Starting keto can be really overwhelming, not least because there’s conflicting advice all over the internet and in every Facebook group you’ll join. You can’t eat carrots. No, you can eat carrots! Keto is under 50g of carbs. No, it’s under 20g!
You know what, decreasing your carb intake is going to get you closer to ketosis. That’s the basic concept. Ketosis is the mechanism that makes keto work.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is not some sort of scary thing that’s terribly complex. It’s actually pretty simple. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them to glucose. We use glucose for energy, and we store it in chains called glycogen.
Getting into ketosis is about changing your body’s access to glycogen, which is its preferred source of energy, and redirecting it to using fat instead. This fat will come from a combination of a typical keto diet and the fat you already have stored.
Ketones are acids that are produced when your body is burning its own fat for fuel. When a lot of this acid is present in your body, you are in ketosis.
How do I get into ketosis?
Ketosis happens when you reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your fat consumption. When you’re on a path to losing weight, this can feel really weird; we are geared to be frightened of fat.
A low carb diet is considered to be above 50g of carbohydrates per day, but less than around 150g. Keto is considered to be less than 50g, with many people, including me, aiming for fewer than 20g.
What kind of things do I need to avoid?
Probably most of the things you would currently call ‘the good shit’; bread, pasta, grains, rice, sugary food and drinks, starchy vegetables like potatoes and parsnips, fruit and cakes/biscuits/cookies. These are the basic ‘big’ food groups you want to avoid, for starters. It might be worth trying this out for a week or two before you head into increasing your carbohydrate reduction.
You will find carbs in the weirdest places. My jaw dropped when I looked at how many a Maggi So Juicy chicken pouch has in it, and I hurled them into the bin in horror (I am the carb police, I know).
Some people will avoid veggies altogether because a) they don’t like them or b) they’re frightened of the carb content in them. My personal opinion is that it isn’t good for your health to try a new way of eating but then remove a great source of vitamins and minerals. I have seen horror stories in Facebook groups where people’s hair is falling out (so she said!) because they simply don’t consume anything of any nutritional value, but they’re getting their fat/protein balance right!
Not worth it. Do your research on how many carbs are in which vegetables and consume the ones with lower amounts or control how much you eat of what. Great options are leafy greens, aubergine (eggplant), courgettes (zucchini), avocado, cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower etc.), cucumbers, peppers, spinach, celery and mushrooms. Veggies are great for bulking out a meal, and if you’re like me and you’ve spent all your life sniffing them a bit dubiously before declaring you don’t like them, there are ways to trick yourself, if you’re committed to a balanced diet.
Well, that sounds crap, what’s the trade off?
Cheese, mate. Bacon. Cream. Eggs. All the good fatty stuff that most diets scream at you to avoid. Some keto dishes are so indulgent, you actually can’t believe you’re losing weight this way, no bullshit.
The flavour you can pack into this way of eating is the game-changer, for me. I have always had a cooking style that favours fats and flavours, so this felt like a natural transition for me. I could alter the recipes I already loved and just keep the focal parts the same, and I was happy. Hopefully you’ll enjoy some of these dishes as much as we do.