I turned 40 last year and while I do not feel any mid-life crisis coming on (but if I do I am going to make sure it is something fun!), I did take it as a chance to reflect on my life so far and any changes I needed to make. I have suffered terrible stomach aches after I eat for the past two years and because I knew deep down what it was, I did nothing about it because I was not in a place where I was ready to give up those things. When I finally was ready, I started eating Keto. If you are curious about this lifestyle and want to know my tips for eating Keto, keep reading :) If not, that's okay too. I have a big room makeover reveal coming soon so you can just come back for that. I'll still love you.
I had heard about the "diet" called Keto early last year and started to read a ton of information on it. I tend to research the crap out of pretty much anything before I take a plunge. Vacations, products, etc. Basically it is a no sugar, no grains lifestyle. It is also a low carb diet. The idea is that since you are not eating very many carbs, that your body will burn the fat instead. While eliminating my stomach pain was my main goal and motivation, I do have some extra weight I need to drop. I figured if I could tackle both with the same change in diet, then it was a win, win.
Tips For Eating Keto
Questions about Keto
I'm going to answer some questions I have received real quick and then I am going to share my favorite recipes and resources with you. I hope those of you considering this will find it helpful in making your decision.
Why didn't you just count calories to lose the weight?
I kind of already answered this one, but for those of you who skim (it's okay, I'm a skimmer too!), I will talk about it again real quick ;) My main goal was to eliminate the things that were irritating my stomach. I knew there was a good chance it was gluten and possibly sugar. I decided to cut them out and see if things improved.
How can you survive not eating sugar?
I am addicted to sugar. I didn't know how long I could actually go without it. On Keto, you not only cut out refined sugar, but things like honey, maple syrup, and most fruits. But there are natural sweeteners like Stevia and Monk Fruit that have come to my sweet tooth rescue! Swerve, and Lakanto Monk Fruit blend are my favorite.
It was really hard the first few days but I got over the craving faster than I thought I would. While I do miss some candies (black licorice!) I have enough other options that I do just fine.
What is the Keto Flu and did you get it?
Some people experience what is called the Keto flu in the first few days. Mild flu like symptoms can happen 3-5 days after eliminating sugar and gluten. This is just your body adjusting. Or going into withdrawal. I am not sure if I experienced it or not to be honest. I had had "the runs" and stomach aches for almost two years so I didn't notice a difference. After a couple of days though, no more stomach pain!
So what CAN you eat?
Lots! While everyone is different, the general guidelines are that 75% of your diet is healthy fats and vegetables. 20% of your diet is protein like meat and dairy. The last 5% of your diet is carbohydrates. Almost every single dinner recipe I made in the past I can still make. Some require modifications, but it was more seamless than I thought it would be. And because the natural sweeteners have no carbs, I can eat dessert too!
Are you going to do this forever?
I, like most people, consider Keto to be somewhat temporary. I had originally planned to do this for 6 months and then re-evaluate. Partly because I didn't think I could last that long. This Keto journey has been so much easier than I thought and I don't mind it at all. I am almost to the 6 month mark and will be just fine to do another 6 months.
When I reach my goal weight, I plan to stay off gluten and sugar but add more carbs back into my diet like black beans, rice, fruit, etc. I will start slowly so I can see if any of those irritate my stomach. I will also lower the amount of fat. Eating this way is often called "lazy Keto". I see this as a very sustainable way of eating for me.
How much have you lost? And do you have to exercise?
I have lost 23 pounds in a little over 5 months. While not jaw dropping, it is the most weight I have ever lost. When Shane and I had a gym membership, we went to the gym 3-4 days a week together and even hired a personal trainer for a year. In a year and a half I had only lost 15 pounds. Ugh. Also, I am okay with losing the weight a little slower because it is healthy to go at a slow and steady pace and hopefully my skin won't sag as much (please tell me that is true!).
I do exercise most days. They key to fat loss is to keep your heart rate from getting too high. My activity of choice is going for a brisk walk for 3-5 miles. We have lots of hills in our neighborhood so I hit them all. This winter, on days that are too cold for a walk, I have been doing the stationary bike and my new rowing machine (which was inexpensive and I LOVE). It hardly takes up any space, especially when folded up and stored upright.
To get my goal weight I still have to lose about 30-ish pounds.
What is the biggest downside?
It is relatively expensive. I say "relativity" because I am cheap. I am a bargain shopper and it is hard for me to spend $25 on a big bag of natural sweetener when I could get the same size bag of refined sugar for $4. There are also a lot of ingredients that I never bought before that are now staples like xanthum gum, almond flour, coconut flour, etc.
The second downside is that it is more time consuming because you have to make everything. No more opening up a bag of tortillas. Nope. You have to make the dough, roll them out and then cook them. Convenience, for the most part is gone. I already made most everything from scratch but for those who do not cook every night, this could be a challenge.
Where do I start?
Do your own research. Don't just take my word for it. Also, everyone is different so it may not be a good fit for you. If you have any health concerns, please see a doctor and discuss this with them. I have a full physical in a couple of months and I am hoping to see good updates from my tests.
I printed off Keto food lists so I could have a list of foods to avoid. I like to have a carb count chart too of most the common foods. I just googled "keto food list" and then looked at all the images and picked one I felt had the info I needed. There are a ton to choose from!
I wrote down a list of every meal I normally make and decided what alterations to the recipe I needed to make. For example, if a recipe called for a rue (butter, flour, milk) then I use xanthum gum or heavy whipping cream to thicken it. If you aren't sure, head to Pinterest and search (like "keto pizza crust").
What is the best way to keep track of how much of each category you are eating?
I use My Fitness Pal. It is an app and you can log your food each day. There is a section where you can add your own recipes and it will figure out the nutrition info for you. It was a huge pain to manually enter all my go-to recipes but I only had to do it the one time. It was worth it to know exactly what percentage was fat, protein, carbs, etc. It is so easy to eat more carbs and calories than you thought you ate, especially if you snack a lot. Even if you don't use this app, you need to keep some sort of food journal.
Favorite Recipes and Products
Overall, I have been surprised that I do not miss bread. There are times though, when a sandwich sounds good. This is my favorite bread recipe I have found. I have tried several and this one uses less eggs than the others so tastes less eggy.
I bought this cookbook that a friend suggested and have really liked all the things I have tried. I use her "noodle" recipe to make manicotti and lasagna. I have changed up her granola recipe a tiny bit but even without the changes it is amazing. You HAVE to try the walnut cinnamon streusel muffins. They are to DIE for! The beginning of the book is my favorite because she gives so many important tips and information. There is hidden sugar in so many things we buy. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayo, etc. It is shocking how many things have sugar! Speaking of sauces, she has great recipes for no sugar versions!
I still have a sweet tooth. The good thing is that instead a giant bag of peanut butter M&Ms, a small handful of sugar free chocolate chips totally curbs my craving. It still blows my mind. I was so addicted! Here are my favorite treats.
I talked about this in my "favorite things" post. Choc Zero tastes just like regular chocolate. It uses monk fruit to sweeten it instead of sugar. The little bars are about the size of a credit card and so dang good!!! You can buy all the flavors of the bark on Amazon. They also have chocolate chips and syrups on their website. We have the caramel, maple, and chocolate and I want to try the coconut.
Sometimes I can't wait the week or so for Choco Zero to ship so I run to my local grocery store and get a bag of Lily's chocolate chips. They only have dark chocolate but they are still really good. I'm a milk chocolate gal...
Rebel ice cream tastes just like regular ice cream! This brand of ice cream is specifically made to be Keto. Harmon's carries the most flavors in our area and Smith's (Kroger) has a pretty good good selection too. You can check their website to see all the grocery stores that carry it.
BERRIES & CREAM
Berries are the only fruit you can have while on keto. They happen to be my favorite fruit so I am good with that. I add a little cream and some sweetener and it is awesome!
There is a local company called Keto Cakes that make cheesecakes and cupcakes and cookies (Oh my!) They are amazing!!! But don't worry, even if you don't live in Utah, you can still have some. They ship!
My sister-in-law who has a lot of diet restrictions introduced us to this soda long before Shane and I started keto. Zevia only has carbonated water, stevia, and natural flavorings. It pretty much has a version of every kind of soda you can think of. While some do not taste good to me (I'm a root beer snob and only like A&W), some are really good! My favorite is the grapefruit one that tastes like Fresca and Squirt. I have found them at Walmart and all the other grocery stores in our area. Health food stores tend to carry more flavors. Walmart only has a few. You can get on their website and put your zip code in and it will show all the stores in your area PLUS the flavors at that store.
Of all the gluten filled food items, I miss pasta the most. I did find this yummy recipe that totally works!
My favorite recipe I have found though has got to be this tortilla recipe. I like them better than regular ones. I bought this tortilla press since we make these all the time. Best $25 bucks I ever spent. We use these tortillas for fajitas, tacos, wraps, and we cut them up and bake them to make chips!
I've added all the keto recipes I have tried and liked to a Pinterest board. I'll keep adding to it as I try new recipes.
This post has been so wordy already, and I feel like I covered most everything but if I missed anything that you were wondering about, comment below and I will do my best to answer. And if you have also tried keto, I'd love to hear your tips for eating keto!
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