Low Sugar

Keto For the Win

Ellen Appelbaum October 27, 2020

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To some, it’s a godsend; others warn that it’s a recipe for disaster.

Who’s right?

It depends who you are. Because as popular as keto is, it’s pretty far off the mainstream.

The big plus is, you lose weight. You may lose it faster than on more traditional plans. You get to feel indulgent, enjoying guilt-free all the things you’d normally shun on a diet. You don’t get hungry as often. You don’t have to give up coffee. (And you don’t even have to give up chocolate, though you should switch to the super-dark, natural stuff.)

So how does it work?

Normally, carbs are our body’s go-to fuel. On the high-fat ketogenic diet, aka keto, the body uses up its carb supply and then switches to fuel from fat, ketones. The body shifts to a metabolic state called ketosis, which is what you want it to do.

If you’re doing keto,

  • You’re comfy with a new take on fat intake – suddenly it’s okay to eat cheese, butter, yogurt, eggs, avocados, and fatty meats.
  • You’re eating fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day, and many people are eating even less.

That means you’ve taken a deep breath and bid goodbye to basically all potatoes, noodles, bagels, rye bread – quite a change!

But from a food perspective, is that so bad? There are yummy, healthy, affordable, creative options galore to satisfy you in a low-carb way.

Keto Is Popular Because It Works Quickly. Is That Enough?

Keto has generated quite a buzz. People report that it helps them get in shape quickly, manage their blood sugar better, and reduce inflammation. The Mayo Clinic says on its website that, while the precise mechanisms are unclear, ketosis is thought to have brain-protecting benefits. (It was originally developed in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy in children.)

But, a note of caution – it’s not a free-for-all.

  • The Mayo Clinic says there’s little evidence that this is an effective long-term plan.
  • It notes the downsides of low-carb, low-fiber diets, such as headaches and constipation.
  • Mayo’s verdict is that the diet’s high-fat content is “a concern” for long-term health.

So, not to sound helicopter-ish, but it’s a good idea to assess your physical condition before you start. In other words, has a doctor ever talked to you about cholesterol? Blood pressure? It’s wise to find out if this is a good plan for your body’s needs.

It’s really important to speak to a physician or a RDN first to make sure that keto is right for you.

The Mindset for Keto Success

I love information. It grounds me. So before I start a new plan, I like to do research to get prepared and psyched. If it’s a diet, I look at what I’ll be eating in a day, and in a week. I read recipes – is it easy? It had better be.

Because I’m not Julia Child.

Entering “keto” into the search box on Kosher.com unlocks the door to a food museum. I found a simple recipe for a quick comfort food, Mini-Cauliflower Pizza, and a mouth-watering, more prep-intense recipe for Chicken Breasts with Walnut-Parsley Pesto Sauce. Pesto! Yes!

And those are just the beginning. For our essential keto selections, see here.

How would keto mesh with your lifestyle? Do you rely on grab and go? There are ready-made foods available – a lot of people are not best friends with their kitchens – and of course there are pre-packaged drop-off-at-your-door options, as long as you plan for the extra cost.

How much does keto-friendly shopping cost? Buying natural, and buying some foods in bulk, like nuts or oils, are good strategies to use. The bottom line is realistic, the foods are fresh and pretty, and the spices smell good.

Observant Jews who keep kosher, Shabbat, and the Jewish holidays find that it’s very do-able to meld with with the keto lifestyle, though it takes a bit more planning and forethought. How will kiddush and challah on Shabbat jive with your daily carb count? If you’re eating in a group, how will your carb-free foods hold up against what everyone else is enjoying? If you’re the host, can you prepare dishes that will satisfy all?

In the end, realize that for however long you stay on keto, if you prepare yourself with knowledge and ease into it, then you’re in for an interesting journey, and will hopefully enjoy successful outcomes.