Keto Tacos

Keto Tacos

You already know how much I love tacos.  “But Madeline, you can’t have tacos on a keto diet! Carbs!”  Yes, you’re right – I certainly can’t have the conventional Mexican meal with beans, rice, and tortillas.  What I won’t do, however, is give up tacos entirely, and so I set out to look for a way to make one of my favorite meals fit into my new diet (without having to completely deconstruct it and only eat the insides).

As it turns out, which I figured it would, there are a bunch of low carb and keto friendly options for all the taco lovers out there.  Replacing regular flour with almond flour or coconut flour in a taco shell recipe is a popular low carb alternative (which is what I did in my homemade taco post a few weeks ago).  I wanted to take it a step further, though, and make a truly keto friendly taco shell without using any variation of flours.  Here’s how.  Get your pen and paper ready for this long and complicated ingredient list:

Ingredients (taco shell): 

  1. Cheddar cheese, shredded (I used one serving, 1/4 cup, per taco shell)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. Take 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and dump it onto the parchment paper.  Spread it out so that it makes a circle the size you’d like your taco shell to be.  Try to make it so that there are as few gaps and holes as possible, because this will make your assembled taco less messy later.  1
  4. Arrange as many tacos on your parchment lined baking sheet as you want, making sure there’s about an inch between each one, as they will spread a little bit.
  5. Bake the cheese for about 12-15 minutes or until melty, bubbly, and gets a nice golden toasty color. 2
  6. Remove the sheet from the oven and allow the cheese to cool and set for about 10 minutes.  You’ll know it’s set enough when you can get a thin spatula underneath it without the cheese being so gooey that it breaks apart.  Play around with it when lifting it off the parchment, and be careful because you don’t want to tear your taco shells! (I used a metal cookie spatula for this because it’s thin and sharp enough to remove the cheese from the parchment without stretching it or breaking it.)  Don’t let it cool completely while lying flat, though, because….
  7. When the cheese has set enough to get it off the parchment, transfer it onto something that will allow it to hang and fully set into the desired taco shape you want it to be in.  I wrapped mine around a small bottle of vinegar that I had.  You can also suspend a ruler across two cups and drape the shells over the ruler.  The shells might drip some grease, so put something underneath them so your countertop doesn’t get too messy.  5
  8. While you wait for your taco shells to set, prepare your fillings.  I sliced some cherry tomatoes, avocado, and spinach, diced a chicken thigh, and spooned some sour cream on my plate. 3
  9. Once the taco shells hold their shape, assemble and enjoy!

Does anyone have any other keto tips to share with me?  I would love to hear from you guys!  Leave me a comment or an email at LiftinLuxe@gmail.com!  Also, please tag me in anything you make that my site inspires!  @LiftinLuxe #LiftinLuxe.  I’d love to see your creations 🙂

Stay fit and flavorful, all!

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Days 4-7 on Keto

Days 4-7 on Keto

If you follow me on Instagram or read my latest post, you’re definitely very well aware that I am a couple of weeks into the ketogenic diet, and am totally loving every avocado filled minute of it!  In that first post, I explained a bit about what the ketogenic diet is, and some of the benefits of following it.  I also told you not to pass judgment on the diet just from hearing about my first three days experience, and to stay tuned to hear about the rest of my first week.  (PSA, apologizing in advance for the not cute photos in this post.  It’s pretty difficult to glam up my tupperware lunches that I bring to work, especially when they have mushy avocado all throughout.)  As a quick recap of my last post, by the end of day 3 my ketone levels were “trace,” which was a step above average levels.  I was tired, I had body aches, and come-and-go headaches.  Sounds like fun, right?  It was a no-brainer that I had to keep going, so let’s see how I fared for the rest of the week!

Day 4

When I woke up this morning, my ketone levels according to the ketone strips I bought was between small and moderate.  My body felt completely normal again,  so my headaches and body aches went away.  It was my day off from the gym, so I got to sleep in before going to work, and I wasn’t tired at all when I woke up (which was somewhat surprising, because it was my first day back after a five-day July 4th holiday).  My head felt very clear all day.  I intermittent fasted, so my first meal was at 1PM.  I made myself a cold avocado, tomato, and mozzarella salad that I brought to work, dressed in olive oil.  I also had a snack of pecans on the side of my lunch.  This kept me full all the way until dinner at 6:30 PM.  For dinner I made myself zoodles with homemade pesto (basil, olive oil, and parmesan cheese), and some dark meat chicken.  As a bedtime snack at 9 PM I had some brie cheese.  Overall, this was a very good day.  My energy and focus at work were above average, and I didn’t get my normal afternoon munchies.

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Day 5

This morning I tried a fasted workout, which was a huge fail.  I usually do a fasted workout in the morning before work, but I also usually have BCAAs along with it which helps with hunger and energy.  About three quarters of the way through this workout I just about KO’d.  I’m not exactly sure what made this workout so difficult, but I’m sure it was a combination of it being my first ever truly fasted workout attempt, and also the first morning workout attempt since coming back from the July 4th holiday.  Either way, I called it a loss and left the gym early.  When I got home around 7:50 AM I had a snack of cottage cheese (so I did not intermittent fast today) and almost immediately felt so much better and full of energy.  This morning at 10:30 AM I also had a matcha latte made with almond milk and a splash of heavy cream.  For lunch at 2 PM, I had a cold salad of zucchini, mozzarella cheese, and avocado dressed in olive oil and liquid aminos.  For dinner, I had scrambled eggs cooked in butter with mozzarella cheese and some more brie.  I noticed as I was leaving work today that I was getting some cramps in my leg muscles.  After asking a friend, who is a seasoned keto survivor, and doing some more independent research, it turns out this diet results in the body retaining less water, which means we can become depleted in electrolytes.  On my way home from work I stopped into my local health store and bought potassium and magnesium supplements.

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Day 6

I woke up this morning not hungry at all, and I attempted another fasted workout (but this time brought some pecans to the gym with me in case of an emergency.  I wound up not needing them, though, as my body handled my fasted workout much better this morning than the previous morning.  My muscle cramps went away, and I was left with some residual soreness, but nothing at all major or similar to the cramps I was experiencing the day before.  I intermittent fasted today and had my first meal at 1:30 PM of scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese, some breakfast sausage, some avocado, and (decaf) coffee with a splash of heavy cream.  For dinner at 8 PM I made myself some zucchini “nachos” which were basically thinly sliced zucchini baked in the oven and topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, avocado, olive oil, and a bunch of delicious seasonings.  As a bedtime snack at 9:30 PM I had some pecans and cottage cheese.  My energy and focus today were absolutely amazing, and my hunger levels were pretty low.  Also, right before going to bed my ketones were at a moderate level, which was the most they have been all week!

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Day 7

This morning was the first morning waking up feeling totally normal.   All of the residual side effects of my glucose detox have gone away, and tracking my macros and preparing my meals feels like second nature.  I am definitely proud of myself for not only sticking to such a restrictive diet for a full week, but also detoxing my body of sugar in the process.  I realized that this week I hadn’t even eaten any packaged goods or supplements like BCAAs and protein powders, since I didn’t really feel a need for them.

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I would definitely recommend checking out my previous post for a ton of things I learned during my first three days on keto, since I learned the most during those first experimental days.  Towards the middle of the first week there was definitely a light at the end of the tunnel of side effects that started during the first few days.

The second week, which I am just finishing up as I write this post, was significantly easier than the first, and I was consistently amazed at how well this diet keeps me full and energized for hours on hours.  I intend on keeping up with the diet for as long as I can, and hopefully see if I can incorporate some sort of occasional cheating with carbs, in an effort to make it more sustainable in the long run.  If anyone has any experience on keto and incorporating cheat days, please comment or message me!  Until then, stay tuned because I already have a TON of keto friendly recipes to write up 🙂

Stay fit and fresh, all!

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My First 3 Days on Keto

If you’re following me on Instagram, you might know that I recently started the ketogenic (keto) diet.  I had been thinking of trying this diet for a while now, but was never able to jump on board with its restrictive nature.  I am all about balance, especially finding the balance in a nutrition plan to incorporate all foods that you want to eat.  However, after doing some more research about the keto diet and reading a few articles that particularly caught my interest, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try.

What is the ketogenic diet?

Boiled down to the very basic of basics, the ketogenic diet is one in which you eat very few carbs (ideally 20g net per day, or 50g total), moderate protein, and high fat (>70% total daily calories).  Normally, the body uses the glucose it produces from carbs as a source of energy, because it is a quick and easily created source of sugar.  The body can alternatively use ketones for energy when glucose is in short supply, and these are produced from the breakdown of fats by the liver.  The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into a state of ketosis, in which it is consistently producing ketones, and actually prefers to use ketones for energy instead of glucose.  Since ketones are produced by breaking down fat, your body looks towards your diet for fats it can use to produce ketones, but also to the fat you already have stored on your body.  This is why fat loss is a typical benefit of the ketogenic diet.  Other rumored benefits include stabilization of blood sugar, a decrease in sugar cravings, increased mental focus, and clearer skin.

My personal decision to try keto…

I think that one of the main reasons I recently have been seriously considering trying keto was that my regimen at the time (high protein, moderate carbs, low fat) was starting to feel very unsatisfying.  I tend towards low blood sugar, so I often feel insatiably hungry, but I was also starting to have unique cravings, mostly for fatty things.  And I wasn’t simply craving greasy foods, but I wanted nuts, avocados, and red meats – things I historically don’t enjoy indulging in.  I had to assume that my body needed something I wasn’t giving it enough of, namely healthy fats.  Also, the keto diet claims to stabilize blood sugar, so I thought maybe I could get those hunger pains under control once and for all!  Once I started doing more reading on the diet, I learned that it is known to increase energy/brain function throughout the day, and who doesn’t want to be more energized and productive?  Lastly, I have always been curious about how the keto diet would affect my body fat percentage and in general the way I look.

Once I had done the research that I considered to be sufficient, I started to get really excited about starting up.  I always enjoy a good challenge, and to say this would be a challenge is an understatement! The keto diet basically broke everything I understood to be true about nutrition, and it was almost the exact opposite of how I had been currently eating.  My entire grocery list would need to be revamped, and I’d have to figure out a whole new store of recipes.  Challenge accepted!

I decided to start on a Monday, and I had three days consecutively off from work (for the July 4th holiday), so I figured that would be enough time to get through the first few days of side effects while I was in the comfort of my own home.  And, I had a bacon egg and cheese bagel the day before (Sunday) so I felt as though this was the absolutely correct decision to make the Monday after.

Day 1 – Monday

I woke up this morning super excited, not only because I had the day off from work, but also because I had resolved to commit to a very involved and challenging nutrition regimen.  In addition to adopting the keto diet, I also decided that I wanted to try intermittent fasting as many days as possible.  For me, this meant choosing a roughly 8 hour window in which I would eat, and the other 16 hours I wouldn’t consume any calories to allow my body to process whatever I had previously put into it.

I wasn’t feeling too hungry, and hadn’t gone to the gym in the morning, so I wanted to try intermittent fasting on this first day.  My fridge was completely empty, so I went to the grocery store to stock both my fridge and pantry with keto friendly food and snacks.  Here’s what I bought:

  1. Eggs.  Lots of them.
  2. Avocados.  Lots of them.
  3. Chicken thighs
  4. Grass fed butter
  5. Brie cheese
  6. Mozzarella cheese
  7. Monterey jack cheese
  8. Cottage cheese
  9. Mini cucumbers
  10. Fresh baby spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Pecans
  13. Olive oil

groceries

I had my first meal at 1:30 PM and it was: 2 eggs, 1 oz monterey jack cheese, 100g avocado, and 14g (1tbsp) butter.  I also added salt, because I read that this diet tends to dehydrate you, and you should add salt to your food for electrolytes.  You don’t need to tell me twice to eat salt, so I seasoned to my heart’s content.  This was my first time eating butter and cheese in my eggs in YEARS and omg was it delicious.  It was like flavor overload.  It did feel heavy, though, and I almost couldn’t finish it all (and if you know me, you know how uncharacteristic this is).  As soon as I was done eating I was very aware of how full I felt, and wondered if I’d be hungry again in an hour, like I typically would be after a meal.

day 1 meal 1

Well, I was full for HOURS.  I did some chores and went to the gym for an incredible lift.  I didn’t need to eat again (not even a snack) before the gym, and my next meal wasn’t until 6:30 PM.  I made myself a salad with 100g of spinach, 100g cucumber, 100g avocado, 1 oz monterey jack cheese, 1 oz pecans, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 oz of brie on the side.  Added salt to this as well.  This was also as filling as it was tasty, and kept me full until my 9:30 PM bedtime snack of 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.

day 1 meal 2

Overall, this day wasn’t bad.  I wasn’t hungry at all between meals, food felt a bit heavy, and by the end of the day I was really tired.  I went to sleep pretty early in the hopes of sleeping off the grog.

Day 2 – Tuesday

Another day off from work, because it’s the Fourth of July!  And what better way to spend the holiday than planning out your meals for your new diet?  I intermittent fasted again today so I had my first meal (snack?) at 1 PM of 100g of a bratwurst.  Surprisingly, just that one sausage made me feel full and I didn’t have the urge to have another, or to keep snacking.  The brat held me until dinner, which was at 5 PM.  I put 100g BBQ’d skirt steak in a salad of 100g spinach, 100g cucumber, 100g avocado, 1 oz monterey jack cheese, with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Meals today felt less heavy, but I wasn’t really feeling too great all day.  I had a headache and in the afternoon before dinner I was exhausted.  I actually reclined in my lawn chair and fell asleep for a bit outside.  I had a snack before bed at 9:30 PM of 100g avocado with a drizzle of 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 oz pecans, and 1 oz brie and was satisfied.  I spent some time logging my meals for the next day in my app, and then went to sleep pretty early.

day 2 bedtime snack

Day 3 – Wednesday

Last night’s time spent planning out my meals for the day went out the window when I woke up at 5:30 AM (on another day off from work, so I did NOT need to be up this early) and felt too awake and alert to fall back asleep.  I layed in bed trying to go back to sleep until around 7, but wound up getting out of bed because I was starving.  I ate breakfast at 7:30 AM, so I did not intermittent fast today, of 100g avocado, and 1 egg cooked in 14g (1 tbsp) of butter.  I’m still not sure why, but today I was consistently a little bit hungry all day.  I had a snack at 12:30 PM of 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and 1 oz pecans.  I had dinner at 5:30 PM of 100g leftover skirt steak and 50g leftover bratwurst in a salad of 100g spinach with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp parmesan cheese.  I had 100g avocado at 10:00 PM as a snack before bed.  Overall, this day was not extremely pleasant.  My mouth was dry, and I tracked my water all day to make sure I was getting enough (my goal was 1 gallon for the whole day).  I also had some muscle aches, which I read could be a symptom of dehydration and lack of electrolytes.  Today I also bought ketone strips to test the level of ketones in my body, and in the early afternoon my levels were “trace.”  By mid afternoon, I had drank most of my daily water goal, I was feeling less sleepy because of my snack, and the muscle aches had subsided a bit.  By the time I went to sleep my ketone levels were “small,” which is one step up on the scale from “trace.”  This was my first physical sign of progress (asides from my keto flu symptoms) so even though I wasn’t feeling so great, I was still pretty excited!

Before you decide that I’ve made an awful decision…

These three days sound terrible, right?  Headaches, muscle aches, fatigue… What was I thinking?  Well, before you let this write-up deter you from even considering this diet for yourself, rest easy knowing that it’s currently Saturday afternoon (day 6 of the diet), my keto flu symptoms have completely subsided, and I’m feeling great!  My next post will detail days 4-7 of my first week of keto, so stay tuned for that before drawing conclusions based on my experiences.

Lastly, here’s a few keto tips I’ve picked up on so far from my experience

  1. Do your research prior – I generally go overboard on research before I start something new.  That said, it’s definitely good to thoroughly understand a thing that you decide to participate in, especially if it involves health and nutrition.  There are things you’ll need to know and understand in order to make sure you’re doing the best thing for your body, since every single person is different.  Also, it’s good to understand the rules of the game, this way you’re not in the grocery store every minute googling ‘is [food item] keto friendly?’
  2. Know the symptoms and side effects – This goes hand in hand with doing your research, but it really helped that I got myself familiar with the side effects and symptoms of transitioning into this diet.  It made me way less nervous when the symptoms started to affect me, and it also kept me motivated because it meant I was on the right track (even though the symptoms were unpleasant)
  3. Get the test strips – It’s nice to see your progress in front of your eyes.  Again, do some research.  These test strips aren’t 100% accurate, and your results will vary depending on different factors (how much water you’ve drank, when you last worked out, what time of day it is, etc..)
  4. Log your meals and track your macros – With a diet like this, it’s incredibly important to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.  Your macro ratio has to be favorable for achieving ketosis, and in my opinion you need to count macros to achieve this.
  5. Log your entire day’s meals ahead of time – Especially in the very beginning.  Counting macros is a tedious process if you aren’t used to it, and it becomes even more tedious on this diet because you can’t easily borrow across the macro categories.  You need to hit your targets without going over your carbs, and it’s a game of Tetris to get you there.  It helps to log everything in advance, because if you don’t you’ll likely end up in a situation where it’s dinner time and you have 5g protein left, you’ve already gone over carbs, and you have 67g of fats left.  You could make yourself one lonely egg swimming in a pool of butter… or you could plan ahead and avoid this whole situation in the first place.
  6. Maintain flexibility – Don’t let the stigma on fat get into your head.  If you’re hungry, please eat.  Count your macros to make sure you’re at a comfortable number of calories.  But if you’re hungry and all that fits in your macros is half an avocado, then by all means eat it guiltlessly.
  7. Drink a TON of water – I can’t stress this enough.  A lot of the keto flu symptoms can be greatly reduced by just staying hydrated.
  8. Salt is your friend – I will be talking more about electrolytes in my next blog post (detailing the remaining days of the first week of keto) but it’s really important to make sure that, as you hydrate, you’re also replenishing your electrolytes.  Sodium is important, and it’s easy to get this by simply salting your meals.  I learned later that other electrolytes I was likely deficient in are potassium and magnesium, so I got supplements for those at my local health store.
  9. Do it on a weekend – Or whenever you have a couple of days off from work, if possible.  There are symptoms that you will deal with, and it’s a lot easier to deal with them if you are in the comfort of your own home.
  10. Stick to it – Achieving ketosis can be finicky, and the last thing you want is to do all of this and not actually achieve ketosis because of a small evening affair with some Oreos.

This has been a really long post, and there’s even more I could have said!  As always, DM, comment, or email me any questions you have! Stay tuned next week for a post detailing the second half of my first keto week!  (Also, while the rest of my family was sipping yummy summer cocktails, I made myself a refreshing keto friendly mocktail on the Fourth of July made with water, lemon juice, lime juice, and a splash of seltzer.  Yum, right?  It’s pictured below.)

Stay fit and fatty, all! 😉

fourth of july drink

Dr. Smood NYC

Dr. Smood NYC

I am always looking for new, trendy, and healthy places to grab a bite in NYC, and when I find a good one I can’t wait to tell all my friends about it!  I recently found a Well + Good article about a new cafe in the city, Dr. Smood.  With the tag line “Smart Food for a Good Mood,” I was immediately intrigued.

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The sparknotes of the Well + Good article that so caught my attention basically explained that a Danish couple, frustrated by the lack of healthy grab-and-go eateries, decided to open their own in Miami, and worked with the holistic nutritionist and healer Dr. Etti-Zion to develop the menu.  They developed a spread of items that was anti inflammatory (80% plant based), organic, and nutrient dense.  The entire menu is dairy free, and each location makes its own nut milks.  The coffee is made with white coffee beans, which means the beans are lightly toasted instead of roasted, which results in a cup of coffee that’s higher in antioxidants and lower in acidity.  Lastly, the sandwiches are made with a special ‘performance bread’ made with only four ingredients (millet flakes, spelt flour, water, and salt) that doesn’t spike your blood sugar and is low carb.  This keeps you full longer, provides consistent and stable energy, and doesn’t put you into a food coma.

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Since I don’t generally eat sandwiches or wraps, it was the homemade performance bread that won me over and I decided that I absolutely had to visit Dr. Smood.  Literally on my next available day off from work, I headed into the city for an early, healthy, and satisfying dinner.  When I arrived, I was immediately happy with the vibe and the mood.  The music playing was trendy and upbeat, but not so loud as to be distracting, and there was a wide variety of customers ranging from business people grabbing a quick bite to people sitting in the corner reading a book and sipping on a matcha latte.  At the register, in typical Madeline fashion, I asked a ton of questions.  The guy behind the counter was extremely patient with me, very knowledgable, and was visibly excited about the products at Dr. Smood, which is something I always love to see.  I wound up taking his recommendation to get the Wild Caught Salmon sandwich (smoked salmon, avo, tomato, vegan cream cheese, on the performance bread), and he even threw on some vegan homemade pesto for an added kick of flavor.  I also got an iced matcha latte, and, forgetting where I was, blurted out my default “unsweetened, please” part of my order.  To which he pleasantly replied with a smile, “Ma’am, we don’t sweeten anything back here.”  Music to my ears.

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The sandwich was delicious, the portion size was perfect, and I can honestly say I was full for hours afterwards (which is very rare for me, especially after a sandwich).  I was so happy that, for dinner plans with my cousin a few days later, I insisted that we come here.  For my second time around, I got the vegan sandwich and added turkey to it, and tried the Hawaj White Coffee.  Since I had someone with me this time around, we also got the Organic Cinnamon Rolls to share.  The sandwich was just as delicious and satisfying as the first one, and the coffee was really tasty and spiced in such a unique way.  The cinnamon roll wasn’t your typical ooey gooey bun, but was definitely tasty and satisfied my post-meal sweet tooth.

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Overall, Dr. Smood is definitely a place I can see myself becoming a regular at.  It’s a little pricey, but definitely very reasonable for a dinner in NYC, especially taking into consideration the quality of food you’re getting.  In addition to sandwiches/salads/coffee/tea/pastries, they also sell juices, smoothies, and snacks like granola and veggie jerky.  I highly recommend, and I would love to hear your thoughts once you try it out!

Stay fit and fresh, all!

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