The Ketogenic (Keto) diet is a high fat, very low carbohydrate and lower, but moderate protein diet. The main idea is to shift your body away from using glucose as energy, to fat, which is the basic idea of Ketosis. To get and stay in Ketosis, you need to restrict your intake of carbohydrates. When you reach Ketosis after 2-4 days of this, your liver makes Ketones at a more rapid rate, from the fat that you eat and the stored body fat you have. To get a bit nerdy, the three Ketone bodies are known as beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate and acetone. Do you want to take the Keto diet seriously? To get the full benefits of it, you should make sure you’re in Ketosis. There are signs you can watch out for such as fatigue, ‘Keto breath’ and lowered appetite, but the easiest way to check is with a blood-testing meter. To confirm you're in nutritional ketosis, your reading will show a minimum of 0.5nmol/L of BHB.
Keto diet - is it right for you?
If you have type 2 diabetes or blood sugar and insulin management issues then you may want to try a Keto diet, or even if you are someone who loves high-fat foods (and don't care about saying bye to high-carb foods!). If you can stick to an extremely low-carb diet, then Keto may suit you. As the Keto diet was used as a tool for managing neurological disorders like epilepsy, those who fall in this category are also great candidates. It’s a lifestyle! The main thing you need to be aware of is that it’s not one for the ‘weekend warriors’ - you really have to commit, because the whole point of the diet is to be in Ketosis, which can easily be disrupted next time you reach for that donut.
Who should not do a Keto diet? It is suggested you avoid a Keto diet if you have kidney damage, at risk of heart disease, or if you have type 1 diabetes. Similarly, anyone with liver or pancreatic conditions, or who have had their gallbladder removed, shouldn’t do Keto. If you’re pregnant or nursing, then you may want to wait until you get the OK from your doctor.
What’s the macronutrient (macro) split?
Though sources vary, a Keto diet is commonly approximately 70% fats, 5% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. If you’re eating per Australia’s benchmark daily calorie intake of 2,000 calories, this would be around 155g of fat, 25g of carbohydrates, and 125g of fat. If you’ve tracked macros before, you’ll know that 25g of carbohydrates isn’t very much at all! For reference, this is just over ½ a cup of rice (23g of carbs), or around the same as 1 medium banana (27g carbs). Considering you have a whole day’s worth of food to get through, you’d better love (or start to love) eating those healthy fats!
What about fibre? For most people on Keto, they count ‘net carbs’, which is the total carbs minus the fibre. If you were to count the fibre in the daily total, then you’d have an extremely low fibre diet!
Will Keto help you to lose more fat than a standard diet?
The internet is full of debate, as with everything, however, it should be noted that if you were previously eating carbs and then adopt a Keto diet, you may experience some fast weight loss due to a drop in water. This is because your body stores water when you eat carbohydrates. Many people confuse this with fat loss, which can’t always be measured on the scales. There is some evidence that Keto diets may suppress appetite, so this can help with sticking to a calorie deficit, which then leads to weight loss.
Foods to eat:
- Lots of oils and fats like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, heavy cream, other plant-based oils, and animal fats. Beware of trans fats, margarine and the overuse of vegetable oils, which can be pro-inflammatory.
- Meats, especially higher fat meats like chicken thighs, salmon, pork ribs, eggs, cut of meat like a scotch fillet.
- Low-carb fruits like berries, coconuts, avocado.
- Above-ground vegetables that tend to be lower in carbs.
- Cheeses like cheddar cheese, blue cheese, feta cheese, low-carb vegan cheese
- Low-carb sweeteners like xylitol, stevia, erythritol.
- Drink plenty of water, and you can enjoy low-carb milk (e.g. almond milk, coconut milk), teas, black coffee, Keto coffee, bulletproof coffee, bone broth
Foods to avoid or restrict:
- Goes without saying – anything high in carbs that will blow your limit.
- Bread, rice, pasta, cereals are out.
- High sugar fruits are out, such as grapes, cherries, figs, raisins.
- Careful with below-ground vegetables (e.g. potatoes) as they contain higher carbs
- Watch out for going overboard on the protein – this is why tracking apps are great!
- No sugary sauces like ketchup and BBQ sauce. Since a lot of sauces are out of the picture now, you might find yourself to be a herbs and spices connoisseur!
- No sugar-laden sodas, fruit juices, alcoholic drinks (especially cocktails that are loaded with sugar)
Supplements to consider taking:
Your 7-day sample menu to get ideas happening:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with feta cheese, spinach and spring onion
Lunch: Keto Smoothie using a Keto collagen creamer, avocado, coconut milk, avocado and blueberries
Dinner: Keto fish and chips (use avocado instead of potatoes)
Snacks: Broccoli chips, two small squares of 85% dark chocolate
Breakfast: Pancakes using almond flour, eggs, baking powder and collagen or protein powder
Lunch: Butter chicken salad
Dinner: Baked salmon and pesto with a side of asparagus
Snacks: 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter, salami with cheese
Breakfast: Bulletproof coffee or Keto coffee (to get you through humpday!)
Lunch: Oven-roasted chicken with zucchinis, cauliflower, pumpkin and onions
Dinner: Grilled steak with white Keto cheese sauce and broccoli
Snacks: ½ avocado topped with salmon roe, 1-2 boiled eggs
Breakfast: Poached eggs, bacon, mushroom and sauteed spinach
Lunch: Bunless grass-fed burger
Dinner: Beef pho using low-carb shirataki noodles
Snacks: Keto mug cake with ½ scoop of (low-carb) protein powder, 1 tablespoon coconut butter
Breakfast: Baked avocado eggs
Lunch: Spiced lamb skewers with tahini and cauliflower tabbouleh
Dinner: Scotch fillet with grass-fed butter and greens
Snacks: 1-2 tablespoons of coconut butter, two squares of 85% dark chocolate
Breakfast: Keto smoothie with protein powder, avocado, almond milk, coconut cream, chia seeds and MCT oil
Lunch: Smoked salmon and avocado with a green salad
Dinner: Satay chicken with zucchini noodles
Snacks: 1-2 Keto fat bombs, a handful of nuts
Breakfast: Mushroom omelette
Lunch: Tuna salad with boiled eggs
Dinner: Keto Pizza made with a cauliflower base, topped with pesto and plenty of meat, cheese, and Keto approved vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and capsicum
Snack: 1-2 scoops of Keto ice cream
You’ll notice there aren’t exact amounts listed for the foods (except for most of the snacks, to stop you from going overboard! Or maybe for us snack-a-holics that like to graze). This is because everyone’s calorie intake and nutrition needs are different. Take each one on board and adapt it to suit your needs. If you’re not a fan of cooking, or you’re just time-poor, you can find Keto-friendly foods from your local supermarket. For example, you could buy an avocado and some smoked salmon, with some prepackaged salad greens.
As the Keto diet has been surging in popularity, supermarkets and general grocery stores have been trying to catch up, offering high fat and low carb options for today’s low-carb and Keto enthusiast. There are even Keto cafes popping up - you might even have one near you! Otherwise, a great idea that many people do is to simply do meal prep on a designated day (Sunday is a perfect day for many people, that can set you up for the week). Depending on the number of meals that you make, you can do another prep on Wednesday, or simply freeze foods that you can’t keep in the fridge for the whole week. How do you know how long your foods will last? The easiest thing to do is enlist your friend Google, to find out the specific days for specific foods, including proper storage instructions.
Lucky for you carb-lovers, some of the most delicious carb-heavy meals can now be altered to have a Ketogenic twist on them. It might take a mild adjustment, especially if you’re used to tons of sugar! Your body may be crying out for that same level of sweetness, but once you get fat-adapted, you’ll be excited to see that you no longer crave all that sweet stuff.
If you’re starting a Keto diet for the first time, do as much research as you can to have the most successful experience. You may slip up a few times in the beginning, and know that it’s ok! Though it’s ‘in trend’ at the moment, a true Keto diet is quite hard to stick to, especially with the availability of delicious high-carb foods everywhere you look. Think about your motivations for starting and keep it front of mind when you find that you’re struggling. If you find the Keto diet gives you the results you were after, and you feel better than you did before, you might find this is more than enough to keep you going!
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