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Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano
The Way We Eat

The Keto Mom of 6 (Whose Kids Love Bread!) in Oklahoma City

updated Dec 24, 2019
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Name: Amy Root
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
How many people regularly eat together in your home? 7
Avoidances: Amy is a Type 1 diabetic and follows the keto diet.

After a long day of working as an Administrative Law Judge in Oklahoma City (that starts at 7 a.m.), Amy Root has to cook dinner for her family of seven, but she doesn’t see it as a chore. “My husband home-schools our four youngest children, but he’s a kitchen disaster. I would have to do it anyway, even if I didn’t enjoy doing it. The fact that I do enjoy feeding our family is a huge blessing.” Tack on the fact that Amy is a diabetic who follows the keto diet while also appeasing her family’s collective sweet tooth, and the stakes are even higher!

We visited Amy’s Oklahoma City kitchen and hung out with the self-described “unconventional” family during a breakfast-for-dinner pancake feast. We learned all about how she handles mommy shamers, her go-to keto lunch, and the fact that, despite her dietary restrictions, she really loves to bake bread.

Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano

How do you manage following the keto diet while also feeding a family that loves bread (and pancakes)?
I don’t want to represent myself as someone who is this superhero unaffected by ordinary temptations, because that’s unrealistic. But I’m pretty unfazed by it! I’ve been diabetic since 1975.* I barely remember not being diabetic. Since I was so small, I don’t have the same type of tastes or cravings that I think a non-diabetic person has. At first when I went on keto, though, I did look with lust at sandwiches. But now because I have this 90-second keto bread thing going on, I can make that, or garlic bread, or cinnamon toast, or a regular sandwich loaf. And that satisfies what I need in the bread department. I really do enjoy making treats for the kids, though. I get sort of a second-hand thrill from seeing them enjoy things like that. They’re fun and easy to cook for.

What are some of the treats you make together?
In the treat department, they love any variety of cobbler. I’ll make a peach or plum cobbler — and this sounds weird, but they like it made with fruit cocktail! We can peaches in the summer. It’s pretty cold here now, but when It gets really cold, I’ll pull those out and make a fresh cobbler. They also like gingerbread and snickerdoodles. During the holidays we’ll make peanut brittle and popcorn balls. Everyone gets involved and it’s really fun.

Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano

You obviously have a very full house! Can you tell us what that’s like?
My husband Ben and I have six kids all together, ranging from 24 to 7. Our oldest son, Bobby, lives outside the home and then our other five live at home: Abby, Patrick, Maisy, Moxie, and Poppy. Our oldest daughter is disabled, so she will always live at home with us. We are an unconventional family — it’s very obvious. Four of our children are adopted, I’m a Type 1 diabetic, Abby uses a wheelchair — we are off the beaten path.

When Abby graduated from high school, we were not very happy with her opportunities for adult care in our city. At the time, my husband was teaching public school, so we decided together that he would stay at home to take care of our oldest daughter. Since he has a teaching degree and is highly qualified, we pulled the younger four out of school. Now he’s a stay-at-home-dad and educates our kids.

Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano

That’s a smart solution. What’s a normal day like for you?
I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and then work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. I work as an administrative law judge for a state agency, so I hold hearings and write decisions all day. Then I come home, fix dinner, and we have family time. My employer is really flexible as far as time goes. I’ve always worked those hours. I like that there is still some time after work to go grocery shopping or do various errands before it’s so late that dinner won’t be ready until 8:30 p.m.

It sounds like you make it all work!
When we decided that Ben would stay home and I would continue to work, people who weren’t really entitled to an opinion just freely gave theirs. It was annoying, and it was hurtful, but I’ve learned to filter out comments made out of ignorance or nosiness. We’ve gotten into a groove of what comes naturally to us now, and there is so much peace in that. When it worked for us, it didn’t matter what anyone else thought about who should be working. That’s our normal and we like it that way.

Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano
  • Biggest challenge in eating? I am a Type 1 diabetic following the keto diet — that can get interesting. Otherwise, everyone in our family is a very adventurous eater and I love to cook!
  • How much do you cook at home every week? We don’t eat out at all. It’s much too expensive. Plus, once we find a restaurant to accommodate our daughter in a wheelchair, four other kids, and my keto diet, it’s easier (and less expensive) to just cook at home. Besides, there are very few things we could order “out” that I can’t make as well, or better, at home.
  • 5 things on your grocery list every week? Eggs, cottage cheese, fresh produce, legumes (canned or dried), chicken (mostly thighs).
  • Where do you shop, primarily? Mostly Aldi. I also go to Trader Joe’s on occasion and our local chain Buy 4 Less.
  • Top 3 default dinners? Pancakes with fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream, chorizo pot pie with cornbread crust, and pizza soup — it only has four ingredients, plus toppings, and I look like a culinary genius.
  • Favorite drink? Bigelow’s Salted Caramel with Torani sugar-free caramel syrup and cream. It’s dessert in a cup!!
  • The last grocery item you splurged on? A broccoli crust pizza to indulge my craving for “real pizza.” On keto, I haven’t had “real pizza” in a year and a half.
  • Best underrated snack? Sugar-free Jell-O.
  • Best thing to eat while watching TV? Salt and vinegar pork rinds by Carolina Country Snacks. I’m sort of ashamed that I bought every single package available last time I went to the dollar store. But I did. Wasn’t sure I’d ever see them again!
  • Most reliable kid snack? Fresh fruit.
  • Most ingenious cooking tip anyone ever taught you? Cooking is mostly intuition. Trust yourself. (But never “try out” a new recipe on guests!)
  • Most-loved kitchen tool? My Dutch oven. Friends tease me that my stovetop is actually a shrine to the Dutch oven. They could be right.
  • Your best budget tip? Work out a weekly menu using sale adds and what you have in the pantry and freezer.
  • Cookbook you actually cook out of?Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, Jerusalem, My ancient Good Housekeeping Cookbook (1962 or ’63) because it provides a hilarious commentary on society at the time. Actually, I could go on.
  • What’s the best cookie of all time? Snickerdoodles right out of the oven.
  • Who does the dishes? Sometimes the kids, sometimes me, sometimes me and my husband and sometimes just my husband. We do them together a lot while we watch HGTV.
Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano

What’s a day of food like for your family?
I follow the keto diet (but nobody else in the family does). I also do intermittent fasting from 7 p.m. until 11 a.m., so I don’t eat breakfast. I always make sure that the kids and Ben have breakfast, though. Last night I made granola for them in the slow cooker that they can have throughout the week. And even though I can’t eat regular bread, I love to make it. I always have bread dough going in the fridge. This week, they’re having homemade cinnamon toast. I think this morning they had leftover pancakes because we had so many for dinner last night, though!

Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano

What’s lunch like for you and the homeschooled crowd?
I’m a little Type A, especially when it comes to making sure I know what everyone is eating. I typically cook enough so they can have leftovers the next day for lunch. My kids say that what I make beats any school lunch they’ve ever had. I take a lot of pride in knowing my kids are well-fed.

Since I’ve been on the keto diet for almost two years, I’m rarely hungry. Usually this week for lunch I was having either smoked trout or smoked sardines from Trader Joe’s, a piece of mozzarella, and the occasional pork rinds. (You gotta work in something that tastes relatively like a chip once in a while.) I’ll sometimes have half a cup of cottage cheese or some hard-boiled eggs and I’m good to go.

Credit: Kenneth Ruggiano

And then dinner?
I make a menu for the week the weekend before and post it on the fridge — that way there are no surprises. (I don’t really like being surprised!) Also, if I didn’t write it down, Lord help me I’d forget and would just stare blankly into the pantry and wait for something to happen.

Last night we had peanut butter banana pancakes with scrambled eggs and sausage. Earlier this week I made veggie soup and cheesy bread; stuffed pepper casserole with cornbread; and pork loin with red potatoes, carrots, green beans, bacon, homemade bread, and brownies. Fridays are my day off; they have pizza from Aldi. But yes, that’s kind of what a meal plan looks like on my fridge. I might deviate from it — but only if someone eats a key ingredient!

*I do want to put this out there, though: As a Type 1 diabetic, I don’t want other people to think “Hey, I’ll just go on keto without talking to my doctor first.” That can be a recipe for disaster. I have really tight control over my numbers, but I don’t want my story to lead people down a false path of confidence without talking to their doctors.*

Thanks so much for sharing, Amy!

The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. How do you overcome challenges to feed yourself? If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.