Part 1 of My Ketogenic Diet series was published recently so if you haven’t checked it out yet, click below!
Now, the hardest part of any diet is the food selection and management. We can have all the goal to improve our eating and lose weight, but without good meal management the effort can feel futile.
Effective diet food management has to overcome so many issues:
- It’s time consuming to meal prep and cook
- It can be expensive
- It can taste uninteresting
- It can get repetitive and boring
- It can be challenging when dining out
- It doesn’t include donuts
So let’s break it down into lists of what you can (and sadly can’t) have, and then look at different ways you can avoid these problems.
- Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc
- Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc
- Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
- Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc
- Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, parsnips, etc
- Low-fat products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs
- Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat
- Unhealthy fat: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc
- Alcohol: Due to its carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis
- Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases, and also tend to be highly processed
These will be the foundations of your meals, instead of those bland starches you’ve tossed aside [1, 2].
- Meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey
- Fatty fish: such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel, and shellfish such as lobster, shrimp, scallops, etc
- Low-carb veggies: most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc
- Eggs: look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs (helps the brain)
- Butter and cream: look for grass-fed when possible (fewer carbs)
- Cheese: especially unprocessed cheese such as cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc
- Oils: primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
- Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
God, how dreadfully healthy that all sounds. Does it mean you’re going to hate what you’re eating? Heck no. Let’s look at my typical food choices, with a caveat that I am no health saint. I found ways of eating things I like while adhering to keto. I love food too much and wasn’t about to give up my enjoyment for ANYTHING.
Note: anytime you see the term “low-carb” it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find a product labeled as such. I just ensure my selections are the lowest carb content possible for that item, and stick to counting my macros each day so I don’t overdo it and throw myself out of ketosis. And don’t worry, the biggest time-sink in starting keto is in finding products you can trust, which is a one-off to just get it all going.
- Sausages (FYI: gluten free and skinless choices have fewer carbs)
- Eggs any way you like
- Keto bread/toast slathered in butter
- Keto pancakes, crepes, or waffles (recipes to come!) with sugar-free syrup and butter
- Low-carb cereals (ONLY OCCASIONALLY)
- Bullet coffee (it’s like a full meal)
- Protein shake made with half water half cream
- Guacamole and salsa with quesadillas (low-carb tortillas and cheese with chicken, beef or shrimp inside)
- Keto ramen or stir fry made with shirataki noodles (zero calories and carbs), any low-carb sauce is fine
- Low-carb soups and stews
- Chicken wings and low-carb dip
- Cauliflower crust pizza (or get creative and use the low-carb tortilla as crust)
- Keto bread sandwiches with any of the approved foundations as fillers
- Meat or Shellfish on leafy green salad with MCT salad dressing (my own recipe to come!)
- Crustless quiche of any flavour
- Sashimi with miso soup
- Fatty salads such as Chef’s, Caesar, Greek, or Caprese salad
SNACKS AND DESSERT
- Veggies and dip
- Almonds and other nuts
- Beef jerky (sugar-free)
- Seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc
- Any cheeses and deli meats (prosciutto is especially good)
- Celery filled with tuna or peanut butter, or cottage cheese
- Avocado with whatever else you like that’s approved food
- Fatty meat or fish, such as smoked salmon or tuna with keto mayo
- Olives, pickles, or anything soaked in vinegar
- Pepperoni sticks
- Sugar-free jello with cream
- Keto-designated desserts
- Dark chocolate (75%-90%)
- Protein shakes (sugar-free)
- Blueberries or strawberries with cream
- Keto cakes or biscuits
- Keto ice cream
- Sugar-free yoghurt
- Chicken mozzarella with cauliflower mash (I got my recipe from this cookbook)
- Bunless burgers
- Meatballs and bolognese sauce
- Courgette pasta noodles or low-carb noodles with any low-carb pasta sauce (and add cheese!)
- Steak, pork belly, lamb shank, duck, or any meat with roast veg or creamed spinach
- Stir fry with zero-noodles or cauliflower rice
- Mushroom sauce and cheese chicken bake
- Lemon in sparkling water
- Sugar-free drinks (keep these too a minimum though since they encourage your sweet tooth and heighten cravings for bad-for-you sweet things)
- If you’re drinking, choose pure spirits like whiskey, brandy, cognac, vodka, tequila which all contain zero carbs, or try a “skinny” low-carb/sugar champagne
For tea and coffee, you can add almond milk, coconut milk, or cream. Out of all the sugar substitutes, I like erythritol best as it tastes JUST like sugar. It still has carbs, so be careful how much you have, but they are not carbs from sugar. Other sugar substitutes tend to taste like they are substitutes, even with the no carbs, they aren’t worth it *coughsteviacough*. But everyone is different, so see what you like most from the sugar-free Coffee Mate, Splenda, and sugar free flavored syrups, etc.
Don’t have time to cook? Neither do I. I just learned how to read the nutrition chart on pre-made meals that only require me to put them in the oven, set the timer, and get back to my work. I actually buy most of our meals from a very convenient place called Cook. They make (and deliver) pre-made fresh healthy meals. I order the entrees – most of which range between 6-11 carbs per serving. There’s likely similar services in your area if you don’t have time to meal-prep, so just google for options!
The problem with buying pre-made meals like these of course is that you trade time saved for higher price tags on your food bill. This is unfortunately something I haven’t found a fix for – you can have one or the other, but not both in terms of cost and time. So just pick the approach that works best for you.
As for flavouring, you can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices, mustard is great, soy sauce (not too much), hot sauce, chili oil, truffle oil, and there’s also a ton of carb-free/sugar-free (or reduced sugar – just have a little) alternatives to condiments out there like ketchup and mayo. It takes a bit of searching, but you can definitely find sufficient replacements for the condiments of your taste. I’ve even found a low-carb hoisin sauce.
Also, prepare for nights out. We went to the movies recently with friends who got candy and popcorn. You can’t have either. So we brought salted almonds and bought coke zero. It helped. I still wanted to punch the guy eating popcorn next to me, but I didn’t so I consider that a success.
But what do you do when the desire for carby things grows too strong? You don’t have to miss out on your stodgy favourites. There’s keto replacements for almost everything, including rice, pasta, bread, tortillas, and cereal! There are even such things as keto desserts, including keto chocolate cake, low-carb cookies, and even keto ice cream. You just have to do a bit of searching for a product or even a recipe. Here’s a brand of keto ice cream that I swear by, called OPPO. The Colombian Chocolate with Hazelnut is my favourite but they also have Salted Caramel, Madagascan Vanilla, and Mint Chocolate Swirl. They vary from 6.2 to 9.9 carbs per 100ml (about two full scoops).
I’m still working on perfecting my keto donut recipe by the way, and will share it when I get it right.
BEFORE YOU GO
No one says diets are easy. But my aim here is to try and make this diet and a low-carb lifestyle as easy to adjust to as possible. Just remember it’s only as hard as you tell yourself it is. There’s always fixes for everything – you don’t have to “give things up”, just replace them!
We are by no means done with keto talk. I’ll show you how I make keto pancakes and waffles soon!
Do you have good suggestions to share, or have any questions about keto food choices or anything else we’ve covered here?
Let us know in the comments! http://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-ultimate-list-of-40-low-carb-foods.html