The Rundown on the Ketogenic Diet + Turkey Meatballs with Zoodles Recipe
If you are wondering why a few of your friends have “gone keto” and started adding butter to their coffee, I'm here to answer your questions. The ketogenic diet originated in the clinical realm for fighting epilepsy in children, and the famous Atkins diet was created from the ketogenic principles. Could the keto diet be right for you?
What is the ketogenic diet?
Basically, it is a high fat and close to no carb diet. When the body is running on close to zero carbohydrates, it goes into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat instead of glucose for energy. The strict ketogenic diet allows about 20-30 grams of net carbs (after you subtract fiber), which means about ½ cup of rice or pasta per day. Remember, carbohydrates are not just bread and pasta. This includes fruits, starchy vegetables, and dairy. So for those following this plan, the diet consists of about 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
Unfortunately, this way of eating is not a green light for the bacon and cheeseburger diet. In order to truly reap the benefits and maintain long term health, followers must focus on nutrient rich, whole foods.
- Wild caught and low mercury fish
- Grass fed meats and local/certified organic poultry
- Full fat dairy from pastured, grass fed animals
- Plant based oils and fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil
- Small amounts of low sugar fruits such as berries
- Non starchy vegetables
- Nuts and nut butters
Grains, high sugar fruits, starchy vegetables, juice, non or low-fat dairy, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol are not included in this way of eating.
What are the benefits?
When your body is burning fat for energy, the benefits include quick fat loss, increased HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), and reduced inflammation and risk for chronic disease. Keto proponents also report better mental focus, consistent energy, fewer cravings, and never feeling hungry while losing weight.
I believe that when this diet is done correctly, it is a way to eat to lose or maintain your weight without hunger. I am all about including a variety of lean protein, healthy fats, and vegetables while limiting your sugar and carb intake. However, I do believe there is room for fruit and whole grains in the diet and I don't like eliminating entire food groups from the diet, especially foods that offer so many vitamins and minerals. I also strongly disagree with any variation of this diet that allows greasy and low quality meat. No one feels good after eating a greasy bacon cheeseburger, even if you cut out the bun. So if you decide to give the keto diet a go, stick to grass-fed, organic meats and make vegetables the base of every meal.
And now, a ketogenic friendly recipe to get you started!
Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles
Ingredients: (serves 4 )
- 2 jars marinara sauce (or make your own!)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- ¾ c. grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp. dried Italian herb blend (or 2 tsp dried basil plus 2 tsp dried oregano)
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1¼ lb. ground turkey (at least 90% lean)
- 2 eggs
- ¼ c. old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
- 4 medium zucchini, cut into noodles with a spiralizer or julienne peeler
- Spiralize 4 zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pat dry. Set aside. I like to let them sit out for at least an hour to let them dry out. This helps make the zoodles less watery!
- Prepare or bring store-brought sauce to a gentle simmer in a 5-qt saucepan.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the onion, carrot, garlic, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and pepper flakes.
- Add the ground turkey, eggs and oats. Mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well combined.
- Shape the meat mixture into approximately 20 meatballs, about 1 1/2 in. in diameter.
- Carefully place all the meatballs in the marinara sauce. Do not stir! Cover the pot and simmer gently for 20 minutes. It is ok if some of the meatballs are not completely submerged.
- Remove the lid and gently stir the meatballs to thoroughly coat them with the sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes.
- Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a saute pan and add the zucchini noodles. Only cook for about 5 minutes, any longer will cause them to get mushy!
- Plate the zucchini noodles and mix with the marinara sauce and meatballs.