Understanding nutrition on a ketogenic diet
Let's say you've decided that a keto diet may work for you. Perhaps you've read our guide to keto and think the health benefits (regulated blood sugar levels and improved blood pressure) and the possibility for weight loss are exactly what you're looking for.
This blog will help you meal plan, actually enumerate the foods to eat and the foods to avoid as you take your body into a metabolic state of ketosis.
Low carb junction: the rules revisited
A quick refresher before we get granular. The ketogenic diet works by reducing your net carbs to near-zero levels, forcing the body to find an alternative fuel source: stored body fat. It is a low-carb high-fat diet.
Your fat is transformed in the liver to ketones, energy molecules that then power your muscles and brain.
Without proper fat intake, your body won't have anything to use for energy, so it's critical that you supplement the calories you used to get from carbs with good fats and proteins.
The importance of net carbs
Carbs we get from dietary fiber are processed differently by the body; they're actually subtracted from the non-fiber carbs in your diet calculus.
Add up the carbs in everything you eat and subtract the carbs from fiber. Your total carbs minus fiber equals your net carbs.
The average person on a ketogenic diet can consume 15-30g net carbs per day and remain in ketosis.
70% fats, 25% protein, 5% carbs
That's your guiding macronutrient breakdown. There will be some recipes later in this blog to help you actualize these numbers.
But first, let's get to the good part: all the delicious things you can eat on a keto diet.
So... what to eat on Keto diet?
Because high carb foods feature so prominently in our culture (pizza, sandwiches, pasta, oh my), it can be difficult to visualize a keto-friendly meal plan.
All it takes is a bit of imagination, and here at Kevin's, we're happy to do the heavy lifting for you. You'll see how they come together in mouth-watering concoctions later, but here's a hefty list of the foods you'll see in a ketogenic diet.
Check out Peppercorn Steak Tips
Fats (with many uses)
Use these fats as essential staples in your keto diet. Cook your meat and non-starchy veggies in them, and top your dishes for a delicious finishing touch -
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Avocado oil
Meat and poultry
While vegetarian keto is possible, most will eat meat as a central facet of a ketogenic diet. Choose grass-fed and organic whenever possible. It really makes a difference in the nutrients you're receiving!
Some believe that keto is a meat-heavy diet. This is not true. In fact, an excess of meat can actually shock your body out of ketosis, so keep your meat intake at normal levels -
- Beef - fatty cuts are best for keto
- Pork - like bacon? Its high fat and protein make it perfect for keto
One of the most versatile components of our diets, eggs are high in protein and low in carbs. Consumed in moderation, eggs are shown to have great health benefits, not to mention being delicious.
Fish and shellfish are perfect for keto. Many varieties of fish are virtually carb-free and contain tons of vitamins and minerals that aid health -
- Salmon - contains omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent heart disease!
Some shellfish, like shrimp and crab, contain no carbs. Others do (with their net carbs per serving) -
- clams: 4 g
- mussels: 4 g
- octopus: 4g
- oysters: 3g
- squid: 3g
Veggies (low carb)
Whether you're eating keto or not, vegetables are your best friend, containing vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function properly.
When you're eating a ketogenic diet, you'll need to avoid starchy vegetables (eg. potatoes, yams, and beets). Thankfully, most vegetables have very few grams of net carbs -
- Cauliflower - exceedingly versatile, it can be made to resemble rice or mashed potatoes
- Zucchini - good so many ways, "zoodles" mimic the shape of pasta
- Spaghetti squash - a low-carb substitute for the beloved pasta
- green beans
- peppers (especially green)
- tomatoes (technically, a fruit!)
There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of cheese. Most cheeses are both high in fat and low in carbs, making them perfect for keto.
Hard cheeses especially tend to fit the right criteria. Some soft cheeses are alright, but many contain too many carbs to work in a ketogenic diet.
- Blue cheese
- Colby jack
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Goat cheese
- Pepper jack
- String cheese
Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese
Yogurt is delicious and extremely versatile. While many kinds contain too many carbs, plain Greek yogurt (full fat!) can definitely become part of your keto diet meal plan.
Cottage cheese (as mentioned above) is another great ingredient, different enough to earn a special mention. It's high in protein and great fats.
Nuts and Seeds
High in fat and protein while typically low in net carbs, nuts and seeds are great keto foods on their own for a snack or incorporated with a larger dish -
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Almonds - these have slightly higher net carbs, so be mindful of the portion size
- Chia seeds
While a lot of desserts are high in carbs, some, like dark chocolate or other confections made with cocoa powder and low-carb sweetener, are great keto-friendly options!
Foods to Avoid
That's right. Unfortunately, most fruit contains too many carbs to be admissible in a keto diet. There are some exceptions, like blackberries, but most sugary fruits are no-gos if you are trying to lose weight on a low-carb ketogenic diet.
Favorite spreads like peanut butter typically contain added sugars that make them non-keto, so make sure you read the nutritional information to ensure the items you choose are low in carbs.
Here are some brilliant and delicious keto meal options from Kevin's own kitchen to make your low carb diet easy!
Chicken Tikka Masala Tacos with Paleo Pickled Onions
The secret here is the Paleo Pickled Onions, a homemade (but exceedingly simple) pop of flavor!
Fresh Lemongrass Basil Roasted Salmon
This deceptively simple dish has all the complex and vibrant flavor of a more difficult cooking process, with none of the hassles.
Easy BBQ Baked Beans Recipe
This hearty vegetarian option is perfect at a backyard cookout. Add a fried egg for that perfect umami experience.
These recipes should jumpstart your adventure with keto! Put the ingredients we've discussed here on your next shopping list and you'll find that eating keto is easier, and more delicious, than you could have imagined.