10 Tips For A Healthy Keto Diet
- Written by Kelly Harris
- June 11, 2021
- 7 min read
The ketogenic diet is hot right now and it has been for the last few years. Frankly, it’s easy to see why – it works for people who want to lose a lot of weight really quickly. The reason it works is because your blood sugar isn’t yo-yo-ing all over the place and the high-fat foods are filling and satisfying.
When done correctly, it can also be a fibre-rich diet. It only takes five minutes on Instagram to see that many people have lost astounding amounts of weight by eating keto and for some, it has turned from a diet into a lifestyle. Generally speaking, that’s a good approach. Reaching a healthy goal weight should be about sustainable lifestyle changes and not temporary quick fixes.
However, keto is not for everyone. There are some health risks to be mindful of and individuals with health conditions involving their liver, gallbladder, thyroid or pancreas are advised against trying the ketogenic diet.
Eating keto can also pose some other health risks including the formation of kidney stones, and an increased risk of heart disease. You are also at risk of gaining back all (or more) of the weight if you return to your previous eating habits.
People with a history of disordered eating should be mindful if considering keto because it is a restricted way of eating and may be a trigger for them.
So, whether you are a newbie to the ketogenic diet or are living the full-on ‘keto lifestyle’, here are ten tips to help you get the most out of the diet.
1. Talk to your Primary Care Physician
This is really important. Try to get your GP or family doctor on board with your weight loss goals, especially if you have a significant amount of weight to lose. Make sure you explain that you want to lose weight using the ketogenic diet method and that you’d like their support during the process. Now, to be honest, most GPs know very little about nutrition. Most will have had only one or two days of nutrition education in their entire medical education. However, a good family doctor can be your wingman on this weight loss journey because they can help you monitor your results, provide you with requisitions for diagnostics to check your glucose and triglyceride levels and also be there to flag up if the diet is putting your health at risk in some way.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Before you start eating keto, make sure you are prepared. You’ll need to have lots of appealing looking foods prepared and ready to eat – especially for the first few days. I have found that having a set of glass and stainless steel snap storage containers were useful for stacking and labeling my prepared foods in the fridge and having items which I could grab and throw into my bag when leaving the house. Far too often it will seem much easier to just boil a pot of pasta rather than creating elaborate keto meals. So, make choosing the keto-friendly foods the ‘easy option’ when you open your fridge. If you’re too poor on time to create all these meals, then I recommend you find a local keto bakery and keto food-prep service so you can keep your cupboard, fridge and freezer well-stocked at all times.
3. Eat the rainbow
My clients would laugh, because this is my favourite piece of advice for pretty much every diet and lifestyle! But it is such good advice. Colourful fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of phytonutrients, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, consumption of fruits is fairly limited on a keto diet, and as a nutritional therapist I do think that is a shame, but ultimately it isn’t that important if you make sure you’re getting plenty of colourful vegetables. Sweet potato, purple carrots, rainbow chard – try to buy whatever wonderful rainbow of produce is in season!
4. Make space for berries
Berries are surprisingly low in sugars and you can enjoy 14g of your daily carbohydrate allowance on 100g of blueberries or 12g carbohydrates for 100g of raspberries. If you whiz up some berries in your blender with a stevia-sweetened vanilla protein powder and a bit of almond milk, you’ll have a thick and creamy delicious berry milkshake to enjoy!
5. Eat organic and/or unsprayed foods
It’s a fact that positive associations exist between agrochemicals and obesity in adult humans. Obesogenic chemicals, such as the many herbicides and pesticides used to grow our foods, are believed to act directly on fat cells by increasing the storage of fat into the existing cells. On top of that, some agrochemicals, such as the commonly used glyphosate is linked to human liver damage. So, try to opt for organic or non-sprayed foods which will help you with your weight loss journey and will give your liver a bit of a break.
6. Swap your carbs for whole foods
There are plenty of processed keto replacement pasta and rice substitutes out there, but it will be a lot cheaper for you if you swap pasta for zoodles (zucchini/courgette spirals) or boodles (butternut squash spirals). You can buy an inexpensive spiralizer and make your own vegetable spirals to cook up like pasta and smother in delicious pasta sauces, but many supermarkets also carry prepared zoodles and boodles too. Rice can be substituted for cauliflower rice. You can even make a delicious cauliflower pizza crust…yes, I thought it sounded awful too, but it is delicious and soft and very bread-like when prepared correctly.
7. Avoid processed foods
The processed food industry loves trendy diets. And keto is no exception. There are plenty of processed keto convenience foods on the market now. And I totally understand that if you’re out and don’t have something prepared from home, you’ll need to buy something to eat. I’ve been there. But try not to keep packaged keto treats around the house or you’ll end up relying on them to curb your cravings. (I’ve also been there too!) If you can, devote a little time to preparing your own snacks and keto baked goods. The internet is full of great low carbohydrate, keto-friendly recipes.
8. Sugar-free ‘sugars’ are not all the same
You’d think you could have all the low carb diet sweets you want on keto, right? Studies have found that your brain responds to artificial sweeteners in the same way it would to sugar – by releasing insulin and by craving even more sugary, calorific treats. Frequent rises in insulin have been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This really does apply to quite a lot of zero calorie sugar alternatives out there – even the so-called ‘healthy’ ones. But thankfully there are a few options which will have less impact on your blood glucose levels like stevia, monkfruit and erithrytol. You can read our article ‘Which Sugar Substitutes Are Healthiest?’ here.
9. Allow for occasional cheat days
By ‘cheat days’ I don’t mean visiting the McDonald’s drive-thru. I mean that if you find you are benefiting from low carbohydrate eating as a long-term lifestyle, you’ll want to periodically allow yourself a day when you allow yourself to enjoy some healthy carbohydrates or make space for a special occasion. This could mean planning for a special evening out with friends, eating a slice of your husband’s birthday cake or enjoying a fruity smoothie. It is important that you don’t view these days with guilt or as ‘falling off the wagon’. They should be planned in and prepared for, to prevent you from missing out on special moments with friends and family. If you have your low-carbohydrate meals prepared for the day after your ‘cheat day’ (or maybe come up with a less emotive name than ‘cheat’) you’ll be ready to transition back to your normal keto eating patterns as soon as you wake up the next morning.
10. Choose your guru wisely
Finally, here is my last bit of wisdom. There are a lot of what I call ‘keto gurus’ out there spreading their word to the masses. Most of them have no nutrition training whatsoever and have turned the excitement from their own personal weight loss journey into a mission to convert all to the ‘keto lifestyle’. This one-size-fits-all plan is often executed with a cultish fervour, which ignores the health risks keto can pose to some people and possibly even help promote disordered eating. If you must find some online inspiration, media personalities such as Mark Hyman MD, and Dr Axe promote well balanced approaches to long term low carbohydrate eating.
Disclaimer: Again, I want to emphasise how important it is to talk to your doctor before starting the keto diet and to look at alternative weight loss methods if you have any of the health conditions which might put you at risk on a keto diet.