What The Heck Do I Eat On The Ketogenic Diet????
So what the heck do I eat on the ketogenic diet?
The good news is it is actually very simple. Hopefully you read my last blog where I wrote that a ketogenic diet consists of whole foods, ideally organic: grass-fed meats, free-range chickens and wild-caught fish. Basically, we want our protein sources to be what my sister Jonna would call “happy beef” or “happy chickens” or “happy fish.” What she means by this is, to eat only those animals that are raised in a healthy environment (preferably outside) and fed high-quality vegetarian food (yum, grass), without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Vegetables also should be organically grown. Regardless of whether you are doing the ketogenic diet or not, this should be your goal.
So, how do we figure out what to eat on a ketogenic diet?
The first thing we need to do is determine your basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate is a calculation that will tell you how many calories are required each day to maintain your current weight if you just sit on the couch. We have an awesome tool in our office called, In Body. With this tool we can determine what your body-fat percentage is and what your accurate basal metabolic rate is. After we calculate your basal metabolic rate, we add in extra “energy” to accommodate your daily and weekly level of activity. If you are looking to lose weight, we take those suggested calories and multiply it by 15%. We take that 15% off of your calorie allotment for the day creating a calorie deficit. Again, if you just did this and ate your normal (hopefully healthy) foods, that calorie deficit would help you lose weight. Once we determine what your fat to protein to carbohydrate ratios are we can use an app like Cron-O-Meter or MyFitnessPal to track the food you eat. More on this later.
Because I do intermittent fasting I don’t typically eat breakfast. Some people will add butter or coconut oil to their coffee, and you may have even heard of bulletproof coffee. For me adding MCT oil or butter to my coffee tends to raise my blood sugar above the recommended 15 points so that would essentially break my fast. Typically, my morning ritual consists of black coffee and water. I typically eat my last meal around 8 PM at night, which is not ideal, but based on my schedule that’s just the way it works. On my long days at work I tend to eat lunch around 2 PM, which gives me a fasting window of anywhere from 16 to 18 hours. Basically, eating all of my calories between 1 PM and 8 PM. Ideally you would want this to be flip-flopped and you would start your day with a healthy breakfast, eat a big lunch and then skip dinner. Because dinner is a social time for most people this can be difficult to do.
So here is what a typical Monday looks like for me.
I usually workout at #crossfitfiveplus taking the 12:15 PM class. Before the class I make sure I have some electrolytes, because if there is one important thing you need to do on a ketogenic diet it’s make sure you get proper amounts of electrolytes. If you don’t, you’ll deal with some negative side effects such as cramping. And I know this may sound gross, but I actually drink about 2 tablespoons of olive oil…straight up. The olive oil gives me a little bit of an energy boost and can sustain me through a vigorous workout. After my workout I want to make sure that I do get some healthy fat and protein. Since I am already at the Cummings Center I will go to Marino’s and get their Cobb salad minus the corn. I also add tuna to the salad for extra protein. The Cobb salad at Marino’s includes eggs, bacon and avocado as well as a nice variety of veggies so I’m getting my fibrous carbs along with fats and proteins. I top that off with ranch dressing which is a nice source of fat without the carbs. Because proteins and fats are so satiating I don’t tend to snack, but if I am going to snack it will usually be on raw almonds or macadamia nuts. Macadamia nuts are preferred because they are higher in fat. I like to portion my nuts into bags so that I don’t just absentmindedly eat from the jar, which can be a recipe for disaster.
For dinner we will typically combine a salad or other vegetable with a protein for dinner. My wife Beth and I subscribe to Butcher Box which is a great, local company that provides monthly shipments of happy beef, pork, chicken and fish. Thankfully, nowadays, we can also find some happy meat options at our local grocery stores.
When I’m cooking, I am sure to use plenty of healthy fats in the form of butter, MCT, oil olive, or avocado oil. Portion control is still very important when it comes to your protein because eating too much protein can cause gluconeogenesis which can actually turn that protein in our system into glucose. Even though the vegetables are my carbs, they are so fibrous in nature I don’t tend to restrict myself in this area. We tend to make our own salad dressing out of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Occasionally we will make cauliflower rice or cauliflower mashed, have an artichoke with mayo, or something along those lines.
I find the toughest thing for me is making sure that I get enough fat which is the important part of this diet. Getting 70% of your calories from fats can be a bit of a struggle, but as long as you are tracking what you eat in one of the ways I mentioned before, you can at least stay on track.
A great resource that my wife and I use almost daily is the book Simply Keto by Suzanne Ryan. In it, there are a lot of great options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Once you get an idea of what you can eat, getting creative with meals is easy. If you create a list of say 5 to 6 different proteins, 5 to 6 different fat sources, 5 to 6 different vegetables and then whatever seasonings you want (seasonings are a great way to get some of your micronutrients) there are potentially thousands of different combinations that you can put together. Meal prep and can also be a great way to stay on track. A lot of people will cook 2 to 3 pounds of ground beef or chicken breasts and use those for lunches and dinners throughout the week. Vegetables are best when purchased daily or at least frequently throughout the week so that they are nice and fresh. If you just need a little bit of dessert to satisfy that sweet tooth, on page 272 of Simply Keto, Suzanne has her chocolate peanut butter bites which are fabulous.
As part of the FREE 30-Day Keto Challenge, we will provide daily food inspiration and easy, healthy recipes. If you’re participating in the Facebook group, you can all post your favorites and, hopefully together, we can build a huge library of meals.
While you might get a little resistance on this if you live with other people, it is good to do a refrigerator and cabinet-clean leading up to this. That way you don’t have foods in the house that are a temptation to you. We don’t have to be perfect all of the time, we just have to be perfect most of the time. If you can stay on track by eating healthy, nutritious, satiating foods you’ll soon be on the road to better health and a smaller waistline.