The ketogenic diet is having a hot minute in the limelight right now. It’s being written about and talked about on so many platforms that it’s almost impossible you haven’t heard about it in one way or another.
If you’re on this article, it’s likely you’ve heard a few of the benefits of the keto diet and you’re wanting to see what it’s really all about. Well, we’re going to tell you exactly what it is, the science behind it and how to eat a ketogenic diet properly. There’s also a great 2 week meal plan at the end of this article, full of delicious meal ideas and a schedule you can try out if you’re wanting to give this a go.
What is a ketogenic diet?
The keto diet dates back to the 1920’s, it was used by doctors at this time to control seizures in epileptic patients. As a medical cure of such importance, doctors would stress the need to keep accurate measurements of food consumed during this diet to ensure the most effective results – this is still a huge part of the diet today.
During the 90’s, the Atkins diet was widely used which involved a similar low-carb approach. This brought the attention back to the ketogenic diet and transformed it into the popular way of eating that it is today.
In a nutshell, the ketogenic (keto, for short) diet is a low-carb, high-fat way of eating that’s been proven to offer a heap of health benefits.
The body can use two different kinds of fuel, sugar or fat. In most modern diets, there’s a lot processed junk foods being consumed that contain a heap of sugar and carbohydrates – so almost everyone is burning sugar for their fuel. This results in unsteady blood sugar and energy levels, leading us to consume more calories and ultimately put on more weight.
The keto diet aims to put you into ketosis, a process where your body is using fat for fuel instead of sugar – meaning you’ll be burning fat 24/7! Your liver burns the fat, turning it into ketones which are then sent into your bloodstream at a steady and consistent rate.
Basically, to get into ketosis, you’re going to limit your carb intake to about 5% (below 50 grams a day) and the rest of your diet is going to be made up of healthy fats at 75% and protein at 20%. This are the ideal keto macronutrient ratios.
This might sound pretty restrictive and that’s because it is (compared to the average modern diet). You’re going to have to cut out a lot of the food you love, but the benefits are worth it and there are so many great foods you can eat that once you’re used to it you won’t feel restricted at all.
Who shouldn’t be consuming a ketogenic diet?
Due to the restrictive nature of this diet, if you fall into any of these categories you should steer clear of the keto diet or consult your doctor to see if it’s okay for you to try.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
- Anyone taking medication for diabetes
- Anyone taking medication for high blood pressure
Apart from that, you should be good to give this a go!
What are the benefits?
Now you know what it is and how it works, let’s dive into finding out how the keto diet can and will benefit you if done properly.
This is the main reason a lot of individuals want to try out the keto diet and it’s actually recommended by doctors and dieticians for this purpose because it works so well. As mentioned above, in ketosis the body uses fat for energy meaning you’re burning fat around the clock instead of only when you’re exercising.
In addition to that, insulin levels are reduced during ketosis – insulin is a hormone that stores fat so this reduction allows the body to release and burn more fat. In one study, it was found that individuals on the keto diet actually lost 2.2 times more weight than those who were on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet – you can’t argue with those numbers!
Burns fat, not muscle
When losing weight so quickly and efficiently, many people worry that their body may be eating away at their muscles for energy. With the keto diet, the adequate amounts of protein will protect you from this.
When the body and brain are being fueled by ketones, there is a steady flow of them being produced 24/7. This reduces the sugar spikes we experience with a normal diet so you’ll have more sustained, steady energy that will increase mental performance as well.
As mentioned just now, when you’re in ketosis your body is constantly being supplied with energy and so you’ll have less moments throughout the day where your body is telling you to eat because it’s tired. This makes it easy to lose weight and eat less because you’ll only need to eat when your body really requires it.
Stabilizes blood sugar
On the keto diet, your insulin and blood sugar levels are reduced and kept steady which can make it effective in managing type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that in some cases, sufferers of type 2 diabetes have even been able to come off their medication completely.
Since you’re not allowed to eat sugary, processed foods on the keto diet it’s likely that it will help get rid of acne. The high-fat nature of this diet won’t have negative effects on your acne because the fats are all healthy (numerous benefits for skin), controlled and burnt off during ketosis.
And many more
Apart from these benefits, the keto diet has been said to help with everything from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to even helping slow the growth of tumours for certain types of cancer. The benefits are practically endless, but that doesn’t mean that this diet doesn’t come with side effects, read below to find out what they are and how to manage them.
Possible side effects of the ketogenic diet
We know what you’re thinking – this was all too good to be true! But keep reading because the possible side effects of the keto diet are easier to avoid when you know what could be coming.
This is a common side effect of starting the keto diet that you’ll probably experience within the first week or so. The keto flu is a result of your body adapting to the low-carb state you’ve put it in after being used to a high-carb diet for so long.
It can include headaches, weakness, nausea, irritability, constipation and vomiting – sounds pretty rough, right? The best way to avoid this is by keeping up your salt and electrolyte intake and keep in mind that it only lasts about a week.
During ketosis, ketones exit the breath as acetone and can make your breath take on a fruity, rancid smell (your urine will smell pretty terrible too). This is an easy fix though, just use sugar free gum or brush your teeth a couple more times a day if it’s worrying you.
Mild digestive issues
Whilst your body gets used to this new way of eating, you may experience some constipation and diarrhea. To combat this, make sure you’re eating enough low-carb veggies which should give you enough fibre to stay regular.
In the first few weeks of changing over to the keto diet you may notice some insomnia or frequently waking up during the night.
If these side effects become anything more than mildly annoying, it’s best to speak to a doctor or dietician to make sure there’s nothing in your body that could be disagreeing with the keto diet.
Different kinds of keto diets
If you’re still here and the possible side effects above haven’t deterred you, then let’s take a quick look at the different types of keto diets you can try.
- Standard ketogenic diet – This is the standard version of the diet we’ve been discussing. As mentioned above, it’s typically 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet – This version involves rotating between the standard diet for around 5 days followed by about 2 days of higher carb consumption. This is meant to break ketosis and deplete your glucose reserves on the higher carb “refeeding” days. It’s popular among those wanting to build muscle and improve their exercise performance.
- Targeted ketogenic diet – This is another version of the keto diet that’s popular among individuals who exercise regularly and need a little more energy. Basically, to enhance exercise performance, a small amount of fast-absorbing carbs (bread, rice, etc.) will be consumed before, during or straight after intense workouts. If you get this right, you’ll burn off all the carbs during the workout and will go straight back into ketosis afterwards.
- High-protein ketogenic diet – This is the same as the standard diet but the ratios are 60% fats, 35% protein and 5% carbs. Bodybuilders and older people who wish to prevent the possible breakdown of muscle will use this version of the diet.
Foods you must avoid
Right, let’s get the painful bit out of the way – just rip it off like a bandaid. These are the foods you must stay away from during your keto diet to allow your body to enter ketosis.
- High-carb foods – This is going to be the biggest food group you need to avoid, if you consume these your body will automatically want to burn them instead of your fats. Foods like cake, biscuits, bread, grains, cereals, quinoa, pasta, rice, couscous and corn products.
- Dairy products – This category includes all those products that are similar to dairy too. Anything that’s had all of its good fats removed through processing or has a heap of added sugar or additives is a no-go. Foods like soy milk, rice milk, icecream, cheese spreads, fat-free or skim milk and condensed milk.
- Meats – Processed meats that have been seasoned or combined with other foods are full of sugar and you’ll need to avoid them. Foods like; meats with soy fillers or texturizers, over-processed meats, meats cured with sugar.
- Higher carb veggies and legumes – Cutting out veggies sounds a little counterproductive, but some of them are too high in carbs for you to consume during ketosis. Foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, beans and beetroot.
- Fats – These are some of the kinds of fats you want to avoid on this diet; margarine, seed oils, vegetable oil, corn oil.
- Sweeteners – You’re staying away from sugar, remember? That means in all its glorious forms and includes agave, cordial, dried fruit, lollies, fructose, honey, milk and any kind of natural sugar.
- Drinks – Most drinks have way more sugar and carbs in them than you’d ever know or care to consider. Here’s some of the ones you can’t have; orange juice, apple juice, beer, cider, soda.
- Other – Stay away from anything with a bunch of sugar added in or anything high in carbs basically. Avoid foods like bottled sauces and condiments, fast food, pre-packaged snacks, etc.
This is a basic list and doesn’t cover everything, so be sure to consult with a dietician or do a little extra research if there’s anything you’re unsure about.
Foods you can eat
Okay now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at all the yummy, healthy foods you can eat on the keto diet!
There’s a heap on offer to you here so you’ve got a great range of choices if you’re a meat-eater. Meats like beef, chicken, bacon, ham, pork, lamb, turkey, duck, eggs and heaps more.
Along with a heap of meats, you can also eat most seafood which is great news. You can eat tuna, salmon, prawns, crab, squid, octopus, tilapia, oysters, halibut and more, these are just a few of the more common ones.
Fats and oils
The keto diet is all about getting those healthy fats in so here’s some you’ll need to be getting in to ensure you’ve got steady energy throughout the day – butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, duck fat and avocado.
For keto meals you’re going to need to stick to the full-fat versions of all your dairy products. These are the kinds of products you can consume; parmesan cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, feta, fresh mozzarella, brie, edam, sour cream, yoghurt, butter and heavy cream.
You’ll need to stick to low sugar fruits like strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, lemon, lime, coconut and blackberries. Don’t overdo it with the fruit.
Remember we mentioned above that some veggies are too starchy to be consumed? Well these are the veggies that you should be eating. You’ve got lettuce, kale, spinach, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, olives, celery, cucumber, brussel sprouts and so many more available to you. Just go easier on the higher carbs veggies to make sure you’re staying under your carb limit.
Raw and roasted nuts and seeds are generally all high in healthy fats and low in carbs so you can have macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and more.
It’s important to pay attention to your drink choices when on the keto diet because you could be unwittingly drinking all your carbs and sugars. It’s best to stick to water but you can also have unsweetened tea and coffee, dry red wine every now and then and unsweetened, natural coconut water.
Whey or hemp protein powders are okay along with electrolyte supplements to keep you energised especially during the first week of transitioning to this diet.
Mayonnaise, almond and coconut flour, and spices like garlic, ginger, coriander, basil, etc. are all okay to eat on this diet.
As with our ‘do not eat’ list, this list isn’t comprehensive – it just contains the most common foods eaten on a keto diet, so be sure to chat to your dietician for more information.
2 Week Ketogenic Meal Plan
Now that you know what you can and can’t eat and how exactly to start a ketogenic diet, we’ve got a 2 week keto meal plan for you so that you can get an idea of exactly what meals you could be eating.
To keep it simple, you can try prepping two serves of the same meal for dinner and keep one serve for lunch the next day. You could also pick a favourite breakfast and stick to that everyday or have unsweetened coffee for breakfast if you’re not hungry (having only coffee for breakfast will increase your fat burning).
|Monday||Breakfast: Bacon and eggs cooked in bacon fat or olive oil
Snack: Celery and peanut butter
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil dressing and herbs/greens of your choice
Dinner: Zucchini noodles with mince beef and keto tomato pasta sauce
|Tuesday||Breakfast: Omelette with spinach and mushrooms
Snack: Handful of strawberries
Lunch: Smoked salmon with avocado
Dinner: Burrito bowl
|Wednesday||Breakfast: Green smoothie (avocado, spinach, lemon, etc)
Snack: Olive snack pack (green, black)
Lunch: Keto fish cakes
Dinner: Naked taco salad
|Thursday||Breakfast: Keto pancakes with blueberries
Lunch: Tuna salad with olive oil dressing
Dinner: Pork chops with green beans
|Friday||Breakfast: Keto coconut porridge
Snack: A couple squares of dark chocolate
Lunch: Chicken caesar salad
Dinner: Grilled salmon and greens
|Saturday||Breakfast: Fried eggs with sauteed kale and spinach
Lunch: Stuffed capsicums
Dinner: Broccoli and cheese soup
|Sunday||Breakfast: Boiled eggs
Snack: Parmesan chips
Lunch: Mexican chicken lettuce wrap
Dinner: Steak and cheesy broccoli
|Monday||Breakfast: Keto latte (eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract, etc.)
Lunch: Bunless beef burgers
Dinner: Meatballs and zucchini noodles with parmesan cheese
|Tuesday||Breakfast: Keto frittata (bacon, spinach, eggs, cheese, etc.)
Snack: Handful of macadamia nuts
Lunch: Asian beef salad
Dinner: Coconut chicken curry
|Wednesday||Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with a side of guacamole
Snack: Beef jerky
Lunch: Keto chicken soup
Dinner: Jalapeno poppers
|Thursday||Breakfast: Keto breakfast muffins
Lunch: Smoked salmon and greens (spinach, kale, etc.)
Dinner: Lamb kofta with greek salad
|Friday||Breakfast: Unsweetened coffee
Lunch: Keto quesadillas
Dinner: Steak and greens
|Saturday||Breakfast: Berry smoothie
Lunch: Slow-cooked pulled beef and salad
Dinner: Butter chicken with cauliflower rice
|Sunday||Breakfast: Fried eggs, tomato and sausage
Lunch: Chicken wings with your choice of seasoning/sauce
Dinner: Keto lasagne
And now for everyone’s favourite part, dessert! You can still have so many different, yummy desserts that will be sure to satisfy just about any sweet tooth out there. Here’s a few ideas:
- Keto chocolate cake
- Keto ice-cream
- Low-carb blueberry cupcakes
- Keto chocolate chip cookies
- Chocolate mousse (made with avocados!)
- Carrot cake balls
- Chocolate covered strawberries
- Keto cheesecake
The options are literally endless but these are just a few of the most popular desserts to get you going. A quick Google of “keto desserts” will give you so many recipes you won’t know what to do with yourself.
The ketogenic diet is super popular for a reason, because it works. Whilst weight loss is what it’s commonly used for, there are so many other awesome benefits to the keto diet.
If you’re someone who could benefit from a heap more energy and mental focus, lowered appetite, reduction in acne severity, an effective way to burn fat instead of muscle or a great way to stabilize your blood sugars and lower your insulin levels then the keto diet could be for you. A
nd these are just the short term benefits, a range of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s can be positively improved and affected in the long term.
Be sure to keep your salts and electrolytes up throughout the diet but especially in the first couple weeks of starting it so that you can avoid getting the ‘keto flu’ as much as possible.
Also keep in mind that you may have a few digestive issues as your body gets used to this new way of eating. Consult a dietician or your doctor if you’re concerned about anything.