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Is Jamaica Keto Friendly?
Maintain Your Ketogenic Diet On Vacation

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Is Jamaica Keto Friendly | Jerk Pork - One of Jamaica's Keto Friendly dishesIs Jamaica Keto Friendly | Jerk Pork - One of Jamaica's Keto Friendly dishes

Is Jamaica Keto Friendly | by Sheree-Anita Shearer, Associate Writer

Having specific diet requirements while on vacation can be difficult to navigate at times. Sometimes the right alternatives are just not available in the local cuisine of the place you are visiting.

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The Ketogenic diet has been one of the newest ways to lose weight by eliminating or lowering your carbohydrate intake and upping your proteins and fats. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well it can get difficult to eliminate carbohydrates especially flour that is used in batters and doughs universally.

How can you maintain your ketogenic diet in Jamaica? Is Jamaica Keto friendly? Let’s find out.

The Diet Of Jamaica

Jamaica does have a generally balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins, if we were to actually follow the recommended serving size portions. Instead of proteins and vegetables outweighing the carbs on an average Jamaican plate, the carbohydrates are almost always the largest portion.

Carbs are a big part of our cuisine and our everyday diet. Rice and flour are the most used ingredients on the island, followed by the very starchy “ground found” or provisions we love so dearly, yams, dasheen, coco, potatoes, etc. We also do enjoy a good baked pastry and breads and buns fly off shelves almost immediately as they are restacked. Beef patties, as delicious as they are, are not a Jamaican favourite you can try while on a Keto or low carb diet. 

Our favourite sides of bammys (made from cassava), festivals, fries are all banned from the Keto diet.

With so many things eliminated, you must really be wondering to yourself: Is Jamaica Keto Friendly or you might be reconsidering your whole trip all together. Don’t worry, we have plenty more delicious options that are naturally keto friendly or can be customised to be as such. You won’t be missing out on most of Jamaica’s top dishes at all.

1. Ackee and Saltfish

Is Jamaican Keto Friendly | Ackee and SaltfishIs Jamaican Keto Friendly | Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and Saltfish is our national dish and I am happy to report, is keto friendly. It is a mix of salted cod, the ackee fruit and vegetables (onions, sweet peppers and tomatoes. We usually have this with sides that are high in carbs, ground provisions, fried dumplings or festivals which you will not be able to have, but it is just as good on its own.

2. Jerk Chicken/Pork

Jerk Chicken or pork is one of those meals you anticipate having at the very first thought of visiting Jamaica, and it never disappoints. Lucky for you, Jerked meats are perfect for a keto diet. With this method of cooking, there is no need for flouring before jerking nor is there carbohydrates included in the jerk marinade or sauce.

What you do have to look out for again are the sides. Almost everything we have Jerk with is a no no for keto. Avoid fried breadfruit, festivals, grilled corn and hard dough bread which are commonly served with jerked foods. You can opt for a vegetable salad or jerked vegetables instead.

3. Curried Goat

Curried goat is one dish that is most associated with Jamaica. You can have it but it will take a few modifications. Curried goat is done as a stew, with carrots and Irish potatoes diced up and stewed down. But with a keto diet, you must avoid starchy foods like Irish. Not many places prepare a vegetable free version, but you can definitely try or let them know beforehand if that is an option.

Our favourite way to have curried goat, or curries in general is with plain rice or ground provisions, both of which you aren’t allowed to have. Instead you can have your keto version with steamed or stir fried vegetables instead.

4. Callaloo/Cabbage and Saltfish

Saltfish is pretty popular at breakfast with vegetables and some carbohydrates heavy sides like ground provisions, boiled or fried dumplings, hard dough bread, fried plantains. All things you should avoid. Just skip the side and have saltfish with your vegetable of choice and you’ll be ok.

5. Escovitch Fish

While you can’t have fried fish, for the same reasons the fried chicken is out of the question, you can have escovitched fish instead. The spicy option is prepared without flouring which makes it perfect but only on its own.

It is common to be served fish with bammys but it is made from the starchy root vegetable, cassava. So just gently refuse that and enjoy your escovitch fish.

Watch Video! Escovitch Fish At Border

6. Chicken Dishes

We have plenty of ways to prepare chicken in Jamaica, most of which are safe with a few modifications. Brown stew and curry chicken are stews which, like I said previously, are done with vegetables and starchy foods.

That is easy enough to customise as the meat is the highlight of the meal, and is just as good on its own. Fried chicken however, is a no though. Flour is used as the batter for the chicken which is not recommended for Keto. 

7. Steamed Fish

The way to any Jamaicans heart is with steamed fish. But this one is going to take quite a few modifications. Usually the dish has many starchy ingredients, pumpkin, Irish potatoes and as odd as it might sound to you crackers. While there are great keto-friendly cracker options, the crackers the recipe calls for are not keto friendly, so it's best to avoid it altogether and have your steamed fish with a vegetable salad.

8. Shrimp

There are no complaints about the taste of spicy shrimp and you can eat as many as you want without concern for your diet. And why? There are none. There is no passing Middle Quarters, St. Elizabeth without collecting your own brown paper bag filled with spicy shrimp.

Watch Video! Hot Peppered Shrimp In Middle Quarters

Alternatives to carbohydrates will most likely be available at your all-inclusive resort, if you are staying at one. These alternatives will not be available at the average Jamaican restaurant.

So enjoy your alternatives where possible and make adjustments in the other cases. Also Jamaican sauces can get sugary so watch out for those as well.

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References & Sources For Is Jamaica Keto Friendly?

  1. Jamaican Food, 
  2. Delectable Food from Jamaica - Tasty Jamaican Food & Drinks,
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