“Live Your Life Right Now.” – A Conversation with Kelly McIntosh, Founder of Kelly’s Keto Cooking

Kelly McIntosh is a supply chain management professional, blogger and entrepreneur resident in St. Andrew, Jamaica. Trained to the postgraduate level in both the life sciences and the humanities, she has worked in the industry over the past twenty-four years in various capacities: Post Harvest Scientist, Operations Manager, Procurement Manager, and Supply Chain Manager. A teacher at heart, Kelly has trained buyers from across industries in Jamaica and lectured undergraduates in Strategic Management. She has a passion for helping others realise their worth and value, and currently works with children as a mentor in high schools and coaches people seeking to bring their bodies and minds into alignment. She shares her own stories and the inspirational stories of others on her blog at Kelly is making low-carb eating easier and more convenient through her “Kelly’s Keto Cooking” business. Married with three children, Kelly is committed to the philosophy of Livity right here in Jamaica by being a vocal advocate for good stewardship of the environment while enjoying the natural diversity of our island with her family.

1. How did you start your blog and podcast?
I actually started blogging from as far back as 2012. I use writing to clarify my own thoughts and to express my opinions on a range of topics. Up until July 2018, my blog posts at focused mainly on life in Jamaica: social justice issues, stories of interesting people, politics and so on. Since July 2018 I’ve been focusing on a major transition in my own life, my weight loss journey which I started at the end of August 2017. I was encouraged to go public with my journey and after giving it much thought, I decided to share what many consider to be a very personal part of my life.

I started my podcast “Here’s What I Think: Road Trips and Keto” at the end of November 2018. I thought that a podcast would be a great accompaniment to my blog, attracting perhaps a different audience, plus it would give my growing tribe an opportunity to get to know me better too. Podcasts are a great way to have your personality shine through in a way that writing doesn’t offer.

2. How did you become one of Jamaica’s leading experts on the ketogenic diet? What was the inspiration?
I don’t know that I am one of Jamaica’s leading experts on the ketogenic diet at all! LOL! But I have been very visible and vocal about the impact on my body and life as a result of the keto diet. I have always struggled with weight, and successfully lost quite a bit of weight using a low-carb diet called the Atkins Diet, after my now 16-year-old son was born. Over the years after that weight loss, I compromised here and compromised there and before I knew it, I had regained the weight. It was becoming harder and harder for me to quickly shed 10 lbs. and I resigned myself to growing old as a fat woman. Sigh.

But in August 2017, my daughter took a pic of me in my happy place (the beach) and I didn’t like what I saw at all! I decided to give weight loss a try again. I already knew that reducing carbohydrates in my diet would give me the results I was looking for. But this time around, I decided to follow the low-carb variant known as the Ketogenic, or keto diet for short.

As my body changed and my overall health improved, I started to dig deeper. I’ve researched this diet, I’ve listened to podcasts by major adherents to this way of eating, I’ve followed international experts on the topic on social media and simply grew my own knowledge on the topic, so much so that I now coach people wanting to use the keto diet as their own tool for weight loss and improved wellness. And I think that I am a literal living example of what the keto diet can do! I share my before and during pictures freely, and people see me as proof right before their eyes. I’m not a celebrity from overseas. I’m a 50-year-old Jamaican woman shopping in the same supermarkets that you shop at, battling the same traffic that you are, facing the same constraints as everyone else. And I’m winning with keto!

3. Is there a way to eat Jamaican and still follow the ketogenic diet?
Of course! I think that we’re actually at an advantage in Jamaica as we don’t have access to many of the convenient, processed keto snacks and foods that can be found in North America. So, we eat real food here in Jamaica on the keto diet. The keto diet, like any low-carb eating regime, calls for a reduction in the consumption of starches and sugars. So, we eat fish, meat, chicken, eggs, full-fat dairy and green vegetables. We have access to wonderfully fresh locally grown veggies, hormone free chicken, fish from our waters and locally grown beef and pork.

One of the things that have kept me consistent on keto since the end of August 2017 is the fun I’ve been having with food! I joined Instagram when I just started keto as a way to challenge myself to come up with exciting, delicious, low-carb meals and to help keep me accountable too. There was no way I was going to bomb out having gone public! Did you know that ackee is low-carb? Yes, it is! I make crust-less ackee & mushroom quiches and callaloo quiches. I eat curried goat with cauliflower rice. I still enjoy my jerked pork. I use a lot of callaloo as it is perfect keto food and it is budget friendly. Cho-cho is another versatile, affordable vegetable that I use in cheesy vegetable casseroles or curried with okra.

4. What about those who only eat seafood?
It is entirely possible to cut carbohydrates if you eat only seafood. I eat escovitched fish, but by itself. No festival or bammy. Steamed fish with loads of fresh veggies is heaven on earth. Think curried shrimp with cauliflower mash or lobster in garlic butter with cauliflower rice or crispy garlic stir-fried cabbage.

5. What is one piece of advice you give to people about their health?
The food you eat can make or break you. Be intentional with what you eat. Eat real food. We’ve adapted to the “pop a pill” culture. But so many of these drugs have toxic side effects and don’t address the root cause of illnesses, merely controlling the symptoms. Wouldn’t you prefer to tackle the root cause? Too many people are suffering from non-communicable diseases that they can manage and in some cases reverse.

Jamaica is in the middle of a type 2 diabetes epidemic. Whether or not you’re a low carb or keto dieter, I advise you to do 2 things diet-wise to immediately improve your health: You see all that added sugar? Put it down. It is at the root of so many modern maladies: arthritis, diabetes, PCOS, fatty liver and high blood pressure. The second thing is to eliminate trans-fats. Trans-fats are those refined vegetable and seed oils. Stick to virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and butter.

6. What is your favorite post so far from your blog?
I think that would be the post on eating keto on the go here in Jamaica. This post resonated with so many people and I enjoyed putting the information together. We do have options right here to eat delicious Jamaican food that is accessible and healthy. I also make and sell low-carb foods such as breads, buns, and quiches as well as riced cauliflower under my Kelly’s Keto Cooking brand, as a way to offer keto dieters right here in Jamaica convenient low-carb food options.

7. Tell us about your Facebook group “The Caribbean Keto Tribe?” How did it get started and how many members are there now?
So I love food. I’ve enjoyed my own keto journey and the challenge that I think I’ve risen to in terms of preparing keto food that is distinctly Jamaican. I was already a part of several low-carb/keto Facebook groups and really benefited from the support that comes from being in a community eating low-carb, faced with the same challenges that I faced and experiencing the same victories both on and off the scale that I was experiencing. But there was a void in terms of the food ideas that I could easily apply in my Jamaican context. I can’t walk into a grocery in Jamaica and pick up low-carb wraps or pre-made cauliflower rice.

So, I decided in late 2018 to form my own Facebook group open to anyone interested in the keto diet or low-carb eating. I wanted a space for us foodies from the Caribbean to relax and flex our culinary tastes and muscles, where we could speak with people who understood what we meant when we asked for low carb alternatives to saltfish fritters, or where to get the best jerked pork or what how can we make low-carb fried dumplings! We are still a small group with just under 600 members, but we have been growing steadily. Our members come from all over the Caribbean and the diaspora mainly, but we welcome anyone who simply loves good Caribbean food. I have received so much food inspiration from this group! I’ve learned how to make keto ice cream, keto fritters and fusion dishes such as cauliflower-based tabbouleh combined with brown stewed chicken!

8. What’s your favorite Jamaican “road” trip?
Lord, that’s a hard one. Sometimes I feel for the mountains, sometimes I feel for the beach. I love driving up to Holywell in the hills of St. Andrew and then down to Portland through Cascade. It is a beautiful drive through the mountains where you’re surrounded by mist, lush green vegetation, rivers, and springs. For a beach flex, Duncan’s in Trelawny is a great drive. The north-south highway makes getting to the north coast an easy, beautiful drive. And Trelawny beaches rock: fine white sand and emerald waters.

9. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
That is a wicked question for somebody like me that loves food. I would have to say beef in any form. Beef has always been my favourite meat and it has become especially dear to me on this low-carb way of eating. So stewed beef, minced beef, a good rib-eye steak or any of the above.

10. My favorite guilty pleasure is…
Reading in bed early in the morning before the sun rises. I’m an avid reader, with a wide range of interests. I’m an early riser and if I don’t have school drop-offs or a work-out to do, I love lying in bed undisturbed with my kindle.

11. Growing up my hero was…
My hero was my dad. He was an army officer, who I felt could rule the world. He had a solution for everything. He was a stellar leader who exposed us to so many things: hiking, map reading, stories, music, and cooking. He led by example and was an excellent father to the 6 of us.

12. What is the book, movie or song that changed your life?
That’s a difficult question since each stage of life has different requirements. I think that The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman was a liberating book. It gave me insight into myself, creating a pathway for me to love and forgive me which was critical before I could properly love anyone else. And it offered a practical way to demonstrate love to those close to me.

13. I feel happiest for the day when I…
I try to live in the now always. Life is way more than a destination somewhere out there like “when I lose 50 pounds” or “when I get that degree” or “when I get that new house.” For me, I am happiest with a clear conscience, when my family is well and when I’m doing the things I know I must be doing. I’m not waiting for some point in the future to be happy. I try to be grateful every single day.

14. Thanks for the interview. Do you have any closing thoughts?
Life is too short. That’s my mantra. Live your life right now. We don’t have to grow old sick. We don’t have to squash our dreams. Take control of what you can! You and you alone have full control over what you feed your body. Start there. As your body starts to heal, that feeling of control spreads to other areas of your life and what results is an improved mindset that will see you enjoying life, taking chances and feeling more fulfilled than ever before.

Keep up with Kelly on her website, podcast, Facebook Group, Twitter, and Instagram.

About the author

Xavier Murphy