Although the ketogenic diet has been around for nearly 100 years, it has really risen in popularity only recently. Originally developed to treat epilepsy in the 1920s, researchers have now unearthed a long list of health benefits associated with the diet, which range from faster weight loss to better blood sugar control and beyond.
The ketogenic diet involves restricting carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day to deprive your body of its main source of energy: glucose. Instead, your body starts breaking down fat to produce ketones, which can be used as an alternate source of fuel in place of glucose. This also forces your body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body switches from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner.
The ketogenic diet may be a good option if you’re looking to shed extra pounds or boost fat-burning, especially if you’ve found that other diets and weight loss plans haven’t worked for you in the past.
Because it’s designed to be followed short-term, it can also be a good way to help foster healthy eating habits long-term by emphasizing the importance of healthy fats, high-quality proteins and fiber-rich foods as part of a nutritious, well-rounded diet.
In addition to kickstarting weight loss, the ketogenic diet has also been linked to a number of other health benefits. In fact, some studies suggest that this powerful eating pattern could improve blood sugar control, lower cholesterol levels, and protect against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a diet is whether the diet is actually right for you.
Just because other people are sprouting the praises of a particular regime does not necessarily mean that it will work just as well for your lifestyle. So if you have been considering adopting keto, here are some indicators that it may be the right option for you.
1. You are not getting results with other regimes
If you have been dieting or trying to lose weight for some time, you may find that after awhile specific diets tend to stop working as the body recalibrates and adjusts to the new regimes. This means that if weight loss remains the goal, the key is to change things around.
So, if you have tried a range of dieting regimes such as fasting, low calorie or high protein diets and are now finding they are no longer working, it may be worth trying keto for a period of time to see if an entirely different regime supports further weight loss.
2. You have large amounts of weight to lose
If you have a goal of losing relatively large amounts of weight, or more than 20kg, keep in mind that traditional weight loss regimes will result in losses of just one to two kilos a week at most.
On the other hand, if you induce ketosis you may find that weight loss on keto is much quicker, helping you to keep motivated and more likely to lose large amounts of weight long term.
3. You like eating fat
Keto is not just a low carb regime, rather it is a high-fat one. This means that you will be eating a lot of fatty meat, avocado, oils and creamy sauces. If you enjoy these types of food you will find keto relatively easy to follow.
However, if you love nothing more than fresh fruit and vegetables you may find it difficult to stick to keto as strictly as you will need to in order to achieve significant weight loss over a two to four week period.
4. You can stick to it 99 per cent of the time
Keto diets work but the secret to success is compliance – you cannot do keto by halves. You need to get your macros right almost 100 per cent of the time and stick to your high fat, low carb diet.
Slipping in an occasional chocolate bar, or slice or two of bread will instantly take your metabolism out of ketosis meaning you will again need to take a day or two to achieve ketosis again. If you are good at sticking to diets for a few weeks at a time, keto may be for you. On the other hand, if you struggle to get through a day of dieting without a treat slipping in, there is a better weight loss options for you.
5. You do not have other hormonal conditions
Medical conditions including PCOS and insulin resistance have significant effects on the body’s ability to burn fat effectively. As such, a high fat keto diet may not always produce the weight loss results achieved for someone who does not have these underlying hormonal issues.
If you do have either or both of these conditions, work closely with a dietitian to determine if keto may be for you, as in some cases keto may do more harm than good when it comes to managing your hormone levels.
Besides weight loss, there are other benefits of going on the high-fat diet. The three most prominent being its effect on sleep, anxiety and energy levels.
Thanks to our natural sleep cycle – known as our circadian rhythm – you’ll notice that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day. What many don’t realise however, is that when and what we eat impacts that natural rhythm and in effect, impacts the quality of our sleep.
Low-carb diets, like mild-keto, are important for improving quality of sleep, although initially some people may experience changes in sleep habits such as shorter duration but better quality. This is thought to result from initially low levels of glucose in the body which impacts the entry of L-tryptophan into the brain and L-tryptophan is essential for the production of serotonin – our happy hormone – which converts into melatonin, our sleep hormone. So some people can experience some insomnia until their body adjusts. But ultimately, cutting out sugar (another feature of a mild-keto diet) improves your quality of sleep because you’re not experiencing intense sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day.
In fact, a study by the International League Against Epilepsy found that while ketogenic diets may decrease total time spent asleep, they drastically improve the quality and promote increase REM sleep – which is important to feel ‘refreshed’ when we wake up.
Tips to enhance sleep:
- Eat breakfast: Eating in the morning kicks our digestive system into gear, energises our blood flow, and keeps our circadian rhythm in track.
- Don’t eat too late: Eating too late can disrupt our sleep because our body spends time digesting food while we sleep, rather than repairing our muscles, re-setting our body and resting our brains.
- Avoid the 3pm coffee: When following a mild-keto diet, the need to reach for a coffee at 3pm tends to stop, however if this takes a little while, avoiding the 3pm caffeine hit can help to improve sleep quality.
It’s widely known that 1 in 3 women in Australia will experience anxiety in their lifetime, meaning you or someone you know has probably experienced some form of anxiety challenge.
Two of the main reasons a mild- keto diet can help alleviate anxiety is due to the increase in healthy fats and the decrease in sugar in the body. Foods high in sugar, carbs and salt can make us feel better in the short-term by hitting our pleasure centre in the brain, however the long-term effects of eating these types of food are associated with serious mental health concerns, including anxiety. While our body tends to crave these comfort foods when we’re looking for a quick serotonin boost, they will inevitably lead to an energy crash and can actually worsen the symptoms of anxiety over time.
The first randomised trial to study the effects of mental health (the SMILES trial) was able to show that those who improved their diet with more fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and fish and limited processed foods experienced greater improvements in their mental health symptoms compared to therapy alone.
Foods to integrate into your diet to decrease anxiety levels:
- Plant-based foods: Foods such as garlic, leeks, colourful, high fibre vegetables and fruits are high in prebiotics and vitamins that are essential for good brain health.
- Fermented foods: Foods in this group including yoghurt, kefir and kombucha are essential for good gut health, which is linked to our mental health.
- Polyphenols: Polyphenols are a group of micronutrients that are important for healthy gut microbiome. They can be found in turmeric, cloves, oranges, and berries. Diets high in polyphenols have been associated with lower risk of mental health disorders.
Unsurprisingly, anxiety disorders are also known to be strongly linked to sleep. Therefore, having a good sleep cycle is essential for improving the symptoms of anxiety.
The body’s preferred fuel source is glucose which we consume largely in the form of carbohydrates found in breads, cereals, grains, legumes, fruit, starchy vegetables, dairy products and sugar. But if you only consume a very low amount of carbohydrates, your body begins to look elsewhere for fuel.
This is why the first few days of following a keto diet are not much fun as your body is still looking for carbohydrates to burn, and you may find yourself feeling hungry, low in energy and a little bit irritable.
As the days go on though, the body begins burning fat as fuel, you’re no longer short of energy, and your body no longer relies on your dietary intake as its main source of energy – which means it’s no longer screaming at you for its next energy hit. This is because your body has slipped into ketosis, and you’ll find your energy levels are higher than ever.
Ways to maintain high-energy on a mild-keto diet:
- Drink lots of water: Staying hydrated is an easy way to avoid calories and increase energy levels throughout the day
- Choose carbs carefully: Reducing your intake of calorie dense carbs automatically forces your body to burn fat stored around your midsection for energy, rather than the sugars it takes from carbohydrates. Cards found in non-starchy vegetables, salads and fruits should make up 80 per cent of the volume of every meal.
- Don’t forget protein: Not consuming enough protein during the day can be a primary reason for fatigue. You can find protein in poultry, fish, lead red meat, nuts and some dairy products.
Eliminate: grains, sugars and refined oils
The big three offenders are ubiquitous in processed, packaged, and frozen foods; in restaurant and fast-food offerings; and even in “healthy” stuff from natural foods markets.
Oils to eliminate: Refined high polyunsaturated vegetable and seed oils (canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, etc.); butter-substitute spreads and sprays (margarine, Smart Balance, Promise); processed and packaged food containing vegetable oils or trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats).
Refined grain products to eliminate: Baguettes, cereal, corn, crackers, croissants, danishes, donuts, energy bars, frozen snacks and meals, graham crackers, granola bars, muffins, pasta, pizza, pretzels, protein bars, rice, rolls, saltine crackers, tortillas, Wheat Thins, chips (corn, potato, tortilla), cooking grains (amaranth, barley, bulgur, couscous, millet, rye), puffed snacks (including popcorn and rice cakes).
Refined sugar products to eliminate: Agave syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane sugar, fruit bars and rolls, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, powdered sugar, raw sugar.
Remember, ketogenic eating is ultra-low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and high in natural, nutritious fats. Choose the foods you prefer from this ancestral- inspired list of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and assorted approved modern foods such as high-fat dairy products and high-cacao-percentage dark chocolate.
- High-fat fruits such as avocados, coconuts, olives, and their derivative oils
- Nuts, seeds, and their derivative butters and non-dairy milks
- Fatty cuts of meat from naturally raised animals
- Fish, especially oily cold water fish from the SMASH hits group (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring)
- Butter, ghee, lard, bacon fat, and tallow
Generally, you can make high-fibre, above-ground vegetables such as the leafy green and cruciferous family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, etc.) a dietary centrepiece.
These foods are some of the most nutrient-dense on the planet and also support a healthy intestinal microbiome. Due to their high fibre and water content, they do not stimulate the insulin response that can compromise keto efforts. While it is recommended to stay below 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, you can give yourself a free pass to consume as many above-ground, high-fibre vegetables and avocados as you want. In contrast, carbohydrates from foods that are starchier or calorically denser should be limited during formal nutritional ketosis efforts.
- Avocado with salt and lime juice
- Basic Bone Broth
- Coconut butter: an absolute delicacy, hard to find but super delicious and nutritious.
- Dark chocolate: gradually habituate to 85 per cent or higher cacao. To ensure the highest quality product, look for cacao beans as the first ingredient and/or the “Bean-to-Bar” designation, as well as a “Fair Trade” designation on the box.
- Hard-boiled egg
- Jerky: high-quality beef or other meat, without sweeteners, nitrates, preservatives, or other chemicals
- Nuts, seeds, and their derivative butters
- Oily, cold-water fish: remember SMASH (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring)
- Olives packed in olive oil (avoid canola and sunflower oils)
- Pork rinds: natural ingredients only, no chemicals, bad oils, or sweeteners
- Trail mix: Use raw or dry-roasted nuts, seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, 85 per cent cacao dark chocolate pieces or cacao nibs, small amounts of unsweetened dried fruit, and a dash of Himalayan sea salt
- Vegetables dipped in guacamole or natural almond or peanut butter
DO: Monitor your macros
Keto is not just a low carb diet; rather it is a low carb, high fat diet. This means that it will not be enough to cut carbs out of your diet, rather you will need to work towards a ratio of 70 per cent total fat, 20 per cent protein and less than 10 per cent carbs. This is not easy. Nor can you determine this without the help of a monitoring program such as ‘myfitnesspal’, which is able to calculate macros for you. Often people think that they are eating keto when really they are on a high protein, low carb diet, which does not work the same way.
DO: Be fussy with your fats
Old school approaches to keto encouraged any type of fat to be consumed whether it was ‘healthy’ fat or not. This meant that keto diets were often packed with bacon, cream, coconut oil and fatty meats.
A revised approach includes a focus on good quality fats. This means fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive oil. The key is to keep saturated fat intake controlled, and promote the consumption of the fats not associated with an increase in heart disease risk or increased inflammatory processes in the body.
DO: Stick to set meals
As keto is not always an overly prescriptive program, it can be very easy to over consume calories on a keto plan, which will in turn negate weight loss.
An easy way to avoid this overconsumption is to stick to 2-3 meals each day. Set meal times will ensure your overall calorie intake is controlled. Set meal times will also make it easier to achieve the macro targets of keto as opposed to adding in snacks, which tend to bump up your protein and calorie intake.
DO: Get some fresh foods
As keto generally eliminates most wholegrains, legumes and fruits and vegetables from the diet, the diet can lack fresh, healthy food.
Be mindful of this tendency and make an intensive effort to include some fresh low carb fruits (such as berries) and plenty of low carb vegetables (such as leafy greens or via a homemade vegetable soup) to reap the nutritional benefits that come from eating fresh, unprocessed foods.
DON’T: Choose processed snacks
With interest in keto on the rise, there is also an influx of low carb keto snacks, balls, bars and shakes that are promoted as keto friendly but can completely blow out your calorie intake if you are not careful.
If you must snack, remember that a snack should contain just 100-200 calories at most and fresh, less processed snacks such as vegetables sticks with avocado, nuts or nut spread with high protein bread will be better options than formulated bars and shakes.
DON’T: Too many calories
Keto does not mean that you can eat as much cream, butter, bacon and oil as you like. The same diet principles remain that there still needs to be a calorie deficit to achieve weight loss.
So, while you can include more avocado, nuts and seeds in your diet this does not translate into snacking on extra handfuls of nuts or whole avocado should the hunger pangs strike. You will still need to aim for calorie control via set meals to achieve weight loss long term.
DON’T: Too much protein
The tricky thing to navigate with keto is that protein levels need to be kept relatively low, meaning you cannot replace the bread, rice or pasta on your plate with larger serves of meat, chicken or fish.
To keep your fat intake where it needs to be, and your protein below 20 per cent, you are looking at just 100g of protein at your meals or a palm sized serve as opposed to a slab of steak or chicken breast. Eating too much protein is one of the most common reasons those wanting to do keto fail to achieve ketosis.
DON’T: Cheat too regularly
In life there will always be times when we indulge in high calorie foods that we know are not the best for us.
The issue with cheats for those on keto is that eating high carb foods such as pizza, pasta, chocolate, cakes and desserts will take you out of ketosis, and it will then take some time to get back in. This is the reason that small cheat treats here are there are the worst thing to do if your goal is to achieve ketosis. Rather, you are better to indulge occasionally with a larger meal or drinks session and then recommit to your keto 100 per cent to get the results you are looking for.
It’s really easy to make key errors that will render the keto completely ineffective.
A keto diet is not for the faint hearted – you need to be ultra-strict and be able to deal with the initial sugar and carb withdrawal symptoms. It’s also tough to eat out or pick up foods on the run.
Here are the most common mistakes beginners make and the easy ways to avoid them.
1. Eating too much protein
A keto diet is not only low carb, it is high fat which means it is also only moderate in protein.
Commonly, those new to the keto fold will simply replace their carbs with extra protein.
Now a low carb diet may lead to weight loss but you will not be in ketosis.
To achieve ketosis you need to keep your carbs at 50 grams or less per day, your protein to just 60-80 grams per day and your total fat intake at up to 100-150 grams per day.
In food terms, this translates into a small serve of protein at each meal, for example 2 eggs and just 100-150 gram of meat, chicken or fish. Any more than this will prevent you from reaching ketosis and reaping the fat burning benefits it offers.
2. Eating too many meals
The high fat nature of keto means that it is easy to overeat calories.
Snacking on keto tends to mean extra nuts, seeds, avo and specialty keto snacks so constant grazing and snacking can very quickly shoot both your macros and calories out of ketosis.
For this reason, focus your keto plan around 2-3 larger high fat meals each day. This will make it much easier to achieve the macro ratios you need for success.
If you must snack, choose low calorie, low carb foods such as popcorn, vegetables and berries.
3. Getting your fat amounts wrong
The number one variable that determines keto success is getting enough fat and each meal will need a lot of fat – at least 30-40 grams.
There are only so many foods that can satisfy keto’s fat requirements – oils, butter, cheese, avocado, nuts and fatty meat – which means that, in food terms, you are likely to need one fatty meat meal a day to achieve these ratios.
Think mince, chops, bacon or even a creamy meat curry or carbonara sauce with low carb spaghetti.
Just adding olive oil to your favourite salad won’t cut it, you’ll also need to add the cheese, bacon and olives to top up the fat count.
4. Not planning your food
The specificity of keto is such that if you don’t prepare, plan and pack your food you will most likely catch yourself out.
Being hungry and without any keto-appropriate meals or snacks is setting yourself up for failure.
With the exception of sushi, steak and green vegetables, few cuisines or pre-made meals tick the high fat, low carb, moderate protein box that allows you to maintain ketosis.
Planning and preparing your food is the key to keto success – especially in the beginning.
5. Forgetting your fibre
Suddenly shifting your food intake from eating plenty of fruits, whole grains and vegetables and getting plenty of dietary fibre to literally none except the occasional green vegetable will cause havoc with your gut.
Avoid gut disturbance on keto by keeping a close eye on your carb intake and include some low carb fruits such as berries and a range of vegetables in your daily diet.
You have 30-50 grams of carbs to play with on keto, which allows you to include a couple of different coloured vegetables, a little wheat bran and berries if you plan your food well.
Possible keto side effects
Side effect: Keto flu
Keto flu is a common complaint in the initial stages of going keto, especially for someone who is coming off a particularly carb-heavy diet. This occurs as your carbohydrate stores become depleted and you are yet to figure out how to access and utilise fat efficiently. Commonly cited symptoms include lethargy, headaches, joint and muscle aches and reduced energy levels. The good news is that this is a transient phase and shouldn’t last much longer than a couple of weeks, although the length and severity of keto flu can vary significantly between individuals.
Tips to lessen the impact of keto flu:
- Drink plenty of fluid – have a specific plan around this.
- You will need lots of salt, pink Himalayan or sea salt is your best bet – add it liberally to your food.
- Eat plenty of good fat – avocado will help boost potassium and magnesium levels, MCT oils (if tolerated) will help boost ketone levels quickly and add natural, healthy fats to all your meals.
Side effect: Keto rash
We’re not talking about a few minor red bumps here and there. We mean a full on heebie-jeebie itchy rash that can quickly spread to every single part of your body – your scalp included. What’s worse is that once you’ve treated the rash, a dark brown pattern may be left on the surface of the skin.
According to Healthline, the rash is formally known as prurigo pigmentosa. What’s interesting is that although anyone can experience it, it’s more common amongst Asian women.
The main symptoms of the keto rash include:
- An itchy, red rash that occurs primarily on the upper back, chest, and abdomen.
- Red spots, called papules that take on a web-like appearance.
- A dark brown pattern left on the skin once the spots disappear.
Unfortunately, to this date, the exact cause of keto rash remains unknown. Research has suggested that instead of the rash been set-off by the keto diet directly, it’s seen alongside symptoms of ketosis – the state where your body uses your fat for energy, rather than carbs.
Those that have experienced the side-effect have noted the rash appeared only when they cut their carb intake significantly – below 20g per day, to be exact. Due to this, Healthline recommends that the first line of order you should take to prevent yourself from developing keto rash is to slowly lower your carbohydrate intake. “Rather than dropping your carbohydrate intake suddenly, try to slower taper carbohydrates out of your diet,” the website states.
Furthermore, you should also consider taking a multivitamin/mineral during the first few weeks of starting the high-fat low-carb diet.
However, your doctor will be able to give you the best advice for transitioning to the keto diet safely.
Treating keto rash:
From Nigella stavia, antibiotics to applying Black Seed Oil, there’s definitely a bunch of advice from co-sufferers on how to treat keto rash, surfing on the net. But, before following anyone’s advice, you should seek immediate help from your doctor.
Healthline also recommends other at-home treatment methods for the keto rash, should you experience it:
- Reintroduce carbs – a non-negotiable, and one that is backed by scientific studies.
- Correct your nutrient deficiencies – specifically vitamin A, B-12 and C.
- Eliminate food allergens – popular keto foods such as eggs, dairy, fish and nuts also happen to be on the list of common food allergens. Therefore, consuming such foods may worsen rash symptoms.
- Incorporate anti-inflammatory supplements – probiotics, prebiotics, vitamin D, and fish oil supplements have all been used in clinical studies to help improve symptoms of dermatitis.
- Extra care for your skin – the National Eczema Association recommends using lukewarm water for bathing and showering, and cleaning only with gentle soaps and cleansers.
Side effect: Keto crotch
Apparently, things can get a lil’ smelly down-under when you ditch those carbs.
“I’m about two weeks into keto, and I love it. I’m on it not for weight loss but for my persistent and resilient adult acne (30 years old and plagued with the cystic kind). I’ve had it for years, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen such a drastic improvement,” one Reddit user posted.
But things are getting quite smelly: “I am very, SMELLY. It started on this diet and BV (bacteria vaginosis) just popped up with a vengeance,” the user added. “It’s driving me crazy. I just moved in with my boyfriend too, which is so helpful (hey dude I’m here, with really pungent smell)… No other symptoms but smell. too much protein? I read meat could turn up the heat down there?”
‘Keto crotch’ is not scientifically-backed up, but it certainly doesn’t mean keto dieters aren’t noticing some nasty changes down there.
The reason why some people may experience ‘keto crotch’ is probably due to the same reasons behind the keto breath phenomenon. Simply put, when your body is in a state of ketosis (whereby your body isn’t receiving enough carbs for energy and therefore turns to fat for fuel), fatty acids are converted into ketones (chemicals like beta hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone). Although ketones are usually harmless, they are released from the body through exhalation and urination – and because your body is producing more ketones that usual, the excess can leave your breath and vaginal area a little smellier than usual.
However, Jessica Shepherd, MD, a gynaecologist in Dallas and founder of Her Viewpoint, told Women’s Health that the reason behind vaginal odor isn’t necessarily the same as what causes keto breath. Instead, it’s more likely that the keto diet changes your vaginal pH, which in turn, changes your vaginal odour. “Any diet can change your vaginal pH,” she says, which can then change the odor a bit.
Treating keto crotch:
One user commented on the Reddit post, explaining the smell will subside after a while.
“It will pass once you are more adjusted to keto (if it doesn’t, see your OB). It took me a couple months to “level out” down there,” one user posted.
Others suggested only wearing 100 per cent cotton white underwear, making sure to always shower straight after a workout session, taking a probiotic, and even “drinking and bathing in Apple Cider Vinegar.”
According to Healthline, reducing the smelly side effects brought forth by the keto diet can be achieved be:
- Increasing your water intake as this can help flush ketones from your body.
- Eating less protein.
- Practicing good hygiene – in the case of ‘keto crotch’, this means taking regular showers.
- Slightly increasing your carb intake while remaining in a state of ketosis – e.g. if you’re eating 15g of carbohydrates per day, try increasing this to 20g to see if the odour improves.
- Remaining patient and allowing your body to adjust to its new fuel source.
However if symptoms persist, worsen overtime, or you start to notice other symptoms, seek immediate help from a medical professional as it could be an infection that’s unrelated to your diet. As always, make sure to consult a health expert before making any dietary changes.
Side effect: Keto constipation
A disconcerting number of people experience issues with bowel movements when going keto. The most common reason for this is that somehow keto has become confused with becoming completely carnivorous, with greenery and colour completely lacking in many keto diets.
Tips to prevent constipation:
1.Focus on fruit and veg
While foods like legumes, potatoes and bananas contain some of those ‘dreaded’ carbs that you’re not allowed to eat if you’re on the keto diet, there’s plenty of other varieties that can be included: for example, foods like broccoli, spinach and berries. I’d suggest eating as much of the ‘allowed’ fruit and veg you can each and every day – remember, your target is two and at least five, respectively.
2. Include plenty of nuts and seeds
Apart from their heart-healthy fats and plant-based protein, nuts and seeds can contribute a decent dose of fibre. Chia seeds and linseeds are by far the stand out, with just one tablespoon of chia seeds (20 grams) containing almost 7 grams of fibre. FYI, that’s about one quarter of a woman’s daily recommended fibre intake.
3. Consider a supplement if necessary
Although real food is always my number one strategy, sometimes it’s just not enough – especially when you’re limiting so much of your food intake. In this case, a fibre supplement may be necessary, so be sure to have a chat to your GP or dietitian to find what will work best for you.
Side effect: Keto breath
‘Keto breath’, caused by the ketone acetone, is a common indicator of ketosis. The more fat you burn the more acetone you produce. The particular smell that is produced in your breath is a slightly sweet scent and a different smell to what you may be used to when consuming a grain based diet. Some people are not necessarily concerned with this scent but it can be worrisome for others.
Tips for dealing with keto breath:
- Good oral hygiene is essential.
- Consider a xylitol-sweetened chewing gum.
- The good news is that as you become more efficient at using ketones the smell will most likely diminish.
Variations of keto
“Mild keto diet is less restrictive than a full ketogenic diet,” explains Kate Save, CEO and co-founder of weight loss meal service Be Fit Food.
Unlike other strict regimes, it’s not about cutting out whole food groups, instead it ensures you’re not missing out on any essential nutrients.
“The mild keto diet induces a state of mild nutritional ketosis, where your body fat is burned for fuel,” says Save. “The secret of ketosis is to eat low amounts of carbohydrate, and moderate amounts of protein and fat for satiety.”
Save explains that the full ketogenic diet involves consuming fat as 90 percent of your diet and focuses more on your macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). “With a mild keto diet, you’re not missing out on any of the essential food groups, and therefore you don’t miss out on any essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). On mild keto, you’re also encouraging your body to break down your own body fat as an energy source, rather than relying on dietary intake.”
Benefits of mild keto
“Mild keto kick starts your metabolism to stop your body being a fat storage machine and instead turns it into a fat burning machine,” says Save, but admits that’s not all.
“When you start breaking down your own body fat, there are a number of health benefits outside of weight loss that you will experience. It lowers insulin resistance, reduces blood sugar levels and reduces fat in your liver. The flow on effects of that is lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure too.”
Who should try it?
“Mild keto is really for anybody who struggles with weight loss. It gives your body a good kickstart in initiating weight loss and primes the body to lose weight more easily in future.”
What does a day on a plate look like?
In each meal you want a maximum of 15-20 grams of carbs, sufficient protein (around 20g to maintain muscle mass) and moderate healthy fat, explains Save. Your day should also include “low carbs to help with satiety and loads of fluids to flush out ketones – this is importantly otherwise you get a headache.”
“True keto would have small amounts of protein and a heap of fat. A typical meal for instance would be like a quarter of a cup of butter on top of a steak so it’s high fat. Full keto focusses on macronutrient whereas mild keto focuses on nutrition and micronutrients so you’re not focussing on where the calories are coming from you’re looking at the diet as a whole. Plus, mild keto ensures that you can still eat from all five food groups which makes it easier to get 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals.”
It’s a much simpler and easier version of the weight loss method loved by the likes of Kim Kardashian. No longer will you have to weigh food or meticulously track what you eat. Apparently, you can still reap the fat-burning rewards of going no-carb without all the fuss. Here’s how…
“Lazy keto” is like the original plan – but you don’t have to track your calories, according to Health.com.
The only rule is that you can only eat 20g of carbs a day.
That’s the equivalent of nearly an entire cauliflower – proving that not all of vegetables are equal in terms of carbs – it’s almost impossible to eat 20g of carbs from spinach, for example.
Not having to calculate your calories will save you time and energy.
You’ll still lose weight from reducing your sugar load but it is worth saying that you probably won’t shed body fat quite as fast as you would being on the standard keto plan.
However, if you’re looking for sustainable fat loss or to maintain a healthy body weight, then “lazy keto” probably is a better compromise.
The benefits of the lazy keto diet
There are no specific studies holding it accountable but anecdotally, as with any eating plan aimed at weight loss, people claim that if you’re strict about it you will see results. Fast.
“This approach could be a good way to ease into the keto lifestyle or to trial it out before embarking on a more regimented regime,” says nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin. “However, the less food rules, the better as they don’t foster a healthy relationship with food. So in theory, it’s [the lazy keto] is a better approach to take to eating compared to strictly tracking calories and macros.”
The downside of the lazy keto diet
There’s the more simple side effects like tiredness, dizziness, muscle weakness and confusion, but more worryingly a study just last year by the European Society of Cardiology warned low-carb diets should be avoided and people who consumed them increased their risk of premature death.
As for weight loss success? Bingley-Pullin says, “If it’s a goal, just because carbs have been lowered doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, if you consume more calories than you need – no matter if your diet is low carb, high protein, vegan and so on – it will lead to weight gain. Because fats are higher in calories compared to protein and carbs, calorie intake can easily blow out on a high fat diet.”
How to nail the lazy keto diet
Well, you need to get an overall idea of your macronutrient intake – that’s carbs and fat and protein. Read your food labels and write down the carb heavy foods you can cut and, no, that’s not just bread, pasta etc but also fruit, vegetables and dairy. Yep, they all – except 20gs – need to go. If you don’t have a solid understanding of foods that contain carbs, you will need to track it to meet the requirements of lazy keto.
“If the focus is just on carbs and you don’t consider the nutritional composition of other foods, it would be easy to go over the 20g per day limit without knowing,” warns Bingley-Pullin. “For example, natural yoghurt is typically classed as a protein but a 200g serve has on average 10g carbs. So if you aren’t aware of this and therefore not tracking it, those 10g of carbs wouldn’t be counted.”
The diet was created by reality TV couple Heather Dubrow (of the Real Housewives of Orange County) and Terry Dubrow (of Botched). The duo released their book, ‘The Dubrow Diet: Interval Eating to Lose Weight and Feel Ageless’, in October 2018, and within a month it was already listed on Amazon’s ‘Best Sellers’ list.
The essence of the diet mimics that of the keto diet – to aid weight loss and increase energy levels. However, instead of only cutting out carbs, the Dubrow Diet promotes intermittent fasting on a relatively low-carb diet, with the inclusion of a few cheat meals. Follow this, and the Dubrows claim it will also “activate the anti-ageing ability found in your cells” due to a process of cell turnover called autophagy. The couple claim that the long-term effects of autophagy are similar to plastic surgery (minus the downtime), and imply it’s how they maintain their youthful appearances.
The basis of the Dubrow Diet reflects the concept of the 16:8 diet – whereby you fast for 16 hours, and eat within an eight hour window. But on the Diet, there’s no counting calories or macronutrients. Instead, it advocates to keep things as simple as possible and to abide by three rules of eating: when, what and how much. “When” refers to the importance of maintaining a fast for up to 16 hours each day; “what” and “how much” refer to the type and amount of foods eaten within the eating period.
The Dubrow Diet calls for eating in three different phases, and each phase has a different recommended fasting period.
Phase one: ‘Red Carpet Ready”
This phase is meant to shock your system and reset your internal hunger rhythm. To do this, you need to fast for 16 hours a day, which should be followed for two to five days a week. In this phase, you can drink coffee, tea, water, and any “zero-calorie” drink, but you must abstain from alcohol.
Recommended foods include 170 to 340 grams of lean protein, 1 to 2 healthy fat servings, 14 grams of nuts and seeds, 1 serve of dairy, 1 ½ to 3 cups of non-starchy vegetables, a small serve of fruit, and ½ a cup of complex carbohydrates. You can also enjoy a savoury treat like seaweed salad, air-popped popcorn, pickles, or beak or turkey jerky.
Phase two: “Summer Is Coming”
This phase needs to be followed until the goal weight is achieved. To do this, three fasting periods for slow, medium and quick weight loss are advised. Fasting time ranges from 12 to 16 hours each day, and dieters must eat the same foods as in Phase 1, but with slightly more healthy fats and more complex carbs. Moderate alcohol consumption is also allowed.
Phase 3: ‘Look Hot While Living Like a Human”
This phase should be followed indefinitely to maintain weight loss and continue the autophagy process of anti-ageing and disease prevention benefits. Dieters complete a 12-hour fast, five days a week, with two 16-hour fast days. The food is the same as in Phases 1 and 2, with the option of a cheat meal.
Is the Dubrow Diet for you?
The Dubrow Diet is an intermittent fasting plan that combines a low-carb and low-calorie diet – something that isn’t healthy or sustainable long-term.
There are also several suggestions in the book that have limited research to support them – one being the idea of using autophagy for health or appearance purposes.
As always, it’s important to choose a diet that best works for you, and to consult a medical professional who will be able to recommend an appropriate eating plan.
Keto diets, when adhered to, can be extremely effective in achieving quick weight loss.
The issue is that they are not always that easy to follow, especially if your lifestyle finds you frequently eating out and picking up meals on the run.
So, if you are finding it difficult to stick to the rules of keto, here are some tricks and tips to make it a whole lot easier.
1. Batch cook some meals each week
Keto is not only a low carb plan, rather it is also a high fat one and it can be very easy to simply replace your carbs with extra protein, which can halt ketosis.
To ensure your meals achieve the ideal ratios of fat, carbs and protein, the easiest thing to do is prepare at least a couple of high fat, low carb meals in advance each week that you can grab on-the-go if you need to.
Some examples include a chicken or salmon curry with cauliflower rice, salmon, haloumi and roasted vegetables or mince patties to be made into low carb burgers.
2. Use avocado as a meal base
It can be difficult to think of quick and easy lunch meals on keto, especially when you are already eating a lot of eggs and smoked salmon at breakfast. To boost the fat content of meals there are a handful of high fat foods that meals can be based around, and avocado is one of them.
If you find yourself in doubt, focusing at least one of your meals around a small avo, either stuffed, as a salad or as a topping for high protein bread, it is more likely that your fat targets will be achieved.
3. Find your keto hero product
You may use vegetable pasta or rices, high protein bread or you may have found an amazing keto crispbread or bar, but whatever your preference is, these low carb foods will significantly increase the range of meals you can enjoy as part of your keto plan.
Think pastas with smoked salmon, eggs and cheese, stir fries, toast with cheese, bacon or avo and crispbread with nut spreads, cheese or avo.
4. Cut the snacks
Limiting your overall dietary intake to three meals each day will not only make it a whole lot easier to stick to your keto macro targets, but also to keep your total calorie intake controlled, especially if you are eating more fat.
One of the most common reasons keto is not effective is that followers overdo their fats and calories thanks to extra snacks throughout the day.
Whilst keto is an effective way to induce fat metabolism, weight loss will still rely on a degree of calorie restriction, and as such, sticking to three filling meals per day will boost your chances of achieving a calorie deficit and weight loss success.
5. Count your carbs
The success of keto largely depends on keeping a tight watch over your carb intake and it can be easy for extras to slip in if you are not keeping a close eye on your intake.
The simple act of logging your daily food intake via a monitoring program such as ‘myfitnesspal’ will keep you aware of your total carb intake making it easier to stick to your daily targets of 50g per day or less. This in turn will ensure you are achieving ketosis, helping to maximise the results you are getting on keto.
1. Know you cheaper high-fat foods
While avocado, fresh salmon, and nuts and seeds can be expensive, there are also a number of cheaper alternatives that can easily be substituted in for these foods.
Tinned oily fish including sardines and mackerel will save you plenty, as will 100 per cent nut spreads in place of fresh nuts while olive oil and olives can be much cheaper alternatives to avocado while offering a very similar fat profile.
2. Go for frozen vegetables
Non starchy vegetables including leaves, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks and onions can all add plenty of bulk and nutrients into a keto diet without adding a significant amount of carbohydrates.
On a seasonal basis, these vegetables can be very expensive, especially when you are eating your way through a lot of them. Frozen varieties are not only much cheaper, but mean you always have a supply on hand to add into your meals for a fraction of the price.
It is a common misconception that frozen vegetables have less nutrients than fresh vegetables, but the truth is that they will retain their nutrients as long as they are not overcooked, so always steam or slow cook your veggies.
3. Buy in bulk
Often when we are busy we pick up meals on the run or shop for one night’s meal at a time, which can really increase the grocery bill as we purchase individual ingredients and protein portions.
On the other hand, if you spend some time meal planning each week and purchase expensive proteins such as salmon, lean mince and vegetables in bulk per kilo or two, you will save a lot of money. For example, a packet of individual salmon portions or 250g clocks in at almost $12 compared to a bulk pack of 1kg of frozen salmon pieces, which can cost as little as $20-$25.
4. Go to the markets
If you do have the time, you can save some serious coin if you take time to head out to the produce markets regularly.
Low carb foods – including berries, nuts and fresh vegetables – can be purchased at a fraction of the price they are sold in supermarkets, and when you buy in bulk it naturally encourages you to plan your meals and snacks in advance, helping you to adhere to your keto goals.
5. Make your own snacks
If you have a preference for bars, bites, muffins and ball type snacks, making your own is a much more cost effective way to enjoy some of these snacks as part of your daily diet.
A single keto bar or snack can cost as much as $5 per serve compared to buying some nuts or nut spread, oils, seeds and protein powder, which you can use on several occasions to make bulk serves of your favourite keto snack.
While this does take some extra time and planning, the cost of snack per serve will be much lower than purchasing individual snacks on the run.
Recipes by Grant Schofield, Caryn Zinn and Craig Rodger
1. Banana Bread
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
For the banana bread:
- 1½ cups almond meal
- 1/3 cup ground psyllium husk
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup cream
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the top of the loaf:
- 1 tbsp seeds or chopped nuts
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C fan (180°C regular). Line a loaf tin with non-stick baking paper, or use a non-stick silicone mould (be aware that silicone doesn’t transfer heat as well as metal so you may need to cook your bread a little longer).
Place all the banana bread ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into the loaf tin, scatter over the seeds or nuts and bake for 28–30 minutes. Insert a skewer into the centre of the loaf and make sure it comes out clean. If the bread seems a little undercooked, bake for another 5 minutes before testing again.
2. Brain Power Salad
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
For the roast cauliflower:
- 1 cauliflower
- 1/2-1 red onion
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
- ½ cup cashews (or any nuts you have available)
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- pinch of chilli powder (optional)
- For the tahini dressing:
- ¼ cup shaved or grated Parmesan
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
- ¼ cup tahini
- juice of lemon
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 bag picked kale (or baby spinach leaves)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 300–400 g (about 1 cup)
- cooked chicken, meat or fish (optional)
- 2 tbsp Parmesan shavings (optional)
- pinch paprika
- Vegetarian option
- To replace the meat/fish: 6–8 poached or hard-boiled eggs
1. Pre-heat the oven to 18°C fan (200°C regular). Line an oven tray with baking paper.
2. Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets and roughly chop the onion, and spread them out on the prepared tray. Drizzle the oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with turmeric. Toss well to combine and season with salt and lots of pepper.
3. Roast the vegetables for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cashews and remaining spices on top of the vegetables. Toss gently with tongs and continue to roast for 5–7 minutes, until the cashews are lightly toasted and the vegetables are tender.
4. Meanwhile, whisk together all the tahini dressing ingredients, seasoning to taste.
5. Place the kale in a bowl, and add a pinch of salt and a good drizzle of olive oil. Gently massage the kale with your hands to soften it.
6. To serve, place a bed of kale on the bottom of serving bowls. Top with the roasted mix and drizzle with tahini dressing. Top with the cooked chicken (or whatever protein you choose) and, if you like, some Parmesan shavings and a pinch of paprika.
3. Breakfast Birchia
Prep time: 10 minutes plus at least 1 hour standing
- 2/3 cup chia seeds
- ¾ cup cream or coconut cream
- 1 cup water
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 small apple, grated
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- a few raspberries (fresh, frozen or freeze-dried; optional)
1. Place all the ingredients except the raspberries in a bowl and mix well. Divide between serving bowls, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
2. Sprinkle over the raspberries just before serving.
Tips: Your birchia will vary in thickness and texture depending on whether you’re using cream or coconut cream (and also on the brand). Adjust the amounts of chia seed up or down to get it how you like it. Also, leaving it in the fridge longer will give you a thicker birchia.
The exact portion size depends on your appetite – dish up what suits you on the day and keep leftovers in the fridge; it keeps for up to three days.
4. Mighty Meatballs
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
For the meatballs:
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 500 g minced beef or lamb
- 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 1 egg, whisked
- 2 tbsp almond meal
For the sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 carrot, grated
- 400 g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup grated cheese of your choice (mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, etc., or a mix)
- a few sprigs of basil leaves, roughly torn
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C regular).
2. Place all the meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix well with your hands (or a spoon). Shape the mix into about 16 meatballs and place in the fridge until needed.
3. Heat the oil in a large oven-proof frying pan or stovetop-safe casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, carrots and tomatoes. Stir to mix, bring up to the boil and add the vinegar.
4. Remove the meatballs from the fridge and carefully place them into the sauce. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Carefully remove from the oven and sprinkle over the cheese, then return to the oven to cook for another 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown.
6. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the Broccoli & Zucchini Fry (or another accompaniment of your choice).
7. To serve, top with the meatballs and sauce, sprinkle with basil and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil just before serving.
5. Zuchetti Carbornara
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
For the zucchetti:
- 4 zucchinis
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the carbonara sauce:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 4–5 rashers smoked bacon (streaky works best),
- thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 punnet (250 g) mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup cream
- ¼ cup white wine or
- chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 egg yolks
- small bunch of chives, parsley or
- tarragon, roughly chopped
- Parmesan shavings
- extra virgin olive oil
- To replace the bacon: ½ cup grated cheese
1. Cut the zucchini with a vegetable peeler or with a spiralizer into noodles. Set aside.
2. Start making the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion with a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, for 2–3 minutes until starting to soften but not colour. Add the garlic, bacon and mushrooms, and continue to cook for about 3 minutes until everything has softened. Stir in the cream and the wine or stock. Turn the heat down to low.
3. Grab another medium to large frying pan (or a large saucepan), place it over a high heat and quickly fry the zucchetti in the olive oil for 1 minute. Set aside in the pan to keep warm.
4. Bring the carbonara sauce just up to the boil, remove from the heat and immediately stir through the egg yolks. Continue stirring continuously until the yolks are thoroughly mixed through the sauce. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir through the chopped herbs.
5. To serve, make a small mound of zucchetti in wide serving bowls. Spoon over the carbonara sauce, then top with Parmesan shavings, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some cracked black pepper.
Vegetarian option: Cook the vegetables without the bacon until softened, then stir in the cream, wine or stock, and grated cheese. Cook the zucchetti, then bring the sauce just up to the boil, stirring constantly to ensure that the cheese has melted, then remove from the heat and add the egg yolks.
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