The Gregory Jay Blog

Keto in China is easy!

During the past three years I often get people asking me how I am able to do keto here in China. It's not as difficult as you might at first think. In fact I'd go so far as to say that doing keto in China is actually easier than doing it back home in England.

What is keto?

For those of you that haven't jumped on the keto bandwagon yet or aren't completely sure what keto is, the ketogenic diet is essentially just a low carb diet. It differs from other low carb diets in a few ways though: firstly, its really low carb! Before going on keto I was doing Tim Ferriss' slow carb diet which cuts out high GI carbs and has you eating beans and sweet potatoe instead of bread and pasta. I think most low carb diets encourage you to stop eating sugar or highly processed food, then its the starchy foods (bread potato, pasta etc.) Keto goes much further than this with a maximum of 5% of you daily calories coming from carbs although often much lower. This means in practice no starchy foods, no fruit, no milk/yogurt, no root vegetables (even carrots),

Why I'm doing keto

I have never really struggled with my weight, even at my heaviest I wasn't overweight and so this wasn't the reason for me going low carb. It was for the mental benefits. I had heard from podcasts and read in articles online that going into ketosis can give you a huge energy boost along with mental clarity and enhanced mental abilities (such as stamina and focus.) As someone who after homeschooling my son, still needs to deal with clients, workout and spend time language learning or coding, this was really intriguing to me.

Why its so easy to stick to here

What is it that makes keto so easy here in China? FOr me, it's the lack of choice. Here no one knows what keto is. There are no keto bars, keto pizzas, no low carb alternatives for all the junk food we shouldn't be eating anyway. There are no even any zero-carb artifical sweetners (they may be avaible to order from abroad but they aren't stocked in any shops.) And so if you want to do keto here you have to do it the way it is designed to be done - naturally.

For me, this makes keto much easier to stick to because of the limitation. It keeps my decision fatigue to an absolute minimum. I don't need to spend time thinking about what I'm going to be eating that day or how to make it because, for the most part, it will be the same as what I eat most days - meat and greens. I never have to wonder whether something is keto friendly or not because everything that is not keto friendly has been illiminated from my diet already. I don't have to wonder whether something is going to take me over my daily carb limit because I don't eat anything high enough in carbs to be able to do that.

Once I accepted the extremely limit number of foods I could eat, staying strictly keto became really easy! And there are no temptations to lead me astray.

How I do keto in China

Once I made peace with the fact that I can't have fruit, root vegetables, bread, pasta, anything sweet, I looked at what I could eat and actually find here:

Meat & fish

Everytime I go shopping for myself, I only buy these things.

I like to go to Sam's Club (Wallmart's wholesale supermarket.) They have imported meats, organic vegetables and nuts and large portion sizes. They also have imported and organic options that don't really exist in most Chinese shops. In Sam's I usually get:

Salmon - skin on fresh or fillets frozen
Steaks - imorted from USA or Australia
Bacon - sometimes they have bacon with no added sugar
Pork belly - Organic
Chicken wings or legs
Eggs - Organic (best eggs I have found in China)
Olive Oil - Spanish cold pressed virgin olive oil that isn't stupidly expensive
Whole bean Coffee - 1kg bags half the price of anywhere else
Walnuts - Organic
Avacados - The avacados in Sam's are clearly a different species than other shops (Mexican rather than Peruvian), bigger and infinitely better, trust me I've eaten avacados almost daily for 3 years!

Tianjin has an imported food shop called D-Mart, it stocks the same things that every imported food shop in China stocks. They stock some things that Sam's doesn't have:

Cheese! - It's my go to snack!
Butter - Much more choice than Sam's
Canned Tuna in Spring Water - Again, this is almost impossible to find in Chinese shops. Everything else I eat I make myself, such as:

Almond milk
Peanut & Walnut Butter - Sometimes my Mother in-law will make these for me :)

Making Meals

I freeze all my meats in one portion ziploc bags. This makes meal time really quick and easy, every meal I pull out a bag of meat and have it with some eggs and greens (usually a salad on which I put olive oil)

I'll roast my chicken but everything else is fried on the stove which makes cooking simple, I never have to put any thought into it

Eating Out

Inevitably there are times when I eat out with the family or with friends. I've come to think that it's not as difficult as I first thought. If I'm at a western restaurant there is always a salad I can have: Cobb Salad, Caesar Salad etc or I'll just have a steak or piece of fish and ask them to leave off the potatoes or whatever carbs it comes with. We live in Tianjin's 'Korea Town' so naturally Korean is one of our favourites and again, perfect for keto, fried meat wrapped in lettuce leaves - perfect! (And Kimchi!!) If we're eating Chinese food there are still lots of options.

Chinese BBQ: lamb skewers, chicken wings etc as long as they aren't cover in a sweet sauce are perfect for keto.

Hotpot is also perfect for keto: fatty meat and leafy vegetables.

Beijing Duck is also perfect for Keto as it's quite a fatty meat too, just leave off the sweet sauce and pancakes.

In other restaurants there are usually some options too, most Chinese restaurants have dishes with pork belly as it is the most commonly type of meat used here and there is always the option of just not eating!

It's not like there is th temptation of rolo yogurts, mars bars and strawberry milkshakes everywhere here - Keto in China is easy!

Greg is a true Sinophile, fluent in Chinese and proficient in Tibetan he is a homeschooling Dad that also consults on the side. You'll often find him cigar in mouth, book in hand, waiting for someone to finish their work or for the coffee to brew.