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In the ‘80s and ‘90s, if you had told me there is a great diet that allows 20 percent protein, 75 percent fats and 5 percent carbs, I’d call shenanigans. The low-fat diet craze was in. Everything was fat-free. From TV dinners to New Coke, you didn’t dare utter the “f” word unless it was followed by “free.”
For years we bought margarine (oleo, in the country church cookbook), claiming butter (and Iron Maiden) were sent by the devil to ruin our innocence. People burned records in public and went home to plastic tubs of yellow, fat-free goop to spread on their burnt toast.
Fat-free cheese, fat-free broth, fat-free cookies — it all became the big marketing trend. Even things that didn’t have fat in the first place would remind you on the label how fat-free the products were. I remember someone telling me how unhealthy guacamole was because avocados contained so much fat. Sugar-free and fat-free were the ways to go if you wanted any chance at slim happiness.
To make something fat-free or sugar-free required a bit of engineering, which of course led to laboratory substitutes and, therefore, suffering flavor profiles. They sold us on it.
Along came diets like Atkins and the ketogenic, or keto, diet. Nothing is new about either of these, as both have been around for decades. They are similar in plans, but keto limits the amount of protein. Keto was originally developed to help children with epilepsy, but the diet also proved good for weight loss. Now the plan has resurged and, along with Atkins, is a carb-hating lifestyle that can provide a quick drop in pants size. All by doing what? That’s right, eating more fat.
You can have vegetables that grow above ground, tons of seafood, avocados galore, coffee with butter, fatty cheeses, eggs, plenty of meat and nuts in moderation. You can have bacon. You can wrap bacon around asparagus or scallops. You can stuff jalapeño pepper halves with cream cheese and wrap them in bacon as long as the cheese isn’t fat-free. This diet sounds like a dream! Then you realize the only crunchy thing you’ve eaten in weeks was a strip of bacon.
Even if you pulled all my teeth and the dog stole my dentures, I would have to have something crunchy. More than just a carb, the crunchy texture is something I can’t give up. If you say lettuce is crunchy, I will punch you in the face. Chips and dip, french fries, Cheez-Its, popcorn, egg rolls — these are my weaknesses. As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of bread, I thought I wasn’t a carbohydrate junkie until I gave it a go. I’m a sadder case than most.
So what can you do for keto crunchy cravings? First, there are the obvious options. Kale chips rank high. These days you can find them in most grocery stores and vegetarian-friendly shops. I actually love them no matter their benefits compared to the hazards of potato chips.
You can’t beat pork rinds. Never get the barbecue flavor; it tastes too fake. I prefer the hot sauce version, but plain Jane works, too. I love that Moe’s Original offers pork rinds with their pimiento cheese. It’s my favorite downtown snack. Keto dieters can get behind this one for a quick crunch.
When it comes to nuts you need to go relatively easy, but most say almonds and macadamia nuts are best for this diet. Walnuts are an option, too. You know, all the cheap ones. Even almond butter could be used sparingly in place of peanut butter.
If it’s dips you crave, hummus is the key. Make your own for authenticity’s sake, but remember you’ll have to ditch the pita chips. Bell peppers give you a little crunch, cucumbers even less. Carrots are off limits as they come from below ground. Flax seed crackers get the go ahead, but aren’t my favorite.
A great way to add crunch is with fried chickpeas.
• 2 14.5-ounce cans of chickpeas
• Oil for frying (I use olive oil)
• Kosher salt
• Garlic powder
Rinse chickpeas and dry on paper towels. Remove skins, if you prefer; they will finish better. Make sure they dry completely. Heat oil in a skillet. The amount used is determined by the size of the skillet. Rather than submerging them, I tend to shake them around in a smaller amount of oil, a little more than just coating the pan.
Work in batches and drain on paper towels. Season the chickpeas with whatever you wish, but the cumin and garlic salt is a go-to. Paprika, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper and chili powder are all good ideas. Another method of cooking is to toss them in olive oil and seasoning and bake them in a 425 F. oven until crispy.
Top your favorite hummus with these crunchy garbanzos, add them to boring soup or eat them by the handful. I love them.
Giving up carbs is a tall order, but it’s a lot easier if you have some crunch to rely on. As with most diets, be sure to consult your doctor before doing anything as drastic as banning french fries. It isn’t the safest thing in the world. Now let’s wait for someone to come up with a potato chip diet that works!
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