Getting Your Kitchen Ready for a Ketogenic Diet

by | May 27, 2023 | Nutrition, Treatments

Medical Review by Chris Palmer, MD

ketogenic kitchen

The ketogenic diet can profoundly influence our metabolism. It has been used to treat epilepsy for more than 100 years, and is the best studied dietary intervention for its effects on the brain. 

The Ketogenic Diet and Brain Energy: How Does it Work?

The brain energy theory teaches us that all the symptoms of mental disorders can be tied directly to metabolism, or more specifically, mitochondria, which are the master regulators of metabolism.

A ketogenic diet provides the brain with ketones, an alternative fuel source. This state of fueling with ketones helps our health because it can change neurotransmitter levels, decrease inflammation, improve the gut microbiome, and reduce insulin resistance. The ketogenic diet also induces mitophagy (cleaning out of damaged mitochondria) and mitochondrial biogenesis (creating new, healthy mitochondria). 

Committing to a ketogenic diet is an important and powerful step in your health journey. Remember, mental health is metabolic health!

Getting started on a ketogenic diet: 5 Easy Steps

So, you’ve made the decision to start a keto diet to treat your mental health, but what next?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and worried about what you can eat, don’t fret! I’ve been there and to help you prepare, I’ve created a little step by step guide to help you set up your kitchen for ketogenic success!

 Step 1: 

Carve out at least 30-60 minutes to go through your pantry, kitchen drawers and refrigerator to clean out all the high carbohydrate foods. Call a friend or family member to come and pick them up or you can donate them to your local food pantry. Having food that doesn’t fit in your new diet in the house can make it difficult to stay focused on the healthy and delicious foods that you CAN eat. If there are members of your family (like mine) who are not following a ketogenic lifestyle, you can make a shelf in the pantry and refrigerator that is just for them.

 Step 2: 

Restock your pantry and refrigerator with keto staples. You’ll want to make sure you have protein and healthy fats at the ready (think chicken, fish, beef, pork, avocados, high fat dairy if tolerated, eggs, nuts/nut butter, jerky, ghee/butter, beef tallow, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, lard, olives, and electrolyte replacements (ideally that contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium). 

When choosing vegetables, go for the leafy greens and cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts). As a rule of thumb, I recommend choosing vegetables that grow above ground as they tend to be much lower in carbohydrates (aka non-starchy vegetables) than those that grow below. For fruit, stick to berries as they also are lower in carbohydrates.

Frozen berries and vegetables can be a money-saving option, or convenient for anyone who doesn’t have access to fresh produce.

Other easy keto foods to have on hand include: deli meats, pork rinds, bone broth, and canned fish. Look for products without additives and preservatives.

Step 3: 

Purchase a food scale and put your measuring cups and spoons in a handy spot. When you first start a ketogenic diet, measuring your food will allow you to better calculate your carbohydrate intake and understand portion sizes. It’s very difficult to estimate ounces, grams, cups and tablespoons, but with a scale and measuring cups/spoons, you’ll soon be a pro and no longer need them!

Step 4: 

Prep, prep, prep! Prepping meals and snacks that nourish your mitochondria is one of the best ways to stay on track with keto. Fill up your fridge and freezer with easy, delicious, keto friendly options such as this keto chile relleno chicken soup.

Step 5: 

Ask yourself: Why am I committing to a ketogenic lifestyle? Write the answer down on a piece of paper and put it somewhere in the kitchen. Maybe on the fridge door, the microwave, or tucked in a pantry so it’s not as visible to others, but still a place where you can see it. If you ever need a reminder or motivation, it’ll be right there waiting for you!

 Dr. Chris Palmer, Harvard psychiatrist and author of Brain Energy says, “Starting a ketogenic diet isn’t easy. The initial cravings for carbohydrates can be difficult and sometimes, people can feel weak or dizzy during the ‘keto adaptation’ phase. Plan for this. Oftentimes, people aren’t eating enough or they aren’t supplementing appropriately with electrolytes. Within a week or two, most people begin feeling better. I usually tell people to give the diet at least 3 months to see if it will work for their mental health symptoms. If it does work, you’ll be amazed at how great you feel and how easy the diet becomes.” 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. You should consult with your healthcare provider before starting any treatments for any medical conditions. 

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