The ketogenic diet is two things: low in carbs and high in fat. Unlike an Atkins diet, which is low in carbs and high in protein, a ketogenic diet relies on healthy fats to fuel the body.
Ketogenic dieters follow this way of eating because of the impact carbohydrates have on their glucose and insulin levels. These dieters stay in a state of “ketosis” which allows the body to run on ketones for full. This is not to be confused with “ketoacidosis” which is a life-threatening condition for diabetics. While many people do the ketogenic diet for weight loss, some use a ketogenic diet for health problems like diabetes, epilepsy, celiac’s disease and other medical conditions.
Examples of foods consumed on the ketogenic diet
When following the ketogenic diet, certain foods are prohibited. Sugar and grains are off-limits on a ketogenic diet. This means most breads, cereals, fruits, and starchy vegetables are not to be consumed. The standard American diet includes many foods and food groups that ketogenic eaters won’t touch. But on the flip side, the ketogenic (or “keto”) diet allows a lot of foods many other diet plans do not.
Keto-approved foods include:
- Full fat dairy
- High fat proteins (like ribeye steaks, bacon, dark meat chicken, etc.)
- Butter and ghee
- Oils (coconut, olive, palm, etc.)
- Egg yolks
- Heavy cream
Many traditional diets limit fattening foods, but the ketogenic diet actually encourages eating fat. As long as that fat isn’t coupled with carbs, the diet appears effective.
Keeping up with a ketogenic diet
To stay in ketosis, most people must consume less than 50 net carbs per day. However, this varies by person. Some people who are very active can consume more net carbs per day. Others who are sedentary or have particularly slow metabolisms may need to consume fewer than 50 net carbs per day. Many hardcore ketogenic dieters consume less than 20 net carbs per day. But how can you do this when almost every food has carbs?
A typical ketogenic breakfast may include eggs, bacon, and avocado. Avocado is fruit high in fiber, which makes it very low in net carbs. It’s also high in fat.
Keto-approved foods like leafy green vegetables, high fat proteins, and dairy have very few carbs. Two cups of spinach has 2.2 grams of carbs, but it also has 1.4 grams of fiber. To get your net carbs, you subtract fiber from carbs. So two cups of spinach has just 0.8 carbs. If you opt for a healthy spinach salad with full-fat feta, olives, and chicken salad, you’ll be well within your carb allowance.
For dinner, many keto eaters enjoy a cheese plate, salad, or fatty steak. While it may seem expensive to be on the ketogenic diet, there are plenty of affordable keto foods like eggs, canned tuna, canned salmon, mayonnaise, kosher hot dogs, and full-fat cheeses.
What you need to follow the ketogenic diet
An important part of the ketogenic diet is tracking your macros. The typical ketogenic diet is 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. To make sure you’re getting the right percentage of each macronutrient, you’ll want to track your food intake. This is easy to do with an app like Lose It or MyFitnessPal. You may also want to invest in a small food scale to make sure you’re accounting for the right quantity. Once you get a hang of the foods you can eat and your portion sizes, it becomes much easier over time. If you want to stay on track with the ketogenic diet, here are a few tips:
Have only diet-friendly foods on hand
Make every food you purchase a ketogenic diet food. Don’t keep tempting items like cookies, cakes, pastas or other off-limits food items in your house. If you live with others who are not following the ketogenic diet, this can be difficult. Just make sure your foods are separate from others.
Use pre-packaged meals for convenience
You don’t need to make everything from scratch with the ketogenic diet. A lot of ketogenic foods are great for transport. Things like full-fat cheese sticks work well on the go. Or use a pre-packaged meal service like Nutrisystem for men, which can provide you with a perfectly planned ketogenic meal. You’ll have all the convenience of take-out with none of the regret.
Remember progress over perfection
Adapting to a new diet can be tough. Instead of worrying about any diet missteps, remember that the steps you’re taking toward your goal are more important than doing everything 100% right at first. Over time, dieting will get easier. Stick with your goal, and you will see results.