Basics of Keto | Benefits | How to Start

Keto 101 The basics of the ketogenic low carb diet

This website was created to offer readers delicious, interesting low-carb and keto recipes with carefully-calculated macros per serving. My recipes have been developed so that readers can plan their meals accordingly and be confident in the knowledge that they can safely stick to their daily goals.

However, assuming not all my visitors completely understand the benefits of low-carb or living keto, I created this page because I felt it was important to give some basic information to curious (or clueless) visitors that may want to learn a bit more about this life-changing lifestyle – and also shed some light on why I am such a passionate ambassador.

I have explained the basics of keto below in much the same way I would chat to a curious friend at a dinner party, or the way I would text it to a desperate, out-of-shape friend that reached out to me. I have also included a few quality links throughout where expert doctors and professionals can explain the benefits of going low-carb / keto better than I can.

Let’s start at the beginning with what we know about ‘recommended nutrition’. Let’s go all the way back to 6th grade life science / biology. It varied from country to country, but basically we were taught The Pyramid and the main food groups:

– Grains and Cereals
– Vegetables, Fruit & Legumes
– Proteins (meat, fish and eggs)
– Dairy
– Fats and Oils

Our syllabus, teachers, books (and doctors!) told us to consume these in specified amounts and they showed it to us in a visual pyramid. Do you remember that pyramid? It showed loads of bread, grains and rice to be your maximum consumption, followed by fruit and vegetables, then some meat, fish and dairy, and then a teeny-tiny amount of oils and fats at the top.

Now… forget about that pyramid! We are fatter and sicker than ever: going LOW FAT and HIGH GRAIN has clearly not worked for us. The rise in processed (inflammatory) food hasn’t helped us either…

Why the food pyramid is wrong

 

On a low-carb / keto diet, we look at the data that is listed on nutritional labels on food all over the world. These are known as the macronutrients (macros) and are divided into Fats, Carbs and Protein (and Calories – which may or may not be important to you).

 

Nutrition label collage of multiple packaging labels. Nutrition facts show quantities of ingredients in products, including calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates

 

We look at how food sits on a Carbohydrate, Fat & Protein scale and we use the recommended macro breakdown to plan our meals.

Carbs should be low, protein should be moderate and fats should be high (and from natural sources).

We do not fit in with the food groups on the suggested pyramid (which, ironically is almost-perfect if you turn it upside down for keto). It’s also why your keto friend skips the ‘healthy’ fruit & granola at brunch and chooses bacon and eggs instead: she is eating what won’t raise her blood sugar levels. Equally important on keto, we aim to eliminate inflammatory foods as much as possible. This includes processed food and vegetable oils.

It is important to understand why weight loss occurs: When you limit the carbohydrate (your body’s first source of fuel) intake a lot, your body has no other source of energy and taps into fat (stored and consumed) for fuel. It’s a magical metabolic shift that happens.

 

On keto, your daily calorie consumption should ideally come from:
70-80% fats
20-25% proteins
5-10% carbs

 

After some time of committed keto, you will start burning fat for fuel (this is known as nutritional ketosis – a natural and healthy state for the body to be in – and not to be confused with ketoacidosis, which is in fact very dangerous). The aim is to remain in this state of ketosis (so you can’t ‘cheat’) – and you start experiencing wonderful benefits like reduction in cravings, increased energy and mental clarity. I have read of countless people using keto to improve their PCOS symptoms and even coming off their T2 diabetes medication (under medical supervision, of course).

Regarding fats… We have been taught to avoid saturated fats: animal fats , dairy fats or fats that are ‘solid-at-room-temperature’. However, the only fats we need to avoid are the ‘factory-made’ ones: artificial, processed trans fats (like sunflower or canola oil). Check labels: avoid foods which include the words ‘shortening,’ ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ’hydrogenated vegetable oil.’ In other words, ditch your ‘low-fat margarine’ and replace it with delicious, real butter! Do not be afraid of natural fat.

It’s also important to bear in mind that strict keto followers do more than just monitor carbs. They also eliminate inflammatory foods – even if they still fit comfortably in their allowable macros. I will leave you to research that yourself, but the ketogenic diet is essentially an anti-inflammatory diet, and who doesn’t want the health benefits along with weight loss? On my recipes, I highlight which recipes are strict ‘keto’ and which are just simply low-carb. They are all, however high-fat – so unless you are planning on committing to this lifestyle with every meal, be mindful of this.

Many people also completely eliminate dairy. I have heard that they have a lot of success doing this, and I support them all the way – but I couldn’t do it: I love double cream and cheese far too much! I also have no dairy intolerance and consuming it in moderate amounts has not affected my weight loss journey.

Check out the ABOUT page on this website where I go into a little more detail.

 

BENEFITS OF THE KETOGENIC DIET

  1. WEIGHT LOSS – Yes please!
  2. APPETITE CONTROL – No more stomach rumbling cravings. Sugar addiction is no more.
  3. BETTER MENTAL FOCUS – No more inconsistent energy because of the rise-and-fall in blood sugar levels
  4. MORE ENERGY – As appealing as a nap after a carb-laden lunch is, imagine not needing one? Being in ketosis is like experiencing a never ending energy source.
  5. FIGHTS TYPE II DIABETES – Need we say more, but if you don’t believe us, read this
  6. INCREASES HDL CHOLESTEROL – Before you panic, HDL is the good one and escorts cholesterol away from the body and to the liver where it’s given the boot.
  7. LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE – If you’re stressed about your blood pressure, click on this link  and then take a deep breath, relax and know that you’re in good hands with the Ketogenic Diet.

 

HOW DO YOU START KETO?

  • Commitment
    How badly do you want it? If you are going into anything half-heartedly – don’t bother. Eating a high-fat diet while still consuming carbs is bad for your thighs and your heart. You simply cannot half-commit. The decision is not to be taken lightly: this is metabolic shift, and your body won’t care about your good intentions or your weak moments.
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  • Educate yourself
    Understand which foods are high in carbs.
    Understand which foods are allowed on keto and which are not.
    Then go through your pantry and fridge and toss out everything that does not fit into this lifestyle. I would start with sugar (the worst one!), breads, pastries, pasta, all grains and soft drinks. Throw out any vegetable oil – its evil stuff. This link might help for a detailed Food List – bookmark it for easy reference.
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  • Initial Substitutions
    Switch milk in your coffee for double cream. (cream is lower in carbs and higher in fat)
    Switch sugar for Erythritol. I use Truvia in my coffee and Swerve in my baking.
    Switch vegetable oils for olive oil or coconut oil – and fry your food in stable fats like butter, ghee or lard.
    Switch your snack items for high-fat keto-friendly ones. There are plenty of ideas here.
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  • Calculations
    Calculate your unique macro-requirements suited to your body. Then stick with it. Many people use an APP to track their daily macro food goals. It helps them a lot, especially in the beginning. I have never done this, but I do encourage you to give it a go. Click here to do this.
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  • Dedication and Planning
    Plan your meals ahead of time and take care in preparing them. Steer clear of anything ready-made until you become an expert at understanding all about keto.
    Keep it simple, start by eating fatty chicken, steak and fish – and serve it alongside green veggies or salads. This isn’t hard to do and I recommend it’s a good way to start. Don’t ‘pimp’ anything with store-bought marinades and sauces – keep it simple. The main meals on my site have lots of meat, chicken and fish options. Serve them with ideas from the side dishes. After a while, you can get more creative making bread alternatives & desserts and investing in special ingredients. I don’t advise doing all that in the early days, it will only discourage you.
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  • Support Groups and Accountability
    Join Keto and Low-carb Community groups on Facebook. Everyone is on the journey together and are all very supportive. There are hundreds of newbies every day and you can learn so much.
    A quick Facebook search in your country will list many groups, and there are plenty – so find one that you are happy with. I even run my own one – Keto Recipes for Foodies (UK) (but its still in infant stages, so why not join it and help our community grow!)On Instagram, run searches for “keto” on people – and follow them. There are hundreds-of-thousands of people on there sharing their meals to inspire you. Even more encouraging, there are SO many athletes, body-builders etc that swear by it. Here is my handle, FOLLOW ME.

 

Side Effects
Embrace that you will feel groggy in the first few days. This is not because you are under-nourished, it’s quite likely a carbohydrate-detox along with dehydration and loss of essential electrolytes) and it’s commonly referred to as Keto Flu. It means you are doing something right – so push through it. It’s temporary and it will pass. You may experience nausea, lethargy, headaches and leg cramps. Once it has passed, its unlikely to return unless you stop keto and have to start again. (This is why you will choose never to cheat!). I suffered a little fatigue for two days and Funnyman didn’t experience anything at all, so everyone is different.

Many people take electrolyte supplements, but I have never needed them. This link has some excellent information on keto flu and the need for supplements. I season my meals well with salt, and I assume this is why I have never needed electrolytes.

Some people also suffer constipation. I have never experienced this. I ensure that my daily allocated 20g carbs per day comes from a variety of high-fibre, nutritious vegetables – and a Bulletproof Coffee in the morning helps too!)

 

If I have done a completely useless job at explaining the basics of keto to you, these guys might explain it better, and if I still haven’t convinced you, check out these other SUCCESS STORIES on the (brilliant) Diet Doctor website.

 


 

Exciting news for foodies: Monya’s cookbook KETO KITCHEN (published by Kyle Books, London 2020) is coming to the market this summer. Its currently available to pre-order on Amazon.
 

 


 

I am a chef, not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor if you want to discuss this diet. All the information here is based on my (and my hubby’s) own experience.

 


 

DISCLOSURE: Like many blogs, I am part of the Affiliates Program on Amazon. The links to the products I recommend on this page are affiliate links, meaning – at no additional cost to you – I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.