Low-carb dieting has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity and attention. While by no means a new category in the dieting world, with the first frenzy beginning in the 1970s with the success of the Atkins diet, new forms of carb cutting diets have since been introduced and popularized.1 Some of the more modern low-carb methods include the Paleo Diet, and South Beach Diet. The ketogenic diet, however, is not one of these.
The ketogenic diet (or keto) is a low-carb diet that has been around since the 19th century, when it was first used as a form of diabetes control. It’s next resurgence in popularity was in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy, a treatment that is still being researched and used today.1, 2 What makes the keto diet different from many of the other low-carb diets seen today is that rather than focusing on a high-protein intake, keto focuses on high fat and only moderate protein consumption. While we’re now learning that fat isn’t as bad as we always thought it was, a high fat diet still may seem counterintuitive. So, how does the keto diet work?
By severely restricting carbs and sugars from the diet, the body is deprived of its preferred source of energy, glucose, and is forced to use an alternative source of energy – ketones.1 Ketones are produced in the liver when fatty acids are released into the bloodstream, essentially providing an energy source from burning fat. When your body is efficiently burning fat as its primary energy source instead of glucose, it’s in a metabolic state called ketosis.3
Constant research is being conducted on the standard keto diet, as it has shown promise as a treatment for various diseases, including heart disease, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.4 While research is still ongoing, many people have been very successful using keto to lose weight and keep it off, although scientists are still unsure exactly how and why it works.1, 4 If you’re looking for a new weight loss plan, or just a new way to tackle healthy eating, keto may be for you. Read on to find out more about how to eat on the keto diet.
Keto Diet Meal Plan
Any keto diet meal plan will be centered around one thing: high fat foods. Depending on your current eating habits and views, this could either be a dream or a worrisome challenge. High fat foods that will become staples in most keto meal plans include fatty cuts of meat, butter, cream, healthy oils, and cheese – many things we’re used to sacrificing in the old low-fat culture. Below is a basic list of foods you can use to start building your own keto diet meal plan:
- Coconut oil
- Coconut butter
- Flaxseed oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Heavy cream
- Sour cream
- Yogurt (plain, whole milk/full-fat)
Nuts and Seeds:
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
- Nut butters
- Fatty fish
- Low-carb, non-starchy vegetables, including:
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Summer and winter squash
- Red + white cabbage
- Bell peppers
- Very limited fruits – berries that include blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
This is not an exhaustive list of keto-allowed foods, but should give you a good basis for meal planning. To create your first meals, pick and choose foods from the list, keeping in mind that the goal is to get roughly 70 – 80% of your daily calories from fat, and limit your carbs to between 30 – 50g. Search online to find the carb values of different vegetables to help you make delicious, vitamin filled side salads.
Keto Diet Plan for Beginners
Starting a new diet plan is a dauting task. Even when given a list of foods to mix and match, too much choice can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help guide you when making your meal planning decisions4:
- Always aim to keep carbs low: Stay between 20 – 50 carbs per day.
- Keep staples on hand for easy meal prep and snacks: staples include your favorite meats, cheeses, eggs, nuts, oils, oily fish, cream and avocados.
- Don’t neglect your veggies: fatty foods are high in calories, so pile your plate with low carb veggies to get nutrition and help fill you up, as well as provide necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Keep it interesting. Switch up your meals, and look for interesting recipes online – they’re everywhere!
- Be prepared, especially when you first begin. Meal planning and packing keto friendly snacks can help you get in the swing and form new habits.
- Watch mineral intake as ketosis can change your mineral balance. Add salt to your food, and consider taking supplements to help replenish your minerals, like Delta Prime for Zinc
To get you started, try mix and matching dishes from the list below to create your first keto diet plan menu:
- Bacon & Eggs with Avocado slices
- Cottage cheese with peppers & tomatoes
- Scrambled eggs with sausage, bell peppers, guacamole & sour cream
- Steak salad with crumbled blue cheese
- “Deli Plate” of ham, assorted cheeses and olives
- Lettuce wrapped burger with bacon and cheddar cheese
- Parmesan crusted pork chops with cauliflower mash and spinach salad
- Chicken stuffed with ham and blue cheese, with a side of vegetables
- Oil poached salmon with asparagus and a cream dill sauce
Keto Diet Plan: Vegetarian
The keto diet may be hard to fathom for a vegetarian lifestyle with such a strong focus on meat. Even more challenging, the carb value of most beans and legumes makes them off-limits foods, taking an often go-to protein source out of the running. However, with some knowledge and diligence, you can create a successful vegetarian keto diet plan. Protein can be sourced from eggs, cheese and full fat dairy, as well as familiar vegetarian products like soy, tempeh and miso.5 The rest of the food groups can be pulled from the list mentioned above. For vegetarian keto recipes, look around online for inspiration.
Keto Diet Plan: Bodybuilding
Unfortunately, if you’re really looking to build size and strength, you won’t be able to go on a completely ketogenic diet and still get big results. Muscles require adequate protein intake to build, grow, and repair, and carb intake usually needs to be higher to support energy needs.4 However, that doesn’t mean that keto is completely off limits. While most research has been done on the effects and benefits of the standard keto diet (what this article has been about), there are variations of the diet that include carb cycling, and targeted keto. To do carb cycling, or a cyclical ketogenic diet, follow the standard keto diet for five days with two high-carb “refeed” days after.4 To do a targeted ketogenic diet, carbs are added specifically around workouts.4 If the keto diet sounds appealing, but you’re not willing to give up gains in the gym, these alternatives could be the perfect balance.
- 1 Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Retrieved on May 9, 2018 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/. View link.
- 2 Freeman, J. M., Kossoff, E. H., & Hartman, A. L. (2007). The ketogenic diet: one decade later. Pediatrics, 119(3), 535-543. View link.
- 3 Palsdottir, H. (2017, June 3). What is Ketosis, and Is It Healthy? Healthline. Retreived May 9, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-ketosis. View link.
- 4 Mawer, R. (2017, June 17). The Ketogenic Diet 101: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide. Healthline. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101. View link.< 5 Perfect Keto (n.d.). Ketogenic Diet for Vegetarians. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from https://www.perfectketo.com/ketogenic-diet-for-vegetarians/. View link.