The Beginner’s guide to LCHF contains information on foods that you can eat and foods that you should avoid.
What to eat
Meat: All meat including beef, pork, game meat, mutton, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck and other fowl) etc. Feel free to eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the poultry. (I prefer country chicken, not broiler chicken). If possible, try to get organic or grass-fed meat.
Fish and shellfish: All kinds of fatty fish. Avoid breading, avoid coating them with flours or bread crumbs.
Eggs: As many eggs cooked however you want – boiled, fried, omelettes, etc. Preferably organic eggs.
Cooking oil/fat: Use butter, coconut oil, ghee, lard(pork) or tallow(beef) for cooking. It will not only make your food taste better, but also make you feel satiated.
* Extra virgin olive oil only for raw use like salads, not for cooking because it does not have a high smoke point.
Vegetables (preferably those that grow above the ground): Cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, bak choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant/brinjal, olives, drumstick, ladies finger/okra, radish, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, avocado, onions, peppers/capsicum, tomatoes, greens, etc. Melons like ash gourd (poosanikaai), bitter gourd (paavakaai, karela), pumpkin (parangikaai), bottle gourd (sorakaai), snake gourd (pudalangaai), ivy gourd (kovakkai, dondakay, tindora), turkey berry (sundakaai, usthikaai, bhankatiya), chayote (chow chow).
Dairy: Full-fat options like real butter, cream (40% fat or higher), cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, cheddar cheese, mozarella cheese and other high-fat cheeses. Some sources say that paneer and other cottage cheeses are slightly higher in carb-count; you might want to limit intake (not avoid) if you’re insulin resistant. Please make that decision based on your PP blood glucose numbers after a LCHF meal containing cottage cheese.
I avoid regular milk, because it has a high carb count and its effect on the gut due to lactose.
Avoid flavoured yoghurts, skimmed milk, sugary and low-fat dairy products.
Nuts: Walnuts, macadamia, pecan, brazil, hazel and almonds as snacks. Dip them in a flavoured/herbs soft cheese for taste and to prevent overeating the nuts.
Soups: (for sodium) Please make sure that you drink home-made soups (bone broths). If you’re eating outside, it’s fine to have clear soup or cream soup, but not thick soups made with corn-flour or other starches. Even if not for the sodium, I can swear by soup. It’s the best medicine. We rarely fell sick with the common cold or fever as kids and now as adults, because we drank soup.
Coconut: Eat coconut – cooked or fresh, as much as you want. Drink coconut milk.
Supplements: It is generally suggested to have multi-vitamin, Omega-3, magnesium and potassium supplements. While I previously to used take supplementary tablets, I no longer do. I eat tomatoes (for potassium), sunflower/pumpkin seeds (for magnesium) and sardines (for omega-3) – in no particular dosage or routine.
If you have cramps or headaches, make sure you include soups and supplements.
What not to eat
Sugar in any form (here are the other names of sugar. Check for these on labels). Say NO to soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, sweets, pastries, ice cream, breakfast cereals, confectionary. Stevia is the safest natural sweetener that does not seem to create an insulin response in most individuals. Alcohol sweeteners like erythritol and xylitol seem to create less or no insulin response in most individuals. Please make your own decision about these non-sugar sweeteners, based on your body’s response.
Starch: Rice and rice products, wheat and wheat products, most other grain and grain products, bread, pasta, white rice, brown rice, chapathi, roti, kulcha, idli, dosai, appam, idiyaapam, semiya, noodles, poha, potatoes, french fries, potato chips, porridge, muesli, wholegrain products (whole wheat bread), bonda, bajji, vadai, bakoda, kara sev, breakfast cereals like corn flakes, weetbix, granola, oats, soups made of corn flour, etc.
Unhealthy fats: Oils made from seeds like cottonseed oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil, rice bran oil, canola oil (canola stands for ‘canada oil’ and is the oil got from rape seed) or any hydrogenated fats (margarine) and oils.
Low-fat products: Most food manufacturers remove the fat and add sugars to low-fat products. So, please avoid them. Avoid flavoured yoghurts and skimmed milk. Even sauce, ketch-up, mayonnaise and other salad dressings contain sugar.
What you must do
The key is to eat sufficient amounts of healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, ghee, high-fat dairy, animal fats). As you might have read in the explanation of LCHF, this way of eating says 70% of food intake must be fat.
Here’s an easy way to do it:
To each of the dishes you eat, especially the ones without cheese, please add a tablespoon of ghee or butter to the hot meal just before you eat. Or grate some mozarella or cheddar cheese on the meal and heat it for a few seconds in the microwave or stove till the cheese melts. That’s the way you can get sufficient amount of fat in every meal, unless you’re ready to just gulp down a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil every day. And no, that’s not strange. People do it. You could too. For starters, you could try coconut fat bombs or bullet-proof coffee.
What you have to decide for yourself
Fruits: Since fruits contain fructose (which is a type of sugar), it is better to avoid them, especially if you have insulin resistance. Honey-dew melon (kadappa melon/keerni pazham), and berries are fine. Guava and papaya seems to have a low glycemic load, as well. Avocado is good.
Lentils & Legumes: Eat these based on how you are table to tolerate them without stalling weight loss. Those who are insulin resistant may want to avoid these till they have completely reversed the condition.
Peanuts/groundnut (vair kadalai/nilakadalai), black-eyed peas (kaaramani, lobia), kidney beans (rajma), green gram (paasi paruppu, moong dal), bengal gram (kadala paruppau, channa dal) black gram (ulutham paruppa, urad dal), chickpea (kondakadalai, channa), pigeon pea (thuvaram paruppu, toor), peas (pachai pattaani, mattar).
I do very small amounts of channa dal, toor dal and moong dal, when I make koottu rarely (a south-Indian vegetable preparation).
It is better to eat green moong dal (paasi payiru).
Root Tubers: While some people consider root tubers (potato, carrot, sweet potato, yams, beetroot) as a strict no for low-carbers, especially if you’re insulin resistance, some people argue that the ones with a low glycemic load (not glycemic index) can be had.
Beans: May be had only occasionally if you’re insulin resistant – french beans, flat beans (avarakkai), black eyed beans (kaaraamani), cluster beans (kothavarangai). If you’re not insulin resistant and have achieved your target weight, you may eat beans.
Dairy: Full-fat milk or home-made curd (made with full-fat milk with 4.5% or 6% fat) can be had after you overcome insulin resistance.
Please take a decision based on how you react to these foods. Check your PPBS (post prandial blood sugar) after a LCHF meal containing these foods. If it’s not high, you may like to include them.
A suggestion about ‘maybe’ foods: While some foods like refined starches may be a strict ‘no’, you might consider adding the ‘maybe’ foods back in your diet.
Please do so AFTER you’ve achieved target numbers (weight, inches, blood sugar levels, cholesterol number etc). Experimenting with them during your weight-loss phase only slows down your weight loss; you spend longer time trying to lose weight.
For some people, once the body is used to LCHF foods, starchy, floury foods and sugar may create an allergic reaction like headaches, migraine, skin rashes, stomach discomfort, indigestion, heart burn, IBS etc. Please make these decisions based on how your body responds to them.
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