On The Keto Diet? Here's A Meal Plan That's Dietitian-Approved
What once seemed like a bit of a fad, the ketogenic diet is still going strong, with countless proponents preaching its benefits of weight loss, mental clarity, and stable blood sugar levels and mood. And while it may be tempting to write off keto (categorized by low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat intake) as a meat and cheese fest, a number of respected functional nutrition experts say that's simply not the case. Veggies (and lots of them) are very much on the table.
Case in point: Integrative dietitian Ali Miller, R.D., has been using nutritional ketosis in her clinical practice for 10 years, and she herself has been eating this way for about three. She even dabbled with it before she got pregnant to assist with her infertility. But her approach to keto is a bit different from a lot of what's out there.
A nuanced approach to keto.
"I look at nutritional ketosis as a metabolic state, not a yes-no food list," says Miller. "Unlike a lot of people, you will see me daily incorporating roasted vegetables, even [higher-carb] root vegetables, and fruits other than berries." For Miller, keto is more about finding a range of carbs she can personally tolerate (i.e., that still produces ketones in the blood) and choosing a variety of healthy real foods that fit into it rather than sticking to a prescribed set of rules. This typically results in her eating around 45 grams of carbs per day.
She also ups her carbs at certain times of the month. "I practice carb-cycling to support hormone balance post-ovulation and during the first two days of menstruation," says Miller. Meaning, from the fourth day after ovulation through the first day or two of menstruation, she cycles out of ketosis purposefully by eating 45 to 60 additional grams of carbs per day. This, she says, can help mitigate the side effects women experience with keto.
So, what exactly does she eat in a day? While no day is exactly the same, Miller ran me through a few of her go-to keto meals:
"A lot of mornings I actually do intermittent fasting," says Miller. "I follow a fat-fast schedule where I will have matcha tea blended with coconut oil and maybe some ghee around 8 a.m. I do about one and a half tablespoons of fat." A bit of caffeine from the matcha and plenty of fats provide a dose of steady, non-jittery energy that powers her through until about noon.
Midday meal or snack
"I break my fast around noon and typically have two to three eggs with microgreens, fresh herbs, half an avocado, some leftover veggies like roasted cauliflower with turmeric, and coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper," says Miller. "I eat 12 to 16 eggs per week for nutrient support and hormonal balance, as cholesterol is a precursor, or building block, of hormones." For microgreens, she usually opts for broccoli sprouts, as they're a potent source of sulfur compounds, and they've been shown to have cancer-fighting properties.
If Miller is busy all day seeing clients, she'll opt for something a bit more convenient midday. One of her go-to's is a keto green smoothie. "They generally don't have a lot of fruit in them, but I might make one with full-fat coconut milk, 2 to 3 cups of greens, fresh ginger, some lime or lime zest, and coconut water." Or, she'll opt for what she calls an adult "lunchable," consisting of truffled marcona almonds, olives, some pickled or fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or beet slaw, and a bit of leftover protein from dinner.
For Miller, dinner often consists of a high-quality protein and lots of veggies. Think: a grass-fed, grass-finished New York strip steak cooked in a cast-iron skillet with Brussels sprouts and bacon and a side salad featuring turmeric-lemon vinaigrette. Greens are a staple of Miller's, who always encourage clients to eat at least 2 to 3 cups per day. Often, she'll go for whatever's in season at the farmers market, which might be heirloom lettuce, kale, or chard.
When it comes to desserts, she embraces the subtle natural sweetness of real foods. One of her favorite keto treats is her chocolate gelatin peanut butter pudding consisting of full-fat coconut milk, peanut butter, cacao powder, vanilla extract, and gelatin. "It doesn't have any added sweetener, but it has a Nutella-y flavor, and the gelatin is great for the gut," she says. Or, she'll go for a couple of squares of dark chocolate (85 percent or higher) dunked in nut butter—which is something we can definitely get behind.