Understanding the Keto Food Pyramid

I live in South Dakota. Born and raised. The only person to run for president from South Dakota was Senator George McGovern. His constituents were farmers and ranchers that dominate the legacy found in my family tree. He chaired a Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs whose 1977 report gave rise to the first diet guidelines, in 1980. This guideline is better known as the USDA Food Pyramid. My son went to a middle school name George McGovern Middle School. George McGovern left more of a legacy with his dietary guidelines than had he gone on to be president.

One single study did not support the committee that recommended the change to the food pyramid. Not ONE! A diet high in grains and low in fat became our recommendation in large part because of George McGovern. Their committee recommended change even though none of the six randomized control trials studying nutrition supported their advice. The corn oil study said, “We don’t think corn oil particularly is going to be beneficial and it could be harmful.”

My favorite recommendation came from the low-fat diet where the 1965 research committee’s verbatim conclusion said, “A low-fat diet has no place in the treatment of myocardial infarction.”

In 1992, the USDA, United States Department of Agriculture, proposed the food pyramid which standardized the government’s policy for food paid for by the government. These recommendations would guide nutrition plans for veterans, public schools, and welfare subsidies. The menus for soldiers and students birthed from this food pyramid policy.

Like many government policies, this advice trickled into the rest of the community. Churches, daycares, private schools and cafeterias across college campuses followed suit. Before long other countries adopted these same recommendations–most never knowing the advice was not based upon science. High on grains, low on fat. That was the model.

This policy from the Department of Agriculture promoted the livelihood of farmers in my home state, represented by Senator George McGovern. It was not public health. The policy subsidized crops.

The food pyramid abounds with carbohydrate filling up the bottom half of the pyramid. They recommended low fat or nonfat milk. When you take the fat out of milk, you are left with a little bit of protein and a lot of lactose, the sugar found in milk.

The doctors told patients, “You’re eating too much fat. You need to cut back on fat. You’re not following the guidelines.” Dietician taught patients using these guidelines. USDA food pyramid was not founded upon science.

I recommend the KETO food pyramid.

The keto food pyramid builds upon fat-burning choices. The pyramid helps to visualize what foods keep you using ketones, and which ones you can sprinkle into your menu.

Let’s start learning the basics of the pyramid.

The keto food pyramid starts with fats on the bottom. Fats of all types provide the foundation of this diet. The concept often blows the minds of most of my patients at first. They often look at animal fats with disgust or revulsion. They don’t really want to eat fats … and many times don’t know which foods even have high fat. The pyramid overflows with oils, fatty-meat, oily fish, and eggs. The vegetables low in starches and carbs make up the next layer. Full-fat dairy such as butter, cream, and hard cheeses fit the requirements for keto. Finally, high-fat nuts and a sprinkle of berries top the pyramid.

Categories of the keto food pyramid

There are five categories of the keto food pyramid. These are:

  1. Fats: 70-90% of the foods are fat.
  2. Protein: 5-20% of the nutrition comes from protein. This is not a high protein diet.
  3. Low Starch Vegetables.
  4. Dairy and Nuts: be sure these are not “low fat”
  5. A sprinkle of berries.  I tell my patients this is a treat for a few times a year.   Not a few times a week.

FAT: Here is a list to get your mind around the most abundant part of this diet.

  • Grass-fed butter
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Fish and krill oil
  • Lard (Fat from Pigs)
  • Beef Tallow
  • Sesame oil
  • Avocado oil
  • MCT oil
  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil

Proteins in the ketogenic food pyramid

This is not a high protein diet. The classic mistake on a keto diet is the patient that presents to the clinic failing to make the first ketone. Upon careful study of what she is eating, the protein supplement in her morning shake has enough grams of protein for three days.

“Doc, how much protein should I eat?”

The answer begins with finding your ideal body weight. I am 5’3” tall.

I know these BMI charts get a bad rap but hang in there with me for the calculation.

At 5’3” my ideal body weight ranges from 110 to 130. Personally, 125 pounds is my goal. If you look at the little grey numbers under the pounds on that chart, you will see the kilogram weight. If you want to do the math, divide your pounds by 2.2 to get the kilograms. Either way, that number is an excellent target for the grams of protein you should limit yourself to on a ketogenic diet.

Protein items for your ketogenic are filled with fat. Think of proteins as fatty-proteins. This will keep you keto most of the time. Don’t choose the chicken breast if you can have the leg with the skin on it. That has much better fat content and will keep you burning ketones.

  • Bacon
  • Pork Belly
  • Roast Beef
  • Brisket
  • Shrimps
  • Liver
  • Scallops
  • Oysters
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Mahi
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Eggs
  • Cold cuts
  • Chicken WITH THE SKIN.
  • Salmon

Dairy items
The dairy items in a keto food pyramid include:

  • Heavy cream
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Mozzarella cheese, brie, Monterey Jack
  • Parmesan cheese, gouda, blue cheese
  • Greek yogurt, kefir
  • Ghee
  • Full fat sour cream

Nuts and Fruits
Nuts and fruits are at the top of the keto food pyramid. Keep an eye on how many of these you eat. With a few handfuls of a high-carb peanut and you will stop all ketones from flowing.

PILI NUTS are the most favored nut in the keto food pyramid. They are high in fat and low in carbs. They taste almost like butter! So yummy. Those PILI nuts can be hard to find. Reach for Macadamia nuts as an excellent second option.

Keto friendly nuts include:

  • Pili nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds

Fruit is evil.  Please see my post on that.  For real.  This little sin of an item gets more of my patients into trouble than you’d ever believe. If you can’t pick it yourself, don’t eat it. The fruits today are filled with enhanced sweetness. Oh, my. are they tasty!  Just like any sin, fruits are juicy and delicious. But those fellows will get you into trouble. Limited your quantity of fruit to one time a year for each fruit you like. The advertisers will tease you that natural sugar is safe. Not on keto. Stay away. If you need a fix, use blackberries. They are the lowest sugar content.

To keep the carb content low, select only those vegetables that crunch and that grow above the ground.  This is a general rule-of-thumb that helps you pick keto-friendly vegetables.  It is not a perfect rule, but it works a lot of the time.

My favorite vegetables are cabbage, spinach, and broccoli.

Your individual needs
Your body is unique. This way of eating rocks because you can measure. You check the numbers to see if you are eating right.

Ketones or no ketones?

Measure it.

Get those keto strips out and measure your success.  Some of my patients can have as many as 40 carbs per day and still produce good ketones.  Others can’t have more than 15.  How do they know?  THEY MEASURE.  Arm yourself with evidence about YOU.

If you are on a keto diet, these are the macronutrients which you require:
80% of the fats
5-20% of the protein
0-15% of the carbs

What to avoid on a keto diet
Processed foods are your enemy.  Hidden deep inside that long list of ingredients are carbs, carbs, carbs.

The Keto food pyramid helps out quite a bit for the basic understanding of this way of eating.

I made this food guide to help my patients gradually move along the path of progress. The food guide has many foods that fit the bill for keto.

Foods are rated as GOOD, BETTER, & BEST for a keto diet. When you start, set a goal of just selecting foods that are in the GOOD column. This is a huge win to meet that goal. The food guide is meant to go on your fridge in hopes to be a timely reminder about what to grab when you head to the fridge. Second, use the flipchart to take to the grocery store. The isles at the food mart are filled with the temptations of old habits. Use this guide to help ping your brain for better choices.

Learn more about which foods are Good. Better. & Best – through my favorite FOOD GUIDE. I recommend this for beginners or folks that keep falling off that keto-bandwagon.

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