My husband and I decided to start 2017 with a new plan for losing weight and living healthier, the Keto Diet. Despite the word “diet” in the name, Keto is a way of living rather than a short term diet. We have been following the keto plan for two months and I feel confident that I can continue this long term. I’ve been sharing my weight loss on my personal facebook page and the result has been many questions about what we are doing, so I am going to share our steps in a series of posts. I am not a doctor and of course you should do your own research and consult with a doctor if you have concerns about getting started eating keto.
What is the Keto Diet?
In simple terms, eating keto means choosing to eat a diet very low in carbohydrates and high in fat. Limiting your net carb (net carbs = carbs minus fibre) intake to 50 grams or less (ideally 20 grams) and dividing your remaining intake at 75% fat and 25% protein should get your body into ketosis.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis occurs when your body starts burning fat instead of glucose.
Why choose a Ketogenic Diet?
- Weight loss without feeling deprived, hungry or limited. I know that taking out carbs sounds very limiting, but in my experience it hasn’t been and I would guess that my diet was about 70% carbs last year.
- More energy. This has been wonderful for me personally, as someone who lives with fibromyalgia and experiences extreme fatigue.
- Heightened mental function. Your brain needs fat. Remember when you had babies (assuming you did) and it was important that they get breast milk or formula with fat? Then they weaned onto milk and we only bought homogenized milk for proper brain growth? Our brains still need this fat and when we only feed them glucose, the result is depression, memory loss, anxiety, etc.
- Improved health. Studies have shown a low carb diet that is high in fat can improve Type 2 diabetes, lowers blood pressure, increases good cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.
Since weight loss is 80% what we eat and only 20% activity, I decided to focus solely on food in the beginning. My husband was already going to the gym regularly so he continued with what he was doing. Many keto sites will tell you not to focus on calories and my husband has not, but I have set a calorie limit for myself because I spend a great deal of time on the computer and being fairly sedentary (I’m changing that now). I am also someone who will eat out of boredom without thinking about how much I am eating, so keeping track is best for me.
We used this keto calculator to determine what we should eat each day. I started with 50g of carbs, but reduced it to 30g in my second week. I am now at 25g of carbs daily. Since I wasn’t very active, I set myself at a 32% deficit for fat and chose to track my calories as I mentioned above. I track everything on myfitnesspal.com or using the myfitnesspal app. You can set your macros (carbs, fat, protein) in percentages using the free service, or pay to enter in the exact grams for your macros. I use the free app.
We threw food out. This is important. We knew we would continue to have some carbs and snacks in the house for the kids, but there were many things in the house that we just didn’t need to have around. We switched to butter a few years ago, but if you are still buying margarine…throw it away and pick up some butter. No more light or low-fat foods live in our house because these items have added sugar. It’s full fat and full flavour for us!
We eat little to no fruit now and we avoid root vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are best but we also eat broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and green beans. I always check the carb count before buying vegetables.
We started taking multi-vitamins daily and I also take Omega 3s and magnesium every day.
Planning is probably the most important factor for me. If I don’t have a meal plan, I end up leaving it until the last minute and it’s harder to come up with something that fits into our lifestyle. We make a weekly menu and shop for it, as well as keeping keto friendly snacks on hand.
Since I’m asked about snacks more than anything else, I will include a list of keto friendly snacks that we have found:
- hard boiled eggs (or eggs of any kind)
- olives and pickles
- nuts, especially almonds and pistachios (limit your intake on these because the carbs in them will add up)
- fat bombs (more on this in a future post)
- cheese crackers
- dark chocolate (in moderation)
- KIrkland Signature Protein Bars (8g net carbs per bar…great for a meal replacement)
I purchased some Atkins snacks and while they were delicious, I don’t think they were a good idea. In the Atkins diet, they don’t count sugar alcohols in their net carbs. I have read about some people doing the same on keto and others not. The week I chose to eat those snacks and not count sugar alcohols, I gained a pound. I don’t know that I can entirely blame this on sugar alcohols, but as a result I have chosen not to count them. Two months into eating keto, I don’t really snack very often at all but if I want something, I have it.
Popular questions, answered in the simplest terms by this non-expert.
- Doesn’t the body need glucose?
- Yes, and it will get the needed glucose from protein. When the body needs glucose, protein goes through a process called gluconeogenesis to provide the needed amount.
- Is it safe to eat this way?
- Yes! It is safer than eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates. Focus on healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, fish oils, avocados and nuts for the best health results but you do not have to limit your diet to these fats alone.
- How do I know if I’m in ketosis?
- We started with buying urine test strips to know if we were in ketosis. Now we use a blood meter similar to those used by diabetics. You can also just gauge by your energy levels and weight loss.
- Can’t you burn fat just by exercising?
- When you exercise, your body needs energy and grabs the easiest and most accessible source of energy. If you have excess glucose stores, your body burns those first. Once those stores run out, fat will be burned for energy. When you eat keto, fat is burned right away.
- Can the kids eat keto too?
- Yes, but mine do not eat totally keto. We make keto meals but we also keep cereal and bread in the house for them, mainly because they are not little and they aren’t as excited about giving up some of their favourite foods. We are limiting their carbs more by simply not purchasing sweets and junk food and hope to ease them into a carb free lifestyle eventually.
- Can you drink alcohol when eating keto?
- Yes, but there are things to consider. Look at the carb count on the alcohol. I found a low carb beer: Sleeman Clear. It has 2 carbs per bottle, which is comparable to a glass of dry wine. Hard liquor has no carbs but your mix probably will, unless you choose diet which contains artificial sweeteners. When you drink alcohol, your liver has to stop eliminating fat in order to clean out the alcohol. It won’t knock you out of ketosis, but it will stall your weight loss.
Two months into eating keto, I have lost 16 lbs. I did not see weight loss every week and even gained one week, but I stuck it out and will continue to live this lifestyle. Feel free to ask me any questions and there will be more posts to come.
Mike’s favourite keto resource: 2 Keto Dudes (he loves the podcasts and I have to admit… they’re pretty good)
Sheri’s favourite keto resource: Pinterest! Search for keto recipes on Pinterest and check out my board Keto recipes board too.