If you're considering following a ketogenic diet plan there are a few things you need to know.
If you follow the keto diet to the letter it seems you will lose weight – potentially lots of it. But if you choose to revert back to your old eating habits, chances are you'll put it right back on again.
A key factor for long term success on any new eating plan is to keep going. The way to do that is by exploring new recipes that will keep your meals interesting and varied so you can adjust your actual lifestyle and not just the ingredients in your fridge.
Certain foods are a no-go on the keto diet (think carrots, bananas, pasta and cakes), so if you're serious about trying it you'd be wise to consider how it will affect you in the long-term by considering when and where you might be tempted to break the diet and undo all the good work you've achieved.
So, let's find out what exactly is the keto diet?
What is the Definition of Ketosis?
In order to whittle down a very science-y process and put it into layman's terms, ketosis is what happens when your body doesn't have enough glucose to use as fuel (carbs = glucose). When glucose is low, the liver produces ketones (formed out of fatty acids) which are used as fuel instead.
Kate Save, practising dietitian and CEO of Be Fit Food, (who produce ketogenic-balanced ready meals) says "With keto diets, the body switches from using sugar as a primary energy source, to using stored body fat when calories are restricted or just pure ketones from fat in food."
So, How Does the Keto Diet actually work?
Insulin is what the body uses to break down glucose. So whenever you eat a carbohydrate, the body turns it into glucose which triggers a rise in insulin levels which then break down the glucose. When you reduce your carb intake to approximately 30g per day there's not enough glucose so your body goes into ketosis. This happens when you're fasting, performing strenuous exercise or following the Keto Diet.
The aim of the keto diet is to keep your body at a low-glucose level so that instead of raising insulin levels to burn glucose, you're producing ketones which use fat for fuel.
In the long-term the benefits are that your body becomes a fat burning machine. But, it will only stay in that state as long as you stay below the line in terms of carb intake. As soon as you add that slice of bread or grated carrot to your salad, your carb intake will raise significantly and the body will revert back to the insulin-glucose process – and those muffin tops will reappear.
Lee Rogers' Keto Diet Review
Weighing in at a deadly 207.6kg, Lee Rogers' health was deteriorating rapidly. "I had suffered two renal failures, had high blood sugar levels and had been diagnosed as insulin resistant and pre-diabetic," says Lee. "I was also being tested for cancer due to an increase of my white cells. I knew I had to lose weight but had never been able to. I had tried everything from extreme gym work to starvation and nothing changed."
Lee visited a dietitian who prescribed him a low-fat, high-grain diet. But he gained another 15 kg. "My wife had been studying the ketogenic, low-carb, high-fat way of eating. We were trying for a second child and had suffered two miscarriages. My wife felt a healthier diet could help her body get stronger. When I saw her results I decided it was worth a try, as my only other option was surgery."
Can You Eat Your Favourite Foods on the Keto Diet?
A big concern for Lee was that he wouldn't reap the keto diet results. "I was highly sceptical. I had no belief that it would work because nothing I ever did worked and it seemed too good to be true."
At first Lee was confused about what to eat; "I was a sugar addict and it was tough for a couple of weeks." Then, three days in, he broke the diet. "I was at a rock concert in Sydney and drank Jack Daniels and Dry then I ate a chicken burger and chips at 1am that night and told my mate not to tell my wife."
"But, the next morning I got up and didn't even think about it, I just had a keto breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausages."
"Six weeks in I had a more pre-meditated break where I knew my wife was going to be out with her best friend and our daughter. I stocked up on chocolate, sweets and soft drink. After she was 30 minutes gone I ate it all in a binge fest. Immediately I hated myself for it and have never broken my lifestyle since."
I Was Overweight and Unhealthy
Christine Cronau is a nutritionist and author of Bring Back The Fat and The Fat Revolution. She runs a 12-week Keto Program for people who want to know how the diet works, but once upon a time she was 20kg overweight and struggling with a multitude of health issues.
"I grew up on a diet full of wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. It was a low-fat diet and I should have looked a picture of health in my early 20s, but I wasn't. Not only did I struggle with my weight, I had fatigue, IBS, insulin resistance, under-active thyroid, imbalanced hormones, bone loss and more."
I lost 20kg Eating Foods I Love
Today, Christine has a budding nutrition practice and talks to people about the keto diet for beginners and how the ketogenic diet can help with weight loss. Her journey started 18 years ago when she was 80kg and suffering with health problems, after a five minute conversation with a friend, who was a doctor.
"She mentioned some research she had been doing that indicated we should be eating more fat, including saturated fat," says Christine.
"I had massive concerns; it went against everything I had ever been taught nutritionally. I grew up in a family that threw away egg yolks and I was concerned about the extra fat causing heart disease or making me fat."
However, once she started following the ketogenic diet, she was blown away by the results.
"I never missed any of my favourite foods. Actually, it was the opposite because suddenly I was eating all the things that were previously forbidden; butter, bacon, eggs with yolks, full-fat cheeses, chicken with the crispy skin, whipped cream. It was a dieter's heaven."
"Suddenly I was eating all the things that were previously forbidden; butter, bacon, eggs with yolks, full-fat cheeses, chicken with the crispy skin, whipped cream. It was a dieter's heaven!"
With Keto, I Eat What I Want
"I used to be a low-fat vegetarian," says Christine. "Now, I generally eat fried eggs in butter for breakfast, sometimes with bacon on weekends. And, there is an endless myriad of delicious choices for lunch and dinner; foods like a big American burger (without the bun), roast vegetable salad, Caesar salad with creamy home-made dressing, butter chicken with cauliflower rice, confit duck with creamy cauliflower mash and pork belly with crackling."
"You couldn't pay me to go back to the way I used to feel on my low-fat diet."
Benefits of the Keto Diet
Christine explains there are a few things to watch out for when you switch to the keto diet.
"Many people start the keto diet for weight loss, but it is often the last thing they talk about when they tell their story. I didn't realise how bloated and uncomfortable I was on a daily basis, and that it wasn't normal!"
"One of the true freedoms about going keto is getting rid of all that uncomfortable bloating, and most of my patients say the same thing. The other thing that continues to surprise me is just how many health benefits there seem to be … I was able to reverse all of my health conditions, which still blows my mind."
Keto Flu and Other Negative Side Effects
Christine warns that when people go keto they can feel shocking for the first four weeks or so while the body converts from running on glucose to running on fat. "As those glucose stores run out, most people crave and feel pretty flat. But the freedom and the energy on the other side of that is priceless."
Sarah Stokes, 48, has been on the keto diet on and off for about 5 years and her experience of keto flu includes extreme thirst. "For the first 10 days I have a wake-up-in-the-night thirst that no amount of water can quench."
"I was at a workshop the other day and I drank 2.5 jugs of water from the table - just me!" During the keto flu stage, Sarah also suffers from headaches and has ongoing constipation - a common side effect of eating keto foods.
For most, the headaches and grumpiness usually go away after the first few weeks but the jury is out on whether the constipation can be alleviated. For Sarah, she has learned to live with it but others say increasing your water or eating more keto friendly veg can help.
Some people worry about the dangers of a keto diet: eating all that meat and fat can't be good for you, right?, Far from being meat-only, the keto diet plan is suitable for vegetarians as it includes a multitude of vegetables: celery, bok choy, cabbage, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, capsicum and rocket to name a few. Vegetables that are to be avoided include pumpkin, carrots, onion and leeks due to their higher carbohydrate content. You can eat as much meat and cheese as you like.
Fruits are a bit different, especially bananas and apples which are a no-go as they have a high carb content. But go all out on the raspberries and blackberries. Even melon has a relatively low-carb count as do tomatoes, but just be careful with portion control.
It's important to get as many different nutrients onto your plate as possible so sticking to the general rule of having something colourful on your plate at every meal is a good basis to keep away the flu and abide constipation.
Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid
A regular keto meal plan will include lots of green leafy veg, chicken, seafood, fish, eggs and nuts. Snacks are usually a small handful of nuts but the keto diet is known for being extremely satiating (due to he high-fat content) so snacks are often not needed.
Yes, You Can Have Dessert!
If you're wondering how to do the keto diet and are searching for inspiration there are many keto recipes. In her book, Bring Back the Fat Cookbook - Easy Keto in 30 Minutes or Less, Christine Cronau has included lots of keto cauliflower recipes and some amazing desserts, like this one.
Lemon Mousse Cups
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Makes: 8 small mousse cups
1 sheet titanium strength gelatin (5g)
1 lemon rind, finely grated or half
1/4 cup lemon juice (including pulp)
12 scoops Nirvana pure stevia
400 ml (2/3 cup) cream
- Soak gelatin in cold water.
- Gently warm cheese in a saucepan (to prevent gelatin from lumping).
- Squeeze most of the excess water out of the gelatin and heat gently in a small saucepan.
- Add the gelatin to the cheese (use a spatula to remove all of it) and whisk until smooth.
- Add lemon juice and rind and continue mixing.
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream until almost fully whipped, then fold through the cheese mixture.
Recipe extract courtesy of Christine Cronau. Bring Back The Fat Cookbook is due for release in March 2019. Available from christinecronau.com.
Can You Stay on the Keto Diet Forever?
For Christine and Lee - who lost a total of 122kg between them, staying on the keto diet for good is a no-brainer. "It's my lifestyle now," says Lee. "When you have lived your entire life in an obese state feeling there is no hope, almost to the point of giving up on life, and then you find something that works… you stay with it."
Christine, who has been on the diet for 17 years agrees, "Once I went keto, I gained a bit of weight (like people often do after they stop dieting) and it did freak me out, but then the extra weight just went away on its own, and I have stayed around 60kg ever since. The great thing now is that despite eating all those 'forbidden' foods, I haven't had to think about my weight in all that time."
"When you have lived your entire life in an obese state … and then you find something that works … you stay with it."