It’s mid-January. By now we’ve all had just about enough of falling off the wagon (and our pants fitting uncomfortably tight) and we’re ready to start sticking to a weight loss plan. At least I am. It never fails, every year around this time I get lots of questions from friends and clients about the latest craze in weight loss and this year has been no different. Call after call all asking me about the Keto diet. A new extreme weight loss plan that claims to use the body’s own fat burning system to help people lose significant weight in as little as 10 days.
I did my research and at first glance this diet reminds me of the good old Atkins diet craze from fifteen years ago. Lots of protein, low carbs, low sugar. The big difference between the Atkins diet and the Keto diet boils down to one word….FAT! Here’s what I know….
The Keto diet emphasizes eating high-fat foods and getting your body into a state of ketosis and keeping it there. Ketosis is a natural process that our body creates when it has a low intake of carbohydrates and needs to produce fuel for the body. The body’s primary source of fuel is glucose which is created when carbs and sugars are broken down in the liver. When the body does not have enough carbs, the liver produces ketones through the breakdown of fat. Basically your body is using fat, rather than carbs, as it primary fuel source so it burns fat quickly.
Source: My Keto Kitchen
What can you eat while on the Keto diet?? In a word: fat. Lots and lots of fat.
The desired ratio in the ketogenic diet is consuming 3 or 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein, which amounts to getting about 75-80 percent of your daily calories from fat.
You can eat foods like butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise, and oils. A sample daily menu might include eggs with olive oil and avocado on the side for breakfast; leafy greens, salmon, nuts and olive oil for lunch; and steak, greens, vegetables and oil for dinner.
Other Keto Approved Foods are:
- Fats and Oils: Fats will make up the majority of your daily calorie intake so make choices based on what you really enjoy. Adding fat to your meals is easy by topping things with butter and sauces, etc. Think adding a sliver of garlic butter to the top of your steak.
- Protein: Your best bet when it comes to protein is choosing pasture-raised and grass-fed. This will minimize your bacteria and steroid hormone intake. Try to choose the darker meat where possible with poultry, as it is much fattier than white meat. Eating fatty fish is a great way to get omega 3’s in as well. Choose high fat cuts of meat like steaks, veal, roasts, and ground beef.
- Vegetables: The best type of vegetables for a ketogenic diet are high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. Dark and leafy–anything that resembles spinach or kale is a good choice. Focus on cruciferous vegetables that are grown above ground. Both frozen and fresh vegetables are good to eat.
- Dairy: Try to keep your dairy consumption to a moderate level. Greek yogurt, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, soft cheeses like mozzarella, blue cheese and brie. Hard cheese like swiss and cheddar are all approved on the Keto.
- Nuts and Berries- Nuts can be a great source of adding fat to your diet but remember that they do have a carbohydrate count that adds up quickly. Choose wisely. For example choose macadamia nuts and pecans and avoid cashews as they have more carbs. Berries must be eaten very sparingly due to their carb/sugar count. When necessary, choose blackberries, raspberries and strawberries as they have the lowest carb counts.
- Eggs: Cooked any way
- High Fat Sauces- Dressings, Béarnaise Sauce, Alfredo, Garlic Butter, etc.
What must you avoid when following the Keto Diet?
Carbs. That means all breads, pastas, grains, sweets and more.
The ketogenic diet restricts the intake of carbs to as low as 2-4 percent of calories. As a point of reference, a standard diet provides about 45-55 percent of calories from carbs. Those who are strictly following the Keto must read the ingredients in everything and be very careful to note carbs and sugar. Even toothpaste can contain sugar!
Do I think the Keto Diet Works?
Here’s what I like about the Keto diet….I think that anytime you can learn how to add healthy fats (which I think are overly avoided) into your diet while consuming a reasonable amount of dark, leafy greens, and nuts and berries is a good thing. I also think that totally cutting out carbs and sugar always leads to weight loss. BUT, I see yo-yo diet written all over this plan. I can’t whole heartedly give the Keto diet my stamp of approval for a lot of reasons. Besides being a plan that seems very restrictive and therefore hard to stick to for a long period of time, I also find this diet to be really heavy on red meat, and fatty, processed ingredients that are notoriously unhealthy. A diet so high in fat screams artery clogging to me and that in itself makes me really nervous.
When doing my research I always look for what critics are saying too and this feedback from several leaders in the field was resounding. Critics believe that the way that the keto diet works may actually eventually make it harder for your body to lose weight in the long run. The whole idea of having your body enter a state of ketosis will actually make you begin to lose muscle, become extremely fatigued, and eventually enter starvation mode. Messing with your metabolism like this can actually hinder your weight loss goals in the long run!
If you’ve been following me for a bit now, you know that I tend to prefer the well-balanced/eat in moderation diet to these countless fads that come and go. I’m a big believer in balance. For the majority of the time eat a diet full of unprocessed foods, limit your salt intake, load up on colorful fruits and vegetables, eat lean meats and fish and every once in a while, enjoy a delicious cheat meal with a glass of wine. A plan that’s less restrictive and less obsessive will surely be a weight loss plan that will stick around—at least until next year’s holiday season. 🙂