What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet in my own words is a way of eating that includes a high amount of healthy fats, moderate protein and very low in carbohydrates. That is exactly what I tell people who ask me so when there isn’t much time to explain the details. That is the ketogenic diet in one sentence. There is much more to this than just that one sentence though.
What are high healthy fats? Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, eggs, ghee, butter (most ketonians choose Kerrygold butter), cheese, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, fatty meats like bacon, 80/20 ground beef, ribeye steaks, pork, chicken (preferably with skin on), fish, seafood, avocados, and olives. Eighty to ninety percent of your daily food should consist of healthy fats listed above.
High healthy fats help you feel full and satisfied after eating (no more hunger while losing weight.) Fats will cause your body to switch over to fat burning mode by causing your body to produce ketones for energy instead of using glucose for energy. Contrary to what we have all been taught fat does NOT make us fat. I have lost fifty pounds so far eating high fats. My husband and daughter have lost weight as well. At first, I was afraid to pile on that much fat, but I gave it a try and I have never looked back.
You want to keep your protein moderate. It can get tricky sometimes because every piece of meat has protein and we love to have our meat on this diet, but there are creative ways to keep your fat higher than your protein. For example, fry your hamburger in bacon grease, put butter on your vegetables or your steaks, eat cream cheese and pork rinds, or cream cheese and celery. Have a few cheese squares (be careful going overboard with cheese though since cheese can be binding if you know what I mean.
Now to carbohydrates. You need to keep your carbs at a very low of 20 grams per day. Spinach, lettuce, asparagus, zucchini, celery, cabbage, and kale are very low in carbohydrates and are great keto friendly vegetables. Other vegetables allowed are broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers, onions, brussels sprouts, avocados, cucumbers, and asparagus. Count your carbohydrates though! Try to be careful with tomatoes since they are a bit higher in carbohydrates, but I can’t imagine a summer without tomatoes.
If it grows under the ground (root vegetables) it’s starchy, so, therefore, higher in carbohydrates. That is why we don’t eat potatoes or sweet potatoes and must be very limited on carrots. Onions also grow underground, but we usually use onions in our recipes and seldom sit down to eat a whole onion, so some onion is fine.
Other carbohydrates are nuts like pecans, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds. These five nuts have less than two grams of carbohydrates per ounce .Hazelnuts s, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios and peanuts are higher in carbs, so I avoid them. Nuts are very easy to overeat so watch out because before you know it you can go way over your carbs on nuts alone. Peanuts are also an inflammatory, so I avoid those too.
Fruits, this is where many people are shocked to learn that very few fruits are allowed on the ketogenic diet. Fruits are very high in sugar and even though they are natural sugar they are STILL sugar. They are high in carbohydrates and will not work when you are trying to build and use ketones to fuel your body. One exception are berries in limited quantities are allowed, but no more than one quarter cup per day. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are fine. Blueberries, you will need to watch carefully because even though they are a great antioxidant they are still higher in carbohydrates and carbohydrates are what we are trying to keep low.
Remember to avoid using vegetable, corn, soybean, or canola oils. These oils are NOT keto friendly nor are they healthy. Try to avoid any food product that includes this in the ingredients label. I know that is hard to do because mayonnaise and salad dressings, to name just a couple, have all these ingredients. So, I highly recommend finding a good recipe online, so you can make your own and store them in mason jars in the refrigerator. It is a little more time in the kitchen but well worth it in my opinion. Avoid margarines for the same reason- it contains the above-mentioned oils. Eat butter- butter is better anyway!
• This goes without saying but avoid sugar. Sugar comes in many different names on food labels. Food manufacturers are very creative when they are sneaking sugar into our food. There are more than 50 names for sugar so look them up if interested, but I will only list a few here: Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Fructose, Lactose, Glucose, Maltose, Sucrose, Dextrin, High Fructose corn syrup… and the list goes on. Watch out for Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and modified corn starch too. They can raise your blood sugar.
• Avoid grains! That is a hard habit break for bread lovers, and those who want a quick easy breakfast of toast and cereal, but bread has no place in the ketogenic lifestyle. Instead use alternative flours like almond flour and coconut flours to bake bread. Recently I have noticed there are better recipes online and in keto cookbooks for breads, cakes and cookies, etc… In 2017 when I started keto there were not many recipes that called for less than a dozen eggs for bread and I just didn’t like that many eggs in anything. But now, thanks to some very good “keto chefs” there are quite a few options and recipes for buns, bagels. sandwich breads, and more. A quick google search will bring up many recipes.
• A final tip and probably most important next to avoiding sugar is try to eat a whole foods diet. Cook your food at home as much as possible. Avoid food in a box or bag or anything with more than five ingredients and those five ingredients need to be real foods you can pronounce. Processed foods are just awful (look up how processed foods are processed on YouTube.) I know it is difficult, especially at first to adhere to the guidelines, but the further you go into the Ketogenic lifestyle the easier it will become because you have adapted to the lifestyle. I promise you- the ketogenic diet when done correctly will prove itself worthy. As your days go on and the pain in the joints become less, the blood sugar begins to stabilize, your outlook on life improves, your weight begins to drop, and so many more benefits. You will see why we lovetobeketo!