[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Louise Hendon, co-host of The Keto Summit.]
When I first heard about the ketogenic diet, I was more than a bit skeptical. Eat fat and lose weight?
I was already pretty happy on a Paleo diet so I didn’t see why I should switch to anything else.
My love affair with Paleo started when I was in law school and wanted to lose some of the extra weight I had gained. I soon realized that it had also magically cured my chronic heartburn. And then my autoimmune condition (angioedema), which doctors had told me would never get better, went away as well.
So you can see why I wasn’t too sure about trying anything else.
However, after I researched more and then finally tried keto, I was hooked. (In fact, as I’ll explain more below, a ketogenic diet isn’t even that different from a Paleo diet.)
My energy levels and productivity went up and my weight went down.
So, what is this magical ketogenic diet and is it even right for you?
In this guest post, I’ll explain exactly what a ketogenic diet is, what you eat, what you don’t eat, mistakes to avoids if you try keto, and explain if keto is right for you.
What is Keto and why are people trying it?
The traditional ketogenic diet started around a century ago as a treatment for kids with epilepsy.
It worked remarkably well and was only sidelined as a treatment option when pharmaceuticals came along with other solutions.
More recently, people have found that a modified ketogenic diet was great for helping people lose weight, gain mental focus, as well as get rid of digestive issues. And other research suggests that keto could potentially help with a variety of neurological diseases.
In general, a keto diet consists of foods low in carbohydrates, high in fats, and moderate in proteins.
And by eating this way, your body will get depleted of most of its glucose (which is generally created from the sugary and starchy foods you eat). When your body can’t use glucose as an energy source, it’ll switch to ketones instead. Many people think of this as your body starting to burn fat instead of sugar.
This is obviously a pretty basic explanation of keto, but if you want to know more then I’ve written a comprehensive post about keto here (including more of the science).
So, what do I eat on keto?
This is usually the first question people ask me when I start talking about a ketogenic diet, so I thought I’d answer it pretty early in this post.
You can eat:
- Vegetables that are low in carbohydrates
- Healthy fats
- Some berries
- Some nuts and seeds
Conversely, you should avoid:
- Starchy vegetables
- Sugary Fruits
- Seed oils
- Dairy (I suggest avoiding this but some keto folks think it’s ok if you’re not sensitive to it)
So a ketogenic diet is gluten-free and mostly low in FODMAPS (as it avoids most fruits and sugars – you just have to watch out for some of the vegetables). It’s probably why many people on keto find they don’t have as many digestive problems.
Personally, I love eating a lot of salads during the summer and a lot of meaty stews during the winter. These are both easy dishes to prepare that can be made healthy and ketogenic-friendly.
Here’s a keto salad I made for lunch the other day with roasted chicken, strawberries, and arugula leaves.
Is keto right for you?
Many people hear about all the benefits of keto and just blindly start it. But honestly, much as I like the ketogenic diet, it’s really not for everyone.
As I mentioned earlier, I eat a gluten-free Paleo diet. And I still find Paleo to be a great lifestyle diet. It’s fairly versatile (so you can eat out and travel), and it’s very nutrient-dense and avoids a lot of toxins.
But sometimes, I want to slim down (like for the summer) or else I feel that I’m getting sugar cravings from eating too much Paleo treats and fruits.
In those instances, Keto is an amazing tool for me. I can lose weight (especially fat), power through a bunch of projects, and just generally feel amazing.
So, my suggestion is to eat a healthy real food diet in general and then when you feel like you need a slight boost, give keto a try for a few months.
But before you give Keto a try, read the next section and make sure you don’t make those 3 mistakes.
3 Mistakes to avoid
I hear from a lot of people who try keto and then don’t see the results that they hear about.
So here are 3 mistakes to avoid so you don’t also have to endure that frustration.
Not healing underlying health conditions first.
Some people who try keto have health conditions like autoimmune issues that can make it really hard for their body to lose weight. And so they’ll often be disappointed that their weight just doesn’t budge no matter what they do. I believe that you need to care about your body and fix your health issues first and then the weight loss will follow.
Eating too much dairy or nuts.
Nuts and seeds are considered keto-friendly ingredients. And many people find that cheese and butter are OK in their ketogenic diet as well. However, these foods can be really easy to overeat. So just remember to eat those foods in moderation if you’re trying to lose weight.
Not exercising or sleeping enough.
It’s taken me a while to accept this, but now I recognize being healthy is more than just what to eat. Exercising (even if it’s just walking more) and sleeping 7+ hours per night (ensuring your circadian rhythm doesn’t go out of whack) are both highly important even on keto.
Keto recipes to get you started