We are continuing our deep dive into popular diets and our focus today is on the Keto diet.
What Is A Keto Diet?
A keto or ketogenic diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, higher-fat diet that can help you burn fat more effectively. It is similar in many ways to other low-carb diets. The reduction in carbohydrate intake puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where fat, from your diet and from your body, is burned for energy.
Your body and brain’s fuel source is typically glucose which is energy converted from carbohydrates that you consume. Your brain cannot use fat directly as fuel – it can use glucose or ketones. Ketones are an alternative fuel source for your body that can be used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply. When you eat very few carbs or very few calories, your liver produces ketones from fat. These ketones can then serve as a fuel source throughout the body. A “keto” or “ketogenic” diet is so named because it causes your body to use your liver to produce “ketones.”
When insulin levels drop very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but that is not a practical option.
A keto diet, on the other hand, also results in ketosis and can be eaten indefinitely. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss – without having to fast long term. A keto diet is especially useful for losing excess body fat, reducing hunger, and improving type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
The other benefits of being on a keto diet are less hunger and a steady supply of energy without the peaks and valleys caused by sugar spikes that can occur with eating high-carb meals.
Keto Foods to Eat
Focus on eating unprocessed meats. Meat is low carb and keto-friendly, and if you can get organic and grass-fed meat, that would be an even healthier choice. A keto diet is not meant to be high in protein, so you do not need to eat large amounts of meat. In fact, eating too much protein can be detrimental as excess protein can be converted to glucose, which could make it harder for some people to get into ketosis, especially when starting out and if that person is starting with high levels of insulin resistance.
Remember to read labels carefully. Processed meats, like sausages, cold cuts and meatballs often contain added carbs. Bacon is definitely keto though. Aim for under 5% carbs when you are looking at the nutrition label.
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are great choices on keto, especially fatty fish like salmon. Eat smaller fish like sardines, mackerel, and herring if you have concerns about mercury or other toxins. Wild-caught fish is a better choice than farm-raised. Make sure to avoid breading on your fish, as the breading will contain unwanted carbs.
Eggs are a great option on a keto diet and can be eaten in many different ways, e.g. boiled, fried in butter, scrambled or in omelets.
Most of your calories on a keto diet should come from fat. You’ll likely get much of it from natural sources like meat, fish, eggs, and other sources. But also use fat in cooking, like butter or coconut oil, and feel free to add plenty of olive oil to salads and vegetables. You can also incorporate delicious high-fat sauces, including Bearnaise sauce, garlic butter, and others.
Natural fats helps you feel full and adds flavor to food. Don’t use more than you want or need, but don’t fear fat. Fat is your friend while on a keto diet.
Make sure to choose vegetables growing above ground, not root vegetables. Root vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes contain more carbs. Instead, focus on leafy and green items. Kale, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, broccoli and zucchini are great choices.
You may find yourself eating more vegetables than before when starting keto, as veggies often replace the pasta, rice, potatoes, and other starches you previously were eating.
What To Drink On Keto
Read on to see what to drink on a keto diet:
Water is your best option on a keto diet. Have it flat, with ice, or sparkling. Sip it hot like a tea, or add sliced cucumbers, lemons, or limes.
Try to drink your coffee black with no added sugar. A small amount of milk or cream is fine. For extra energy from fat, stir in butter and coconut oil – the fat helps curb hunger and promotes a longer feeling of satiety. If you notice your weight loss stalling, cut back on the cream or fat in your coffee.
Whether black, green, Orange Pekoe, mint, or herbal — feel free to drink most teas. Just don’t add sugar.
Hydrating, satisfying, full of nutrients and electrolytes – homemade bone broth can be a great beverage to sip on the keto diet. Stir in a pat of butter for some extra energy.
Foods to Avoid
Here’s what you should not eat on a keto diet – foods full of sugar and starch.
This is the big no-no. Cut out all soft drinks, fruit juice, sport drinks and “vitamin water” (these are all basically sugar water). Avoid sweets, candy, cakes, cookies, chocolate bars, donuts, frozen treats and breakfast cereals.
Read labels for hidden sugars, especially in sauces, condiments, drinks, dressings and packaged goods. Honey, maple syrup, and agave are also sugars. Ideally try to avoid or limit artificial sweeteners as well.
Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes (including sweet potatoes), French fries, potato chips, porridge, muesli and so on. Avoid wholegrain products as well.
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are high in carbs too. Small amounts of certain root vegetables (other than potatoes and sweet potatoes) may be OK, but be careful as the carbs can quickly add up.
Think of beer as being liquid bread. Beer is full of rapidly absorbed carbs. Avoid beer if at all possible. If you were to indulge in a beer, try to find a low-carb beer and limit consumption.
Fruit is very sweet, containing lots of natural sugar. Try to limit your fruit consumption and treat fruit as a natural form of candy.
Margarine industrially produced imitated butter with a very high content of omega-6 fat. It has no obvious health benefits and should be avoided.
Berries are the best choice when it comes to fruit as they are lower carb per serving. A moderate amount of berries are okay on keto. Add real whipping cream to make a popular keto dessert.
On a keto diet, butter is good, high-fat cheese is fine, and heavy cream is great for cooking.
However, avoid drinking milk as the milk sugar quickly adds up (one glass = 15 grams of carbs). If adding milk to coffee, try to just add a ‘splash’ or at max, a tablespoon. Also avoid low-fat yogurts, especially as they often contain lots of added sugars.
Nuts are a great choice in moderation, but be careful when using nuts as snacks, as it’s very easy to eat far more than you need to feel satisfied. Also be aware that cashews are relatively high carb, choose macadamia or pecan nuts instead.
As a general rule, try to limit nut intake to less than 1/2 cup per day (around 50 grams). Be careful with peanut butter, a modest serving of 2 tablespoons will add about 4 grams of net carbs.
Try to avoid alcohol while on a keto diet, but if you do indulge in an occasional drink, be sure to limit it to one or two. Stick to dry wine (regular red or dry white wine), champagne, whisky, brandy, vodka and cocktails without sugar.
A square of dark chocolate, with cocoa above 70%, can often hit the spot. Try some 85% gourmet chocolate shaved over whipped cream and berries.
How To Get Started On A Keto Diet
As with starting any new diet, make sure to consult with your doctor to get their approval that this will be ok for you. Once you have your doctor’s approval, it’s time to food shop and read nutrition labels. Focus on eating good quality, minimally processed real food. Ideally the food you buy shouldn’t even have a list of ingredients (or it should be very short). Remember that keto is low-carb, moderate protein, and high fat.
Because keto is low-carb and not no carb, many people wonder how may carbs they should be eating per day? The answer is that it depends. But as a rough guide stay under 20 grams per day for maximum effect. If you want to eat more carbs, aim for at least staying under 100 grams of carbs per day in order to still see some of the benefits from low-carb eating, such as weight loss.
How much fat should you eat? A proper keto low-carb diet means you get a lot more energy from fat. But much of this fat should come from your body’s fat stores, as you lose weight. Eat as much fat to feel satisfied. If you eat more fat than you need to feel great, and it will slow down your fat loss. Eat too little fat, and you might feel tired and hungry.
Already eating a Keto diet or interested in starting one? Give us a shout to customize a Keto friendly snack delivery program to keep you on track with your Keto diet and heathy lifestyle goals.