The Keto Diet: A Beginner's Guide

Fat is back.

That's the premise behind the wildly popular keto diet, which is a high-fat, low-carb diet that has many reported health benefits, from weight loss to lowered blood sugar. It may sound counter-intuitive that a high-fat diet helps you lose weight, but the ketogenic diet has been studied for decades and has significant medical backing. Keto actually started back in the early 1900s as a way to control seizures in children with epilepsy. Doctors found that by restricting carbohydrates and introducing high levels of fat as nutrition, they were able to switch the body's metabolism to a state of ketosis, resulting in lowered blood sugar and improved neurological function. Normally, the body and brain use glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates for energy. However, our ancestors didn't always have access to an abundance of carbohydrates and the human body adapted to utilize fat for fuel when carbohydrates were scarce. This is the state of ketosis -- where the body uses ketones, created by the liver, for fuel.


The Goal of Keto:

The goal of keto is to reach and maintain the state of ketosis -- a state of metabolism where your body's preferential energy source switches from carbohydrates to fat. The typical macronutrient ratio for a keto diet is 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5-10% carbs. This means you should focus on getting a majority of your calories from high-quality fats such as grass-fed butter, pastured eggs, and coconut. Limiting carbohydrates and protein is crucial, since higher levels of either can prevent ketosis.


How Do You Know When You're In Ketosis?

The three types of ketones — acetone, beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate — can be measured in your breath, blood or urine.


Foods to Eat on Keto:

-High-Quality, Grass-Fed, Local Meats: Pastured Beef, Pork, Lamb & Poultry

-Pastured Eggs

-High-Fat, Low-Carb Fish & Seafood: Wild Salmon, Fatty Tuna, Trout & Sardines

-Grass-Fed Butter & Ghee

-High-Fat, Low-Carb Nuts & Seeds: Brazil Nuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Macademia; Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds

-Avocado

-Low-Sugar Fruits: Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries


Foods to Avoid on Keto:

-Grains: Bread, Cookies, Crackers, Rice

-Starchy Vegetables: Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Carrots, Peas, Yams

-Beans & Legumes

-Sugar: Dried Fruits, Fruit Juice, Bananas, Pineapple, Mango, Grapes

-Processed Foods

-Processed Vegetable Oils


What to Watch Out For on Keto:

-Be sure you drink plenty of water.

-Be sure you get enough sleep and moderate exercise.

-Be sure you are eating plenty of high-fiber vegetables.

-Be sure you are consuming high-quality fats, such as pastured eggs, locally-raised beef, pork and lamb, and grass-fed butter. Avoid processed vegetable oils and trans fats.


Sample Keto Meal Plan:

Monday:

Breakfast: Fried Eggs with Bacon

Lunch: Avocado-Cucumber Gazpacho

Dinner: Zucchini Chicken Alfredo


Tuesday

Breakfast: Kielbasa Omelette w/ Sauteed Greens

Lunch: Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Dinner: Wild Salmon with Asparagus


Wednesday:

Breakfast: Green Smoothie with Coconut Oil, Cucumber, Avocado, Celery, Spinach & Almond Milk

Lunch: Spinach Salad with Avocado & Bacon

Dinner: Bratwurst with Mustard & Kraut


Thursday:

Breakfast: Chia Bowl with Coconut, Almond Milk & Berries

Lunch: Zucchini Noodles with Parmesan Pesto

Dinner: Steak Stir-fry with Veggies


Friday:

Breakfast: Bone Broth

Lunch: Lamb Meatballs over Greens

Dinner: Spicy Chicken Wings with Ranch

Saturday:

Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo

Lunch: Cheesy Stuffed Mushrooms

Dinner: Cauliflower Casserole


Sunday:

Breakfast: Ham & Cheese Omelette

Lunch: Merguez Sausage with Sauteed Onions & Chard

Dinner: Grass-Fed Steak & Leafy Green Salad


Tips for Starting Keto:

Since keto is a long-term, highly restrictive diet with potential health risks for certain individuals, check with your doctor first to make sure that the keto diet is safe for you. Then, check in with yourself -- why do you want to go keto? What are your goals, and how will you know when you've accomplished them? Spend two weeks researching keto and transition into a low-carb diet to get used to your new eating habits. You may want to invest in tools to measure your ketone levels, purchase coconut or MCT oil for bulletproof coffee, download keto apps to track your progress, and find local ranchers who raise grass-fed animals and pastured eggs. Plan on eating at home the majority of the time, and create a meal plan with several easy recipes that can become your go-to meals. Think about how you will order at restaurants -- what is the keto version of your favorite meals? Go through your cupboards and toss any processed vegetable oils, sugary and high-carb foods such as breads, pasta, candy and cookies. Find keto alternatives to your current favorite foods (dark chocolate, anyone?). Do the math and figure out how much fat, protein, and carbs you will need to reach and maintain ketosis. Find a diet buddy who can help keep you on track. Remember that keto is a commitment, and it can take up to a month until you are in full ketosis. Be patient with yourself, and keep your goals in mind.

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