When it comes to the popularity of New Year’s resolutions, the only competition for “losing weight” is “getting in shape” (as if the two weren’t related). And every year many people try the keto diet, which cuts carbs to kick the body into fat-burning mode.
If you’d like to try low-carb eating as a way of keeping your New Year’s resolution, here are some ways to ease your transition to the keto diet.
Have a Goal Beyond “Losing Weight”
Want to shed a few pounds? That’s great…but so do a lot of other would-be resolution keepers, many of whom will be bingeing on candy and lounging on the couch by the time February rolls around.
What will help you succeed at keeping your resolutions?
“It helps to have some goals set out,” according to the blog TryKetoWithMe.com (TKWM). “Not only will it help to keep you motivated when you hit bumps in the road, having something concrete that you’re working towards will make the little milestones on the way even more satisfying to achieve.”
Instead of worrying about numbers (“I have to lose 15 pounds”), think of all the ways losing weight will benefit your life.
For example, “maybe you have a certain outfit you want to fit into or blood sugar levels you want to reach, or maybe you just want to break a cycle of carb cravings and sugar crashes,” says TKWM.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, use that goal to reorient yourself when life’s challenges threaten to undermine your keto resolve.
Track Your Macros (and Measure Your Ketones)
Keto veterans talk a lot about “macros,” which is simply a shorthand way of referring to the macronutrients—protein, carbohydrate and fat—provided by your diet.
As you cut carbs (baked goods, pasta, starchy vegetables, etc.) in favor of protein and especially fat, your body will switch from burning glucose, the primary carb-based fuel, to ketones, substances your body creates from fat. This state is known as ketosis.
To achieve ketosis, you’ll want to maintain the following ranges for your macros:
- 5% to 10% of daily calories from carbs
- 30% to 35% from protein
- 55% to 60% from fat
Keeping track of macros is important because “doing so helps you reap the full benefits of a keto lifestyle faster,” says dietitian Sofia Norton, RD.
Not handy with math? No problem; searching “keto macros calculator” or “keto macros app” brings up plenty of options.
You may also find it helpful to measure your ketone levels to find out if you’ve entered ketosis, although you shouldn’t “obsess over numbers,” as Norton puts it. Tests are available for urine, blood and breath.
Plan Your Low-Carb Meals
One reason people find keto eating a challenge is that you can find carb-heavy treats on nearly every street corner…high-quality fat- or protein-based ones, not so much.
That makes home cooking a big part of keto dieting, and the best way to cook at home is to plan your meals. That simply means deciding on, and shopping for, meals a week in advance. This way you can better control the quality of the food you eat while adjusting your diet to your own culinary tastes and preferences.
Here are some tips for successful meal planning:
- Collect a set of go-to recipes that you’ll turn to again and again.
- Use your meal plan to create a shopping list.
- Take a few hours on the weekend to prep meals in advance: chopping veggies, pre-cooking things like chicken thighs, etc.
- Always make a little extra for dinners so the leftovers can be used for breakfasts and lunches.
Proteins should be as close to ideal as possible, meaning free-range organic for land-based animal foods and wild-caught for marine ones.
Your recipes should feature healthy fats (such as avocados and oils like coconut and olive), nuts and seeds, and low-starch vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leafy greens, tomatoes and zucchini. (You can find a list of low-carb foods here.)
You should also keep a well-stocked pantry, a ready supply of items that get used over and over again—spices, oils and vinegars, basic frozen vegetables, etc. (You can find a low-carb pantry list here.)
Hydrate to Beat the “Keto Flu”
For all the benefits of low-carb eating, two uncomfortable side effects can occur.
One is what’s called the “keto flu,” flu-like symptoms believed to be the result of a temporary dip in mineral levels during the glucose-to-ketone switchover. Extra hydration, such as water or bone broth (which helps “on both the hydration and electrolyte fronts,” says TKWM), can help.
Eliminating carbohydrates also eliminates fiber sources. That can result in constipation, which often isn’t helped by the heavy dairy intake some people turn to (all cheese, all the time) to avoid carbs.
Staying hydrated can help with constipation, especially if you add a fiber supplement to your diet.
Anticipate Carb Temptation
You can’t avoid being tempted by carbs, unless you plan to live like a hermit. Workplaces in particular can become carbohydrate minefields when people start bringing in platters of cookies and cakes around holidays.
Keep treats in high-traffic areas so they go quickly and arm yourself with high-protein snacks—such as nuts, seeds and KetoLiving shakes —in your area so you'll have healthy alternatives. Bringing your own keto-friendly foods can also help at parties and family dinners.
What’s more, fat bombs (either sweet or savory), can help kill hunger; the sweet ones are especially helpful if you’re in a situation where high-carb foods abound. But remember that fat bombs are high in calories; if you’re trying to remain in ketosis and getting regular exercise, you shouldn’t eat more than three a day.
Don’t Forget Exercise and Stress Relief
All healthy dieting plans need an exercise component, including the keto diet. That means at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week, plus resistance workouts two or three times a week to build or maintain muscle mass.
It’s hard to maintain the keto lifestyle when stress has you tied in knots. Practice some form of stress relief, such as meditation or yoga, on a regular basis.
Find Keto Buddies
Sticking with the keto diet is easier if you share your concerns with a keto buddy.
“Few people understand the struggle of searching for perfectly ripe avocados quite like fellow ketoers,” says TKWM. “Join the keto community on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook and you’ll have an endless supply of delicious meal ideas, relatable posts and fat-fueled friends.”
Norton points out that a keto buddy can serve as an accountability partner. What’s more, she says, “Sharing your achievements with someone on the same journey doesn’t just feel rewarding—it also emphasizes the fact that you did it!”
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.