The Basics of the Keto Diet

Introduction

So, you’re thinking about going on the Keto diet? But, maybe you’re not exactly sure where to start? No worries! I’m going to step you through the basics of it (at least the basics that I’m aware of)! Please keep in mind that I’m still pretty new to this as well, and I’m most certainly not a doctor or a nutritionist. With that said, it’s always good to do more research, and please consult your doctor before taking any drastic steps in your eating habits. Keto may not be for you. At-any-rate, with that out of the way, let’s begin.

What is the Keto diet (in a Nutshell)?

The Keto diet is what some people call “The Atkins Diet on Steroids”. I’m not exactly sure why they call it that, but to me it really IS like the Atkins Diet. You train your body to no longer use carbohydrates as its main source for energy. Instead your body will start using fat as its primary source for energy. That means fats you consume and those pesky fat cells that like to make themselves at home around your waistline. Sounds great, huh!? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds, but for sake of not scaring you away we won’t get into all the macros (or macro nutrients), etc. That stuff will come into play later on. And to be quite honest with you, I don’t know enough about them to even pretend I know what I’m talking about. Ha! So, I’ll stick to what I do know! Here’s a great article (by Healthline.com) that goes VERY deep into the details. For sake of this blog article I just want to keep it simple.

Where Do I Start?

For my wife and me (The Keto Sensei); we started by getting rid of everything non-keto that we had in our fridge and pantry. Yeah… It was a lot of stuff. When it dawns on you just how much food you have stored up that’s full of carbohydrates and simple sugars you migth be alarmed. We definitely were. We boxed up every bit of it and gave it to my sister to feed our neices (who are younger and far more capable of burning those extra sugary fuels). We estimated all of it to be around $300 – 400 in groceries. That was our starting point.

What Should I Avoid, Give Away, or Throw Out?

Well, your enemies are mainly the carbs and sugars. So, we’ll do a quick rundown on those. Don’t let this list get you down. As you’ll see on TheKetoSensei.com there are plenty of things you can eat instead!
  • Base Sugars:  sodas, cakes/pies, candy, ice cream, fruit juices, etc…
  • Grains or Starches:  breads, pastas, rice, cereals, chips, tortilla shells, etc…
  • Fruits and Veggies: pretty much all fruit is out except anything that ends with “berry” (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, etc…). Veggies that grow underground (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc…). Beans and Legumes (peas, kidney beans, those oh so yummy butter beans, etc…). Peanuts are considered legumes, but in my opinion they should be considered keto-friendly (in moderation). Again, I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. It just stands to reason they should be keto-compliant, right!?
  • “LOW FAT” or “Sugar Free” Foods:  just because it claims to be low fat or sugar free doesn’t mean it’s low carb as well. My wife and I are in the habit of watching the labels on a lot of this “LOW FAT” and “Sugar Free” stuff, and it’s surprising how many carbs are in it. I didn’t know this until just now, but some of these items contain sugar alcohols that can actually affect ketone levels in some cases.
  • Condiments and Sauces:  It’s amazing how much added sugars are in BBQ sauce and Ketchup. Check the labels sometimes on these. Again, you’ll be surprised.
  • Unhealthy Fats:  These aren’t necessarily something you should completely eliminate, but limiting your intake of them is good. Mayonnaise, vegetable oils, etc. We have started cooking more in olive oil and plan to use coconut oil eventually. There are recipes out there for making your own mayonnaise as well. The Keto Sensei will be trying a few at some point. If it’s #TheKetoSenseiApproved it will be on the Recipes page!
  • Alcohol:  This is one I didn’t have to worry about. My wife and I don’t drink and honestly don’t find the appeal in it, but for those of you who do many alcoholic drinks contain carbs that will knock you out of ketosis.

Alright… Now I Know What I Can’t Eat. What CAN I EAT? WATER?

Believe me, that list above is pretty daunting and frustrating to read. There are so many unhealthy foods that should be avoided. Lots and lots of them are so yummy though. But, there are foods that are definitely your friend in the Keto diet! Here’s where you should focus your meal planning!
  • Meat:  Sorry vegetarians and vegans, but “them’s the ropes”. Meat is a BIG part of the Keto diet. Go for stuff like red meat/steak, ham, sausage, bacon (you’re gonna LOVE this one), chicken, and turkey!
  • Fatty Fish:  salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, etc…
  • Eggs:  Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs. We prefer the cage-free brown eggs (they seem to be easier on my stomach).
  • Butter and Cream:  Look for grass-fed when possible.
  • Cheese:  Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella).
  • Nuts and seeds:  Almonds, walnuts, flax seed, pumpkin seed, chia seed, etc…
  • Healthy oils:  Primarily extra virgin olive oil (we use this; it’s nice!), coconut oil (we’re gonna start using this!), and avocado oil. I’ve discovered my dispassionate repulse for avocados on this diet. YUCK!
  • Avocados:  Again? See above. LOL! I hate avocados, but they’re on the list of things you should definitely be eating on the Keto diet.
  • Low-carb veggies:  Most green veggies, tomatoes (in moderation), onion (in moderation), peppers, etc… Oh my word! I love me some tomatoes and onions! Sautee some green peppers and onion with a bit of olive oil and butter, and you’ve got yourself a nice meal!
  • Condiments:  Salt, black pepper, herbs and spices! Be VERY careful with the prepackaged seasonings (like McCormick Taco Seasoning). The ingredients include potato starch and sugar. I don’t know why, but sadly they’re in there. *sad face* BUT, you can make your own without that nasty stuff in it!!! I’ll eventually post a good recipe of that on TheKetoSensei.com too!!!

What’s Next? The Keto Flu!?

So, now that you’re on your way to being prepared for the Keto diet, I should mention the Keto flu. *sad face again* Yeah. It’s most likely going to hit you. For me it hit about 5 days or so after I started the Keto diet. It was a bit less for my wife. The biggest thing I remember was the nausea, headaches, and since we’re being honest…constipation. Other symptoms will pop up for others, but those were the ones that hit me. I’m happy to say that the nausea didn’t last very long for my wife or me. The headaches for me lasted longer than I thought they would. I had some pretty severe headaches for about a week (almost 2 weeks). Happily those too have passed! The constipation was the worst though. It has been a pain in my backside (literally). Let me just say this; drink lots and lots of water. Just do it. Trust me. It took about a month for the constipation issues to go away. Anyway, enough of that. Just remember to drink your water and get your electrolytes too (we LOVE Powerade Zero, but remember…artificial sweeteners, so go easy).

Sanity Savers

Ok, let’s face it. There’s A LOT to think about here, and honestly we’ve not even scratched the surface. I keep telling myself, “Baby steps! Baby steps!” During your baby steps there are a few things that will help you stay sane and keep your grip! These are a few quick and simple things I like to keep on hand for a quick fix / snack.
  • Pork Rinds (plain) and White Mexican Queso Cheese:  Dip these bad boys in some white Mexican queso cheese, and oh my goodness you’re in Heaven!
  • Smokehouse Almonds and Babybell Cheese:  Oh yes! If you’re like me and have a bad habit of wanting to nibble on something while you watch tv, then this is perfect for you. Just don’t do what I did one time and take the whole bag of almonds with me to the living room. I made myself sick that night. Whew!
  • Beef Jerky:  I like the peppered stuff, but you gotta be careful to not get the stuff with added sugars.
  • Strawberries and Blueberries:  You know; it’s honestly pretty amazing how sweet strawberries and blueberries are once you’ve went through the sugar detox. These berries are so good!!!

Types of Keto Diets

The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) is a very low-carb, high fat, and moderate-protein diet that consists of about 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs. This is the version of the Keto diet that my wife and I will be primarily sticking to. I’ll list the others here as well, but we’ll likely steer clear of those for a while. The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) involves periods of higher-carb refeeds. 5 ketogenic days per week followed by 2 high-carb days per week. This one scares me. I don’t want to go through the Keto flu again, plus I worry that I’ll relapse into bad habits. This one is DEFINITELY OUT for me. The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) allows you to add carbs around workouts. Again; I’m gonna avoid this one…especially considering I don’t work out (yet). The High-Protein Ketogenic Diet (HPKD) is similar to the SKD version but allows for more protein. 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs. This may actually be the one I’m doing since I feel like I take in more protein than I should.

Net Carbs

Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the Dietary Fiber from the Total Carbohydrates. Let’s say that snack you’re considering has a total of 6g of carbs per tablespoon, and the dietary fiber is 2g. This means your net carbs per tablespoon is 4g! You count your net carbs each day (not the total carbs). This is good to know. I don’t know the science behind why you subtract dietary fiber, but that’s what I keep reading everywhere.

Summary / Special Thanks

Alright! That’s a lot to process! It was a lot to type as well! I’m tired now! But, hey, if I’ve helped you get started then I’m happy! Thank you so much for reading and sticking with me through this article! If you think the Keto diet is for you; check with your doctor to see if there are any unforeseen hurdles. If you get approval jump in guns ablazing! You’re now a part of a diet that has already passed the Paleo diet in popularity! I cannot personally guarantee that you will lose weight, but I truly believe you can do it!!! Just remember: very few carbs, avoid added sugars, get lots of good fats from nuts / seeds / avocados / meats, keep protein intake somewhat low, and experiment with some of those keto recipes you find online! I also want to give a special and HUGE thanks to Healthline.com! This article was written with most of their content in mind. This was a daunting article to write, and I’ve been dreading doing it. Their article helped me focus immensely! Thank you, Healthline.com! Please let me know what you thought of this article in the comments below!

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