The Ultimate Guide to Cutting Carbs on the Keto Diet
Before I get started, a little history about myself.
I’m a former carb-addict. It didn’t matter really what it was - potatoes, rice, bread, tortillas, chips - it was all I ever wanted.
My mom was constantly buying loaves of sandwich bread because I could eat a half a loaf in one sitting. I would eat huge piles of rice, and when I moved to New Mexico I would buy giant bags of fresh corn tortillas and just eat them by themselves.
Hopefully you’re not as bad as I am. Most likely that’s not the case.
But I want you to know that I was able to cut out all carbohydrates with the exception of a small amount of vegetables and have improved my health drastially as a result.
As part of the keto diet, it’s important to be able to reduce your carbohydrates down to 25 grams of carbs a day. Which can be very hard to do - so I’m going to tell you about some of the things that I did to achieve success with cutting carbs from my diet when doing keto.
Clean your house - of carbs
I don’t know about you, but when I get really hungry my eating habits start getting really weird.
My husband jokingly refers to it as “going feral”, but it used to be that if I were craving something sweet I would eat anything with sugar. A few dried apricots, a drizzle of honey on a spoon, even jam scooped straight out of the jar or a bit of peanut butter with some sugar sprinkled on top.
Again - you’re probably not as bad off as I am (and with hopefully more self control) but know that if you are similar to me in that you get really powerful cravings, you need to assume that willpower won’t be enough.
That’s why it was important for me to clean my home of carbohydrates prior to starting on the keto diet. I got rid of everything that could potentially turn into a high carb snack or taste so that I wouldn’t have access to it.
If your family isn’t also doing keto with you, try and find a designated place for items that might tempt you -in a cupboard or a closet somewhere. Lock it up if you have to.
By removing the temptation to snack on carbs, you will be much more successful, I promise.
Set yourself up for success!
Stop teasing yourself with carbs
When my husband and I were doing keto, we made the mistake of watching the Great British Baking Show on Netflix. While Mary Berry and Paul were cutting into fluffy delicious looking confectionaries, we were suddenly craving everything from cream puffs to macarons to Yule logs - the very things that we had removed from our home the previous week to prevent us from being tempted.
It’s important to remove other virtual sources of temptation from your life. If that means you can’t watch the Great British Baking Show, then put it on hold. If that means you have to unfollow an Instagram account that is always showing off desserts and baked goods and cupcakes, then do it.
Give yourself the advantage by eliminating any other temptations. It’s totally a mental thing. Even talking about food can make you hungry, so give yourself permission to change the subject.
Reserve your carbohydrates
For those of us who have children (or at least have interacted with them) mealtimes can be a challenge with some kids. They usually like eating the easy, palatable things - the fries, the cake, the pasta - while eating the other things like meat or vegetables or fruit may be a bigger challenge.
You wouldn’t stuff a baby with birthday cake in lieu of feeding them more healthy, nutritious foods. We all know that a kid isn’t going to get the nutrition it needs if it just eats cake all the time, so we feed it mashed sweet potatoes or braised peas first.
We should treat ourselves the same as a child by reserving our appetite - or in this case, our carbohydrate allowance - for things that are good for us. Yes, you can eat two slices of white bread, but if you blow through your carbohydrate allowance for the day on two pieces of bread you’re just going to end up being hungry and craving more carbohydrates.
Instead, I would recommend that you plan out your carbohydrates with other things that are nutritious, filling, and that you know won’t spike your blood sugar. Foods like lettuce, kale, cucumber, zucchini and cabbage are all great ways of ensuring that you’re using your carbohydrate allowance wisely.
Skip the fruit
Look, fruit isn’t evil. Despite it having a lot of sugar in the form of fructose and carbohydrates, I believe that fruit is legitimately healthy. It’s way better than eating a slice of cake, or drinking a sugary coffee, or chowing down on candy.
That being said, fruit is a no-go on the keto diet. I’m sorry, but fruit - any fruit, even the allegedly low-carb alternatives like berries and grapefruit - are going to derail you from your goals on keto.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. First of all, all fruit are very high in carbohydrates. 15 grams in a cup of raspberries, 12 grams in a small orange, and a whopping 50 grams in one mango. That’s enough to take your whole daily carbohydrate allowance in one fell swoop.
Secondly, the sugars in fruit are in the form of fructose - the most anti-ketogenic sugar available. As we learned previously, ketones are formed in the liver from fat to produce energy. Fructose is also processed in the liver, and if you have both fat and fructose available, guess which one your body is going to pick? Fructose every single time, so say sayonara to those ketones and be prepared to be kicked out of ketosis.
Lastly, fruit isn’t very filling. It has some fiber, but most fruit are pretty sugary - most of us wouldn’t eat them otherwise - and you’re better off spending your carbs on something that won’t make you hungry again in an hour.
Proceed with caution on artificial sweeteners
First of all, I would caution you against the more harsh artificial sweeteners of sodium saccharin (Sweet n Low) aspartame (Nutrasweet/Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) due to the fact that they can be very harsh on the digestive system - especially if you use it frequently.
I personally prefer the more gentle artificial sweeteners - erythritol, stevia and monk fruit. I use stevia most frequently as a sweetener for beverages, while erythritol works well in cooking and baking as a sugar substitute.
That being said, artificial sweeteners can potentially derail your progress on a keto diet. Artificial sweeteners do not metabolize like sugar does, so they don’t count as a carbohydrate - but they do get digested first (prior to fat) and can cause a blood sugar response that may kick you out of ketosis.
They can also make you feel hungrier potentially. Some people have reported feeling a more intense hunger - in particular a craving for sweets or carbohydrates - as a result. You will have to test yourself to find out if artificial sweeteners are a good choice for you or not.
Find good replacements for high carb foods
While it can be difficult to go cold-turkey with foods - especially foods that you may find comforting like chips, tacos, bread and pizza - it is much less difficult if you have good low-carb substitutes or options for them.
Take for example, pork rinds. One of humanity’s finest creations in my opinion, pork rinds are one of the few low carb foods that has a nice crisp crunch - just like a potato crisp or tortilla chip. Given that the reason why we eat a chip with a dip isn’t necessarily so much the chip as it is a vehicle for delivering another food (guacamole for example) a pork rind is a very acceptable substitute.
Or, if you’re craving a sandwich and you just can’t get it out of your head, you can make a low carb version using melted mozzarella, cream cheese, almond flour and a little bit of baking powder.
Interestingly enough, I found that the effort it took to make things like the low carb bread was incentive enough to keep me from eating them all the time. I found other things to eat that weren’t so labor intensive but also keto friendly.
Remember one last thing
One of the biggest pieces of advice given to me (from multiple sources) was that keto isn’t so much about the fat that you eat, but the carbohydrates that you don’t eat. That is the key to your success, especially when it comes to weight loss and staying in ketosis.
I hope this helps you! From a former carb-addict, I believe that if I can change from stuffing my face with carbs all day long to staying under 25 grams of carbohydrates a day, anyone can. It takes a bit of know-how and a bit of encouragement and strategy, but it is very definitely possible.
If I’ve piqued your interested and you want to learn more about the keto diet, check out this beginner’s guide!