The keto diet is a way of eating which turns the long-accepted rules of healthy eating on their head. Instead of being based - like most standard diets – around carbohydrates such as grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, fruit and minimal fat, the keto diet is based around a daily diet of 5 per cent carbs, 20 per cent protein and 75 per cent fat.
"In a nutshell, a ketogenic plan aims to push your body into ketosis, a natural occurrence whereby it switches from burning sugar (glucose) to burning fat," explains Alex Glover, Senior Nutritionist at Holland & Barrett. "We can encourage the body to go into ketosis naturally by limiting the amount of carbohydrate and protein we consume."
What to eat on a keto diet
Unfortunately for any bread and pasta lovers out there, this involves severely cutting the amount of carbohydrates in our diet. "This not only includes our favourite stodgy foods, but also many items normally considered healthy, including most fruit and some vegetables that are high in carbohydrate. Good sugar or refined sugar - it is all carbs," says Alex.
The good news is that there are plenty of foods you can eat.
"Since your body will be getting fewer carbs, it will have to rely on fats for energy. This makes eating the right kinds of fats even more important," says Alex. "The healthiest types of fats are monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which come from foods like olive oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, tofu and sunflower oil. You can also fill your plate up with non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, spinach and courgette to ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients in your meals."
Replace your fibre
When limiting your carb intake as much as you do on the keto diet, it’s likely that your fibre intake will be reduced too – which could leave you feeling backed up and sluggish on the digestion fruit.
"A keto-friendly way to combat this is to introduce fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or kimchi into your diet plan as they’re rich in probiotic bacteria to help your gut microbiome and digestive system," Alex suggests. "You’ll also want to up your salt intake as your kidneys may excrete more sodium during ketosis which could lead to symptoms of keto flu. Be sure to get some high-quality sodium into your meals to keep your electrolytes in check."
Stock up on protein
"Since your body won’t be getting energy from glucose, the role of protein in the keto diet is key for ensuring that it doesn’t use your muscles as a form of energy instead, which can lead to a big reduction in muscle mass," says Alex. The best proteins to eat are from fish like trout, salmon, tuna and mackerel as they also contain high levels of healthy fats.
Top ten Keto foods:
Meat including steak, red meat, sausage, ham, chicken, turkey and bacon.
Fatty fish like trout, salmon, tuna and mackerel.
Butter and cream - grass-fed varieties are best, if possible – otherwise, just stick to the regular stuff.
Eggs - look for omega-3 eggs if you can for added nutrients.
Cheese - choose cheeses like goat, cream, cheddar, mozzarella and blue where possible.
Nuts and seeds - Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds are all wonderful additions to the keto diet, packed full of nutrients to keep you fuelled throughout the day.
Avocados - Thankfully both whole avocados or home-made guacamole are suitable for keto.
Healthy oils like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil are the best kinds of oils to use on this diet.
Low-carb vegetables – so many to choose from including cauliflower, cabbage, courgette spinach lettuce, asparagus, kale and cucumber.
Low-carb fruits like raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, plums. Kiwi fruit, cherries and clementines.
Keto breakfast ideas
• Eggs (scrambled with cream, soft or hard-boiled, poached with spinach and hollandaise, omelette with cheese and bacon, etc.)
• Low-carb bread (usually made using almond flour, eggs or vital wheat gluten) with butter
• Chocolate tofu smoothie
• Cooked meaty or veggie breakfast (sausages, eggs, tomato, mushrooms all fine)
• Cheese and meat platter
• Protein shake
• Porridge or bran-based porridge
• Pancakes made from almond flour and protein powder
• Full-fat Greek yoghurt with flax seeds (linseeds) and almonds
Keto lunch ideas
• Salad with plenty of meat, cheese (or vegan alternative) and a creamy dressing or mayonnaise
• Devilled eggs or egg mayo (or vegan version) with a green vegetable on the side
• Hummus with radishes and chicory
• Tomato soup with cheddar cheese
• Low-carb quiche (using ground almonds for the base)
Keto dinner ideas
• Stir fry with loads of bean sprouts instead of noodles
• Curry with no rice or bread, but many of the other sides, such as raita (using full-fat yoghurt) and tomato and onion chutney
• Cauliflower cheese
• Spinach and cream cheese gratin
Keto snack ideas
• Almonds or Brazil nuts
• Low carb hot chocolate (made with sweetener, not sugar)
• Chunk of cheese
• Sugar-free jelly with cream
• Celery stick filled with unsweetened nut butter
• Green olives
• Greek yoghurt with flax seeds (linseeds)
• 1/4 avocado with vinaigrette
• Ready-made low-carb, high protein snack bars