Keto Quick Start: An Easy Transition to a Whole Food Ketogenic Diet
by Taranum Sultana
The popular ketogenic diet has attracted a lot of attention because of its numerous health benefits, including losing excess body fat and addressing health concerns such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), hypertension, epilepsy, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, etc. In fact, the ketogenic lifestyle is now being recommended as a preventive measure.
What is a Ketogenic Diet? A well-formulated ketogenic diet is based on the goal of getting about 75–80% of calories from fat, 15–20% from protein, and only about 5% from carbohydrates. This translates to 20–50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
This unique macronutrient combination turns your body literally into a fat burner. Your body converts fat to ketones—both dietary and body fat—for energy, instead of using glucose (sugar) that comes from a carb-laden diet, hence deriving the name “keto.”
The body’s use of fat as a primary fuel lowers blood glucose levels and improves insulin resistance, which helps regulate type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The natural metabolic state in which your body adapts to burning fat rather than carbohydrates as its primary fuel is called ketosis, or nutritional ketosis.
What to eat on a ketogenic diet? It is extremely important to focus on eating the right kind and amount of macronutrients to achieve and stay in nutritional ketosis. To achieve ketosis, eat low amounts of high-quality carbs in combination with a wide selection of high-quality healthy fats and proteins. For overall improved health and long-term success it is important to eat a balanced diet that has a wide variety of whole foods (e.g., meat, fish, eggs, high-quality fats from various sources, high-fat dairy, low-carb vegetables, low-carb fruits, nuts, and seeds).
Steps to Transition into a Keto Diet: Remember, the ketogenic diet is entirely a new way of eating, so it will take time to adapt to this mindful eating paradigm. To ensure success, I recommend the following steps during the transition into a keto diet.
- Prepare your pantry before you start
- Plan your meals
- Find the support group
- Use the right supplements and micronutrients
- Measure ketones and blood glucose to adjust macros
- Follow the easy steps during the first few weeks
- Seek professional help
Prepare your pantry before you start: It is important to distinguish between keto and non-keto foods and prepare your pantry accordingly. Look through your pantry and swap keto-friendly items for non-keto items. For example, swap wheat flour with almond and coconut flour and rice with cauliflower rice.
Similarly, yogurts, low-fat shakes, sugars (honey, sugar, maple syrup), and pancakes could be replaced with full-fat yogurt and whipping cream, stevia, and keto pancakes. Many items are available at the local grocery store. For instance, Costco offers a big range of quality keto-friendly food items at a reasonable price.
It is also important to identify items with hidden sugars. Learn to read the label on everything in your pantry to look for hidden carbs, especially in spices, sauces, and beef jerky that have added sugars to enhance flavour. Toss out the non-keto items that carry hidden sugars. Please visit www.ketoandwellness.ca to download the complete list of keto swaps.
Plan your meals: With a little practice, keto meal planning will help you save both time and money. Planning and prepping meals over the weekend, your weekly keto meal plans give you fast access to shopping lists and carb counts per meal.
Find the support group: Finding a community that shares a common interest, provides emotional support, and keeps you motivated and accountable is a key to success. Additionally, having friends or family members who are supportive of your healthy eating and exercise goals is important for long-term weight-loss success.
Use the right supplements and micronutrients: One of the most popular side effects of starting keto is electrolyte deficiency, simply known as Keto Flu, that usually lasts for a few days to a week into keto eating. When the body switches its fuel source to fat, it depletes stored carbs, leading to loss of water. Therefore, increased excretion of water also flushes out electrolytes, making you feel sick. These electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) regulate hydration and support various functions of the heart, nerves, and muscles. You can avoid Keto Flu by adding salt to your food, using broth (especially bone broth), and eating pickled vegetables.
Follow the easy steps during the first few weeks: Keep things simple in the first two weeks and break down steps into actionable steps. Avoid starchy and sugary fruits and vegetables and alcoholic beverages. Remember to drink plenty of water as it is very crucial on a keto diet. Use keto snacks like boiled eggs, beef jerky, mixed nuts, seeds, keto cereal, olives, avocados, veggies with guacamole, keto smoothies, cheese, salads, fat bombs, and dark chocolate, etc.
Seek professional help: Using incorrect meal plans and poor quality information adds confusion and makes it highly difficult to follow the ketogenic diet. In addition, the abundant information, in many cases misinformation, about the keto diet—both online and offline—add confusion and could lead to failure and huge disappointment as a result. Therefore, it is important to seek the assistance of a certified keto coach to obtain the desired results and ensure long-term success. A certified keto coach simplifies the ketogenic diet into easy-to-follow steps, but also offers clients the support and accountability they need to achieve their desired results.
Dr. Taranum Sultana is a Certified Ketogenic Nutrition SpecialistSM (CKNS) from the American Nutrition Association. She has extensive international research and teaching experience in biochemistry and molecular biology. She practices as a keto coach in Regina and regularly writes in WHOLifE Journal to raise awareness of the benefits of ketogenic nutrition and intermittent fasting. For more information see the display ad on page 10 of the 25.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.