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The number of diets and eating plans out there can be downright overwhelming at times. You can adhere to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. You can try paleo, Atkins, Whole30, intermittent fasting … There isn't a lack of options when it comes to trying something new.
Our motto at THE/THIRTY has always been to encourage our readers to approach healthy eating at their own pace and in a way that fits with their own lifestyle and preferences. Do what makes you feel good and confident while taking your own health history and what your healthcare professionals recommend into account. We can't prescribe a set of guidelines for everyone because everyone's bodies and needs are different. But we'll give you some inspiration and knowledge from experts to help you make your own decisions.
That said, it's definitely that time of year when people are trying out new diets and eating plans, so we wanted to get some tips for the ketogenic (keto) diet, specifically, because it's one of those trendy eating plans that has become so popular and buzzed about in recent years. You might be doing it right now or, at least, considering it.
For those who are unfamiliar with keto, it's a low-carb, high-fat diet that sends your body into a state of ketosis. "In ketosis, the body is efficient at utilizing fat stores for energy," explains Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, chef, nutritionist, Reiki master, and founder of the Culinary Alchemy program. "There is little research on the long-term effects of a keto diet in healthy adults. On the ketogenic diet, you are restricted from all grains, sugar, and high-starch and high-sugar vegetables and fruits such as potatoes, squash, dates, and bananas. Daily carbohydrate intake for a person on the keto diet is recommended to be 5% of total daily calorie intake."
While many people see dramatic results with keto, there are some watch-outs you'll want to be aware of. It limits starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which are high in fiber. Fiber can help with digestion and lower cholesterol levels. According to Harvard Health, some potential risks include nutrient deficiency, liver and kidney problems, constipation, fuzzy thinking, and mood swings. These are all things to think about and might be worth discussing with your healthcare provider to see if it's a good option for you.
Poon recommends working with a nutritionist to ensure that you're getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs while on the keto diet. "Because vegetables often get overlooked on a keto diet, it is possible to become deficient in the abundant vitamins and minerals that you would receive from a diet that is rich in plant foods," she explains. "It would be possible to become deficient in folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and more. I recommend continuing to eat as many vegetables and fruits as you can fit into your low-carbohydrate diet to avoid these kinds of deficiencies."
If you're trying the keto diet or are seriously considering it, you probably have read up on everything you can and can't eat. You also might have set up your meal planning, bookmarked recipes, created shopping lists, and more. But if you're looking for some more inspiration, we asked Poon for some tips on how to snack when you're on keto. Snacking can be tricky, even when you're not on a specific diet. I know I tend to go overboard with the chips and sweets, especially when I'm dealing with stress.
So what are some ways you can snack a little smarter? We have some keto-friendly options for you below that don't suck.
"Berries such as raspberries and strawberries are low on the glycemic index and are, therefore, considered appropriate for a keto diet," Poon says. "It is important to eat as many vegetables and fruits as you can within your carbohydrate restriction. Oftentimes, keto diets become heavy on animal proteins and lack the important nutrients supplied by plants."
Poon says walnuts are low-carb nuts and deliver many health benefits. Just a handful delivers protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
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"Avocados are a high-fat, low-in-carbohydrate food that provides nutrients like potassium, vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants," Poon explains. "The fat content in avocados makes them a delicious and satisfying keto snack."
4. Hard-Boiled Eggs
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Hard-boiled eggs are filling and packed with protein and nutrients like choline and B vitamins.
5. Dark Chocolate
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This one is definitely good news. "A small piece of dark chocolate is an excellent keto-friendly snack that is both delicious and nutritious," Poon says. "Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and some minerals such as iron and magnesium. It also contains some fiber."
6. Broccoli and Keto-Friendly Dressing
"Broccoli is a non-starchy, low-carbohydrate vegetable that delivers an abundance of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and fiber," Poon says. "I highly recommend filling up on vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, and leafy greens while following a keto diet."
Think of it as an informal cheese and charcuterie board. They're both low carb and okay to consume on a keto diet.
9. Greek Yogurt
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While yogurt does contain carbs, Greek yogurt has less than the other varieties. Go for the full-fat versions and pay attention to the sugar content.
For packaged jerky, Poon recommends avoiding MSG, nitrates, and coloring and opting for grass-fed jerky that's been preserved in salt and vinegar.
As for other packaged snacks that are labeled keto friendly, Poon says to limit your intake because they're less nutrient dense than real food snacks and often contain additives and processed ingredients. "That being said, sometimes, their convenience cannot be avoided. If you are going to reach for a packaged snack, try to reach for products with a brief ingredient list that includes ingredients you can pronounce and could find on a farm," she adds.