If you listened to us nerd out with Dr. Josh Axe on The goop Podcast, you know that he’s someone who thinks pretty intensely—okay, really intensely—about exactly what he’s putting into his body at all times. Which is why it’s no surprise that his approach to a ketogenic diet is deeply considered and plainly focused on eating to optimize your health—with as many vegetables, herbs, and spices as possible.
You can read about his approach in his latest book, Keto Diet—and in the meantime, we’ve asked him for advice on how to transition to a low-carb keto diet, if it’s something you’re thinking of trying. Plus, he picked a few of his favorite keto-friendly goop recipes (and gave us some helpful notes on how he might tweak them to make them even keto-ier).
Simple Adjustments and Recipes If You’re Ready to Try Keto
There isn’t one diet that’s the best fit for every person. My personal approach is to emphasize quality first, and then focus on the quantity of macronutrients second.
I’ve also seen firsthand the impact a healthy, low-carb diet can have on people’s health, so in general I stick to a low- to moderate-carb diet that emphasizes vegetables, healthy fats, and quality protein. Here’s some basic advice, if you want to try something similar:
1. HAVE A GROCERY STORE GAME PLAN.
When you’re following the keto diet or not, it’s always a good idea to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s usually where you’ll find food groups like veggies, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds, which should be the bulk of what you shop for. Shelf-stable, processed foods are often what fill the middle aisles of the store.
2. KEEP IT CLEAN.
I recommend aiming for a clean keto diet, which means a low-carb, high-fat diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods. A clean keto diet includes plenty of nonstarchy vegetables, herbs, spices, quality meats and proteins, and of course clean fats—like real olive oil, virgin coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, almonds, fatty fish, etc.
Foods I would recommend avoiding—even if they may technically be “keto” and low-carb—are things like processed meats (bacon, salami, cold cuts, etc.), refined vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn oil, etc.), and most packaged products made with additives and difficult-to-pronounce chemicals. Remember that quality is important when it comes to eating a clean keto diet. If a recipe calls for bacon or other processed meats, I’d recommend using fresh grass-fed or free-range meat instead.
3. DON’T ABANDON THE MEALS YOU LOVE.
Think about some of your favorite meals (burgers, mac ’n’ cheese, tacos, and so on) and find ways to make them keto-friendly by removing grains and sugar and incorporating veggies and healthy fats.
For example, have a bunless grass-fed burger topped with aged Cheddar cheese over salad; substitute vegetables like cauliflower, zucchini, or spaghetti squash for noodles; use coconut flour or almond flour to make low-carb crusts and breads; use collard greens or butter lettuce cups in place of wraps or tortillas.
4. CONSIDER KETO CYCLING.
Keto cycling is a form of carb cycling, which simply means intentionally eating more carbs only on certain days and reducing carbs on other days. When keto cycling, you eat adequate amounts of carbs (ideally those that are unprocessed and nutrient-dense) about every other day or every few days, depending on your specific goals, and otherwise you eat to stay in ketosis.
It’s a strategy for making the keto diet sustainable long-term; you might want to follow the keto diet strictly for only about two to three months, then take a break, and then jump back into the diet if feels good for you.
Keeping carbs in your diet on intermittent days can help offset certain negative side effects that you might be experiencing if you’re eating low-carb—such as feeling sluggish or overly hungry. Some of the potential benefits of keto or carb cycling include: improving exercise performance, preventing fatigue, preserving muscle mass, reducing body fat percentage, preventing a dip in your metabolic rate, and increasing flexibility and adding variety into your diet.
Dr. Axe’s Keto-Friendly goop Recipe Picks—and Ingredient Swaps
“Smoothies are convenient and a great way to quickly put together a balanced, keto-friendly meal. Avocado is one of my favorite sources of healthy fat because it also provides filling fiber, plus vitamins and minerals. Adding avocado to smoothies is a smart way to make them creamy and satisfying without dairy. I’d skip the dates: Rather than using sugar, an alternative could be stevia extract, which provides natural sweetness (along with cocoa powder and almond milk, which make smoothies taste decadent).”
“Eggs are super versatile and a great source of protein, fat, and nutrients, like B vitamins and choline. To keep carbs in check, the sweet potato in this recipe can be replaced with carrots, spaghetti squash, or another lower-carb veggie.”
“Making a big, loaded salad that includes a source of protein and some healthy fat, such as in dressing or something like nuts or avocado, is a great way to make a satisfying keto meal. Eating a big salad daily ensures you’re getting plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals in your diet, especially if you incorporate dark, leafy greens. I would recommend avoiding beans in most cases if you’re following the keto diet. An alternative to chickpeas could be one to two tablespoons of slivered almonds or pumpkin seeds.”
“Here, I’d use collard greens. They’re a smart keto substitute for wraps, bread, or tortillas. All types of greens and lettuces are low-carb and easy to stuff with keto favorites like ground meat or salmon, avocado, slaw, and other veggies. I recommend dark greens, like collard, because they also have sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which support your body’s natural detoxification processes, as well as vitamin K, vitamin A, and soluble fiber.”
“Salmon is an ideal protein source regardless of the type of diet you follow because it has omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon salad makes a good alternative to tuna salad if you want to switch things up.”
“Making rice or grain alternatives with cauliflower is a good strategy for satisfying carb cravings. This recipe is also a great way to incorporate spices and herbs into your diet, including turmeric and parsley. Additionally, the salmon and olive oil in this recipe provide satisfying fat and protein.”
Dr. Josh Axe, the founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, is a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic, and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people get healthy by empowering them to use nutrition to fuel their health. He is the bestselling author of Eat Dirt, and the Keto Diet.