Welcome to the LowCarbUSA® Keto 101 program. If this is your first time here and you want to get the most out of this program we recommend that first you watch some, or all, of the videos in our YouTube 'Getting Started' Playlist. There is also a fantastic series of talks we recorded with Dr. Robert Cywes that you can access here. Once you have watched enough to be convinced that you should move forward with adopting this lifestyle then read through all the sections below. Make sure you read each section before you move on to Week 1. Take your time there is a lot of information to absorb.
Congratulations, we are so excited to see your interest in adopting a Low Carb High Fat (or LCHF) Lifestyle. First, a quick introduction, I'm Doug and this is Pam and together we started LowCarbUSA®. First of all, we would like to address the common concerns about eating Low Carb and dispel a few myths in the process. Let’s start out by defining what we are referring to when we talk about a Low Carb diet. There are a number of versions of Low Carb diet, like the Atkins Diet, the Primal Diet, the Paleo Diet and many others. They all differ in some way, some greater than others. Our main focus is on what would most accurately be described as a Ketogenic Diet or Banting, which is named after an Englishman who famously made this diet very popular in England in the 1800’s and has become a phenomenon in South Africa. Following this lifestyle activates the metabolic changes that result in the prevention of, as well as control (and even total reversal) of, many metabolic conditions such as Type 3 Diabetes. It also results on the mobilisation our body's fat reserves to allow much more effective and sustainable weight loss. In the end, whatever your choice of Low Carb Lifestyle, we are here to support you.
The first order of business, and most important, is to eliminate sugar and all processed food. More than 85% of all the thousands of new products entering our marketplace each year contain some form of sugar. Sugar and processed carbohydrates are poison and they have to go, no matter what diet you choose! If you listed to any of the amazing videos by Dr Robert Cywes you would have come to understand that sugar addiction is very real and very powerful. His videos provide some incredible help in dealing with this if you are one of the many who genuinely suffer from this addiction.
Critics argue that LCHF is not a sustainable diet but we have found it to be quite the opposite. Eating delicious meats, fish, cheese, fresh vegetables makes this way of eating less of a diet and more of a lifestyle. You won’t be feeling weak with hunger as you do with the traditional low-fat, calorie restricting diet. Once you ditch the carbs and processed food you will find that you don’t miss them at all. In fact, your taste buds will become very sensitive and if you try something you once enjoyed you will think that it is too sweet and wonder why you liked it in the first place. Once adapted, you will feel energetic and healthy and not want to go back to being dependent on sugar for fuel. And, if you previously experienced blood sugar issues, you will find that they clear up almost immediately. You won’t have those terrible ups and downs ever again.
Once you Ditch the Carbs and start cooking real food and see all the amazing Low Carb Recipes and all the foods you can eat that you weren’t “allowed” to eat before, it’s easy! Pam and I find that we start salivating and look forward to the next awesome meal so much that we never even think about the bland pasta or rice or potatoes that are no longer on the menu. In fact, once you start to become adapted you feel so much more energetic and healthy and you feel so terrible if you do slip and eat a bunch of carbs, that you don’t want to touch them again. That all being said, I have had to learn since writing this that sugar addiction is much more of a real issue than I first thought and so point those who still struggle to the help offered in the video series on our site by Dr. Robert Cywes
This is not a high protein diet but, rather, a moderate protein diet and you will be getting adequate protein from fish, chicken, red meat, full cream dairy products and eggs. We advocate an animal product-based diet as the real evidence out there now is overwhelming that, nutritionally, it is the best option. However, we recognise that many people have religious and/or ethical reasons for wanting to be vegan or vegetarian. If that is the case, but you still recognise that restricting carbs is better for your metabolic health, then we want to support you in that effort. It is much harder and requires a lot of supplementation but it is doable. Here is a great resource for those who choose this route.
Protein should make up 20-25% of your daily diet. Carbohydrates will make up less than 10% of your daily diet and will come from leafy green vegetables including lettuce, spinach, and kale. Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and many other veggies are also part of this plan. The remainder of your daily diet will be comprised of saturated fats like butter and coconut oil, monounsaturated fats and fats containing omega 3s like olive oil, avocados and macadamia nuts. Vegetable and seed oils are to be avoided at all costs.
The other main argument we hear is that all this fat will clog our arteries with cholesterol and give us heart disease. All the latest research on this says, ‘absolutely not’. Just watch the 2 videos about the Cholesterol Myth if you are not convinced. In fact, the latest research suggests that it is the inflammation caused by carbohydrates and vegetable and seed oils that is really at the root of arterial damage and heart disease.
The truth is that a Low Carb Lifestyle improves our health in almost every way – it results in weight loss, it reduces hunger, it has been shown to effectively treat Type 2 Diabetes and even reverse it in some cases, it improves the metabolic syndrome, blood lipid profiles, the list goes on and on.
It is important to note that the guidance we are providing here is based on our extensive research and personal experience. It is not intended as medical advice in any way (see full disclaimer). If you are a diabetic on insulin or other medication, a LCHF diet will definitely effect these and you must have a doctor supervise you as you will probably need to be weaned off your medicine as you regain your health. Finding a doctor that understands the principles of LCHF and who will support you in your journey is becoming easier as scientific studies are coming out validating this way of eating. That being said, if your doctor is not open to the concept of Low Carb Diets, he or she will NEVER support you on this, or advise you correctly, no matter what. If I were you in that situation, I would find a 'Low Carb Friendly doctor without delay (you may be able to find one in our rapidly growing database here).
Adopting a Low Carb or Ketogenic Lifestyle is a big deal. Yes, it will change your life forever, but it takes a lot of courage and determination to start with since you are now going against convention (although that is changing fast). You not only have to overcome the fear of fat, ingrained by nearly 40 years of brainwashing, but you will likely encounter a lot of resistance from your friends, most likely your doctor and possibly even your own family.
The foundation for that conviction must come from two places. First there is the science, for which there is more and more irrefutable evidence that this lifestyle is the right thing for most people. If you have not watched the videos in our YouTube Playlist for Beginners, you need to spend some time this week watching them. You need to believe in the science. Second is the anecdotal evidence. In those videos, you will hear stories of people’s recovery from morbid obesity, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases are truly inspiring. Some of those stories are even told in the videos I just mentioned. At the end of the day it is still your own personal journey and you have to find what inspires you and what works for you.
For a lot of people, the only way to adopt a Ketogenic Lifestyle successfully (in our experience) is to track the macronutrient profile (carbohydrates, protein and fat) of everything that passes your lips. That is the only way you can make sure your consumption of carbohydrates is low enough and that your diet is properly formulated. The first step is to get a food tracker and learn how to use it. I have tried 6 different trackers since I started this journey and they all have their pros and cons, but the one I have found most useful and easiest to use is, by far, the one from Cronometer. They have some really good videos to teach you how to use it and their support staff is excellent. You can use whatever you like (you can even write it down on a piece of paper, if you like) but you must start tracking this week.
If you are anything like me, you will be horrified when you realize what you are eating. Once you have Cronometer set up you will find that they have a really good database of foods already available, but you are bound to come across some that are not in the database, so you have to create a custom food type and for that you need to learn how to read the nutrition labels on the packages. First thing is the % Daily Value column down the right hand side. It assumes that every person in the world needs the same amount of each nutrient each day and furthermore it is based on the current government dietary guidelines which we know are, of course, garbage! So, ignore this!!
Next is the portion size. When you are entering or creating a Food Type in the tracker, all the numbers you enter are relative to the portion size which is right up there under the ‘Nutrition Facts’. Once you have entered that then go on and enter the values for calories, Fat (Lipids), Saturated Fat, Carbohydrates, Fibre and Protein. Don’t worry about anything else. Once you have entered the food type it is done and you can use it over and over from there on out. You can also create recipes for dishes you make a lot and then you only have to enter all the different ingredients once.
You should also start adding some bio-metrics. Weight is the most obvious one but you should take some measurements as well: waist, hips, thigh, upper arm and any others you choose. Men might only need the waist measurement but it is often useful for ladies to track a few others. I track my weight every day and measure my waist about once a month.
If you get freaked out by the daily variances in your weight due to water retention and other metabolic changes that are occurring constantly in your body during this journey, then weigh yourself once a week, or even once a month. Just do it at the same time every day, preferably in the morning after you have been to the toilet. That will give you the most consistent comparison. Do your first set of measurements the morning you start for real. The beginning of Week 1.
Next week you will learn a whole lot more about Ketosis.
As you reduce the carbs and your body starts to burn fat for fuel it produces something called ketone bodies which are also burned as an alternative to glucose. You are considered to be ‘in Ketosis’ if the concentration of ketone bodies in your blood stream is between 0.5 and 5 mM/L. In order to know whether or not your body is in Ketosis, you need to be able to measure it in some way.
Three types of Ketone Bodies are produced, Beta-hydroxybutyrate which can be measured in the blood, Acetoacetate which is excreted in the urine and Acetone which is excreted via the lungs. Ketone test strips are by far the cheapest and easiest, but also the least accurate. During adaptation your kidney function changes and for some people that means a reduction in the Acetoacetate excreted and so you get a negative reading when, in fact, you really are still in Ketosis. Worst is, you don’t know if you are that person.
Testing Beta-Hydroxybutyrate is the most accurate but also the most expensive and invasive. You have to prick your finger every time to get a reading and, while the meter itself is quite cheap, the testing strips and the lancet needles get very expensive over time. However, The market on this used to be captivated by one company but Keto-Mojo launched their new product at our San Diego event in 2017 and their testing strips are coming in at one third of the competitor's price. But it you are a stickler for accuracy, you may need to get one of these.
Various breathalyzer device have become available and they measure the concentration of acetone in your lungs. It connects to most devices and can store all the readings you take for analysis later. You can test multiple times a day consuming costly test strips each time and it is a great option for people who don't like to prick their fingers all the time. So far I have not come across one that is consistently accurate but if you fear pricking your finger one of these may be an option to consider..
Something you will learn about next week is the ‘Keto-Flu’. If you drastically reduce your carb intake, your body starts to use up its glycogen stores in the muscles and liver. As these become totally depleted (normally after about 5 days) your body has to find an alternative for fuel and that is when it has to resort to oxidizing fat and producing ketones. This is not something it has been used to doing so there is an adaptation period. During this time you will notice a distinct lack of energy and possibly even a little lightheadedness which can last for 7 – 14 days.
The dizziness is easy to address by increasing the amount of salt in your diet, but the dragging is often the fundamental reason people don’t succeed on a Ketogenic Diet. However, just recently Exogenous Ketones have started to make an appearance. A lot of misinformation surrounds these products as claims of maintaining a state of ketosis just by consuming these exogenous ketones and not concerning oneself with diet abound. This is all hype and absolutely not true, but they do have their place. What they can do is provide an external source of ketones so that your body has something to burn while it is undergoing adaptation. Some also find them a good way to kick off the day instead of, say, a cup of coffee.
Although research on this is still ongoing, there are thousands of anecdotal testimonies that it is very effective and there is a huge amount of research being done on their efficacy with regard to cancer treatment as well as many neurological conditions. People who are unable, for whatever reason, to adhere to a strict ketogenic diet may use Exogenous Ketones to enjoy some of the benefits of elevated ketones in the bloodstream without truly being in ketosis. If you are going to use them as part of your regimen then you should order them now so they arrive before you get the Keto-Flu.
Maria and Craig Emmerich have both presented recently at our events and they talk about oxidative priority. If weight loss is your primary reason for adopting this lifestyle then you may consider avoiding exogenous ketones on an ongoing basis as these ketones need to be burnt off for energy before your body ever turns to your fat stores to metabolise that fat into ketones.
Planning the Groceries
The other essential gadget you need in order to get started is a good food scale. If you don’t already have one, you can get one really cheaply so order one now to make sure it arrives by the time next week comes around. Now that we have everything in place, we can start learning how to stock our pantry and create a grocery list.
Also, talking about scales, you are going to need to start weighing yourself so, if you don’t already have one, you should get a bathroom scale before next week. You’ll also need a tape measure to measure your waist and thighs and upper arms etc, so make sure you have both these items.
Now it’s time to visit Pam’s Pantry! First of all, there are the essential items that every good Keto Kitchen should have at all times. These are items that you will need during cooking and also to have on hand should a little hunger set in and you need a snack. Remember, you should never be going hungry. If you are hungry then you need to eat, but you should always be eating the right foods so having a stock of great Keto Snack foods ensures that will happen.
On the Keto Essentials page, we have listed out all these items. You do not need to have every single one of these in your pantry. Choose the ones that appeal to you and your budget the most. So start creating your shopping list by adding your choices from the Keto Essentials page.
Now take a look at the Meal Planner. We thought about this long and hard and decided that an exact daily meal plan was not the best way to go. Everyone is different with different schedules and different needs. Instead, what we have done is provide you with a list of suggestions for different meals. You do not have to stick to the suggested meals, they are just what they say they are, suggestions. You can come up with any meals you like. You decide what you think might work for you each day and add all the required groceries for those meals to your shopping list. We suggest you now go out and get your pantry stocked before you start on Week 1.
There are a certain number stock items that a good Keto Kitchen should always have. No matter what’s on the meal plan for the week there should always be plenty of these items around for the odd snack, should you need it, and for general cooking. Some of these items can be quite expensive and are best ordered in bulk to be most cost-effective. Just make sure you have space in cupboards and freezers to store the excess so as to prevent spoiling and losses. I have provided some links here for products I find useful to buy in bulk.
Note: These are all nice to have but some of us are on a budget so just stock up with the items you really like the most or the ones that are the most cost-effective for you.
- Eggs (Super Food)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Macadamia Oil*
- Avocado Oil*
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut Cream
- Macadamia Nuts (Super food)**
- Almond Nuts
- Pecan Nuts
- Mayonnaise (Home Made – no seed oils or preservatives)
- Sardines (Canned in Olive Oil)
- Salmon (Canned)
- Tuna (Canned)
- Heavy Cream (Trader Joe’s has one with 0g carbs and 0g protein, just fat…. Yum!)
- Butter (Tons of it)
- Hard Cheese (Look for the ones with 0g carbs)
- Cream Cheese
- Full Cream Yogurt (Preferably Greek and zero added sugar)
- Half and Half (Trader Joe’s has one with 0g carbs as well)
- Bacon – unless you don’t eat pork, you should always have bacon in the fridge!
- Biltong (a bit like jerky)***
- Droewors (Dry Sausage)***
* If you buy the 1 gallon jugs of Macadamia Oil or Avo Oil, it is waaay cheaper but you have to decant small amounts into a bottle to use and keep the rest in the fridge, so make sure you have room or it will go rancid and spoil before you get a chance to finish it.
** If you buy the 25 lb box of Macadamia nuts like we do, you need to keep some on hand all the time but the rest needs to be in the fridge or, even better still, in the freezer so they don’t go rancid. Make sure you have the space before you order them.
*** These last two items are delicious and incredibly nutrient dense and hail from South Africa. Biltong is a bit like Jerky but it is cured without any preservatives and does not taste like a piece of cardboard. A single 1 Oz portion contains about 17 g of protein and 1.4 g of fat. A really good way to get your protein up for the day if you are a bit short. In an average 1 Oz portion of the Droewors you get 12.5 g of protein and 5.8 g of fat. These are both amazing foods for snacks. You may be able to find a place near you that sells it if you Google it. Just make sure the one you buy does not have preservatives added. I will try to get a link from my guy so you can order from him if you want to.
First thing to learn right out of the gate is that eggs are the ultimate superfood. Don’t be shy to eat a few eggs a day, if you can. If you are really unfortunate, like me, and you can’t eat eggs then you have to find some substitutes. I add extra bacon and spinach or kale to any meal where eggs are called for. He can eat stuff cooked or made with eggs (like homemade Keto Mayonnaise) so we do a lot of that.
You will eventually find that you don’t need to eat 3 meals a day and you may eventually find you skip breakfast, but we’ll get to that in a couple of weeks. For now, if you usually eat breakfast then choose some ideas from the breakfast section and enjoy.
Coffee or Tea
- Add half and half or, better still, heavy whipping cream. Measure how much you put in and make sure you track it.
- Restrict yourself to 2 cups a day unless it is decaf. Try some herbal tea if you want more. Rooibos Tea is another South African specialty which you should try if you can get your hands on some.
- We’ll provide you with a special Keto (FatBomb) Koffee recipe in the coming weeks.
- If you go to a coffee shop like Starbucks each day, ask them to make your coffee with Half and Half (Breve) or Heavy Whipping Cream. If you get a latte or some other kind of drink, ask them to use sugar free syrup. The macronutrient profile of the brand your shop uses may vary a little, but here are some typical values for you for I cup of each:
Half and Half: Carbs – 10g, Fat – 28g, Protein – 7
Heavy Whipping Cream: Carbs – 7g, Fat – 88g, Protein - 5
- Fried Eggs & Bacon cooked in rendered fat or butter (no vegetable or seed oil unless it's coconut oil)
- Good sausage is a great substitute for (or addition to) bacon. Make sure you get a good sausage made with real meat with no fillings or sugars. South African Boerewors is awesome if you can find it or order it online.
- Scrambled eggs with cheese and sour cream (full fat) and bacon
- Cheese Omelet with avocado and bacon
- On the go? Hard boiled eggs
- or if you have time go ahead and whip up some deviled eggs
- A few slices of Cheddar or Jack Cheese with homemade Keto Mayonnaise
- Bacon and Cream Cheese is a great high fat/moderate protein breakfast. It's a satiating and delicious combination.
- Cream Cheese Pancakes
Lunch / Dinner
We prefer lunch, or a meal early afternoon, to be the main meal of the day. This may not be possible due to your particular lifestyle so if dinner is your main meal, try to eat as early as possible to allow time for to digest resulting in better sleep and a longer fast before your first meal the next day. You’ll learn about therapeutic fasting in the lessons during Week 3.
You can select any of these ideas for meals for lunch and dinner. Make sure you are only eating if you are hungry. We find that a snack is only necessary at night after a main meal in the early afternoon.
We'll keep it simple over the 1st weeks, then will be recommending grilling, baking or roasting ahead of time. For ease, especially if you are eating from the office, this is how we started:
- Tuna, Salmon, crab, or chicken salad in a half (or use both halves) of avocado and put blue cheese, ranch dressing, or full fat Greek yogurt on the second half.
- And a few slices of cheddar cheese on the side. *(If you feel like you need a tad more this first week or few weeks add the avocado to a small green or spinach salad with cucumber don't add too many carrots or tomato but very small amount ok).
- Grilled Meat and Vegetables - We often have a BBQ (or ‘braai’ as they call it in Doug's home country of South Africa!) on Sunday and cook a very large steak or pork or lamb chops and his most favorite South African farmers sausage (boerewors). Vegetables should be leafy greens like spinach and kale (most nutrient dense vegetable), cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts etc. (watch the carbs in Brussel sprouts). You can also do zucchini squash! Mix in a cup of shredded cheddar cheese to add flavor and increase the fat content.
- Salami, Prosciutto, or Roast Beef. Add a green salad with half an avocado and Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing. (Salami has a great fat content and helps keeps your sodium intake up).
- Spinach Rolls with Roast Beef and Cheese
- Can of Sardines in Olive Oil. Add a green salad with half an avocado and Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing. (sardines are another super food, extremely nutrient dense).
- If you have leftover meat, great! and eat leftover pieces with cooked vegetables all week.
If you find you are really still hungry during the day, then there are plenty of things you can have at hand to snack on. They should all be high in fat so that they satiate the hunger easily and keep you going to the next meal. Good snacks to have on hand at all times are:
- Macadamia Nuts (awesome food and high in fat)
- Other nuts like Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, Pecan nuts (not peanuts, they are actually legumes, not nuts, and have a quite a high carb content)
- Droewors (dry sausage), Salami, Biltong (like jerky only waaay better)
- Hard Cheese like Sharp Cheddar (an Oz or two of cheese goes a long way)
- Fat Bombs (Check out the lesson on Fat Bombs in this week's course)
- Cream Cheese And Olives