The Spoonie’s Guide to Low-Carb Living

Life is tough when you have a chronic medical condition. It’s even tougher when you have multiple chronic medical conditions. It’s intensely tough when you have multiple chronic medical conditions and want to maintain a healthy low-carb lifestyle.

There are surprisingly few pre-made foods out there that are low carb and aren’t filled with questionable ingredients. And when you feel like you’ve been nailed by a Mack truck all you want is a quick TV dinner and bed. You don’t want to grocery shop, you don’t want to stand up and you sure as heck don’t want to cook.

However, sometimes you have to. Sometimes you have a medical condition that requires low carb eating. Often you think that eating well just might make your life a little better. And all the time you just want to feel better.

I would be lying to you if I told you that low carb living was easy. I am not lying to you when I say that it can be done. It just takes digging your heels in and making it a priority. But, these few tips and tricks just might help.

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1. Plan, plan, plan

If there is any piece of advice I give you, take this one. Plan your meals out in advance. I will plan out lunches and dinners for four days and I write them on a whiteboard I keep in my kitchen. This has several benefits:

a. Grocery shopping will be easier. Why? Because you have just planned out your meals for the next few days. You can now build your grocery list off your plans.

b. It takes the pressure off of figuring out what’s for dinner because you have already decided. As an added bonus, when someone asks you “what’s for dinner,” you can point them to your list.

c. It will help you keep on the low carb track. If anything, because it takes too much effort to change plans.

2. Cook when you feel good so you don’t have to when you feel bad

Making a casserole? Make a double batch and freeze the leftovers. Do it on one of those super hefty paper plates so that all you have to do is take off the plastic wrap and throw it in the microwave. It will be a homemade TV dinner, and much better for you than the ones you find in the grocery store.

3. Make your freezer your BFF

To follow up on the previous tip, make extra and freeze it. Buy meat in bulk and freeze it because it’s cheaper. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh. I have even stocked up on butter when it was on sale and frozen it. I would recommend though organizing your freezer better than mine is…because I often hate opening my freezer for fear of having a long-forgotten bag of flax seed falling on my face.

4. Invest in a good slow cooker

A slow cooker is a spoonie’s best friend. I am not exaggerating when I say I use mine all. the. time. I haven’t made a roast or baked a cake in the oven since I got mine. My slow cooker of choice is the Hamilton Beach Set-And-Forget. It comes with a temperature probe that you can jab in your roast then program the cooker to cook the roast until it hits the temperature you set and then will automatically turn to ‘warm’ so that you don’t burn the meal. It takes all the guesswork out of whether or not your meat is cooked all the way through – and when you’re immunodeficient like I am, that is huge. It also makes the most moist roast chicken you will ever have and your cakes will be amazingly rich. I don’t normally use them since I’m a little eek about cooking plastic, but use a slow cooker liner to keep cleanup to a minimum.

5. Keep a whiteboard (or two) on your fridge

Those locker whiteboards you get in the school supply section of Wal Mart (dirt cheap in late August, at that) have been a godsend. I keep it on my fridge so that whenever I realise I need something I can just turn around and jot it down. Before I go to the grocery store I take a photo of it and then load it into a drawing app so that I can cross off items. Super simple and saves trees. I also use whiteboards to calculate nutrition facts for quick meals that I want to eat immediately.

6. Grocery shop online

Online grocery shopping is seriously a thing now. And it’s awesome. It makes life a lot easier for the spoonie. No getting up and going out. As an added bonus, you can help bloggers support their activities by buying items from their stores so that they can keep bringing you free recipes. Many recipes contain affiliate links. Seriously, click on them and buy your almond flour through them. I have a suggested list of things I keep in my kitchen regularly available through my store. It’s a work in progress and updated somewhat regularly.

7. Make cooking fun

Cooking is a chore for a lot of people. You have to stand up, think, mix, source ingredients and ultimately clean up afterwards. But there’s an element of fun to it, the thrill of things coming together to make something delicious gives me a high.

Maybe I’m just crazy. But food highs are WAY cheaper than drugs.

The key to happiness is to find joy in everything. Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to find a minuscule amount of joy, but it’s there. If you can focus on that itty bitty bit of joy in cooking, you will be happier. Sometimes all it will be is the smell of a comforting meal cooking – and often, that is all you really need.

8. Clean as you go

I spent a very long time working fast food. Longer than I want to admit, and long enough for me to realise that it sucked and it was time for me to go back to college. But I did learn several valuable lessons working fast food that I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to anywhere else. While the big one was “be nice to your server, no matter what,” the one I want to talk about now is “clean as you go.” I spent a good chunk of my career closing, often not getting out until 3 in the morning – and sometimes 4 when the kitchen was trashed. Those nights were not fun and they could have been easily avoided if we had simply wiped things down as we went, did dishes when we had down time and kept the floor swept. Taking home those habits is crucial for the spoonie – it takes minimal extra effort to throw trash out or quickly wipe down a counter. Keep a large bowl in your general vicinity to throw wastes in so that you only have to walk to the trash can once when you’re done. No one wants to cook in a dirty kitchen, and keeping it clean is crucial to wanting to cook. Cleaning it in small increments instead of all at once helps make what could possibly be a daunting task a little easier to handle. In that vein, however, be able to proritise which chores need to be taken care of immediately and which ones can wait a little bit. I often leave the dishes for my husband. 😉

9. Break up larger, more labour intensive recipes into smaller, more manageable tasks done over several hours – or even days.

It is not uncommon (AKA I do it all the time) for me to start getting things prepared for supper after breakfast. This is when I have the most energy and am able to get the most things done. Often, supper is nothing more than just throwing a couple pork chops on the grill and serving sliced vegetables, but I will usually rub down the pork chops with my seasoning blend of choice in the morning and then slice the vegetables after lunch. I have taken three days to prepare a casserole (this is where planning meals in advance has an advantage): Day 1 I will chop up the vegetables, Day 2 I will make the sauce and on Day 3 I will throw it all together and put it in the oven. Planning in advance makes it so that I can easily break up tasks, that way when life throws me a sudden knock-me-on-my-butt event I can still put supper on the table with minimal effort or  even have my husband do the final bits for me.

10. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

The amount of times I have heard people tell me that they often won’t try making a recipe again because they failed the first time makes me sad. For every good thing I have made and goes into the “must make again” rotation, I have likely had 5 or 6 failed attempts, ranging from “meh, could be better” to “ohmygod I’m eating baby vomit.” I take these failures as lessons and will immediately think of ways to make the end result meet my taste expectations. There are very few recipes I use where I haven’t tweaked to meet my personal taste preferences. Never be afraid to alter a recipe, even if it’s not your own. And if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try again. Tomorrow is another day, after all.

Low carb living is not easy. But with a little work, a little planning and a lot of kitchen time you will be able to do it. Just don’t give up!

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