The ketogenic, or keto, diet reverses the traditional food pyramid, emphasizing a high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carbohydrate diet. Over time, eating this way causes the body to enter a state of ketosis, using fatty acids and ketones instead of glucose for energy. But why would anyone want to turn their metabolism inside-out by going keto? Research shows that the diet can increase weight loss, improve chronic health conditions like prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as help ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. So, if the prospect of gaining any of these benefits has you ready to retire your dinners of pasta alla Norma and Chianti, keep reading!
This guide will help you kickstart your keto regimen, because the lifestyle is more nuanced than simply eating sticks of butter and reading ketone strips. Now, pop some coconut chips in the oven and learn how to eat the foods that nourish you, design the activities that support you, and build a lifestyle that you feel good about.
Pick Your Plan
The ketogenic diet is not a one-size fits all approach. Once you are in ketosis, there are several versions of the diet that can be tried on to fit your needs and routine! To start, it’s best to use the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), which requires you to eat 70 to 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 to 10 percent carbohydrates. Now, are you in ketosis? Good, it’s time to take stock of how you feel. If you’re energized and enjoying your lifestyle on SKD, stick with it! But if you are an active individual and would enjoy a boost for your workouts, give the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) a try, which requires that you eat carbohydrates 30 minutes to an hour before or after exercise. Meanwhile, those who follow the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) eat 450 to 600 grams of carbohydrates two days a week, before returning to 50 grams for the remaining five days. CKD may work best for you if you’re an athlete or if you are focused on building muscle. But perhaps you’re the type who can easily forego the bun, but can’t resist the burger! The high protein ketogenic diet (HPKD) may be for you. With HPKD, you’ll eat no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates, but include more protein on your plate.
Stress simply doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. Because the diet industry can’t package and sell it and on an individual level, it can be easier to ignore, rather than confront. But make no mistake—stress can wreak havoc and yes, even sabotage your goals with keto. Take for instance, the infamous “keto flu,” a collection of flu-like symptoms that many experience during the first few days to weeks of going keto. This is a form of stress, which can and should be addressed. Focus on supporting your body by staying hydrated, including micronutrients and electrolytes in your diet and sleeping soundly each night. Want a meal idea that’s perfect for the keto flu? Make this raw kale salad with grated cheese and lemon dressing or this fennel avocado salad. They just may cause you to doubt the virtues of your mother’s chicken soup.
Eat the Good Fats
Although medicine has pivoted its position on nutrients like cholesterol and saturated fat, all fat is certainly not created equal. Those who peruse keto-friendly sites will likely be barraged with recipes for “cream cheese bacon balls” or “pizza casseroles,” but just because it’s keto doesn’t mean it’s healthy! Instead, you’ll want to eat mainly plant sources of fat, such as nuts and nut butters, seeds, coconuts, avocados, and healthy oils. So for the majority of your week, chow down on dishes like herb-stuffed salmon and cauliflower fried rice, saving the cheese souffles for the occasional indulgence.
To those of us who are foodies, eating enough is rarely a problem. But because eating fat is both satiating and effective at leveling our blood sugar, you may find yourself undereating. To this end, it may help to invest in a quality food scale. This way, you can gain a sense for how much of each macronutrient you need to eat and prevent yourself from edging towards malnourishment. Apart from weighing your food, you’ll need to weigh your choices for meals! For breakfast, either keto pancakes or a spinach frittata with bacon and cheddar will do. When it’s lunchtime, consider Buffalo chicken stuffed avocados or a Thai crab salad to keep you satisfied. Then, when it’s nearing dinner, prepare Moroccan kefta kebabs with a side of roasted cauliflower soup or keep it simple with easy Dijon deviled eggs.
Many carbohydrate-rich foods naturally contain water, so when we subtract them from our diet in order to go keto, we can become dehydrated. Moreover, the symptoms of dehydration are often vague and difficult to identify, such as fatigue, headaches, and dizziness. So while being keto, get into the habit of regularly sipping water. If you’re not a fan of the idea, we understand—water tastes boring. To keep flavors interesting, try muddling a few berries and herbs in a pitcher of water and chilling it in your fridge. This way, you’ll always have tasty water on hand to hydrate with!
Rusek M, Pluta R, Ułamek-kozioł M, Czuczwar SJ. Ketogenic Diet in Alzheimer's Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(16). doi:10.3390/ijms20163892