Last month I lamented over a serious lack of energy, and I thought I should dig a bit deeper into my diet to see if I could find any red flags that were dragging me down. Heading into my trusty nutritionist’s office, I already knew I was in trouble – let’s just say I have not been completely honoring the diet that I had signed on to. During my visit I started listing my daily diet, but I stopped right in my tracks after I got through breakfast, when he told me that I was basically starting my day all wrong. Tweaking my previous diet that I was (loosely) following, the new direction he set me off on is basically a ketogenic diet.
Quick refresher on what a keto diet actually is: to put it simply, it is a very low carb, high fat diet. The diet drastically reduces carbohydrate intake and ups the fat, which puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Once a keto diet is in full effect, your body becomes efficient in burning fat for your energy, as opposed to carbohydrates that it’s used to turning into sugar to then turn into energy.
Being a major carb lover myself (and this love extends beyond just bread and pasta), I never realized how many carbohydrates I was actually ingesting. So with this new diet, I honestly had no idea how I would survive. I mean, I love me an avocado, but I couldn’t rely on just avocado for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And after a fair amount of trial and error (and some stress tears), I thought I should share some the tips that helped me get on track for my keto diet.
1. Get your carbs in with your vegetables and fruit. Funny how I thought that this diet meant I could simply up my veggies and that would be sufficient. Proudly reciting my daily diet, I boasted a plate full of green beans, only to be shot down to how many carbohydrates are in green beans. Yikes. So yes, you can get your greens in, but it still is not a free-for-all. Be sure to check your favorite vegetables’ carb count. Try sticking with leafy greens, zucchini, kale, and brussels sprouts. Berries can be a great source of vitamins and antioxidants and have a low carb count.
2. Low carb bread will save your life. The best piece of advice my nutritionist gave me was to start eating low carb bread. It is specially made with lower carbs and higher protein for exactly this sort of diet. So they are a great alternative to breakfast toast, or even lunch sandwich.
3. Stock up on your oils. Avocado, olive, coconut oils should be in your pantry. Sometimes when you need that extra fat to make your fat goal per meal, is just a spoonful of raw olive or avocado oil on a salad. Don’t underestimate your oils.
4. Do you enjoy butter? Well good news if you do, butter (grass-fed butter or even ghee if you are into that) is not only super-allowed, but it is a great source of fat.
5. Just like any diet you are following, it is always best to check the menu before going out. Make sure there is something you can order. If it’s not looking like there is much to choose from, eat beforehand and just get something little while you are there to keep your other guests company.
6. Don’t give up your favorite foods; just make substitutions to make them more keto friendly. Once you start cutting out foods from your normal diet, especially things you enjoyed, you are setting yourself up for failure. It is so easy to fall off the bandwagon when diets become restrictive! Love pasta? Try spiralizing zucchini or spaghetti squash, or even skirataki noodles. Missing your rice? Make some cauliflower rice.
7. You can eat chocolate. This does come with a little restriction; it should be a high percentage of dark chocolate. Over 80 percent is normally safe, but die-hard ketonians will go for the 100 percent dark chocolate. So when you need to indulge or settle that sweet tooth, reach for the dark chocolate.
8. Don’t replace your carb intake with protein. It is only natural to try to fill your meal up with more protein, since there is a lack of carbohydrates, but that is not necessarily a good thing. An overconsumption of protein can keep your body from going into a state of ketosis, and that’s the whole goal of the diet.
9. Use adaptogens and teas to get your energy levels up. You may feel your energy super low, especially in the beginning with the detoxing of the excess carb intake; so if you need that extra umph, try a natural energy boost like ashwaghanda or cordyceps. You can also sip a matcha tea.
10. Listen to your body. Not all diets are right for everyone. If you have been on the diet and you are feeling horrible, it may be time to try something else. Your body knows best, so listen to it. None of us should be overly obsessing about our food.