What is a keto diet?

What is a keto diet?

Decided to try a ketogenic diet? Or interested in learning more?

We’ve put together this guide to help you get started or learn more about the keto diet and whether it’s right for you.

What is ketogenic eating?

Ketogenic eating, or a keto diet, is a high fat, very low carb diet. The keto diet typically comprises cutting your carb intake to around 5-10%, raising your fat intake to around 70-75%, and keeping your protein intake at around 20%.

The keto diet has many similarities to the Atkins diet, among others, although macros ratios can vary. 

The main purpose of a ketogenic diet is to put your body in a state of ‘ketosis’.

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a process that your body uses to create energy in the absence of glucose from carbohydrate rich foods. 

Normally, your body would break down carbohydrates to release glucose, which it uses for energy. In the absence of glucose, your body will use fats as its source of fuel (energy) instead. 

The energy from fat sources is created in the form of ketones - a chemical that your liver produces after breaking down fat. Hence the term, ketosis.

How can I introduce a keto diet plan into my daily routine?

A keto diet can be quite difficult to introduce to start with. This is mainly because the typical western diet is high in carbohydrates (especially processed foods).

  • A great place to start is to learn which foods are high in carbs, fat, and protein. This will help you choose the right foods to include in your diet. It’s not just bread and pasta that are high in carbs, for example. Some vegetables, fruits, and nuts also contain carbohydrates.
  • Forget what you thought you knew about fat – the keto diet is a high-fat diet. However, there is a prevalent view in western society that fat is bad for you. That’s not the case. Fat is a nutrient, much like carbohydrates and protein. There are, however, different types of fat - unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), saturated fats, and trans fats (hydrogenated). The key is to eat mostly unsaturated fats, limit saturated fats, and avoid trans fats.
  • Research keto-friendly recipes – the internet is full of recipes that are great for a ketogenic diet. There are also some great keto recipes listed in the recipes section of our website too.
  • Track your food. A great way to ensure you are eating the right nutrients in the right quantities is to track what you are eating with a free nutrition tracker such as MyFitnessPal. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play. You can input the percentage of fat, protein, and carbohydrates you want to eat as part of your diet and scan the barcodes of the foods you eat to track them, among many other helpful things.
  • Start slowly. If you’re finding it difficult to switch straight onto a very low-carb, high-fat keto diet then try slowly reducing your carb intake and raising your fat consumption over time instead. It will take you longer to reach ketosis but it should make the change easier for you.

What are the benefits of a keto diet plan?

There are a number of benefits associated with ketosis and a keto diet. These include:

  • Stabilise blood sugar levels - limiting carbs can improve sensitivity to insulin
  • Reduced appetite and cravings - putting your body in a state of ketosis can positively influence your hunger hormone levels
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weight management - keto diets can be more effective than low-fat diets for weight management
  • Mental clarity - keto diets have been linked to improved focus and memory
  • Possible medical condition treatment - more research is needed but it has been suggested that a keto diet can help support the therapy for conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

How to eat on a daily keto plan?

In order to put (and keep) your body in ketosis, you need to make sure that you are eating plenty of foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Protein is a key nutrient, too, but the keto diet is not a high-protein diet, so a healthy amount of protein (around 20%) is great. 

There are a few types of foods that are keto-friendly and great for a keto diet and certain foods that should be avoided or only eaten in very small amounts.

What can’t you eat on a keto plan?

Sometimes it’s easier to rule out what you can’t do first of all before you move on to what you can do. So, here’s a list of certain foods that you should avoid while on a ketogenic diet.

  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn.
  • High-sugar, high-carb fruits such as bananas, mango, and grapes. 
  • Beans and grains such as black beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, and millet.
  • Pasta, bread, and rice (unless it’s low-carb pasta and bread like Lizza’s of course!)
  • Beers and mixed drinks - sorry! Most beer, liqueurs, and mixers have a high carb content.
  • Juice - another one for the drinks list. A lot of fruit juice contains high sugar content and low dietary fibre.
  • Sodas - the same goes for sodas. Most sodas have a very high carb content and one can can send you over your daily carb limit. Although, sugar-free versions are ok to drink in moderation.
  • Sauces - ketchup, bbq sauce, and sweet chilli sauce, for example, are packed with sugar and, while not as high in carbs as other types of food on the list, they can quickly add up if you’re adding certain sauces to every meal.
  • Low-fat foods - keto is a high-fat diet, remember, so opting for low-fat options is a no no.
  • Sweetened or flavoured yoghurt and dairy products. These will increase your carb count. Go for unsweetened and natural options such as greek yoghurt or unsweetened almond milk.
  • Dried fruit and trail mix. These can be high in sugar and carbs.
  • Honey and syrups. Honey has 17g of carbs in a single tablespoon. They are, essentially, concentrated sugar.
  • Chocolate. Another apology! But milk and white chocolate are not keto-friendly as they are high in sugar. Dark chocolate with at least a 70% cacao content and low added sugar is ok in moderation though. You can even purchase keto-friendly dark chocolate!

What can you eat on a keto diet?

Now that the bad news has been delivered and you know what foods you can’t eat on a keto diet, let’s move onto all the wonderful foods you can eat to keep your body in ketosis!

  • Fish and seafood such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna.
  • Meat and poultry. Although try and reduce the amount of processed meat you eat to a minimum.
  • Eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein and help keep you satiated.
  • Low-carb vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, spinach, kale, cucumber etc.
  • Cheese - high in fat, rich in protein, and with no carbs, cheese is great for a keto-diet.
  • Avocados - rich in healthy fats, avocados are perfectly suited to a keto diet.
  • Unsweetened, natural yoghurt.
  • Healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Nuts and seeds. Most nuts and seeds are full of healthy fats, protein, and fibre so fit the bill perfectly for the keto diet. Nuts like almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, and seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds are all great.
  • Tea and coffee are fine as long as they are not sweetened.
  • Berries like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are all good.
  • Dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao content.

How many carbs can you eat in a keto diet?

On a ketogenic diet, you want to be eating around 5-10% carbs as part of your total daily calorie intake.

The average adult needs around 2000 calories a day. 5-10% carbohydrates on a 2000 calorie diet roughly equates to around 40 grams.

Generally, you want to keep your carbohydrate amounts to less than 50g a day. 

Is a keto diet safe?

As with any diet, it is always recommended that you consult your healthcare provider for advice before you start.

There have been studies on the keto diet and putting your body into a state of ketosis that have shown a number of benefits, but more research is needed to outline the long-term benefits of the keto diet.

For most people, a keto diet will be perfectly safe and may even provide many of the benefits outlined previously.

However, it is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, people with kidney problems, people with IBS, or people with osteoporosis.

What can you drink on a keto diet?

As with a lot of diets, there are a few different types of drinks that should be avoided. Beer, sodas, fruit juice, energy drinks, and sweetened or flavoured milks are usually high in sugar and carbs, so most are a no-go.

There are still plenty of drinks that you can choose from though, such as:

  • Water (obviously).
  • Sparkling water - most sparkling options are unsweetened, making them low-carb.
  • Flavoured waters - most are fine for a keto diet as they use very small amounts of flavourings, just check the label for the carb/sugar amounts.
  • Teas (including black, green, and herbal tea) and coffee as long as you don’t add anything that’s high in sugar or carbs to it.
  • Zero-sugar sodas are ok in moderation (although still not the healthiest of choices).
  • Plant-based unsweetened milk. Although cows milk is generally to be avoided due to the amount of natural sugars, unsweetened plant-based milk like almond and coconut are a good option.
  • Low-carb, low-sugar sports drinks. Most sports drinks contain electrolytes, which can help combat something called ‘keto flu’ that can occur when you first start on a keto diet. However, you’ll need to check the labels and avoid high-sugar sports drinks. Or you could add electrolyte powders to your water.
  • Some liqueurs such as vodka, whiskey, and rum are carb free, making it ok to enjoy them as part of a keto diet. However, be careful if you add a mixer as many are high in sugar and not good for a keto diet. Use zero-carb mixers and avoid fruit juice and tonic water.
  • Beer! Ok, only certain types of beer. Luckily for beer drinkers, some beer makers produce low-carb beer. Just check that what you’re drinking or buying is low-carb before you pop the cap.

Are there any side effects of a keto diet?

As with any restrictive diet or any diet that drastically changes your nutrition, there can be some side effects while your body adjusts to the new normal. Although, the keto diet is normally a perfectly safe diet for most people.

Some side effects of the keto diet that have been reported are:

  • Low energy
  • Increased hunger
  • Nausea
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Tiredness and trouble sleeping
  • Lower performance during exercise
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

While these are not very common symptoms, if you do experience any as you transition onto a keto diet, we suggest slowing the speed at which you go onto the diet and increasing your carb intake and lowering your fat intake. Once you adjust to the new levels, you can lower the carbs more and increase the fats. Do this slowly, one stage at a time as your body adjusts, until you reach the optimal nutrient levels to put your body in ketosis. It can be a learning curve, after all.

Is a keto diet good for diabetics?

One of the benefits of the keto diet is that it can regulate blood sugar levels and research has suggested that a keto diet can help people with type 2 diabetes by lowering their blood sugar levels as well as losing weight. 

The keto diet may also help reduce the need for insulin, improve insulin resistance, and increase and improve heart health and cognitive function, all of which are affected by those that suffer from diabetes.

A 2018 study that was published by Diabetes Therapy, claims that people with type 2 diabetes that were on a keto diet for one year reduced their A1C levels as well as reducing or eliminating their diabetes medication.

Type 1 diabetes, however, comes with an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to a medical emergency, so a keto diet is not recommended for anyone with type 1 diabetes.

We always recommend consulting your doctor before changing your diet if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Where to buy keto products 

There are many keto friendly or keto specific products available online or in stores.

At Lizza, we have a selection of keto friendly products to help you on your keto journey!

We even have a great Keto Bundle to help you make great tasting, low-carb, keto friendly bread at home!