What You Can Eat on Keto
Fats making up the majority of your diet should be healthy, non-hydrogenated. Ideally they will be a variety of high polyunsaturated omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats and even saturated fats like coconut oil. Here's our top fatty foods to incorporate:
- Virgin coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Organic grass-fed butter or ghee
- Heavy cream
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Fatty cheeses
- Low-carb nuts and nut butters like almonds, walnuts and pecans.
- Peanuts only in moderation
- Seeds like chia and flaxseed
5-25% of your daily macronutrients should be made up of healthy proteins like those listed below. Of course, your body can get into ketosis on summer sausage and processed meats, but if you're going healthy, why would you taint your diet with food with additives? Here's what we recommend:
- Organic red meats
- organic poultry
- organic dairy (although most cheeses are a little more fat than protein)
- High omega-3 fish like salmon and tuna
- Free-range eggs
- Free-range pork
Carbohydrates should come from low-carb vegetables and nuts. A few of your carbs can come from condiments or dairy products like sour cream and cream cheese. Here's our top carb foods for keto:
- Nuts like almonds, pecans and walnuts
For a comprehensive low carb vegetable list, go here.
If you need help starting the ketogenic diet, we offer a 28 Day Meal Plan for Weight Loss.
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Section 3: How do you know you’re in ketosis?
So, with all this being said, is there a way to know if you're in ketosis? The answer is: definitely. Firstly, you can know just by some body signs:
- sugar cravings are reduced
- sustained energy throughout the day
- increased focus
- reduced hunger
However, these symptoms aren’t entirely reliable. As you reduce carbohydrates, and increase fat, you’re going to naturally experience some changes in how you feel. But those changes don’t necessarily confirm ketosis.
To be confident about being in ketosis, especially at the beginning when you're not quite sure how you should feel, it’s best to measure your ketone levels. By monitoring your ketone levels, you can assure that you’re doing the diet correctly and make dietary adjustments based on what you measure. People also respond to diet and exercise differently, so the best way to cater the keto diet to your own biology is to measure.
Before we discuss how to measure ketone levels, let’s set some guidelines for optimal ketone levels. Nutritional ketosis is detected when levels begin to read at 0.5 mmol/L of ketones in the blood, but your optimal ketone level will depend on your personal goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, your target ketone level will be lower than someone who wants to improve mental performance. The following table provides some general guidelines based on your goal.
|Your Goal||Target Ketone Level (in mmol/L)||Target Ketone Levels (mg/dL)|
|I want to lose weight||0.5 mmol/L or more||9 mg/dL or more|
|I want to improve my athletic performance||0.5 mmol/L or more||9 mg/dL or more|
|I want to improve my mental performance||1.5 – 3 mmol/L||27 – 54 mg/dL|
|I’m treating an illness||3 – 6 mmol/L||54 – 108 mg/dL|
It can be very difficult to obtain some of the very high levels of blood ketones on this table - especially as you become "fat adapted" or "keto adapted" or whatever you want to call it. Once your body is efficient at using ketones, it makes only what it needs. Beginners may see very high levels of ketones, and then they see them drop off. This isn't because you are making a mistake and are out of ketosis - your body is no longer overproducing them.
For someone treating an illness who wants really high levels of ketones, it may require supplementation throughout the day by exogenous ketones or MCT oil (for our review of exogenous ketone products click here).
Measuring your ketones can be done with 3 different methods:
- urine strips
- blood test monitors
- breath analyzers
Each of the above methods is good for its own reason; however, we would suggest only one: the blood test. The urine strips are cheap, yet not accurate. The breath analyzer is expensive, difficult to find and has definite quirks. The blood tests, while somewhat expensive, are fully reliable and testing your blood - the most accurate place to measure your ketones.
Read more about why we recommend the blood test here
If you would like to check out all the types of ketone measurement test kits we recommend, go here.
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First 4 weeks on the Keto Diet…
Fatigue, food cravings and exhaustion will start out the week. You may enjoy eating high fat foods like cheese and bacon, but the lack of carbs will make you crave them. And no sugar? What do you do for flavor? Substitute flavored herbal teas for a "sweet" beverage.
You have to go to the bathroom, a lot. As your body flushes out glycogen, you also lose water. Make sure to drink enough water to compensate. In addition, as you're peeing, you're losing electrolytes. This is why we recommend supplementing with certain electrolytes in the first week at a minimum.
You are probably experiencing some symptoms of keto flu discussed later.
You may smell a sweet flavor on your breath and in your urine. These are excess ketones that your body is producing. First off, yay, this is the first sign you are entering ketosis. Second, this does not last long. You are excreting ketones because your body is overproducing them and is not yet efficient at using them.
You may also find you have trouble sleeping and are restless. Don't worry, these symptoms will pass.
You may be experiencing loser clothing. This is for two possible reasons: 1) You've depleted a lot of water during your transition to ketosis. 2) You've started losing weight.
You should be experiencing increased focus and brain energy as your body is probably now in ketosis. This gives you sustained energy throughout the day.
You are probably still experiencing fatigue during exercise. Lighten your exercise intensity until week 4 if it is too frustrating.
Your breath and urine may no longer smell.
You may be waking up and not feeling hungry, and are able to skip meals without noticing a drop in energy or increase in hunger.
Your sleep may be returning to normal.
You may be experiencing slightly more energy during exercise.
Any symptoms of keto flu should have passed. Your body should begin becoming efficient at using ketones, known as being "fat adapted".
Your body will have less fatigue during exercise as it is better at producing ketones for energy when you need it.
You hunger cravings for carbs should be less and less every week.
If you are measuring ketones, they may actually be decreasing to a stable number between 0.5-1.0 mmol/L in your blood measurements. This does not mean you're not in ketosis, it means your body no longer overproduced ketones and has become efficient at producing and using them.
At 4 weeks you should be feeling pretty darn good. If you are feeling better, but not awesome, give it a little more time. If you have not felt better throughout this time and have stuck strictly to your low carbs and high fat, your body may not align with the keto diet. If you only feel bad because you're craving bad food, this may be a mental "block" that you need to deal with. Coaching can help.
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