The ketogenic diet (almost always shortened to “keto”) is quite an old one, first used to help treat epilepsy in children during the 1920s. In its modern application, it is a method of structuring your eating so that you burn fat instead of carbohydrates. The idea is to radically cut back on your carb consumption and replace it with healthy fats, which ends up inducing a metabolic state called “ketosis.” The result is that your body uses fat for energy as opposed to carbohydrates.
While it sounds relatively straightforward, and for many people it is, starting a new diet is always slightly intimidating. If you are new to keto, below are some food options to help set you on the path to keto success.
First, Decide on Which Meals You Want to Eat
While it can be tempting to just find a keto-approved list of individual food items and start buying, the best approach is to brainstorm a meal plan first and then shop for that. Once you’ve got your three square meals planned out, then you can select individual items.
Keto requires dedication day and night, which means breakfast, lunch and dinner must be keto-friendly. As it is with cooking anything, you never know until you actually try a recipe out. There are so many great Keto meals and snacks that are healthy, quick and meet all your diet requirements.
Non-root, Low-carb Vegetables
There are low-carb vegetables and then there are carb-rich ones. Normally, root vegetables contain more carbohydrates than ones that grow on stalks or vines. This means a keto-consistent diet needs things like zucchini, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower.
Conversely, avoid things like yams, carrots, potatoes, cassava, and anything else loaded with starch and calories. The vegetables can be incorporated into dishes or eaten raw/cooked on their own.
Many people prefer the breast, and this tends to be what you are served at restaurants when you order a chicken dish, but chicken thighs are severely under-appreciated. Thighs contain more fat, as well as a combination of light and darker meat, which is where all of the flavour is.
The fat content makes chicken thighs perfect meat-choices for keto, and they are often much cheaper than breasts. A 4-ounce serving of chicken thigh with the skin on contains 280 calories, 14 grams of protein and 25 grams of fat.
Whether you eat fish because you like it or because you are pescatarian and don’t eat other animal proteins, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies are great additions to the keto diet. They are rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and high in protein.
Keep in mind, however, that fish (and seafood in general), for a variety of reasons, is something to be eaten in moderation. It is always wise to rotate your protein sources to avoid the excesses of any particular one.
Olive oil is a staple in kitchens around the world. It is fragrant, has a beautiful texture and is one of the healthiest oils out there. It contains a large number of monounsaturated fats as well as several polyunsaturated fatty acids–both linked to improved cardiovascular health.
Olive oil is a fundamental part of the keto diet and can be used for everything from salad dressings to cooking oil, or as part of a marinade for meat and vegetables. Olive oil, if you are not already stocked up, is undoubtedly one of the first things you should buy if you’re beginning your keto diet.
Plain, Unflavoured Greek Yoghurt
Many people are under the assumption that you can’t have dairy on a keto diet, but that is not necessarily true. While high-fat dairy options like homogenized milk, ice cream, whipped cream, and coffee cream are to be avoided, as long as you are keeping an eye on the fat content and monitoring your protein intake, you should be fine to eat a variety of dairy products.
Plain greek yoghurt is one of those. One half-cup of plain Greek yoghurt contains just four grams of carbohydrates, but nine grams of protein. Another benefit of yoghurt is that despite not being high in carbs, it has been shown to help dull your appetite, so it is a great snack in between meals while keto dieting.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds should be an integral part of everyone’s diet (aside from those with allergies, obviously) because of how healthy they are. High in healthy fats and low in carbs, raw nuts, such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews and macadamia nuts, are easy to store and take on the go and can help get you through the day.
Bear in mind that nuts are high in protein. If you are already getting sufficient protein from your three primary meals during the day, overloading on protein (whether it be nuts or anything else) can actually hinder the ketogenic metabolic state.
Like any diet, keto takes some getting used to. Your options, however, are not only varied, but will make you feel high-energy throughout the day. One of the best things about keto is that there is no suffering. You can eat healthily, generously and frequently all while burning fat and enjoying the myriad other benefits from your keto-friendly foods. If you are new to keto, keep the above foods in mind and make your transition to the keto lifestyle a smooth one.
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