The first step to a successful keto diet is understanding keto diet macros. Let me show you how to get your keto macros right!
Once you understand what nutrients each food type contains as well as knowing what you can eat and what to avoid on keto, you will be able to successfully track your macros and measure your goals. I have also included a comprehensive list with a breakdown of the protein, fat and carbs of common food items we have available at our grocers here in South Africa.
Nutrients And Their Role In The Body
To get a better understanding of the food we eat, we have to think in terms of their nutritional value. Food contains nutrients that are called Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, while Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Macronutrients are the main focus of a successful Ketogenic Diet.
All food contains nutrients. Macronutrients are essential for life, and without it, we would have serious health complications and possibly die.
Food manufacturers have marketed certain foods to us in such a way that we think of it as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. A bowl of yoghurt and fruit is often found under the “healthy section” of a breakfast menu, while a fatty breakfast consisting of bacon and eggs raise concerns about heart disease. Understanding that whatever we eat contains macronutrients and what the purpose of each macronutrient is may help change our perspective of the foods we eat and greatly determine whether you will be successful on keto or not.
Fat is one of the keto macros least understood and wrongfully blamed for various helath issues. For decades, fat was seen as harmful to heart health. Advertisements and even doctors warned us to reduce fat in our diets as much as possible. Thankfully, recent studies have entirely debunked this, showing no significant link between saturated fats and the risk of heart disease.
Fat is essential for life. It is a significant component of every single cell in your body. It is critical for proper organ function and protects major organs such as your heart, lungs, and brain (60% of your brain is made of fat). Fat helps regulate your immune system and body temperature. Fat is necessary for building critical hormones in your body that help regulates metabolism, maintain healthy bones and muscle development.
There are four categories of fat allowed on the keto diet: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and naturally-occurring trans fats. Fats include cooking fats and oils, dairy products and nuts and seeds. Below, you will see tables identifying specific foods for each. In the Standard Ketogenic Diet, 75% of your caloric intake will comprise of fat.
Here is a list of healthy fats and suggestions on how and where to use them:
- Olive oil– Adding some extra olive oil over your salad is a great way to increase your fat intake.
- Walnuts– Walnuts are full of good, healthy fats, Omega-3 fatty acids to be precise. You can eat up to 14 halves a day for a total of 18g of fat.
- Avocados– need we say anything about this amazingly nutritious fruit (yes, avo is fruit if you wondered). Be a bit adventurous and add it to your smoothie or even bake some brownies with it. 100g of avo provides about 15g of fat.
- Almond butter– a teaspoon of creamy almond butter can be a great snack. Just check the brand you buy has no added sugar.
- Flax seeds– There is a lot of power in this little seed. Also a source of omega 3 fatty acids, this little seed can be eaten over yoghurt, and it is used in some of the recipes to make tortillas or porridge.
- Chia seeds– loaded with healthy fats and antioxidants and high in protein and fibre this is considered a superfood.
- Coconut oil– ideal for cooking. Also makes the most delicious fat bombs.
Fats and Oils
Fats and oils contain no carbs or protein. The table below is merely an indication of the good fats you can use to cook with or add to your salads.
|Extra Virgin olive oil||0.0||0.0||90.4|
Seeds, Nuts & Nut Flours
Eggs And Dairy
Dairy is a staple for many keto dieters and forms a significant component of their daily fat intake. Generally, dairy products such as cream, yoghurt, cheeses, butter and eggs are acceptable on keto. While most people are okay consuming dairy, some say that dairy can be the culprit to weight loss stalls. This could be to a number of reasons.
Over consuming dairy products: Dairy is high in fat and fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient. It contains 9 calories per gram compared to carbs and protein, which only contain 4 calories. With any diet, overconsumption of calories can cause weight gain.
Lactose Intolerance: Dairy consists of lactose, casein, whey and fatty acids. Lactose is the sugar in dairy and some people with lactose intolerance may be sensitive to some dairy products that contain lactose.
|Soft Cheese (Brie)||1||20.6||29.3|
|Cream Cheese (medium fat)||3||8.8||24.1|
|Double Cream Yogurt||5||3.6||6.7|
Protein is one of the keto macros absolutely critical nutrient for tissue repair. It helps to build hair, nails, and skeletal muscle. In addition to serving as building blocks for body tissue proteins signal several reactions in the body, including the release of hormones such as glucagon and insulin and the stimulation of muscle building via increased protein synthesis.
Remember that a Ketogenic Diet is moderate in protein which is about 20-25% of your total caloric intake. This usually works out to anything between 1 – 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Or, 0.6 to 1.0g per pound of lean body mass. Use an online calculator to determine your ideal protein macronutrient intake. On keto, always make sure to stock up on the highest quality protein that you can reasonably afford. Go for grass-fed, organic proteins whenever possible.
- Beef, preferably fattier cuts like steak, veal, roast, ground beef and stews
- Poultry, including chicken, duck and wild game — try to focus on the darker, fattier meats
- Pork, including pork loin, tenderloin, chops, ham, bacon and ground
- Fish, including mackerel, tuna, salmon, trout, kingklip, cod
- Shellfish, including oysters, clams, crab, mussels and lobster
- Organ meats, including heart, liver, tongue, kidney and offal
- Eggs, including deviled, fried, scrambled and boiled — use the whole egg
- Lamb meat
Meat and Seafood
|Tuna in vegetable oil||6||25.2||10.6|
|Prawns (cocktail in sauce)||5||12||22.5|
|Hake pickled fish||11||13.2||4.3|
|Smoked Haddock (Woolies)||4||13||2.8|
|Lightly smoked snoek||1||22||5.2|
|Smoked Salmon & Trout Terrine||1||14.6||20.4|
|Lightly smoked Mackerel||16||17.8||11.3|
|2 Free Range Sundried Tomato Chicken Espetadas||2||13.9||18.6|
|Bacon & Cheese Pork Sausage Grillers||6||17.9||19.7|
|Beef Mince (Lean)||0||20.2||10|
|Sosatie Beef Frikkadels||2.7||16.6||17.7|
|Sirloin & Rump Steak||0||17||4.1|
|Pork Loin Roast||4||19.3||16.2|
|Back Wood Smoked Bacon||4||19.3||16.2|
|Dry Cured Wood Smoked Streaky Bacon||11||16.3|
|Leg of Lamb||0||17.4|
Carbs… the bad boy of all the keto macros… For a long time, it’s been believed that carbs are essential for life. Where the truth is, you can cut out carbs today and never eat it again, and you would not die. Most people will be better off. If you do the same with protein or fat, it could eventually lead to death. Fat and protein are essential nutrients that you cannot go without.
Not all carbohydrates are bad. Carbohydrates on keto should come from vegetables such as leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and most other vegetables that grow above ground. Also, most of the carbs in these veggies are made up of fibre that does not affect insulin and therefore okay to eat. Fibre is also essential for gut health.
The rest of your carbohydrate intake should come from the carbs in nuts and seeds, the small amount in dairy and on occasion, from fruits like berries.
Fruit and Vegetables
|Sugar Snaps Peas||7.7||2.8||0.1|
Now that we have covered the basics of what macronutrients are on a Ketogenic Diet, you can also read the section about foods to avoid on a Ketogenic Diet. Understanding keto diet macros are key to your success on keto.
There are many keto macro calculators available on the web where you can work out your individual macros. Once you understand what you can eat and what to avoid, you can start keeping a food diary.