1. The first month or two can be expensive
As you change from a diet that is predominantly carbohydrate based to one that is 95% protein and good fats combined, it can be expensive. The cost of flour, rice, cereal and vegetable oil is significantly less than the cost of beef, pork, chicken, avocados and coconut oil. As you farewell the chips, margarine, crackers, bread and potatoes from the depths of your pantry and welcome in those gorgeous fatty cuts of meat, butter and cream your grocery bill will no doubt be higher than usual; particularly if like me, you’re not a fan of cooking when you start out.
However, as you stock up your cupboards over time with herbs and spices, essences and other condiments as well as tools that aid with cooking delicious, flavoursome meals the cost that is rung up by the cashier each week will more than likely be less than your currently budget. Why? Because when following a keto diet you eat less…a lot less.
2. If not carbs, then what can I eat?
When first contemplating changing from a standard western diet (in my case one guided by the Australian “healthy” food pyramid) I was horrified. My favourite foods, hands down, were potatoes (in any form - chips, fries, mashed, baked, scalloped…I could go on), white bread and pasta. And I had to give these up. For reals?! #waytoputmeoffadietdude.
The concern of course is that if you give up carbohydrates as your primary food source then there’s basically nothing else tasty to eat, right? After all, for the past 40 years dietary advice has been founded on eating 6 serves of grains, 5 serves of vegetables, 2 serves of fruit and 2.5 serves each of protein and dairy each day. So if you significantly reduce your carbs by cutting out grains, many vegetables, most fruits and some dairy then the cupboard is bare, Mother Hubbard! Actually, it’s really not.
A keto kitchen is full of foods such as almonds, asparagus, avocado, bacon, beef, beef tallow, broccoli, butter, capsicum, cauliflower, cheese, chicken fat, coconut butter, coconut oil, cream, eggs, fish, ghee, herbs, lard (non-hydrogenated), macadamia nuts, mayonnaise, mushrooms, olive oil, peanut butter, pork, poultry, sausage, shellfish, sour cream, spices, spinach, squash, sweeteners (stevia, sucralose, erythritol, xylitol) and walnuts. Phew - bet you couldn’t say all that in one breath!
Of course, a quick search of the internet will help you pull together a really comprehensive list of keto friendly foods in addition to the examples provided above.
3. Keto is not a diet of deprivation
While grains, starches and sugars are generally eliminated as part of a keto diet, there are just as many items that have previously been unacceptable or discouraged when following a standard western diet that will become your go-to staples. No more cutting the fat off your steak; Cream? Make it full fat, please; Bacon, smashed avo and eggs for breakfast… coming right up!
By eliminating sugars and reintroducing healthy fats into your diet your taste buds rejoice. Food becomes more appetising as your palate changes and can better distinguish between sweet, sour, salty and bitter and savour the individual flavour nuances as they roll over your tongue. On a ketogenic diet, many people find their senses become heightened, especially taste.
4. What do you mean I don’t need to count calories?
For the most part you really don’t. If it makes you feel more comfortable to do so, then by all means, go ahead. However, the fundamentals of following a keto diet comes down to your macronutrient ratio. The key to keto is eating (per day) less than 20 grams (net) carbohydrates (5%); approximately 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass (25%); and then the rest of your diet comprises eating fats to satiety (75%).
When taking this approach to food and addressing your hunger in such a manner you will naturally reduce your caloric intake. I can hear the doubt in your mind, but trust me, as a former carboholic who could never say no to the likes of freshly baked bread, cake, chips and other sweet or savoury treats, it is quite astounding how those foods now only stir distant and occasional memories of satisfaction.
5. You won’t get hungry…well, not like you used to
“I never get hungry!” This is a statement you’ll hear often in wonderous tones from those following a ketogenic diet. While not strictly true as you do feel pangs of hunger, they are fewer and farther between and of significantly less intensity than you’re used to. So relatively speaking, yeah, you don’t get hungry.
This is the reason why counting calories doesn’t really matter when boarding the keto train. Once you have depleted your glycogen stores, and your body gets used to sourcing its fuel from fat, that profound hunger which has you racing to the nearest cookie jar goes away. This is because your body adjusts; no longer riding the extreme highs and lows of the blood sugar rollercoaster screaming when your glycogen stores start to get low. Instead, your body calmly enjoys a leisurely cruise comfortable in the knowledge that it can chow down on itself in the event that fuel from an external source becomes limited.
6. All calories are not created equal
This is another reason why counting calories is not high on the priority list when going keto.
There is a lot of science behind this statement; too much for me to summarise in this post other than to quote Peter Attica, MD:
‘Do calories matter? In a word, yes. But, technically this is the wrong question. The correct question is probably closer to, “What is the impact of the calories I consume on my body’s ability to store fat versus burn fat?” The immediate follow-up question to some variant of this first question is, “Should I be counting calories?” In a word, no. But you’ll want to read this post fully to qualify that answer.’
There are a number of great articles, podcasts, lectures and documentaries on this topic that can be found via the Ketogenic Forums wiki pages Favourite Videos on Ketogenic Subjects and Book Recommendations.
7. Not everyone will support your keto choice
Any diet that isn’t promoted by formally recognised Dieticians Associations is often viewed as unhealthy, a fad or impossible to follow in the long term.
The keto way of eating is counterintuitive to almost everything that we have been taught about nutrition since the late 1970’s. Consequently you may find that family and friends are sceptical or unsupportive of keto touting lines such as “fat clogs your arteries!”, “you’ll die from a heart attack eating like that!”, “your body needs carbohydrates to survive!” and “but wholegrains are so healthy!”.
While it can be frustrating, remember that these comments are made out of love and concern for your well-being, after all, they too have been taught for decades to revere a pyramid built on a foundation of carbohydrates.
Patience and taking the time to educate yourself are important tools to arm yourself with when embarking on a ketogenic lifestyle.
8. You can successfully keto for one
While it’s certainly easier to eat ketogenically when your partner, family, housemates or other significant influence follow the same diet, it’s not impossible to keto for one. So many ketogenic recipes can be enjoyed by everyone and a number of non-ketogenic recipes can be modified to suit the keto way of eating.
There’s no need (or excuse, quite frankly) to let the diet of others deter you from staying the path. Sometimes you just have to suck it up, buttercup.
The other important thing to note is that everyone is different - be it size, weight, gender, cultural background, taste… I could be here all day listing out all the things that make us unique and still not complete a comprehensive list. My point is that the keto experience is distinctive to each individual. I encourage you to listen to the advice from those who have been following a ketogenic diet for years, actively participate in forum discussions and shared experiences all the while adjusting and refining your diet until it is tailored perfectly to you. After all, you’re the only one who will know what works best for your body. Hint: if you’ve had your hands clapped over your ears, crying “la la la la la la, not listening” for a while now, it may take a little time to get used to hearing the more subtle internal whispers. So please be patient and kind to yourself as you find your way.
9. It’s easier if you can cook and eat at home
You can easily eat out and still follow a ketogenic diet. However, while the standard western diet continues to be promoted as the low fat, high carb, calories in versus calories out approach, options for dining in restaurants or buying take away can be limited and you may find yourself getting bored easily. Then again, you may not.
Cooking for yourself (or if you’re lucky enough to have someone supportive of keto to cook for you) means that you have more control over your macros. Of course, this requires some degree of planning and preparation.
I used to hate cooking. And I mean with a capital “H”. I was never taught how to cook, I have a demanding job that often requires long hours in the office and when I got home from work the last thing I wanted to do was expend any remaining mental energy thinking about what to cook, let alone physically cook the meal itself. I’d rather dine out, or rely on someone else to cook-whatever-they-wanted-and-dish-up-a-plate-for-me-while-they’re-at-it-thanks-very-much!
I realised though that if I was to really commit to this way of eating then I needed to not only learn how to cook, but take a genuine interest in my nutrition. After much time spent searching Pintrest, YouTube, low carb recipe sites and cookbooks I started to get the hang of it and then, much to my surprise, I even started to really enjoy being in the kitchen and now look forward to finding new recipes to try. I’m pleased to say that my hit/miss ratio is much better than it used to be as I’ve learnt new skills and flavour combinations that appeal to my palate. Let’s just not talk about the disastrous blueberry crumble I made last night…it really was the stuff of nightmares.
The thing is, while there are some really incredible keto recipes and cooking methodologies out there for you to find that are full of all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients and food combinations, there are just as many really basic recipes that are unbelievably tasty in their simplicity.
The moral of the story? Fake it ‘til you make it.
10. There are so many benefits to keto that weight loss really is just another one on the side
Spend a day reading through the Ketogenic Forums as well as other websites promoting this lifestyle and you will find time and time again stories from people who have found a great number of improvements in their health by following a ketogenic diet.
Whether it’s the reversal of Type 2 Diabetes, fatty liver disease or metabolic syndrome; better management of anxiety and depression (with or without medication); increased control over emotional eating; or the recession of arthritic symptoms, many have advised that they have successfully used a keto diet (either on its own, or in combination with other western and/or eastern medical approaches) to treat modern and chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome, hyperthyroidism and cancer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a moment that adhering to a ketogenic way of eating is a miracle remedy for all of the world’s ills and that it cures everything from a sore toe to the big “C”. Rather, that there is plenty of research, both formal and informal, credible and not so credible (if I’m perfectly honest) that has shown improved benefits to health when a keto diet is incorporated into an overall health plan.
Many just simply report that upon becoming fat adapted mental clarity is more acute, sleep is less disturbed and food no longer dictates life.
Oh yeah…and you lose weight too.