Is there an easier way to do a Keto diet?
September 20, 2019 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Here's what I've been reading about the Keto diet. I went on a Keto diet about a month ago, and I’m having trouble sticking to it. I really want just good simple fresh food without a lot of hassle. The “net carbs” approach sounds more like what I want to eat because you can eat more fresh greens and veggies, but I can’t get myself to calculate net carbs vs total carbs to save my life. So I try just using ballpark estimates of total carbs and I’m hardly eating veggies at all. Is there a simple way to learn to cook Keto with plenty of vegetables where I don’t need a calculator? I just want tasty meals and not just meat … simple but not boring. How do I do this?
posted by amartin to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
When I had prenatal diabetes, they basically gave us a free pass on any non-starchy veggies, so I'm assuming the net carbs there are pretty low.

There are also probably apps that'll calculate all this for you if you're willing to enter in the foods you eat. My favorite is Wholesome, but I think reddit's r/nutrition was recommending a different app that I've been meaning to check out. Those apps are a bit slow in the beginning, but soon you'll have all your commonly eaten foods and recipes on speed dial.
posted by slidell at 2:58 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I looked at lists of low-carb veggies and then did calculations for the veggies and dishes that I eat most frequently. Then, I could go autopilot without issue. Because the carb window is small for keto in order for it to work, you do have to calculate to stay in the lines. But, once you've done the calculations for the foods you often eat, it becomes way easier and automatic. I very much liked the calculators and lists that the Reddit /r/ keto board.
posted by quince at 3:03 PM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I operate largely on autopilot from a list I think of as "free food": meat and fish, the vegetables you can find on any keto "eat this" list (like scroll way down to the actual grid here, or this one), eggs, avocado; reasonable amount of dairy, a bit of almond or coconut flour, small amounts of nuts.

But, I mean, are you making net carbs harder than necessary? Total carbs minus fiber, and if those numbers are too high to do the math in your head, you can't have them. Still, in any case, it's easy enough to pick one of these lists, print it and stick it on the fridge, and don't worry about the totals just know you can eat them, and eat them.

In my dirty/lazy keto groups, we like to say "nobody got fat on broccoli". That's not entirely true, but you would be hard pressed to actually be defeated by a high-veg diet so long as you don't pick all the sweet ones.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:14 PM on September 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

A friend of mine is reading the book Ketofast and said that it addresses why some folks have a hard time sticking to keto as well as some tips to make it easier, so that might help.

I can't tell if you want specifically to be on a keto diet or if you want to be eating healthier in general? But this website gives an idea of the best keto veggies, so you might start out by focusing on their top ten.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:56 PM on September 20, 2019

The first 6 months is a lot of playing around. Figuring out what works and doesn't work for you. There's a lot of confusing Keto info out there -
Go Keto with Casey has Dr. Westman "page 4" list of foods you can have and foods to avoid. Casey says "stay under 20 carbs total; eat until you are full and don't eat if you are not hungry". I also like Amy at Tuit Nutrition, who talks about taking the crazy out of keto. They have similar approaches to Keto - following Dr. Westman's approach.
Carb Manager will measure your total and net carbs - but it's a lot of extra work inputting what you eat. I did it for the first 6 months until I had a pattern.
Keto Connect is another great site - lots of recipes, shopping lists and ideas. They just put out a keto food pyramid, with a shopping list.
Leanne Vogel focuses a lot on women and health. She has several steps by step keto cookbooks out - but her youtube channel covers a lot of topics (including vegan keto and vegetables). She is a "listen to your body" kind of approach.
Just keep reading and watching. Don't overthink it!.
posted by what's her name at 6:57 PM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've been off and on keto for about 4 years now. My first time was absolutely the hardest. Figuring it out was a big life improvement for me and I'm glad I stuck out the first round. Big things I had to work on the first time -

1) What do I truly like to eat on this diet and what will keep me from getting bored with my options
2) Planning to always have food on hand for when I just don't have the energy for even the simplest levels of cooking (salami, cheese, dippable green veggies, generally)
3) how hard to track carbs and how many carbs can I get away with. Turns out I get the benefits up to around 40-50g a day, so I don't have to go to the extreme route of skimping on veggies like onions or carrots. Can even do a bit of bread here and there.

I have all this dialed in now, the only challenge is motivation for running it the length I want to - roughly 4 months on and 4 months off, usually, and I don't have a high carb diet when I'm off it either. You didn't give us a lot of info but if you're skipping veggies like carrots because of the net carbs I'd personally reduce how strict you're being. Anything non-starchy should be ok unless you're getting to around the two month mark and finding that even the sugars in carrots triggers carb cravings.
posted by MillMan at 10:40 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really want just good simple fresh food without a lot of hassle. [yet wants to remain in ketosis, an intrinsically difficult thing to do in most places]

Strict keto is not for you then, without a lot of practice and adjustment and planning, which initially involves counting carbs. Sorry.
posted by lalochezia at 8:08 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

If it's above-ground and/or leafy, you're probably good ad libitum: broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Napa cabbage, lettuce, etc.

Sweet/starchy veggies tend to grow below ground, so you'll need to limit these more: sweet potato, onion, carrot, etc. These are higher in carbs.

In keto, you often hear the mantra "protein is a target, carbs are a ceiling, fat to satiety". What this means is that for optimal satiety and nutrition, you need to hit or slightly exceed your protein target and eat fat until you're full, while keeping carbs below the limit.

Usually for ketosis, people aim for a cap 20-25 g of carb. For protein, you can aim for 1g/lb of body weight (the "official" RDAs are kind of crazy low). High protein is great for satiety (i.e. feeling full / not feeling hungry) - for more about this, google "protein leverage".

If your main (or only) sources of carbs are above-ground, leafy vegetables, you'll probably stay in ketosis without obsessive macronutrient gram counting. Assuming you use these foods as a side dish (simply enhanced with a lot of butter and salt), it's unlikely you will get enough carbs to knock you out of ketosis. And they are extremely easy to prepare: microwave or stir fry with butter and salt.

Another option for the extremely hip and/or lazy is the carnivore diet. If you don't want to count your carbs, you can just zero them out completely! (semi-joking, but it's a real option and an increasing number of people are achieving results on the carnivore diet)
posted by theorique at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2019

Diet Doctor is also a good resource and has good recipes.
posted by theorique at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2019

I tried something like keto-lite for a few weeks. Ended up constipated+piles. Now I've given up on it. I guess my body got used to eating lots of wholegrain carbs - brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes. I think everyone's body is different. I'd love to chat to people who have successfully done keto and what they did/if they are actually healthy from the inside too as opposed to only losing weight. Not to discourage keto or anything, just adding my experience.
posted by philosophicalmusings at 9:55 PM on September 24, 2019

OMG - there are so many good answers with cookbooks and websites that look like incredible resources. It's gonna take me weeks to go through these. I've already gone down the rabbit hole on Lyn Never's answer where she has a link to where I found recipes for pumpkin pecan pie (made with cottage cheese) and pumpkin pudding (with whipping cream). Can these possibly be any good? I plan to try some of these recipes this weekend.
I have another question - about 10 years ago I went on Body for Life. Lost 15 lbs and worked fairly well. I lived next to a health club where daily exercise was convenient. One thing that worked great for me was having a "cheat day" one day a week; every Sunday I could eat anything I wanted. It was easier to stick to a stringent diet when I had Sunday to look forward to. Can you do a cheat day each week on a Keto diet? Does it ruin the diet or sort of actually work?
posted by amartin at 2:18 PM on September 26, 2019

I just discovered has an extensive YouTube channel with a good video called "How to Start a Keto Diet" - their videos look very high quality.
posted by amartin at 9:08 AM on September 27, 2019

The value of a cheat day depends on your own habits and tendencies.

Does it help you stay on the path the other six days of the week? If so, then it might be a good way to make the habit sustainable over the long term.

Do you spend the week grudgingly eating your "permitted" foods, praying for the day when you can go haywire and stuff yourself with "forbidden" foods? This might not be such a good thing. It can also creep from one day a week to "oh well, Saturday night is basically Sunday", to "it's ok if I have a cheat weekend this one time, this brunch place is so good". (Speaking from personal experience of slippage.)

One plus of refraining from cheat days is that your palate adjusts, and formerly bland foods start to seem sweeter. If you're resetting your expectations every week, this happens slower or not at all.
posted by theorique at 9:38 AM on September 27, 2019

I know this sounds a little hoity-toity, but I heard from my neighbor that a personal chef got her over the hurdle of figuring out some Keto meals — including some cooking classes. That might help. She told me she found the right Keto personal chef here — and was happy with the results. Those chefs are located all over the SF Bay Area — so might be an option for anyone there. Also, personal chefs are all over the place… a potentially nice and easy custom solution to just get started, not to pay for over the long term. nationally I think "Hire a Chef" is the same organization.
posted by technoglyph at 3:53 PM on October 1, 2019

I checked these sites out. I think you meant to link to this page that just lists the 5 Keto chefs. I'm in Denver & I went to the Hire a Chef site & put in "Denver Keto" and it worked, but there's just one here in Denver.

I could see calling one of these chefs if I'm having company over. I've visited friends where I've had bad Keto pushed on me.
posted by amartin at 1:51 PM on October 2, 2019

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