The Ketogenic Diet: Summer Barbecue Tips from Executive Chef Dana Murrell
Summer barbecues are happening just about every weekend this time of year. If you’re on the ketogenic diet it can be tricky to decide what to eat. It’s hard to enjoy yourself at social events when you’re too busy paying attention to what’s on your plate. Not to worry; we called an expert chef to help explain what you should eat at your next social gathering if you’re currently on the ketogenic diet.
The Cheat Sheet spoke with Dana Murrell, executive chef at Green Chef (the USDA-certified organic meal kit company recently acquired by HelloFresh). Green Chef offers keto plans, among other specialty diets. Murrell shares her tips and recipes to make your next even keto-friendly.
The Cheat Sheet: Can you explain to our readers what the ketogenic diet is?
Dana Murrell: The ketogenic diet is one that is high in fat (the majority of your calories will come from fat), moderate in protein, and very minimal in carbohydrates. Typically, a person should aim for 50 grams or fewer of total carbohydrates per day, with your net carb intake being between 20 to 35 grams. Your net carbs are determined by subtracting your grams of fiber from your total carbohydrate consumption. Reading labels or using a carbohydrate tracking app can be helpful to determine these numbers.
CS: What’s the best way to be successful with this diet?
DM: There can be a misconception that eating healthy or following a specific dietary plan means monotonous meal prep of bland protein and vegetables, but it’s important to have variety so you don’t get bored and want to give up. Using a meal kit like Green Chef for its keto plan can help with recipe inspiration to keep dinner exciting, creative, and full of flavor.
When attempting a new diet, especially one that is very restrictive like keto, it’s better to focus on the foods you can have and find creative ways to enjoy those, rather than focus on the foods you can’t have. Finally, get excited to take risks and try new things with the ingredients you can have.
CS: How can you make a summer barbecue keto-friendly?
DM: A favorite low-carb summertime side is a “faux”-tato salad. Simply replace high-carb potato with low-carb diced cauliflower (florets and stems included). Boil until just tender and then toss with your favorite potato salad dressing.
CS: Can you have chips if you’re on the ketogenic diet?
DM: One keto-friendly alternative is Parmesan Crisps (or Fricos) in place of traditional potato chips. Simply spread about a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan cheese (per chip) on a non-stick liner about 4 inches apart. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, and cool for 2 minutes. Another chip alternative: cured meat chips. Choose your favorite sliced cured meat like pepperoni or salami (or any combination), then follow the same instructions for the Parmesan, allowing extra time for cooling to ensure crispy chips.
CS: What are some ways to make salads more exciting?
DM: Add another level of dimension to your salads by lightly grilling romaine hearts. Simply halve romaine hearts lengthwise, keeping the core intact. Drizzle cut halves with a bit of oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place directly on the hot grill and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Chop and add to a salad, or keep the root end attached and plate the salad creatively on top of the lettuce. This simple but fun technique can also be applied to other hearty large-leaf greens like Lacinato kale. While many may think that “diet” means bland, plain chicken and veggies, creative spices, sauces, and marinades are an easy way to jazz up simple dishes.
CS: How can you make marinades and sauces keto-friendly?
DM: Onion and garlic are the key aromatics that can provide the base for which your sauce is built. Add in an acidic liquid (apple cider vinegar and lemon juice are a couple of my favorites), a handful of fresh herbs (like basil or parsley, roughly chopped first for easier blending), and then a fat (olive oil, mayo, and sour cream to name a few). Blend together and season to taste with salt and pepper!
For marinades you want a higher acidic ratio to fat, thus enabling the flavors to really penetrate the meat. For vinaigrette and salad dressing, the balance of acid to fat is customizable based upon your taste preferences. Mustard can also be helpful in olive-oil based-sauces by acting as an emulsifier, keeping the sauce well blended and preventing the sauce from “breaking.”
CS: What are some good summer sauces?
Keto-friendly summer sauces include ranch made with Greek yogurt in place of mayo, a bright and herbaceous chimichurri, and roasted red pepper muhammara sauce. Try the ranch on your next cobb salad, a chimichurri drizzled over perfectly grilled steak, and muhammara spread on top of salmon fillets. Salsa is another winner. Try adding a tablespoon of sour cream into your favorite recipe for a creamy take on the summer classic!