What is the keto diet? (With keto recipes.)

The return of “Jersey Shore” brought us a new and improved Vinny Guadagnino, who—if I’m honest—looks amazing, and now refers to himself as “Keto Guido.” His roommates constantly pick on him for needing to follow his strict diet (I mean, he drunkenly ripped the cheese off his pizza) and keep his body in a “state of ketosis.” And Vinny isn’t the only one embracing the keto diet; more and more people are swearing by the keto lifestyle, proving that this isn’t just some fad diet. So what exactly is the keto diet? Well, I’ve done my research, and I’m here to tell you what the keto diet says you can and can’t eat.

The Keto Diet is essentially a low-carb diet that tricks the body by taking advantage of its own natural processes. The process of ketosis is the breakdown of fats that are stored in the liver. Back in the olden days when food was a lot harder to come by, ketosis was the process that kept humans alive and energized until they found a food source.

Nowadays, we tend to take in a LOT of carbohydrates. The thing about eating carbohydrates is that the body produces glucose (which is essentially sugar) when the carbs break down. That glucose is super easy for our bodies to convert to energy, so the body uses glucose for energy and stores our fats away.

The keto diet seeks to cut back on carbs so much that the body has no choice but to enter ketosis. With no carb intake, there’s no glucose to convert to energy; the body would have to break down fats for energy instead of storing them to plump us up. So, the keto diet is light on carbs, and heavy on fats. A lot of people take issue with the concept that a fatty diet can actually help you lose weight, but it really is all about forcing your body into breaking down that fat and using it for energy.

When we burn fat, we produce ketones. It turns out that having a good amount of ketones in your body has a lot of benefits, including weight loss (hats off to the Keto Guido), mental focus, an increase in physical energy, and even a curbed appetite (you’ll feel fuller longer). When you pair this diet with an exercise regimen, you’ll find your blood sugar and cholesterol are much more under control, your skin may clear up, and—believe it or not—the keto diet has been used since the early 1900s to treat symptoms of epilepsy.

So what should you be eating? All meats are on the table, as you shouldn’t neglect protein. Eggs are also acceptable! All leafy greens and above-ground vegetables like broccoli are going to be very important, as well. Despite Vinny tearing the cheese off his pizza, hard cheeses are actually keto-approved. So are high fat creams, butters, and saturated fats (yes, you can eat bacon on a diet). Remember, you want to force your body to break those fats down. For a snack, rely on nuts, seeds, avocados, and berries.

You’d be surprised at some of the things you should avoid on the keto diet. You may think all fruit is acceptable, but apples, bananas, and oranges have a very high glycemic impact, which means that your body would break down the glucose in these fruits for energy instead of fat. That’s the opposite of what you want! The reason you can stick to berries is because there is not nearly as much natural sugar present in berries as there is in, say, a banana. Any sweeteners you use should be low-carb (like stevia), and you should avoid agave, honey, maple syrup, and the like. Finally, you should really be taking in less than 15 grams of carbs a day, so avoid wheat, rice, corn, potatoes and other tubers.

To make sure you get off on the right foot, here’s a day’s worth of keto meals—from breakfast to dessert—just so you know how to plan your meals!

Breakfast: Egg Muffin Cups

keto egg muffin cups

Life Made Sweeter

Not only are these super easy to make, but you can get really creative and still stick to the keto Ddiet! Some varieties of these egg cups are ham and cheese, buffalo chicken, and jalapeño popper—all acceptable keto foods. Get the recipe.

Lunch: Bacon Cheeseburger Salad

keto bacon cheeseburger salad

Real Balanced

You absolutely read that right. I promise, it’s totally okay to enjoy this salad! It’ll keep you full until dinnertime and it’s incredibly low in carbs. Get the recipe.

Dinner: Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Bacon Cream Sauce

keto Parmesan-crusted chicken with bacon cream sauce

Keto in Pearls

I said you could enjoy bacon on a diet! Seriously, this seems like the most indulgent dinner in the world and it’s totally keto-friendly. As a side for this tasty meal, I recommend a cauliflower mash (because remember, potatoes are no bueno). Get the recipe.

Dessert: Fudge Brownies

keto fudge brownies

Keto Connect

What, like I was going to leave out the chocolate? By using low-carb sweeteners and coconut flour, this recipe is perfect for a “Keto Guido” in the making! Enjoy! Get the recipe.

Header image courtesy of TanyaJoy/Shutterstock.

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