Before launching into the details of the ketogenic diet, it is important to understand some basic principles about eating well, which foods to eat, and which to avoid.
The general principle of the ketogenic diet is low carb, high fat, and adequate protein from good healthy sources. As mentioned before, calories come in lots of different forms, so a good start is to get to know what these are.
Pure fats come in their natural state from their original food. This includes animal fat, avocados, eggs, coconuts, seeds, nuts, olives, and fish fat.
Tampered fats are modified versions of the above like olive oil, butter, coconut butter, vegetable oils, and fish oils.
“Ugly” fats are further processed fats, such as trans-fats (which you’ve no doubt heard of!). Trans-fat foods are easy to identify these days because the word “hydrogenated” is included somewhere in the ingredients. That’s partially, fully, or whatever kind of hydrogenated.
Ideally most of your fats on a ketogenic diet should come from the family of pure fats, with some from the tampered fats. Try to avoid ugly fats entirely. There are too many different types of foods for me to provide a comprehensive list, but the easiest way to ensure you are mainly eating from the pure fats category is to ask yourself if it has been altered in anyway and to try to prepare the majority of your food from raw ingredients.
Lean protein such as chicken, tuna, turkey — anything which is nearly all protein and nothing else.
Fatty protein such as eggs, most red meat, fatty fish, cottage cheese, etc.
Dairy which tends to be a combination of fat, carbs and protein.
There is no general rule regarding the above, and is provided more for knowledge and awareness. It is helpful knowing whether your food is a combination (fat / protein) or pure protein because it’ll help you to balance your diet.
Dairy agrees with some people more than others. Once I removed dairy from my diet I felt far less bloated after meals and generally had more energy. Try with / without for one week and see how you feel.
Ketogenic is a very low carbohydrate diet, but the aim is not to eliminate them completely.
Complex carbs come in two varieties gluten containing (wheat, rye, paste, bread etc.) and non-gluten containing (rice, potatoes, quinoa, beans etc.).
Simple carbs such as fruit
Vegetables – where possible try to eat fresh rather than frozen (I recommend these as they are high in vitamins, fiber and minerals).
“Ugly” carbs which are mostly processed sugars (think biscuits, sweets/candy etc.)
Try to stick to complex carbs with some simple carbs and at least one cup of vegetables every day. It goes without saying, avoid processed or ugly carbs as much as possible.
Consider toying with the gluten vs gluten free. I found my body reacted much better to gluten free foods (love quinoa!).
Total Carbs vs Net Carbs
There is a debate about which to measure when on the diet for your calorie intake.
Total Carbs is the total amount of all of the carbs that you eat.
Net Carbs, however, is total carbs minus fiber carbs.
This can be confusing, isn’t a carb a carb? Not when it is not digested and goes straight through you.
The theory is that fiber is not digested, hence does not contain any calories and should not contribute towards your calorie count. However this has the added complexity of soluble vs insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber (by definition) is not absorbed and has no calories, whereas soluble fiber (by definition) is absorbed.
Unfortunately the science behind this is conflicting with several experts providing different views.
From my experience, net carbs worked best for me. And it is this which I recommend. The one caveat with this is most food labels do not show net carbs, hence you will have to deduct the fiber from total carbs each time (and just assume most of the fiber is insoluble to make your life easier).