What do Elon Musk and the new Lara Croft have in common? Yep you guessed it…they both follow a Low-Carb Healthy Fat diet.
By far and away the most emails, comments and questions we get are around how to start LCHF, what a LCHF whole food eating plan looks like, whether its doable for the average person, and how you know what success looks like. We’ll address this in a series of posts but here are the first three steps…
By Helen Kilding and Grant Schofield
Back in April of last year, Grant talked about what he and his family eat, but let’s go a step further and look at how you might adapt your current menu to achieve a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle – that delivers all the nutrients your body needs, in the quantities required. Note I say lifestyle – not diet – because an LCHF way of eating can be as beneficial and enjoyable for people who don’t need to lose weight as for those who do.
First there are two things you need to get over – your fear of fat and your fear of missing carbs. We often ask people, “What is it about a burger that you most enjoy?” Inevitably it’s not the tasteless bread roll that is used to hold it. Top a nice juicy burger, two even, with cheese, avocado, tomato and mayonnaise, wrap it in a big fresh iceberg lettuce leaf and see if you miss the bun. Ditto lasagne….replace the pasta sheets with strips of eggplant and see if you even notice.
One proviso, make these switches without increasing how much good fat you eat and you do risk missing the carbs. You’ll possibly lose weight, but because of calorie restriction, not an increase in fat burning – which should be the ultimate goal. And as with all calorie restricted diets, you’ll likely regain the weight, and then some.
When you take out carbohydrate you must increase fat….protein should stay about the same. Far from fat making you fat, as Grant has spoken about at length, dietary fat and body fat are two completely different things. To encourage your body to burn fat, you need to deprive it of alternative fuel sources (i.e. sugar/carbohydrate) so that it’s only option is to use fat.
When you eat fat, so long as there is no sugar around, there is little or no impact on the hormone insulin (the fat storage hormone) and also no blocking of the hormone leptin. It is leptin that tells the brain you’re full. You need fat to feel satisfied, plus it tastes great and makes the food you add it to taste great.
So what exactly should you eat? Here are some tips and tricks from someone who is not a great cook, who is preparing meals for a young family and who also enjoys eating out. None of which provides any barrier to an LCHF lifestyle. For a better cook, or someone with more time on their hands, the possibilities are endless.
Step 1: Ditch these carbs
Understand which foods are out for you and then clear them all out of your fridge and cupboards. Having a defined “start day” or “clean out day” is the “cold turkey” approach, which may leave you feeling a bit rubbish for a few days, as your metabolism adjusts the way it fuels your body, but after that you’re away. It’s our preferred method but we’ll explore more gradual methods later.
The following items are out (left), with some replacements on the right:
|Breakfast cereals of all kinds||Nuts and seeds or No grainola|
|Potato and all other starchy vegetables||Faux potato and heaps of non-starchy, low carb veggies|
|Spaghetti and pasta||Courgetti (courgette ribbons) or eggplant slices|
|Sugar in all forms (includes honey, agave)|
|Bread of all kinds||Big iceberg lettuce leaves or Oopsie rolls|
|Cracker, biscuits, and cakes||Seed crackers|
Step 2: Oil change
Boost your good fat component. We need plenty of fat but not too much of the Omega 6 fats which can cause inflammation. Remove the manufactured seed oils, like sunflower, peanut, safflower and canola, and replace them with:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut milk/cream
- The fat/skin on meat and fish
Step 3: Step away from the packages
Ditch all processed foods – these are likely to be high in sugar, other carbs, and Omega 6 fats. Make sauces and dressings from scratch wherever possible. This doesn’t have to mean hours slaving over a stove but if you really must use a jar of curry sauce (because throwing some spices and a can of coconut milk in a pan is so hard!), at least check that the carbohydrate content is no more than 10 g per 100 g and ideally less than 5g.
Load up on things that will rot in a few days – in season vegetables, meat, fish, etc and you won’t go far wrong. Follow these three steps and the end result will be a plate/dish that is nutrient dense and packed with natural flavour. You’ll feel satisfied (full) but not bloated full.
A weekly menu
|Breakfast||Yoghurt, cream, berries, nuts and seeds (YCBNS)||Cheesy scrambled egg||YCBNS||YCBNS||YCBNS||
|Bacon, eggs, creamy mushrooms and spinach|
|Lunch||Chicken Super Salad||Seed crackers and platter||Leftover Bolognese with salad and cheese||Left over frittata||Tuna Super Salad|
|Dinner||Salmon fillet, pumpkin mash and Asian veggies||Courgetti Bolognese||Asparagus and feta frittata||Burger with all the trimmings||Chicken curry and faux rice||BBQ (meat, fish, salad/veggies) or Roast Dinner (no potato)|
|Extras||10 almonds3 squares of dark chocolate||Apple slices and nut butter||10 almondsGlass of wine||3 squares of dark chocolate||Apple slices and nut butterGlass of wine||Seed crackers and dips|
Other Breakfast Ideas
- Greek yoghurt with No Grainola
- Eggs and bacon
- Creamy mushrooms on spinach
- Coconut cream smoothie
I wish I could come up with a different word to describe an LCHF salad (Mark Sisson calls them “Big Ass Salads”), as to me the word salad says deprivation, sacrifice, boring, unsatisfying. But in the absence of anything better, I’m going to call them Super Salads.
Yes they may and should include plenty of greenery, but what else goes in is only limited by your imagination. Favourites of ours are Chicken, Cos lettuce, hard boiled eggs, shaved parmesan, walnuts and plenty of creamy Caesar dressing, or Canned tuna, with green beans, rocket, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, avocado and lots and lots of olive oil.
An LCHF lifestyle that includes enough fat usually results in little or no hunger between meals. If hunger does strike, first make a mental note to ensure fat and protein intake are both adequate in future. Second, check you’re actually hungry and not just bored or thirsty. And third, have the following on hand: nuts such as almonds, macadamias, walnuts and brazils; an apple and some nut butter; hard boiled eggs; seed crackers. And at night, especially if weight loss is not such a priority, a few squares of good dark chocolate and/or a glass of wine can be nicely accommodated in an LCHF lifestyle.
The “Whatever” day
The “Whatever” day might be LCHF or it might not. The jury is out on whether having the odd ‘treat’ or a weekly blow out delays adaptation to an LCHF lifestyle. It’s something we plan to study in the near future.
You might find that you don’t want or need it, especially as the benefits of LCHF start kicking in, but knowing that it’s there as an option can be just what some people need to make the whole concept more appealing/achievable and enable them to give it a go. If you’re physically active, a re-feed of “better” carbohydrates once a week (perhaps on a heavy training day) may also be beneficial.
So there it is – an LCHF lifestyle is a long-term decision to fuel your body in the way it was designed to be fuelled – to make it a more efficient fat burner rather than a carb dependent sugar burner. In an upcoming post we’ll look at the nutritional content of a menu like the one above and compare it to a typical Standard American Diet (SAD) and a low-fat, whole grains one.
In the meantime, all we can say is give it a try. Never has the old adage “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it” been so appropriate.
Summary of Foods to eat:
- Meat – grass fed (which is fortunately most meat in New Zealand)
- Fish – fresh and canned
- Vegetables – especially those grown over ground (cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, capsicum, etc)
- Coconut oil and coconut cream
- Cream, sour cream and full fat Greek yoghurt
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds – especially almonds, walnuts, macadamia and brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseed
- Seasonal fruit in moderation
Summary of Foods to avoid:
- Bread, pasta, cereals
- Pastries, cakes, biscuits and desserts
- Sugar in all its forms – plain sugar, castor sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup, honey
- Jam and other preserves
- Sweetened yoghurt
- Lollies and chocolate
- Beans and legumes
- Dried fruit
- Fruit juice
- Beer, cider and liqueurs
 Make your own guacamole, pesto, salsa or sour cream dips or choose ones with as few ingredients as possible and less than 5 g of carbohydrate per 100 g  For certain individuals, some of these foods may not be advisable. This list is a starting point which is proving effective for a large proportion of people. By experimenting, you can find the carbohydrate intake that works for you – it might be <50g a day, 50-100g or up to 150g – and the foods that your body tolerates well and not so well.