Tag Archives: ketogenic diet

I Went Keto for 3 Months and Got Gout. Here’s What I Wish I’d Known

My friend walks into a bar – glowing, leaner and the happiest I’ve ever seen her in our 12 year friendship. “Keto,” she says, anticipating the ‘What are you doing?’ question, “I basically eat a lot of Caesar salad – I’ve lost 25 pounds.”

We’re in our thirties, and every year it feels like there’s another ring around the trunk. While I’ve picked up rec sports like ball hockey and practice yoga semi-regularly, I’ve never been on a diet and haven’t put any actual effort into slimming down. My friend, Janna, and I have always had similar palates: we love bread, pasta, sandwiches, sauce, potatoes and most comfort foods on the regular. “You should do it,” she said, “You can eat so many things — I feel amazing.”

Why I went keto

As an intersectional-feminist who promotes body positivity, I hate how this story starts. It was one long look into my bathroom mirror after a shower when I cried — unhappy with the aged, unfamiliar woman staring back at me. I decided, at that exact moment, that I was going to try keto, as Janna had done.

So, I started the following Monday. I took the weekend to consult with Dr. Google so I could hunt and gather at the grocery store for my new and very first diet.

The ketogenic diet is attractive to people like me (read: who have the palate of a 13-year-old boy in the 90’s with a love for beige food and grease) because you never have to go hungry or calorie count, and you’re allowed to eat bacon, burgers, butter and other foods typically considered unhealthy. It’s a high fat, moderate protein, zero-sugar, low-carb diet. I don’t even like baked goods or sweets.

But I do like bagels, dumplings, corn and other carbs you’re not allowed on keto. Starchy carbs were off the table — so were fruits (including the melon family, mangoes, pineapple, apples etc.) and even a variety of vegetables had to be limited.

Related: From keto to whole30 to vegan. What is the best healthy diet? 

What a typical day of eating looked like for me

Like Janna, I ended up eating a lot of Caesar salad with chicken on the regular. Breakfast was all about bacon, eggs (cooked in butter), spinach and avocado. On offer at lunch was usually more leafy greens, roast chicken (sometimes hot, other times cold), cheese and nuts. For snacks, I ate more nuts, more cheese, and sometimes I’d even eat raw spinach out of the bin and call them “keto chips”. Blackberries were a green-lit treat, and very dark chocolate is also OK in moderation. I learned to like cream, and sometimes butter, in my keto coffee.

I also learned to drink so much water, and I peed on a keto strip every morning to make sure I was still in a state of ketosis. Being in the state of dietary ketosis is key to the weight loss benefits of the diet — it means your body is no longer fueled by carbs and is instead running on stored fat (hence the high fat part), producing ketones, so your brain still gets the energy it needs. To enter ketosis, I had to deprive my body of carbs (keeping the serving under 20g per day). The process took about three to five days, which is when I got what’s dubbed the keto flu and lost seven pounds by day six.

Some challenges I faced while on keto

I made the mistake of going on a road trip to Michigan within my first weeks of keto. Translation: burgers with lettuce, meat sticks, cheese and nuts were pretty much all I consumed that weekend. My mother commented on my appearance: “It’s working. I can see it in your face.” I was thinning out.

Related: How to develop healthy eating habits that actually last.

They say you stop craving carbs — that never actually happened for me. I didn’t need them, but if I saw my co-worker eating pizza, I knew I’d rather be sinking my teeth into a slice than stabbing at a bowl of cold, raw vegetables.

Keto became a way of life. At post ball hockey drinks, I’d have water and eat a burger in a lettuce bun with celery (no illegal carrots because of the sugar). But I knew this couldn’t go on forever. While editing a story on celebrity diets, I discovered the 80/20 diet and decided to try carb cycling.

Related: What is the flexitarian diet, and why are people doing it?

What I wish I knew when I got gout

Carb cycling and keto may increase the risk of gout. I wish I’d talked to an actual expert and registered nutritionist before I’d participated in a fad diet to explore the potential risks for myself. For this article, I talked to Julie Mancuso, the weight-loss expert and owner of JM Nutrition.

My friends are doing it, my coworkers are doing it — it works great for them, so it’ll work great for me, is something Mancuso hears all the time from first-time dieters. “Even though we have the same composition, we all have a different makeup, and your friend may not have any pre-dispositions to health issues,” she explains.

It turns out gout runs in my family. I was the first female to get it in my known bloodline — a glass ceiling I really didn’t need to break. But after attempting (and failing) carb cycling, drinking wine and building up too much uric acid, I found myself hopping on one foot with the rich man’s disease. I gave myself gout. It was already in my genes and it was triggered by my diet.

“With keto, you actually get most of the calorie consumption from fat,” says Mancuso. “If someone is predisposed to gallstones and you’re eating an abundance of fat — and [the] body can’t keep up with that — that will cause a problem.” Another thing to note is that spinach is very high in oxalate, the number one cause of kidney stones. So, at least I didn’t get gallstones or kidney stones, right?

Related: A nutritionist reveals 10 best natural foods for glowing skin.

How I would do keto differently

The next time I submit to my insecurities and decide to attempt a drastic diet change, I will consult with a nutritionist or dietitian to help me better my relationship with food.

According to Mancuso, there are many healthy and sustainable changes people can make to their diet that will help with weight-loss — people don’t need to jump into keto. But many lean towards diets like keto, including Atkins, Paleo and South Beach, because the results are typically fast, and starting something so strict and seemingly effective can be motivating.

“Our culture is like that — when we want something, we want it now,” says Mancuso, who often works with clients and encourages them to start slowly with new diets. She likes to take the time to assess and provide people with a better understanding with how diets and weight-loss actually work.

“What I don’t like about keto is that it’s very restrictive,” explains Mancuso. “The biggest problem is that people have trouble sustaining this diet… what diet restricts broccoli?”

Related: Nutritionist reveals 10 secrets to keeping energy levels up all day long.

What people should keep in mind if going keto

“Keto works for weight-loss” says Mancuso. “What I like is that it steers people away from eating carbs and sugar.”

She would recommend nutritionally balanced keto — which, according to the weight-loss expert, is moderate protein and plenty of vegetables. If the aim is weight-loss, the sugar has to go, and the carbs have to be cut down. As it turns out, there really aren’t any shortcuts or hacks for leading a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

Feature image courtesy of Getty Images. 

How to Make Keto-Style Stuffing for Thanksgiving (That Tastes Heavenly)

Sticking to a keto, low-carb or paleo diet throughout the holidays certainly does not mean missing out on all the Thanksgiving classics, like stuffing. And here’s the best part about our keto stuffing: it actually tastes like the real thing! Using a keto bread, either from the grocery store or homemade, still provides that wonderful moist, stuffing texture and nicely soaks up all the delicious, flavourful juices. Keto bread has become so popular that it’s available at most conventional grocery stores and almost all health food stores; if you can’t find it, check the freezer section.

Keto-Style Cauliflower Stuffing Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes (or 1 hour 45 if drying the bread)
Total Time: 70 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

4 cups (about 1 loaf) store-bought or homemade keto bread, sliced into 1 ½ inch cubes
¼ cup butter
1 large shallots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups cauliflower florets, chopped into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
1 ½ cups beef or chicken broth
1 egg

Directions:

1. The keto bread must be dry or stale before you begin this recipe so it can soak up all the juices. If it’s not stale, dry it by placing the bread cubes on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and ensure the bread is not overcrowded. Bake in the oven at 250°F for 1 hour. Toss halfway.

2. Place a large, wide skillet on medium-high heat, add the butter, and as it begins to sizzle and melt toss in the shallots, celery, garlic and cauliflower, cook for 10 minutes until softened. After 10 minutes add in the herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Take off the heat.
3. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a casserole dish (9×13 works well but any medium to large casserole dish will do).
4. In a bowl, crack and whisk the eggs and stir in the broth.
5. Transfer the shallot mixture into a large bowl, fold in the dried keto bread, pour over the egg and broth mixture and stir to combine.

6. Place the mixture into the buttered casserole dish, cover it and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, uncover it and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

More reasons to do a happy dance at the Thanksgiving table this year: this keto cheesecake, these fudgy keto brownies and our collection of the best keto-friendly appetizers.

From Keto to Whole30 to Vegan: What is the Best Healthy Diet? Experts Weigh In

The nutrition world can be so confusing. It’s hard to keep up with healthy eating habits when you’re constantly being told conflicting information about your diet. Is fat good or bad? Should you eat carbs? Is it better to be plant-based or eat meat? Which diet is the best for overall health: Keto, Whole30, Vegan, Mediterranean, Paleo, Dash or Flexitarian? Sometimes it feels so overwhelming, you may be ready to jump ship and settle into life as a breatharian, subsisting only on air and sunlight – of course you shouldn’t do this, and yes, this is a real thing! Well, as nutritionists, we’re about to break down the above listed diets to make them as digestible (pun intended) as possible.

The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet began as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s. Now, people turn to it for weight loss, cancer recovery and even alzheimer’s prevention. The keto diet’s emphasis is on eating high fat, moderate protein and low carb. The idea is to kick the body into ketosis, so it burns ketones, rather than glucose (the fuel most commonly burned), which is why it’s important to limit protein, starchy veggies and fruit. Many people have found that eating keto has helped with mental clarity, athletic performance and weight loss. But, this diet is no walk in the park, it does require a lot of effort and some math if you want to truly be in a state of ketosis; you can always use keto strips to test if you are there or not.

What to Eat:
● Low-glycemic veggies & fruit (e.g. leafy greens, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, asparagus, berries)
● Healthy fats (e.g. avocado, coconut, extra-virgin olive oil, olives, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, select nuts and seeds)
● Protein, eaten in moderation (e.g. beef, seafood, poultry, eggs)

What Not to Eat:
● Grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Refined and natural sugars
● Starchy veggies (e.g. sweet potato, squash, beets, potatoes)
● High-glycemic fruit (e.g. pineapple, melons, bananas)


Get the recipe for 30-Minute Keto Kung Pao Chicken

The Vegan Diet

The vegan diet relies on eating plant-based: so not only steering clear of meat, but also removing animal by-products from your diet, including eggs, dairy, poultry, meat, fish and even honey. The purpose is to live an ethical, cruelty-free life that does not harm animals; this often trickles beyond the diet and can involve vegan makeup, clothing and home decor. Being plant-based means eating lots of veggies, but it is possible to be vegan and still eat unhealthy. While the focus is on plants, there’s no real objection to eating deep fried, sugary and refined carbs. So, if veganism is right for you, then it’s best to stay away from the refined stuff and stick to whole foods.

What to Eat:
● All veggies & fruit
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Grains
● Nuts & seeds

What Not to Eat:
● All animal products & by-products (e.g. meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey)


Get the recipe for Vegan Lasagna Roll Ups with Almond Ricotta

The Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is a 30-day nutrition reset program to help restore the gut, energy levels, metabolism and curb unhealthy cravings and habits. For 30 days, your commitment is to eliminate all grains, refined and natural sweeteners, beans, legumes, pulses, dairy, preservatives and additives, and any and all junk food, even if the ingredients are on the “ok” list. The goal is to eat real food, like lots and lots of vegetables, some fruit, moderate portions of meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs, and to use real food like fresh herbs to flavour your meals. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, this program can be challenging, but there are resources out there to aid you through it.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables
● Some fruit
● Moderate amount of meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs
● Lots of healthy fat (e.g. coconut, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados)
● Herbs and spices

What Not to Eat:
● Refined, artificial and natural sugars (e.g. white sugar, splenda, maple syrup, honey)
● Alcohol
● Grains (e.g. wheat, oats, corn, quinoa, rice)
● Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, peanuts, lentils, soy sauce, edamame, tofu)
● Dairy
● Carrageenan, MSG, Sulfites
● Baked goods or treats (even if they’re “healthy”)


Get the recipe for Instant Pot Whole30 Chicken Tikka Masala

The Mediterranean Diet

If you love the cuisines of Spain, Greece and Italy, you will love the Mediterranean diet. This particular style of eating has been widely researched and touted as the heart-healthy diet for its emphasis on healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil, olives, nuts and fish. People have also had success with weight loss on this diet. The emphasis is on lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, nuts, legumes and extra-virgin olive oil. Poultry, dairy and eggs should only be eaten in moderation, all refined sugars are big no-no’s and red meat should rarely be eaten, if at all.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Healthy fats (e.g. extra-virgin olive oil, olives, nuts)
● Whole grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Fish
● Poultry, dairy, eggs in moderation

What Not to Eat:
● Red meat (eaten only a few times a month, if at all)
● Refined sugar and grains


Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Grilled Snapper Vera Cruz

The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet is based on what hunter-gatherers ate during the paleolithic era, and has since become popular, partly thanks to CrossFitters who swear by this style of eating. The main idea is to eat real, whole foods that are unprocessed, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and animal protein, and to eliminate all grains, legumes, beans, dairy and refined sugar. The thought is that this style of eating may help with disease prevention and weight loss. While refined grains and sugars may be out, you can still enjoy starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, and natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Animal protein (fish, seafood, eggs, meat, poultry)
● Nuts and seeds
● Healthy fats

What Not to Eat:
● Grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Dairy
● Refined sugar and grains
● Processed foods
● White potatoes


Get the recipe for Grain-Free Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

The DASH Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) was created by the National Institute of Health to help lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol. It’s a simple and sustainable diet to follow that promotes long-term health benefits by emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, poultry, fish, lean meats and low-fat dairy. Refined sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages, high intakes of salt, fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy and tropical oils like coconut and palm should be cut out. The main goal is to eat a diet that is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fibre and protein.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Whole grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Poultry, fish, lean meats
● Low-fat dairy

What Not to Eat:
● Refined sugars
● Lots of salt
● Lots of saturated fat and fatty meat
● Full-fat dairy
● Tropical oils (e.g. coconut oil and palm oil)


Get the recipe for Healthy Buddha Bowl with Creamy Tahini Dressing

The Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian diet is kind of like being a flexible vegetarian– the purpose is to eat mainly plant-based, but incorporate animal protein when your body feels that it needs it. The goal to having more plant-centric meals is to reduce your carbon footprint, prevent disease and often as a side effect, lose weight. The diet emphasizes lots of plants like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds and then animal protein like eggs, fish, poultry, meat and dairy in more minimal amounts when you need it. This diet doesn’t really have any hard or fast rules, there’s no all or nothing, just feel out when your body is craving healthy forms of animal products, and when it isn’t.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Whole grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Nuts and seeds

What to Eat in Minimal Amounts:
● All animal products (poultry, fish, meat)
● Refined sugars, refined grains and processed foods


Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s Roast Chicken Cobb Salad

So, which diet should YOU follow?

Here’s the truth: as you look through each of these diets, there are many common threads: eat lots of vegetables, consume healthy fats and eliminate refined sugar and grains. The “best” diet doesn’t really exist, because there’s no one size-fits-all approach that’s going to be good for everyone. Every ‘body’ is unique, digests food differently and needs varying amounts of nutrients, so it’s important to think about what you feel best eating, and what your health goals are. As nutritionists, the best advice we can give is to make veggies the star of your plate and load up on produce that’s bursting with colour, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and then decide which ingredients you’d like to accompany these foods, whether it’s whole-grains, nuts, legumes or meat. As long as you eat whole foods and listen to your body, the rest will follow.

Hungry for more? Achieve a glowing complexion with these nutritionist-backed tips on the 10 best natural foods for dewy skin. You can also peek inside these health experts fridge for meal prep inspiration (it’ll change the way you grocery shop!).

These Chocolate Avocado Keto Cookies Are Healthy Enough for Breakfast 

A decadent, delicious breakfast cookie is the ultimate grab-and-go morning meal. But these are far from normal cookies. These keto-powered baked goods only have 3.2 net grams of carbs, along with a super, secret ingredient: avocado. The ketogenic diet is all about eating tons of fat, and these cookies really deliver, helping to fuel you with good, clean fats. Eating lots of healthy fat, especially in the morning, regulates blood sugar, keeps insulin levels low and promotes fat burning and loss. So, basically you’re eating a nutritious cookie that helps you lose weight – can you think of anything better?!

Chocolate Avocado Keto Breakfast Cookies

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 cookies

Ingredients:
2 small ripe avocados
2 large eggs
½ cup almond flour
⅓ cup raw cacao
⅓ cup erythritol or monk fruit sweetener
½ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp sea salt
¼ cup cacao nibs or stevia sweetened chocolate chips
2 Tbsp shredded coconut, to use as garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Peel the avocado, place it in the bowl and mash it until smooth.
3. Add in the almond flour, raw cacao, sweetener, baking soda and sea salt and combine all ingredients. Whisk in the eggs.
4. Fold in the cacao nibs. Don’t be alarmed if the batter does not resemble traditional cookie dough, it will be fudgier.

5. Scoop about 1 ½ Tbsp of batter onto the baking sheet to make one cookie and lightly flatten with your hand or a spoon. Leave quite a bit of space between the cookies, since they spread.
6. Top with shredded coconut to garnish.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool for a few minutes before digging in.

For more healthy low-carb recipes to keep on hand, check out these 20 Easy Keto Dinners to Make Right Now and 14 Keto-Friendly Snacks That Are Super Simple to Make.

What Exactly Are Macros and How Do You Count Them?

You may be seeing the term macros more often these days thanks to the increased popularity of the keto diet and the general public’s heightened attention to the benefits of eating healthfully. The term is short for macronutrients, which includes the three most important nutrients required for the proper functioning of every body part and our overall well-being. Macros encompass carbohydrates, fats and protein, each bringing with them their own unique benefit for the body. At a basic level, carbohydrates give energy, fats provide satiation and proteins repair and build muscle – but the benefits don’t stop there.


Get the recipe for this Mexican Quinoa Bowl, which features a healthy balance of carbs, fat and protein. 

The following breakdown of macros is general, and varies from person to person. Every body is unique, with recommended intakes fluctuating based on age, activity level, weight, height and health status. Check with your doctor, dietitian or nutritionist if this is something you’re excited to know more about.

The Macros Basics

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are where our bodies can most easily turn to for energy. They’re especially important for brain functioning, as the brain gobbles up a huge percentage of the carbs we eat. Complex carbohydrates are preferable most of the time, but simple carbs can be beneficial to boost blood sugar levels quickly after a workout.

Fats

Fat not only adds flavour to food and keeps you full, but this macro is also incredibly important to one’s whole health. Fats nourish the brain and organs, help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, E and D), contribute to proper hormone function, lubricate joints, keep skin soft and hair healthy, lubricate the eyes, regulate the mood and so much more. Suffice to say that fats are not to be skipped (unless you have an underlying health problem), and a well-rounded diet includes a balance of good-quality fat sources such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs (with the yolk), fatty fish and avocado.


Get the recipe for Soba Noodles with Garlic Shrimp and Miso Dressing

Proteins

When you add protein to a meal, be that from eggs, steak, chicken breast, tofu or beans, you’ll likely notice that you feel satisfied and remain full for longer. Proteins are building blocks of muscle, enzymes, hormones, cartilage, bones, skin, hair, nails and blood. Neurotransmitters in the brain are built from protein (amino acids), which basically ensure that the different body parts can “talk” to each other. A complete protein contains all essential amino acids, which is found in animal protein sources. However, if you follow a plant-based diet, combining two different foods can replicate a complete protein. For example, pairing brown rice with black beans, or seeds with legumes, creates a complete protein full of all essential amino acids.

Why Focus On Macros?

Looking to our unique activity levels, age and lifestyle, it may be beneficial to pay closer attention to the macros you’re eating. For instance, if you workout often, in general, you’ll need more carbohydrates for energy than someone who lives a very sedentary lifestyle.

Those who are following a ketogenic diet believe that fat is the best fuel for weight loss purposes, as it takes more work to turn fat into energy than carbs. If you’re following a keto diet, you should be doing so under medical supervision.


Get the recipe for Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Why Count Macros?

Calorie counting is hard to stick to, and doesn’t put any focus on the nutrition found within the food. Counting macros, however, takes a more holistic look at all of the good-for-you nutrients you’re consuming. Most of it is common sense: look at a plate (or bowl) of food, and then see if it’s a healthy balance of carbs, fat, and protein. An example of this could be a large green salad with roasted sweet potato tossed in an olive oil-based dressing and paired with chicken, or the salmon tacos with avocado pictured below.


Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s Roasted Salmon Tacos 

If you’re looking to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, increase your energy levels or up your game at the gym, counting macros may help you along.

The Percentage of Macros You Need

These percentages of macros needed is dependent on a range of factors, so choose both what feels right and is recommended by your medical professional. The numbers are what you’re aiming for in your whole day, so plan meals accordingly:

Macros for General Health 

  • 45-65% carbs
  • 20-35% fat
  • 10-35% protein

Macros for Weight Loss

  • 30% carbs
  • 25% fat
  • 45% protein

Macros for Strength

  • 50% carbs
  • 20% fat
  • 30% protein

Macros for Endurance

  • 45-50% carbs
  • 20-30% fat
  • 15-20% protein

Macros for the Keto Diet (under medical supervision)

  • 6% carbs
  • 73% fat
  • 21% protein

How to Count Macros Successfully

If counting or tracking your macros is something you want to try, you have to know your weight (tied directly to body mass index) and activity level, as your carb, fat and protein intake requirements are entwined to these two pieces of information. Here’s a Macro Calculator that does the math for you, leaving you to just cook, eat and start tracking.

For overall well-being, counting macros or not, focus on whole, real, unprocessed foods made from scratch when possible, 80% of the time and keep those extras to 20% of the time. It can be as easy as that.