Getting Started with a Ketogenic Diet
Ketosis is a fascinating response to dietary conditions that has shown to have benefits regarding diet management and weight loss. In our carb-centric world, it might seem impossible to reduce your carb intake to less than 30g of net carbs per day. Thoughts of doing so might bring to mind outrageously restrictive diet that takes all the fun out of food.
On the other hand, for some who delve into ketogenic diets it becomes a pleasant surprise. The best part about ketogenic diets is that they allow you to eat (and eat well) without having to starve yourself for your weight loss and nutritional goals. Not to mention there is a large variety of savoury flavors and foods. Here is what approaching your ketogenic diet might look like.
Plan for Success
There are some things you can also do to help the transition in the early stages. When it comes to starting a ketogenic diet, you could just try to dive right in. But why not set yourself up for a better experience and success with ketosis? Try the following:
- Finish/remove your carb-rich foods: If they are lying around, they will be tempting you. Finish what you have so you can stock up with keto-friendly ingredients that will keep you in line with your keto diet.
- Determine your caloric needs: There are plenty of resources online that can help you calculate you total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which is the amount of calories needed to maintain your current weight. Sure you can go to the grocery store and load up with keto friendly foods, but having a snapshot of how much you will need each day can also help to manage the early stages of the transition (and save on grocery bill). This can also help you for buying and portioning your food as well as meal planning.
- Meal Prep: Preparing multiple meals all at once will make it much easier to stick to your ketogenic diet because you won’t be as tempted to cheat when you have keto-friendly food already available. Try to prep a few meals in advance. An easy way to start is by making more for lunch or dinner than you need so that you have leftovers to choose from the day after.
- Allow for more keto-friendly food: You will quickly realize the difference between real hunger and mere flavor cravings. At first, you might feel like you are still hungry because even though you’ve eaten, you haven’t satisfied your carb cravings. So indulge in more keto food! Once you achieve ketosis, your appetite will level off and you will lose the flavour cravings you once had.
There are many foods that fit a keto-friendly diet. Your main concern here are avoiding grains and sweets. If this sounds daunting at first, don’t worry, there are ways to pacify the sweet tooth (see below). But thankfully, you’ll still be left with savoury and delicious food items including the following dietary staples:
Eggs – nature’s multivitamin rich with nutrients–high in protein and healthy fats
Bacon – yes, bacon. High in protein and fat, and a delicious way to add flavour to your dishes.
Chicken – here you can opt for cuts with skin that provide more flavour and fat content for your diet.
Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish are excellent sources of omega fatty acids and protein
Avocado – this delicious high fat food is rich in folate, potassium, and B-vitamins, and fiber which gives it a surprisingly low net carb count
Leafy Greens – fiber is important and leafy greens like spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce are great sources of fiber and micronutrients
Full fat cheese – rich in calcium, protein while also being a delicious flavour agent for your meals and providing vitamin A, D, B vitamins, and even magnesium
Coconut oil – this versatile oil is great for cooking while providing healthy fats for your keto diet
Chicken broth with sodium – great for hydrating while maintain sodium levels and staving off potential keto fog during early transition
When starting a keto diet, keep it simple. Stick to the easy recipes and thing you’re comfortable making. You can always experiment later with new recipes and new dishes to spice things up.
Breakfast Option 1: Bacon & Eggs—What Could Be Simpler?
2 large eggs
2 pieces bacon
Fry bacon and eggs. Sautee mushrooms and eat with spinach or wilt spinach in pan to eat alongside the dish. The great thing about eggs is their versatility. Even when cooked on their own, there are so many ways to prep them. You can also swap out bacon for sausage but make sure to check the sugar content if you do!
Breakfast Option 2: Cream Cheese Pancakes
2 oz cream cheese
1 tsp sweetener (see below)
½ tsp cinnamon
Mix/blend ingredients and set to rest for a few minutes until bubbles settle. Pour into pan greased with butter or coconut oil and cook until golden brown on both sides.
Lunch Option 1: Hearty Caesar Salad
1 Chicken Breast
Creamy Caesar Dressing
Cook chicken and bacon, slice ingredients and place in a bowl! Doesn’t get much easier than this and your chicken prep method is up to you.
Lunch Option 2: Tuna Salad
1 tin tuna
1 small head crunchy lettuce
1 medium spring onion
Pink Himalayan salt
2 tbsp mayo
Hard-boil the eggs, combine in a dish with mayo and tuna and mix thoroughly with fork. Add to lettuce and mix in the spring onion.
Lunch Option 3: Leftovers!
Seriously—prep enough dinner the night before to carry over into the next day. This can be especially useful if you need to take a lunch to work because few if any places are going to accommodate your keto needs. Having extra keto options on the go is a good strategy to stick to your ketogenic plans.
Dinner Option 1: Steak & Asparagus
1 Steak (Your choice of cut)
1 cup asparagus
Quick and easy! Grill steak on the BBQ to desired finish and grill asparagus while steak is resting. You can choose whichever cut you like best. This works equally well in a skillet where you can include butter and garlic for extra flavour.
Dinner Option 2: Salmon & Salad
1 wild caught salmon filet
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons organic dried parsley
- Preheat your oven to 350 and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Season salmon with salt and pepper
- In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt butter and lightly saute garlic.
- Once the garlic has softened, reduce the heat to low and add in the remaining ingredients. Stirring until combined and melted.
- Spread mixture over salmon filet and bake at 350–15 minutes for thawed salmon and 20-25 minutes for fozen. Check by gauging how it flakes with a fork.
- Side salad can include spinach and romaine lettuce with nuts and creamy, low-carb dressing.
But What About Dessert?
Dessert didn’t disappear, but it can and should in the beginning. Due to the way your tastes adapt and your body adjusts to ketosis, you will tend to crave sweets less and less. This seems to be a consistent trend among participants of keto diets.
If, however, you absolutely must give in to that sweet tooth—you can. But it cannot be with sugar. Not only that: when it comes to sweeteners, there is a significant difference in their glycemic index. That means some can cause a serious insulin spike which will interfere with ketosis and can be uncomfortable while others can be consumed with little to no insulin response.
Avoid these sweeteners with high glycemic index: Maltodextrin, maltose, dextrose, glucose, trehalose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose
Use these sweeteners with low glycemic index: Stevia, mannitol, erythritol, inulin, xylitol, sucralose (Splenda).
This is not a comprehensive list and there are many sweeteners within the mid-range of the glycemic index that can still cause problems for a ketogenic diet. If you must, try to gravitate toward sweets that use the sweeteners with low GI ratings.
One of the big advantages of keto diets is the ability to eat savoury, satisfying food instead of picking away at calorie-restricted regimens. You don’t need to starve yourself to see positive results! Your meal plan can be simple and effective at first while allowing you to play with dishes as time goes on. No crazy recipes or Michelin-star needed. Full, hearty meals are satisfying and delicious. Remember that supplementing the transition in the beginning and making sure you are getting electrolytes can be a big benefit to the early stages of ketosis.