As with most things, starting is the hardest part. You can start the way I did, by jumping off the cliff with a blindfold on or you can actually peek over the edge and see what’s down there first. I highly recommend the latter, by the way. Some people take a ton of time researching, planning shopping trips, amassing recipes, etc. and that’s all well and good if you’re planning on waiting a while to start. I’m more of a hands on learner. So I say, get a good feel for what it’s all about and get started.
First and foremost, you must become a label reader. At this point in our society’s convolution of food, people should be questioning ingredients anyway, keto or not. I didn’t realize that the coffee creamer I was using in the mornings was putting me over my carb count for the day. And let’s not even start on the actual ingredients, including some shit I couldn’t even pronounce. It’s best to stick with the basics: low carb veggies, healthy fats, solid proteins, and don’t forget your electrolytes. Basically, things that don’t have a lot of ingredients.
A keto fridge is normally always stocked with certain staples. These include non-starchy leafy greens such as spinach, bok choy, celery, asparagus, arugula, and zucchini. Avocado is another really popular item as it is a great source of healthy fat, although it is actually classified as a fruit. We are limited to our fruits due to the high amounts of natural sugar they contain. Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are acceptable in small amounts. Blueberries are ok but they add up fast so be very sparing with those. Always check before eating anything of course. I looked up the carb count of a fig and almost fell out of my chair. Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, but in moderation. Pecans, macadamia, and brazil nuts are the lowest carb nuts. They make a wonderful little snack, and are very portable which is essential when you are out in a non-keto friendly environment. Hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds are moderate in carbs and are widely used as flours for baking or cooking. As for seeds, chia, flax, and hemp are low in carbs and are helpful in getting necessary fiber into your diet. I also eat pumpkin seeds, although some ketoers will tell you they are not acceptable. It really depends on if you are counting total carbs or net carbs. Net carbs are just total carbs minus fiber grams. Since fiber isn’t digested, it can be subtracted from your carb count. Peanuts and peanut butter are also a bit of a sensitive topic as they can cause an inflammatory response in some people, which is obviously counterproductive to a keto diet. They don’t bother me personally, so I eat them in moderation. I food prep a good amount of chicken as one of my main protein sources. Grab a big ol pack of chicken breasts and bake them at the beginning of the week. I freeze them two to a bag, take one out every couple of days, and thaw them in the fridge. I’ll heat one up, slap an ounce of goat cheese on it, salt it, and you’ve got a nice filling meal that’s basically effortless. Bacon is another essential staple in a keto fridge. I probably go through 3lbs per week. It’s a good source of protein and fat, and let’s face it…it’s meat candy. If I have to sell you on bacon, I don’t think we can be friends.
Dairy is big wedge of my keto food pyramid. There are some people who choose to go dairy free and that’s totally cool. I just love cheese too damn much. You’ll hear a lot about fathead dough, it’s one of our replacement “breads”. So in my fridge, there are always plenty of shredded mozzarella, cream cheese, and eggs. Basically the ingredients for fathead dough. Choose your cheese carefully, read the labels. Softer cheeses tend to be higher in carbs. Heavy whipping cream (HWC) is an absolute must in my arsenal, for many reasons. I use it my coffee, and in a lot of recipes. Full fat dressings such as ranch or caesar are good to have on hand, although as with most things, it’s better to make your own if you have the time. Keep in mind that keto is a moderate protein plan. It is very easy to go over on protein, especially if you eat a lot of dairy. Always make sure you track your intake.
Electrolytes, electrolytes, electrolytes…cannot stress them enough. Electrolytes are vital on this approach to eating. A ketogenic diet is diuretic in nature, which is just a fancy way of saying it makes you pee a lot. As you are flushing more frequently, you lose not only hydration but also electrolytes. I personally take magnesium and potassium daily, as well as drink sole (pronounced /so-lay/) water. Sole water is just water completely saturated with mineral salts. Electrolyte deficiency can cause muscular issues such as cramping, spasms, and twitching. Other side effects can include headaches, irritability, irregular heart beat, and a myriad of other problems. It’s nasty, nasty stuff, trust me. I’ve been there. You’ll hear of many ketoers reaching for the pickle jar and taking a big swig when we can feel we are out of whack. It is essential that you keep your electrolytes in balance.
I really just wanted to try to touch on some basics here to give you an idea what this is all about. Starting on this path can seem a bit overwhelming, but if you take it a little at a time, it will soon become second nature. Any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.