You’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet, which has made headlines over the last few years as a great way to restore energy, stabilize blood sugar, enhance weight loss, improve brain health, and more. The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb eating plan and as a functional medicine practitioner, I’ve seen firsthand how this diet can transform the health of my patients. This is not just another fad diet.
Following a traditional keto diet means eating a lot of meat and dairy, which isn’t always ideal for people with food sensitivities or issues with gut health or chronic inflammation. Not to mention, buying organic meat and dairy products can take a major toll on your finances.
So what’s the solution?
Go Ketotarian, which is my version of the keto diet. A Ketotarian diet is just as the name suggests: a plant-based version of a keto diet that allows you to get the best of both a traditional plant-based and a keto diet.
I always recommend focusing on the most nutrient-dense foods to avoid breaking the bank. Making these foods staples on your Ketotarian diet will make it easier on your health, the environment, and your wallet!
Olive oil gets a lot of attention for its health benefits, but you can’t forget about whole olives, too! Olives are packed with healthy fats and make a great keto-friendly snack. You can also add them to a number of recipes for extra flavor.
Great news, guac lovers! Avocados are one of the cleanest keto-friendly foods you can buy. They are a little pricier than some of the other choices on the list, but they are full of healthy fats, very filling, and are still less expensive than grass-fed animal protein or dairy products.
Eggs don’t work for everyone, but they do contain important nutrients like choline, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, D, E, and B. All of these nutrients are important for maintaining healthy methylation pathways and hormone balance in the body. On top of being vegetarian and pescatarian-friendly, eggs are also extremely versatile, can be eaten at any meal of the day, and when compared to organic meat or other protein sources, they’re a steal financially speaking. Be sure to choose cage-free whenever possible.
Dark Leafy Greens
No matter what diet you’re following, dark leafy greens should be a staple. This includes spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and arugula. You can buy leafy greens fresh to make salads or add to smoothies or you can buy them in bulk in the frozen aisle if you’re looking for a cheaper option. The good news is that frozen veggies have just as much nutrient content than fresh greens, so you’re not missing out on any essential vitamins and minerals.
Speaking of frozen, let’s talk about frozen veggies. As we just learned, they’re always cheaper than fresh veggies — even if they’re organic! — and they’re just as healthy for you. You can throw them straight in a smoothie or sauté them with your favorite keto-friendly protein like fish or eggs.
Veggies are often skipped on conventional keto diets for fear of going over your daily carb count. However, vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli are both low-carb and high in methylation-supporting B vitamins.
Avocado, ghee, coconut, olive, sesame… there are a ton of different types of cooking oils to choose from. My two favorites are extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, especially when you’re on a budget. They tend to be cheaper than grass-fed ghee or avocado oil and can be purchased in bulk from popular stores like Costco or Sam’s Club.
Canned Wild-Caught Seafood
Canned food gets a bad rap, but if you’re pescatarian, canned wild-caught seafood is a great food to lean on. Canned tuna, salmon, or sardines are much cheaper than fresh seafood and high in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health, hormone health, and so much more. Plus, canned fish is shelf-stable so you can keep them at your desk or in your purse for when you’re traveling or need an on-the-go snack.
My favorite type of protein has to be hemp protein. With 12 grams in every 4 tablespoons, it’s high in protein. It’s also rich in healthy fats, can be bought in bulk to save money, and can be added to pretty much any recipe you’re making. Hemp is also high in fiber, which means that it feeds the good gut bacteria in your GI tract, keeps you fuller for longer, and helps keep your blood sugar balanced.
Before you go spending money on expensive nut milk made from macadamia, cashews, or hazelnuts, consider coconut milk, which is full of healthy fats for a fraction of the price. Canned coconut milk, in particular, is a wallet-friendly jack-of-all-trades; you can use it as a substitute for milk or creamer in coffee and in recipes, plus, it adds a creamy touch and an abundance of healthy fats like MCTs to many dishes like homemade ice cream, curries, smoothies, oatmeal, and more.
Check inside my pantry and you’ll probably find about six types of almond butter, which is high in healthy fats and protein. I love pretty much everything about almond butter; I love how convenient it is, how it lasts forever, and how it tastes so good that you can eat it by the spoonful if you need a quick snack or a blood sugar stabilizer. I also use it as one of the main ingredients in stir-fry sauces and salad dressings.
Without being able to rely on cheap staples like bread, pastas, and rice, the keto diet can feel like a real challenge budget-wise. But if you lean on the foods above, you might just find the keto diet can be friendly to your health and your bank account.
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