Last year, Shipra Mittal couldn’t figure out why she was putting on weight. Despite regularly working out and eating a diet that was “99 per cent vegetarian”, the 30-year-old Abu Dhabi resident was continuing to put on weight.
“When I hit 66 kiloograms, I was worried. I got myself checked, and it turned out I was pre-diabetic. That was it for me. I knew I had to do something, and keto came to my rescue,” Mittal told Gulf News.
Having followed a strict ketogenic diet since November 2020, the Indian expat said others who are not losing weight, or even having trouble budgeting for their keto diets, may just be doing it wrong.
“There’s a substitute for nearly everything on the keto diet, and what’s more, there’s really no reason for you to be spending far too much if you are trying to eat healthy. I live with my sister, who eats a regular diet, and even then, we haven’t seen our expenses go up,” Mittal said confidently.
I love my Indian food, and I used to spend around Dh3,000 a month on my groceries and dining. I spend much the same now, but I eat clean, and this gives me a lot of satisfaction.
– Shipra Mittal
“In fact, the extra grocery expenses that I incur from buying the copious amounts of vegetables and grain for my diet have been more than offset by my reduced dining out expenses,” she added.
Mittal has already lost more than 16 kilograms under her new dietitian-guided keto regimen, and now weighs a healthy 49 kilograms for her 149-centimetre stature.
“I love my Indian food, and I used to spend around Dh3,000 a month on my groceries and dining. I spend much the same now, but I eat clean, and this gives me a lot of satisfaction,” she said.
According to Mittal, it is a myth that a keto diet is expensive to maintain.
“A lot of people think that you have to eat a lot of vegetables and meat to go keto, and since these are more expensive than carbs like rice and flour, your expenses will naturally increase. But this isn’t true. You eat a lot of fats like butter, ghee and olive oil in your keto meals. These are very filling, and reduce the amount you end up eating,” she said.
“In addition, I’ve found that my appetite has reduced, so even if I am buying more expensive produce, it isn’t so much that I feel the pinch,” Mittal explained.
Her change in diet has also had Mittal preparing more meals at home.
“I find it easier to make meals that fit my plan at home rather than ordering in. So all in all, this has been a wholly positive change for me,” she explained.
Cost effect lifestyle changes
She provided a few examples for the keto-uninitiated.
“I might accompany a serving of vegetables cooked in ghee with an almond flour roti (flatbread). But if I am sticking to my keto diet, I cannot have more than one or two of these at a time, or I would exceed the allowed carb amount. So even though almond flour is more expensive than all-purpose flour, you would just not use more than a limited amount each day,” Mittal said.
“Another cost-effective option is to skip the roti altogether and have an egg omelette. The egg is both filling, and inexpensive,” she added.
A keto diet does allow for berries, and these can set one back a bit. But Mittal said the limits on how much you can consume per day ensure that you do not spent too much on expensive fruit.
“Moreover, you have to meet your daily vegetable intake, so you cannot eat too many items like almond roti or berries, which are comparatively pricier. Produce like cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, bottlegourd, fenugreek leaves, cucumber, okra and spinach are all easily available and affordable, and they make up most of my diet now,” she said.
Indian food and the sweet craving…
For protein, Mittal enjoys eggs, chicken and a variety of cheeses whenever she needs. And for that rare craving, she can always find a keto-friendly fix that is reasonable.
“One day, I was craving chole bhature (a dish of fried flatbread eaten with a spicy chickpea curry). Neither a flour-based bread or chickpeas are part of a keto diet. So I substituted the chickpeas with hazelnut, and for the fried flatbread, I baked coconut flour bread enriched with yeast. The result was quite satisfying,” Mittal said.
And while I don’t have a sweet tooth, I found myself craving rasgolla (a Bengali dessert made of a dumpling dipped in syrup). So I kneaded cottage cheese till it became creamy, then dipped it in Stevia water. It tasted almost like a real rasgolla, and definitely hit the spot.
– Shipra Mittal
“And while I don’t have a sweet tooth, I found myself craving rasgolla (a Bengali dessert made of a dumpling dipped in syrup). So I kneaded cottage cheese till it became creamy, then dipped it in Stevia water. It tasted almost like a real rasgolla, and definitely hit the spot,” she added.
Eventually, it is the extra energy and satisfaction she feels that has Mittal sticking to her keto-diet.
“I keep checking with my dietitian to ensure I am not nutritionally deficient. And I certainly feel far more energetic after a keto-friendly treat than after gorging on a plate of biryani,” she said.
A quick keto recipe for a cheese and egg breakfast sandwich:
2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut flour
A pinch of baking powder
1 large egg (beaten
A pinch of herbs of choice (parsley, chives or sage … all work well)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tspn of butter
A few slices of turkey breast
2 slices of cheese
Combine the flour, egg, herbs,and seasoning well. Let it stand for about 5 minutes. The flour will soak up the moisture and increase in volume.
Take a thick bottomed pan. Swirl some butter on a low flame. Drop dollops of the batter and gently pat down to about a half inch thickness or so.Let is cook on a low flame. Flip them over gently.
As they come close to done, place the turkey breast and cheese slices. Let it cook a tad more and serve hot as an open sandwich.
Note: You can turn it into a Indian cuisine inspired hot version by swapping with grilled tandoori chicken, cottage cheese and adding some paprika to the batter.
200 gms of fresh cauliflower or broccoli (minced in a chopped) or you can roast the florets with butter and mine it up.
Quarter of an onion sliced
2 tblspn ghee
1 tspn mustard seeds
1/2 tspn cumin seeds
salt to taste
1 green chilly (sliced)
1 to 2 tspn minced coriander leaves
1 sprig of curry leaf
Take a thick bottomed pan, add the ghee. Toss in the mustard, once it starts crackling, add the cumin and curry leaves. Put in the green chilly. Saute for a few minute.
Add the minced cauliflower, mix well. Add a few tablespoons of hot water, cover and cook on low flame about 10 minutes, till the vegetable is cooked and released moisture re-absorbed. Serve hot with a granish of minced coriander leaves.
Source: Adapted from multiple keto recipes on the internet
Spiced grilled fish with zucchini zoodles
By Anupa Kurian-Murshed, Senior Digital Content Planning Editor
1 piece of fish steak (go for anything with a firm white flesh, like the local Sheri)
Salt and paprika to taste
1/4 tspn of pounded ginger paste
1/2 tspn minced coriander
1 to 2 tspn of lemon juice
2 to 3 tspn of butter
1/2 zucchini (green or yellow) cut into either zoodles or into inch-sized ubes
3 tbsp cream cheese whipped and mixed with 1/4 tspn of minced dill or mint
Wash the fish steak well with some dry rub salt. Drain. Marinate with the minced coriander, lemon juice, ginger paste, salt and paprika. Set aside for about 30 minutes in the refridgerator.
Meanwhile cook the zoodles/cubes in a pan with some butter and salt to taste. Rest in a colander.
Take a grilling pan, add some butter and place the fish, so as to sear it. Then lower the flame and let it cook – 5 minutes (about an inch or so thick). Then flip gently, raise the flame, wait for 15 to 20 seconds, now lower the flame and cook for 5 minutes. Cook a bit longer if you feel it needs to.
Plate it carefully with the zucchini zoodles and serve with dill-cream cheese sauce on the side.