As many of you know, I have made some big (and small) life changes all with the singular goal in mind- to better myself mentally and physically. Part of that journey has led me to Keto. I started dabbling in Keto almost a year ago. I have had 11 months of trial and error, research, and a lot of good meals in between. I have done strict keto and lazy keto (if you are thinking, “what??” don’t worry, I will get into that later.)
If you have googled Keto you will get millions of hits. Blogs, support groups, anti-keto pages, and conflicting information. I am by no means a keto expert. I would also like to drop my disclaimer right now that I am in no way, shape, or form a medical professional and if you have reservations or health concerns you should always consult your physician first.
The first thing you need to understand is that Keto is not just another diet. The Keto way of eating (from here on out will be abbreviated to WOE) puts you in a metabolic state of Ketosis (not to be confused with ketoacidosis).
a metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues, which is typically pathological in conditions such as diabetes, or may be the consequence of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates.
What happens when your body is in Ketosis and why would you even want to be in Ketosis???!!! Since I am going to be throwing A LOT of information at you and science isn’t my forte I will simply put it this way: when you are in Ketosis your body is burning fat instead of carbs.
Are you still with me? Ok, now we can get into the Keto WOE.
1.) Where to start? MACROS.
Many diets are focused primarily on counting calories and avoiding fat grams. Keto is the opposite. The rule of thumb with keto is 20 NET grams of carbs or less/day. Carbs are a limit, fat is a lever, and protein is a goal. When we say fat is a lever, we mean you eat more fat to prevent hunger and fuel ketosis. But how do you begin to know what your macros should be? I personally used the following guide: Ruled Me: Keto Calculator
Now that you know what your macros should be you need a way to track them. If you intend to do “lazy keto” you don’t need to follow this step, but I HIGHLY recommend tracking macros for best results.
2.) Tracking your food intake
There are a ton of apps to track your calories and macros. I used to use My Fitness Pal. If you already have that you can use that. If you want an app that is more geared towards Keto, I prefer “Carb Manager”. It is a free app and you can select “the ketogenic” diet. You can then manually add your macro goals or it will do an estimate for you based on you selecting Ketogenic Diet. Carb manager will also calculate your NET carbs for you which is a plus for me.
Some people on Keto do NOT track their calories. I have done it both ways. When I track calories and adjust it with weight loss, I am more successful. The choice is up to you. If you think you will be overwhelmed start with tracking macros only. The golden rule, the only one you must follow to (usually) stay in Ketosis is 20 NET GRAMS OF CARBS OR LESS.
For the record- I do NOT track my carbs from vegetables. I don’t even enter veggies in my app.
3.) What can I eat? What should I avoid? What are some staples?
Let’s start with the good news…all the delicious things you can eat.
- Protein– since this is the goal, this should be a focal point. You can eat any kind of protein. Some popular go to protein on Keto are bacon (full fat, none of that turkey BS), chicken thighs, hamburger meat (full fat), chicken breast, tuna….really nothing is off limits as meat is low carb/no carb. I am NOT a vegetarian so I do not know what to tell you if you don’t eat meat.
- Veggies– Greens are the goal. Leafy lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, and green beans. There are off limits vegetables. The rule of thumb for me is nothing that is grown underground (potatoes). Corn is high in carbs so that should be avoided or eaten in moderation.
- Dairy- I am going to tell you something no one on a diet has ever told you before…YOU CAN EAT CHEESE. Cheese from the block is lower in carbs than shredded cheese (because of the preservatives they use to prevent it from sticking). My lazy ass still eats shredded cheese though. Full fat sour cream, full fat cream cheese, string cheese, and heavy cream are all OK on keto. Milk has more carbs than heavy cream, so avoid it if possible. You can sub it out for almond milk or other low carb options.
What to AVOID:
- Fruit- Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, especially with yummy fruit season here. There are very few fruits you can eat on keto due to the high carb content in the majority of fruits. Fruits to absolutely avoid are bananas, peaches, and apples. You can get away with an occasional handful of berries (strawberries or raspberries).
- Bread, pasta, grains- this should be obvious on a low carb diet, but we try to find loopholes all the time. There are low carb options for tortiallas or bread on the market. This will be up to you if you want to eat them. Very strict ketoers say anything with wheat or grain is “not keto”. If it doesn’t kick you out of ketosis though, I say try it out. I lose faster not eating these items. Once in awhile I will indulge, but the fact of the matter is they have inflammatory properties about them. Many people doing this WOE will invest in almond flour and make their own keto approved breads, crusts, etc. Pinterest has a ton of recipes if you choose this route.
- SUGARS – I cannot stress this enough. You CAN have sugar alternatives. Stevia is a great substitute. Erythritol will also not spike your levels. Avoid Malitol or Maltodextrin if possible (check labels.)
To be successful there are some staples I personally keep on hand for snacking and throwing together quick keto dinners. STAPLES
- Bacon is the universal keto food. I add it to salads, make BLT salads, eat it plain…it covers protein and fat so having bacon on hand is a good idea.
- Eggs- Great source of protein and burns a shit ton of fat. Google “Egg fast” and you will see how many ketoers live for eggs.
- Avocado- Avocado is full of good fat and there is a hundred and one ways to eat it.
- Olives – These are my go to low carb snack when I want something salty. I also add them to my salads.
- String cheese- Another handy snack to have or I chop them into pieces and throw them in salads (because I like to use my staples in many ways to save on the grocery bill).
- Pepperoni- This is one of my favorite keto snacks! Just make sure you are always reading labels and avoiding items with extra added sugar
- Enlightened or Halo Top Ice Cream- You cannot eat a whole pint of these and stay in Ketosis, so exercise control over this…I eat ONE SERVING (about 1/4 or 1/2 cup) for a sweet tooth fix.
- Pizza Sauce– Pizza sauce is a great substitute for marinara sauce (I eat with zuchini noodles and meat). It has 3 net carbs versus 16g or more in marinara.
Here is what my day consists of to give you an idea:
- Breakfast- Coffee with sugar free raspberry syrup and heavy cream (you can also try bulletproof coffee- google can tell you how to make this, I don’t drink it)
- Lunch- 3 scrambled eggs with Johnny’s Seasoning and shredded mexican cheese
- Dinner- a protein, fat, and a vegetable. For example – chicken breast with hollandaise sauce and green beans and bacon bits.
- Snack- string cheese
4.) Keto flu and how to avoid it
By the grace of the keto Gods I have never experienced Keto flu. Probably because I did my research and took preventive measures. You should too! It is important when you are on Keto to supplement your nutrients. Magnesium and potatssium are important. I cannot stress enough to also add electrolytes to your diet. I do this by drinking beef broth in a mug and adding salt to my food. Some people get drinks with electrolytes. If you start having flu like symptoms, up your electrolytes. Drink A LOT of water. Your body is going to go through a detoxification process. We humans are highly addicted to carbs and sugars. When you remove them, you WILL have some sort of withdrawal symptoms and water, electrolytes, and supplements will help.
5.) WTF is a Net Carb.
I won’t pretend to understand the entire science behind net carbs and total carbs. All I know is how to calculate them and when I do net carbs I still lose weight. Fibers and sugar alcohols can be deducted from a total carb count to get the net carb. It has something to do with the impact it has on our metabolic state.
Here is an example:
This has 3 NET carbs.
TOTAL CARBS (21) – FIBER (5) = 16 – SUGAR ALCOHOLS (13) = 3 NET CARBS
(if its maltodextrin I only deduct HALF the sugar alcohols).
Carb manager is pretty accurate at doing the net carbs for you though. I am only throwing this in in case you choose to do heavy tracking and strict keto…then you can figure it out by looking at the labels.
5.) Tracking your weight loss progress
The scale can be ALL OVER the place with Keto. I personally take progress pictures and measurements once a month and weight once a week. I am currently down 9 pounds but 7 inches collectively.
6.) How will I know if I am in ketosis?
There are blood and urine ketone monitors that you can waste your money on, but once you are fat adapted you will show negative ketones on a urine strip and then panic and think you aren’t in ketosis when you are. JUST STICK WITH 20 NET GRAMS OF CARBS OR LESS AND YOU WILL GET THERE!!
7.) KETO OS/ Exogenous ketones
Some MLM companies are slinging ketone drinks. I personally even own the “Perfect Keto” brand Peaches and Cream and Chocolate exogenous ketones (Amazon). I only drink them for the MCT oil and to speed up going back into ketosis if I ate a bunch of carbs I shouldn’t have. If you are constantly eating keto approved foods there is no need for them. It will end up being expensive pee (you urinate out extra ketones).
8.) Alcohol – I personally avoid the stuff (68 days sober!). There are some alcoholic beverages that are keto approved. Dry white wines in moderation, vodka mixed with sparkling water, etc. Keep in mind your liver will ALWAYS burn alcohol before it will burn fat though. So NO, it won’t kick you out of ketosis, but fat burning will take a back seat.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS.
There you have it. I hope you have found this informative and a good starting point. I am always here to answer questions or share recipes. Happy Ketoing!