Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lazy Keto: Worth the Hype or Just a Dirty (Keto) Trick?

ham and egg cupsKeto is hot right now, but it’s not the easiest diet to follow. It’s no surprise, then, that keto dieters have spun off different versions of the diet to suit their needs. One that gets a lot of hype on social media is lazy keto.

(As an aside, I bet there’s an interesting social psychology study here—people who hear “lazy keto” and go, “Oh cool, I can do keto and be lazy? Sign me up!” versus people who go, “Lazy?! That’s totally not the point of keto, arrgghh!” But I digress.)

Mark and I are both big proponents of self-experimentation and finding the eating plan that works for you. The question at hand is whether, and for whom, lazy keto might be a viable option. How does it stack up to “strict keto,” and does it work?

What Is (And Is Not) “Lazy Keto?”

There’s no agreed-upon definition of lazy keto, but the most common one is: a keto diet in which you only track carbohydrates. This is in contrast to strict keto, where you track carbs, fat, protein, and total calories.

The logic here is that carb intake determines whether your diet is or is not ketogenic (true), so it’s all you really need to know. In The Keto Reset Diet and Keto for Life, Mark recommends a limit of 50 grams of carbohydrate per day, with wiggle room if most of your carbs come from non-starchy vegetables and avocados. Thus, to do a lazy Primal+keto diet, you’d simply make sure you’re keeping your carbs below about 50 grams per day. Of course, you’d also still stick to Primal recommendations regarding food quality, avoiding industrialized seed and vegetable oils and the like.

Lazy Keto Isn’t Dirty Keto Or IIFYM

Sometimes “lazy keto” is used interchangeably with “dirty keto” or “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros), but they are not the same. Dirty keto and IIFYM don’t care about the types or quality of the food you eat. Anything goes as long as you stick to your keto macros.

You can do a keto diet that is both lazy and dirty: only track carbs, eating whatever foods you want as long as you don’t exceed your carb limit. You can also do one but not the other: lazy keto where you care very much about the quality and nutrient-density of your food (not dirty), or dirty/IIFYM keto where you strictly track your macros and calories (not lazy).

What Else Is NOT Lazy Keto?

Doing keto some days but not others

To me, the name “lazy keto” implies that you sometimes do keto, unless you don’t feel like it, then maybe you eat some cake and get back to keto tomorrow. That’s not it. If you’re doing lazy keto, the assumption is that you’re consistently following a keto diet, just without all the strict tracking.

If you’re following Mark’s strategy of sometimes eating keto-level carbs and sometimes eating more according to hunger, season, activity, and so on, that’s not really lazy keto. That’s living in the “keto zone”, as Mark says.

Likewise, if you practice strategic carb cycling but still track your macros pretty closely, that’s also not lazy keto.

Doing the best you can given your circumstances

Some people define lazy keto as anything less than 100 percent commitment to buying the highest-quality ingredients, plus strict tracking and management of every bite that goes in your mouth. It’s fine if you aspire to that, but I object to that characterization. Lazy keto doesn’t mean you’ve given yourself permission not to care about your diet as much as someone who follows strict keto.

There are lots of people who can’t or don’t want to micromanage and who are also not “lazy.” Buying the food you can afford and occasionally doing the best you can with less-than-ideal options, such as when you’re on the road, is not lazy keto.

Pros of Lazy Keto

If you’re new to keto and feeling overwhelmed by all the logistics of strict keto, you might be better off starting with lazy keto. Some folks just do better baby-stepping their way into change. Lower your carbs to get into ketosis first, then start optimizing fat, protein, and total calorie intake once you’ve gotten the hang of low-carb eating.

Lazy keto is also an option for people who have been enjoying the benefits of keto for a while but who are starting to get burned out with the food tracking. By tracking carbs at least, you are more likely to stay in ketosis if that’s important to you.

Strict keto often doesn’t work for people who don’t do well physically or mentally with restrictive diets. Lazy keto might be a good compromise for them. If you’ve had issues with dieting in the past, I’d urge you to talk to your medical practitioners or, if applicable, an eating disorder specialist before trying even lazy keto.

Cons of Lazy Keto

These are the most common objections to lazy keto vis-à-vis strict keto:

You won’t know if you’re really in ketosis.

Unless you measure ketones, this is technically true even if you track your food religiously. Ketosis is a pretty safe bet if you’re keeping your carbs down, though. No matter what type of keto diet you’re doing, if you want to know for sure that you’re in ketosis, you need to get a blood or breath meter (not pee strips) and measure.

However, the real objection here is that you won’t know if you’re in ketosis because you aren’t tracking protein, so let’s get into that.

You aren’t tracking protein, and too much protein will kick you out of ketosis.

This is a flawed premise to begin with—the old “protein-turns-into-chocolate-cake” fallacy. Mark has covered this on MDA, and we’ve talked about it ad nauseam in the Keto Reset Facebook group. Suffice it to say: it’s not a big concern.

Yes, some amino acids can be converted to glucose in the liver via a process called gluconeogenesis. Yes, eating a higher protein keto diet can blunt the production of ketones, but most people will never notice this effect. If you find that you feel better within a certain range of protein intake, then sure, lazy keto isn’t for you unless you have been tracking for long enough that you can eyeball your optimal protein intake. Otherwise, this concern shouldn’t stop you.

You aren’t tracking calories, so you might eat too much (or too little).

If you are trying to lose weight, calories matter. Still, it’s possible to meet your weight-loss goal using a lazy keto approach if you naturally eat in a deficit. Obviously, if you’re not making progress, the first thing to do is start tracking all your macros and see how much you’re actually eating.

I’m actually more concerned about people eating too few calories on lazy keto, especially if they’re combining it with daily intermittent fasting or OMAD (one meal a day). It’s already tricky enough to make sure you’re eating enough total calories, and especially protein, in a compressed eating window. If you’re not keeping track, you might unintentionally be underfueling.

This isn’t to say you can’t do lazy keto if you practice IF (intermittent fasting) or OMAD. I do think it’s a good idea to  check in periodically, though, and see your total macro and calorie breakdown. Of course, also tune in to your body’s signals and be willing to respond to signs your body isn’t happy.

You might have keto flu over and over if you go in and out of ketosis.

Keto flu is the headaches, low energy, and generally blah phase that some people experience during the initial keto-adaptation process. However, once you are keto-adapted and metabolically flexible, keto flu shouldn’t be an issue even if you do go in and out of ketosis, especially if you manage your electrolytes.

If you’re tracking carbs, you probably aren’t going in and out of ketosis anyway. If you’re worried about keto flu, though, start with a period of strict keto—at least six weeks as recommended in The Keto Reset Diet—to get a decent foundation of keto adaptation before moving into lazy keto.

Deciding if Lazy Keto Is For You

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Why am I interested in doing a ketogenic diet?
  2. Do the benefits I’m looking for probably depend on having a high level of ketones and/or being in ketosis all the time?

If you’re doing keto for weight loss, general health benefits, or longevity, the answer to question #2 is no, at least not according to the available science. Experimenting with lazy keto is probably fine if it appeals to you.

If you’re doing keto for therapeutic reasons, the answer to #2 might be yes. If so, you’re better off being strict. Keep in mind that not all of the therapeutic benefits of keto require high levels of ketones, though. Some benefits are simply due to removing pro-inflammatory or insulinogenic foods. In any case, I wouldn’t start with lazy keto if I was using keto therapeutically. I’d be strict at first, and then I’d work with my medical practitioners to decide if lazy keto is OK for me to try.

Finally, if you’re doing keto specifically for cognitive benefits or mental clarity, it’s possible that higher ketones are better. People who enjoy profound cognitive benefits often notice that they have to hit a certain ketone threshold to really feel them, at least anecdotally. This threshold differs from person to person. If you care strongly about achieving higher ketone levels, you should strictly track your macros and experiment with different levels of fat and protein intake to find your sweet spot. You can also try adding MCT oil or even exogenous ketone supplements to boost ketone levels.

How to Implement Lazy Keto

Lazy keto might look like:

  1. Eating a wide variety of foods, tracking carbs and keeping them low enough to be keto.
  2. Working from a short list of ingredients—eggs, meat, lowest-carb veggies only. You might or might not track carbs, but you’ve made it difficult to exceed your limit because the foods you eat are all so low.
  3. Figuring out the macros for a small number of low-carb meals that you eat over and over so you never have to bother tracking. Technically this might qualify as lazy keto if you know how much fat and protein you eat, too. It’s still lazy keto if you allow yourself to add as much fat as you want via condiments, butter, oil, and cheese.

But Does it Work?

The answer is: it depends.

Lazy keto hasn’t been studied systematically. When deciding whether it offers the same potential benefits as strict keto, all we have to go on is anecdotal evidence and common sense.

For general health, I think it’s safe to say yes, you can get similar benefits by doing lazy keto. Moreover, lazy keto offers a level of chillness that is better for some people’s mental wellbeing. For them, lazy keto beats strict keto.

For weight loss, anecdotes suggest it’s likely to work at the beginning, especially for people transitioning from a high-carb SAD (Standard American Diet). There may come a time when you need to measure your food more precisely. Bear in mind that even strict keto doesn’t guarantee weight loss.

Lazy keto is probably not for you if you need or want consistently high levels of ketones for medical reasons or because you notice a big difference in how you feel.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. I so often see people get paralyzed by the fear that if they try something new, they’ll “mess everything up.” That’s incredibly unlikely unless you’re dealing with an exceptionally sensitive medical issue. Sure, for some people, going on a month-long pie and soda bender could wreak havoc, but that’s not what we’re discussing here.

And remember, it’s OK to mix up your diet. Switch between strict and lazy keto, then do a period of higher-carb Primal eating. Heck, try a couple weeks of carnivore if you want. In fact, it’s arguably un-Primal to rigidly adhere to one style of eating 24/7/365 (unless you need to for medical reasons).

Finally, don’t let the keto police persuade you that lazy keto isn’t “real keto.” There’s no such thing as “real keto.” Find the way of eating that works best in your life, and don’t worry about these labels.

Tell me in the comments: Has lazy keto worked for you? Has it definitely not worked for you?  How have you modified your diet to suit your preferences and lifestyle?

 

References 

Franz, MJ. Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. Diabetes Educ. 1997 Nov-Dec;23(6):643-6, 648, 650-1.

Fromentin C, Tomé D, Nau F, et al. Dietary proteins contribute little to glucose production, even under optimal gluconeogenic conditions in healthy humans. Diabetes. 2013;62(5):1435–1442. doi:10.2337/db12-1208.

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10 Healthy Breakfasts My Kids Love

These 10 healthy breakfasts my kids love will give you good ideas to add to your weekly meal plan. With a focus on whole grains and fresh fruit, I try to include protein, carbs, and fat with each meal. 

^^OMG little Mazey!!

Let’s Talk Breakfast

Breakfast is easily my favorite meal. As I regularly share my favorite creative breakfasts (overnight oats, eggs/fruit/toast, smoothie bowls, oatmeal, etc.), you know I love setting the tone for the day with a hot Yeti mug of coffee and healthy meal to break the fast. My kids also love breakfast! I think it’s the most reliable meal of the day they eat. And they tend to eat a wider rotation of recipes than they do at other meals. (Shocker!) I try my best to feed them both a variety of balanced breakfasts (protein, fat, whole grains, and easy on the sugar). They definitely go through phases of favorites (as do I), but Mazen and Birch both eat a good wheelhouse of breakfast foods. These are my boys’ current morning favorites.

10 Healthy Breakfasts My Kids Love:

1) Frozen Waffles or Pancakes

I typically keep a box or two of frozen waffles and/or pancakes in the freezer because a) they make for a super easy breakfast, and b) my kids love them. I usually buy the Whole Foods 365 organic whole wheat varieties. The ingredient lists are decent (including whole grains and fiber), and they’re easy to toast up in a few minutes flat to pair with fresh fruit or eggs.

2) Smoothies

We don’t save smoothies just for the summertime in our house, we enjoy them year round. It’s the fastest way to pack in a bunch of nutrients, for both myself and the boys. They particularly love when I make chocolate peanut butter smoothies because they basically taste like a milkshake; plus, I can easily throw in a couple handful of greens and they never know!

3) French Toast and Pancakes

On the weekends, we like to jazz up breakfast with something a bit more special. Since Mazen isn’t a fan of eggs, French toast has been one way we sneak them in. I’ll usually soak thick slices of whole wheat bread in a mixture of eggs, whole milk, and cinnamon and then top with a little maple syrup and sliced bananas. It’s definitely a sweet treat, but semi-healthy, too! Check out this Deep Dish pancake – another different idea!

Wheels on the Bus French Toast

4) Cold Cereal

We definitely don’t do cereal every morning, but man is it convenient! Believe it or not, it took Mazen until age 6 to eat cereal with milk, but now that he actually enjoys it, it’s a fast breakfast before school. He is into anything cinnamon and Cinnamon Chex has been our favorite. I also buy Whole Foods brand of cinnamon squares or Peanut Butter Puffins. Birch eats his cereal dry and loves all kinds of Chex too, and of course, Cheerios.

5) Scrambled Eggs

Birchie loves scrambled eggs. I mean, chunks of fluffy eggs are the perfect toddler finger food, are they not? They’re such a perfect food that I fed them to Mazen 1,000 times and he hasn’t eaten eggs since he was yay high: 

But Mazen gets eggs in other forms – he just doesn’t know. I make a version of this pancake recipe from Anne every now and then and it’s just eggs and banana – two foods that Mazen “doesn’t like” :mrgreen:

6) Oatmeal

It shouldn’t be a surprise that my kids love oatmeal as it’s one of my all time favorite breakfasts. Mazen will usually eat whatever concoction I come up with (topped with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips), and Birch has most success with it when I reheat it so it’s in little chucks. We haven’t quite got the whole spoon-to-mouth thing down yet.

7) Baked Oatmeal

This is ideal for Birch since it’s more firm. I can cut or break it up into smaller pieces and it’s a perfect finger food. With Mazen, it’s kind of hit or miss. He’ll eat it if it looks like a muffin but not if it’s a slice on a plate.

8) Muffins

Speaking of muffins, they love them when I bake a batch – Mazen will literally eat three! We don’t always have homemade muffins on hand, but when I do get around to baking a batch, I stick a few in the freezer to be reheated anytime (that is, if I’m lucky and there are leftovers). Our favorite muffin recipes include these healthy whole wheat muffins and whole grain oat pumpkin muffins.

9) Overnight Oats

Birch loves overnight oats just as much as I do and always steals bites from mine. I regularly make a batch of basic overnight oats for myself to jazz up with various toppings. I’ll serve him the plain oats (oats mixed with yogurt and/or milk). This will get less messy when he can use a spoon! 

10) Yogurt Drinks and Yogurt Pouches

Definitely a favorite of the boys, with yogurt drinks or yogurt pouches I know they’re getting in some protein and probiotics. I’ll also typically offer some fruit to go with it, but sometimes they’ll eat these as a solo snack on the go. I typically grab whatever is organic and on sale at Whole Foods (checking to make sure they’re not loaded with added sugar). Mazen will eat some “grown-up” yogurts but the flavors are very hit or miss. Birch has also started liking plain Greek yogurt, and because it’s so thick he can actually feed himself with a baby spoon.

Want to see more Kids Eat Real Food?

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Greek Yogurt Recipes

Greek yogurt recipes are always a handy thing to have on hand. They are usually delicious, have good nutrition and give you a good dose of calcium for the day.

But there are so many ways to use Greek yogurt! It makes a wonderful ingredient, both in cooking and in baking. So today, I’m giving you a simple suggestions for enjoying it as a snack, as well as 15 other recipes that use it as an ingredient!

Greek Yogurt Recipes

Greek yogurt recipes are great for adults, but I also think it’s an often overlooked snack for kids.

I mean, at 22 grams of protein per cup, it’s pretty forgiving on the carb additions. This makes it perfect for kids.

One thing I learned while I was pregnant (I had gestational diabetes), was that healthy carbs are a good thing so long as you pair them with an equal amount of protein. And since Greek Yogurt already has a high protein content, you can pretty much add any naturally sweet addition and have it be a fairly balanced snack.

When I spent a year in Germany as a nanny, I was amazed that I could purchase honey yogurt in the stores like we purchase yogurt with fruit here in the states. Back then, I had never seen this option in California stores. It was such a simple combination, and yet it was so delicious! The kids I took care of ate it for dessert on a regular basis.


Clean Eating Greek Yogurt

GREEK YOGURT TOPPINGS:

  • 1/2 cup yogurt + 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/2 cup mixed berries and nuts
  • 1/4 cup clean eating granola

The toppings are endless. Just keep it healthy!

Note: Never give honey to a child under 1 year of age!

GREEK YOGURT RECIPES

Clean Eating Danish Meatballs use Greek yogurt as an ingredient in this list of Greek Yogurt Recipes

Danish meatballs are creamy, comforting, and kid-friendly. This may even be the best meatball recipe you will ever make!

Get the recipe here: Danish Meatballs – The Gracious Pantry

Grilled shrimp is easy and healthy. Whether you plan to serve these skewers as a meal or an appetizer, you will want to be sure to include the creamy greek yogurt and chili dipping sauce to make these shrimp extra special.

Get the recipe here: Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Creamy Chili Sauce – Diabetes Strong

Pancakes are made for lazy weekend mornings. You don’t have to feel guilty about eating these whole grain pancakes made with greek yogurt. Top them with some fresh fruit and a sprinkling of nuts.

Get the recipe here: Fluffy Vanilla Greek Yogurt Pancakes – With Salt and Wit

Nothing makes it more difficult to power through the day than a heavy lunch. This lightened-up chicken salad is coated in a mustardy greek yogurt dressing made with dill for a bright flavor and walnuts for added crunch.

Get the recipe here: Healthy Chicken Salad with Dill and Walnuts – Unicorns in the Kitchen

This no-bake cheesecake recipe comes together in less than 10 minutes, and you can easily double or triple the recipe if you want to share this with a friend! The greek yogurt gives this dessert plenty of protein.

Get the recipe here: Single Serving Keto Cheesecake – Sorey Fitness

Buffalo chicken dip is creamy and spicy and perfect for dipping carrots, celery, or whole-grain crackers. This healthier version is just what you need to enjoy game night and still eat right.

Get the recipe here: Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip – Pinch of Wellness

The Turmeric Greek yogurt marinade features fresh ginger, garlic, and lemon and gives chicken thighs a protein-pack flavor infusion.

Get the recipe here: Chicken Thighs with Turmeric Greek Yogurt Marinade – Mom Foodie

Clean Eating Greek Cucumber Salad

Not everyone likes cucumbers, myself included, but this salad had me enjoying them. The tangy greek yogurt dressing is made with greek seasoning and a touch of white balsamic vinegar. It was so good I almost forgot I was eating cucumbers!

Get the recipe here: Clean Eating Greek Cucumber Salad – The Gracious Pantry

If you’ve been on the hunt for the perfect sugar-free frozen treat, look no further. Although the recipe calls for blackberries, feel free to sub in strawberries, blueberries, or even raspberries!

Get the recipe here: Sugar-Free Frozen Yogurt – Wholesome Yum

A delicious Tzadziki sauce in this list of Greek Yogurt Recipes

It would feel wrong to leave out a recipe for Tzatziki in this roundup. Use it as a dip, dressing, or marinade. It pairs well with chicken souvlaki (see the recipe below) and is delicious on a pita sandwich.

Get the recipe here: Tzatziki – Nutmeg and Vinegar

Enjoy a healthy lunch straight out of the Mediterranean with these tender and yummy pieces of air fried chicken Souvlaki.

Get the recipe here: Chicken Souvlaki – Recipe This

These Chocolate Chip and Banana Muffins are sugar-free and filled with the delicious protein-packed goodness of Greek yogurt. You won’t feel bad serving these to your kids for breakfast or as a healthy snack.

Get the recipe here: Chocolate Chip and Banana Muffins – A Baking Journey

These crunchy cabbage pancakes are drizzled with a spicy garam masala yogurt sauce that will excite your tastebuds.

Get the recipe here: Curry Cabbage Pancakes – Primal Edge Health

I’ll bet you never knew that getting your morning caffeine fix could be so tasty and filling!

Get the recipe here: Coffee Overnight Rolled Oats – Claudia Canu

2 stacked pieces of fluffy, moist homemade cornbread made with real food ingredients, including Greek yogurt in this collection of Greek Yogurt Recipes.

Cornbread is a versatile addition to many different meals, especially chili. This cornbread is deliciously moist, thanks to a full cup of Greek yogurt.

Get the recipe here: Clean Eating Cornbread – The Gracious Pantry

Post from the Gracious Pantry archives, originally posted 2/15/10.



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