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The Keto Diet Explained – Q&A With Leanne Vogel

Today’s Q&A is with with Leanne Vogel, C.H.N and it’s all about the keto diet. Leanne is a passionate nutrition educator, host of The Keto Diet Podcast, four-time bestselling author, and has the largest keto resource on YouTube.

She is the author of our current favorite book The Keto Diet and the force behind The Healthful Pursuit blog. We asked Leanne some of the most common keto diet questions, including those from our HBF community.

Keto Diet Explained - Q&A with Leanne Vogel

How did you discover The Keto Diet and why did you choose it as your way of eating? 

I found keto when I was on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and gaining a lot of weight because of it. I was frustrated, confused, and that’s when a friend introduced me to it. I purchased the book Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore, and never looked back.

What is the Keto Diet in a nutshell?

I like to say that it’s a low-carb/high-fat diet where instead of burning glucose as energy (highly inefficient) one is burning fat as energy. When your body starts to burn fat for energy, we refer to it as ketosis.

If you’re new to keto, probably the best place to start would be with my beginners keto program, The Keto Beginning.

How the keto diet works
Image from The Keto Diet book.

What would you consider the top 5 health benefits of the keto diet?

For me, I saw improvements in my weight, my brain function (I was able to go off ADHD medication as a result), my moods, reduction in sugar cravings, regulation of my menstrual cycle (I had amenorrhea – lack of period – for 8 years and keto helped me get that back), and lastly, improvements in cardiovascular risk factors.

Why does keto work so well for weight loss?

Keto allows you to burn fat as energy – either the fat on your body, or in your diet. The three key factors:

  • By lowering carb intake, you lower the production of glycerol which moves fat into cells.
  • By lowering carb intake, you lower blood sugar and therefore insulin. When insulin is low, fat is able to be burnt.
  • By eating enough fat, you encourage the body to stay in this state.

What do you think are the most surprising effects of the keto diet?

The most surprising result I’ve experienced was increased health of my hair, skin and nails – I wasn’t expecting that! My hair grows VERY quickly and my nails are stronger than they ever have been.

How is your own keto approach different to the traditional keto diet?

I call my approach the Fat Fueled approach. It differs because of a few things:

  • Eating enough
  • Not forcing yourself to fast
  • Using carbs strategically (I call it carb-ups)
  • Focusing on whole foods
  • Not consuming dairy (because it’s inflammatory for most people)

This is very clear throughout The Keto Diet book, where I’ve provided 5 different Fat Fueled Profiles people can use to get into ketosis and make it their own, while also paying attention to whole food intake and whole body health.

How many carbs can one eat per day on keto? This is the question that our audience always asks.

It varies. I can stay in ketosis at about 80 grams of total carbs, whereas others have to be below 20 grams. I think a good place to start is 50 grams of carbohydrates per day (that’s net carbs).

Should I worry about the amount of cholesterol and saturated fats I’m eating?

No. And if you want a great video on that, you must watch this.

What side effects should I be aware of when going keto?

There’s a thing called “keto flu”, which is the experience of going low-carb where your body is unsure of which fuel it’s using. Basically, your body is looking for carbs, can’t find them, so it is confused.

There are many things you can do to overcome this or avoid it all together, and it starts with food intake. Spinach, avocados, dark chocolate, and Keto Lemonade (a recipe in the book) help with this.

What is your favourite keto breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack?

Breakfast: always a Rocket Fuel Latte, which is full of satiating fats. Lunch/Dinner: usually some sort of high-fat meat (brisket), and greens. Snack: Lakanto chocolate topped with coconut butter.

Check out our roundup of 20+ Fabulous Keto Dinner Recipes here.

20+ Keto Dinner Recipes

Can you do high-intensity exercise on keto?

You can. If you’re doing aerobic exercises, you can go keto all the way and burn fat. If you’re doing anaerobic exercise, you’ll likely need to use your carbs wisely – usually before or after a workout.

Where does alcohol fall into place on a keto diet? Can I still drink occasionally?

You bet you can! While I’m not a drinker myself, I understand that it’s important to people. I’ve included a guide in the book on how to approach alcohol and which choices are best. 

Can I eat any fruit at all on a keto diet?

I do. My favorites are lower sugar fruits like berries and apples. But, if you like higher sugar fruits, incorporating a carb-up practice is best.

What sweeteners are allowed on a keto diet?

My favorites are monk fruit sweetener, stevia, and xylitol. 

Is keto just a trendy diet? Is it different than Atkins? Do you think it’s sustainable?

Trendy, perhaps. I think anything can be trendy – it depends on why you started it, what your goals are, etc. I’ve always been vocal about my approach being a lifelong commitment so to me, it isn’t trendy.

It is different than Atkins on many levels; see above on: “How is your own keto approach different to the traditional keto diet?”. Sustainable meaning kind to the environment?

Depending on how you source your products. Our approach is very much so. Sustainable meaning able to follow long term? I’ve been following this way of eating for three years and I’m still going strong.

It’s worked this long because I don’t set unrealistic expectations for myself.

What is a proper amount of protein to take in on a keto diet? If there is too much protein, it converts to glucose thus becoming essentially a carbohydrate, so what range should we aim for?

There’s a lot of fear mongering about protein and gluconeogenesis (the creation of glucose from protein). Some people can get away with eating upwards of 35% protein and it be totally fine for their keto journey.

I go into more details on protein intake on the keto diet in this podcast.

Keto for women – does it work in the same way as it does for men? Should I worry about my hormones when going very low-carb?

It doesn’t work the same between men and women. Or at least for many women, their approach needs to be different. This is why I do what I do!

I have a few useful videos on this topics on my blog. I recommend you watch this video and this video for more info.

Can you explain the difference between keto and nutritional ketosis (i.e. Terry Wahl’s version of keto including 3-4 cups of veggies?)

My version of keto also includes lots of veggies and focus on whole foods, so I suppose it could be similar to the answer above in that the difference may be focus on whole foods vs. not as well as a focus on healing the body vs. just weight loss.

I can’t speak to Terry Wahl’s protocol, however.

How can a keto diet be adapted for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

The best approach for you would be to follow the Classic Keto Fat Fueled Profile in The Keto Diet book. Also, check out my podcast on hypothyroidism and keto here and watch this video on low-carb diet and thyroid imbalances.

What is a must-try recipe/s in your book?

My favorites are Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus, Bombay Sloppy Jolenes, Sausage and Greens Hash Bowl, and Chocolate-Covered Coffee Bites, to name a few!

Check out Leanne’s dreamy low-carb bacon mac’n’cheese recipe on our blog.

For more information on the keto diet as well as low-carb, high fat recipes, meal plans and shopping lists, check out Leanne’s book The Keto Diet (out now!). For more keto FAQs, check out Leanne’s page here. 

For a more structured approach, check out Fat Fueled 30-day program here.

Fat Fueled Keto Program

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Prawn & Collard Greens Salad with Cashew Satay

This massaged collard greens salad with cooked prawns and delicious cashew butter satay sauce is a nutritional gem, and a great meal for both lunch and dinner. It’s low in carbohydrates, high in fibre and full of beneficial antioxidants and minerals.

Prawn & Collard Greens Salad with Cashew Satay Sauce

Collard greens are some of the most nutrient-dense cruciferous vegetables – with high amounts of vitamins A, K, and C as well calcium, iron and fibre – and can help to lower cholesterol, protect against cancer, support detoxification processes of the body, and boost your immune system.

Prawns are a great source of protein, rich in beneficial minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. For those of you avoiding seafood, grilled chicken or tempeh can be used instead. Anything protein-based is great to make this a more satiating meal.

Instead of using peanut butter, we opted for healthier cashew butter as the base of our Asian-inspired sauce. This recipe makes a bigger batch than you need for the salad, but it keeps well and pairs nicely with any grilled meat or seafood, or over veggies and salads. Store it in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Prawn & Collard Greens Salad with Cashew Satay Sauce

Cook’s notes: Other greens such as shredded green cabbage, brussels sprouts, massaged kale,  fresh spinach or chard can be used instead of collard greens. You can shred or slice carrots, radishes, peppers or cucumbers for extra flavor and texture. Almond or other non-peanut nut butter can be used instead of cashew butter.

Prawn & Collard Greens Salad with Cashew Satay Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 2 serves
  • 5-6 large collard greens leaves
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 150 g cooked or raw peeled prawns (about 7-8 per person)
For the sauce
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small knob of ginger, peeled and diced (about 1 heaped teaspoon)
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely diced
  • ⅓ long red chilli, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter (almond butter can also be used)
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut milk (if it's thick, use two and if it's thin, use 3)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tamari sauce (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Extra cashew nuts, sliced chili and fried shallots for garnish (optional)
  1. Cut away the hard stem from the green leaves. Slice the leaves thinly and set aside in a bowl or on a chopping board. Sprinkle with a little salt and juice of half a lemon. Massage the greens with your hands for 10-20 seconds, then move to a salad bowl and set aside. This process softens the fibres in the leaves.
  2. Make the sauce. Heat coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, garlic and chilli and stir through. Cook for a minute and a half, until slightly softened.
  3. Add the cashew butter and the rest of ingredients and stir through over medium heat for a minute, until well dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a blender or use an immersion stick blender, and puree until smooth. Transfer back to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook for 2 and ½ minutes, stirring continuously, or at least every 10 seconds, as the mixture will start to thicken and caramelise on the bottom of the pot. Stirring it the whole time allows you to incorporate the sticky, caramelised part from the bottom of the pot back into the sauce, thus adding more depth and flavour.
  4. Remove from heat and transfer to a side bowl.
  5. If using raw prawns, pan-fry them in a little coconut oil for a minute or so on each side. If using cooked prawns, continue to the next step.
  6. Add 4-5 tablespoons of the sauce to the greens and add the prawns. Toss together and serve with a few extra cashew nuts, sliced chilli and fried shallots over the top. Drizzle with a little more sauce if you like, and serve extra on the side.

Make it tonight!

Prawn & Collard Greens Salad with Cashew Satay Sauce

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Prawn & Collard Greens Salad with Cashew Satay Sauce (dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo friendly recipe)

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Best Ever Paleo Chorizo & Vegetable Stew

A few years ago I spent three months traveling around Europe in a van. We cooked most of our meals on a little gas stove and this amazing chorizo stew was one of my favorite cooking discoveries.

It all started with a box of veggies we picked up on the side of the road in Spain for cheap because they were at the end of their life. I needed to use them up ASAP so I decided to make a big stew.

As we were on the road, I didn’t have fresh meat but I did have some dried chorizo sausage, onion and garlic, so I chopped everything up and threw it in the pot.

Best Ever Chorizo & Vegetable Stew - paleo, gluten free, dairy free

Thirty minutes later we had one of the best stews I’ve ever made…and I’ve made a few. While cooking, chorizo releases all its wonderful flavors, fats and color (from paprika) into the stew, so you really don’t need to add much more than a bit of onion, garlic and stock on top of whatever vegetables you have around.

If you want more simple recipes to make ahead of time, check out our 7 Day Make Ahead Meal Plan.

Cook’s notes

You can use dried chorizo or fresh but do look for good quality sausages with natural flavorings and ingredients. The colour should be coming from paprika and not from some color additive.

Make sure to peel the skin off the chorizo before slicing it. If you shop on Amazon, we like this brand of chorizo, and this is good quality chicken stock we like.

For those following AIP (autoimmune protocol), this stew has to me modified quite a bit because it has a lot of nightshade foods but you can still recreate something similar with a paprika free sausage (get something like a nice herb and garlic or other smoked sausage), and omit red peppers and tomatoes, swap white potatoes with sweet potatoes, and add more carrot, zucchini and maybe some leeks.

Paleo Stew With Chorizo Sausages Recipe

4.9 from 10 reviews
Best Ever Chorizo & Vegetable Stew
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 3
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 large brown onion, roughly diced
  • 2 medium chorizo sausages (about 150-200 g /5-6 oz each), skin peeled off and sliced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 large pointy red pepper (bell pepper/capsicum), seeds out and diced
  • 1 large celery stick, sliced
  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Prepare all the ingredients first.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, chorizo, carrot and celery and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and golden. Chorizo will start to release some fat, in which the vegetables will cook.
  3. Then add the potato, red peppers, tomatoes and garlic and stir through for a minute.
  4. Pour in the stock and lemon juice, stir and cover with a lid to bring to boil. Turn the heat to medium and cook, covered with a lid, for 10 minutes.
  5. Then add the zucchini and a little black pepper. Stir through and cook over low-medium heat for a further 10 minutes.
  6. By this stage the potato should soften up and thicken the sauce. Uncover the pot and bring the heat back to medium-high for 2 minutes, stir through. Then, take off the heat and add freshly chopped parsley.
  7. Serve as is or with a side of steamed or sautéed greens.

For this recipe I use

Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil

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Spanish Chorizo Stew - Easy & Delicious (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Real Food)

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