All About Keto-Friendly Eating
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has increased in popularity in recent years. Its history dates back to 1923 when it was first used as a treatment for epilepsy in children. The diet was prescribed by a physician, and patients were carefully monitored by a registered dietitian to ensure that they followed a very specific “macronutrient ratio” of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates.
Today, the keto diet is still used for its initial purpose, but it is now also being used for weight loss. While modifications exist with slightly tweaked macronutrient ratios, the diet’s high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb core remains the same. Recommendations typically involve eating 70% fat, 20% protein and less than 10% carbohydrates per day.
How the Keto Diet Works
Eating a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet encourages the body to convert fatty acids into ketones in the liver. Elevated levels of ketones in the blood trigger a metabolic state known as ketosis. When the body is in ketosis, it burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy, resulting in weight loss.
The only way to determine if you’re in ketosis is to measure ketone levels by taking a blood, urine or breath test - all of which can be done with an at-home (test prices may vary). Note that some people will require higher percentages of fat to trigger ketosis; others can achieve ketosis with a 65% fat diet. It’s advised to consult with a registered dietitian and/or healthcare provider for personalized nutrition recommendations.
Did you know that one sign of ketosis is bad breath? This is because ketones leave the body through breath and urine. Tip: Be sure to brush your teeth often and keep sugar-free mints or gum on hand.
Getting Started on the Keto Diet
First, you’ll need to determine the macronutrient ratio that’s right for you. Books, websites and apps are available for guidance and can help you plan and track your diet when you’re ready to begin. Be sure that the information is coming from a reliable source. . It’s always a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider before starting any diet, schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians.
- Great news: Low-carb veggies, including leafy greens, lettuce, celery, mushrooms and zucchini, are allowed on the keto diet. Starchy plant-based foods such as corn, beans and potatoes may need to be limited.
- Since the majority of the calories in this diet come from fat, it is important to choose a variety of different fats! Select unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado oil, nuts, and seeds more often and saturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and heavy whipping cream less often.
- For protein, choose high-quality meats such as wild salmon, free-range chicken, eggs, and grass-fed beef. Limit processed meats, such as cured bacon or deli slices, that may contain added sugar.
- Minimize the amount of processed and carb-heavy foods such breads, pastas, fruit juices, rice and beer.
- Luckily, snack ideas are just about endless for keto dieters. Feel free to graze on low-carb cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, olives, avocados, roasted almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. Mixing chia seeds with unsweetened almond milk to create “chia seed pudding” is another great Keto-friendly snack idea!
Need a keto diet-friendly lunch in a hurry? Try a BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) wrap. Simply layer bacon, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, olive oil mayo and black pepper on romaine lettuce – then roll and eat. You can replace the bacon with canned Yellowfin tuna in olive oil for a heart-healthier variation. For dinner, toss some spiralized, steamed veggie noodles (zucchini noodles, aka zoodles, are great) with olive oil, sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Top with a grilled salmon fillet or grilled shrimp, toasted sesame seeds and a dash of black pepper.
Safety Considerations for Keto Dieters
There is minimal research on the long-term outcomes of being on the keto diet for weigh loss. If you plan on starting a ketogenic diet, it is highly recommended to work with a registered dietitian regularly to make sure you are still meeting your nutritional needs. The keto diet is not a one-size fits all, and will not be a healthy option for everyone, so make sure to check with your doctor before starting this diet. Choosing more saturated fats over unsaturated fats could increase risk for heart disease and other health concerns. Cholesterol levels may need to be checked often to monitor heart health. Talk to your healthcare provider about additional health screenings.
Though the keto diet may give quick results, be wary of weight loss that is too rapid and diets that are too restrictive as this can lead to further weight gain down the road. Work with your healthcare provider to determine the best diet for you.
And remember, our dietary lifestyle page is a one-stop shop for your keto-friendly recipes and grocery needs.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.