Your nutritional ketosis toolbox

Rachel Lett

Head of Nutrition & Content

Are you ready to dive in and reap the benefits of nutritional ketosis?

So far, I have discussed nutritional ketosis and how you can be in remission from diabetes by implementing dietary changes.

Before you jump into our program, I want to share nine tips and tricks to help make your health journey as effortless as possible, right from the start.

1. Read food labels

Interpreting food labels is a key skill that will help you navigate your way through the mass of food products on the market. Primarily you’re looking for the ingredient list and nutritional information to help you make an informed decision.

This will be an eye-opening experience as you’ll discover how much sugar, poor quality fat, and bulking agents are added to food. Even those “fancier” foods like smoked almonds and artisanal chorizo contain many unnecessary added ingredients.

You’ll be equally amazed by the carbohydrate content of many unassuming foods like cashew nuts, milk, and root vegetables. No matter how proficient or experienced you are with nutritional ketosis, it is always good practice to read food labels. So let’s begin.

The ingredient list is the first thing you should look for on a food label.

Generally speaking, steer clear of foods that have a lengthy list of ingredients, or an ingredient you don’t recognize. Try to avoid foods that contain any of the items below:

Ingredients to avoid

• sugars • grains • starchy vegetables • fruits and legumes • milk and milk products [except high fat] • sweeteners and sugar alcohols [except stevia and erythritol] • synthetic additives, colorings, and flavorings • hydrogenated fat

Your next step is to check the nutrition label to determine a food’s carbohydrate, protein and fat content, and determine whether it is suitable for your daily macronutrient requirement. For whole foods like vegetables, meat, and fish, you can find nutritional information online, or search for food tracking apps such as myfitnesspal or Cronometer.

For U.S. labels or if you’re using myfitnesspal, begin with calculating the net carbohydrates that are, the carbohydrate content that is absorbed into your bloodstream and causes your insulin level to rise. You can use this equation to figure this out: net carbohydrates = total carbohydrates–fiber. If you’re looking at U.K labels, you can skip this step as fiber is shown separately and already deducted from total carbohydrate.

Firstly find total carbohydrates (not sugars), and then the fiber content. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate which is not absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestine. It does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels, but it is essential for healthy gut bacteria and bowel movements.

As shown above, you subtract fiber from total carbohydrates to calculate net carbohydrates. The number you get will contribute to your total net carb allowance for the day, which will range from 10g — 50g. As a guide, aim for less than 5g of net carbs per serving.

Deciphering protein and fat content of foods is more straightforward and doesn’t require calculations. Simply check the content per serving and make sure it fits into your plan for macronutrients.

2. Clean out your pantry 💫

A pantry sweep is a great way for you to practice reading food labels. Be kind to yourself and remove temptation by clearing out your cupboards.

If you’re like me and hate wasting food, you can send it on its way to friends or a food bank. You also may be able to return unopened food to the supermarket.

A pantry sweep can be a tricky step if you’re cohabiting and sharing meals with others. If they insist on keeping certain foods, politely ask them to locate them somewhere else — at least temporarily, until you get into the routine of your dietary plan.

As much as you would love everyone to pursue nutritional ketosis, you need to concentrate on improving your own health. You can hope that over time, your example may inspire loved ones to follow suit.

3. Replenish the larder

As I mentioned in the previous article, you need to indulge yourself with high quality, nutritious food. It’s important that these foods are easily available to you, so begin to fill your kitchen with items from the “foods to include” list.

First and foremost, I would urge you to buy some high-quality bones and make a nourishing broth 🍵(see recipe) to replace electrolytes. When shopping, refer to ‘food to include’ and pick out food that appeals to you — be sure to include high-fat snacks to get you through the initial few days of hunger and cravings.

Take your time to restock the house if space and finances are limited — you’re in it for the long run, so no need to stress and rush it.

4. Plan ahead 📝

From the list of ‘food to include’, create a weekly shopping list with the food you like. If you feel inspired, you can always look up recipes online or consult a good cookbook like The Ketogenic Kitchen.

With that said, please don’t put pressure on yourself to create new dishes and spend hours in the kitchen. The main objective is to feel comfortable with these new foods and find the ones you like — so keep it simple!

Your new lifestyle should be sustainable and relatively effortless, not overwhelming.

Start by combining and modifying familiar foods. For example, add more fat to your diet by cooking eggs 🍳and vegetables in butter or coconut oil. Or substitute your usual carbohydrate of potato with some roasted cauliflower or an avocado.

Later, once your confidence grows and you develop a love for nutritious food, you will undoubtedly want to explore recipes and spend more time in the kitchen.

Making a meal plan can be helpful for some people, but I would advise that you keep it fairly flexible and allow for substitution. Life changes all the time and sometimes you might not feel like what’s on the menu, or maybe you’re not even hungry — you don’t want your life to feel rigid.

Cook in bulk if you want to save time, and bring your lunch into work.

Especially in the beginning of your journey, it’s often easier to prepare your own meals rather than eating out and trying to figure out the nutritional content of restaurant foods. It will be kinder on your wallet, and no doubt you’ll experience food envy and longing looks from your colleagues.

Whether you’re going to an event, on a long-haul flight or going to a friend’s for dinner, never assume that there will be something suitable for you to eat. This sounds harsh, but it’s better to be prepared and bring along snacks or a meal.

No matter the occasion, never feel embarrassed about having dietary requirements and don’t feel obliged to eat something out of politeness –your health is the most important thing and everyone should respect that.

If you’ve been invited for dinner, always mention that you have dietary requirements in your response — the earlier you say it, the better! You can simply say “Yes, I would love to join you for dinner. I eat certain things for my health, so I will bring along a dish.”

It is always worth saying this no matter how well you know the person — sometimes it just slips their mind that you no longer eat certain foods.

More often than not, people are intrigued by what you’re doing and happy to cater to you. Enjoying yourself with friends and family is more important than the meal itself, so don’t stress about it too much.

If you do eat out, have a look at the restaurant’s menu online and ring ahead to let them know you have dietary requirements. Most places are very accommodating and appreciate that you’ve let them know in advance. Don’t be afraid to ask what ingredients are in the dish, how it is cooked and if you can swap carbohydrates for non-starchy vegetables and some butter.

Essentially you get to pick and choose the best things from each dish on the menu (within reason of course) — I’ve had some of my best meals this way! 😋

5. Find other means of joy and comfort

Food brings us tremendous joy, but it’s important not to rely on it as the only means of happiness and comfort. Whether it’s painting, gardening or singing, make an effort to do more of the things you love — embellish life with many jewels, not just food! This way, you will be less dependent on food as a source of pleasure.

Often people use food as an emotional crutch. Whether you’re feeling sad, lonely or bored, it is better to address and work through these emotions, rather than muting them with food.

6. Get support 💗

Never underestimate the power of love and support. Reach out to family and friends and tell them about your health journey. You may need to educate them about what you’re doing so they can offer you support.

Connect and collaborate with the Span community — they are going through the same thing as you and can offer encouragement and reassurance.

7. Social Pressure

Loved ones have your best interests at heart, but sometimes you will have to deal with a raised eyebrow or someone saying ‘go on, have a bite and live a little’. This can be an uncomfortable situation and you may feel obliged to conform just to keep the peace.

However, it’s important to realize that people project their own food issues onto others — they want you to eat the piece of cake so that they feel better about their own food choices.

You’ve stepped outside of the societal norm, and this can make people feel uneasy. Please, don’t feel compelled to succumb to pressure or judgment just to reassure others about their life choices.

Make the most of this opportunity to set an example, and hopefully create a domino effect of improved health among your family and friends.

8. Keep Track of your Progress 📉

Keep a food diary, measure your macros and log your blood work (glucose and ketone levels). These are powerful tools that will hold you accountable for your everyday actions.

Reflect on this information and how you’re feeling — these quantifiable records will give you instant feedback on your progress, and naturally motivate you to keep going or “get back on track”.

9. Read, read, read.📚

Knowledge is power. Equip yourself with as much information as possible to support your health journey.

Reading forums, testimonies or scientific literature is a great way to feel empowered, and remind yourself that you’re on the right track to improved health.

Your dedicated team at Span have done the work for you to research and write about the latest findings, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for our weekly articles.

Take time to prepare yourself before you embark on your health journey. No doubt there will be a learning curve, and it will require patience, but following these tips and tricks will set you up for success. Remember that you are in control of your health, and you need to be prepared to get better.

Are you scared of fat?

Next week I’ll be explaining how we became so scared of this vital nutrient and why it is so important for health.

If you’re interested in joining Span, download our mobile app on www.span.health or contact us at team@span.health to learn more.

Ciao 🙌🏽
Rachel

I’m sure you’re curious about the science behind all this 🔬 Here are some recent medical publications about this topic:

https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2340?int_source=trendmd&int_medium=trendmd&int_campaign=trendmd

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28053201

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23364002

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26224300

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900714003323