If you are eating low-carb then these lunch suggestions are easy-peasy and can be modified any way that fits your diet preferences. However, if you need to eat a truly ketogenic diet then they may need modifying a bit.
Anyone attempting a ketogenic diet knows that dietary fat has to be high (90% of calories), protein low and carbohydrates very low if you are to raise ketone levels into the optimum therapeutic range, whether it is for improved mental alertness, endurance sport, weight loss, control of epilepsy or cancer prevention.
For some people getting ketones into the therapeutic range (1.5 – 5 mmol/l) requires careful recipe construction to ensure protein and carbs are sufficiently low so that gluconeogenesis from proteins is suppressed. The traditional anti-epilepsy diet requires a ketogenic ratio of 4:1, i.e. 4 g of fat to a 1 g total of carbohydrate + protein. However, for most of us, a diet closer to 3:1 is fine, especially if we are already adapted to a low carbohydrate lifestyle.
One of the problems with the classic medical ketogenic diets is that patients can feel overwhelmed with so much butter, fat and oils, and food can seem unappetising. Part of the problem is that if you include a food high in protein or carbs in a meal you have to offset it with almost 100% fat sources such as butter or cream. Consequently the meal can be unappetising – hardly an incentive to stay on the diet!
Whilst many websites claim to offer tasty ketogenic recipes they all too often OD on protein, which for some people will be OK – they may still have raised blood ketone levels – but for others their blood glucose rises and ketones drop. For those people, they must only eat meals that strictly follow the 4:1 ratio. My solution was to identify a wide range of off-the-shelf, supermarket foods with a ketogenic ratio between 2:1 and 10:1. The simple rule then becomes eat mostly those that are close to 4:1, balance occasional lower ratio foods with higher ratio foods in the same meal.
So here are some lunch ideas that will help keep you in the 3:1 ratio zone. What I hope you will see is that they are actually quite appetising and varied – they make a very presentable lunch if you have guests or would be great in a lunch box. In the following ideas, where I have mixed a high and low ratio food (e.g. avocado and tomato) I have assumed equal weights of both. You can vary the ratios towards the higher fat component to increase the ‘ketogenicity’.
- avocado slices with lemon juice and black pepper (5.0:1)
- Brazil nuts (4.0:1)
- Salami wraps with full-fat cream cheese (3.6:1)
- Boursin-minis (3.5:1)
- Green olives (3.7:1)
- Taramasalata with tomato slices (3.7:1)
- Ardenes pâté (2.5:1)
- Avocado and tomato (2.6:1)
- Hazel nuts (2.9:1)
- Pickled egg mayonnaise (4.0:1)
- Creme cheese & celery (3.0:1)
- Ardenes pâté & celery (2.3:1)
Personally I stay in good ketosis on meals like this (between 2:1 and 4:1) with urine ketones registering ++ on the multistix (=4mmol/l). I feel great – very low hunger levels and very clear headed.
So can we achieve a ketogenic ratio of 4:1?
The above dishes are excellent for general low-carb diets, but when a ketogenic ratio of 4:1 is critical (in some cases of seizure control, cancer treatment, peak endurance training etc) then we need to push it a bit further. This is why sticking to the full keto-diet is a challenge!
First, let’s get rid of some of the low ratio foods: the pâté and hazelnuts need to go. Second, we increase the proportion of each of the high ketogenic ratio foods. By way of example if instead of equal weights of avocado and tomato you have twice the weight of avocado as tomato the ketogenic ratio for that part of the meal goes from 2.6:1 to 3.4:1. Better, but still not good enough! Let’s jetison the tomato. Shame. It added colour!
How to lunch with a ketogenic ratio of 4:1
- Avacado with lemon juice and black pepper (5.0:1)
- Brazil nuts (4.0:1)
- Taramasalata (5.0:1)
- 100g cucumber, 50g black olives, 3 tsp salad dressing (5 parts olive oil, 2 parts vinegar), (4.1:1)
- Celery with butter in the groove (14:1) or with Castello blue cheese (4.3:1)