The biggest low-carb staples I keep in my kitchen at all times.
You’ve probably heard about the ketogenic diet from someone you know in the last year: your mother-in-law, your co-worker, your uncle, maybe even me if you’ve followed along! It has become widely popular across the U.S. because of its ability to increase your metabolic state to burn fat quickly (something called ketosis). I’ve always been someone that goes lower carb when I’m trying to lose a few pounds because it’s the only diet that has really worked for me. I decided to introduce a ketogenic diet for 30 days this spring in order to do just that, and I loved it! If you want to know how I was able to sustain the keto lifestyle while having a busy lifestyle and budget of a college student, keep reading.
Eating a ketogenic diet means eating foods that are lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat in order to reach the metabolic state of ketosis. Depending on how strictly you are following keto, this doesn’t mean you cannot eat any carbs at all (vegetables and fruits both contain carbs). The key is picking out the right foods that will keep you at a low carb intake each day. Here’s how I navigated that in the grocery store:
GREENS GREENS GREENS
When in doubt, greens! I never let myself run out of greens to eat while doing keto. Every time I went food shopping, I picked up at least one package of spinach, mixed greens, or romaine. I tried to incorporate those greens into literally every meal I ate, breakfast through dinner. For me, it feels like I ate a bigger meal when I do this, and it’s good for you!
Unlike the Whole30 diet, keto allows for dairy because of its low carb/ high fat contents. This was a lifesaver for me because I often snacked on cheese between meals. Also, cheese makes you feel full! A plate of veggies and protein doesn’t always completely satisfy me, but with a little mozzarella on top, I full for the night. I typically buy a block of sharp cheddar, some shredded mozzarella, and cheese sticks to get me through the week. Another important buy was cream, which I always added to my coffee to stay full longer and induce ketosis.
Protein is arguably the most important component of this diet, so I always bought a lot of meat when grocery shopping. Chicken breasts were a must have every time so I could either meal prep them with veggies for the week or use them for dinners. I also would buy meat to put in my veggie egg bakes (usually turkey sausage or chicken sausage), some kind of deli meat (turkey or prosciutto most times), and one other choice for the week like ground turkey, ham, or pork.
Vegetable options are endless when it comes to the keto diet, but it is important to know which ones have higher carb counts. Green vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, and kale were the vegetables I bought the most because they all have less than 3 carbs per 100 grams. These would be for sauteing, or to put in smoothies, eggs, stir frys, etc. I bought a bit less of carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and green beans because the carb counts were higher, but I still ate them every now and then.
People ask me about fruit all the time, and here’s my answer: yes, you can eat fruit! The key is to be smart about those choices, just like in choosing your veggies. When in doubt, go for berries. Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries all have less than 6 carbs per 100 grams. Blackberries are my personal favorite and I always picked them up. Cantelope, watermelon, coconut, and oranges all have less than 9 carbs per 100 grams, and are also completely fine in moderation. The fruits you should stay away from are apples, bananas, grapes, and pears, since they are higher carb.
NUTS + SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are another one that I get a lot of questions about. They are totally fair game, especially the higher fat ones like pecans. You’ll want to stick with pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts to stay lower carb (all under 7 carbs per 100g). I add nuts to my salads or just snack on them when I need it! Cashews and pistachios are the ones to stay away from.
THINGS I NEVER GET
Wondering what’s off limits? Here’s a list of the basics: fruit juice/ any other sugary drinks, those higher carb fruits I mentioned, any beans or peas (including hummus), any grains (bread, pasta, cookies, crackers), and basically any non-perishable snack item. I usually look like a crazy person in the store and check every single nutrition label. So when in doubt, just look! It’ll definitely surprise you what you’ve been eating that you didn’t even know what high carb.
While the keto diet is something that worked for me and that I still loosely follow, it’s not for everyone. Just as I’ve begun to introduce healthy carbs to my diet since I’ve upped my fitness routine, some people need the carbs for energy. If you’re considering it, feel free to reach out to me with further questions!