If you haven’t heard about keto, you may be living under a rock.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the ketogenic diet from the newest cookbook table at your local bookstore, or maybe you saw the recently released Netflix documentary “The Magic Pill” profiling the diet. It’s also possible you’ve been following @KetoGuido (yes, it’s that Vinny from “Jersey Shore”) on Instagram.
And yet if you still aren’t completely sure what keto is, know that you’re not alone.
Keto: The short version
Ketosis is basically when your body burns fat for fuel. It’s technically a metabolic state, but in easy to understand terms: Your body burns what it has the most of. When you’re eating a “normal” diet, which happens to be higher in carbs, your body burns glucose (sugar) for energy. So all the extra fat you’re carrying around just sits there.
When you remove the glucose (carbs) completely, your body still need energy, so it’s forced to burn fat, which encourages weight loss. Plus, fats are a much more effective fuel for your body and brain than carbs, promoting increased mental clarity, better skin and more energy overall.
How do you keto?
Putting your body into ketosis is a result of eating a ketogenic diet. It typically takes a few days (4 to 7) of low-carb, high-fat eating for your body to burn through all the glucose and enter ketosis. To keep your body burning fats, you need to keep your carb intake to around 20 grams a day. The fewer the better, because eating too many carbs can knock you out of the metabolic state.
To be successful, keto has to be treated more as a lifestyle than a diet. It focuses less on how much you can eat and more on what you eat, which is basically anything, as long as it has no or few carbs.
So what can you eat?
In short: High fat. Moderate protein. Low carbs.
The ’90s engrained the fear of fat in all of our brains. Eating fat will not make you fat, but rather using fat as your body’s primary fuel source can actually keep you full of energy and keep your hunger at bay.
The easiest way to start keto is to just try to keep your carbs low; there’s no need to track everything you eat. Eat a lot of fat and protein, and avoid carbs at all costs.
Here’s a short list of foods that are keto-friendly: Avocados, animal fats, oils, animal protein (including seafood), mayonnaise, plant-based oils, leafy greens, cheese, full-fat dairy, butter and eggs.
Not quite sure where to start? Below are six keto recipes perfect for summer and cooking out:
When you want a semi-fancy breakfast: Baked Eggs and Mushrooms with Keto Toast
This breakfast is decadent AF. After making and eating it, you’ll feel full for hours.
You can add protein or leafy greens to the mixture for layers. The keto bread is so easy and perfect as a replacement for sandwiches, English muffins, bagel and biscuits. The options are endless.
Eggs (4 servings)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
2 Tb garlic, minced
2 Tb butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Melt 1 Tb butter in a skillet over medium heat until foamy. Sauté mushrooms and garlic until tender, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes.
Add heavy whipping cream and cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Divide mixture into four 4-oz. jars.
Crack egg into each jar. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Transfer jars to deep baking dish and pour enough boiling water into baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the jars. Cover entire pan with aluminum foil and bake for 18-20 minutes.
Keto Bread (1 serving)
3 Tb almond or coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 Tb butter, melted
Mix all ingredients. Pour in mug or 5-oz. ramekin and cook in microwave for 90 seconds. Cut in half lengthwise and toast to liking.
When you need something light and leafy: Green Slaw Salad
Things I hated as a kid: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce. Yet here I am, LOVING this combination as an adult. This salad is crunchy and zesty and perfect to take along for for a cookout. It’s effortless to whip up in large batches. Serves 6.
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tb Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pulse all ingredients in food processor or blender for 30 seconds.
2 cups arugula
2 cups broccoli slaw
1 cup Brussels sprouts, shredded
Keto-friendly toppings (see below)
Combine all ingredients and toss with dressing. Top with keto toppings including bacon bits, avocado slices, almonds, walnuts or cheese. We added bacon, nuts and avocado for extra protein and fats.
An easy snack for your fridge: Korean Quick Pickled Eggs and Garlic
Eggs are actually the perfect keto snack. They're full of healthy fat, high in protein, with zero carbs. This Korean spin on pickled eggs is easy and will keep in the refrigerator for several months, only getting better with time, though they’re so tasty they probably won’t last long. If you’re unfamiliar with gochujang, it’s a red chili paste from Korea with a little kick and a lot of depth. It’s vegetarian and a little goes a long way. Serves 10.
10 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 Tb rice vinegar
3 Tb gochujang
10 green onions, sliced lengthwise
20 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tb mixed pickling spice
Combine water, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar in quart mason jar. Shake until gochujang paste is mixed evenly. Pour into saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes, remove from heat and cool. Combine peeled eggs, green onions, garlic and pickling spice in a jar. Pour cooled mixture over eggs and seal jar. Refrigerate at least 24-48 hours.
Take these to the cookout: Avocado BLT Chicken Salad Cups
Cups made of bacon are something I never knew I needed. Since you can’t have bread on keto, finding a vessel for a BLT becomes a fun challenge. This BLT comes in the form of a chicken salad, using chicken as an added protein. The mayonnaise and avocado make the chicken salad creamy and adds delicious fat. This recipe is great for making ahead to ensure lunch success or as a new cookout addition. Serves 8.
2 lb chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 avocados, halved and sliced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 green onion, diced
1 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s, if you know what’s up)
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices bacon
2 cups arugula
16 slices bacon
For Bacon Cups: Take 8 slices of bacon and cut crosswise. Invert a muffin tin and lay two halved strips on both sides. Wrap entire cup with a whole slice of bacon. Repeat for each cup. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place inverted muffin tin on wider baking pan for easier cleanup. Bake until crispy, 20-25 minutes.
For Chicken Salad: Dice bacon and saute in a skillet over medium heat until crispy, 6-8 minutes. Move to towel-lined plate to cool. Combine chicken, avocado, tomatoes, green onion, mayonnaise and bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Line bottom of bacon cups with bed of arugula and top with chicken salad.
For the grill: Spanish Stuffed and Wrapped Jalapenos
This Spanish twist on a jalapeño popper is keto-friendly and delicious. Filling jalapeño peppers with manchego cheese and a paprika-laden cream cheese gives this traditional dish a deeper flavor profile, and is an easy stretch for a less adventurous eater. Manchego cheese has gained popularity the past few years and for good reason: It’s salty and nutty and basically perfect. Wrapping the pepper in prosciutto keeps the filling inside and gives the dish a crunchy bite. For more protein and taste, add chorizo to the filling. Makes 12.
6 jalapeño peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed
6 strips prosciutto, sliced in half lengthwise
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tb smoked Spanish paprika
6 oz. manchego cheese, sliced into 1-oz. slices
Fold paprika into cream cheese. Fill jalapeño peppers with cream cheese mixture and top with a slice of manchego. Wrap a strip of prosciutto around each stuffed pepper. Grill face up on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until broiled.
Because you can still have alcohol: Boozy Melted Root Beer Float
Fortunately, you can still have alcohol on a low-carb diet ― you just have to be careful. Beer is basically off limits and wine is iffy, so the rule is to stick to clear liquors. When looking for mixers, you must also look for drinks low in carbs. This recipe for a root beer float includes heavy whipping cream to mimic ice cream and get some extra fats into your system. When you’re on keto, alcohol hits you quicker, so drink in moderation! Serves 1.
8 oz. diet root beer
4 oz. heavy whipping cream
1 oz. whipped cream vodka
Combine all ingredients in a drink shaker or pour straight into a cup and stir. Drink will automatically foam like any float.