Remember when you were at school and the teacher put the Food Pyramid on the board. It was, supposedly, based on the latest scientific knowledge and represented the ideal way to eat for health, well-being and weight control.
Only it wasn’t.
Nowadays, the traditional food pyramid has been revamped. For those who follow the keto lifestyle, like you and I, there’s even a Keto Food Pyramid. We’ll get to that shortly. But firstly, let’s unpack the traditional food pyramid and find out what’s wrong with it.
The Traditional Food Pyramid
The USDA Food Pyramid is more than likely the most recognized nutritional education resource in nthe entire world. It was created in 1992 and, since then, its recommendations have been widely adopted all over the world.
The Food pyramid was based on a graphical representation of six food groups:
- Breads and cereals (recommended 6-11 servings/day)
- vegetables (3-5 servings/day)
- fruit (2-4 servings/day)
- meat/beans/nuts (recommended 2-3 servings/day)
- dairy (2-3 servings per day)
- fats/oils/sweets (use sparingly)
This pyramid summed up the USDA’s dietary advice in one simple picture. Because it is so easy to see and understand, it has been widely used, adopted and taught to school children and adults alike.
The problem is that the original Food Pyramid was based upon flawed information. The clear message from the pyramid, for example, was that carbs are good and that fats are bad. As a result, the base of the pyramid, representing the foods you should eat the most, is filled with pasta, bread and other carbs. The top of the pyramid, representing the foods to eat sparingly, consists of fats.
Research, however, shows, that is carbs that are making us fat – and that fats are the solution! This revelation literally turns the food pyramid on its head.
The food pyramid was revised in 2005. The new pyramid reflects more recent research. It now recommends a moderate intake of grains (4 servings per day), a higher fruit and vegetable intake (5 cups per day), a moderate dairy intake (3 cups per day), a higher meat and bean intake (6.5 oz per day), and the inclusion of some healthy fats/oils (7 teaspoons per day).
This is certainly an improvement upon the original food pyramid. However, it is till woefully insufficient in light of the overwhelming evidence that the ketogenic lifestyle represents the ideal nutritional program for optimum health.
Enter the Keto Food Pyramid
The keto food pyramid was created because the visual impact of the original food pyramid was such an effective teaching tool. Many people find it a real challenge trying to figure out what they need to eat in order to get into a state of ketosis. For most people, it means completely overhauling the way that they were taught to eat as a child. That is, more than likely, because that teaching was based on the USDA Food Pyramid.
The keto food pyramid makes life a whole lot easier for keto dieters. This pyramid will give you a fail-proof cheat sheet so that you will always know what you should be eating in order to stay in keto.
Unlike the original food pyramid, the keto food pyramid features seven divisions of food. These are:
- Healthy Fats and Oils
- Lean Meat, Fish and Eggs
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Low carb vegetables
- Full Fat Dairy
- Nuts and Berries
However, as you can see from the representation of the keto food pyramid below, this pyramid is very different to the traditional food pyramid. For one thing there are multiple food divisions at the same level.
Just like in the original food pyramid, the foods at the bottom of the pyramid are those that you should eat the most and those at the top are the ones that you should have the least.
There are some foods that are noticeably missing from the keto food pyramid. Obviously, high glycemic carbs are off the menu.
These include the following:
- Sweetened Drinks
- Processed packaged foods
- Sweetened yogurt
- Vegetable Oil
Breaking Down the Keto Food Pyramid
Between 70-80 percent of your food intake should come from the first two levels of the pyramid. This is where your healthy fats will be sourced from. Here are some great choices:
- Grass fed butter
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Avocado oil
- Sesame oil
- Fish and krill oil
- Fatty cuts of grass-fed beef and red meat
- Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
You may be surprised to find that full fat dairy and nuts are not included in this list. That’s because, these are likely to contain hidden fats. That is the reason that these are further up the food pyramid.
Getting Your Protein
One good thing about focusing on the healthy fat sources listed in the last section is that many of them contain protein. Remember that the standard keto diet is not high in protein. Rather, it should include a moderate protein intake of between 20 and 25 percent of your daily caloric intake.
In fact, taking in too much protein is a common mistake that many people make. It could actually be what keeps them from getting into the state of ketosis. That is why it is imperative that you get the balance between fats and proteins just right.
Here are the best sources of protein that you should concentrate on:
- Cold cuts
On the keto diet, you don’t have to be afraid of fatty cuts of meat, such as steak, veal, lamb and bacon. But you shouldn’t make this a regular occurrence
Keeping Your Carbs Low
Obviously, the lowest macronutrient that you need to consume on the keto diet is carbohydrates. But you still need to closely monitor your intake – especially if you seriously want to get into ketosis and stay there!
You will need to keep your carbohydrate intake to around 25 grams per day – and definitely not more than 50 grams. You will still be getting carbs into your body, but you will be getting them from such vegetables as broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus. These foods are non-starchy vegetables and they contain low levels of net carbohydrates.
Dairy Foods on The Keto Food Pyramid
Dairy is in the upper half of the keto food pyramid. That is because it can contain quite a lot of carbohydrates. For instance, a glass of whole fat milk may contain 13 grams of carbs in a single glass. That’s about half of your daily intake?
For that reason, you need to be selective in your choice of dairy. When it comes to cheeses, get familiar with those that have the lowest carb levels. The best ones to go for are such hard cheeses as parmesan, gouda and blue cheese.
Here are the best sources of dairy foods to eat on the keto diet:
- Grass-fed butter
- Heavy whipping cream
- Fermented yogurts, Greek yogurt, and kefir
- Sour cream (full fat)
- Hard cheeses (parmesan, gouda, blue cheese)
- Soft cheeses (whole mozzarella, brie, monterey jack)
Of course, if you don’t like dairy (or if you have a lactose intolerance) you can stay away from dairy altogether without impacting upon your ability to get into ketosis.
What About Nuts and Fruit?
Nuts and fruits can be very useful on the keto diet. They provide you with a readily available form of snacks and provide healthy fats along with lots of brain benefits from their vitamin and mineral content. But you need to be careful. That’s because there are hidden carbs in some fruits and nuts that could potentially throw you out of keto.
If you could only choose one nut to eat on a keto diet, that should be the macadamia. Why? Because it provides you with 75 percent fat, 23 percent fat and just 2 percent carbs. This perfectly mirrors your ideal macro ratio on keto!
In fact, there are about 21 grams of fat in a single macadamia nut!
Here are some other good nuts, in order of preference, to eat on keto:
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
You can also eat nut butters. Again, however, you need to watch your portions to make sure that you don’t suffer from sugar creep!
You also need to be cautious with regard to your fruit consumption.
Those that are high in fructose, or natural fruit sugar, could easily kick you out of keto. Your fruits of choice should consist of:
However, you also need to limit your portioning these fruits. A single cup of blueberries contains 17 net grams of carbs. A better option is blackberries, but even then, you’ll get 6 grams in a cup.
6 Tips to Help You Adjust
Chances are pretty good that you’ve been following the traditional food pyramid, or at least viewing it as your ideal, since your school days, Making the transition to the keto food pyramid is a real challenge. After all, it basically means eating the exact opposite way.
Here are three tips that will help to ease your transition to the keto diet:
Tip One: Calculate Your Daily Caloric Requirement
The keto diet is based on macronutrient ratios. However, to be able to apply those ratios, we need to know what our daily caloric goal is.
There are a number of formulations for working out your daily caloric requirement. Among the most accurate is the Mifflin-St Jeor formula. There are separate calculations for men and women . .
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5.
Let’s consider a couple of examples:
A 30-year old guy who weighs 81.5 kg (180 pounds) and is 6 feet tall (183 cm) will have a total daily caloric requirement of 1,815 calories, calculated as follows . . .
10 x 81.5 + 6.25 x 183 – 5 x 30 – 161 = 1,815
A 30-year-old woman who weighs 72.5kg (160 pounds) and stands 6 feet tall (183 cm), will have a total daily caloric intake of 1,560, calculated as follows . . .
10 x 72.5 + 6.25 x 183 – 5 x 30 – 161 = 1,815
Now that you know how it works, it’s time to plug in your own numbers and discover what your daily caloric requirement is. So, grab your calculator and use the formula below that applies to you.
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161.
.Now that you are armed with your total daily caloric requirement, you are able to plug in your macronutrient numbers to find out how many fats carbs and proteins you need to be eating each day.
On the standard Ketogenic diet, you will be consuming 75% fats, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
Let’s plug these numbers into our two examples to see what we end up with.
We’ll start with our 30-year old guy who is consuming 1,815 calories per day . . .
FAT consumption = 1,815 x 75% = 1361 calories from fat
PROTEIN = 1,815 x 20% = 363 calories from protein
CARBOHYDRATES = 1,815 x 5% = 91 calories from carbohydrates
Our 30-year old lady who is consuming 1,815 calories per day’s number look like this. . .
FAT consumption = 1,560 x 75% = 1170 calories from fat
PROTEIN = 1,560 x 20% = 312 calories from protein
CARBOHYDRATES = 1,560 x 5% = 78 calories from carbohydrates
Work out your own numbers here . . .
FAT consumption = _______ x 75% = 1170 calories from fat
PROTEIN = _______ x 20% = 312 calories from protein
CARBOHYDRATES = _______ x 5% = 78 calories from carbohydrates
Now we can drill down deeper to work out how many grams of each macro your need to be eating.
There are 9 grams of FAT per calorie.
There are 4 grams of PROTEIN per calorie.
There are 4 grams of CARBOHYDRATE per calorie.
Going back to our example guy, his macro grams look like this . . .
Fat = 1361 divided by 9 = grams
Protein = 363 divided by 4 = grams
Carbohydrates = 91 divided by 4 = grams
Here is what it is like for our 30-year old woman:
Fat = 1170 divided by 9 = 130 grams
Protein = 312 divided by 4 = 78 grams
Carbohydrates = 78 divided by 4 = 19.5 grams
Fat = ______ divided by 9 = ___ grams
Protein = ______ divided by 4 = ___ grams
Carbohydrates = ______ divided by 4 = ___ grams
You now know what your macro goals are. While you don’t have to count calories on the keto diet, you will want to get your head round what your macro targets look like in terms of real food and portion sizes. Using a quality App like myfitnesspal over the first couple of weeks of your keto experience will help you to gauge your long term portion control..
Tip Two: The Pantry Make-Over
Your next step is to expunge your home of carb laden foods. Start with grain foods – they are the ones that will cause the quickest blood sugar surge. Then clear out the packaged freezer meals, pasta, rice, sugary drinks, candy and cereals.
This is where you have to get ruthless. If you are serious about your weight loss journey, you need to honestly and thoroughly complete this step. It doesn’t matter how strong your willpower is – of you keep carb foods in your home, you will find a way to get them into your body. And when you do that, you will be pulling yourself out of ketosis.
From now on, processed carbohydrate foods DO NOT APPLY to you.
Once you have cleared the carbs out of your home, it will be time to start replacing them with better, healthier keto friendly foods.
Tip Three: Meal Prep
Starting out on a new way of eating can be daunting prospect. One way that we’ve found to make it a whole lot easier to negotiate your way first that first week is to have a set meal plan to follow. That way you don’t have to think about what is coming up t your next meal – it has all been carefully laid out for you.
The next step to success over that first week is to actually prepare your meals in advance. Meal prep is a great idea for everyone, but it’s especially advantageous when you’re starting down a new nutritional path. It means you don’t have to think about how to prepare your next meal – you simply grab it out of the freezer.
If you plan to start your Keto eating pattern on a Monday, spend a couple of hours on Sunday preparing your meals. Making enough for two or three portions to provide multiple meals throughout the week. Then place each meal in a sealed container and store it in the fridge ready to pull out and heat up when you need it.