Following a metabolic reset period out of the doldrums of carbohydrate dependence, your body will now be primed to start the fat adapted journey to going keto. The general guideline for a macronutrient profile of a ketogenic programme is constructed as follows:
- 65-75% caloric intake from fat,
- 15-25% caloric intake from protein,
- 5-10% caloric intake from carbohydrates (50g or less of carbs per day)
This framework allows for generous macronutrient intake from adequate protein and plenty of vegetables. It is important however to ensure that the source of your food choices are as pure and as close to the original food form (not processed), as possible. Whole, nutrient dense foods are paramount. Let’s review in more detail.
The majority of your food intake in terms of volume should come from vegetables that are grown ‘above the ground’– these are often the most nutrient dense vegetables and are lower in carbohydrates. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, rocket and lettuce are high- fibre vegetable options. Zucchini, cucumber, celery, peppers, brussel sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, green beans, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms are also fantastic low carbohydrate, satiating vegetable options.
To ensure effective nutritional ketosis, avoid root vegetables and tubers which have a high carbohydrate index (sweet potato, carrots, butternut and the like).
It is very important however that you equip yourself with the knowledge of what the macronutrient and carbohydrate profile is of the various vegetables.
Fish, chicken, beef, ostrich, lamb, venison and pork are all great protein options on keto- provided they are free of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives or additives such as MSG and hidden carb sources in fillers/ binders/ bulkers (often found in boerewors and other sausages). Smoke-cured bacon is delicious- but it is important to always check the packaging as concealed sugars and flavourants may be added to this and other cured meats. Eggs are a nutritious source of protein as is homemade bone broth.
As South Africans, we must be cautious with our passion for biltong as an overabundance of protein can inhibit ketosis. This is due to the volume of protein we end up ingesting because biltong is dehydrated (and so moreish!) and often results in us consuming more than the recommended 15-25% daily macronutrient intake.
Whilst the majority of your volumous food intake is from vegetables, the majority of your calories on a keto diet will come from fat. It is important to choose wholesome sources of fat such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, full-fat cheese, butter or cream, as well as fattier cuts of meat and fish such as salmon.
Nuts are a healthy source of fat but should be consumed in moderation and also considered as a contributor towards your protein intake.
It is very important to avoid seed oils or any liquid fat that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
Water (still or sparkling!) is the ideal choice- aim to drink 30ml per kg of body weight. So a 70kg body weight would then equate to 2.1 litres per day. Tea and coffee are permitted but try to limit this to a maximum of 3 cups per day.
Reprogamming yourself to move from low fat or fat free dairy options to full fat milk or yoghurt may be one of the biggest mind challenges you face! Dairy does contain natural sugars so it is important to be sparing in your consumption. Opt for raw, soft and hard cheeses. Fermented drinks like kefir are permitted but again, be mindful of the carb content.
Spices and herbs
Fresh or dried herbs can be used in abundance along with ‘raw’ spices– those that don’t contain any artificial colourants, flavourants and MSG. Add these liberally to your protein and veg for uplifting and bright flavours.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds offer a good source of essential minerals and healthy fats but they can also be higher in carbohydrates so it’s important to monitor your snacking habits. The best lower carb/ high fat nut options include macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans and hazelnuts whilst some of the higher carb options to avoid include pistachios, cashews, walnuts and almonds.
Sugars, sauces and condiments
In general, it is best to stay away from all sauces and condiments (unless you make them yourself and can vouch for the ingredients!) as they often contain hidden sugars, preservatives and additives that are detrimental to the clean objective of a keto lifestyle. With sugar ruled out, many clients still yearn for a little sweetness. In these circumstances it is best to opt for natural sweeteners such as monk fruit or stevia as they have no or low glycemic index impact. Artificial sweeteners and liquids such as xylitol and erythritol are tolerated by many keto advocates but I would steer away from these due to their artificial nature.
Measuring your progress
It is vitally important to measure your ketogenic progress by measuring your ketones. This empirical measure gives you a real time view of if you are in ketosis and how your body is responding.