Eating Clean On Low Carb and Ketogenic Diet
Perhaps you have heard the terms “whole food,” “clean eating,” and “low carb diet,” but you really don’t know what they mean.
Before you can make the wise decision to improve your diet and make healthier choices, it is important to understand how it all works.
It is important to understand that the Ketogenic diet is not a fad or a traditional diet, but a lifestyle, so you are not making a temporary change, you are making a life change.
With that in mind, below we will discuss what the ketogenic diet is, and how you can make a success of it by eating clean whole food so you can make your new lifestyle a true succcess.
What is A Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet. It limits your intake of carbs to about 20 grams a day but no more than 50.
The reason for this is that for it to be successful you need to enter into ketosis stage, where the body begins to burn stored fat for energy instead of dietary carbs. Ketosis will not be triggered unless you are eating less than 50 grams of carbs per day.
Therefore, while you may be on a low carb diet, unless you are following a strict carb limit you are not likely to enjoy its main benefits.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that actually uses your fat stores for energy instead of dietary carbohydrates.
Generally, your body feeds on carbohydrates for energy, the problem with this is that when you do not burn off all the carbohydrates you eat, the rest turns to fat stores.
This is complex metabolic process that involves glucose, insulin, and glycogen.
- Carbohydrates (starches and sugars) are broken down into glucose in the bloodstream, giving the body its default energy source.
- At this point, the hormone insulin steps in to remove glucose from the bloodstream.
- Insulin converts glucose into glycogen. Some glycogen is stored inside the liver as a fuel reserve for the brain, and the rest in the muscles as fuel reserves for everything you do.
- When that muscle glycogen is not used through a lack of energy expenditure or exercise, it stays in the muscles.
- The human body can only store so much glycogen, about 1800 calories worth. When that reserve becomes full both the muscles and liver send a signal to stop insulin production and excess glucose from dietary carbs begins to build up in the bloodstream, calling for more and more insulin to be released to remove it.
- Insulin levels surge, and eventually this may lead to insulin resistance.
- At this point, the liver then sends any excess glucose in the blood to be stored as body fat.
- As high dietary carb intake continues, glucose floods the bloodstream, insulin levels increase, and so do the body’s fat stores.
Many experts believe that over consumption of carbohydrates has greatly contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States with 1/3 of adults being obese.
In the Keto equation however, once carbs are greatly limited and their sources controlled, the body has no other option than to turn to its own fat stores for energy and the metabolic process of ketosis begins.
There are other concrete scientific reasons as to why eating low carb promotes weight loss. When you eliminate sugar and starches your blood sugar stabilizes and insulin levels, the fat-storing hormone, drop, so you burn fat and feel naturally satisfied with less food.
The ketogenic diet was created in 1924 by Mayo Clinic doctor, Russell Wilder. It is used to treat certain medical conditions, and is also supportive in keeping blood sugars stable in those with diabetes.
Harvard Health explains how the keto diet trumps low fat diets in numerous studies when it comes to the amount of weight lost as well as its ability to lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream to improve cholesterol profiles and reduce risk factors for heart disease.
More than 20 randomized controlled trials published since 2002 in respected, peer-reviewed journals have shown low carb diets to be effective for weight loss, stabilizing blood sugars, general health and are also noted to be completely safe. One of the longest studies, but not the only one found that low carb beats low fat diets in improving good HDL cholesterol levels.
One of the most popular commercial ketogenic diets is Atkins™ was created by Dr. Robert Atkins over 40 years ago and it has helped thousands of overweight and obese people lose the weight and keep it off.
Keto Carb Intake
The ratio of macronutrient intake in a standard ketogenic diet is typically, 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
The use of carbs for fuel is what the ketogenic diet aims to avoid by:
Limiting carbs to less than 20 grams per day and limiting their sources mostly to non-starchy vegetables.
This is especially strict and important when you first start in order to trigger ketosis so the body can begin to burn fat for fuel.
While vegetables are simple carbs, they are not insulin triggers like other simple sugars, such as table sugar, fruit, and baked goods nor do they have the same insulin trigger effect in the body as complex carbs do, such as corn, potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread.
Non-starchy vegetables are very low in carbs, making them a nutrient dense food that carries a very low glycemic load that supports ketosis and weight loss.
Eating foods with a low glycemic load means that your body will stop storing fat and begin to burn it instead, because both simple and complex carbs convert to glucose in the body, and any glucose not used for energy will be stored as fat.
However, once those sources of glucose (starch and sugar carbs) are eliminated, the body enters the metabolic process of ketosis and begins to burn its fat stores for energy so you can lose weight.
The Ketogenic Diet Eliminates
- Table sugar and all foods made with it
- Starchy vegetables
- All starches
- Any foods with a high glycemic load
Protein is both 46% ketogenic and 58% anti-ketogenic because some protein will convert to glucose in the bloodstream, therefore in keto protein intake should be enough to support muscle mass and prevent its loss, but not so much that will disrupt ketosis.
- Sedentary lifestyle: from 0.69-0.8grams per pound of lean body mass
- Mild activity: from 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of lean body mass
- Heavy strength training/bodybuilding and exercise: from 1 to 1.2 grams per pound
Specifically, lean body mass is total body weight minus total body fat. Lean body masses ranges between sixty to ninety percent of total body weight and men’s will be higher than women’s will.
You can use any of the online calculators to figure your lean body mass index.
In the Ketogenic diet, you eliminate carbs, but increase intake of healthy fats. While in the past 20 years fats have been demonized, the truth is that healthy fats are good for you and in keto they are key in burning body fat.
Many studies have shown low carb eating to be more effective in weight loss, including in the amount of actual weight lost and in reducing risk factors for heart disease than low fat diets.
This includes saturated fats from meat and butter that promote energy when eating low carb and lead to smart weight loss.
Daily Fat Intake Guidelines For A Ketogenic Diet
These are some suggested guidelines, but keep in mind that portions will vary based on body size.
- 2 to 3 eggs
- 4 to 6 ounces of meat, chicken, seafood, or fish at each meal
- 1 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 an avocado or 10 olives
- 1 to 2 ounces of nuts or seeds
- Canola, peanut and grapeseed oils for pan cooking and stir-frys
- Full fat mayonnaise, canola oil mayo is a good choice
- Coconut oil that has ketosis boosting MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides). 1 tablespoons daily in replacement of another fat.
What Does It Mean To Eat Clean?
A lot has been said about eating clean, but what does it actually mean?
The Mayo Clinic explains that the basic premise is that you choose and eat foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, also known as whole foods.
That means no packaged, boxed, or made in a factory foods.
Whole foods are nutrient dense, versus processed foods that are energy dense. The difference is that nutrient dense foods provide vital nutrients that the body needs, like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants without added sugar and fat, while energy dense foods are high in empty calories that provide little or no nutrition.
Eating clean means eating whole food, which is a food that is made from one ingredient and is unprocessed.
- Real butter versus margarine
- Black coffee versus Starbucks Mocha Frappuchino
- Whole vegetables versus veggie chips
- Slices of roast beef, chicken or turkey right from the roast or bird versus spam, hot dogs and processed lunch meats
- Grilled fish fillet versus fish sticks
- Whole fruit instead fruits snacks
- An apple versus apple juice
- Whole chicken breast instead of chicken nuggets
While whole food can be cooked and combined with other whole food ingredients, the individual foods themselves maintain their whole integrity because they are not altered from their original state.
The Health Benefits of Whole Food
Whole foods are unprocessed, unrefined, and as pure as they possibly can be.
The Mayo Clinic points to the fact that greater nutrition, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals is derived from whole food. Additionally, WebMD emphasizes the significant impact that clean eating has on cardiovascular diseases, many forms of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
The Harvard School of Public Health delves into the benefits of vegetables. In addition to gastrointestinal health, fighting cancer, cardiovascular and diabetes, vegetables keep your vision healthy. They can prevent the two most common eye diseases that are related to aging: cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Additionally, tomatoes can help fight against prostate cancer, while lettuce and leafy greens can ward off throat, mouth, stomach, and esophageal cancers.
JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that highlighted that while fast food restaurants cut their levels of sodium, the levels were still worryingly high.
Eating clean provides you with endless energy to put a spring in your step and greatly improve your performance in everyday life. This maybe one of its best benefits, allowing you to see the results of your efforts every single day!
Some may believe that whole food is more expensive than processed; in many cases, this is simply untrue.
Whole Food Is a Staple of Clean Eating
Eliminating processed food allows you to get the most nutrients from food and eliminates preservatives, added sugar, salt and often extra unneeded calories.
Clean foods are typically low in salt and sugar naturally, but processed food is typically loaded with these ingredients so they are no longer clean. That’s why reading labels is vital to eating clean.
Manmade ingredients like preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial colorings do not have a home when it comes to clean eating.
Ideally, eating clean also means purchasing meat, dairy, and eggs from a farmer’s market to ensure that the animals haven’t been given antibiotics or growth hormones. It can also mean buying organic fruits and vegetables, which are grown without pesticides.
WebMD Prescribes The Following Main Principles Of Eating Clean:
- Eat real whole food
- Eat six small meals daily
- Eat breakfast within an hour of getting up, and every day
- Include lean protein at every meal
- Drink 100 ounces of water daily (equates to around 3 liters)
- Have around 3 servings of healthy fats daily
- Use fresh fruits and vegetables as your source of fiber, nutrients, vitamins and enzymes
Clean eating supports good health, weight loss, blood sugar control, reducing risks for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
AND, guess what?
So does low carb eating!
Eating Clean and Eating Low Carb
So how do you put it all together and manage a ketogenic diet that is in line with eating clean?
Actually, the two are quite harmonious, and possibly easier to achieve than with any other eating plans when you consider how many processed foods contain unhealthy carbs and carry a high glycemic load that interferes with the fat burning process ketosis.
Neither concepts seek to restrict your enjoyment of food, or prevent you from eating delicious whole real food.
With the exception of eliminating fruit, grains and starches, both clean eating and low carb plans are synonymous.
Enjoy natural whole food fats when eating low carb:
Get organic when possible to further eliminate unnatural additives.
- Grass fed butter
- Range free eggs
- Natural plant oils, like extra virgin olive and coconut oil
- Range free or pasture raised eggs
- Full fat cheeses – whole block and not shredded is best as shredded cheeses typically have preservatives. White cheeses have no coloring, yellow cheeses do. Organic or grass fed is best.
- Heavy cream
The best protein sources are whole food choices eaten in their natural state without any coatings and include:
- Grilled chicken and turkey
- Organ Meats
- Game Meats
Free range, grass fed, pasture raised, organic or those raised without hormones and not grain fed are all optimal protein choices when eating clean.
- Wild caught fish and seafood
Carb intake is limited to non-starchy vegetables, all of which are whole foods:
Get organic to eliminate pesticide intake.
- Alfalfa Sprouts – .4 grams per cup
- Daikon – 1 gram per ½ cup
- Endive – >1 gram per ounce
- Escarole – >1 gram per ounce
- Arugula – .2 grams per ½ cup
- Bok Choy – .8 grams per 1 cup/raw
- Celery – .8 grams per 1 stalk
- Chicory Greens – .6 grams per ½ cup
- Green Onions – .1 per 1 tablespoon
- Cucumber – 1 gram per ½ cup sliced
- Fennel – 3.6 grams per 1 cup
- Iceberg Lettuce – .1 grams per 1/2 cup
- Parsley – >1 gram per ounce
- Bell Peppers – 2.3 grams per ½ cup
- Radicchio – .7 grams per ½ cup
- Radishes – .9 grams per 10 pieces
- Romaine Lettuce – .2 grams per ½ cup
- Artichoke (1/4 Steamed) – 4 grams
- Artichoke Hearts In Water – 2 grams per 1 heart
- Asparagus – 2.4 grams per 6 spears
- Bamboo Shoots – 1.1 grams per 1 cup
- Broccoli – 1 gram per 1/2 cup
- Brussels sprouts – 2.4 grams per ¼ cup
- Cabbage – 2 grams per ½ cup
- Cauliflower – 2 grams per 1 cup
- Chard – 1.8 grams per ½ cup
- Collard Greens – 4.2 grams per 1/2 cup
- Eggplant – 1.8 grams per ½ cup
- Hearts of Palm – .7 grams per 1 heart
- Kale – 2.4 grams per ½ cup
- Mushrooms – 1 gram per ½ cup
- Kohlrabi – 4.6 grams per ½ cup
- Leeks – 1.7 grams per ¼ cup
- Okra – 2.4 grams per ½ cup
- Black Olives (10 small, 5 large, or 3 jumbo olives) – 1 gram
- Onions – 2.8 grams per ¼ cup
- Pumpkin – 2.4 grams per ¼ cup
- Sauerkraut – 1.2 grams per ½ cup
- Spinach – .2 grams per ½ cup
- Summer Squash – 2 grams per ½ cup
- Tomato (1 medium) – 4 grams
- Cherry Tomatoes – 4 grams per cup
- Turnips – 2.2 grams per ½ cup
- Fresh herbs and spices
Some clean eaters suggest that all of your vegetables should be fresh, however frozen and canned may still be fine, just be sure to check the label to ensure there is no added salt, preservatives or sugar.
Another way to ensure that you eat clean and save money is by growing your own vegetables and fruits. Whether you have a large yard to plant as far as the eye can see, or you have a small area where you can garden in containers.
You have total control over pesticides, and it’s cheaper than having to purchase them. You can also grow your own herbs, and fruits.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts, nut butters and some seeds, like flax seeds are allowed in moderation when eating low carb.
Best low carb nut choices:
Eating clean and low carb means choosing nuts in their natural state without added sugars, coatings, or flavorings. Nut butters should be 100% pure without any added sugar or preservatives. Many whole food markets and health stores carry these, and some allow you to make your own in a machine that simply grinds nuts into butters.
Avoiding Preservatives And Additives
Both diets suggest avoiding preservatives and hidden additives. If you look at all of the meals and products on the list, you will see that the majority of them can be purchased clean.
Many beverages are not clean but made in factories, and have added sugar and preservatives, your best choices in low carb and clean drinks include:
- Unsweetened tea
- Unsweetened coffee (organic if possible) and for creamer use only 100% real heavy cream
- Club soda
- Herbal tea without added barley or fruit sugars
The above foods are foods that you can eat on the ketogenic diet, and still eat clean.
The goal of both clean eating and low carb is the same:
To change your lifestyle and introduce a healthy eating balance that will result in weight loss and improved overall health and wellbeing
Low Carb Clean Eating Tips
Eat To Satisfaction
Don’t worry about portion sizes, eat until you are satisfied, but don’t gorge. One of the best things about low carb eating is that it naturally regulates the appetite. This occurs as result of stable blood sugars and because it helps regulate the hunger hormone leptin that allows the brain to effectively register satiety, so typically, when you eat low carb, calorie intake is naturally regulated. Take your time at meals so your brain has time to let your stomach know it’s full as eating quickly tends to lead to overeating.
A little extra salt can help avoid keto flu that may occur as the body adjusts to ketosis, and includes headaches, muscle cramps or weakness that occurs as result of an electrolyte imbalance and since a low carb diet is naturally diuretic, and you don’t have to avoid salt to minimize water retention. Get that salt from 1 to 2 cups of broth daily or soy sauce over food. Be sure to ask your doctor about increasing salt, especially if you are being treated for a condition that requires limited sodium intake, like hypertension.
Be sure to drink lots of water, as it is a natural appetite suppressant that supports the metabolization of fat. Several studies found that reducing intake of water may cause fat deposits to increase, while drinking more reduces them. Hydration promotes weight loss, and the more active you are the more water you will need.
Exercise regularly, even if it means starting out with a 15-minute walk, and then building up to more.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that promotes relaxation and reduces stress that curbs the release of the stress hormone cortisol that promotes belly fat. Keep in mind that the more you exercise the more carbs you can eat and still lose weight.
Plan Your Meals
Plan your meals at least 3 days in advance to avoid falling off your plan, ideally, a 7-day plan works best. Have handy, healthy snacks ready and keep them in your car, at the office and at home.
You should always set goals in your new lifestyle journey so that you have something to strive for, and ideally keep a food journal to keep track of those goals, your successes, as well as meals that worked particularly well for you or ones that didn’t.
Typical Low Carb Day
Breakfast: 2 eggs any style, half an avocado, grilled mushrooms, and 2 slices of bacon.
Lunch: Grilled chicken breast or steak and green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, raw spinach, kale or any non-starchy vegetable you like and olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar dressing.
Snack: 5 olives
Dinner: Caprese salad and lettuce wrapped turkey burger with mayo, onion, and pickle slices.
Caprese Salad Recipe
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese balls
- 2 tablespoons of fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of vinegar
Mix all ingredients and enjoy!
Snack: Turkey lettuce wraps
Snack ideas include: cucumber, celery, and jicama with ranch dressing, turkey lettuce wraps, pepperoni chips (microwave on paper towels until crispy), hard-boiled eggs, lox and tomatoes, roast chicken, celery with almond butter, chicken wings (not fried or coated with flour), pickles, 1 ounce of cheese with a vegetable, and many more.
Eating clean, low carb meals does not mean eating repetitive, tasteless, or boring meals!
Your only limit is your imagination, experiment with creating your own recipes or search the internet for amazing ideas like low carb lasagna, pasta dishes and pancakes.
Most fad diets are mental and physical torture. The reason for this is that fad diets are drastic in nature that can rarely be sustained for the long term by anyone.
The true success of any diet is the user’s ability to sustain weight loss for the long term.
Our lives have been built around convenience, with packaged, boxed, and bagged foods offering us less preparation time, but lacking in essential nutrient to the point that obesity and poor health is at epidemic levels.
Is it any wonder that deaths from heart disease, the #1 killer of American men and women are largely attributed to lifestyle choices by the Centers For Disease Control.
It may be difficult to make time for cooking, and eating healthy and we make the excuse that we can’t afford to eat healthy.
Those are just excuses, though, because buying a pack of cookies is more expensive than choosing to not buy those cookies.
It is more expensive to buy soda and sugary beverages than it is to drink water from the tap, if you don’t love the taste of water, use lemon, cucumber, or mint, to give it flavor. Plan ahead and make ice cubes with small chunks of lemon, cucumber and mint leaves in them- then just add to your glass of water when you want something different.
Certainly, fruit snacks are a costlier option than a bag of apples.
The truth of the matter is that most of us find eating healthy to be inconvenient. However, with the tips mentioned above there is no reason why you cannot join the healthy low carb clean eating revolution.
A clean ketogenic diet is entirely possible, and might be easier than you think.
At the very least, you can enjoy a variety of meats and poultry with vegetables, both of these are easy to prepare, even ahead of time to have ready and within reach when you get home from a hard day of work.
When you take into consideration, the long-term health benefits the cost savings are even greater, as you aren’t going to have to worry about costly medical bills every time you fall ill.
There have been plenty of studies to show that having a diet buddy or a support network, and keeping a food diary can improve your success in dieting and exercise. Therefore, if your whole family is making this change you are more likely to succeed.
If that isn’t possible, look online for dieters that are following the same eating plan as you are. There is a Ketogenic meetup site, and several for low carb dieters and clean eaters, check and see if there are any in your area or simply join an online forum.
These are great tools to meet likeminded people, exchange recipes, and ideas and to get support.
Remember, when you adjust your lifestyle to incorporate healthy eating, and exercise, you are improving your overall health and wellbeing.
Your diet can have an impact on your mental health, as well as your physical health. When your body feels good, you are sleeping well, and are able to exercise your body feels better and your every day performance improves.
The USDA created a picture of the perfect plate, however Harvard School of Public Health published a rebuttal pointing out where the government had gone wrong, but if you look at the corrections and suggestions from HSPH, you see that ketogenic eating falls into it perfectly.
Combined with clean eating choices you are setting yourself up for the best health and life possible.
It is never too late to start and make changes that will greatly improve your health, wellness, and quality of life!