Ketogenic Diet 101: What is Ketogenic Diet and Keto Diet Shopping List for Starters

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Up until now I am not yet fully convinced with this fad diet but I’m not gonna lie, I have been a member of a Keto Diet Group on facebook since 2019 passively scrolling through tens of posts everyday. Though I have not yet actively pursued the diet, I have since been amazed at the powerful testimonials of individuals who succeeded in their weight loss journey. 

There were stories of obese men and women who now looked physically fit and inspiring people not only with pounds lost but also with the confidence they gained from the diet. And some were stories of women who suffered from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) struggling to cut their weight down to get pregnant but had no luck for years until they tried the Keto Diet. 

Honestly with the ultra low carbohydrate, limited 100g protein intake, and with lots of fat that doctors tell us not to overly consume, the image of Keto Diet was not exactly what I had in mind for a diet. But this image is defeated by the photogenic effects of fast results and dramatic before and after which have been posted everywhere on social media.

Photo grabbed from shape.com (instagram: @loving_lessofme_more); Keto Diet as a game changer

Not only that, the buzz in this diet is also credited to science-backed statements of reduced hunger and increased focus which have always been the caveats of many diets today. Diets generally limit your food choices and so does Keto Diet but interestingly you don’t feel as starved or food-deprived. Additionally, you don’t feel any negative after effects impacting your productivity. 

The shot to popularity of this diet started in 2015 with the controversial podcast aired by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss is a Princeton graduate and Silicon Valley-based podcaster who is also the author of one of the best selling productivity books, The 4-Hour Work Week. In his podcast entitled, “Dom D’ Agostino on Fasting, Ketosis, and the End of Cancer”, Ferriss and D’ Agostino (leading nutritionist researcher on keto diet) talked mainly about the diet and its impact on cancer cells. Although D’ Agostino clarified that the quote was a bit misleading as keto diet can help slow down the progression of some cancers and speed up others. 

But this proved to be the gateway to mainstream media as Joe Rogan debuted the diet on his podcast attracting his 30 million followers in 2017 to try it out. And just a year later, keto diet hits 17 million monthly google searches proving the fast-spreading word on the diet and its benefits. According to Orion Research, the most comprehensive collection of market intelligence reports, the Keto industry boosted to become a 5 billion dollar industry!

Ketogenic Diet 101: Basic Science Behind and Its Evolution on the Market

Ketogenic Diet or Keto is essentially a low carbohydrate, moderate protein/high fat diet. That is drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fats to enter into a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is the process of registering elevated levels (0.5 to 5 millimoles) of ketones (fuel from stored fats) per liter of blood in response to low glucose availability. 

In this way, the body becomes more efficient at burning fat for energy. Moreover, the fats that have been transformed into ketones in the liver serve as energy supply for the brain.

At least 20 studies prove its weight loss and health improvement benefits. One study in 2003, followed by many others and backed upon by contemporary studies as well, published in the New England Journal of Medicine tested 63 adults with obesity and had them undergo a low fat (calorie restricted) or a low carb diet for a duration of 12 months. 

After 6 months, the low carb group had lost an average of 7% of their total body weight compared to the significantly lower 3%. Though the following months did not show significant statistical difference. Nevertheless, the low carb group was observed to have greater improvements in blood triglycerides and HDL (good cholesterol) than the low fat group. 

Interestingly, keto did not start as a diet targeting weight loss. Rather in the 1920s, this fat-centric diet mimicking fasting was tested by Dr. Russell Wilder on people suffering from epilepsy and had been dubbed as an effective treatment for it. It was only in the 1970s that keto gained name for its weight loss benefits when Robert Atkins published a book on it wherein he described keto as a “happy state… [in which] your fat is being burned off with maximum efficiency and minimum deprivation.” 

Celebrities also started taking notice of the diet and in 1988, keto research surged with the help of Oprah Winfrey who had openly endorsed it in one of her shows. This had been dubbed as the “Oprah Effect” and had since then pushed the diet into the limelight. 

2018 became the official year of keto and major brands like Whole Foods are now selling keto-friendly products. Major food retailers like Target, Kroger, and Costco have also expanded their offering of low carb and keto-friendly products while companies like Wal-mart even have Keto shopping lists and advice on their website. Celebrity advocates from LeBron James to  Kourtney Kardashian and other social media icons have also played integral roles in influencing consumer habits towards this diet.  

Although many experts encourage everyone to not use keto diet as a long term diet plan and is best followed for at least two weeks up to 90 days maximum. Some advocate to shift to carb-cycling (altering high carb and low carb diet depending on your varying needs) for a longer term diet plan. 

The 4 Types of Ketogenic Diet

The most popular and most common type of keto is the Standard Ketogenic Diet.

In a standard ketogenic diet, you need to consume 70% to 80% fat (e.g. high fat foods like avocado, cheese, and whole eggs). Protein intake is limited to 20% to 25% where you can eat beef, chicken, and pork. Lastly, your carbohydrate intake cannot go beyond 10%. 

So if you are trying on a 2,000-calorie diet which is the usual intake for individuals trying to lose weight, you are looking roughly at 167g of fat, 100g of protein, and an allowable 25g for carbohydrates. 

The second type or the high protein ketogenic diet basically looks like the standard but the fat content is reduced to 60% while protein is upped to 35% while carbs remain at 5%. 

The third and fourth types of ketogenic diet are the less popular and targeted towards athletes and bodybuilders. 

The third type is the cyclical ketogenic diet which employs the refeed technique. This is the planned increase in calories to negate the downside of the caloric deficit diet. This is popular as a better alternative for cheat meals as the carbohydrate overfeeding raises leptin (hormone produced by fat cells to control metabolism and hunger) levels and increases energy expenditure over a 24 hour period. This diet requires 5 ketogenic days and 2 high carb days. 

Lastly is the targeted ketogenic diet which is basically a customized keto and adds carbohydrates around workouts. 

Add to Cart: The Shopping List

It can be a bit overwhelming to switch to the keto diet because it’s basically ruling out all carbohydrate temptations and lazy night foods like quick cooking rice and frozen french fries to more perishable goods like meat and full dairy. 

To make this transition smoother and better, here is a shopping list for your next trip to the grocery. 

First off, honey, you need to skip some aisles in order to prevent temptation. Here are your no-go’s for your keto diet. (Or watch out for some alternatives!) 

PASTA + OTHER GRAINS

When you’re cutting carbs, you have to cut off these cute pastas as well. Refrigerated pasta which has been cooked contains 131 calories for every 100g serving! BUT there’s a loophole here — that is, if your local grocery offers low-carb or gluten-free pastas and noodles. Shop for shirataki noodles which are your long white noodles and are also known as konjac or miracle noodles. This type of pasta is very filling (craving satisfied!) yet have low calorie content. 

STARCHY VEGGIES + HIGH SUGAR FRUITS

Say goodbye to your starchy veggies like corn, peas, potatoes, zucchini, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash and acorn squash. Instead, add to cart your green, leafy vegetables!

And no more high sugar fruits (sadly) like apples, pears, bananas. This is because they break down into sugars which is not part of the keto diet. Alternatively, you can indulge more in the (merry) berry family: raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry! 

LEGUMES

Unfortunately, our legume friends did not make the cut. These might be the protein staple source for most diets but for keto, these are considered to be too high in carbs and too low on fat. 

SUGARY FOODS

This might be the saddest goodbye for those shifting to keto diet. 

Doughnuts, cakes, snacks, cookies, and sweets are definitely off the table! So grab your last bite before you finally switch to keto!

Now, here is the list of keto-friendly food that you should definitely add to your cart! 

To help you out, we have sorted our list by aisle! 

PRODUCE SECTION

 Fruits and Veggies

In terms of veggies, Kristin Mancinelli RND and author of The Ketogenic Diet: A Scientifically Proven Approach to Fast, Healthy Weight Loss noted that low carb veggies in large quantities are not considered fair game on a ketogenic diet because they get counted along with any carbs that you put into your meal. But these are very good choices that you should put in the list as they can already satisfy the carbohydrate allowance for your diet. The plan allows 20-30 grams of carbs per day which greens can already fulfill. 

🛒 Best low carb veggies: Spinach, Arugula, Broccoli, Bell Pepper, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Asparagus, Cauliflower 

For your fruits, as mentioned before, tick off the list your sugary fruits like apples, bananas, and pears. Instead you can go for the healthy fat fruit jam packed with nutrients which is avocado or your merry berry family especially raspberry which is the fruit with the lowest carb content. 

🛒 Best fruits: Avocado, Raspberry, Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Watermelon, Lemon, Cantaloupe, Starfruit, Rhubarb

DELI COUNTER

Proteins

Of course, no meal is complete without some proteins. And when it comes to proteins, chicken is your number 1 (or mine? Well, chicken is life!). But for keto diet, opt for organic chicken sans the preservatives. But if you’re more of a meat lover, it’s advised to get well-marbled cuts like a ribeye or NY strip. 

According to Mancinelli, “When you’re eating a ketogenic diet, it’s often hard to get enough fat and avoid overeating proteins.” So to make sure you don’t indulge in too much protein, these cuts allow you to eat a smaller portion of the meat because “the fat throughout the cut will contribute to your feeling of fullness.”

And last but not the least we have the fish which can definitely give new flavor from the usual meat. For fresh fish, it’s best to grill, bake, or pan-fry it in olive oil or avocado oil. There are also canned options for these and are also good protein sources. 

🛒 Best Protein Sources: Organic chicken (boneless/skinless chicken breast), Ground beef (Grassfed), Lamb, Turkey, Sausage, Bacon, Tuna, Salmon, Sardines

EGGS AND DAIRY SECTION

On top of the list for this list is the eggs. Eggs are your budget-friendly keto food and one egg contains less than a gram of carbs and at most 6 grams of protein. 

There’s also your nut butters which help in food preparation since there are a lot of foods that are non-keto compliant and would need a little bit more creativity to turn into a full-fledged keto meal. Nut butters like almond, cashew, and sunflower are keto lifestyle staples. 

And here are the favorites: dairy and cheese. Just because dairy is on the list means there’s a free pass on all types. When choosing dairy, go for the unflavored, full-fat dairy items so make sure to read the labels carefully. For your cheese craving, opt for harder and aged cheeses like your classic Parmesan and Gouda. 

Plain greek yogurts are also good for a quick snack and contain 5 grams of carbs per serving (again make sure to check the label!). 

And here is another item that you might not have heard if you’re not German which is Quark. Quark is rich and creamy and is something in between yogurt and cheese which you can add to smoothies or use as a spread or topping. 

AND, if you are a heavy coffee drinker who cannot get away without milk, go for creamers instead which have 0.5 grams of net carb per fluid ounce unlike whole milk which has 1.5 grams for the same amount. 

🛒 Best Egg and Dairy Products: Egg, Nut Butter, Unflavored and Full-fat Dairy, Parmesan/Gouda/Bleu/Cream Cheese, Plain Greek Yogurt, Quark, Creamer

PANTRY STAPLES

Pantry staples contain your keto-approved condiments and are very important in preparing and cooking keto meals. 

First on the list is your bone broth which could be beef or chicken, whichever you prefer. This is an alternative way of taking your proteins. Additionally, the amino acids found in broths are good for the gut!

Almond flour is also one of the favorite pantry staples as they are keto-friendly and gluten free which you can use for your next baking session. The almonds provide fiber, protein, and healthy fats for your pie crust, cookie, and muffins. 

And as alternative to your usual sugar, you can try monk fruit or erythritol. 

🛒 Pantry Staples: Bone broth, almond flour or coconut flour, monk fruit or erythritol (sugar), soy sauce, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, almond butter

SPICES AND OILS

No meal is ever complete in flavoring without your healthy spices and oils so here are some that you should definitely add to your cart.

🛒 Garlic powder, Salt, Pepper, Ground Ginger, Cinnamon, Coconut Oil, Sesame Oil, Avocado Oil, Sesame Seeds

SNACKS

How can we forget the snacks, right? 

To satiate your hunger breaks, eat some keto protein bars rich in healthy fats and protein but low in carbs. You can also try some keto granolas for your grain-free, low sugar version of cereals. 

For your chocolate fix, opt for your 90% dark chocolate. And there are also your olives which offer a healthy monounsaturated source of fat and also comes in different flavors!

Pistachios is also a good snack choice as it contains plant protein and fiber which helps keep you fuller longer. 

🛒 Keto protein bars, keto granola, Dark chocolate, Olives, Pistachios, Tofu, Seaweed Snack

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