If you’re thinking about experimenting with keto diet, there’s a lot to learn.
Figuring out what to eat on keto diets and what not to eat can be quite a challenge. You know you’re not allowed processed grains and sugary foods, like pizza and cake. After all, the whole point is to cut down on carbs and increase fats.
However, many of the foods you’ll need to avoid might not be as apparent as they seem.
Today, we’re going to explore some of the basics of the keto diet plan and what you need to know to follow this eating strategy safely.
The Keto Diet Explained: Basic rules
The keto diet (or ketogenic diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The idea is that you significantly cut your carb intake and replace carbohydrates with fat. Most people on the diet eat around 20-50 grams of carb each day.
As a result, you end up accessing “ketosis”. When you’re in ketosis, you begin becoming more efficient at burning fat for energy. The keto diet also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which helps to energise the brain.
So, is the keto diet a good idea?
According to our Singapore-based health coach, Shien Ping, the keto diet isn’t as healthy for some as it is for others. Your genetic profile can determine how sensitive to fat you are. This means that in some cases, switching carbs for fat will cause you to gain weight rather than losing it.
Ultimately, there’s no such thing as one diet that works for everyone.
Let’s take a look at the food list and see whether it might be right for you.
What to eat on a keto diet: The food list
The good thing about the keto diet is you can still eat quite a lot of foods. There are a ton of keto diet recipes out there to guide you if you’re a beginner. In general, you’ll be able to munch on:
- Seafood and fish: Fish rich in potassium, B-vitamins, and selenium is great for your keto diet, and it’s great for increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Low-carb vegetables: low-carb vegetables (broccoli, green beans and bell peppers) are great for accessing various nutrients and antioxidants.
- Plain yoghurt and cottage cheese: High in calcium and protein, these foods will give you an amazing boost and reduce your appetite.
- Avocados: Heart-healthy fats like avocados are fantastic for gaining monounsaturated fat and potassium. This could be a great replacement for animal fats.
- Cheese: Cheese has no carbs, and it’s high in fat, making it a perfect fit for a keto diet plan. It’s also packed full of calcium and protein. Just be careful about saturated fats.
- Poultry and meat: Meat is a fantastic source of lean protein and a staple of the keto diet. This could mean it’s harder to follow the keto diet plan if you’re a vegetarian.
- Eggs: Eggs are also common in the keto diet food list. Eggs are high in B vitamins, protein, antioxidants, minerals, and more. You also don’t have to worry about carbs.
- Seeds and nuts: Seeds and nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, as well as protein and fibre. They’re low in carbs too! Make sure you double-check the amount of carbs in each nut or seed before you start eating.
- Berries: Berries are fantastic for antioxidant content, and they reduce inflammation. A shot of berries will be low in carbs and high in fibre.
- Chocolate (dark): Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, and flavonoids, which reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Coffee and tea: As long as you skip the sugar, unsweetened coffee and tea are great for the keto diet. Some coffee studies indicate that it helps to lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
What NOT to eat on the Keto Diet
Knowing what to eat on keto diets is only half the battle. You also need to be aware of which foods to stay away from. The toughest one for most people is “grains”. This counts for all kinds of bread-based items, like buns, wraps, and pizza.
The amount of carbs you can include in your keto diet plan will depend on the kind of strategy you’re following. For instance, the standard ketogenic diet plan is 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. However, there are other options. The high-protein ketogenic diet for gaining muscles includes 5% carbs, 35% protein, and 60% fat. The targeted ketogenic diet allows carbs around workouts too.
There’s also the cyclical keto diet which involves periods of ketogenic and high-carb days. Here are the foods you’ll generally avoid:
- Grains: Crackers, cereal, rice, bread, pasta – they’re all high in carbohydrates. Even pasta isn’t suitable for your keto diet, hence the recent increase in spiralised vegetables and unique Asian noodles.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, beets and the like have more carbohydrates than fibre, making them less ideal for keto diets. A single potato has around 37g total carbs. Even certain fruits are no good. For instance, bananas account for 27g total carbs.
- Sweet yoghurts: Sweetened and flavoured yoghurts include added sugars, which is an extra source of carbohydrates. Greek yogurt is a better alternative.
- Juices: Fruit juice is absolutely packed full of carbs that spike your blood sugar and harm your keto strategy.
- Honey, sugar, and syrup: Syrups and honeys contain sugar, which once again means an extra dose of carbohydrates.
- Crackers and chips: These foods contain processed grains, making them full of carbs. Chips and crackers aren’t always ideal for snacking
- Gluten-free baked foods: Gluten-free doesn’t mean carb-free. Many gluten-free muffins and breads are just as high in carbs as traditional versions.
Quick Tips for Beginners
The keto diet can be a little tricky to grasp.
Technically, you can eat any food you like – as long as it falls within your goals for daily carbohydrate consumption. For instance:
- Can I eat butter on keto diet? Yep, it’s high in fat, and it’s low in carbs, so you can go right ahead and eat as much butter as you like.
- Can I drink milk on keto diet? Milk is a great source of calcium and B vitamins – but you’ll be better off choosing almond, coconut and similar low-carb alternatives.
- Can I eat beans on keto diet? Yes, but only in small amounts. They’re high in fibre and protein, but they’re also high in carbs.
It’s also worth noting that a keto diet can be quite difficult to get used to at first. Though your first day on the diet might feel fine, you will experience changes as you shift away from carbos.
What to Expect
By the time you reach your second day on the keto diet, don’t expect to feel your best. Experts refer to the second-day fatigue as “carb flu”, which means you basically feel unwell because your body isn’t getting enough carbs. You’re trying to figure out how to live without glycogen, and this leads to aching muscles, nausea, and even mood swings.
Day 3 is often the worst for carb flu, and your body will be transitioning to processing fats for fuel, making stomach pains more likely. When you hit day four, you’ll start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you’re likely to still feel somewhat exhausted. Try using some recipes online to cheer yourself up.
As you approach the end of your first week, you’ll be hitting your groove. By now, you should have a good sense of what it looks like to eat a low-carb diet. You may not hit ketosis yet, but you will get there eventually. The start of the second week is usually when your “carb flu” symptoms dissipate, and you begin to feel a lot better in yourself.
Your appetite should be more controlled, and your energy levels will begin to increase.
Bottom Line: Pros and Cons
So, is a keto diet a good idea?
That depends on you.
There’s solid evidence out there that indicates a low-carb diet can be a beneficial thing. Lots of people notice a loss of weight with this kind of diet, and you could even find that a keto diet helps in other ways too. Research indicates that ketogenic diets might be good for people with epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries, tumours, and more.
Unfortunately, like any restrictive diet, ketogenic diets are going to be difficult. It’s hard to meet your nutritional needs when you follow this strategy long-term. Plus, there’s a chance that your genetics might not be ideal for keto.
- You don’t have to avoid fats, like butter
- You can lose weight and reduce your appetite
- Specific health benefits (like reduced seizures)
- Improved mental focus and clarity
- Overall better food management
- Not ideal for everyone
- Difficult to sustain
- Causes nutrient deficiency long-term
As we mentioned above, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet that’s suitable for everyone. The only way to find the perfect diet for you, is to experiment, with the advice of your doctor. It’s also worth getting to know your genes a little better first. Knowing how you respond to things like fats and carbs will help you make better diet decisions.