You may have heard the Ketogenic Diet called “the bacon and butter diet” and while that sounds easy to follow (and maybe delicious), there is a bit more to it! This article will give you the basics of Keto Dieting, what to expect, and how to incorporate it into your daily life.
What is the Keto Diet?
The Ketogenic Diet (aka Keto Diet) is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate approach to eating. The goal is to move your body into the metabolic state of “ketosis” which encourages more efficient fat burning, weight loss, less hunger, steadier energy levels, and can benefit those with Type 2 Diabetes.
What Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?
This is the first question everyone asks! Eating in Keto can be a radical departure from the usual American diet and it takes some education to learn good vs. bad foods. Without exception, sugar is not allowed (candy, cookies, ice cream, cake, soda, and fruit juice). The same goes for high-starch foods (pasta, rice, chips, potatoes, or bread). But foods you may consider “healthy” are also forbidden because they are high-carb (beans, most fruits, and many veggies).
In general, the Keto Diet is made up of mostly fat (60% to 75%), moderate protein (20% to 25%), and minimal carbs (5% to 10%). For most people this carb level equals around 20-grams of carbs but some people can tolerate up to 50-grams per day. It all depends on your weight loss and energy level. Too many carbs will kick you out of ketosis and you will notice the difference. Try adjusting up or down until you find the right level for you.
In the beginning, you will need to read labels or find the Net Carb* counts of natural foods – some that seem healthy or keto-friendly are surprisingly high in carbs. You will eventually learn what works and what doesn’t! We highly recommend researching Keto further if you are planning to jump on this diet. Check back here for more articles or visit your local library for a guide.
*Net Carbs: Total Carbs minus Fiber & Sugar Alcohol = Net Carbs
Foods that are Allowed on Keto
- Meat: unprocessed (not lunchmeat, sausage, meatballs, etc.) preferably grass-fed and organic. Normal amounts of meat are allowed – keto is high-fat, not high-protein!
- Fish and seafood: especially fatty fish like salmon, preferably wild-caught. Obviously without breading or smothered in high-sugar tartar sauce.
- Eggs: preferably free-range or organic. Try boiled for a quick snack.
- Natural fat oils or sauces: butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, or sauces made with these ingredients such as Bearnaise sauce, pesto, or chimichurri.
- Vegetables that grow above ground: asparagus, avocado (which also counts as a good fat), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, leafy greens, peppers, olives, tomatoes, or zucchini. Avoid corn, peas, and winter squashes. On this diet, you can use as much butter or healthy oil as you want for dressing or cooking!
- High-fat dairy: butter, high-fat cheese, heavy cream, and small amounts of high-fat yogurt. Avoid milk as it is high in carbs (one cup is 15-grams of carbs).
- Nuts: all nuts have carbs but most can be eaten in moderation. Best choices are pecans, Brazil nuts, or macadamias (about 4-grams carbs per 3.5 ounces) and the worst are pistachios or cashews (about 15- and 22-grams carbs, respectively). Just read labels until you learn the carb counts on these foods. Natural peanut butter (no sugar) can also be eaten in moderate amounts.
- Berries: eat in moderation (it will satisfy your sweet tooth) and mix with real whipped cream for a delicious dessert.
- Dark chocolate: allowed in very limited quantities, choose 70% or more cocoa content.
- Keto-friendly sweeteners: Stevia, Erythritol, Xylitol, Monk Fruit.
What to Drink on Keto
- Water, lots of it! Try electrolyte-fortified water and, if you are experiencing headaches or “keto flu”, add a pinch of salt to boost your sodium. (See below for an explanation of keto flu.)
- Coffee – black or with cream. Try Bulletproof Coffee – this is a great morning starter that will level your hunger and keep you focused. In a blender combine: one cup hot, fresh-brewed coffee with two tablespoons organic, grass-fed, unsalted butter and one tablespoon MCT or coconut oil. Blend until emulsified and enjoy (really, it’s better than you think!)
- Tea – any kind but no sugar or honey
- Bone Broth – this is a great snack that’s full of nutrients and electrolytes. Easy to make at home but also available premade.
- Alcohol -- dry red or white wine, vodka, whiskey, brandy, champagne, and cocktails without sugar or fruit juice are allowed in limited quantities. No beer!
What Not to Eat
- Fruit – all kinds except berries
- High starch foods – potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, baked goods, corn, granola, cereal, or muesli. This includes whole grain foods.
- High sugar foods – maple syrup, honey, agave, processed white or brown sugar, candy, soda, fruit juice, sports drinks or vitamin water, low-cocoa chocolate, or ice cream.
- Lentils, beans, and legumes.
- Root vegetables: potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, or beets. Onions can be eaten in small quantities.
- Oils to avoid: soybean, canola, corn, peanut, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, or grapeseed. This also includes margarine or canned-typed fats made with these oils.
- Beer (sorry but this is basically liquid bread!)
A Note about “Keto-Friendly” Prepackaged Foods
As this diet has become popular, everyone has jumped on the Keto bandwagon and started repurposing their product as low-carb (or low net carbs) or ketogenic foods. Many times, they are filled with weird, artificial ingredients or sweeteners that have little nutritional value. Even if they are “keto”, they can still be junk food! Read the labels, look for hidden carbs, and choose snacks that have good food value. (Hint, all of our Keto boxes have snacks curated to be good for you and your keto diet. Click here to see the selection.)
Side Effects of Keto
You should always consult your health care provider before making a diet change but this is especially important with Keto if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, take medications for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, or are pregnant or nursing.
As with any switch to low-carb dieting, your body will crave sweets at first! You have to power through it. After a week or so, you will no longer crave those types of foods.
Many people who make the switch to Keto experience “keto flu”. As your system adjusts to burning so much fat for energy, you may feel sluggish and achy (just like the flu) or have mental fogginess. This is normal and temporary and will go away after the first week or so.
The jury is still out on this one, contradictory science, so I’d like to leave this out.
Keto Tricks to Try
Start with a clear plan and get rid of foods that will tempt you. When those sugary snack cravings hit, you will go for the quick fix if it’s in your cupboard. Donate it to the food shelf or a hungry college student and stock up with keto-friendly but easy-to-grab snacks.
Make a meal plan for one week (including snacks!) so you won’t be staring into the fridge wondering what to eat. Stock up with everything you need and stick to the plan. You are retraining your brain (and body) and eventually you’ll know exactly what to eat or avoid.
If you love mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower – just steam it and mash it with butter and heavy cream.
Try any of the allowed veggies roasted. Just toss liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt or your favorite seasoning and roast on a sheet pan at 375°F for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. This not only makes a good side dish for dinner but a great snack option for those evening munchies.
Make a big batch of bone broth (look for crockpot or instapot friendly recipes), freeze in one cup containers, and take with you to work each day for a great afternoon pick me up.
Come Back for More . . .
We’re thrilled to be your Keto snacking partner! We’ll keep posting new articles about the Keto diet and would love to hear how it’s working for you. Join us over on social media (links below) or feel free to email us with questions. If you’d like to try our Keto Snack Boxes, click here to browse.