It’s a Texas meat-head’s dream.
Eat lots of barbecue, all while losing weight and keeping fit.
Experts say an exclusively barbecue diet might not be the best decision for your overall health. But with the new keto diet trend, which emphasizes fats and protein, eating lots of barbecue is potentially — can you believe it? — healthy.
According to the tenets of a ketogenic or keto diet, increasing fat intake while excluding carbohydrates causes the body to go into ketosis, a state of burning more fat than sugar.
“With keto, it eliminates those sugar cravings,” said Mary Alexander, a keto enthusiast from Rockwall. Barbecue “is totally keto. There is no better style and no better cut.”
Alexander said she takes the keto lifestyle a step further and has gone “carnivore.” She only eats animal products including meat, eggs and butter. Now, she says, Texas barbecue joints are one of her best bets for the fatty meats that help her stay in shape.
“There’s no better place to be a carnivore than Texas,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been healthier.”
Pitmaster Todd David said his offerings at Addison’s Cattleack Barbecue could be downright good for you, if consumed properly.
“A barbecue protein diet under paleo or one of the others would be better than another meat diet,” David said. “I don’t eat barbecue three times a day, but I could see someone doing it.”
What is keto?
The ketogenic diet emphasizes fats and proteins while trying to eliminate carbs and sugars. The ancestral food community — think paleo — points to indigenous cultures like the Inuits who lived on a diet primarily of fatty whale blubber.
The idea behind keto is that the body loses weight better when burning fat rather than burning sugar or glucose. Eliminate the glucose, and you’ll just burn fat.
The diet isn’t safe for everyone, and involves a total diet overhaul to really work. Many experts agree that the way many people attempt keto doesn’t fit the necessary framework for a true ketogenic diet.
To work, a ketogenic diet consists of 75 percent of calories from fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates. Compare that to an average American diet that consists of about 50 percent carbs, says Dallas nutritionist Megan Lyons.
With that fatty, meaty diet, then, doesn’t barbecue fit the bill?
Texas-style barbecue in particular has a leg up on some Northern and Eastern varieties. A proper Texas brisket is served with a simple salt and pepper rub and, most importantly, no sugary sauce. Sauce-free meat is definitely keto.
The traditional serving of white bread is also no-go, as are sugar and carb-heavy sides like potato salad, beans and coleslaw.
Before you go all-in on barbecue …
But despite the theoretical health benefits of a radically fat- and protein-heavy diet, eating only barbecue might be a stretch.
“If you ate just barbecue, first thing that comes to mind is you’d be super constipated,” Lyons, the nutritionist, said. “There are very few people who are very well-adapted for a meat-heavy diet.”
Sometimes, people who try keto miss nutritional benefits of fresh produce, Lyons said. A true keto diet would eliminate many fruits and vegetables, missing out on healthy micronutrients.
“The reason keto is so popular is people are hungry for a quick, easy fix,” Lyons said. “I don’t think you need to go so extreme.”
Still, there are ways to make even an occasional indulgence of barbecue healthier.
Start with as high quality of meat as possible within your budget. David said Cattleack only serves Akaushi Wagyu beef with a higher proportion of healthier monosaturated fat than other kinds of beef. What’s more, he said, barbecue’s low and slow preparation means a lot of that fat is broken down as it cooks.
Lower fat content, however, isn’t what someone trying keto would look for. Alexander, the carnivore from Rockwall, said a true keto diet involves lots of avocado, nuts and coconut oil to increase fat intake while lowering protein intake.
“If you eat meat all day long at a barbecue place, you’ll have trouble with that,” Alexander said. “It’s like anything else. You have to tweak it for what works for you.”
Lyons also said throwing some vegetables on the grill can help make your cookout healthier. It might not be keto, but smoked green beans, broccoli, squash or cucumber can be simple, nutritious and tasty.
“It’s the No. 1 way people enjoy veggies,” Lyons said. “And most people don’t think of it.”