In September of 2016, I embarked on a journey into the world of Ketogenic (aka Keto) Eating. This is THE currently hot trend in eating, eschewing the formerly popularized high-carb, low-fat Standard American Diet for a high-fat, low-carbohydrate regime instead. Even I was skeptical at first, but decided to commit after doing my signature boatload of research. Eight months later, neither I nor my body could be happier and I am ready to teach and inspire YOU to learn more, too!
What is Keto?
In simplest terms, Keto is short for “ketogenic”, which means “generating ketones”. Ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of fat in the liver and can be used as an energy source for all of the operations of the human body, and are actually the preferred energy sources of the kidneys and heart. They are also an easily adapted-to and great option for fueling the brain when blood glucose, a product of carbohydrate breakdown, is restricted.
Ten weeks until my trip to Cartagena, and I am determined to be in my best shape possible for bikini weather! Already addicted to the #keto lifestyle, this is the kind of #delicious suffering I’m going to have to put up with at each meal: garlic sautéed baby spinach topped with two #pastured#cagefree #eggs and honey-smoked salmon, all #organic and #sogood!! 27g protein, 3g net carbs, 28g fat – #getinmybelly!
In fact, ketogenic diets have long been considered brain-healing diets, and used since the 1920’s to treat pediatric epilepsy. More recently, they have been shown in scientific studies to help with a great number of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, but the health benefits are not limited to the brain.
In his 2015 book “Natural Born Heroes”, author Christopher McDougall recounts a tale of the Greek isle of Crete during WWII and the naturally ketogenic diets of the island’s inhabitants. Weaving in information about natural fitness, the origin of modern society’s reliance on grain, and verified anecdotes about increased physical endurance, ability, and agility, McDougall makes a very compelling case for the low carb, high fat way of life. (Personal note: it’s a long read, but absolutely gripping! I very highly recommend it and promise you will learn about a lot more than just Keto, from history to what helped Robert Downey, Jr beat his past addictions and so many more interesting facts!)
How Do You Eat Keto?
It’s simple, really.
- Eat healthy fats (butter, cheese, coconut oil, avocado, macadamia nuts, olives & olive oil, etc), protein (in the form of eggs, meat, fish, poultry, and certain plant-based options), nonstarchy vegetables (greens, alliums, cruciferous veggies, radishes, zucchini & summer squash, etc), and minimal fruit* restricted primarily to fresh berries and tomatoes.
- Avoid grains, grain based products, sugar and high sugar fruits and vegetables, starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, butternut squash, pumpkin, etc), most legumes except in small amounts
Early #workout, early #lunch to satisfy my #postworkout needs! It may look like I’m enjoying myself at a barbecue, but this plate is literally ALL of the good things: #organic #glutenfree #grainfee#dairyfree #paleo #keto #goodforyou and most importantly, #delicious! FAUXtato salad made with turnips + tarragon + celery + avocado mayo, @sonomabrinery mild smokey chipotle #probiotic sauerkraut, and simplest salt & pepper baked chicken thighs. With 31g protein, 11g fat, 6 net carbs, 100% of RDA Vitamin C, and only 271 calories, this is a kickass source of post workout fuel! And so #yummy and #lowcarb!
Wikipedia caps out the amount of daily carbs at 60 grams per day, but a host of Keto websites offer a range of 20 – 100 grams per day, and there are still differing opinions about whether or not you should be subtracting the fiber from your carb total to use “net carbs”.
And before we go any further, I want to clarify a few things:
- You CAN eat Keto and vegetarian or vegan at the same time
- You CAN eat Keto and Paleo at the same time
- You CAN eat Keto and accommodate almost any other special diet out there
What Happened When I Started Eating a Ketogenic Diet?
Even in the first month (and the photo above is the comparison of Keto for 1 month vs Keto for 2 months), I was realizing – making real – both visible and invisible positive changes.
- Near-immediate weight loss
- Decrease in chronic inflammation and pain within my body
- Water weight melted off, and that bloated look became SO last season…
- I experienced swiftly decreasing body fat percentage
- My skin went from good to great, and my hair and nails got to growing like crazy
- The circumference of my waist, thighs, legs, arms, EVERYWHERE shrunk
- My brain started working with greater speed and creativity skyrocketed.
- Writing, complex thought, and decision-making became effortless as my ability to focus for longer and longer periods of time developed.
- My desire for afternoon naps disappeared, and abrupt cravings for food vanished
- My get-up-and-go started earlier in the day
- My sleep shifted from restless and challenging to begin to restful and pretty immediate
- I started a daily meditation practice shortly after beginning Keto, but I think the diet itself had a positive effect on reducing anxiety and stress levels
After 7 months, I had a full blood panel as well as an abdominal ultrasound as part of an in-depth check-up with my GP, and when the results came back, it was revealed that I am essentially the healthiest person in America. Perfect cholesterol, insanely low triglycerides, amazing blood pressure, squeaky clean liver-kidneys-gallbladder-pancreas-aorta, flawless blood sugar, exemplary liver enzymes, ideal insulin levels, lower-than-low heart disease risk, you name it! And all of this while eating bacon, butter, avocados, brie, steak – 125 – 150 or more fat grams per day (and lots and lots of veggies…).
I am a clean-eatin’, whole-foods-promotin’, organic lovin’ lady chef on a mission to make myself and all of the people I can reach and teach healthier. It is seriously MY VOCATION. But I have got to be honest here – I am not nor will I ever be a food snob or judgemental jerk.
I myself am not perfect. There are times when I indulge in a pre-made keto-friendly food, like Quest chips or bars. Sometimes I NEED chocolate, and I eat sugar free versions of things I buy at the corner drugstore every so often. And if I am being served lunch or dinner and there are a few pieces of apple or even a couple of steamed or roasted fingerling potatoes in the mix, I usually still clean my plate.
I was super strict for a full 6 weeks to ensure that my body was “fat-adapted”, now trained to choose fat for fuel over glucose. A bite of risotto – and I literally mean a bite, not a huge dish – does not derail my ketosis, though it will get burned through first. My body just jumps right back into burning fat after it’s done with the glucose, not causing the carbolicious cravings that it used to mere hours after eating gluten-free, organic macaroni and cheese.
Believe it or not, this is what a #keto #lunch looks like! Uncured @columbusmeats pastrami + @sonomabrinery raw smokey chipotle sauerkraut + avocado mayo + Dijon mustard on a @ketodiet_app ultimate Keto bun with caraway seeds = a #paleo#sandwich to write home about, especially since I pressed it in a panini maker! With a side of #organic greens and some @questnutrition protein chips, this entire meal clocked in at less than 5 net carbs. You know, #weightloss never tasted so good.
But my habits are forever changed, as are my ideas about indulgence. My brain has been rewired, and that is literally restructuring the way that my genes express themselves. I will talk more about epigenetics and diet in a future post, but to get a basic understanding, I found this to be a great article to help explain the basics – and FYI, THIS is also a super hot & trending topic right now, too!
This is a journey that is still, as far as I am concerned, only in its beginning stages. Even as I am still working at it – although “work” is a very strong word considering how much I am enjoying the food, the flavors, the process, and the way I feel – I feel that it is time to start teaching others.
My focus is still going to be organic and gluten free. I still feel very passionately about incorporating tons of yummy plant-based options into my repertoire. But I want to give you a heads up that you are about to experience Keto according to Chef Nicole, and you can look forward to:
- nourishing and delicious recipes that accommodate all sorts of special diets but will wow the pants off everybody
- well-researched articles to teach you more about healthy, optimal living with targeted nutrition
- and probably a lot of funny stories, facts, videos, and graphics
- BUT DON’T WORRY – everything you already knew and loved about my cuisine and services are still going to be available!
Though in planning stages, I am currently designing Keto classes and workshops to be held in both corporate and retreat settings.
If you have any questions about Keto, combining it with Paleo, making it plant-based, or more, please let me know in the comments and I will answer as quickly as possible. I am so excited to be on this journey and can’t wait to share more!
What do you think? Do you have any questions or opinions about Keto to share?
HUGE HUGS – Chef Nicole