So you've decided to begin a ketogenic lifestyle and don't know where or how exactly to start! You're in the right place! I will share some of the very basics of LCHF/Keto and also some of my own journey, as well as some books, articles, and videos from other web sites to help you get started right…
First of all, some terminology clarification… You will hear several terms to describe this way of eating (WOE - there's your first term!), and it can become confusing. Here are a few and what they mean:
- SAD – "Standard American Diet" (usually very high in carbohydrates and the "bad fats").
- Low Fat – the typical dietary recommendations for weight loss by most doctors and nutritionists. This diet is low in fat and calories but ends up being quite high in carbohydrates because when you reduce the fat, you automatically increase the carbs!
- Low Carb – General term for low carb diets. Usually lower than 100 grams of carbs per day, possibly down to under 20 grams per day. Sometimes thought of as a "high protein diet" – which it can be, but this is not the best since protein can also raise glucose! (NOTE: Low Carb does not necessarily mean ketogenic as it does not regulate protein intake.)
- LCHF – Low Carb High Fat. This diet is usually much lower in carbs than the typical low carb diet, reducing carbs to less than 50 grams per day (or even less than 20 grams per day). Additionally, this diet focuses on including enough of the good fats to be in a state of "nutritional ketosis" and it reduces protein intake to a more moderate level.
- Ketogenic (or "Keto" for short) – the same as LCHF above. Called "Ketogenic" because you will then be burning ketones for fuel instead of glucose.
- Ketosis — a state where you are producing ketones which are an alternate source of fuel for the body. This only happens if your carb intake is low enough to cause the body to switch gears to burning fat for fuel instead of glucose, and there are many other benefits that I will go into more details about in an article dedicated solely to this topic! A great article about ketosis and its benefits (and possible risks) can be found on the Diet Doctor Web Site.
- Keto-Adapted – When your body has adapted to using ketones (fat) for fuel and you experience energy, focus, satiety, and all the other benefit of ketosis!
How to Eat LCHF/Keto
There are three types of foods that make up our daily intake: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Of these three food types, carbohydrates are the one that raise blood sugar the highest and the fastest. Proteins will also raise blood sugar, but not as high and not nearly as fast! Fats will not raise blood sugar! (So we may take a minute to ask ourselves WHY do the diabetes associations all recommend that carbohydrate intake be so high for diabetics?! They recommend high carb intake and then prescribe insulin injections to counteract this dietary advice – why not just lower the carb intake so we don't need all that insulin?!)
To begin your keto journey, the first thing you need to do is reduce your carb intake to less than 20 grams per day. This is a good starting point for most people, though depending on how insulin resistant you are, you may be able to increase to 50 grams per day and still see the benefits. But for simplicity's sake, it is recommended to begin with less than 20 grams per day. This is NOT MUCH! You might be thinking, "I can't POSSIBLY give up my bread, pasta, sweets, etc.!" Well, I thought the same thing! But when I tried it and saw the immediate health benefits that occurred, I was convinced it was so worth it…
You will also need to calculate how much protein you need so that you get enough, but not too much! A great article that shows how to calculate your protein requirements can be found on Dr. Adam Nally's site at: Calculating Protein Needs for Your Ideal Body Weight.
Lastly—and possibly the most important—LOSE YOUR FEAR OF FAT!! We've been brainwashed for decades that eating fat makes you fat and raises cholesterol, etc. THIS IS NOT TRUE!! Our bodies (and especially our brains) NEED fats—and yes, even SATURATED fats! So load up on butter, coconut oil, bacon grease, bacon, ghee, and even LARD! Fat should actually be the highest percentage of your daily food intake to make this diet work the best!
What to Eat
- Cheese (full fat)
- Nuts (be careful of amounts!)
- Non-Starchy Vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, squash, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, eggplant, olives, cucumber (onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers in smaller amounts)
- Heavy whipping cream
- Sour Cream
- Berries in small amounts
What NOT to Eat
- Sugar of any kind
- Starches: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, quinoa, etc.
- Fruits and fruit juices (THE WORST!)
- Milk (NOTE: The lower the fat in the milk, the worse it is for you!)
A great resource that goes into much more detail about what to eat and what not to eat can be found at The Diet Doctor Web Site.
How Do I Know if I'm in Ketosis?
You TEST! This is the ONLY way to know you are doing this correctly! There are currently three different ways to test for ketones: urine, breath, and blood. When you first begin, you can use the least expensive method of urine strip testing to see if you are passing ketones. You can purchase "Ketostix" at any pharmacy.
The second way of testing for ketones is the breath analyzer. Currently, the only one on the market is the Ketonix.
The BEST and preferred method for testing ketones is the blood ketone testing. You can purchase the Precision xTra meter through Amazon:
NOTE: The test strips for this meter are quite expensive! My suggestion is to purchase them through Ebay where you can find them much cheaper.
A BRAND NEW blood ketone meter that is just now coming on the market, which has test strips that are much more affordable, is called the Smart Meter.
The "Keto Flu"
It is very important to understand and be aware that when you first begin a ketogenic diet and your body is adapting to such a drastic change, you may experience what is commonly referred to as the "keto flu" or the "low carb flu." It is not really a flu at all, but it's your body trying to both detox from carbs and switch over to fat burning mode, which is when you'll experience all the wonderful energy! But during the process, you may feel pretty rough for a few days to possibly even a couple of weeks!
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help with this adaptation phase and ease the symptoms. The most common symptoms experienced are fatigue/lethargy, headache, dehydration, and possibly even heart palpitations! The main thing you need to do to avoid these symptoms is to HYDRATE yourself with both lots of water, as well as electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, sea salt or pink Himalayan salt). A good article that explains all these symptoms and what to do for them can be found HERE. Another great article can be found HERE.
I personally use this Homemade Electrolyte Drink and it's wonderful!
A great 6-minute video on this topic is below: