By David Lillard
Remember when dietary fat was our mortal enemy? So food companies started loading up foods with sugar and carbohydrates so that they would taste like, well, food?
That’s the way I was eating back in June 2013 when I found myself in the ER having a stent implanted into my right coronary artery. At the time I’d been running three to five miles a day and eating what was considered a healthy diet. My weight hadn’t changed much since I’d graduated high school in 1978. What’s up with that, I asked.
I was otherwise healthy; the doctor administering a follow-up stress test said, “Go climb a mountain. You’re fine. Follow all the orders.”
“You should stop eating meat and dairy,” was one of the first orders issued. “Maybe not altogether, but mostly. And eat mostly grains and legumes, like the pyramid,” he said referring to the USDA recommendations.
So I embraced a largely vegetarian and vegan way of eating. I never completely gave up eating flesh, but I restricted it to a few times a week. I did, however, take the advice of nearly eliminating sugar from my life. Gone were my Sunday night brownie sundaes, the tray of which I typically finished off on Tuesday — making for three nights of brownies.
I tried to follow all the new rules.
Learn to manage stress. Check. Breathing, meditation, sledge hammer — nothing like demolition work to help
Learn to sleep. Check. I went from getting five hours a night to eight. Sleep is good.
Cut back on dessert. Check. Not only were brownies gone, so too the bedtime Cap’n Crunch or Cocoa Krispies. After a couple months, they were long forgotten. Forever. Now it’s just the occasional pies I bake. No other sugar.
Eat a high carbohydrate diet. Check. I ate whole grains, lots of them, whole wheat pasta — a.k.a. cardboard — dense rye bread, lentil beans, navy beans, cannellini beans, lima beans (my fave), pinto beans, you get it. Beans. I don’t mean processed carbs. My ho ho days, ring dings — all of it, gone. I mean whole food carbs. I’d hit 30 grams of fiber by mid afternoon.
I watched veggie flicks over and over. I read the China Study and watched the Forks Over Knives movie. I watched all kinds of films about high-carb, low-fat, vegan living.
You’re killing yourself
Fast forward. It’s 2023.
I have no complaints about my plant-based diet.
I love veggies and fruit. I love to grill some meat and make it last all week.
So you can imagine my surprise when, at my intake appointment with a new doc in January, the doc says to me after I get my finger pricked, “What are doing to manage your diabetes?”
Apparently there is this thing called A1C, short for, “Have I mentioned the three to five miles a day and following the dietary guidelines the way gulls follow a garbage truck?” Mine was higher than modern medicine — the people who were coaching me to my demise in the first place — wanted it to be. Not diabetic. Pre-diabetic is the term.
I told the doc what I eat, which is what medical science told me to eat. There are a lot of beans involved. Nuts, seeds; I eat like the nuthatches and chickadees I feed in winter. And the rest of it.
“You’re killing yourself,” the doc says, maybe not in those words but pretty much. “Way too many carbs.” I was eating healthy foods, but too much of it. It’s like eating sugar at every meal. Sugar? Beans and whole grains are sugar?
Have you ever seen Phineas and Ferb? Their sister Candis does this thing: But, but, but. But, but, but. That’s what I said. But I was told to get 65 percent of my calories
I’m reminded of a New Yorker cartoon, in which a patient says to her doctor, something like: “So I’ve been following your advice for 20 years, and you’re telling me I’m doomed…”
“You’re killing yourself,” he said again. No bread. No pasta. No sandwiches. Forget it. No fruit. No beans — That was the last straw. Eat meat, protein. “Go get a cheese steak salad. Enjoy!” Go figure.
Fortunately, we live in a place where locally, naturally raised meat and poultry is plentiful. But still, what about life’s most essential food: pizza?
Keto Fathead Pizza Crust from Wholesome Yum
So, I’m doing it. A diet that celebrates chicken wings, sour cream, cheese, eggs, and all things keto. The idea is basically put your body into a state of ketosis, in which your fat cells produce the energy typically provided by glucose.
But I make one of the world’s best pizza crusts, as I’ve been told by many who have eaten it, including my kids. How to get beyond that?
Introducing Fat Head Pizza Dough, from Maya Krampf and the WholesomeYum.com, wholesomeyum.com/cookbook. This is one of many so-called keto recipes, crafted to keep your blood sugar and A1C lower. Check out the recipes on Wholesome Yum. Maya’s recipe is delicious. You won’t mistake it for a wheat crust; but it’s really good, and you can hold it in your hand without it wilting.
Keto pizza with
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)
2 tbsp cream cheese (cut into cubes)
1 large egg (beaten)
3/4 cup blanched almond flour (they recommend Wholesome Yum, of course)Instructions
Prep: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper. (Or for best results, preheat a pizza stone in the oven and line a pizza peel with parchment paper for preparing the keto pizza crust.)
Mix flour and eggs: In a large bowl or in a food processor, mix the egg(s) and almond flour. (A food processor will make a fluffier crust and is easier, but it’s fine to do this by hand if you prefer.)
Melt cheeses: In a medium bowl, combine the shredded mozzarella and cubed cream cheese. Microwave for 90 seconds, stirring halfway through. Stir again at the end until well incorporated. (If you prefer not to use the microwave, melt the cheeses in a double boiler on the stove instead.)
Combine: Add the melted cheeses to the flour mixture. Process in the food processor or knead with your hands (depending on the method you are using), until a uniform dough forms, with no streaks. If the cheese hardens before it fully mixes into the flour mixture, you can microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften it.
Form crust: Spread the dough onto the lined baking pan or pizza peel to 1/4” or 1/3” thickness, using your hands or a rolling pin over a piece of parchment (the rolling pin works better if you have one). Use a toothpick or fork to poke lots of holes throughout the crust to prevent bubbling.
Bake: Bake for 6 minutes. (If using a pizza stone, slide the parchment paper from the pizza peel to the stone.) Poke more holes in any places where you see bubbles forming. Bake for 3-7 more minutes, until lightly golden. (Don’t let the crust get too dark at this step, or the edges will burn by the time you cook the pizza with toppings.)
To make keto pizza: Pre-bake the crust as instructed above. Top with sauce and toppings and return to the oven, either directly on the pizza stone or directly on the oven rack (no parchment paper), for about 10 minutes, until hot. If desired, place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese.
For lots of recipes, including gluten free ones, and cookbooks and products you might not find locally,