It may not seem like it, but being sheltered in place, aka quarantine can have an upside. It’s actually a great time to start a quarantine diet.
Typically, one of the hardest parts about being on a strict diet is the social aspect; eating out at restaurants becomes a challenge as do happy hours and nights out with friends. Not to mention the awkwardness of bringing tupperware filled with food to friends’ dinner parties. The keto diet can be especially hard because it eliminates so many tempting things like potato chips, French fries, ice cream and beer — all the staples of summer.
But dieting becomes easier when you’re staying home and only hanging out with friends at a social distance. Suddenly bringing your own food and drink to a backyard barbecue has become not only normal, but welcome.
So if you’ve been curious about the keto diet, keto in quarantine might be just the ticket.
What is the keto diet?
If you’re not up on the latest fad diets, you might be thinking “what the heck is the ‘keto diet?’”
“Keto” is short for “ketosis,” which is a metabolic state during which your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates/sugars. It’s also referred to as “starvation” mode, but don’t let that scare you, you won’t go hungry. Reaching ketosis involves eliminating all carbohydrates from your diet so that your body creates “ketones,” a fuel made from fat cells. Basically, your body just starts burning fat, thus yielding quick weight-loss results. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, only if you are super diligent about it. According to Harvard Health, you need to be eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day in order to reach ketosis — for reference, the article tells us that one “medium-sized banana has about 27 grams of carbs.” And yes, a banana is a carb. Sometimes we tend to only think about “bad” carbs when we talk about dieting — things like bread, cookies, pasta and potatoes. But in order to reach ketosis, which can take only a few days, you have to give up complex carbohydrates as well — things like grains, rice, most fruits and even some vegetables.
The good news: you are allowed to eat other kinds of foods that typically might be considered “bad for you” — things like bacon, eggs, cheese and steak are all high in fat, making them great keto fuel (of course, be sure and consult with your doctor before you just start binging on red meat and dairy, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions). “Some healthy unsaturated fats are allowed on the keto diet — like nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds, avocados, tofu, and olive oil. But saturated fats from oils (palm, coconut), lard, butter, and cocoa butter are encouraged in high amounts,” writes Harvard Health.
Now, here’s where the diligence comes in. If you start loading up on high-fat foods but cheat with too many carbs, your body will either not reach or come out of ketosis. If this happens, well then you’re just eating extra bacon egg and cheeses on a regular basis.
Why do keto in quarantine?
Okay so now that you know what the keto diet is, let’s get into why people like it. The biggest benefit of doing the keto diet is that it yields quick results. So, if you’ve put on the covid 15 and have a beach weekend coming up, this is a good diet for you. Done right, it can help shed pounds fast, but it’s likely not a long-term weight loss solution. Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital says, “We don't know if it works in the long term, nor whether it's safe," in a recent Harvard Health article.
In summary keto in quarantine: good for getting that beach bod back quickly; bad if you’re looking for a total lifestyle overhaul.
So how do I know if I’m doing it right?
As we discussed, you have to be very strict with your carb intake in order to reach ketosis. If you’re not feeling 100% confident in how you’re doing, you can buy testing strips and kits to check your ketone levels. There are also some telltale signs to look out for: bad breath, temporary fatigue, decreased appetite and, of course, weight loss are all signs of ketosis, according to healthline.
Tips for doing keto in quarantine
Okay, so you're sold; you’re going to do it. Now what?
We talked about the ways in which you can manage a quarantine diet. But, there are also some dangers to being home all the time: namely boredom, which leads to snacking. To try and combat this, stock up on easy-to-grab keto-friendly snacks like nuts, beef jerky, cheese and Rez Bars (duh). This way, when you’re feeling peckish, you’ll have something on hand rather than having to fry up an egg or grill some chicken.
Try and move anti-keto snacks out of sight. This may be hard if you live with other people who are not on the diet, but see if they will help you by moving tempting carbs into an area of the pantry or cupboard you can’t easily access. Out of sight, out of mind.
Lastly, as we mentioned above, do some meal prepping and bring your own food to any gatherings you might attend. Not only will you be certain that you’re sticking to your quarantine diet , but also you’ll be practicing safe social distancing by avoiding that communal chip bowl.