Everyone seems to be ditching bananas and whole grains in favor of avocados and coconut oil these days. If you’re interested in going keto, though, it’s important you do it right. We rounded up some of The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionists’ best advice for going high-fat in a healthy way.
1. Stay Hydrated
When you first go keto, your body burns through the glycogen (a form of carbohydrates) stored in your muscles and liver before shifting into fat-burning mode. Because glycogen stores water, your body releases lots of H2O as it depletes its stores.
That’s why The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Jaclyn Jacobsen recommends prioritizing hydration on the high-fat diet. “Drink your body weight in ounces of water,” she says. “Water is essential for every function in your body and much is lost while on keto.”
If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, aim to drink 150 ounces of water (18 cups) every single day.
2. Add Electrolytes
Another effect of your body losing water: It loses electrolytes. These minerals—which include sodium, potassium, and magnesium—play roles in hundreds of body functions and are crucial for energy, immunity, focus, mood, and more, says Jacobsen.
When electrolytes levels drop too low, people often experience the fatigue and brain fog described as the ‘keto flu.’ For that reason, people on keto typically need to ramp up their electrolyte intake. However, considering the fruit and vegetable restrictions involved in the diet, this can be difficult to do through food alone, says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N.
That’s where an electrolyte supplement comes in. Look for a product that contains a blend of sodium, potassium, and magnesium—like BodyTech Electrolyte Fizz, which adds fizz and flavor to all that water you need to drink. Jacobsen recommends a serving or two daily.
From there, you’ll also need to make a considerable effort to consume more sodium. The hormone insulin, which moves glucose from our bloodstream to cells throughout our body, helps our body retain sodium. Since keto eliminates sugar, insulin levels drop and we flush out more sodium in our urine and need to consume more, explains Blakely. Though most people should try to keep sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams a day, many experts recommend those on the keto diet consume up to 4, 000 milligrams per day—maybe even more if you work out a lot. To get there, Blakely recommends sprinkling pink Himalayan salt on your meals and drinking bone broth daily. (If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before ramping up sodium intake.)
3. Support Your Digestion
“People don’t often think about how going keto might affect their digestive tract,” says Blakely. Since most of us are not used to eating high amounts of fat, suddenly eating tons of it may cause some stomach upset at first. Plus, since keto tends to be lower in fiber, people may eventually experience some constipation.
Though a general digestive enzyme supplement will help, consider taking a supplement specifically formulated for the keto diet, like Real Essence Labs Real-Zymes Keto. For the probiotic, Jacobsen recommends ProBioCare 20 Billion Probiotic, which contains a blend of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains. For additional fiber, consider a formula like Ancient Nutrition Keto Fiber, which combines fiber, collagen, MCTs, and popular superfoods.
4. Remember Your Greens
Since keto restricts most fruits—and even many vegetables—it can easily become pretty devoid of micronutrients (like vitamins and minerals).
Maximize the nutrient-density of your keto diet by eating plenty of dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, arugula, and chard. Not only are leafy greens low in carbs (and calories), but they’re also packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N., recommends incorporating these greens—and other low-carb veggies, like broccoli—into every single meal. The micronutrients and fiber they provide help your body detoxify and balance electrolytes.
You may also want to consider adding a greens powder to your regimen—especially if you don’t eat plenty of keto-friendly vegetables every day. Just be wary of how many carbs it contains, says Blakely. Ora Organic Easy Being Greens Organic Alkaline Greens Powder contains a blend of over 20 grasses, greens, herbs, and superfoods.
5. Focus On Plant-Based Fats
Though it’s tempting to eat lots of bacon, butter, and cheese while on keto, many of our nutritionists recommend getting the bulk of your fats from plant-based sources.
In some people, dairy causes digestive and skin issues, and promotes inflammation, Jacobsen explains. Plus, the chemicals and nitrites in processed meats have been linked to health issues like cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Instead of relying primarily on animal products, base your diet on healthy, plant-based fats, such as avocados, coconut, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, and nuts and seeds, says Blakely. From there, sprinkle in organic, grass-fed meats and poultry, grass-fed butter, and free-range eggs.
6. Get Creative
With such specific macronutrient requirements and so many foods off-limits, enjoying a variety of meals on keto requires some creativity. That’s why Schnell encourages her clients to transform their favorite comfort snacks and meals using low-carb vegetables.
A few of her go-to keto-friendly swaps:
- Instead of on crackers, spread tuna, chicken, or egg salad on cucumber slices
- Swap rice out for cauliflower rice, and regular pizza crust out for cauliflower crust
- Spiralize zucchini noodles instead of making pasta
- Use Portobello mushrooms as burger buns
Schnell also likes to bake proteins (like ground beef or turkey) in hollowed out zucchini, eggplant, or Portobello mushrooms.