I’ve lost 28 pounds in the past 6 months while eating as much as I want and with almost no exercise. Friends and colleagues that notice my leaner physique often ask me how I did it. When I explain that the biggest factor is diet and that the most significant change is the elimination (or at least limitation) of grains, “white” starches, added sugars and other processed foods, the inevitable follow-up is, “so, like the Atkins diet?”
“Well, kind of,” I say. “It’s not unlike Atkins. But there are important differences.”
This post is the first in what will likely be a series. Here, I will answer the most common question I get from friends and family who are curious about my diet and/or interested in experimenting with this way of eating — “What exactly do you eat?” In future posts, I will reveal how I arrived at my diet and why I believe it is so critical that the scientific information supporting it be spread as quickly as possible to as many people as possible (hint: it’s a matter of life and death).
Carbohydrate. I avoid processed “low-carb” breads and snacks, as well as most artificial sweeteners, which is decidely un-Atkins (as it was originally conceived). Most of my carbohydrate comes from green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and asparagus, other vegetables like avocados, carrots, squash, zucchini and the occasional sweet potato, nuts like almonds and macadamias (NOTE to the overly literal and unwary: peanuts are legumes, not nuts), and, every so often, some low-glycemic fruits like berries (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are my favorites).
Protein. I eat a pretty standard amount of protein (15-35% of total calories on a daily basis), mostly from meat, eggs, nuts, cheese and some yogurt. Contrary to popular belief, a low-carb diet does not (and should not) entail a high protein diet. I have come to learn that, with rare exceptions, there is very little benefit to dramatically reducing or increasing one’s consumption of protein. I replace the calories that I used to consume via carbohydrate not with calories from additional protein, but with calories from fat.
Fat. Yes, you read correctly, fat. A dirty word in American nutritional consciousness over the past 30 years (unless preceded by “low-“), fat turns out to be perhaps the most essential macronutrient (did you know that about 60% of your brain tissue is composed of fat?). When consumed from healthy sources, it is a “superfood.” I aim to consume 60-85% of daily calories from fat.
The sources of this fat are among the most important factors in what I choose to eat. I make an effort to get most of my dietary fat from healthy (preferably grass-fed and/or pastured, where relevant) animal products, including meats, full-fat dairy, eggs, certain fish and fish oils, and non-animal products like avocados, nuts, and healthy oils such as cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil and MCT oil (stands for medium-chain triglyceride and is a concentrated extract of coconut or palm kernel oil). I avoid trans-fats and these oils: vegetable, safflower, sunflower, canola, peanut, soy, cottonseed and corn.
A TYPICAL DAY
My most common breakfast is scrambled eggs and bacon. Not egg whites, mind you –whole eggs with bright orangey yolks in all their natural glory. In fact, when I’m trying to increase the nutrient density of my morning meal without overstuffing myself, I dump the whites and eat only or mostly yolks.
I’ll occasionally mix in some spinach and onions, or even skip the eggs and enjoy half a cup of full fat greek yogurt with nuts and berries. But I generally prefer to avoid carbs first thing in the morning because, for me, they lead to cravings for more carbohydrate throughout the day.
I wash down breakfast (or sometimes even replace the meal entirely) with 10-20 ounces of fatty coffee. It’s simple. Brew your favorite coffee and blend it with 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted, grass-fed butter and 1-2 tablespoons of a high quality MCT oil (I have also used regular coconut oil, but this gives it a faint coconutty flavor that not everyone enjoys). It comes out with a nice, frothy cappuccino-like foam and keeps me feeling full for hours (go ahead and sprinkle on some cinnamon to complete the café effect).
For lunch, I often go with a big salad of baby spinach, broccoli, avocado, sliced almonds, maybe a little meat and I douse it with extra virgin olive oil. I enjoy a wide range of sandwich favorites, sans bread (don’t forget the knife and fork) and sometimes I cave and grab a Chipotle burrito bowl (extra guac, no rice or beans). When I’m feeling especially weak and just dying for an old favorite, I’ll indulge myself with pizza, but scrape all the cheese and toppings onto a plate or bowl and toss that (tempting, but not worth it) crust into the trash.
At dinner, it might be a broiled grass-fed steak, grilled wild caught Alaskan salmon, or roasted pastured chicken on the bone, with the skin (extra dark meat, please). I try to add a side of steamed broccoli or asparagus, or toss another spinach salad. Crock pot meals are also great because they save prep time and leave you with good healthy meal options for days afterward. I enjoy pork shoulder, chili, pot roast, chicken bone soup, you name it.
That’s a typical ‘day in the life,’ but I’m always looking for new ideas. What are your favorite low-carb, high-fat meals? Leave me a comment, below, or on the new ATG Facebook page, or tweet @ATGCoach.
And don’t forget to check out Part 2 about how I found my way here and why I continue to invest time and energy into optimizing my diet (and hopefully yours).