If you’re into health and fitness or even just curious about dropping a few pounds, you’ve likely heard the term “Keto Diet”. But what exactly is a keto diet? I’ll be honest – I’m all about moderation of everything. I don’t rule out any particular food group. One, because I like food and two, because I’m kind of a lazy dieter. I don’t really subscribe to “diets”. I like lifestyle changes instead. However, I work out regularly and eat decently, but, I’m kind of at a plateau. So I figured I could use a change-up of sorts. Which brings me to answering the question “what is a keto diet?”
Anywhere you look lately, the term “keto diet” comes up. At first glance, it reminds me of the huge Atkins diet craze years ago. You know the diet that you could eat bacon all day and lose weight. Well, maybe not the healthiest diet, but it worked. That is until you start to add the carbs back. But – Keto is a bit different. Generally speaking, keto is high fat, moderate protein, and low carb. If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get caught up in the ratios of each food group. But don’t worry.
A general rule regarding daily calories is 60-75% from fat, 15-30% from protein, and 5-10% from carbs.
What is a KETO DIET?
First of all, you need to know what ketosis is. What exactly are you doing to your body when you achieve a state of ketosis? If you look up the word you find some variation of this:
Simply put – ketosis is a metabolic process where your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Your body will break down fatty acids – this process results in ketones. And what happens when your body starts burning that fat instead of carbs? You lose weight. Ketones are what you get when your body uses fat for energy. In order for this to happen, you have to limit the amount of carbs you are consuming.
So what exactly is low carb when doing a keto diet?
First, what’s a carbohydrate? Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. For a keto diet, generally speaking, less than 50 grams of carbs per day is your goal. If you’re not sure how many carbs you’re eating, go into the kitchen, grab a bag of chips, cookies, or the bread and check it out. For example, I just looked in mine and here’s what I found for each serving size/number of carbs:
- Two slices of white bread: 25 grams
- Chips a hoy cookies (2) : 25 grams
- One serving of BBQ Lays Chips: 16 grams
- One tablespoon of grape jam: 13 grams
- 3/4 cup of Honey Nut Cheerios: 22 grams (and let’s face it, who eats 3/4 cup of cereal???)
- 2 teaspoons of sugar (teaspoons NOT tablespoons): 8 grams
- One cinnamon applesauce cup: 22 grams
- Two tablespoons of Nutella: 22 grams
- One cup of prepared Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: 47 grams
- One serving of cooked thin spaghetti pasta: 42 grams
This gives you a small idea of how easy it is to exceed the carb limit per day when doing a keto diet. And this is just a tiny portion of what’s in my pantry. Don’t forget all the stuff in the fridge – salad dressings, coffee creamer, skim milk, and more.
But – it’s not impossible. It’s a lifestyle change. Just like adding exercise to your day, changing your diet becomes a habit. Instead of thinking of what you can’t have, think of all the good you are doing your body.
How much protein do you need on a keto diet?
This isn’t the Atkins diet craze from years ago. It’s not all bacon and burgers. If you’re just beginning keto, it gets a little overwhelming with percentages of this and that food group. Start out with 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. To get your weight in kilograms divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. Example: 150 pounds/2.2 = 68 kg. Aim for no more than 68 grams of protein per day if you weigh 150 pounds. You may need less to get your body in a state of ketosis. Here’s a few examples of protein content:
- One large egg including yolk: 6 grams
- One chicken breast cooked: 54 grams give or take depending on the size
- 6 ounces of steak : 42 grams
- 4 ounce hamburger: between 28-33 depending on how lean the meat is
- 1/2 fillet of salmon: 27 grams
- 1/2 cup tofu: 10 grams
- 3 ounces pork tenderloin: 22 grams
And what about the fat??
Keto is high fat. I know. It sounds completely opposite of what would equal weight loss. For years, it’s been low-fat, no fat. But, the main problem with these low or no fat foods, especially processed foods is added sugars. If you take away the fat, you gotta add something for flavor. Which often translates into a mile long list of crap ingredients that you don’t need or want. But for a keto diet, you’ve got to have plenty of fat. In fact, about 60-75% of your daily calories are going to come from fat. WTH? How am I going to lose weight if I’m sucking down lard all day? Well, you’re not exactly going to make lard smoothies, but you’re replacing your body’s fuel source. Instead of carbohydrates, your body is going to use that fat intake for fuel and energy.
You’re not running through a drive through three times a day to get that fat either. The fat is coming from sources like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, fatty fish, and animal and dairy products (preferably grass-fed). To get started, here’s a list of some healthy fats that you’ll be including at every meal:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Fatty fish like salmon (full of Omega-3s which are great for your bod)
- Whole milk (in moderation)
- Red meat
- Palm oil
What about the vegetables and fruits?
I’m a fruit and veggie lover. Growing up, we always had fresh vegetables from my Grandma’s garden and it stuck with me. So I don’t want to give up all those yummy foods I’ve loved for years. All veggies and fruits aren’t loaded with carbs. There are definitely plenty that you can include while sticking to a keto meal plan. But, you need to know what you’re consuming. Some are more “keto friendly” than others:
- Apples: 25 grams of carbs
- Watermelon (1 cup): 11 grams carbs
- Cantaloupe (1 cup): 12 grams carbs
- Banana : 27 grams carbs
- Raspberries: 15 grams per cup
- Bell Peppers: 9 grams per cup
- Asparagus: 8 grams carbs
- Broccoli: 6 grams carbs
Can I Drink Coffee On Keto?
Yes! I was never a coffee drinker until a few years ago and now it’s a staple. Sure it would be nice to wake up feeling refreshed and not need it, but I actually enjoy it. What I also enjoy is french vanilla creamer. The one I currently use is coconut milk french vanilla, but it has 5 grams of carbs per tablespoon. And I know I’m dumping in more than a tablespoon. So what do you do? Switch over to heavy cream. It’ll still give it that creamy quality. Avoid adding extra sugar though. That’ll put you way over the daily limits quickly. One teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams of carbs. And if you use sugar in your coffee, chances are, it’s a lot more than one teaspoon.
You can use a sweetener, but I’m not a fan of these. Try it for a week with nothing but heavy cream and see if you can adapt. You still get your am coffee kick without the carbs. Affiliate links provided – See the full disclosure here
How long does it take to see results?
For most people, about 2-7 days. Will you shed 20 pounds in that time? Nope. But, you will get your body into a state of ketosis in 2-7 days. You’ve got to use up your body’s stores of sugars before it starts turning to fat for energy. Will you feel amazing from the start? Likely not. You’ll be replacing those carbs which give you energy. You might feel tired and sluggish for a bit. Some people even report symptoms known as “keto flu”. Reported symptoms include dizziness, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pains, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and lack of concentration. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, increase your salt intake, and go easy on the work outs for the first week or two. Some people report weight loss of 3-10 pounds within the first two weeks.
Don’t focus on the scale!
This sounds ridiculous when discussing a weight loss strategy. But. Change your mindset. You’re not depriving yourself. You’re giving your body what it wants and needs. You are taking that processed crap out of your diet. There’s nothing non surgical that can result in a 50 pound weight loss in a week. Slow and steady wins this race for sure.
Can I do it long term?
The short answer is yes. If you can commit to a new lifestyle. Maybe you need a jumpstart. Everyone wants a win. We all want to put in some effort and see a result. So maybe the keto diet is your ticket to a win. I’ll see in my case. I love fruit and pretty much all veggies. Plus, keto diets can get kind of pricey with the protein. But. Maybe this is just what you need to get going and feel motivated again.
Is it expensive?
It can be, depending on your protein sources. However, look at it this way: You’re not going to be spending money on processed foods and packaged meals. Most of your shopping is going to come from the outsides of the stores – meats, veggies, fruits, healthy fats. Check out this Keto Shopping List for ideas. It won’t be any more expensive than going out to eat once or twice a week and stocking up on cookies, crackers, and breads. If you factor in what you’re swapping out for keto foods, it’ll likely balance out and not cost you any more money than your usual meals. It’s definitely a bit harder if you’ve got a large family and not everyone is doing keto with you.
However, don’t think you need elaborate meals for keto. It’s pretty basic when you look at the foods you’ll be consuming. And once you devise a few weekly meal plans and figure out what you like, it’ll get easier. You don’t need 40 ingredients to prepare a different kind of smoothie every morning of the week. And you can try new ideas – veggies and meats aren’t boring. They can be prepared so many different ways without tons of ingredients or spending two hours in the kitchen.
Most healthy and fit people I know eat the same things every week, often every day. This may sound boring, and I’ll admit, I can’t eat the same thing day in and day out. But there are staples you can add to your meal plan to keep you on track. And if you can simplify an area in your life, like meal planning, that’s one less chaotic chore to cross off the list.
Can you eat out while doing Keto?
As with any meal plan or lifestyle change involving food, it’s a bit hard sometimes to dine out. But are you never going to eat at a restaurant again? Likely not. But you can have healthier choices while eating out. Naturally, there will be some places you’ll want to avoid at first. Your favorite burger joint with the delicious fries – if you can’t say no to the fries, maybe just stay away for a bit. However, most places will have an option that includes meat and veggies. Just be careful of extra breading or sauces that can add up the carbs.
For me, there are some places I just need to skip – the breakfast joint with the massive biscuits that taste like heaven – it’s off my radar for a bit because I love biscuits. But our favorite steak place – I can still eat there if I make the right choices. It’s all about choices. If you can choose protein and veggies, but skip the cheese fries, then go for it. If you’re like me and those biscuits just scream out your name, begging to be eaten, avoid it.
How can you succeed with a Keto Diet?
- Plan – this is a big one. If I don’t meal plan, I generally end up making unhealthy choices. Plain and simple. Know what you’re going to be consuming for the week for meals and snacks
- Clean out the pantry – If you just can’t pass up the Oreos, get rid of them. It’s hard when you have kids in the house that like treats that you should avoid. One trick I use is to let them choose things that I don’t like. My kids love Goldfish crackers. I hate them. No temptation there.
- Set a goal – It doesn’t have to be huge. Small goals and frequent wins keep us motivated. Of course, if you’ve got lots of pounds you want to shed, it’s hard not to focus on the scale. And that’s ok to a point. Set a small goal of 5 pounds at first.
- Track your progress – When you start, grab a small journal and record your weight and measurements. Write down what you eat every day for every meal and snack. Often we don’t realize what we are actually consuming until we write it down. If you’re addicted to the scale, give yourself a weigh in day. For example, Friday morning is your new weigh day. If it’s not Friday morning, you aren’t on the scale. Every Friday (or whatever day/time works for your schedule) document your weight and add measurements every 2 weeks.
- Document with photos – You don’t have to post them to Facebook for the world to see if you’re not comfortable with that idea. Wear something form-fitting (workout pants, sports bra, or tank top, or whatever you want) and get a front view, side view, and back view photo. Then retake them monthly. You’ll be inspired with the progress.
- Find ways to reward yourself that don’t involve food – So often we have celebrations that revolve around food. This can be a bit difficult, especially if you’re just starting out on your lifestyle change. Stick to the diet, get those first 5 pounds gone, treat yourself to a pedicure. If your clothes are starting to get loose, reward yourself with a new workout shirt.
- Change your mindset – it’s not easy to undo years of habits. Give yourself some grace and if you mess up, don’t give up. I know we use the term “keto diet”, but think of it as a lifestyle change. Focus on the good you’re doing for your body instead of all the things you can’t have. Lots of times when we say we’re “dieting”, we focus on ideas like “I can’t have that, I’m on a diet” – change that statement to “I’m giving my body what it needs, so I’ll choose the healthy option instead”.
- Experiment and try new things – learn new ways to prepare your favorite veggies, add healthy fats to your meals for flavor as well as your daily fat content, or sprinkle new and flavor filled spices on your meal. Find out what you like so you can stick to the plan.
- If possible, get fasting labs before you start. If it’s been years since your last physical, it’s time to do it! Not only does it help to screen for routine problems, it’ll give you a baseline view of important numbers you need to know about your health, including fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol), and more.
Helpful Stuff You Might Want
There’s a few tools you can use when you start a keto diet.
- Keto Sticks – These are essentially sticks that you pee on to tell if you have ketones in your urine. Helps to know when you’ve achieved ketosis.
- Keto Cookbooks – You can browse Pinterest for recipes or if you like cookbooks, there are tons to choose from:
Who is Keto not appropriate for?
- Pregnant women – Do not make any drastic changes without the recommendation and supervision of your doctor. When you’re pregnant, the primary concern is growing a healthy baby – nothing else.
- Diabetic patients – A sudden decrease in carbohydrates will affect your blood sugar. This can be a desired result for diabetics, but only under the supervision of a doctor.
- People with gallbladder/pancreatic disease – an increase in the amount of fats you’re consuming may not be ideal if you have these conditions
- Children – children are not small adults. They have different nutritional needs and requirements. Are there versions of keto that could be healthy for kids with particular medical conditions? Yes, but only under the supervision of their doctor.
- People on certain medications – For example, diabetic medications, certain psychiatric meds, blood pressure meds – if you have chronic conditions that require medications, speak to your doctor before making any drastic changes.
This is not an extensive list – if you have any chronic conditions or health concerns, see your doctor first.
So – the basics of Keto are here for you. It can be challenging at first or feel restrictive. However, I know many people who have tried it with amazing results. And part of those amazing results include feeling better. Not just weight loss, but they physically feel better. Mainly due to elimination of processed food, fillers, and unhealthy additives.
Try it, see what you think! And share your success stories with me!
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