By Dr. Mercola
If you haven't heard about the ketogenic (keto) diet, suffice it to say that it's all over the map nowadays, gaining popularity around the world for one simple reason: It works. As a "diet," per se, it's important to know that in this sense it is simply an approach to eating.
While we all have to eat, eating healthily, and making it possible for your family to do the same, is important to optimize your body and mind, and lowers your risk of such disorders as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. The simple explanation is that it calls for foods that are:
- High in healthy fats
- Moderate in proteins
- Low in net carbs (net carbs are defined as total carbs minus fiber)
Healthy fats burn more efficiently than carbohydrates. When glucose is the fuel consumed to gain energy, the result is insufficient mitochondrial support, leaving your body open to degenerative diseases. As your mitochondria start to deteriorate and malfunction, a major overhaul is required to restore them to proper function.
For those used to eating what's known as the Western diet, one way to characterize it is a failure to differentiate fats, such as equating olive oil and vegetable shortening (there's a vast dissimilarity) or choosing processed (aka trans fats) over whole foods.
An excess use of grains such as wheat and corn, which can be a major carb source, e.g., the slice (or two) of bread many people eat with every meal, is problematic due to the food processing methods, gluten, contaminates and the high amounts of starch they contain and our inability to digest them. There's also the unfortunate reality of pesticides, such as glyphosate-laden Roundup, sprayed on wheat and other crops.
This toxic substance, residues of which have been found in bread, bagels, oatmeal and more, has been linked to major health issues, including inflammation and other chronic diseases. Without question, a new way of eating is a dire need. Some of the best keto-friendly foods include:
Pastured, organic meats
Raw cacao butter
Organic, pastured eggs
Fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies and sardines
Raw nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts and chia seeds)
Olives and olive oil
Keeping the healthy versus not-healthy food lists in mind, here are some great snack ideas to help keep you on track as you follow your keto diet. This way, when snack cravings happen, as they eventually will, you have something to fall back on that doesn't taste like acorns or cardboard (as many people assume healthy eating looks like).
Avocado Salmon Melt Bites
There's something very satisfying about biting into something delicious but also "foody," a term that combines both gratifying and nutritious. These cheesy salmon bites, inspired by Ruled Me,1 fit the bill for many of the most important snack factors: just the right amount of spice with a crispy outside and creamy filling on the inside.
- 10 ounces wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (ideally homemade)
- 1 medium avocado, cubed
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup almond flour/meal
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- Natural salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- Drain salmon (if canned) or press with paper towel to remove moisture and place it into a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and spices and mix well.
- Slice an avocado in half, remove the pit and cube the inside. Add it into the salmon mixture carefully so it doesn't get mashed.
- Form the salmon mixture into balls and roll into the almond flour, covering completely. Set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium heat (but not too high). Once hot, add salmon balls and cook just until crisp on all sides.
- Remove from the oil, place on a platter lined with paper towel, if desired, and serve.
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs (Keto-Approved)
The key to making keto-friendly chicken balls like those from the website How to This and That2 is what they're coated with. Rather than being breaded with wheat flour or some other type of not-keto-approved grain, almond meal and coconut flour are great-tasting alternatives. Baking them in the oven makes a difference, too, rather than the frying method.
- 1 pound ground, organic, pasture-raised, antibiotic-free chicken
- 1 organic, pastured egg, beaten
- 2 sprigs of green onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon almond or coconut flour/meal
- 1 tablespoon homemade mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, natural salt and pepper
- 1 cup of buffalo wing sauce (make your own keto version by mixing equal parts hot sauce with grass fed butter, ghee or coconut oil)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a sheet pan with a spray coconut oil or grease with regular coconut oil, avocado oil or butter.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, minus the buffalo sauce. Mix well.
- Form 2-inch balls (mixture will be sticky). Place meatballs on a sheet pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until center has reached 160 degrees F.
- Remove meatballs from the oven and place in a skillet or pot over medium-low heat. Coat with buffalo sauce and continue to cook just until sauce is warmed.
Low-Carb (Keto-Friendly) Latkes
If you've never had a latke, the main ingredient is potatoes, but this version from My Keto Kitchen3 is not just OK, but outstanding. The difference is cauliflower, the versatile veggie that's all the rage for everything from pizza crust to pasta to taco shells.
- 1/2 head of cauliflower
- 1/2 cup of scallions or green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 2 organic pastured eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons natural salt (divided)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons grass fed butter
- 3 tablespoons sour cream (to serve)
- Grate or use a food processor to "rice" the cauliflower. Place into a large mixing bowl, add 1 teaspoon of salt and mix well. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Cover the cauliflower with a paper towel and steam until just soft.
- Transfer the cauliflower into a piece of muslin or a cotton tea towel, cool long enough to handle, then twist the tea towel to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
- Place the riced cauliflower into large mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients except the butter and sour cream. Mix well.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter using medium to high heat (don't burn).
- Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the cauliflower mix and flatten into 3/4-inch-high pancakes. Place in skillet for two to three minutes, flip over carefully and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
- Serve with a tablespoon of sour cream.
Keto Fat Bombs With Cacao
Perhaps the term "fat bombs" doesn't square with your idea of healthy, but rest assured that the fat in these dessert-like truffles featured in Kettle and Fire4 introduces the good kind, offering protein for increased energy and healthy bones, muscles and skin (to name a few benefits), and you can eat one any time of day.
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 1 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the coconut oil and almond butter until mixed evenly, stirring often.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl, mix in the coconut flour and cacao powder, then place bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes until the mixture cools and is solid.
- Refrigerate the fat bombs for five minutes and enjoy. Store leftover fat bombs in the refrigerator; otherwise they will melt quickly.
Thyme and Onion Crackers (Grain-Free and Nut-Free)
You may never have thought to make your own crackers, and you may have assumed crackers were off the list for a keto snack, but this recipe from Healthful Pursuit5 uses healthy ingredients to make them both flavorful and crunchy. They're perfect for eating by themselves or with pastured, organic raw cheese or cream cheese.
- 1 cup sweet onion, coarsely chopped into 2-inch pieces
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups roughly ground or milled flax seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, finely ground
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Place the onion, garlic, oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until onion is completely pureed.
- Add flax seeds and ground sunflower seeds and pulse just until combined. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Spread out a 10-inch-wide piece of parchment paper. Scoop 1/2 cup of the cracker dough, roll to make a ball and place in the middle of one side of the parchment.
- Fold the parchment over the dough ball, flattening it slightly between the two pieces of parchment, then use a rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick.
- Fold (or rip) the parchment away from the flattened dough and score into 1-inch cubes with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Transfer the parchment paper along with the cracker squares onto a baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake the crackers for two hours, flipping over halfway through the bake time, at which time you can remove the parchment paper. The bake time will vary greatly depending on how thick/thin you make the crackers. You want the end result to be crisp and crunchy with no moisture.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Makes 75 crackers.
What Does It Mean to Follow a Ketogenic Approach to Eating?
If you're tired of falling "victim" to every convenience food and processed fare designed for comfort and taste, but that also gets you hooked on sugar and incorporates every type of food manufacturing trick ever devised to keep you eating, a keto diet may be right for you.
The purpose of the keto diet is to shift your body into a state where it uses fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel, as the latter actually inhibits your body's ability to access and burn body fat — the opposite of what you want if you're interested in maintaining your health. There are plenty of good foods to eat to put your body in a fat-burning state, but there are many more offerings on store shelves and restaurant menus that you'd do well to steer clear of. Those include:
Foods with high amounts of sugar or starch
Trans fats / refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils
Unfermented soy products, including soy milk and tofu
Carbonated beverages and fruit juices
Fruits with high amounts of fructose
High amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats
Meat or products from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
For dozens more delicious, satisfying and nutritious meals that fit into the ketogenic model, please see my collection of ketogenic meal recipes. Diets come and go, and many usually mean deprivation and, sometimes, angst. The keto approach to eating offers something else entirely — it's a lifestyle that puts your body into a fat-burning state that not only results in lost pounds, but lower blood sugar levels, better mental clarity and, all things considered, longevity.