Getting started on LCHF – Part 1: Clean out day
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:
|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 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
|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.
Can you eat soy products, tofu, soy yoghurt etc
I can’t seem to lose weight on this lchf diet. I follow it religiously even slice slivers of butter for
extra fat. I’ve been eating this way since a little over three weeks ago.
Please tell me what I am doing wrong. I love this diet and eating two meals a day. For snack
some macadamia nuts and St. Andre cheese.
Thank you for your consideration.
try combining intermittent fasting with LCHF. It wasn’t working for me at first. calculate your calories and fast for 16 hours. The weight will fall off with no exercise. how IF works is when you would fast for 16 hours every day and have an eating window of 8 hours. or fast for 14 hours and eating window of 6 hours. During the eating window you choose, you would eat all of the calories that you need to lose weight. and not eat anything until the next eating window the very next day. It works because the time that you fast gives your body a rest from food and clears everything out and your body uses your fat for energy. Research for yourself. I lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks doing this
So if you stop eating at say 4pm can your drink tea in the evening or strictly nothing in the 16hr fast
Hi Amanda, yes you can drink tea as you usually do, preferrably without milk.
All great replies. The one thing that caught my eye is you mentioned eating 2 meals a day. This lifestyle teaches our brains to think about food differently, to break the social mold of what’s acceptable and what’s not as far as food choices, and to re-think how we are eating. That’s all well-in-good but 2 meals works for some but not for others (generally the less active you are or even the older you are and slower your metabolism is the less you need for intake)… HOWEVER, it seems that 2 meals isn’t working for you. Try 3 meals, or even 3 meals and a snack. Calorie restriction is needed yes, but take into consideration your activity level both for work and outside of it. Calorie intake must be able to fuel your body enough to keep up with what your body is doing. I cannot say without knowing your lifestyle, only you know that. if you aren’t counting calories, do so for a week and see how much you’re eating. If you are, take a closer look at how many carbs / sugar mg you are eating a day and most importantly be honest with yourself. Also, i saw they mentioned a “whatever” day, are you going crazy that day? If so maybe look at treating yourself a different way and changing what you eat on your free day. There are so many factors and I would talk with a nutritionist or someone you trust in the medical field and see what’s going on with your body. Blood tests etc can shed some light, maybe you aren’t getting enough of a nutrient or your body already produces a large amount of a nutrient and when you eat something that puts more of that nutrient in your body it’s reacting negatively. Again, not a doctor here but I have the philosophy of “it never hurts to ask if you don’t know the answer yourself” because that’s how we learn. Listen to your intuition.
Water consumption is key. You should be drinking a tonne of water on this type of diet. Have a look at how much you are drinking and try and keep moving 😊
You need to eat alot of fat so your body stops relying on carbohydrates, no more than 100g of carbs to start with then try to get down to about 50g.
Dont eat too nuch protein, and dont go for lean meats, you need the fat to produce ketones, which btw your brain loves, and after a few weeks improves your brain power.
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Other high carb items that should probably be avoided for those looking to lose weight or limited looking for those simply maintaining weight, are pretty much any fruit, all of which are quite high in natural sugars. Oranges may be the worst offender, but apples, grapes, peaches, apricots, all berries, even bananas and tomatoes are high and sugar. I see the diet above includes berries for breakfast four days a week. That, with yoghurt which also carries carbs might be a bit Carb h act to start every weekday. A better option, as my wife and I have found, is an ultra-rich coffee consisting of 16 oz coffee, 2 tablespoons Kerry gold butter 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream. Emulsify the butter and cream into the coffee with a handheld immersion (stick) blender until it’s frothy. Will keep you full until lunch. Note: this is the foundation of “Bulletproof Coffee”, only without the MCT oil, which you can always add to it.
Another note that wasn’t mentioned in the article but should be. Avoid anything that says “lite”,”low fat” or “skim”. If they removed fat I can guarantee they replaced it with carbs. So Yoghurt must be full-fat. Even Whole Milk is somewhat high in carbs, so consider smaller amounts of Half & Half instead.
Can you use Candrell or stevia sweeteners in tea or coffee in Lchf diet
Its amazing with this diet. I suffer from irritable Bowel Syndrome, Depression and Candida problems, and the weight has been slowly creeping on – A few years back I was a svelt size12, eventually I grew to a size 18. My mid afternoon energy slumps were murder, which is a problem when you are handing out medications at work all day long…don’t want a brain fart when you’re dealing with people’s lives. Anyway, one day I was offered a free session with a dietician. She told me to eat less refined carbs, less dried fruit and no sugar and to add protein foods to each meal. In an effort to improve our overall health, my family and I drank protein drinks containing homemade Greek yoghurt – with 15 different beneficial bacteria added to it, ground up nuts and seeds, pea protein and fresh fruit and vegetables – each morning for breakfast, together with cooked eggs and bacon. At lunch I replaced sandwiches with leafy green salads, nuts, cheese, chicken, ham, boiled eggs and legumes. I ditched the white processed carbs – and due to cravings for more calories, I found I needed more fat in my diet, so I replaced low-fat products with full cream milk, cream, Brie and flavoursome cheeses, garlic and Tartare sauce. I threw in virgin olive oil, lemon/lime juice, herbs and spices. I also started taking vitamin supplements containing magnesium, Ginko Biloba, Vitamin B6 &12 and Folic acid, Ginseng, CoQ10, Evening Primrose Oil, Omega 3 and Vitamin D3. Guess what, after 1 month my brain fog disappeared, my horrible sugar cravings were markedly reduced and my lethargy, depression candida symptoms improved. I discovered that I now need only 6 – 7 hours sleep per night, instead of the 8 or so hours per night. Best of all, over four months, I lost 9 kg in weight.
Just curious about something. If this is a menu for low carb high fat, why do you advocate YCBNS for breakfast more than half the time when there is zero fat in the yogurt? My understand of such a diet is to much protein will cause the protein in the body to be converted to glucose and you defeat the purpose if you do not have more fat? So back to my question? Berries are very high in carbs with no fat. I am really confused by what is on here.
Hi Jim, full fat yoghurt is 4% fat and 4% protein, a 2:1 ratio, and we have also added cream, which is very high fat, low protein. You do need protein and the glucose thing is just about forcing protein higher than is normal to be “low carb”. even so this doesn’t seem to be bad for most people, just unnecessary.
Please what is ycbns
I also needs to be educated on why Beans should be avoided considering it is high in protein and may be fibre. Sorry I am quite new to this.
Hi Isaac, (sorry about the delay in answering) good point; beans are relatively low in carbs compared with grains, have a good omega 3/6 balance, and supply useful amounts of protein.
However, to get started on low carb it’s best to be very low carb. Then you can see what effect the diet can have. For some people any amount of starch in the diet can be enough to keep alive cravings that would otherwise soon stop. A further point is that some people can have digestive or autoimmune problems that improve when dried starches – beans or grains – are removed. So to give the diet the best chance of working, we recommend removing these foods at first – but if you find a higher carb intake suits you once fat-adapted, legumes do have advantages over grains.
I have question, I am a type 2 diabetic with IBS- c , do you know of this would be advisable for someone like me? Also I have high cholesterol & triglycerides that are genetic.
Hi Christie, apologies for the late response – in general LCHF diets are good for type 2 diabetes, and for IBS if you are careful about the amount and type of fibre (low FODMAPs). High cholesterol in people with diabetes often comes down – high triglycerides certainly will. Beyond that we can’t give any specific advice.
Thankyou, very helpful
thanks great article i will try it, my bs is out of control.
I am most anxious to lose weight but it’s not happening on this diet. I have followed the list religiously even making my own flaxseed bread without egg. I have cut down on dairy only using cream in coffee and butter but no cheese or yoghurt. I have a glass of dry wine per day and do Pilates. I am on HRT and thyroxin. Please advise
Hi Sally, you might want to come to our closed facebook support group; other people discuss what they did to get through plateaus or start weight loss. https://www.facebook.com/groups/WTFForum/?ref=bookmarks
As a general rule, when weight loss is difficult, it’s good to focus on the whole protein foods (eggs, meat, fish, and so on) and low-carb veges and reduce added fats and bread substitutes until you start to lose.
Hi have gone from 141kg to 110 kg in 13 weeks following the LCHF lifestyle ( Banting ) my belly has gone from 135cm to 105cm feel good never hungry and in fact eat better food than previous which is most likely a no brainer….
Hi there. I started this wonderful diet around 3 months ago. At the beginning I was losing a good amount of weight, but these last 3 weeks I have stalled.
My diet is pretty basic.
Breakfast – Always 4 eggs and 5 strips of straky bacon
Lunch – Almonds and peanuts with 2 mandarins
Dinner 2 nights, chicken and salad with grated cheese
2 nights, steak and salad with grated cheese
1 night pork chop and steamed veges.
1 x night I go to my mothers house for tea and I do eat a couple of potatoes but mainly meat and veges. I also indulge in 8 wicked wings for Thursday lunch.
Have you considered skipping breakfast a few days a week and see how you feel?
I would like to think I could, but I really need the energy at the start of the day. Maybe just cut down on the amount I am having.
Breakfast has berries on this diet!, thats all sugar, this will trigger increased insulin response which will deposit the saturated fats into arterioles and cause blockages and weight gain and cancer, avoid this diet.
No, not really. Though you have described the mechanism of the diet-health interaction very neatly, berries are very low in sugar. Dr Atkins was including them in his diet years ago, they are included in most of the LCHF diets that were researched for What The Fat, and I think most people can safely eat them in these amounts today if they want to.
We don’t to make the mistake with sugars that others have made with saturated fat. Sugars from whole foods seem to be no worse than starches, gram for gram, in a low carb diet, where they are eaten at nowhere near the levels found in the normal diet today, but at the levels our ancestors would have thrived on. Berries are available in cold climates where higher-carb plant foods don’t grow well, and were eaten by our more carnivorous ancestors.
Great analysis. A newbie
What about dietary change if u r runner.
How much carb one can consume??
This menu is not truly LCHF. Those berries, have lots of carbs. Much of the other stuff does too. Just NOT low enough. Take a look at http://www.dietdoctor.com for the real information.
I use My Fitness Pal to log all of my meals, and do my best to stay below 40 grams of carbs per day. Even better if you can do 20 or less.
Also, this is NOT a magic diet. You still have to limit Calories, and exercise at least a bit.
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