When it comes to the keto community, there is some contention over “clean vs dirty” keto. Some loud voices claim if you’re not following a strict “clean” keto diet, you aren’t really doing keto. What many of these voices don’t understand is that not everyone has access to affordable quality ingredients, and may not have access to “clean” ingredients at all. These purists do have some good points, since much of the benefits of the ketogenic diet is reducing overall inflammation in the body, buying ingredients that increase inflammation can be counter-productive.
Chaffles may be the ideal way to keep your diet as “clean” as possible, considering that even expensive eggs will be less than $1 per egg, and a $5 block of cheese can last you over a week. Chaffles are made with simple ingredients, easy to make, and can be fortified with additional nutrition as much as desired. The ingredients are also much easier to control than off the shelf products from a grocery store or mail order diet system.
Quality eggs may be the most beneficial and cost effective way to maximize the benefits of the ketogenic diet. Many nutritional researchers have pushed the egg as one of the most bioavailable sources of macronutrients to our body, some claiming up to 48% of the available proteins can be directly turned into body tissue. No other protein source seems to be as useful to the body. Research attempting to link the high cholesterol within the eggs to elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood have also concluded that dietary cholesterol does not significantly increase serum (blood) cholesterol.
The best eggs will be ones that state they are from “pasture raised” hens, because even the “free range” marketing term has been subverted by large companies to simply mean that the hens “have access to the outdoors,” but does not specify any requirements how crowded the hens are, or whether or not all of the hens can actually reach the outdoors. Hens that are actually allowed to forage for their food instead of only eating “vegetarian feed” will produce much richer eggs with higher quality nutrients. (Yolk color is not a significant marker of egg quality, as sometimes high quality yolks can be pale, and low quality yolks can be dark, it is simply an indicator of how many carotenoids the chicken had in its diet). Happy Eggs are a good, usually affordable option, if they are available near you.
Next up is cheese. I strongly recommend grating your own cheese. This is generally more cost effective, but also provides significantly more control over what you are actually consuming. All pre-shredded cheeses will have some sort of anti-caking agent covering their surface so that your bag of shredded cheese doesn’t revert back into a loose block. Cheaper options will use corn or potato starch as this agent, which in high enough quantities, can kick you out of ketosis. These options also contain other unnecessary ingredients to prevent mold or make the cheese look better for longer. Generally higher quality or organic options will use “powdered cellulose,” which many critics like to call sawdust. This is a better option than starch, but these bags generally contain less cheese for more money.
The best option for hard cheeses is to get a block of good quality cheese and shred it yourself. This way, you can get a higher quality product, such as an aged cheddar which will have less carbohydrates than a short-aged cheddar (aging the cheese causes the lactose to be consumed, this process is slowed in high salt cheeses like cheddar, so longer aging is required), and in most cases, it will be cheaper than all but the cheapest pre-shredded options. A quick rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients you see on a label, the better. Old Croc and Kerrygold are widely available choices for cheddar. For any mozzarella by the block, I have not encountered many with any unnecessary ingredients. Fresh mozzarella can also be used, but you’ll either have to shred it by hand (too soft for a grater) or use a food processor. Also be aware that fresh mozzarella has a lot more moisture in it than the harder blocks typically do.
For soft cheeses like ricotta, there are many options out there that simply offer something that is “ricotta like” rather than ricotta. Ricotta should not require any extra ingredients like xanthan gum or stabilizers, and if the number one ingredient of whole milk ricotta isn’t whole milk, then something is definitely wrong. The widely available Galbani brand has two offerings that meet the mark, one being the Whole Milk Classic shown above, the other being “Double Cream” which touts 4 ingredients (the extra ingredient being cream). I personally use the Double Cream ricotta in most of my recipes, but I use the nutrition information from the whole milk label because the Double Cream option is not sold everywhere. If you also use the Double Cream ricotta in the recipes from this site, just be aware that it has 30 more calories per 1/4 cup than regular Whole Milk Classic ricotta.
Most cooking sprays are terrible for your health. Even sprays from big companies prominently touting “Coconut Oil” or “Avocado Oil” are often cut with vegetable oils like canola or soybean oil (sometimes those vegetable oils are still the number one ingredient). There are many reasons to avoid vegetable oils, especially with emerging research linking a diverse catalogue of medical problems with the overconsumption of oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids (most likely from the increased presence of these oils in most of our foods). One of the scariest possibilities is a link to endothelial disfunction in cells, which may be a significant contributor to insulin resistance, and that this cellular disfunction can take years for the body to correct (one research team even found that modifying soybean oil to have less omega-6 reduced the instances of obesity and insulin resistance in lab mice).
So if PAM is off the table, what should we do to keep our chaffles from sticking to the iron? One simple solution is to apply room temperature butter with a silicon brush to the waffle grid. A true avocado oil spray, such as the offering from Chosen Foods, can be a good choice, but they are a little expensive. Another option is to buy a Misto spray bottle and fill it with your oil of choice: olive oil, avocado oil, or liquid (fractionated) coconut oil. What is fractionated coconut oil? It is coconut oil that has had it’s longer chain fatty acids removed from it through a chilling process, leaving behind the shorter chains in liquid form. This same process is used to produce MCT oil. The main difference between what gets labeled MCT oil and fractionated coconut oil is that MCT oil is processed more to get a higher percentage of C8 MCTs, whereas fractionated coconut oil will have more C10. You can find this labeled as liquid coconut oil, cooking coconut oil, or fractionated coconut oil.
The body requires an intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, but the problem with vegetable oils is that this necessary omega-6 arrives in the body in an oxidized state, so if your body must use it, it will end up using a damaged chain fatty acid, leading to all sorts of problems. With this in mind, replacing these vegetable oils with healthier fats will gain you significant benefit towards approaching “clean keto” even if you regularly eat not so clean foods. Just be aware, it takes time for the cellular damage to be repaired from a lifetime of consuming these oils daily. If you’re not doing so already, make sure to read the nutrition label while shopping and avoid anything containing soybean oil (looking at you salad dressings).
To maximize the benefits of a low carb diet with chaffles, use pasture raised eggs, shred your own cheese, use quality oils that don’t contain soybean oil, and always read the nutrition labels of ingredients.