Interested in giving this high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet a whirl? Before you dive into the world of keto, there are a few things to consider (like no, you can’t just eat bacon for every meal). So we asked ketogenic diet expert Dr. Josh Axe for his top tips to help us start the healthy eating plan—and actually stick to it.
EASE INTO THE DIET BY ADDING MORE FATS
Going from your regular (ahem, carb-heavy) diet on a Monday to eating keto on Tuesday is a pretty big shock to the system. There’s even a name for it: the “keto flu.” To prepare your body (and nix those symptoms of nausea, headaches and fatigue), Dr. Axe recommends upping your fat intake three to seven days before starting the diet. “Getting some more healthy fats (like avocados and coconut oil) in your diet will help prepare the gallbladder, liver and digestive system,” he says. Permission to eat avocado toast every day this week, granted.
USE LOW-CARB INGREDIENTS TO MAKE YOUR FAVORITE MEALS
Best news: Going keto doesn’t mean forgoing pancakes, pizza and fries. You just need a few clever swaps. Think: coconut flour, cauliflower crust and roasted turnips. You can even have pasta—just ditch the noodles and try zoodles or spaghetti squash instead.
USE HERBS TO COMBAT SUGAR CRAVINGS
You’ll steer clear of sugar on this diet, but you can still indulge your sweet tooth with good-for-you herbs like licorice root (which tastes nothing like the bitter candy) and cinnamon—try them in tea or sprinkled onto desserts. Another great snacking option? Ultra-satiating fat balls. (Just be wary of using too much stevia—although technically allowed on the keto diet, it should only be used in small amounts.)
KEEP YOUR ENERGY UP WITH TEAS AND JUICE
When you first start eating keto, it’s not uncommon to feel a dip in your energy levels. To help your body transition and give yourself a natural energy boost, Dr. Axe recommends sipping plenty of green juice, matcha tea and so-called super-herbs (aka adaptogens) like cordyceps, ashwagandha and holy basil that can help fight fatigue and stress.
FIND A BUDDY
Although there are plenty of delicious keto recipes out there, it’s hard not to be tempted when your S.O. keeps chowing down on nachos and cake. The fix? Team up with a friend to help you stay on track. Weekly matcha and fat balls date, anyone?
DRINK LOTS OF WATER
OK, real talk. One of the possible side effects of starting the keto diet? A reduction in bowel movements (yep, we said it). To prevent this, Dr. Axe recommends upping your water intake. “Take your body weight, cut it in half and drink at least that many ounces of water a day (if not more).”
KEEP EXERCISE TO A MINIMUM FOR THE FIRST FEW DAYS
If you just went keto and you’re not feeling so hot, you’re not alone. “The first three days are when people typically feel the weakest, so I would encourage people not to overdo exercise early on,” suggests Dr. Axe. You should be back to your usual running/spinning/CrossFit self in about two weeks, he says. Until then, stick to long walks and gentle yoga.
FOCUS ON HEALTHY FATS
Yep, the ketogenic diet lets you eat bacon and cheese. This we know. But that doesn’t mean you should eat them for every meal. When it comes to fats, you want the majority of your intake to be from the good kind—think avocado, salmon, flaxseed and coconut oil. (Save the bacon-egg-and-cheese skillet for this weekend.)
GOING KETO CAN BE TOUGH, BUT IT’S NOT FOREVER
When you go keto, you’re getting approximately 75 percent of your calories from fat, 20 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbs. And although this combo often leads to weight loss, in the long-term, it’s also pretty tough to stick to. That’s why Dr. Axe recommends following the ketogenic diet for 30 to 90 days at a time, then coming off keto by upping the amount of healthy carbs (but still keeping things relatively low-carb and sugar-free). “I don’t think that people should be in ketosis [burning existing stores of fat for energy] every day of their lives—our bodies are meant to burn both carbs and fat for energy,” says Dr. Axe. Keep this in mind when the going gets tough on day 25. Trust us.