Carbohydrates are a critical part of how we eat in Jamaica. Talk of giving them up leads to the inevitable: So what will I eat then? What are Jamaican keto foods and do they even exist?
As a Jamaican living right here in Jamaica, I’m very happy to say that you can absolutely eat keto in Jamaica! What follows are some approaches and options that have been working for me on my own keto or low-carb journey.
What does keto look like in Jamaica?
Note: I use low-carb and keto (short for ketogenic) interchangeably. Don’t get hung up. You’ll see that my food choices are predominantly keto but in the course of any given day, I may end up exceeding the 20g of carbs per day threshold between ketogenic and low-carb (keto dieters consume 20g or less of carbs per day, low-carbers consume up to 100g carbs per day) since I don’t limit my green veggies, and those green veggie carbs can add up.
What I DON’T Eat:
- Flour and flour products like bread, biscuits, crackers, dumplings, pasta, festivals…even so-called whole wheat or whole grain products (dumplings are made from bleached, refined wheat flour and can be boiled or fried. Festivals are made from refined wheat flour, refined cornmeal and sugar and fried)
- Cow’s milk
- Complex Carbohydrates or what we call “food” or “ground provisions” like yam, green banana, plantains, Irish and sweet potatoes, dasheen, etc
- Bammy (made from cassava)
- Coloured starchy veggies like pumpkin, carrots, corn
- Peas and beans
What I DO Eat
Any and all GREEN veggies! Think cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, string beans, okra, turnip, radishes, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, sweet peppers, cho-cho, callaloo
- Good fats: olive and coconut virgin oils
- ALL dairy except cow’s milk which has too much sugar (some people avoid this, no prob)
- Canned fish like sardines, tuna and mackerel in brine (not in tomato sauce…those sauces have hidden sugars)
- Any and all ANIMAL PROTEINS simply prepared without any added sugar.
What about Condiments?
- No ketchup. If you ever knew how much sugar is in ketchup you’d be amazed!
- I read salad dressing labels and make my own salad dressings. Any one with a serving size with total carbs in excess of 2g is ignored. I stay far from those.
- Mayonnaise is good. Remember the enemy is not fat, but carbs. There’s science there. Google it.
- Mustard is good, not honey mustard, just regular Dijon or yellow mustard.
- Pepper sauces (read the label to assess carb count)
- No BBQ sauce unless I make it or unless it’s a sugar free variant
- Olives rock
- Pickles (not the sweet ones) are great
Losing Weight with Keto in Jamaica: My 2 Rules!
At the start of this journey I promised myself 2 things:
- I must NEVER be hungry
- I must continue to LOVE the food I eat. Deprivation is the fastest route to failure.
There are two alternatives to creating a sustainable low-carb way of eating: you can SUBSTITUTE the carbs or you can ELIMINATE them. I do a combination of both.
Keto Jamaica Style
Curried goat and rice Jamaican Keto version: curried goat cooked the same way, using coconut oil though, served with cauliflower rice and a huge garden salad.
Stewed Chicken and rice
Jamaican Keto version: stewed chicken cooked without added sugar or ketchup served with cauliflower rice or steamed callaloo or stir fried cabbage and a huge salad
Escoveitch fish and festival
Jamaican Keto version: fried fish cooked the same way (not floured!) with sugar-less escoveitch pickle and a salad
Roast beef and mashed potatoes:
Jamaican Keto version: same roast beef (no sugar or sugary sauces in cooking) with cauliflower mash and a salad
Jamaican Keto version: NO CRUST, a cheese sauce made with cream cheese and other cheeses, no roux.
Do you see a pattern emerging? I simply bump up my veggie intake to compensate for the elimination of the typical carb component!
I have gotten used to eating omelettes without toast or bread, deviled eggs just by themselves, and eating Jamaican staples such as ackee and saltfish or mackerel run-down (salted pickled mackerel simmered in coconut milk with lots of garlic, pepper, onions, allspice, etc.) with steamed callaloo and no “food.” Yes, ackee is perfect keto food! 100g ackee has less than 1g carbs! I make crustless quiches with ackee, adding mushrooms or bacon to make it extra yummy.
I continue to enjoy curried chicken, braised liver and oxtail. There are ways to fry chicken and keep it low -carb! Chicken is coated with almond flour and oven fried, or deep fried in a good healthy oil like coconut oil (not refined vegetable oil please!) or done to crispy perfection in an air fryer. I still have not found a way to re-create the patty in a low-carb iteration unfortunately. Jamaican patties are meat filled flaky pastries that are utterly delicious. I have a friend who has used fat head dough in place of the pastry shell and stuffed it with jerked chicken, creating her version of “low-carb chicken patty”. I’m sure it was delicious!
How to Transition to Keto with ease!
There are a plethora of recipes on-line for credible traditional carbohydrate food substitutes which have provided a mouth-feel that I’ve craved or worked like the carb side that I eliminated. On the left are the sides/foods I no longer eat, and on the right are the foods that I’ve found to be satisfactory replacements:
- Rice: Cauliflower rice
- Pasta: Zucchini noodles (zoodles) (a fresh zucchini run through a spiralizer is all this takes to make.
- Mashed Potatoes: Cheesy cauliflower mash, or steamed turnips mashed with butter, or radishes cooked with the roast
- Bread: almond flour mug bread
- Pizza dough: fat head dough
- Cheesy bread: fat head rolls
- Mac and Cheese: veggie cheese casserole, the cheese sauce being made with cream cheese and other cheeses…no floury roux for me !
In this post I shared my recipe for making crustless callaloo quiche.
And when you subscribe to my blog, you get eight of my favourite “transitioning to low-carb” recipes like the cauliflower rice, cheesy mashed cauliflower, mug-bread and even desserts!
I snack on broths, nuts & seeds, cheese, seeds, rotisserie chicken, meaty (no filler) sausages, boiled eggs and tuna.
Keto Desserts too? Oh Yes We Can!
We haven’t touched desserts yet and I hear some of your mourning the loss (or so you think) of your sweet treats. I’m not a dessert person fortunately, but I have found a few easy, great substitutes that I enjoy on occasion… think low-carb cheese cake, or low-carb mug cakes with butter frosting or peanut butter cookies.
There are some typical Jamaican sweet treats that I haven’t found a way to keto-fy yet: sweet potato pudding, gizzarda (a sweet coconut filled pastry shell), and plantain tart (a pastry shell filled with ripe plantain that has been cooked with sugar and spices). I have perfected a low-carb version of our “spiced bun” (I call it brun!) that is delicious with butter and cheese though! Check out this post for keto dessert ideas including keto ice cream, cup cakes with butter frosting and cheesecake. Yes we can!
Eating Keto in Jamaica is easy!
I hope I’ve convinced you that eating keto in Jamaica is possible, doable and even easy. I’ve shared my own approaches and the how-to create distinctly Jamaican meals that are familiar, delicious but totally keto. I’d love to hear how you are rocking keto Jamaican style! Feel free to add to the comments and share your own hacks and success stories and recipes.
Kelly’s Keto Cooking & Weight Loss on Keto Coaching Services
I do customised keto meal plans and offer weight-loss coaching services too. I also have a line of delicious low-carb food under the Kelly’s Keto Cooking brand that I make and sell right here in Jamaica in order to provide you with convenient keto options to help you win with keto. I do crustless quiches, low-carb bread and brun and cauliflower rice. Interested? Click here for more information.
The Caribbean Keto Tribe
Support is so crucial when you’re trying to break old habits and form new ones. Join our merry tribe on Facebook and get even more inspiration on how to rock the keto lifestyle the Caribbean way! Click here and join the Caribbean Keto Tribe now.