The keto eating plan

Over the holidays might be the ideal time to try the keto diet, says dietitian Susie Burrell.

You’ve no doubt heard about the keto diet – the low-carb approach to fat loss that has devotees shouting about its superior results from the rooftops. But to start the diet, there’s a potentially painful transition period in which you need to clear glucose from your system to make way for burning fat.

Known as the keto flu, its symptoms include the kinds of headaches and fatigue associated with illness, so the best time to try the transition to keto might be when you’re off work in the festive season.

Ketogenic diets have been used for many years in clinical dietetics to help manage a range of conditions. A keto diet is simply one that’s exceptionally low in carbs (less than 50g or 20% of your total energy intake). When carbohydrates are reduced to this amount, the body shifts from burning glucose from carbs as its primary fuel source to burning ketones, a breakdown product that forms when fat is being used as the body’s fuel source.

For a ketogenic diet to be effective, literally no carb-heavy foods can be consumed. This means no rice, pasta, grains, legumes, fruit, starchy vegetables or dairy – just meat, fish, eggs, avocado, oil, nuts and seeds.

So how do you start? First, you need to get familiar with your overall food intake to keep your carbs at 50g per day (or even less for smaller females). Focus on meals containing a controlled portion of protein and a good fat; for example, half a small avocado and an egg or two, or a piece of salmon with a few steamed green vegetables and some olive or coconut oil. Snacks should include a portion of nuts or seeds, and you may be able to slip in a few berries and still keep your carbs under 50g. Just remember, you’ll need to stick to this diet for at least two to three days to get into ketosis and follow it for a few weeks to consolidate any weight you lose quickly.

The keto approach is a way of life. It’s not something you can go on and off and still get results, so it’s better to commit to it fully for a period of time or stick to a general low-carb approach that will also support weight loss in the long term.