One of the biggest challenges that people who follow the ketogenic diet face may be surprising. There is a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to consume a diet that has 75% fat. Eating that much fat is hard! Especially when you take the carbs away. So much of the fat in an American diet is tied to carbohydrates. Think French fries, chips, cakes, cookies, battered and fried anything. Most foods in our diets with fat in them also contain an abundance of carbohydrates. Eliminate the carbohydrates and you have to look around to find some fat to eat.
There are a number of different types of fat that one can choose from and the science of fat is ever changing as new discoveries are made and new theories are tested. It’s difficult to keep up with it. If you start researching the ketogenic diet, you’ll find many scientists who study fat and the ketogenic diet, do not necessarily agree with what the United States federal government has to say about which types of fat are good for you and which are bad for you. Scientists who research ketogenic diets tend to be less wary of the saturated fats. Their opinions tend to be that saturated fats and cholesterol are being wrongly blamed for heart disease and obesity. There are higher risks of mortality associated with high carbohydrates (The Lancelot, 2017) Check out the lecture below (youtube) which reviews various studies on eating saturated fats and cholestrol (its long, but even a few minutes will illustrate the point).
I found a quote recently that I have found helpful when trying to follow the ketogenic diet. I didn’t write it down, but it goes something like this, “Don’t let perfect get in the way of doing good” (The End of Alzheimers, Bredensen). While, yes, it is good to eat only happy organically grass-fed marbled beef and only cold-pressed organic olive oil, don’t quit the fight because you ate something else. Sadly, in the US market, not everyone can afford necessarily afford to purchase this type of product. Because you can’t afford that grass-fed beef doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow a keto diet. Nor can you depend on every restaurant offering organic foods or the best fat ingredients. Do your best and let some of it go.
Way to Add Fat to Your Diet
Start with Breakfast
Using MCT or coconut oil in your coffee in the morning is one of the easiest and best ways to kick off your keto day. If you use MCT oil, it breaks a true fast (eating nothing at all and only drinking water) with calories that do not require digestive enzymes to be processed which is a unique property of the medium-chain triglyceride. This is sometimes referred to as a “fat fast” where all you break your fast with is coffee and MCT oil. Using 1-2 Tbsp of oil in your coffee adds 130-260 calories to your breakfast, so you should be aware that it isn’t calorie-free, but your brain will thank you for your choice. The MCT oil or the medium-chain triglycerides in the coconut oil are preferred food for your brain. Fascinatingly our brain, if offered glucose and fat, will preferentially choose to consume fat, so a dose of fat first thing in the morning will give your brain a nice meal. Due to this, people have reported feeling more focused and alert in the morning after consuming MCT oil (or coconut oil) in their coffee. The caffeine in coffee adds extra benefit in the uptake of ketones, so this is a great partnership (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28177691). You’ll likely be surprised how full you are after just consuming MCT oil and coffee and maybe delaying consuming “real food” until a bit later in the morning. Go with it and stop depending on a clock to tell you when to eat (this is challenging for me).
If you are dreading giving up your cream and sugar or your morning mocha, there are more and more choices coming onto the market for pleasant consumption of coffee on the keto diet. Now there are flavored creamers made with MCT oil (like Kiss My Keto’s Birthday Cake MCT Creamer) and even Keto Coffee which is an instant version of a mocha. (don’t forget your discount code: kellykore)
When you decide to break your “fat fast” with some actual food (I try to wait 12 hours from finishing dinner at a minimum which is challenging given how late we eat dinner most nights and is highly dependent on my meeting schedule at work), there are lots of options to get fat into your breakfast. The easiest meal that you can get anywhere whether at home or traveling, is bacon and eggs. No carbs, some protein, and lots of fat. Cook the eggs in the bacon grease and enjoy. Part of our meal prep every weekend for weekday breakfast is making bacon and then using the grease on scrambled eggs with green pepper and onion. We put those in little microwaveable containers and eat them mid-morning at work.
If you like smoothies for breakfast (smoothies have been our go-to breakfast for years), there are now low carb, high fat options. If you balance carefully, you can use Greek yogurt as your base. My preference is to use unsweetened coconut milk. It has zero carbohydrates and is fruity, which is unusual in a ketogenic food. It is high in fat (relatively) for a smoothie base. To that, you can purchase a protein powder that is high in fat and has little to no carbohydrates (we like both the Chocolate and the Birthday Cake Kiss My Keto Protein Powder). We add berries to our morning smoothie because they are delicious, have anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory. We just adjust our carbohydrates throughout the day to allow for that. For traveling, I use coconut milk powder (coconut milk is just hard enough to find to be a pain when you’re traveling, so I find it easier to bring it with me) which is actually very good and the chocolate protein powder. It tastes like a Mounds candy bar! Sometimes, I’ll add peanut butter powder to it as well and I’ve got a Peanut Butter Cup Protein shake.
Lunch and Dinner
Salads are a fantastic way to incorporate both fat and fiber into your diet. You could take large salads for lunch or add a side salad to dinner. Add some protein like grilled chicken to your salad and you have a full dinner. You can pretty much eat as many leafy greens as you want on really any diet that has every been recommended and this one is no different. But on the keto diet, you get to be liberal with your salad dressing as it adds that needed fat to your meal (no more dipping your fork into the dressing cup). Other items to include in your salad to increase the fat content are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, olives, avocados and feta cheese. Looking for a replacement for the beloved crouton? Parmesan crisps are fantastic! They are crunchy and salty and tasty. You won’t miss the croutons if you add these to your salad.
Fry up your dinner! You can fry your food in coconut oil or olive oil and get additional fat that way. We will fry up low carb tortillas for tostadas (we used to bake the full carb versions), or fry eggplant slices after dredging in egg and an almond flour/parmesan mix. You could use the same frying technic of dredging in egg and rolling in almond flour with spices of your choice for chicken, fish, and shrimp. Then dip them in some yummy sauce like a chipotle ranch or tartar. Or throw them on your dinner salad!
You can use condiments to increase the fats in your meal. Consider adding sour cream to your soup or top your enchiladas with it. In the same way, you can add shredded cheese to lots of dishes. Top your streak with a tablespoon of plain butter or make a yummy compound butter. Add heavy cream to sauces to make them thicker and creamier and fattier.
Nuts! Nuts are a great snack because they provide that crunchiness that we crave along with fat and protein. They do contain some carbohydrates, so you may need to be choosy in which nuts you consume. I, personally, love cashews and was eating them all the time. I’ve had to cut back because they are a bit higher in carbohydrates than other nuts. Almonds, on the other hand, come in quite a bit lower in carbs, so I’ve replaced some of my cashew snacking with almonds. Blue Diamond has been putting out lots of new fun flavors to add variety (some varieties have more carbs than others, so be sure to read labels). There are lots of other nuts out there as well that you can add to your snacking: macadamias are especially high in fat; pecans, walnuts, and pistachios are great choices as well.
Cheese is a great snack as well. As long as you avoid anything labeled “low fat” or “part skim”, you should have nearly zero carbohydrates in your cheese choices. Plus different cheeses are fun to try and look great on a charcuterie board served with some salami or other meats and olives.
Avocados! Serve sliced with lime and salt or turn into guacamole and served with chicharrones (pork rinds). As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we try to split an avocado everyday. Sometimes, it’s just a side dish to dinner, sometimes it’s guacamole, sometimes it’s with our eggs in the morning, sometimes it’s in a salad. It not only adds fat to your diet, but also a load of nutrients. It’s really the perfect “fat bomb”.
Hopefully this helps you get your fat consumption percentage up! Thanks for reading!