Here are the basics:
1) cut out ALL sugars, starches, grains, and processed foods – this includes bread, pasta, rice, legumes, potatoes, carrots, peas, sweets of all kinds including fruit, sugary drinks including fruit juices ( also including diet drinks as they can cause you to crave sweets AND can cause you to actually GAIN weight instead of lose it), pre-packaged “healthy” foods, boxed goods, etc. The reason behinds these cuts are that they are loaded with sugar, starch, preservatives, MSG, and other unhealthy JUNK.
2) Keep your carbs at 20 NET grams (Total carbs – fiber – sugar alchohols (if applicable) ) or below during the first 2 weeks. This is called the induction phase. After that, you can begin to add some extra non-starchy vegetables and more dairy to your diet up to 50 grams. If you stop losing weight, lower the carbs again. Personally, I am 2 months into this and I eat around 15-25 grams of TOTAL carbs per day, which would average about 10-15 NET carbs if I subtracted out the fiber. I do not eat anything with sugar alcohols in them as they stall my weight loss and raise my blood glucose. All bodies are different and we all have different health issues, so you need to do what works best for your body. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, stick closely to 20 grams or less.
3) Your goal macros in the beginning phase should ideally be 75% Fat, 20% Protein, and 5% Carbohydrates. You can figure these out by logging your foods on apps like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret (just search for them on Google). My goals now, after two months are closer to 80% Fat, 15% Protein and 5% Carbs. I do better with more fat and lower protein. (note: ideal protein intake should be about 0.5 grams (for women… men can eat between 0.8-1.0 grams – if you do extreme work-outs you may need between 1.0-1.5 grams) per kilograms of body weight per day. Just convert your pounds to kilograms to get your kilograms and then multiply by 0.5.. for example: I weigh 225 lbs, that is 102 kilograms, multiplied by 0.5 and my ideal amount of protein is 51 grams per day. As you lose weight, keep adjusting your protein intake.)
4) What about calories? When you first begin this, you may want to set a caloric goal for yourself. I suggest this first. Before you begin this diet (or as I refer to it, way of eating/living because for optimal health, you must remain eating this way or gain back all of your losses), first log in what you normally eat every day and be completely honest! That will show you how many calories you normally eat, as well as how much fat, protein and carbs you consume. Please keep in mind that a Low Carb Healthy Fats diet is NOT calorie restrictive, however, you should not overeat either. This diet is satiating and will keep you full longer. So your body will naturally begin reducing its caloric intake. I would set a goal of 1200-1500 for women and 1500-1800 for men to begin with. You will notice over time that you may eat less some days and more others. This is perfectly okay.
5) Drink plenty of water. Hydration is very important on a LCHF diet. Ideally, you should consume half of your body weight in ounces. Caution: the more water you drink, the more electrolytes you will lose. Be sure to replace those with sodium, potassium, magnesium, and iodine. Pink Sea salt has all of those in it and should be used instead of table salt.
6) If you find that you are experiencing “keto flu” (nausea, low energy, muscle cramping, fogginess, or headaches), please note that this is completely normal. Your body is adjusting to this new WOE. On average, these symptoms will last a few days up to about a week. There are some remedies that you can try to ease yourself into this: drink plenty of water, watch your electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium, and iodine – you can add sea salt to lemon water, drink dill pickle juice, or drink some broth to help with these. Also a good idea to take a magnesium supplement), increase your fat content, and lower your protein content.
7) Many people on this WOE also add Intermittent Fasting to their routine. IF can be done several ways. Two of the most popular are 16:8 or 24 hrs. In the first, you fast (consuming only liquids: coffee, tea and water) for 16 hrs and then eat 1-2 meals within an 8 hr window. In the second, you fast for 24 hrs (consuming only coffee, tea and water) for 24 hrs, then eat one meal and fast again for 24 hrs. This considered the Fast/Feed model and will give your body time to digest foods and get into fat burning mode quicker.
8) If you discover that you cannot get in enough fat during the day, consider adding 1-2 Bulletproof coffees or teas to your diet. BPC/BPT consists of 1-2 cups of brewed coffee/tea (reg or decaf), 1-2 Tbsp of grass-fed butter (or reg butter if you cannot afford/find the grass-fed), and 1-2 Tbsp of organic, unrefined coconut oil. Alternatively, you can also add some of the following: 1-2 Tbsp HWC, artificial sweetener of choice, cinnamon, vanilla extract (or SF syrups), cocoa powder, etc. Just be aware some of these may have carbs or trace amounts of carbs. You will want to blend this or use an emulsion blender to whip these up, otherwise the oil sets on the top and doesn’t mix into the coffee or tea. (NOTE: while this is still a very popular way to get in added fats, I no longer subscribe to this as I no longer consume caffeine on a regular basis. If you find that you are gaining weight instead of losing weight, you may want to cut out the BPC/T). Another way to add fats is fatbombs and there are recipes all over the net for those.
9) If you experience constipation (and many do!), please note that this is natural any time you have a change of diet. Also note that you do not necessarily need to have an elimination every day or even every other day. If you have not had an elimination for up to 3 days and/or you are feeling uncomfortable, “heavy”, or in pain there are a few remedies you can try:
- drink more water
- increase your fat content
- take Milk of Magnesium (this works within 30 mins to 6 hrs – results in diarrhea for a brief period of time)
- take pysllium husk or metamucil
Alternatively, you may experience loosened bowels at this time, this is also perfectly natural, especially if you consume a lot of fats and green leafy vegetables. If it continues for more than 2-3 days, cut back on your fat a little bit and see if this makes a difference. Do not increase carbs or protein though.
10) Exercise: I am adding this here because a lot of people still have the misconception that exercise will aid in weight loss. Sorry folks, but that just isn’t so! It can actually cause you to GAIN weight. I am not advocating to NOT exercise. Exercise is great for toning and strengthening the body. Just be aware that it can cause weight gain. Do it if it makes you feel good (and it should!).
11) Supplements: many people worry that you will not get adequate vitamins and minerals with the LCHF WOE. For the most part, this is a huge misconception. If you eat WHOLE, unadulterated, organic, grass-fed, free-range foods, you will get all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. The only exceptions to this are electrolytes. Since you are no longer eating starchy or sugary foods, your body will not retain water as much, so you will lose electrolytes more quickly. You can supplement with magnesium, potassium and iodine (if you mainly use reg table salt, sea salt should have all of those in it). You can also take a daily multi-vitamin but be aware that the “gummy” versions do have carbs in them.
So what CAN you eat?
CARBS: leafy green vegetables (kale, collard, mustard, spinach, lettuces etc), broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, yellow squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, radish, yellow onions (red and sweet onions have more carbs, so use sparingly), green bell peppers (red and yellow have more carbs, so use sparingly), garlic, hot peppers, green cabbage (red is higher in carbs and cabbage in general is higher in carbs, so watch your portions), asparagus, mushrooms (okay, it’s a fungus, but we will add it here anyway), tomatoes (higher in carbs, so use sparingly), cucumbers, celery, dill pickles, green beans (sparingly as they are higher in carbs) ginger, and herbs of all kinds. A general rule is if it grows above ground, it is safe to eat, if grows underground (with the exception of onions and garlic), best not to eat it… but all of this in moderation unless leafy green vegetables and herbs. 1-2 cups of these vegetables per meal is a good goal.
AVOID: carrots, peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, acorn squash, butternut squash, legumes and other root vegetables.
PROTEIN: with all of the meats, you should strive for the fattiest cuts and if you can find them and afford them, purchase grass-fed, organic, and free-range.
Red Meat – beef, bison, veal, lamb, organ meat.
Poultry – dark meat is best and with the skin on, so thighs and legs. If you do eat the breast, make sure that it has the skin on and that you “stuff” it with fatty foods like butter or cheeses. Chicken liver is also a good poultry meat.
Pork – fattiest portions that includes pork roasts, pork chops, bacon (try to find non-sugar cured if possible) and breakfast sausage (note: most sausage has added sugar, best to buy ground pork and make your own), ham if not sugar cured.
AVOID: lunch meats, hot dogs, and other sausages because they usually have sugar and other additives that are bad for the health.
Fish and shellfish – Wild Caught is best. Farm-raised is usually fed GMO grains. Check mercury levels of fish to be sure you do not eat those with high mercury levels. Good ones are Whitefish, Swai, Cod, Flounder, Salmon, Tilapia, Tuna (even canned is good), shrimp, oysters, crab, clams, mussels, and scallops (lobster is okay, but it is higher in carbs, so watch your portions).
Dairy – full fat cheeses, full fat creams (like heavy whipping cream), full fat sour cream, full fat plain yogurt (sparingly as these are higher in carbs), full fat cream cheese (Note: even the full fat versions of these have lactose, if you are lactose intolerant, avoid. Use sparingly because the carbs add up fast! Dairy can also stall weight loss and raise BGLs. If you have either of these problems, try cutting way back or eliminate altogether.)
Eggs – glorious eggs!
Nuts and Seeds – I am adding these here, but they are also categorized as fats – All nuts are acceptable in SMALL amounts with the exception of cashews and pistachios (very high in carbs, so either avoid or wait til after induction to eat) – raw or dry roasted are acceptable, just none with added sugars. All seeds are acceptable in SMALL amounts including sunflower, pumpkin, chia, sesame, and hemp (though hemp is higher in carbs).
Protein intake of 3-4 ozs per meal is ideal for women, 4-6 ozs per meal for men.
FATS: extra virgin olive oil, organic unrefined coconut oil, grass-fed butter (Kerrygolds is a good one and can be found at Walmart and Krogers), bacon drippings, lard, avocados, nuts and nut butters (so long as they are natural with no added sugars, use sparingly as the carbs will add up – no cashew butter), flax seed oil, fish oil, cod liver oil, non-sugar mayonnaises (Dukes is a good one, but homemade is best because all commercial brands add vegetable oils) and olives.
AVOID – margarines, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil – generally all vegetable oils.
There is no real restrictions on the amount of fats you can use (except those noted) but generally 1-2 tbsp is good for added oils and butters per meal (because you will also have fat in your proteins!), and moderate amounts of the remaining. Trust me, you won’t need more than that as you will feel amazingly full.
Condiments and Spices: Vinegars (except balsamic as it usually contains sugar), mustards, Braggs liquid amino acids (similar to soy sauce without the soy), coconut aminos (similar to soy sauce also without soy), bouillons (be careful of those with MSG, soy or modified food starch), salsas (check the carb content, ideally 1-2 carbs per Tbsp is best – no bean or corn salsas), All spices are okay but do be aware some contain trace amounts of carbs, sea salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, tumeric, cumin, sea kelp, etc
Avoid: ketchups, barbecue sauces, and marinades.. these all have sugars and starches in them. You can find low carb recipes online for all of these!
OTHERS: Sauerkraut, Kimchee, pickled foods, kefir – all of these have tremendous health benefits but do be aware that some commercial brands may include unwanted sugars.
Artificial Sweeteners: Stevia (liquid is best as most powdered forms have maltodextrin in them which is a sugar), Swerve, Erythritol, Xylitol (note: this is a sugar alcohol and some people cannot tolerate it – also, keep in mind that even in small dosages Xylitol is fatal to pets!)
NOTE: all artificial sweeteners CAN cause insulin to rise in your body. If you stall in weight loss OR have high Blood Glucose Levels, remove ALL sweeteners from your diet.
Avoid: aspartame aka NutraSweet (unless you can tolerate it – may stall weight loss), sucralose aka Splenda (unless you can tolerate it – may stall weight loss as it DOES contain sugar), fructose, honey, maple syrup, table sugar in all its forms. Read labels carefully, sugars have many names and are used in practically everything! Please keep in mind that the powdered versions of these contain maltodextrin which is a sugar. Best to use liquid.
Note: many people have substituted pork rinds for chips on this WOE. They are great for dips, crushed to coat meat in, and as a good snack. Be aware that the flavored pork rinds have MSG in them and some people are intolerant of this additive.
Note: concerning caffeine – some people get an insulin response from consuming caffeine. If your weight stalls, try eliminating ALL caffeine for a few days and see if there is a difference in weight loss.
CAUTION: cheating – if you do cheat, keep in mind that ONE cheat day could stall weight loss from 3-30 days (because it will kick you out of ketosis) depending on how insulin resistant you are. LCHF/Keto is an all in or all out WOE. Cheating is detrimental to your goals.
Ideally, you want to eat WHOLE foods, not “pre-packaged” LC foods. Try to stay as clean and simple as possible on this WOE. Your body will thank you.