In order to get into and stay in ketosis, we need to know what foods to consume and which we should minimize or avoid altogether. We need to switch our body’s primary source of fuel from carbohydrates to fat. Our hormones are the signals that tell our body to switch its fuel source, so let’s take a closer look at what to eat on the keto diet.
Hormones are chemical messengers that tell our body how to conduct its multitude of processes. We have hormones dedicated to signifying hunger, hormones dedicated to telling us when we’re full, hormones that tell our body to store fat, and hormones that tell our body to burn fat. When it comes to understanding nutritional ketosis, the most important hormone you need to know about is insulin.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas. When we eat carbs insulin is released into our blood which tells our bodies to store fat and use carbs for fuel. This is the opposite what we want to get into ketosis. For ketosis, we want the body to burn fat instead of storing it. Therefore, we need to keep our insulin levels low. This is done by restricting carb intake.
Carb restriction naturally takes the body into ketosis and use fat for fuel. To get into ketosis you need to consume less than 20-30g of carbs per day, which is the equivalent of a large banana. This carb limit will be slightly different for each individual depending on their metabolism and their goals.
Obviously, we need to restrict high carb foods. High carb foods are typically sweet, like cakes, candy and dried fruit, or starchy, like bread, potatoes and pasta. For the purposes of going keto, it’s going to be easier to avoid these foods altogether!
A lot of processed foods are high in carbs because they contain added sugars to extend their shelf life and make the food more addictive. Avoid these!
Sodas, beers, cider and wine are some high carb beverages that will take you past your carb limit with just a few sips!
It can seem seem quite confusing when you start out, but don’t worry, you will come to learn exactly which foods you can and can’t have, and the benefits of keto will far outweigh the limit to what foods you eat.
You’ll need to become more familiar with food labels. If you haven’t noticed, sugar is added to loads of foods, so you’ll need to do a lot of checking labels to make sure you’re not getting hidden extra sugary carbs. Fortunately, there are various tools you can use, such as ‘asking’ Google to help you calculate the carb content of your food.
Avoiding high carb foods keeps your insulin levels low and ensures you remain in ketosis, burning fat for fuel. This is the KEY to ketosis!
Some foods need to be eaten in moderation as they contain a bit of carbohydrate, for example:
Root Vegetables – carrots, parsnips and squashes
The Nightshade Family – tomatoes, eggplants and peppers
Berries – raspberry, blackberry and blueberries
Sweet Fruit – oranges, apples and kiwi
Again you can use google or nutritional references to calculate how many grams of carbohydrate there are in your meal:
For example, there’s about 3g of carbs in a medium sized avocado. Let’s compare this to the 21g of carbs found in a cup of blueberries. A simple calculation reveals that 7 avocados have as many carbs as one cup of blueberries. Which of these would be more filling?
What to Eat on the Keto Diet
There are LOADS of foods you can still eat, with countless potential combinations of delicious, satisfying, tasty meals. The keto diet is low in carb, moderate in protein and high in fat. We’ve looked at carbs, now we’ll look at fat and protein. The following are all acceptable ketosis foods.
Most of your calories will come from fats. You can add healthy fats, like coconut oil and grass-fed butter, to your meals. Fats increase flavor, improve texture and makes food more satisfying. Fats are nutritionally dense so you only need a little bit to give you a lot of energy
Meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products like cheese are all still keto friendly. Get the best quality you can afford like organic or grass-fed as they contain more nutrition and less toxins.
Proteins are often the tasty element in a meal adding delicious flavors and making you feel full.
We only need a small amount of protein in our diet to repair or replace tissue. Too much protein gets converted into carbs. So we need to keep an eye on this as we want to avoid carbs to remain in ketosis.
They’re high in fat and protein. They add a nice crunch to food and are a great snack. But due to their high protein content you need to be careful not to eat too many.
Green or leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and cabbage are loaded with nutritional goodness and low carb. Salad veg like cucumber, celery and spinach are great too.
Most fruits are high in carbs so pick carefully and be aware. Typically melons and strawberries are low carb. As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid most fruit but you’ll still be able to consume most veg, but there are exceptions to this.
- To be in ketosis you need to eat LESS than 30g of carb per day.
- Avoid sweet and starchy foods, limit your intake of certain fruit and veg.
- You need to be aware of the carb and sugar content of foods.
- You can still enjoy all sorts of fats, proteins, nuts, seeds, vegetables and some fruit.