Our bodies have a natural evolutionary advantage to be able to burn fat for energy in times of food shortages. This process is called ketosis. When carbohydrates are scarce, humans can switch to burning fat for fuel. This process can intentionally be done by following a keto diet, which is a diet high in fat and very low in carbohydrates. Some individuals thrive on this diet, while others don't. A keto diet is something that may be best followed long-term for certain individuals or may be best done for short time frames periodically throughout the year for others, mimicking how our ancestors naturally switched between breaking down glucose and glycogen (stored carbohydrates) for cellular respiration to breaking down fat into ketones for cellular respiration.
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What is a Keto diet?
The keto diet is designed to allow the body to rely on burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. This diet usually contains 15 to 50 grams of net carbohydrates per day, or about 5-10% of total calories. The process of using fat for fuel is called ketogenesis. All plant foods contain some carbohydrates. To calculate net carbs, take the total grams of carbohydrates per portion size and subtract the total grams of fiber. This gives you the total grams of net carbs.
Keep a food journal and measure portion sizes when you are just beginning to get a better idea of how many grams of net carbs you are consuming. One quarter cup of blueberries might be just fine, but 1 to 2 cups while you are blueberry picking would be too much! Use the food lists below as a guide in order to achieve the total grams of net carbohydrates you need per day.
How much protein, fat, and carbs should I eat on a Keto Diet?
It is important to roughly follow this guideline in order to get into ketosis. Overall protein intake should be around 25% of total daily calories, or 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight. High fat foods should be added to meals and snacks to maintain ketosis. Think of adding a large avocado to a breakfast of scramble of eggs, feta cheese, arugula, and zucchini (cooked in a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil). Add a high-fat salad dressing to a garden salad topped with shredded pork, grated raw cheddar cheese, and plenty of fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley. A well-balanced keto dinner could be poached salmon in full-fat coconut milk with Indian spices over riced cauliflower, along with some steamed brussels sprouts. Use our meal planner to get inspired with keto recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!
If you experience any of these symptoms, then a keto diet may benefit you:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Memory loss
- Type 1 and 2 Diabetes
- Weight loss resistance
What Can I eat on a Keto Diet?
- Fruits: Lemons, limes, and unsweetened cranberry juice. Small amounts of berries.
- Vegetables: Asparagus, artichoke, arugula, avocado, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, celery root (celeriac), cucumbers, green onions, chives, leeks, lettuce, kale, collard greens, spinach, fennel bulb, radishes, radicchio, mushrooms, mustard greens, jicima, rhubarb, onions, tomatoes, turnips, summer squash (zucchini and yellow), spaghetti squash, cooked pumpkin, snow peas, red and green bell peppers, all types of sprouts, naturally fermented pickles, olives, and sauerkraut.
- Meat, Poultry, Fish & Eggs: Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, wild game, fish & seafood, and eggs.
- Dairy: High-fat dairy products from cow and goat milk, including whipping cream, sour cream, plain whole milk yogurt, all cheeses, butter, and ghee.
- Nuts & Seeds: Flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts (and their nut and seed butters).
- Herbs and Spices: All herbs and spices (make sure spice blends are sugar-free), raw vanilla powder, sea salt.
- Condiments: Mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, horseradish, pesto, salsa, unsweetened paleo ketchup.
- Coconut Products: Coconut milk, coconut butter, shredded coconut, coconut oil, coconut water kefir, and raw coconut yogurt (GTs brand).
- Fats and Oils: Olive oil, macadamia nut oil, MCT oil, cacao butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee.
- Sweeteners: Stevia (fresh leaf, liquid extract, or powdered), allulose, monk fruit extract.
- Beverages: Water, chamomile tea, ginger tea, coconut water kefir.
Getting started on a Keto Diet:
- If you are not yet a member on this site, you can join now.
- Add some of our sample keto meal plans to your user profile or create your own!
- Schedule your meal plans onto your meal plan calendar and create shopping lists.
- Get inspired with new keto recipes added to this site weekly! Join our Nourishing Meals Community Facebook Group to get notified with new recipes and more! Everyone is welcome.
Net Carbs in Foods:
Use these charts to help guide you on the keto diet. Use a journal when you are just beginning this diet to track your total daily net carbs (your best estimate).