Anyone who’s done the ketogenic diet knows that most of the food available to us is shit–carbs, processed sugar, loads of preservatives and other nasty things. Seriously, there’s a reason people get fat, and a big reason is because they bring and/or eat the carby, sugary foods everyone decides to bring to work.
So, in the spirit of helping my ketogenic brothers and sisters, here are some hacks you can use to eat well and stay keto:
1) Keep snacks on hand
Hard boiled eggs, nuts, beef jerky, etc. It’s super key to have a stash of snacks–at work, home, in the car, etc.–available so that if hunger calls, you can answer.
A few of my favorites:
- Mixed nuts of any kind–Costco has a giant jar that I buy.
- Pre-made hard boiled eggs. These can be bought at just about any grocery store and often at convenience stores like 7-11.
- Bags of beef/turkey/chicken/salmon jerky (I don’t personally eat jerky because heartburn, but it’s a great option for Keto–just be sure to check the sugar).
- Sting cheese, sliced cheese, cheese packs, etc.
- Avocados–sprinkle a little salt on it, or sriracha, and it’s a delicious and satisfying snack
- Canned sardines–I promise they taste better than you think.
- Pre-cooked meat of any kind. Obviously this takes some planning, but instead of grilling up a few burgers for dinner, grill a bunch and then wrap them in foil and bring them to work.
- Boxed salad and dressing–a quick way to get your greens. If you combine with the above, you’ve got a nice little lunch.
- Cut celery and peanut/almond butter.
I could go on, but do what works for you. The point is to have some sort of snack you can eat quickly without a lot of fuss, especially when everyone else is gorging on the store bought cookies one of your co-workers brought in.
2) Pre-made lunches
You can keep these simple or get super fancy, but having a pre-made lunch is a huge key to being successful on the diet. As I mentioned above, I’ll often cook up a bunch of meat on the weekend, then cut it up into small pieces, buy a box of salad and some dressing, and then eat salads for lunch all week. If I’m smart and on point I’ll add half an avocado, hard-boiled eggs, cucumber, sautéed asparagus and/or mushrooms, and any other seasonal veggies I feel like adding for something that feels more gourmet. As with the beef jerky, check that your salad dressing doesn’t have a ton of sugar or carbs (blue cheese, ranch, oil and vinegar all work).
Other good options:
- Bun-less cheeseburgers with celery and dressing.
- Chicken thighs and grilled portobello mushrooms.
- Tuna salad lettuce cups.
- Keto sandwiches–meat, cheese, bacon, avocado, mayo and mustard between Romaine or Red Lettuce leaves.
- Grilled salmon with sautéed asparagus and mushrooms.
3) Eating out and fast food options
I’ve seen a lot of people complain that it’s difficult to eat out on the keto diet, but really, it’s not. And the hack is simple–cut the carbs.
Take the typical lunch order of a sandwich or burger that comes with french fries or chips–sub lettuce for the buns or ask that it’s served on a bed of greens, and then ask them to give you a side salad instead of the taters. Sure, some restaurants will up-sell you on the salad, but that’s a small price to pay to stay in ketosis.
You can do the same thing at breakfast–sub a salad for toast with your omelette, and ask for grilled or sautéed veggies instead of hashbrowns–or at dinner–again, sub veggies for the starch, and swap bread for lettuce.
Another option if you’re traveling or on the run is to get fast food. Most places are good about either serving a burger with lettuce buns or on top of lettuce–Wendy’s in particular does a good job with this. And if they won’t, just take the buns off the sandwich and you’re good to go. A word to the wise: chicken nuggets should be keto, but they’re most often not. I don’t know exactly what they put in there, but it’s not meat and it has carbs. Gross.
4) Cheat days
Another thing you can do if you know you’re going out for a nice meal is cheat. I wouldn’t advise doing this more than once a week, but the beauty of the keto diet is that you can afford to screw up now and then as long as you get back on the wagon shortly thereafter.
So if your friends are meeting for beer and pizza on Friday night, have at it. But in the morning, put butter in your coffee, eat some eggs with avocado, and go hit the gym–you’ll be back in ketosis in the next 24 hours.
5) Learn to fast
This is probably the most difficult aspect of the diet, but it’s also the most effective.
Fasting isn’t for beginners on the diet–at that stage you’re better off to simply focus on eating keto friendly foods and eating enough so that you don’t feel super hungry.
However, as you get into the diet, you’ll find that you’re simply not as hungry as you used to be, and it’s at that point you should start fasting. One of the easy ways to get into fasting is to use the time you’re sleeping to get into it, and then allow yourself coffee in the morning and a very small snack in the middle of the day (a handful of nuts or a few hardboiled eggs). If your last meal was at 6pm Monday, Tuesday you fast (with your snack), and then wait to eat until lunch on Wednesday, congrats, you’ve fasted for 42 hours. Not bad.
Studies on intermittent fasting show that the more time you spend fasting the better, so in that sense, even if you can go 16 to 20 hours, that’s great. The ideal fast for health purposes, however, is three days, with some promise that doing a fast of this length several times a year may help to prevent cancer.
The good news about fasting is that you don’t need to do a serious fast more than once every couple months, especially if you throw in some intermittent fasting of 16 to 20 hours into your rotation.
For people who are used to eating three or four square meals a day, this may sound nuts, but learning to fast is a powerful tool in your arsenal, and like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Hope this helps, and if you have any keto related questions, send them my way! firstname.lastname@example.org