How many of you have gone on a diet? To be honest, who hasn’t? In the past, I have definitely tried different fad diets. When I was a young teenager, I told myself I would only eat fruit to lose weight. As I got older, I thought restricting my calorie intake through skipping meals, only eating almonds and carrot sticks for lunch, and exercising all the time would make me lose weight. Do you want to know what the outcome of all these “diets” were? I lost weight! But, as soon as I lost the weight and started eating real foods again, I gained it all back. You see, the problem was not that I was eating bad foods–it was that I did not know how to eat. I did not understand how the body works and why it needs energy.
Let’s look at some popular diets and see what they all have in common. In general, when people “diet” they are on a special food plan and usually restrict certain food items solely to lose weight. Diets like Atkins, NutriSystem, and Jenny Craig are specific, planned out meals that are sent to the consumer ready to eat (with minimal preparation involved). These programs are carefully thought out by their inventors generally based on calories—calories in, calories out. These programs for sure can help you lose weight, but when we stop purchasing these products, we don’t know how to eat for ourselves. People get in the routine of the prepackaged meal that when it comes down to a free-range way of eating, we don’t know where to begin.
Weight Watchers is one of those diets where you kind of have free range in what you eat as long as you keep up with the points system. This diet is actually somewhat of a better way to track your diet because you have the ability to make the decision on what to eat. However, we can get so preoccupied on that point system to where we become obsessed with food but not in a healthy way. It is a constant battle of “oh this has 10 points, and I am only allotted 23 in one day” or “fruits are free! I can eat as much as I want to”.
Another somewhat recent diet immersion is the keto diet. I scroll through Facebook and Pinterest and see keto recipes and products that made me wonder…are people really putting their bodies in ketosis to lose weight?
Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in body tissues. This is usually the result of a diet that is very, very low in carbohydrates.
In my profession, the keto diet is primarily used in children who are diagnosed with epilepsy. The thought behind the keto diet for epilepsy and some other nervous system diseases is to utilize ketone bodies (made from fat) instead of glucose (from carbohydrates) to help reduce seizures. Typically, our bodies utilize glucose to make energy, but when we restrict glucose (and I mean truly restrict carbohydrate intake), our bodies go into a mode of starvation-ketosis. Scientists are still researching exactly how it can help seizures, but statistics show that the keto diet truly only benefits about 1/3 of people who have epilepsy.
Below is a diagram of what a true keto diet for epilepsy consists of.
photo found at https://medium.com/@beepucsd/sports-performance-altered-by-ketogenic-diet-4d04898b3afe
This diet is majorly fat, little bit of protein, and even less carbohydrates. Though this may benefit someone with a nervous system disease, for the average American who wants to lose weight, this diet may not be the answer.
Many people on a true keto diet may struggle with constipation because the diet is heavily fats and extremely low in carbohydrates, meaning fiber is difficult to get unless supplemented.
Sources of fiber: fruits, grains, vegetables which brings me to my next point.
photo found at https://www.medicalindiatourism.com/blog/tips-digestive-health.html
Many of us know what foods contain carbs. Grains and fruits contain about 15 grams of carbohydrate per serving. In the keto diet, 1 serving of carbs is about all you would be eating daily. However, people generally do not think about vegetables containing carbs. Vegetables contain about 5 grams of carbs per serving. One half a cup of cooked broccoli contains 5 grams of carbs, but let’s be real…who only eats 1 serving of cooked broccoli? I know I consume at least 1 full cup which would contain 10 grams of carbs…but that is okay. There are so many other vital nutrients in vegetables (and fruits) that our body truly needs! Fiber, vitamins, minerals, CARBOHYDRATES.
photo found at https://thebettyrocker.com/carbohydrates-101/
Carbs are the body’s main source of energy, and when you restrict carbs to lose weight, it can hinder the metabolic process. Take it from me. I have restricted, and I have lost weight, but it was not until I made a true lifestyle change and developed a healthy relationship with food that I lost weight AND kept it off. You see, the more a person restricts, the harder it gets for the body’s metabolism to work the way God intended it to. The older we get, the slower our metabolism is, especially if we have spent our lifetime restricting vital nutrients.
photo found at https://thecalorieninja.com/tag/weight-loss
Many of you may be thinking, “how do I make this lifestyle change when we live in a world that promotes dieting?”
In all honesty, from what I have observed through Facebook and other social media sites, what the general public is calling the “keto diet” is actually a very clean way of eating…it is just not the true keto diet that is being used for epilepsy. The popular diet is generally low in refined carbohydrates (meaning low in processed breads, pastas, cereals, etc), high in fruits and veggies, adequate in protein and fats…essentially people are treating the “keto diet” as a “low carb” diet, but not dangerously low carb.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow trick our minds into thinking of food as fuel for our bodies, vital nutrients we need, and keep us trim? You see, the reason I hate the word “diet” is because I constantly hear people say “oh, I am starting my diet tomorrow” or “I’m trying to lose weight…I should go on a diet”, but we really shouldn’t be. One of the most enjoyable parts of life is enjoying what we eat. I hear all the time “eating healthy just isn’t as good as the real stuff”, but the beauty of food is that we can be creative and make it taste good! Making a lifestyle change instead of going on a fad diet can do a multitude of things for us. Not only will it keep our waists slim, but it will help us develop a healthy relationship with food.
My challenge for you is to not promote any diet but to promote a lifestyle change. When you promote a lifestyle change, you won’t be on any diet! Your typical diet will be your lifestyle. The beauty of it is that you will be more likely to lose weight AND keep it off instead of doing a diet for 30 days all to go back to eating the way you used to.
When you make a true lifestyle change, you are transforming the way you used to eat, and the more you practice your lifestyle change the more it becomes like second nature. It may take small changes along the way such as drinking water instead of juice, or choosing natural peanut butter instead of highly processed, hydrogenated nut butters. Those small changes you make along the way do indeed make a difference.
Helpful Tips: Build Nutritious Meals
Below I am giving you a guide on how to make your meals balanced and filling with whole, fresh ingredients. My rule of thumb is to make half my plate loaded with veggies, a fourth of grains/starch, and then the other fourth of protein. If you always need to end a meal on a sweet note, I recommend fresh fruit.
photo found at http://www.instahu.com/tag/weightlossjuorney
Breakfast: Base + veggie/fruit + lean protein
Example 1: Banana-Berry Oats
- ½ cup dry oatmeal cooked in ½ cup unsweetened almond milk and ½ smashed banana (cooking in the banana will release sweetness and add a thicker texture)
- Add: ½ cup berries (of your choice); if you wanted to add veggies here, ½ cup riced cauliflower adds a nice texture, and it’s essentially tasteless in the oatmeal!
- Add: 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter of choice. I like using powdered peanut butter in oatmeal, but if you like to use the real stuff, look for a natural nut butter with less than 2 grams of sugar per serving
Example 2: Veggie Eggs/Egg Whites
- 1-2 Eggs (or 2-3 egg whites) cooked in a little butter or coconut oil (higher smoke point for frying eggs), add in sauteed spinach, onion, mushrooms, and asparagus (really whatever veggies you like!) If you wanted to add more flavor and protein, you could add a touch of shredded cheese or feta. Just a dabble! A little cheese goes a long ways.
- Pair meal with some fresh fruit of choice. Chopped pineapple or melon goes well with scrambled harvest eggs.
Lunch/Dinner: Base + Protein + Healthy Fat + Starch
Example 1: Hearty Salads
- I like to do salads for lunch loaded with veggies and some sort of protein, typically 2 varieties (I like to choose from boiled eggs, cheese cubes or feta cheese, grilled chicken/steak, baked tofu, or some sort of veggie patty). I am not a salad dressing lover, but if used, try to stick with 1-2 tablespoons. If you are like me ad not a huge dressing fan, try smashed avocado with lemon juice, salt and pepper to drizzle over your salad. That will add in some healthy fat and tangy flavor.
- If you still need something substantial after the salad to get you through the afternoon, have some fresh fruit for dessert. A banana with a smear of natural nut butter usually does the trick for me.
Example 2: Buddha Bowls
- Super trendy now, and they can basically have anything in them!
- Roast up some veggies of choice…I think sweet potatoes, chickpeas, broccoli, and snow peas are a great combo.
- Serve over quinoa, brown rice, or cauli-rice
- Protein of choice. I think tofu is a great addition to this meal, but you could use baked/grilled/broiled chicken, fish, or beef. Drizzle over some homemade tahini sauce (tahini, lemon, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste-several recipes on Pinterest)
Example 3: Bun-less Burgers
- When I have a burger night, I use 93% lean ground turkey (you could use ground chicken or beef, just go lean) and season to my likes-usually my husband does that part as I am not the best meat-cooker. If vegetarian, black bean patties are a good option.
- If you want the bread, go for a 100-calorie,100% whole wheat/grain flat bread bun,. If you are like me and try to stay away from highly processed products, chop up a nice garden salad and add your burger patty on top. Top with your favorite veggies and a little cheese and it’s a bun-less-burger on a plate!
- Many stores are selling cauliflower and broccoli tots now, and they are delicious! They do contain some extra fillers, but hey, less carbs, calories and fat than regular fries! And you are getting some fiber and nutrients in there as well.
I must also add the importance of consistent, regular physical activity. Find what is fun for you! You do not have to lift weights or go run. Try something you have never done before! Just recently, I tried road biking with my husband. I always thought I would hate biking because I have short legs and open roads freak me out, but I bit the bullet and tried it…now I love it! Challenge for the week: Try 30 minutes of an exercise activity you have never done before. You may discover a new hobby.
Until Next Time,
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN
Ketogenic Diet. Epilepsy Society. https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/ketogenic-diet. Published March 1, 2018. Accessed June 13, 2018.
Precision Nutrition (2018). The Ketogenic Diet: Does it live up to the hype? The pros, cons, and the facts about the no-so-new diet craze. [online] Available at https://www.precisionnutrition.com/ketogenic-diet. Accessed June 13, 2018.
Popsci.com. (2018): Consent Form | Popular Science. [online] Available at: https://www.popsci.com/not-in-ketosis. Accessed June 13, 2018.