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Every January, I do some kind of diet reset. For the most part, my lifestyle is a healthy one, but the Holidays are always so food-centered and full of indulgences. This is fun for a while, but I usually come out the other side more than ready to re-focus on getting back to my typically very healthy diet.
I will say that normally includes LESS sugar and LESS carbs, but I haven’t ever cut them out completely.
I posted about my goals for the New Year here, and after spending the afternoon on New Year’s Day looking at healthy recipes and planning how darn healthy 2020 was going to look, I realized that the internet is FLOODED with people who have tried the keto diet and loved it.
So, long story short (not really), I decided to take the plunge and try the keto diet for the month of January.
The post that started it all was this one about how to get started on the ketogenic, or keto diet, from one of my favorite bloggers. One of the books she recommended is one by Leanne Vogel, who is a nutrition educator who focuses on the keto diet.
Leanne also has a really awesome site with guidance, recipes and all kinds of keto diet information. After reading her book (I am a book person, so I HAD to get and read her book!), I was super impressed by her approach. It combines sound science with more practical guidelines and actually includes different tracks depending on your specific nutrition needs and any other health concerns you have.
One thing I do know about myself is that eating low-carb is usually the best way for me to lose weight, and I typically watch my carbs on a daily basis regardless.
But, I am going to be honest: the ability to have a glass of wine here or there and to “carb-up” and have SOME carbs (read: pizza!) was probably what pushed me over the edge into trying the keto diet.
However, I decided that the best way for me to start was to do the “classic keto” track. I always do better completely omitting certain foods and then adding them back in sparingly later, so that was why I chose that track.
How Am I Doing So Far on the Keto Diet?
I have been on the keto diet for about three weeks and so far, I am feeling amazing (minus the first few days). I am not feeling super hungry AND I am losing weight (about 5 or 6 pounds are gone!). Although, my main reason for doing it is not as much about losing weight (ok, so maybe I wouldn’t be SAD if I could lose about 10-15 pounds). It is more to just get in better shape overall and to feel good and re-instate regular healthy eating habits.
So, these are the things I am doing, the key recipes I am making and the snacks and other food items I have found that have helped me be successful so far.
Just a little disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Please be sure you talk to your doctor before starting a new diet. I have an appointment to see mine soon and planning on discussing with her.
My Keto Diet Approach
After reading a ton about the keto diet, the one thing I will say I am NOT willing to do is meticulously track my food. I have done it before and found it so time-consuming and frankly, just not compatible with my busy lifestyle.
So, while it is recommended that you track what you are eating (macros, calories, etc.) and test your level of ketones, I decided not to do that. Instead, I am aiming to just eat as little sugar and carbs every day as possible but staying at a max of about 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per day.
In addition, I am eating foods with higher amounts of fats so that I will become “fat-adapted.” This is where your body prefers fat calories to sugar calories, and is pretty much the cornerstone of the keto diet. For more specifics on the diet, I recommend you check out the Healthful Pursuit website.
How I Am Getting Added Fat in My Diet
Like I mentioned before, I am no stranger to a low-carb diet, but I have never really added fat in like this, so I knew it would require some key additions to my daily food routine. So far, they are:
- Bullet proof coffee every morning
- Add MCT oil (this is coconut oil with the solids removed) to everything
- Eat lots of avocados
- Consume more bacon
- Reserve and eat bacon grease (drizzled over salad greens for example)
- Don’t shy away from using oil or butter to dress up roasted or steamed vegetables and salads
When I first heard about bulletproof coffee, I thought it sounded gross. Once I tried it though, I was hooked and for the past few weeks I have had one EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.
Downside of the Keto Diet
After the birth of my first child, the paleo diet (similar to keto) had just started becoming popular and my husband and I decided to try it. I loved how it made me feel, and I did easily lose the baby weight in a short time, but I did have a little (ahem) digestive trouble.
I won’t go into details (you can thank me later!), but that was what lead me to always be careful about incorporating some healthy carbohydrates into my diet (like brown rice and sweet potatoes). I eat a ton of fiber-rich vegetables every day and even more now but it is still hard for me to get enough fiber on the keto diet.
That lead me to seek out the main food experts recommend when this is an issue and that is: chia seeds.
After experimenting a bunch with different recipes, this is my favorite way to eat them. (Note: Be sure to use canned coconut milk. Also, raspberries are not technically allowed but they ARE one of the lowest sugar fruits, so I have been eating a few here and there.)
Experiencing the “Keto Flu”
Another major downside with the keto diet is how awful you feel in the first few days. I am here to tell you that the “keto flu,” is a real thing. For about the first 3-5 days I was super sluggish and just felt awful. I was still able to go about my regular routine, but I was NOT enjoying life.
The good news is that one of the things you can do to alleviate the symptoms is be sure you are getting enough salt. So, I drank this tea for the first few days (but added fresh ginger) and while it did not cure it, I did notice that it helped.
Now, I still drink the tea in the evenings but only with fresh, sliced ginger and lemon (with sometimes a tiny amount of stevia). It’s such a nice way to end the day, and it helps keep me hydrated.
A Few Other Key Points About Eating on the Keto Diet
It is recommended that you drink one gallon of water. Yep, you saw that right. A GALLON. Yeah, if I did that I would literally get no sleep and that would seriously mess with my quality of life. I normally drink about 50 ounces of water every day so, for now, I am just trying to up that to 64 ounces.
I noticed when I was doing my reading and researching on the keto diet that many people point to dairy as a big hinderance to losing weight. I am trying to lose a few pounds, so especially during the month of January, I am keeping my consumption of dairy to a minimum. I still eat some yogurt, heavy cream in my coffee and a few cubes of cheese as a snack from time to time but otherwise, I am trying to steer clear.
Another key for weight loss I believe is portion size. This is not really discussed at length in regard to this diet, but I am being careful to keep my portions smaller. I am typically super hungry all of the time and probably for the first time ever, it is not really that much of an issue.
I am keeping snack-time only to mid-morning and mid-afternoon. In the evenings, I might have some dark chocolate or a few almonds but mostly trying to keep that only special thing on certain days. Starting out, this was harder to do, but as I have move forward with the diet, this is becoming easier and easier.
Favorite Keto Diet Snacks
- Guacamole cups with raw vegetables like celery or bell peppers
- Protein packs
- Cheese on cucumber slices or celery
- Bacon (for real, just bake up some bacon and eat it as a snack, it’s the definition of awesome)
- Grape tomatoes
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios
- Keto-friendly chips like Cheese Whisps or Pork Rinds (sparingly)
- Super Dark chocolate (as a treat once in a while)
Even over Christmas when I was eating tamales with a processed-cheese-ball-and-crackers chaser for breakfast, I was still running (not every day, but most days). For me, this keeps me from going way overboard because I know I will just feel awful for my run the next morning. I am adding in yoga or pilates on bad weather days and also trying to do some core work and weights a few times per week. So far, it has been a bit of a struggle because early on I did not feel great and now, I am having some energy issues when I work out. I think adding more fiber in will help that (plus, I have only been on the diet for a few weeks and know it might take a little more time for my body to adjust.)
I always take a daily women’s multi-vitamin and my doctor had recommended recently that I take some additional vitamin D, so I take that as well. I am also taking some probiotics and fiber supplements, but not on a regular basis.
There are many anecdotal claims that this diet can help regulate and keep hormone levels steady. While I am still gathering information on this, I don’t think there is a lot of sound science (yet) that supports this claim. Still, I have had some issues lately with wild hormone swings, so I am willing to try it out to see if it helps.
My kids eat what I eat for the most part, but I have accompaniments for them on hand like pasta, bread, rice, etc. I do encourage them to eat what I am eating and let them try and if they like it, they can eat it. I feel it’s my job to help them like or at least try a lot of different things which just helps develop and broaden their tastes. Then, if one day they want to try keto or if it is something that will benefit their health, they already like many of the foods and it’s an easy switch for them.
Foods I Miss (and What I am Replacing Them With) on the Keto Diet
Sorry, but there really is no substitute. However, I have been wanting to try this and this keto-friendly pizza. I will eat crust made from cauliflower in a pinch, but I find it mostly to be soggy and not very satisfying. I am still trying different ones so maybe (hopefully), I will be proven wrong on this.
I miss rice, but I do find that cauliflower rice, roasted or steamed vegetables or wilted spinach are nice substitutes. When the month ends, I am considering adding a small amount of brown rice once a week or so back into my diet.
Depending on when I decide to relax a bit, I will probably add a glass of wine here or there back into my diet. For now, I really enjoy flavored sparkling water or hot ginger and lemon tea. This is not as much a satisfying replacement as just a stand in for the act of moving a glass to my lips. It’s not much, but it’s something!
One of my favorite evening treats is a few dark chocolate chips. I started out by replacing with 92% dark chocolate squares, but those are still a little bitter to me. There are tons of fat bomb recipes, but I typically need something I can whip up quickly. So, I love to make the below treat on occasion. (I have even tried mixing a teaspoon of coconut oil with a little stevia and spreading that on the square and that is also a quick, easy and yummy treat!)
Will I Keep Going with the Keto Diet?
I am still deciding if I will continue on my current diet (classic keto with little to no carbs) after the month is over. However, I am seriously thinking about it. It’s a pretty big switch, even for someone who already eats low-carb most of the time, so I can see where some people might have trouble.
That said, if you are like me and do better omitting certain foods completely, rather than just attempting to cut back, I think you will be successful on the keto diet. Although, you shouldn’t let the name or the recent hype fool you, it’s definitely less of a “diet” and more of a lifestyle change, which in my opinion, is the healthiest way to go.