Keto! Where do I even begin? I am sure most of you have heard about Keto, short for ketogenic, but for those that haven’t, I would love to share a bit of background on what Keto really entails.
To back up slightly, my husband and I (him pretty strict, me still loving my occasional donut) have followed a Paleo lifestyle for our family since about 2010. This was pretty early in the Paleo game and when we made this shift, it was hard. He read Loren Cordain’s book, The Paleo Diet, and then Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution, and jumped on board the next day. Paleo wasn’t a buzz word yet. There were hardly any cookbooks that followed this lifestyle. Not many Paleo Mom blogs. So slowly but surely, adjustments were made and we centered our family’s food intake around grass fed meats, wild caught fish, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats and oils, and fruit. We ditched the sandwiches. Said no to crackers. I even made my own baby formula (recipe courtesy of Weston A. Price). We were committed!! It was not for weight loss, but rather for overall health. Diet impacts the function of every aspect of our entire bodies, and we wanted to eat clean and reap the health benefits for us and our children. In the years following, more and more amazing Paleocentric food companies popped up (like Guiltless Goodies - SO fab). Danielle Walker started releasing her Against All Grain cookbooks, some incredible moms started blogging about recipes they had gotten creative with in their kitchens, and Paleo became mainstream. Now, nine years later, there is a PLETHORA of Paleolithic food items (or very close to it) at our disposal and it is a very easy diet to follow, in my opinion. I will share our typical grocery list soon and fill you in on our staples!
Even with adhering to a clean, paleo diet, I still had 5-7 pounds of baby weight that I couldn’t kick after my fourth child was born in 2014. Enter Keto. It seems that most people easily confuse Paleo with Keto, so here is a basic rundown of differences:
Eating paleolithically has no specific macronutrient ratios that you are restricted by. It is simply a framework of healthy eating based on selecting foods that have the longest history of human consumption from the hunter-gatherer ages. (Pretty much identical to Whole 30, but since paleo is meant to be long-term, and Whole 30 is a strict, specific body reset, natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, etc. can be part of a long-term paleo diet). Along with this comes minimizing the grains, sugar and legumes that humans only began eating large amounts of after the agricultural revolution. This means that a paleo diet could be high or low carb depending on the individual’s food choices. Lots of meat and fish? Low carb. Add in a lot of vegetables, seeds or nuts? Higher carb. The ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat can vary drastically on a paleo diet.
Not so with Keto. Keto is extremely high fat, extremely low carb and moderate in protein. The general breakdown is about 70-80% of calories from fat, 15-20% from protein and less than 5% from carbs. In weight loss mode, the daily breakdown for me is 127g of fat, 56g protein and 18g carbs. The goal of keto is to train your body to run solely on fats instead of being a carb-burning machine. If we continue to use carbs as our primary source of fuel, our fat reserves will never be tapped into. When we starve our body of carbohydrates, the fuel source becomes fat. Bingo!
It worked for me, and worked very well. In one week, without any cheating, I lost 7 pounds. The official protocol is to do a 21-28 day reset, (Mark Sisson’s book is a wonderful guide), but I did not want to continue to lose weight at such a rapid pace so I just went back to basically eating Paleo, with a newfound knowledge of making sure I get way more fat in. I’ve gained 3 pounds back over the course of the year.
I want to interject here and say a few important things. While Keto is wonderful for rapid weight loss and enhancing athletic performance, I believe we do it a disservice to put it in those boxes alone. Ketogenic diets are being used to control cancer and shrink tumors. This approach can also be used to prevent cancer, since frequent high blood sugar feeds cancer cells, so running your body on fat and keeping blood sugar levels very low can starve cancer cells over time. (Of course it is just one tool in the battle against cancer and not a cure-all, so it should be used in conjunction with other alternative or traditional treatments). Keto diets also have plenty of evidence that they help to completely reverse type 2 diabetes, and new research shows the benefits of a high fat, low carb diet to help slow or reverse Alzheimer’s as well.
I was listening to a wonderful podcast last week, found here, featuring an interview of nutritionist Miriam Kalamian, author of Keto for Cancer. She discusses how her son’s cancer diagnosis (a tumor the size of an orange in his brain at the age of 3) launched her on a mission to explore the possibility of nutritional therapy to improve his outcome when his doctors said he had no hope. At once she changed how he was eating and saw its efficacy, and now science backs up what she witnessed first hand. The origins of the healing keto diet, how it works on a cellular level, and why it is safe and effective are all discussed topics. Worth a listen!
I will say that my concern before I started was that I would feel too restricted. I DO NOT LIKE the idea of counting ANYTHING regarding food. Calories, fat, carbs, nada. That feels very controlled and I was concerned it would drive me in the other direction and I would eat an entire box of brownies. (Obviously, that has never happened before and I honestly haven’t even thought about doing that so I really don’t know why it would be a concern since it was completely hypothetical and I’m just sharing for a friend basically). That said, I was finally determined to lose that baby weight and was willing to give it a try. The fat intake is so high, I was rarely hungry and felt much more satisfied than I expected. Regardless, the quick weight loss was absolutely worth it!!
Alright so now that the basics are covered: HOW DO YOU START?
FIGURE OUT YOUR MEALS. I cannot emphasize this enough. Take some time to game theory out your meals. Download a Keto app and put in foods you might eat. Check where your macros land. Figure out what your typical day will look like. It can be a pain at first to calculate nutritional breakdowns of entire recipes, but you can either fully commit and do it, or not. There is really no in between.
PLAN AHEAD. Once you know what you are going to eat…plan ahead and actually have that food at your house! Don’t try to find time to run to the store to get what you need. Have snacks ready and adhere to your game plan.
STAY HYDRATED AND WELL RESTED. This will help your body perform more effectively while you are getting into ketosis.
DON’T KETO ALONE. Obviously you don’t have to do it with anyone, but it was helpful to have friends doing it with me, especially early on. Being able to send quick text asking what I could eat when I had a sweet craving or what dinner recipes they found on Pinterest that worked, was really nice.
I like simple meals and don’t mind repetitive meals. My goal was weight loss, not culinary genius. This Keto biscuit recipe, which I have also shared on my Instastories, was the light of my life that week. Throw the ingredients into a bowl, mix with a fork, scoop onto a baking sheet and you’re done. Literally cannot get any easier than that! I had two for breakfast every morning with a sunny side up egg cooked in 1T of coconut oil and two pieces of bacon. Holla.
Lunch was usually tuna salad. Danielle Walker’s recipe is FAAAAABLOUS (imagine angels singing when you say that because that’s how you will feel when you eat it). Unrefined Bakery has keto bread if you really need to hold a sandwich.
Dinner was a basic protein based meal or grass-fed Paleo jerkey if the kids were eating something not keto-friendly.
I also kept root beer Zevia on hand. Angels always sing when I drink this, too.
My favorite snacks are the Nikki’s Cashew Cookie Butter mentioned above, Alyssa’s Healthy Vegan Bites with clotted cream, or a bowl of diced strawberries with clotted cream. I counted net carbs, which is simply the carbohydrates minus the fiber, so those oatmeal bites only have 2g net carbs per cookie. The Lord gives.
Adding MCT oil to my tea in the morning was an easy way to get fat in as well.
Instagram sites focusing on keto abound, but I particularly love @ruledme and @marksissonprimal.
Please feel free to comment below with questions. I found Keto to be much easier than it was touted to be and I am so thankful for the knowledge gained while walking through it. You can do it!