Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
Pros: Technically a subtype of low-carb diet, the keto diet is unique: By depriving your body of carbohydrates, you not only force your body to become fat-adapted, but also, if you keep protein low as well, elevate your levels of ketone bodies, which is basically a sign your body is running on fat. The keto diet puts you in a unique metabolic state called ketosis wherein your brain burns ketones instead of glucose—and, in doing so, supposedly leads to clearer thinking. Physically, eating such a high amount of fat significantly increases your body’s ability to burn body fat, according to the study analysis. Research also shows keto athletes have a higher VO2 max, and are able to lose fat without losing strength or power.
A survey of 1,580 low-carb consumers published in late 2017 by the Journal of Insulin Resistance45 found that while more than 11% of respondents reported using sleep-aids before beginning their low-carb diet, less than 5% reported using them after their diet. Moreover, nearly seven in 10 reported improved quality of sleep after dieting while only 3.4% said their sleep quality had worsened.
“For any individual considering a ketogenic diet, there are laboratory values that a knowledgeable physician should check prior to starting and throughout the course of the diet,” she says. “The best approach is to work with a registered dietitian that is knowledgeable in ketogenic diet therapies and can educate you on ways to make healthier choices on this plan than what dieters would randomly select on their own, along with appropriate supplements that are absolutely necessary on this type of diet.”
Ketogenic diet (“keto” diet for short) is a catch-all term for any diet that pushes your body into the natural metabolic state of ketosis, which means burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Though there’s no set formula for keto, generally, the diet works by cutting back on carbohydrates, to about 20 g of net carbs to start, and replacing those with mostly fat and a moderate amount of protein, according to the popular website Keto Connect. Net carbs are the total number of carbs minus the fiber and sugar alcohols, according to the Atkins website. (More on this diet later.)
In a 24-week long intervention study, researchers recruited 84 obese subjects with type 2 diabetes and randomly divided them into two groups. The first group of 42 received a low-glycemic diet with a 500 calorie/day deficit. The second group ate a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet with less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day without calorie restriction.
Upon starting the diet, some patients report symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches. However, these short-lived symptoms are, in fact, a sign that the diet is working, and the body is switching over from burning glucose as fuel to burning fat. This transition involves upregulating certain enzymes and down-regulating others; it is a profound shift for the human body that can have uncomfortable symptoms. However, these side effect usually last only 3-4 weeks. They can be ameliorated in most cases, by drinking several cups of bouillion broth during the day until the transition is completed.15
Selecting the right food will be easier as you become accustomed to the Keto approach. Instead of lean meats, you’ll focus on skin-on poultry, fattier parts like chicken thighs, rib-eye steaks, grass-fed ground beef, fattier fish like salmon, beef brisket or pork shoulder, and bacon. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and lettuce, along with broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers, make healthy vegetable choices (but you’ll avoid starchy root foods like carrots, potatoes, turnips and parsnips). You can work in less-familiar veggies such as kohlrabi or daikon.
To follow the plan, one must decide their calorie level and then divide the suggested servings of each food group throughout the day. This requires meal planning ahead of time. The NHLBI guide provides many tips on how to incorporate DASH foods and to lower sodium intake; a one-day sample menu following a 2300 mg sodium restriction and a 1500 mg sodium restriction; and one week’s worth of recipes. The NHLBI also publishes an online database of “heart healthy” recipes.
The Mediterranean diet might help you lose weight. While some people fear that eating a diet like the Mediterranean diet that is relatively rich in fats (think olive oil, olives, avocado and some cheese) will keep them fat, more and more research is suggesting the opposite is true. Of course, it depends on which aspects you adopt and how it compares to your current diet. If, for instance, you build a "calorie deficit" into your plan – eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max or burning off extra by exercising – you should shed some pounds. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you.
There’s been no poultry or red meat so far in the menu, so plan for two dinners a week incorporating these animal foods instead of fish. Eat with family or friends, whenever possible, and listen to music instead of watching TV. Enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal; a moderate intake gives you polyphenols -- natural compounds in grapes -- that may protect you from heart disease, cognitive problems and even cancer.
If you’ve decided to move forward in trying the keto diet, you will want to stick to the parameters of the eating plan. Roughly 60 to 80 percent of your calories will come from fats. That means you’ll eat meats, fats, and oils, and a very limited amount of nonstarchy vegetables, she says. (This is different from a traditional low-carb diet, as even fewer carbs are allowed on the keto diet.)
Drink lots of water. This is especially crucial on a low carb or keto diet. Why? When you eat carbohydrates, your body stores the extra as glycogen in the liver, where they are bound to water molecules. Eating low carb depletes this glycogen, which allows you to burn fat – but it also means you are storing less water, making it easier to get dehydrated. Instead of the traditional recommendation of 8 cups of water per day, aim for 16 cups when following a low carb lifestyle.
The keto diet isn’t new, and it’s been around for nearly a century. It was originally developed to treat people with epilepsy. In the 1920s, researchers found that raised levels of ketones in the blood led to fewer epileptic seizures in patients. The keto diet is still used today to treat children with epilepsy who don’t respond well to anti-epileptic drugs.
The researchers agree that the diet itself isn’t inherently dangerous. But, cautions Weiss, “If you have any medical condition, if you take any medicine at all – there are lots of things that change how medicines work in our bodies, and nutrition is definitely one of them. If you’re making a real change in your nutrition, you really should talk to your doctor.”
Make this spread in advance and bring it along to work. Recipe makes two servings. Have half the recipe today, and save the rest for Wednesday's snack. Use remaining chickpeas from Monday's lunch (half a 15-ounce can). Mash the chickpeas lightly in a bowl with a fork. Mix in 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. If desired, add 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Mash all ingredients together thoroughly or, if a smoother spread is desired, use a food processor to blend the ingredients. Bring along 1 cup broccoli flowerets and 1 sliced red, orange or yellow pepper for dipping.
“This is a good example of a study where you should not directly apply the information to what you are eating as an individual,” Stefanski says. “The research is interesting, but the study period examined was only three days. While this study showed insulin resistance, it did not in fact show that the mice had diabetes. Making the leap from the results of this study to a headline that concludes a ketogenic diet will cause type 2 diabetes is not supported.”
The remaining calories in the keto diet come from protein — about 1 gram (g) per kilogram of body weight, so a 140-pound woman would need about 64 g of protein total. As for carbs: “Every body is different, but most people maintain ketosis with between 20 and 50 g of net carbs per day,” says Mattinson. Total carbohydrates minus fiber equals net carbs, she explains.