Getting started on LCHF – Part 1: Clean out day

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By far and away the most email, 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, as 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:

OUT                                                                         IN    

Breakfast cereals of all kinds Nuts and seeds or No grainola
Rice Faux rice
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
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Avocado
  • 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 5 g.

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

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Breakfast Yoghurt, cream, berries, nuts and seeds (YCBNS) Cheesy scrambled egg YCBNS YCBNS YCBNS

Whatever

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[1]

Other Breakfast Ideas

  • Greek yoghurt with No Grainola
  • Eggs and bacon
  • Omelette
  • Creamy mushrooms on spinach
  • Coconut cream smoothie

Super Salads

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.

Extras

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:[2]

  • 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
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Cream, sour cream and full fat Greek yoghurt
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese
  • 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

[1] 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

[2] 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.

41 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Just ME in T's Health Stuff and commented:
    IMPORTANT: When you take out carbohydrate you must increase fat….protein should stay about the same.

  2. I am a Type 2 Diabetic living the LCHF lifestyle – happily :-)
    What I have found intriguing is protein consumption and my fasting BGL’s (am)
    This happened last (cold weather) year also. But now that the weather has changed and I have begun making stocks, soups and stews (minus high carb veggies) my fasting BGL’s drop dramatically. I have postulated that it maybe because we are eating *perhaps* less protein per serve in the soups/stews, than we would normally serve on a dinner plate. Nothing much else has changed. What are your thoughts on this please?

  3. Cool stuff.

    I’ve got an update to the “Oopsie Roll” thing, it actually works really well as a pizza base, wrap, batter, and pancake mix.

    http://highsteaks.com/zero-carb-pizza-base-bread-batter-pancake/

    1. Oh I’ll definitely give that a try!

  4. My husband and I have been following the LCHF lifestyle since your article on Stuff back in November. We have had some positive results – my husband has lost 7 kgs and the pain of arthritis has diminished which is fantastic, however, I am still struggling to lose weight. I have stuck to the LCHF way and have tried reducing amounts of cream in coffee, sticking to the lowest of the low carb veges, having bacon every second day instead of everyday etc and I still don’t seem to be winning. I also exercise regularly. Could it be that I taking anti depressants, anti inflammatory’s and panadol on a daily basis that I find this process more difficult????? I would love some ideas please as I love the LCHF way but still desperately want to lose some weight to help with arthritic symptoms etc. : )

    1. Yes a very common question- that husband does well and wife doesn’t so much. I think you are doing all the right things but what is important is your current weight – how far that is over an ideal weight and how long you have been overweight if indeed you are. My observation is that many women are actually at a reason “homeostatic” weight and just need to acknowledge it. Other factors like being overweight for decades can undermine thew eight loss.

      Have you considered trying acompresed eating window for a few eels? e.g., just eat betwe say midday and 7 PM? That may help

      1. Other tips:
        1) Cut out dairy (except cheese and butter). Contains quite a bit of carbs.
        2) Skip the whatever day and restrict your diet to contain NO rubbish. At least until first year is done and you understand your body a little better. I believe the whatever day will knock you out from a possible ketosis especially if it contains “food types” such as candy, cakes, biscuits, pizza, hamburgers etc.
        3) Exercise. Take walks, runs, bike rides, swim in the ocean etc.

        In principle I suggest you experiment with yourself with a strict LCHF diet for some time.

        Note: a lot of women writing on forums in Sweden seem to have the same problem, sometimes they have been dieting (wrongly) several times in the past and they mention that it takes time for the body to find out that you are not starving it. Patience (over a year or a few) is therefor important.

        Good luck.

      2. Patience certainly seems to be important Glen, which can be frustrating for those most keen to see change. And experimentation is certainly a sensible approach – cutting out dairy may be beneficial for some, but totally unnecessary for others. Ditto the cold turkey approach versus a more graduated process. Yes, a whatever day where the ‘treat’ is some rice, oats or potato would be preferable to a Big Mac and Fries or a box of donuts, but if a ‘whatever’ day/meal helps more people make the right choices 80% of the time, rather than not at all, that has got to be a good thing. In this post we’re talking about a low carb lifestyle not a ketogenic one but either way, totally agree, no rubbish and sensible exercise is the way to go.

  5. I’ve got some recipes and ideas on my blog. I’ve been living this lifestyle since Oct 2011 so people are welcome to start reading from there if they want to see how my life has changed.

    1. Thanks Lynda. I’ll definitely check it out.

      1. Just click my gravitar for the link ;)

  6. While you are ditching things, why not ditch one of your daily meals? I have been LCHF for over 1 year and I noted that I was less & less hungry. I wake at 5 AM, have a coffee with lactose-free whipping cream & coconut oil. I workout, cook my lunch and go to work. My lunch is bacon and eggs. The coffee, the workout & the cooking all seem to suppress my hunger. So I have brekkie for lunch and late evening I have supper. I think 3 square meals per day now would be too much for me to handle comfortably. We exercise to train ourselves to endure more physical effort – LCHF can help train us to endure a little more daily hunger. I think it is good for us – it seems to sharpen my mind! Naturally, there is no guarantee that it will work for anyone else.

    1. Definitely something to experiment with once fat adaptation has kicked in, which we will talk about in a future post.

  7. Glenda Sharp · · Reply

    Oh thank heavens such a plain, simple easy to read email, hooray! Keep up the great work, I love it

    1. Thanks Glenda

  8. Andrew Beeson · · Reply

    Does that include leaving out chickpeas

    1. Check out Grants’s post about beans last year http://profgrant.com/2013/04/13/why-beans-could-make-you-fat-and-cheese-wont/ If you’re insulin resistant, chickpeas and other beans and legumes would be best replaced with lower carbohydrate foods, but for metabolically healthy individuals, and especially vegetarians, moderate intake could be accommodated.

    2. Chickpeas quite high in carbs

      1. Andrew Beeson · ·

        Thanks professor still getting to grips with diet.

  9. Do you recommend this eating plan for pregnant women?

    1. My answer to that is No. Not because I think that following a LCHF lifestyle in pregnancy is dangerous, but because I can’t provide you with evidence to the contrary. What I will say is that if I got pregnant tomorrow I would have no qualms about continuing with a LCHF lifestyle, unless I saw any signs that either I or the baby were suffering. Beginning LCHF involves a period of adjustment where the body relearns how to use fat instead of sugar for fuel – we don’t know how this may affect a growing embryo. If it was me, I would either start LCHF before getting pregnant, or wait until after. I adopted LCHF while breastfeeding my son without issue.

      The most important thing throughout both periods is to ensure adequate energy intake, from the best sources possible, to meet the nutritional demands of both mother and child.

      1. I think we should think about indigenous societies and see Weston A Price work for this. Pre-pregnant and pregnant women usually receive special nutrition strategies which focus on nutrient density, including things like fish and eggs in my part of the world. I think that a focus on nutrient density is wise but carbs may or may not be important. We need more work. Pregnancy induces insulin resistance probably you develop gestational diabetes then its a natural process that might not need tampering with as long as the foods are whole food.

    2. Diet Doc’s wife (I believe) lives this was … including thru her pregnancy…….. http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf ask him………..

  10. When my weight loss stalled, I logged everything in MyFitnessPal to see where my carbs were coming from. The stricter I become, the easier it is and most days I don’t have lunch, or maybe an avocado or creamy coffee to see me through to dinner. Cut back on large quantities of nuts, milk, yogurt as the carbs soon add up. Snack on coconut cream, or dare I say, slices of butter. Now my weight loss averages half a kilo a fortnight.

  11. Just decided to try the diet if it will work for me as I cant loos that last 3 kg for a long time already.
    After reading almost anything on the blog I still have a few quetions. I would appretiate if you could answer it

    1. I dont feel hungry for a long time. And if I have only 2 or 3 meals throughout the day, is it ok? Not going to damage any other organs?
    2. you said to exclude beans from the diet. Does it include green beans as well?
    Also what about soy beans and soy souse, miso soup, tofu and Japanese kitchen in general as they use a lots of soy
    3. What is the max amount of fat I can eat per meal/day
    4. We like to have a few glasses of wine sometimes. If we not limit it to 1 glass couple of times a week will the diet going to work or it better to stay on MCLF diet?
    Thanks

    1. Great that you’ve decided to give it a try and good idea too to make sure you have answers to all your questions first.

      Not feeling hungry for long periods and only needing 2-3 meals a day is a good thing and we are not aware of any risk to organs of doing this.

      Green beans are the better of the legumes and are more pod than bean. Most green veggies are generally good for us.

      Tofu is generally very low carb but it is an unfermented soy product. Soy sauce, tempeh, miso etc are fermented soy products which is preferable for health. Check the labels on all products though to avoid any that have had sugar added.

      Fat fills you up (when it’s not consumed as part of a processed carbohydrate-rich food) so you will find that good fat is hard to overeat. Achieving more than 75% of your energy from fat is a good target. An app like easydietdiary can help you track this until you get to learn what the food you eat contains.

      We can’t say consuming more than a glass or two of wine will or won’t stop an LCHF diet working. Everyone is different. LCHF is low carb not no carb though so if you choose to have some of your carbohydrate intake for the day to come from the sugar in wine, then try it and see what happens. We wouldn’t recommend doing this everyday though, not because of the sugar content but because of the other effects of alcohol on the body. Start by taking your carbohydrate intake down to less than 100g per day and see what happens. For some, intake may need to be less than 50g to really see the benefits. Remember to replace most of the carbohydrate with fat, not protein.

  12. […] In Part 1 of this four part series, we talked about how to kick start a LCHF lifestyle; what to eat and what not to eat. See “Getting started on LCHF – Part 1: Clean out day”. […]

  13. […] you are looking for a good meal plan to help kick start your LCHF lifesytle – take a look at THIS post from The Science of Human Potential, which goes into detail about getting started on LCHF. […]

    1. Hey Alex. Really good points made on your post. We’re going to do some research comparing a progressive introduction versus a strict initial period. My thoughts are that if someone is up for it, that they should go all out on it for 4-6 weeks, but not beat themselves up if they have the odd digression. However, if there’s no way someone will even try it without there being something like a whatever day, I think they should do it that way as it’s got to be better than a Standard American Diet. Hopefully they’ll quickly see how much better they feel and not need or want the whatever days. I think I should look at our wording though to make sure we give the best message :-)

  14. Can a person with Osteoporosis get sufficient Calcium on a LCHF diet as dairy is not being highly recommended? Yoghurt and cheese do provide some of the RDI for calcium but I find milk is a convenient source of calcium, however milk is high in carbs?

    1. Although milk, cheese etc are good sources of calcium, green leafy vegetables, brocolli, kale, canned salmon, sardines are arguably even better. You might find this article of interest too https://whole9life.com/2012/02/what-about-calcium/

    2. Humans got enough calcium for 1000s of generations without dairy – eat the bone – bone broth etc?

      1. JustMEinT · ·

        Too Right Grant….. so many people are unaware of the necessity of Vitamin K (K2 in particular) which does the miraculous job of putting the calcium into the bone where it belongs…. would highly recommend people do their research on this….

  15. Reblogged this on Joyful Living and commented:
    Reblogging because this is vital information!

  16. Michael Pattinson · · Reply

    read this on first bro before the others

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    C E Lawford Ltd
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    Merchants & Importers

    Michael Pattinson
    Company Representative
    EMAIL: michaelp@celawford.co.nz
    MOBILE: 027 225 6502
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    WEBSITE: http://www.celawford.co.nz

  17. I dont have a gallbladder. Any ideas on whether this amount of fat will affect me or give me pain, which I still get from time to time.

    1. You should be fine on fat even with no gall bladder

  18. Cheryl · · Reply

    I have been on the LCHF eating plan for just under 3 months now and not losing any weight. I’m sooo frustrated. Granted I’ve been overweight for most of my life, since I was a child. I lost about 20 kgs over a couple of years, but then started suffering from IBS and GERD. This caused me to become terribly depressed and I found it very difficult to exercise and stay on a proper eating plan. Started comfort eating big time, hence a weight gain of 15kgs. I’m still having IBS and GERD flare ups once a week (it’s either one or the other). I’ve cut out most dairy (only have butter and cream) and hardly have any carbs. Could it be that my body is still adapting. In the past I’ve always eaten healthy food ie vegetables fruit etc., but also loads of carbs and sweet things. I need to lose about 20kgs. HELP!

  19. […] Getting Started on LCHF LCHF for Beginners 23 Studies on Low Carb and Low Fat Diets Definitive Guide: Primal Blueprint Low Carbohydrate Diet and What is Banting LCHF Recipes […]

  20. Reblogged this on FitToServe and commented:
    Start your week well, reap the rewards by this time next week!

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