’s how I do it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. Anyway, keep layering like that until you’ve run out of ingredients, and then top the whole thing off with more shredded mozzarella. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350.

While your lasagna is baking, go back to the mushrooms. They should be mush (haha) smaller, so now we add the last 2 tbsp of butter. As that cooks a bit more, you can sprinkle in the cheese, stirring to coat. This creates a wonderful crust on the mushrooms and at this point, they’re done. Cover and turn off the heat.

When the 20 minutes are up on the lasagna, take the foil off and bake for another 5-7 minutes to brown the cheese on top. When it’s done, pull it out and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve with the mushrooms.

This recipe was delicious, and I’m working on some variations for future posts. Though it sounds complicated, it’s really just assembly line problems, and I guarantee once you’ve made it one time, you’ll have no trouble doing it without thought again, and the mushroom recipe actually pairs really well with just about anything, so we make it a lot just on its own.

Completed product – lasagna, hot, cheesy, and low carb!

 

In terms of comfort food, there’s not a lot that’s better than lasagna, and being able to once again eat it on keto – even if it is an occasional indulgence – brings me great inner peace. I hope it brings joy to my ancestors in Italian Valhalla, which is essentially a huge dinner table in which the older folks stand around talking and when you as a kid enter the room, they look at you and switch to speaking in Italian, which is a great way to learn how to swear in another language.

Buon Appetito!

Bacon Burger Bowls and Grilled Onion Blossoms

I pride myself on my cooking ability – though I’m by no means a chef, I like 90% of what I cook, and my wife/kids like 60% of what I cook, and if you knew my wife and kids, you’d count that as a win. That said, I stick close to my wheelhouse and try not to rock the boat, as I work full-time and try to parent when I can. This means I don’t have a lot of time to experiment if I want to ensure everyone eats.

Sometimes, however, I get to experiment and it turns out pretty well. The last time I grilled, I remembered seeing an idea on Pinterest or something about bacon cups, which involved wrapping bacon around the bottoms of a muffin tin and baking it upside down. Why can’t I do that, but with more animals involved?

Enter the bacon burger bowl:

Bacon Burger Bowls!

 

A magnificent meat marvel, molded meticulously around a metal …uh, can. I used a diet Crush can for this because it’s gluten free and was within arm’s reach, but you use whatever beverage strikes your fancy. Just make sure to use an unopened one, as it will need to be sturdy. The goal was to make a meat bowl, wrap it in bacon for both deliciousness and stability, and then fill the bowl with something else delicious.

Ingredients:

3 lbs ground beef, ideally 80/20 lean (this is best for burgers)
1 lb thick-cut bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
Soda/beer in an unopened can

Form the beef into 1/2 lb balls, and then take the can and press it down in the middle of the ball, all the way down. You’re not wanting to cut the bottom out here, but you DO want to make sure you get it as close to cutting board as possible. Now form the beef up the sides of the can, about 1/3 of the way up, ensuring it remains intact. Take a strip of bacon and wrap it around the beef – this will help your burger bowl keep its shape. Once you have a structurally sound burger bowl, remove the can and repeat the process with the remaining meat.

From this point forward, you can either cook these in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes (for medium) or grill them on indirect heat for about 25 minutes (that was what I did, with charcoal on the other side of the grill). When you’re within about 5 minutes of the desired internal temperature, go ahead and add your fillings. For these in the picture, I put in about a half cup of shredded cheddar, but you could use nearly anything. Some ideas:

Grilled onions and peppers
Chili
Jalapeno popper filling
Sauteed mushrooms

Since we’re looking at this from a keto perspective, this is one burger where you absolutely will not miss the bun. Fork, knife, napkin, sturdy plate, napkin, napkin, and you’re set!

But he wasn’t set, not yet

No, I needed a side-item to go with my burger bowls, and you shouldn’t shortchange yourself; you need side-items, too!

Enter: the grilled onion blossom!

Grilled onion blossoms!

The greasy, fried monstrosities you can get at chain restaurants are great when you’re super drunk or your standards are very low, but a grilled onion ditches the carbs in favor of delicious smokiness and with none of the regret! Plus it’s super easy and onions are cheap. Hooray!

Ingredients:

Several whole, medium-sized white or Vidalia onions
Bacon
Butter
Stock cubes (beef or chicken)
Shredded cheese (colby or cheddar, ideally – something sharp)

Begin by removing the top and bottom of the onions, and then cross-hatch them almost all the way down, but leaving them connected. We want them to fan out when they cook, not dice them. After they’ve been cut, you can put knobs of butter into the middle, slices of bacon, or simply sprinkle with some water and put a stock cube into the middle of each. Place them on indirect heat on the grill and allow them to cook for about 40 minutes at least. They will start to open but the bacon might not be done, and that’s ok. As long as they’re not falling apart, they’ll still be delicious, and on indirect heat with all the moisture the possess, it’s HIGHLY unlikely they’ll burn or even char that much. When they’ve reached desired doneness, sprinkle some cheese on top of each, and remove to a plate to cool for about 5 minutes before you try eating them or you’ll burn your mouth and fingers and cry to your wife (someone else told me this I don’t know it firsthand haha nope).

And if you’re interested in a sauce, I highly recommend white bbq sauce:

1 cup mayonaise
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp dijon mustard

Mix well, eat with just about anything. I love this stuff, and you can vary the amounts of ingredients to your liking.

Anyway, these are a delicious, easy alternative to regular burgers and whatever other thing you were going to make tonight. Go! Fire up that grill and put these burger bowls on it, fill them with things, and serve them to your family. They will likely say “mother/father, you are indeed queen/king of the grill and we cannot WAIT to do chores, feed the chickens, and shave the bears”.*

*Your mileage may vary on what your children will do around the house based on these burgers, especially if you have neither chickens nor bears.

Pan-Fried Skate Fish (Low Carb)

Skate…fish?

Ok, so this might not be a common fish to come across, but a local fishmonger had skate on sale, so I decided to give it a shot. Skate meat comes from the “wings” of the fish – skate fish look like stingrays, but there’s a handful of biological differences that I don’t feel are necessary for me to go into here because this isn’t a biology blog. If you absolutely need to know more about the biology of skate fish, ask your mom’s new boyfriend, Kurt, because he got his degree in marine biology and he never gets a chance to talk about it.

Skate is a mild, white fish, and it tastes like a cross between crab and scallops; that is, not “fishy” really at all. This makes it very good for picky eaters, kids especially. The technique I use to bread and fry this fish is equally good for almost any fish you’d want to cook and keep paleo/keto-friendly.

Finally, I paired my skate with these sweet and sour sauteed peppers and onions, which I adore. I think coleslaw would work, too, but I didn’t have cabbage.

keto fried fish, low carb fish recipe, lchf fried fish
Cooking fish used to frighten me, but now only public speaking really scares me, and you can’t cook that.

 

Pan-Fried Skate and Sweet & Sour Peppers and Onions

Ingredients
1 pound fresh skate, cleaned
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup crushed pork rinds
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
Coconut or olive oil (for frying)

For the peppers and onions
1 large green pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 large red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Swerve sweetener
1 tbsp kosher salt, and then more to taste
Olive oil

Lemon Butter Sauce (optional but delicious)
3 tbsp Kerrygold or other “European-style” salted butter
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Best to start the veggies first, since they take the longest. Heat up a skillet over medium-high heat, and coat the pan with several tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the peppers and onions in and let them fry, salting them and stirring for a minute or two. After they’ve sauteed for a little bit, sprinkle the Swerve over them and keep stirring every few minutes for about 5 minutes. Pour the vinegar on, stir, and let it stew for 5 more minutes, turning the heat to medium. Add some more oil over the top, stir and let the peppers and onions continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn and stick to the pan. You DO want some carmelization, though, so don’t worry if they start to darken a bit. Add another slug or two of balsamic vinegar (another 1/4 cup) and allow to cook off. When they peppers and onions start to get visibly soft and dark, you can turn the heat off and stir them occasionally, allowing them to continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan.
Mix the coconut flour, crushed pork rinds, cayenne, salt, and black pepper together in a bowl. Dredge each piece of fish in the mixture well; the skate “wings” have ridges and you’ll want to make sure that the breading gets in between each one. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and melt your coconut oil, about 4 tbsp per 1/2lb piece of fish. When it starts to shimmer, place the fish down in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes, then flipping, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. I left mine in for 3 minutes on each side, allowing it to crisp up a bit more, and the fish was still fantastic – not dry in the least.

Remove the fried fish to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan (or microwave, whatever) until it’s completely liquid. Mix in the lemon juice and pepper, and serve with the fish. I poured mine over the fish and it comes back together a bit, kind of like a butter glaze. I recommend this, because if you’re not clarifying the butter it will likely harden to a degree so dipping might not be an option. In addition, the butter glaze was delicious.

Even when I make more refined fare, I cannot escape that my house is controlled by tiny, genetic copies of myself.

 

Serve it all hot and together. You can also make a pretty solid keto tartar sauce with:

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup dill pickle relish
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Swerve

Super easy and pretty delish as well.

Like I said, this breading technique works for most fish you’d want to bread: catfish, cod, pollock, walleye, etc. It’s a mild breading and it doesn’t absorb grease the way that flour or cornmeal can, so it keeps a light fish tasting light while adding a layer of crispiness and overall completeness that fried fish begs for.

If you celebrate Lent, happy Lent! Here’s a fish recipe to try and still stay keto/paleo.

If you don’t celebrate lent, happy Time-When-Fish-Is-Cheap! Here’s a fish recipe to try and still stay keto/paleo.

Keto Cinnamon-Vanilla Walnut Butter

Low carb cinnamon-vanilla walnut butter

Almond Butter Is Too Expensive

There, I said it. Everyone THINKS it, but I’m done living in the shadows. No more will we be oppressed by high nut butter prices, especially when it’s insanely easy to make them at home yourself. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s mostly hands-free, with the exception being a few scrapes down the side of your food processor every five minutes or so. That said, I’m also tired of almond butter. I don’t much care for almonds – I’ll eat them, but I’m not overly excited at the prospect – but every paleo or keto blog or recipe I see that extols the virtues of almonds has lead to burnout for me. No more, go away, I’m done.

Enter the walnut!

Walnuts are spectacular for low carb dieting, as well as paleo, or simply for regular people wanting an extremely healthy fat in their diet. Walnuts are full of omega-3s, folate, magnesium, and have a strong link with increasing brain health, particularly in inferential reasoning (in adolescents especially). This is perfect because honestly they look like little brains:

See? This picture is Cartesian, spooky, AND delicious. Brain in a jar!

Plus walnuts are just simply delicious. Give this walnut butter a try when they’re cheap and plentiful during the summer and fall – fresh walnuts are divine, though you can also do this without breaking the bank when walnuts are on sale for holiday baking. The beauty is that crushed or chopped walnuts are usually fairly cheap, as people want whole ones for pretty cookies. We don’t; we don’t care what you look like, walnuts, keto loves you just the way you are.

You can season them any way you want; I chose vanilla and cinnamon because those are the best flavors, but you can choose a lesser set of spices if you want.

Walnut Butter Ingredients

16 oz raw walnuts
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Pyure sweetener (you can add more to taste, but I don’t recommend more than 1 tbsp at a time)
2 tbsp coconut oil

Start by gathering up your walnuts. Here I chose peak-of-the-season, organic walnuts picked straight from my grandfather’s ancient grove:

Don't need no fancy walnuts
Only the finest plastic bag was used to contain these heirloom walnuts from the store that I bought on sale.

Just kidding; these were chopped walnuts on deep discount from Aldi. Though my grandpa does have walnut trees, so I’ll be pilfering some in the summer. If your walnuts come a little bit bigger and more orderly than these (which were pre-chopped), you can break them down a bit to get them to fit in your food processor a little better, but you don’t really need to.

Before we start to grind them, we’ll give them a quick toasting:

The benefits of two cast iron skillets cannot be stressed enough.

You don’t want them to burn, so keep it at medium-low heat and make sure you’re tossing them around every couple minutes. Also to ensure even toasting, I separated my pound of walnuts into two pans, each with one layer of nuts. Toast for about 8 minutes, then toss them in a bowl and stick them in the fridge for a few minutes, just long enough for you to set up your food processor.

Pour your walnuts into the bowl of the food processor, and start on low speed. If you have a grind option, maybe use that, but I just used the regular chop option and let it run. At first, it’s going to grind them into meal, and it will creep up the sides, so your first few scrapes down the sides of your processor will happen relatively quickly after you’ve started. Let them blend, taking care to keep an eye for side-creep and scraping accordingly, for about 5 minutes. At this point, it should start to get pasty. You’ll add in your coconut oil now; this will help ensure it keeps a creamy consistency (and you can’t taste it). Blend for another 5 minutes.

It should look something like this:

Paleo/Keto Walnut Butter
Not quite there, but getting close!

 

At this point, add in your spices. As I said, I used cinnamon and vanilla, but you can use anything that’s reasonable. Not nacho cheese or cool ranch, please – pretty sure you can go to jail for that.

I also used Pyure sweetener. It’s stevia-based, and it doesn’t have that weird aftertaste that pure stevia has, nor does it have that odd cooling mouth-feel that pure erythritol has. I highly recommend it:

Not pictured: me spilling that little thing of vanilla a wee bit.

Now you’ve spiced and oiled your walnut butter, we’re in the home stretch. Continue blending for another 10 minutes, scraping down the sides as you need to, though at this point it should be good to go on its own. After 10 minutes, give it one more good scrape and blend for another 5 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency. I was done after about 17 minutes total, but mine were already broken down when I started.

Voila! Your very own walnut butter that took little effort and cost essentially half what you’d pay for a comparable store-prepared nut butter. I’ve found that cashew, walnut, and pecan butter are even more expensive than almond and that’s if you can even find them in stores. This has the added benefit of no sugar and no artificial weirdness. It’s toasty, spicy, and perfectly sweet.

Delicious, keto, paleo-friendly walnut butter.

Walnut Butter Uses

What can you do with it? Well anything! Use it for recipes where you would use peanut or almond butter, spread it on apples if you’re eating apples, or just eat a tablespoon when you’re craving something sweet. One of my favorite snacks is 2 tablespoons mixed in with some plain greek yogurt and a pinch of Pyure. It’s perfectly sweet, has a good dose of protein, and it’s not a carby mess like store-bought flavored yogurts.

When summer comes along, I’ll be doing a recipe spot on pecan butter. I LOVE pecans, and it’s a little bit different to make than other butters, but it’s so worth it.

How will you use your new keto walnut butter?

 

Low Carb Crepes

 

Little Blueberry Thief!

Breakfast with keto or when you’re sugar-free doesn’t need to be only bacon and eggs, or butter coffee, or … nothing… if you’re into intermittent fasting. There’s a billion things you could eat for breakfast, but sometimes you want something that is delicious and seems indulgent, and crepes are maybe not reminiscent of the latter, but on low carb they certainly feel that way.

I made these by accident one day while trying to make cream cheese pancakes for my wife. I goofed on the recipe and forgot almond flour, and so the batter was runnier than normal. Coupled with the fact that I used a flat griddle pan, when I poured my batter, it spread incredibly thin and cooked very quickly. Not wanting to waste anything, I hurriedly flipped it and then flopped it out onto a pan. The result was a thin, roundish, anemic pancake (by pancake standards) so I thought of how to re-brand it. As if possessed by a supernatural force, I found my mouth moving, words flowing forth from me against my will; “call them crepes”.

I thought quickly about how to best to sell my crepe-nee-pancake to my family and I found blueberries in the fridge. I pulsed them with cream cheese and erythritol in the blender and spread that filling inside, rolling them up and dabbing the tops of each with freshly whipped cream. My wife walked in, probably draw to the sound of the blender (“uh, pancakes?”) and the length of time it was taking me to make breakfast. I whirled around with my best “s’spize!” (how my daughter says “surprise”) and presented these beauties. Her and my little girl ate everything I gave them and then some more. My son even ate some, and to illustrate how impressive that is, my wife is very picky, and my son is even pickier about what he eats.

By contrast, who is 2, will sit on the floor with dad and eat pork rinds from the bag with hot salsa from the jar. Chip off the ol’ tallow-block, that one.

Anyway, crepes. Super easy, delicious, keto, quick, and versatile. Make them with your hands, eat them with your mouth, share them with your friends.

 

Keto Krepes (is that dumb? Crepes, then)

4 large eggs
3.5 oz room-temp cream cheese
1 tbsp erythritol or Swerve sweetener

 

Blend the eggs, sweetener, and cream cheese together until smooth.

Heat a griddle or flat, wide non-stick pan over medium heat and grease with butter. Pour 1/2 cup of batter onto the griddle, cook until it starts to solidify (as with normal pancakes, about 1-2 minutes), and then carefully flip. Continue to cook for about 30 seconds and, without tearing or bunching, transfer to a wide platter for filling. A word of caution – making them TOO big will make them unwieldy. About 4 inches across is perfect.

This recipe makes about 4 crepes, so 2 servings, but honestly you can make them whatever size you want. I’ve made tiny ones before and stacked them, with a layer of sweetened, whipped cream cheese in between each before and yeah, it was as delicious as it sounds.

After they’ve cooled for about 5 minutes, spread whatever filling you want on them, just about an inch from the edge, and roll up. Serve with a garnish of the filling on top, or with whipped cream.

I can’t wait until farmer’s market season. Blueberries are the best.

 

Our Favorite Fillings

We make this one a lot, so we’ve got a good amount of variations in our repertoire. A few favs are:

Berries and Cream

1 cup of whatever berries, fresh or frozen (blueberry and strawberry are perfect)
2-3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp Swerve/erythritol
2 tbsp heavy cream

Blend until smooth.

Cinnamon Roll

1 stick of salted butter
1/4 cup Swerve/erythritol
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Same as before, soften butter (don’t melt it though) and mix vigorously with sweetener and spices

Lemondrop

Juice of a lemon
Sprinkle of sweetner

One of our favorite non-keto breakfasts is German pancakes, these weird, thin pancake things my wife makes (other people do too, I’m sure, probably some of them actually German). We top them with powdered sugar and lemon juice, so the premise here is derivative of that. It’s delicious!

Tiramisu

1 cup creme fraiche/mascarpone cheese (I’ve not done it, but you could theoretically use plain Greek yogurt as well).
1/3 cup Swerve
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup very strong brewed coffee

Blend everything together – you may need to add a bit more creme/cheese/yogurt to thicken as you see fit. Fill your crepes and then dust with cocoa powder. Eat them, make more, eat those, then call your grandma and tell her you’re finally eating well. She’ll be mega proud.
I’m making these tomorrow actually.

 

Maybe this will inspire some keto breakfasts; I know a lot of people get bogged down by the thought of meat/eggs all the time, or are so bored with the various iterations of meat/eggs that they skip breakfast altogether. These are reasonably healthy, have protein and fat for satiation, and taste really good. Give them a spin sometime.

 

How To Make Your Fat Loss Resolution Stick

 

 

Another year, another chance at a new you!

Except not really – every single day is a chance at a new you. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until you wake up. Start right now – stop eating sugar from this point forward. Start running right now, even if it’s only for a few blocks, then do it again tomorrow. Every meal is a choice, every bit of free time you have is a chance at creating something fantastic.

That said, this piece is about making a fat loss resolution stick, but still keep that first bit in mind; that first bit is gold. That mentality will be part of keeping you on track to making your goals a reality this year, that and these other things.

Part 1: Diet

And in this sense, I don’t mean diet as in some kind of fad where you eat in tune with your blood type, or you only eat certain colors of vegetables or when the moon is in a certain phase. That’s all woo-woo. I also don’t mean “diet” in a deprivation sense. You will need to cut calories to lose weight of course, that’s how it works, but I’m not talking about only eating plain potatoes and celery every day. I’m referring to everything you eat, what makes up your way of eating.

1 – Fat loss is about 20% exercise and 80% diet. There’s an old adage “bodies are made in the kitchen, not the gym”. That’s because you really can’t “earn” calories by exercising them off, and most machines or apps that estimate how many calories you burn doing any given activity are pretty bad at their job. So many things go into how many calories you expend and what fuel your body uses for that energy that saying “running for 1 hour burns X amount of calories if you weight Y” is pretty useless.

2 – Sugar is in everything AND it’s pretty bad for you, so cut it out. Modern nutritional research has pretty conclusive evidence that fat – demonized for years as the cause of heart disease and obesity-related diseases like diabetes and PCOS – is actually pretty healthy for you. It’s the sugar we were pushed to instead of fat that wreaks havoc on our hormones and bodies. In addition to restricting calories to lose fat, cutting out added sugar should be another primary concern.

3 – Choose a way of eating that works for you. For me, keto was the way of eating that stuck. It keeps you full, prevents blood sugar swings that cause ravenous hunger, and helps retain muscle when you’re losing weight. Other people though might not be able to swing bacon, cheese, and eggs all the time. The good news is you can still lose weight! Veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, etc – there’s a million ways to cut fat without compromising your way of eating or filling yourself with garbage food, or wasting money on stupid food gimmick shakes. The keys are cutting calories, cutting out/drastically reducing added sugar, and eating whole foods as much as possible. Following those guidelines, it’s pretty simple to lose fat.

Part 2: Exercise

1 – Pick a physical activity you love, and do that everyday. You want to be aiming for at least 30 minutes a day of activity above-and-beyond whatever your normal life is. Make sure this added activity is something you actually enjoy, otherwise it’s not going to stick. If you love hockey, practice drills or skating. If you like lifting weights, do that, but no matter what, don’t pick something you hate just because it’s supposed to be awesome or burn a ton of calories.

2 – That said, make sure you’re doing some strength-training. Studies show that weight training provides the best increase of insulin sensitivity of nearly all exercises. In addition, added muscle mass improves your metabolism, protects against injury, and makes you look better (ok, so that last one is subjective).

3 – Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see weight fly off. In fact, weight should be one of the last indicators of success you look at, though predictably it will probably be the first. Be sure to take measurements of your body: neck, chest, waist, hips, thighs, calf, bicep, and forearm. Measure these weekly. Take frequent pictures as well – these non-weight measurements might change far faster than the scale budges, due to a complex interaction of hormones, fluids, and other factors. Two weeks of dedicated healthy eating and exercise might not move the scale much but you could find clothes fitting better, inches gone from your waist, and a decrease in fluid retention.

Part 3: Mindset

1 – Don’t take on too much at once. Rigorous exercise plan, drastic dietary change, cutting caffeine, soda, cigarettes. People tend to see the new year as a time that they will turn into saints and give up their vices. Though this is a noble thought, doing it all at once will almost certainly fail, and worse yet, you’ll be miserable. Start with one thing, or small bites of several (changing your diet and adding in some simple, fun exercise is a great place to start for instance), and diligently stick to them until they’re habit. After that, look forward to your next goal to tackle.

2 – Recruit. Friends, family, strangers – it doesn’t matter. There is substantial evidence that making a goal vocal, even if it’s simply stating it to a close friend, makes you more likely to stick with it. Perhaps its the fear of public failure, or the desire to prove to yourself and others that you can succeed, but regardless, recruit people into your changes, even if it’s only as spectators. Join some weight loss Facebook groups, start tagging your progress pics on Instagram with trending hashtags, or start a blog about your journey and share it with anyone who will listen. Having a cheering section does wonders for your motivation.

3 – You only fail if you give up. Platitudes aside, this is one I’ve struggled with because of my binge eating. The number of times that I’d started a diet, or an exercise routine, and then went off target and then said “screw it” and binged is difficult to count. People derail all the time – parties, holidays, birthdays – all tempt us to eat bad food, drink booze to excess, or stop exercising. The worst thing we can do after this is to say “well, I’ve already screwed up, I’ll just screw up some more”. In these cases, you need to regain your senses, cut your losses, dust yourself off, and get back on the path. I mean, if we’re being literal and you are on a path and you go off the path, just, you know, get back on that path. It’s right there, just go back. Don’t go into the forest, no matter how many pizzas and beers are there.

4 – Plan. Exercise routines, meal plans, grocery lists, and contingencies for hiccups. If you start a low carb diet and you’ve got a beautiful meal plan worked out, but your daughter suddenly has banjo practice, are you going to hit a drive thru? No! Have some chicken or burgers cooked up. Wake up late and no time to exercise? Have a quick, 10 minute routine worked out for those occasions and skip the coffee shop that morning. Always have a back-up plan because life is full of detours and side quests.

Make 2017 your year for sure, but make tonight your night, and make tomorrow morning your morning. Stick to your resolutions because life isn’t about the broad strokes until you’ve passed those moments by and can look back at the painting. Life is about the little choices, the nuances of colors made up by your decisions with your time. Every meal is a choice, every second of leisure time unspent until you choose to allocate them someplace, and choice is the keyword here. Go, you crazy chooser. Go choose good things.