How to Stay in Ketosis During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by Faye C.
on April 09, 2020

Are you trying to follow a ketogenic diet while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Read on for tips on how to stay in ketosis even during this difficult time.

Empty Grocery Store Shelves

Staying in Ketosis During a Pandemic: How to Weather the Storm

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have been met with a multitude of trials and hardships. Among them has been the quest for groceries.

While certainly not as serious as the widespread need for masks, shortages on hospital ventilators, or worry about loved ones who could become sick, obtaining the necessary food items while in quarantine is still a persistent need for everyone. This is made even more difficult for those following strict diets like the ketogenic diet.

Because the keto diet requires such a unique selection of foods (including many that are difficult to find even in normal situations), keto-ers everywhere are wondering: How can I stay in ketosis during the pandemic?

Essentially, your success will come down to three factors:

Your ability to …

1. Be persistent.

2. Be flexible.

3. Be patient.

The first and the third of these will be easiest. Being persistent means not giving up on your diet just because it’s hard to get the right groceries. Being patient means not expecting the pandemic to end any time soon. More on that later.

It’s number two that will be the hardest for keto dieters: Being flexible.

That’s because the keto diet is, in and of itself, not very flexible. It’s not Weight Watchers SmartPoints or a simple calorie-counting diet where you can eat anything you want as long as you keep track. With the keto diet, you have a strict list of foods that you can eat from. Other foods are “off limits.”

So, what do you do? How can you stay in ketosis during this novel coronavirus pandemic?

It all starts with being able to identify the individual challenges that will face you during this time. Below, we’ve outlined the top challenges that keto dieters will be up against throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — and how to solve them in order to hopefully stay in ketosis for the duration of the quarantining and social distancing mandates.

Challenge #1: There is limited access to groceries in general.

Obviously, this is the leading problem facing keto dieters right now. Getting groceries of any kind has become a challenge for everyone because of lockdowns, shortages, delays in shipping, and other issues.

The Solution: Your options here may depend on what sort of mandates are in place in your specific state. Right now, the federal government has not put a lockdown on the entire nation. Therefore, it's up to state governments and local municipalities to decide how they want to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. In many places, all nonessential businesses must close. Fortunately, however, this leaves grocery stores open.

In this case, if you're brave enough and you’re able, you can go to the grocery store by yourself. If you do this, always:

  • Wear a face mask and eye protection
  • Wear gloves
  • Wipe down your shopping cart with antibacterial spray/wipes prior to shopping
  • Stay at least six feet away from others
  • Do not touch your face
  • Touch objects in the store as infrequently as possible
  • Use hand sanitizer frequently (if you don’t have gloves)
  • Wash your hands vigorously and with soap for at least 20 seconds when you get home
  • Wash other items you used, like your clothes, phone, debit card, etc.
  • Wash all items you purchased (this video offers a good resource)

Right now, if you don’t have to leave your home, you shouldn’t, however.

If you can, a good alternative to leaving and shopping on your own are shopping services like Instacart and Shipt. In some cases, you can order groceries online. You can also check with your local grocers directly to see if they offer delivery or pick-up services.

Man Grocery Shopping with Limited Options

Challenge #2: Grocery shopping service time slots are few and far between.

If your answer to grocery shopping has been to use shopping and delivery services like Instacart, Amazon Fresh, PeaPod, or Shipt, you may have found that booking a time slot is now quite difficult. At the beginning of the pandemic, many users were able to get their deliveries right away (same day or next day). Now, many people are looking at time slots that are only available several days, or even weeks, out.

The Solution: To deal with this challenge, you’ll need to exercise your planning skills. That is, instead of going to the grocery store every week like you’re used to, you’ll want to get a huge delivery/shopping trip full of groceries that can last you a month or more. This will entail planning out your meals far ahead of time, and realizing that down the line, you’ll need to end up eating more from the pantry and the freezer and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables.

Also - Instacart typically releases new delivery time-slots at 12 midnight ET, so staying up late to place your order may help you guarantee a delivery slot is available. You may not get the exact time you want, but you'll get in the queue.

Other tips for scheduling your grocery deliveries infrequently and far in advance:

  • Keep a running list — whenever you think of something you need, write it down right away
  • Figure out how much you actually eat in a day, week, month, etc.
  • Think of ingredients that can be used for multiple meals
  • Focus on items you can eat fresh and freeze (meats, egg-based casserole dishes, soups, etc.)
  • Base your grocery list off what your meals necessitate in terms of ingredient lists — not off of what “looks good”
  • Don’t forget snacks (trail mix, jerky, nuts, nut butters, protein bars, etc.)

Challenge #3: You can’t find the special products you need … and/or … you don’t trust a personal shopper to buy exactly what you want.

As a keto practitioner, you need a unique list of foods: meat, fish, nut butters, eggs, cheeses, nuts, leafy greens, butter, and olive oil. But what’s available may not be these things. Often, packaged foods — chips, candies, cookies, etc. — are in the biggest supply. While they could certainly sustain you, these items are not conducive to the keto diet, or any health diet, for that matter.

Furthermore, even if some items appear to be available through a shopping service, you may still run the risk of getting the wrong things. This happens when personal shoppers select “the next best thing” from your shopping list. Quite often, these second-tier items simply don’t work for keto. As any serious keto follower knows, good veggie-based meals must start with quality produce. All trail mixes are not created equal. And standard beef simply isn’t the same as grass-fed beef.

The Solution: Here, you’re probably going to have to compromise. The key is to know where to compromise.

Of course, if you can, be extremely specific with your personal shopper. Make sure to turn off the default option that allows the shopper to choose whatever they want as an alternative when items are out of stock. Chat with them while they shop (available with both Shipt and Instacart).

When it’s still not possible, go online. Some sites like Thrive offer a lot of grocery-store (mostly pantry) items that are keto-friendly. More than likely, you’re going to need to compromise on fresh vegetables and things like dairy products and meats. Again, try to be flexible. If grass-fed beef isn’t available, alter your meals to incorporate chicken or turkey. If fresh fish isn’t in stock, opt for frozen fish. Store doesn’t have your favorite brand of gluten-free hamburger buns? Don’t resort to regular buns. Instead, go bunless, or see if they have large Portobello mushrooms.

Staying in ketosis is, without a doubt, going to be difficult throughout this pandemic. The key is to try your best. Don’t give up, but also be compassionate with yourself. In some cases, constant ketosis isn’t going to be achievable. That doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t still paying off.

Looking Toward the Future: How Long Will COVID-19 Last?

If you’ve been closely following the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic, you know one thing for sure: Nothing is sure.

In effect, even after weeks of data-analyzation, non-stop research, and continual testing efforts, even the experts are left to guess and speculate about where this thing is going. We all hope there’s light just around the corner, that one of the experimental drugs will prove successful at treating the virus and that our isolation efforts will effectively begin to stop the spread — or at least flatten the curve.

But there’s no guarantee.

So, where does that leave us? While such insecurity can certainly be difficult to swallow, accepting the unknown state we all find ourselves in is probably the best thing we can do right now.

In this way, what staying in ketosis really will really come down to is persistence and flexibility once again.

Planning ahead is a skill that every keto-dieter already has a lot of experience with. No keto-er has ever gone to a party, out with friends, or on vacation without doing some major planning. So now, more than ever, flexible preparedness is crucial. The best advice we can offer those who are trying to stick to their keto diets without going insane is to stay the course, do your best, and don’t be discouraged.

As the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca famously said:

“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.”

This goes for sticking to keto and for weathering the entire pandemic in general. This is a difficult time for all of us, but it’s also as good a time as any to reassert your efforts to improve yourself. Here’s another great quotation by the philosopher Zeno of Elea:

“Man conquers the world by conquering himself.”

So, make the most of this time and do with it what you can. We hope everyone is staying safe and at home if possible. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take care of your health and wellbeing.


    Author: Faye C.

    Published:  Apr. 9, 2020 

    Faye is a guest contributor for SuperFat who writers professionally in the health and nutrition space.

    Written by Faye C.

    Published: April 09, 2020