Let’s be honest, a weight loss plan that doesn’t require more gym time or constantly gnawing on meat bones sounds appealing, right? Which is why searches for Keto Diet or Ketogenic Diet to use its full name have quadrupled in the last year.
Famously not for the faint-hearted, or those who think ‘one snack won’t hurt’, this low carb diet plan is often referenced as the fastest way to getting a lean aesthetic. This is because the keto diet forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis (more on this later).
Online it has many monikers – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), etc – however, to eat your way into ketosis the food principles are the same: very low carb, medium protein and high fat.
With celebs from Kim K to Anne Hathaway reportedly fans, WH shines the spotlight on the eating plan that requires commitment, willpower and a fat load of food.
What is The keto Diet?
As mentioned, the formula for ketosis is pretty simple: low carb, moderate protein and high-fat diet. This mix of macros balances the hormones behind metabolism – specifically, insulin, gherlin and leptin. By replacing your daily carb intake for fat (hold the quinoa, add extra cheese) you stop your body from using glucose for energy and force it to burn fat.
keto for beginners
The margins for the ketogenic diet are tight. You want to get 60-75% of your calorie intake from fat, 15-30% from protein; leaving only 5-10% from carbs. Also, your daily net carb allowance (carbs without fibre) is capped at 50 grams, and preferably under 20 grams. Any higher and your body will start to feed off glucose which defeats the purpose. Keep kitchen scales handy when meal prepping to avoid slipping up.
As your carbs/protein/fat targets are so specific nutritional labels will become your best friend. However, don’t be misled by ‘low-carb’ foods as these generally have a high sugar content. Instead, cook from scratch with foods naturally low in carbs and favour grass-fed meats and leafy greens. Don’t forget to refresh yourself on how to count your macros – fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
It might sound complicated, but once you’ve embraced the change in your shopping and prepping habits the rules become second nature. Plus, firing up your metabolism means you don’t need to sweat every day in the gym to burn fat, freeing up mornings and evenings to embrace other healthy things to do.
But is this low carbohydrate diet safe for everyone?
‘The ketogenic diet is quite a dramatic change in diet, that requires you to exclude a number of foods, which if not carefully managed can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and side effects over time,’ warns Rick Miller, Clinical and Sports Dietician.
‘Anyone under 18-years-old and pregnant women should not follow the ketogenic at all without the guidance of their doctor. I would also advise anyone with disturbances in their blood glucose (e.g. those with diabetes), who may have gallstones, a chronic bowel condition (such as irritable bowel syndrome), existing bone problems (such as osteoporosis), an eating disorder or taking any type of medication to check with their doctor before starting.’
Neither pregnant nor still at school? Still, proceed with caution: ‘Following the ketogenic diet can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and side effects over time.’
Keto Diet Side Effects
Getting your body into ketosis requires a commitment to eating low carb longer than a one-day meal plan. It can often take up to seven days for your body to run on ketone bodies, the fat-derived fuel. That said, because of the nutritional restrictions which have been known to cause fatigue, dizziness (from a large reduction in blood glucose), gastrointestinal discomfort due to the high-fat content of the diet, bad breath and occasionally nausea you should seek medical advice before attempting to eat the keto diet from now on.
‘There is evidence that those who follow a keto diet in the longer term have suffered complications, such as nutritional deficiencies and muscle wastage,’ says Miller. ‘In other research where the participants are performing resistance training, there seems to be little to no effect on loss of muscle tissue. The biggest effect on the time limit, will be the degree to which the person is able to maintain the restrictive nature of the diet as it can make social eating difficult without some planning.
Keto Diet Food List
Do indulge with these food rules.
MAKE NUTS AND SEEDS YOUR GO-TO SNACK
Grabbing a handful of these will keep you satisfied and provide you with healthy fat.
GO FULL FAT
Removing ‘skinny’ from your morning coffee order is an easy way to increase fat intake, although you’ll have to sacrifice the carby croissant.
LATHER SALADS IN OLIVE OIL
Wave goodbye to one cal spray. Whether it’s olive oil, coconut oil or, wait for it…. butter, you don’t have to scrimp.
BATCH COOK WITH FATTY FISH OR MEAT
Stop yourself reaching for your carby old faithful (pasta & pesto in our case) by preparing evening ketogenic dishes from your weekly meal plan in advance.
GO WILD FOR GREENS
Asparagus, chard, spinach and lettuce can be had in abundance. Load up your plate with these instead of reaching for extra protein or carbs
WEIGH OUT INGREDIENTS
To master the Ketogenic Diet sticking to nutritional percentages is key; you won’t know them unless you’re accurate.
However, these foods are not keto and are off the menu.
Crackers, oats, rice, pasta, bread, pizza all have to go. Don’t think your rye or spelt loaves are exempt either; it’s all contraband. Instead sub in low carb veggies, like cauli rice and courgetti in your dinnertime faves.
SPEND THE SUMMER SIPPING PIMM’S
Any sugary cocktails, beers, ciders and sweet wines are out. For the occasional tipple go for a G&T or small glass of dry white.
ORDER SWEET POTATO SIDES
They may be vegetables but potatoes (even the sweet ones) are too carb heavy for the keto diet. Also, your usual dollop of ketchup needs to be replaced with a fresh salsa. Shop bought condiments don’t make the cut, but their homemade alternatives can be consumed with relish.
REACH FOR FOODS LABELLED LOW-FAT OR LOW-CARB
They’re too processed. Reducing fat intake or upping sugar goes against the whole keto philosophy
CONTINUE THE LEGUME LOVE IN
Yes, it’s heartbreaking, but on the ketogenic diet hummus is officially enemy no.1.
TOUCH THE CAKE TIN
Shop bought cakes, ice cream and confectionary all have to be cut. Seem obvious? It’s not just refined sugar, healthy food faves like agave syrup, dried or tropical fruit and honey are all on the hit list. Make up for it by whipping up these ketogenic friendly cookies.
Chewy Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes: 10 servings Hands-on time: 10 minutes Overall time: 25 minutes
- 1 cup (250g/8.8 oz) almond butter or sunflower seed butter
- 1 large pastured egg
- 1/3 cup (65g/2.3 oz) unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon (8 g/0.3 oz) pumpkin pie spice mix
- 2 tablespoons (20g/0.7 oz) erythritol or Swerve)
- Optional: 5 to 10 drops liquid stevia extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (90g/3.2 oz) dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped chocolate (85% cacao or more)
HOW TO MAKE KETO DIET COOKIES
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C, or gas mark 4).
2. Place all the ingredients except the chocolate chips into a food processor.
3. Pulse until smooth. Scoop the cookie dough into a bowl and add the chocolate chips.
4. Mix well with a wooden spoon.Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, create 10 mounds of dough.
6. Place them on the parchment-lined tray, and flatten each with a fork or spoon.
7. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until lightly golden and cooked through.
8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. (The cookies will crisp up slightly as they cool.)
9. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Nutrition facts per serving (1 cookie)
Total carbs: 8.4g
Net carbs: 4g
Energy: 224 kcal
Macronutrient ratio: Calories from carbs (8%), protein (13%), fat (79%)
Still flummoxed? Ensure you don’t end up in the confectionary aisle with this keto-friendly shopping list:
- Meat; beef, lamb, venison and goat
- Fish and seafood (wild caught is best)
- Pastured pork and poultry
- Full fat dairy products; yoghurt, cream, milk, cottage cheese
- Oils/fats; lard, beef tallow, chicken fat, duck fat, goose fat, butter, ghee, coconut oil
- Assorted nuts & seeds
- Vegetables; chard, bok choy, spinach, lettuce, kale, chives, endive, radicchio, radishes, celery, asparagus, cucumber, squash, courgette, bamboo shoots, avocado
- Fruits; berries, melon, apples, oranges
- Zero carb sweeteners
- Thickeners; arrowroot powder & xanthan gum
- Caco or carob powder
Recipe and image extracted from Quick Keto: Meals in 30 Minutes or Less: 100 Easy Prep-and-Cook Low-Carb Recipes for Maximum Weight Loss and Improved Health by Martina Slajerova. Published by Fair Winds Press, £16.99