The Keto Diet: Navigating a new way of eating

A recent dinner of grass-fed steak tips. They were delicious! (Photo credit: my husband)

As I mentioned in my last post about starting the ketogenic diet with my husband, we did a lot of research prior to starting. Understanding how this new way of eating works prior to starting was key. I think it’s a way of eating that many people just don’t understand and I know I didn’t understand it at all prior to our research. The basic premise of keto is that you eat high fat, moderate protein and low carb. Once your body is in a state of ketosis because your body has run of blood sugar as fuel (because you aren’t eating high carb anymore), it will start breaking down fat, which will cause weight loss. (Note: I stink at explaining the science behind it, but you can find this information on the web.)

There’s a lot to think about when one first starts this diet, the first being what the heck to eat. So many things are “off-limits” because they contain more carbohydrates in one serving than I now eat per day. For example, an apple has just about as many carbs as I eat in a day, so I don’t eat them. Yes, it’s natural sugar versus a processed sugar, but those sugars still contribute to blood sugar spikes and then cravings. Raspberries and blackberries aren’t as bad, however, and we can still have those in small servings. They are full of vitamins, too. I wasn’t a big berry fan in the past, but we recently bought raspberries and I’m actually eating them with my lunch now.

Some other things we had to figure out when we first started started:

  1. Macronutrients: Looking at the macronutrients in the foods we normally ate. When i think of how much sugar and carbs we consumed, it’s no wonder I always had brain fog during the day or those crashes at around 3 p.m. Those don’t happen anymore.
  2. Meal planning: we absolutely have to meal plan diligently now. My husband actually plans all his food in the Carb Manager app the night before. I generally know what I’m eating, but I don’t log the day before. Sometimes I do it the morning of when I’m logging my first foods of the day, though. There’s little wiggle room to not plan. This is good for our new lifestyle, but it’s also helped eliminate unexpected convenience dinner expenses, like quick trips to the store after work or take out. We also have to meal plan so we (and the kids) don’t get bored.
  3. On the go: We have to have snacks we can eat with us all the time. We have both traveled for work since we started and I had little packs of almonds, as well as some Love Good Fats bars with me. The net carbs (net carbs are total carbs minus dietary fiber) in the bars comes out to five, which can be a lot when you try to stay below 20, but I always try to have one on in my bag just in case. I’d rather have that and go over my daily allotment than be starving somewhere and have to eat something that’s even worse for me. (I love these bars and I have not been compensated for saying this at all. I just think they are really good.)
  4. Eating out: there’s a lot to consider. I went out with girlfriends the first week we did this and had meatballs as an app (although there were probably bread crumbs in them, which I didn’t consider) and a steak tip salad with oil and vinegar. I’ve learned to ask for substitutions. I get burgers without buns. If I can get a good quality steak and some good vegetables that aren’t loaded with carbs, I’m good. Grilled chicken works, too, but I have to be careful of my protein.
  5. Our grocery bill: our grocery budget increased by about $200 per month initially, but we are finding ways to lower it a bit. We are checking out butcher’s prices, we have a BJ’s membership and they have some grass-fed meat options and we take advantage of sales when we can. Whole Foods had a great price on chicken thighs and grass-fed ground beef a few weeks ago and I got a bunch of it to freeze. I feel like the grocery bill is starting to stabilize a bit. We might be buying more of something or better quality foods, but we are buying less convenience crap, so it’s balancing out. But I can’t even completely blame keto on the increase—we have two teenage boys who are eating more so we are realizing that how much meat we allot for a meal might need to increase just because they are eating more.

So those were some initial challenges. The questions from people like, “So you can’t eat this?” or “Are you ever going to eat X again?” or “What do you mean you won’t have X? It’s a special occasion” are a pain sometimes. I don’t question vegans or others about why they don’t eat something, but it seems like people sometimes can’t understand why someone wouldn’t eat carbs or sugar. I often tell people that I don’t know what my stomach will do if I have anything carby now (it was sensitive before I started keto) and I don’t want to find out and that usually quiets most people. Doing this has also made me realize that it’s so easy to justify a “special occasion” when you want to eat something junky. We always have a lot of food in my office and I’m no longer partaking in all these random celebrations that call for snacks and sweets. And as much as I love Easter candy, I limited myself to about a dozen jelly beans and called it good. I love them, but they weren’t worth it. I will, however, have a small sliver of cake in June when we celebrate the boys’ birthdays at a family cookout. Their birthdays are four days apart, we have one family celebration and my oldest turns 18 this year. If that’s not a reason to have a sliver of cake, I don’t know what is. But we’ve already decided we are limiting everything else. Gluttony doesn’t have to be on the menu that day.  

Are you doing keto? What other advice do you have? What other challenges have you faced with this lifestyle? Connect with me on Facebook and let me know.

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