How to start on a Ketogenic Diet (It’s really not that hard)
So you have decided that you want to try this lifestyle, now what?
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are currently taking any prescription medications, the first thing you need to do is to consult with your doctor. The keto diet will impact medication dosages, especially those taking blood pressure and diabetes medications. I would also recommend getting your blood tested to establish a baseline and diagnose any existing medical issues. At a minimum, blood work should include NMR lipid panel, fasting glucose and insulin levels, hemoglobin A1C, hsCRP, vitamins B12 and D, and thyroid function.
Throw out the Temptations!
The next thing to do is to get rid of all of the high carb foods and snacks at home. You can throw out or give it away, but if you do not, they will call out to you during those first few days of transitioning from “sugar burner” to “fat burner”. Yes, there will be cravings… This gets tricky if you do not live alone and your significant other does not want to follow your eating style.
What exactly is a Ketogenic Diet?
In a nutshell, a ketogenic diet is a diet very low in carbs, moderate in protein and high in fat. I don’t really like to call it a diet, but more of a lifestyle because you have to change everything about the way you are eating. For a ketogenic diet, you should stay under 20g of net carbs per day. Net carbs are the total amount of carbs in an item minus fiber minus non-digestible sugar alcohols (such as erythritol) and you are left with the net effective carbs. On a ketogenic diet, we don’t count fiber or sugar alcohols due to the fact they are not broken down in the body or metabolized.
The macronutrient ratios for a ketogenic diet are generally 70-75% Fat, 20-25% protein and 5% carbohydrates. By severely limiting your intake of carbohydrates, your body will switch from running on sugar to burning fat for its fuel. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body is no longer using carbohydrates to generate energy, but is now running on fat for fuel. It will take a few days to reach ketosis but the benefits of being in ketosis are endless. One major benefit of a ketogenic diet is weight loss, however mental clarity, blood sugar control, reduced cravings, and lower blood pressure are awesome benefits as well. I could write a very long list of benefits, but you get the picture; its awesome for your health.
Restrict your Intake of Carbohydrates
THIS IS SOOOO IMPORTANT! You will not reach ketosis without significantly decreasing your carb intake. Try to stay under 20g net carbs per day. There are a ton of great apps that allow you to track your food macronutrients to ensure you are not surpassing 20g net carbs per day.
Ok, I get it. 20 Grams of Carbs. What can I eat? What Should I avoid?
Here is a list of high carbohydrate foods to avoid:
Fruits – avocados and olives are ok
Grains – Breads, muffins, cereals, pasta, rice, oats, pizza crust, chips, crackers, etc.
Milk and low-fat dairy– milk contains lactose (sugar), cheeses that are “low fat”
Sweetened drinks – fruit juice, sodas, tea, smoothies, shakes, etc. (beware of “healthy” drinks as most are loaded with sugar)
Starchy vegetables – potatoes, carrots, corn, etc.
Beans – includes soy
Most desserts – cookies, cakes, ice cream, pies, etc.
Bad fats –seed oils (corn, soybean, and canola), margarine, and most salad dressings (contain both seed oils and sugar/high fructose corn syrup)
Condiments – ketchup, BBQ sauce, and similar are typically loaded with sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.
Process foods – typical snacks, bars, drinks, etc. are high in carbs and bad fats. Protein powders may not be low in carbs.
Artificial sweeteners – some people get an insulin response to these and will stop ketosis, but they will trigger carb cravings for most people.
Alcohol – wine, beer, and most mixers are high carb. Also, drinking tends to impact your ability to stay away from high carb foods/snacks (especially in a social setting).
This list is not all-inclusive, but it should give you a good idea of what to avoid. Read labels – for most people, going over 20 – 30 grams of carbohydrates per day will stop ketosis (or at least will limit your ability to maximize your fat burning ability).
I bet that you are thinking: What in the world can I eat? The good news is that fat equals flavor, so prepare yourself for eating delicious, filling meals.
Here is a list of foods to enjoy:
Dairy – eggs, cheese (all full-fat cheeses), sour cream, heavy whipping cream, full-fat yogurt
Drinks – water, coffee, tea, club soda, sparkling water
Sweeteners – Stevia, sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol are allowed but may cause “disaster pants” (aka bad tummy cramps and a sprint to the bathroom)
Nuts – all nuts are relatively high fat/low carb, macadamia and almonds are the best (highest fat/carb ratio). Be aware of nut butters (some have added sugar and bad oils).
Fruits – avocado and olives, berries can be eaten in moderation (relative low sugar content), lemons, and limes
Good fats – olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil
Vegetables – pretty much all vegetables are good except starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and corn (which is really a grain). Vegetables can be fresh, canned, or frozen.
Proteins – Beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, lamb, and goat. Most meats also include fat content along with the protein.
Spices and condiments – most are good, read labels on prepared sauces and salad dressings as most have added sugars and HFS (high fructose syrup). Better to use olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice for salads.
Supplements – keto specific supplements include MCT oil, and exogenous ketones. At the beginning of the diet, electrolytes may be needed (minerals including sodium, potassium, and magnesium). Other supplements we are usually deficient include vitamins D and B12, magnesium, and fish oil.
Feel free to check out my YouTube channel for recipes and meal prep how to’s.
If you have any questions, please include them in the comments below and I will try to help you!
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