My plan to follow Keto & Whole30 for the month of January
I announced earlier that I will be following a Whole30 & Keto (imperfect version) plan for the month of January. Ok so I am a little late on the diet announcement but who really starts anything when they are still feeling the effects of too much champagne from the night before? In case you are unfamiliar with either of those dietary plans and or can't interpret my scrambled thoughts or read my mind I am hoping this article will help you understand why. I am also hoping to help you decide if you are going to make any diet changes what is best for you! Again you need to decide what is best for you rather than following someone else's plan!
So let's start with the imperfect part before diving into what is Keto and what is Whole30 and how the heck I plan on doing both? I am stating "imperfect" not to give myself an easy out or to allow me to pick and chose when I want to follow my plan but instead for me, personally, it is psychologically hard to start something knowing I have to or need to be perfect. That is just me. You might be completely different but perfection is never something I seek. Also, I have several events and dinners already planned this month where I know I will eat clean and simple but do not have 100% control over my meal as I am not the one preparing the meal. That is just life- it is never 100% controllable! I honestly can't think of a single time or month where I would (personally) not have any social obligations. Also I choose not to isolate myself. As great of a diet plan as the Whole30 and Keto are unless your entire social network and family members are following it then it can be isolating. Don't get me wrong I am all for doing what is best for you regardless of what friends and family think - many will question your motives and the diet itself and many will doubt you and the diet regardless if they know anything about it! I am simply stating that I have been at that place where I missed social events or dinner with friends because I wanted to be "perfect" but instead all that I achieved was isolation. Again these are my thoughts. Not necessarily yours. You do what feels right for you.
Ok now onto the Keto part- we are apparently working backwards here... I have to admit I am pretty well versed in the Ketogenic diet. I have been following it myself off and on for over 3 years now. I have also taught a Ketogenic Weight Loss group at a successful nutrition practice here in Houston where I learned a great deal from not only my clients about their success and struggles but also my employer and colleagues. I saw clients drop weight, gain energy, improve hormone levels and blood sugar and feel like themselves again. It was amazing! So what is the Keto/Ketosis/Ketogenic diet? A Ketogenic diet ( I have an entire blog post on the diet here) is essentially an extremely low carbohydrate diet aimed at training the body to burn fat for fuel rather than sugar/carbohydrates. Most will stay around 25-40 grams of total carbohydrates a day. To put this in perspective; the average American eats about 150 grams of carbohydrates per day... Consequently the Ketogenic diet is free of grains, starches, beans and even fruit as all of these items are concentrated in carbohydrates. Also I should note that the Keto diet should be free of added sugars as this can obviously increase the carb intake to well over 30 grams per day and kick one "out" of Ketosis. The benefits of this diet include; weight loss, blood sugar balance, improved digestion, improved hormone balance. I have also used this diet therapeutically for clients with Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis as well as Seizure disorders. So what can you eat on a Keto diet?
A Keto diet consists mainly of the following:
- healthy fat (avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds, butter, olive oil, etc.)
- protein (eggs, fish, chicken, beef, pork etc.)
- non starchy veggies (kale, brussels, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, asparagus etc.)
- some dairy ( hard cheese, heavy cream, cream cheese)
Now enter the Whole30 perspective...This diet is aimed to remove all chemicals and potential food allergens and just processed foods in general from the diet and although it can be very restrictive it is very effective. Whole30 is free from dairy (no cheese like with Keto), free from grains and sugar (same as Keto) and free from chemicals and food additives. Basically if you are eating fresh produce and fresh protein without adding pre-made sauces or condiments full of chemicals you are doing Whole30! The main difference between the two is that the main goal of Keto is to reduce carbohydrates enough to enter in a state of Ketosis (fat burn) and unfortunately food chemicals/dyes and artificial sweeteners are technically still Keto- even though I don't recommend them to clients regardless. In opposition; a Whole30 diet is NOT low carb at all! One could technically eat sweet potatoes and fruit all day long and still be following Whole30. I should also mention that the Whole30 program is not advertised as a weight loss program and in fact the creator, Melissa Hartwig, recommends avoiding weighing yourself during the month long process. Whole30 is instead aimed at removing food allergens and reducing inflammation. I can guarantee however, that a body that is not inflamed will lose weight more efficiently than an inflamed body for a multitude of reasons.
So now that the merits of both diets are more clear; why am I doing both? I have always generally felt better and less inflamed following a low carbohydrate diet free from grains. Although I do not follow one diet 100% of the time and try to avoid rigidity with my diet/lifestyle, I do know that for me personally I feel great while in Ketosis. I have more energy, I sleep better, my mood is elevated and virtually have no desire to steal a bite of cheesecake from my husband sitting beside me on the couch. My faults with the Keto diet is that technically it could be a diet filled with food chemicals and artificial sweeteners ( though It does not have to be). Just google "Keto Desserts" and you will find thousands of recipes with stevia, saccharin, xylitol etc. all non nutritive chemical sweeteners that can still have profound effects on your hormones even if they do not contain carbohydrates. Dairy (cheese and cream), although very "Keto friendly" is also up for debate in my book. Similar to the effects of gluten and sugar on the brain; cheese can also play a role in food addiction- thank you dopamine and casomorphins (opioid effects). Another fault I have with allowing too much dairy in the diet is that not everyone has the ability to only eat grass-fed dairy products. Unfortunately conventional dairy products are full of hormones and antibiotics that can contribute to inflammation and weight gain. Personally I have noticed negative effects from eating too much dairy - fluid retention, bloating etc. and this is the main reason why I am choosing to avoid dairy while doing Keto and will instead use coconut cream and almond milk in recipes and smoothies! Lastly I should mention that although I am mainly following this plan to feel better and reduce inflammation and improve GI symptoms I would be lying if I did not admit that I would also love to be back at a pre-Holiday weight/size. I think most can relate to me when I admit that as a Dietitian (I am human first), I tend to eat and drink more and move less during the winter months. All the food and time spent with friends and family was all worth it though!
Ok so what WILL I be eating? You can expect to see me post lots of vegetables, lots of leafy greens, tons of spaghetti squash, moderate amounts of protein with simple seasons and marinades made from real ingredients and ample healthy fats coming from nuts, seeds, oils and coconut! An example day of my Whole30 Keto Edition would look like this:
- Breakfast: 2 slices Pederson's Bacon ( sugar, preservative free), 2 Vital Farm fried Eggs + 1/2 cup cabbage sauteed with leftover bacon grease and seasoned with salt and pepper
- Lunch: Grilled Salmon Salad with spinach, red onions, and almonds and thrown together with a quick dressing made of equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil (I likely will make a bunch ahead of time to keep in my fridge)
- Dinner: Homemade Chicken Soup with Zucchini "Noodles" in place of pasta
- Snack: 1 tbsp almond butter + celery or 4 tbsp fresh made guacamole + sliced radishes or 1/4 cup mixed raw nuts