This world is not (yet) a low-carb world. Think about it…almost everything we regularly eat has a major carbohydrate component, thanks to the misinformation we’ve been fed all our lives about a so-called “balanced diet”. We’ve been schooled to believe that carbs are an essential part of our diet and they’re not. (Heresy? Check out that link and evaluate for yourself!) And as a result, no meal is complete without bread or rice or potatoes or pasta. Additionally, our taste-buds have become accustomed to the taste of sugar hence our penchant for sugary sauces like ketchup, BBQ sauce and sweet and sour anything. So for those of us who have been liberated from extra pounds as well as obsessive and dangerous food cravings by removing these carbs from our diet (not magic, just science), navigating our daily lives while trying to remain compliant is made just a little more difficult. I’ve been keto for over a year and a half now, and I’ve managed to remain compliant and consistent with lots of planning and meal prep, but I’ve also identified ways and means of staying low-carb even when I’m forced to eat on the go.
Keto Options on-the-go: The Supermarket Deli
The more pregressive supermarkets (in my opinion) have been building out their options of grab and go foods, I suppose in an effort to offer customers convenience. It started with rotiserri chicken. So a typical customer stopping to pick up bread and milk on their way home from work could pick up a fully cooked chicken too, and presto, that’s dinner! We started seeing an expansion on those offerings in some supermarkets: roasted pork, roasted sweet potatoes, cooked lunches in the days, the sandwiches, pastries and salads. Here’s where it works for us keto and low-carb dieters. You can grab a salad and a single serving of rotisserie chicken for example. Some of the salads have inclusions such as pasta and sweet potato salad, as well as corn and beets which we don’t eat due their sugar content. But I’ve seen plain garden salads which are perfect for us. Here are my suggestions:
- Single serving of any roasted meat (a quarter rotisserie chicken, jerked wings, rotisserie pork, roasted fish). They’re already packaged for your convenience.
- Small garden salad that you can have alone or with any of the meats mentioned above, or with cheese
- Tin of tuna that you can pick up when you buy your salad and add to it when you sit to eat.
- Cheese sticks or slices that you can pick up when your buy your salad
- The deli at John R Wong supermarket has some innovative options: fish salad, bean salads & tabuleh (one-off options for those of you in maintenance mode, not if you’re trying to lose weight.. too many carbs in beans and bulgar)
PRO-TIPS FOR TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SUPERMARKET DELI LOW-CARB OPTIONS
- You’ll likely end up eating your supermarket deli options in your car if you’re on the go. You’ll therefore need a designated garbage bag, wipes and eating utensils. Simply keep a supply in your car. That’s all.
- If you take your buys home or to your office, no problem. Just grab a plate and enjoy!
Keto Options on-the-go: Jamaican fast food establishments
I don’t recommend making this a habit, as these fast food places tend to use refined vegetable oils instead of the beloved virgin coconut and olive oils that we use. But the occasional fast food meal will not kill us. We lead busy and sometimes complicated lives and we do the best we can. No need to become slavish about it. Better to make use of the options that I’ll list below than to throw in the towel and eat the bread and rice options that prevail. Seriously. Always seek to make the best choice that you can! Here are my preferred fast food on the go options here in Jamaica:
Island Grill: Take the jerked chicken option with steamed veg only. Do not take the corn, do not take the BBQ chicken option. And of course the rice, festival and plantains are off-limits for the committed low-carb dieter. Drink water!
Fish Pot: They have super affordable options! Grilled fish or shrimp salads (not fancy, quite basic, but for the price, a really great option for eating on the go). They also do a very credible escoveitched fried fish. The fish is not floured or battered, so eat up! And again, no bammy, festival or crackers 🙂 Their steamed and roasted fish options are great too. Just avoid those carby sides and enjoy. Drink water!
Burger King: Do have a bun-less burger (or two or a double!) with cheese and bacon if you wish! Have the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles as well. BUT NO KETCHUP. Mustard and mayonnaise are ok. If you knew exactly how much sugar was in ketchup, I wouldn’t need to convince you. Order a grilled chicken sandwich, then toss the bread. Breaded chicken and fish options are a no-go for us.
Wendy’s: Same drill as Burger King. They have pretty decent salad options too. Just avoid salads with crispy noodles, fruit and croutons added. Check your dressings too. Ranch is usually the most low-carb option available. Even their vinaigrettes (especially the fruity ones) have too much sugar. If there is nutritional info on the sachet, check out the options for yourself. Nothing breaded or battered please!
KFC & Popeyes have nothing to offer us. Their main offerings, even the fish, are battered and floured and breaded. Their cole slaw is more sugar than anything else. It’s simply not worth it.
Jamaica is home of the most perfect keto food: JERK!
Jerked chicken and pork are great keto options! The sausage, not so much, because they add carby stuff to get that particular sausage texture and shape. There are so many jerk establishments around Kingston in particular, that we really have no excuse. My current fave is Pepperwood in New Kingston. Their jerk is always flavorful and not at all dry.
Not to be left out if you’re on the road late at night is the ubiquitous pan chicken man! This is essentially chicken grilled over coal in a re-purposed 55 gallon metal drum pan. It’s affordable, accessible and affordable. Totally low-carb. Tell them to keep the slice of hard-dough bread and ketchup. Enjoy!
Jamaicans and Soup
Soup is always a popular option for Jamaicans at lunch time and most every Saturday. The typical soups are either pumpkin or beans based. Now beans are in fact higher in carbs than the keto diet allows for. So if you’re in weight-loss mode, I recommend you simply avoid all peas based soups. If you’re at goal weight and you’re maintaining, then the occasional small red peas soup is a treat you can enjoy. Our pumpkin based soups are a little better options: beef, chicken, chicken foot and so on. A small cup won’t hurt. Be aware that many soup makers and sellers add noodles which add carbs. If you decide to have a cup of soup, tell them NO FOOD! Yes, no sweet potato, corn, dumpling or yam. Your choice to avoid carbs will be more than worth it with your declining waist line and improving health! I can never say no to cup of mannish water! (Mannish water is a delicious soup made with the head and belly of the goat…sooooo good!)
Coffee Shops and Restaurant Keto Options
My favourite coffee shop in Kingston, Jamaica is Rituals. I can get great coffee with heavy cream and sugar free flavoured syrup. I enjoy their omelettes (no toast or bagel!) and their bunless burgers with all the fixings. They know me and my weird orders by now and I’m always warmly welcomed. They offer salads too, but I prefer heavier protein based options 🙂
In general, when eating out, opt for grilled options. The other options tend to be breaded and battered, or rich in sugary sauces. Just avoid them. Roasted veggies when available are great! Salads without fruit or croutons and a ranch or sugar-less vinaigrette dressing on the side are great options too. Bon appetit!
Road Trips in Jamaica while Keto
So you can’t eat Jamaican patties. But there are still delicious options when you’re road tripping in Jamaica, so fret not!
- Roadside soup sans “food”
- pepper shrimp (shrimp steamed with loads of salt and pepper)
- Fish which is steamed, roasted or fried. No brown-stewed options…they load that delicious gravy with ketchup.
- Jerked chicken or pork (or rabbit or fish if you see it!)
The Jamaican Cook-Shop and Keto
Some of the most delicious food comes out of these small cook shops that provide lunch for so many. We lovingly refer to these offerings as “box food”. Think boxes stuffed with rice, either plain white rice or rice and peas), chicken, beef, pork ,stewed peas, goat or fish with lots of gravy. Here’s the rub: vegetables are pretty much an afterthought here. Some make a kind of pasta salad with elbow macaroni and mixed frozen vegetables and call it “vegetable”. I kid you not. Others offer a tablespoon (again I kid you not) of shredded cabbage and carrot which likely has vinegar and sugar added to it. The more popular options of “brown stewed” chicken, pork or beef are delicious, but with tons of ketchup added to that pot! And yes, I’m repeating it ad nauseum, ketchup is sugar rich! The fried chicken from many of these cook shops is scrumptious, but floured or battered and therefore simply not an option for those of us on keto. Curried goat and curried chicken and baked chicken are viable options if available. And ff you are able to place an order before hand from your favourite cook-shop, I recommend that you request some callaloo or cabbage be prepared for you, or even some steamed cho-cho. Choose wisely.
Most workplace concessionaires have offerings similar to the typical cook-shop. My advice and recommendations hold true here too. Develop a relationship with your workplace concessionaire and request veggies for your lunch time eating.
Kelly’s Keto Cooking!
So this is a shameless plug coming up! I make and sell the following low-carb options in Kingston, Jamaica:
- low-carb bread made with almond and coconut flours
- crust-less callaloo quiche
- crust-less ackee and mushroom quiche
Interested? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
PRO-TIP: Get into the habit of walking with small packs of nuts and water. In a pinch, those nuts will stave off hunger until you can eat a proper low-carb meal.
I’d love to hear from you as to your keto on-the-go hacks, whether you’re in Jamaica or not! Please share. You’ll be helping somebody 🙂
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