Keying into Keto – The Hindu

Atkins, Paleo, raw food, vegan…it seems a new ‘fad diet’ is popping up every other week. However, in the race to shed some weight, finding the right diet that suits one’s body, lifestyle and taste-buds can be challenging. Among the many options, Ketogenic diet or keto, a fad with several celebrities now, is fast catching up in the city.

Cashing in on the trend are home chefs and entrepreneurs who claim to have experienced the benefits of the diet themselves. While fat-rich food does not exactly fit into most people’s idea of “diet food”, app-based Keto Republic offers burgers, pasta and biriyani to those on a keto diet.

Says Zaheer Ellias Najeeb, who runs Keto Republic: “Our burgers are bun-less; the pates are instead wrapped in lettuce leaves. As for the biriyani, we have replaced rice with grated cauliflower and our pasta is actually zucchini strips. The dishes are suited for those on a keto diet.”

A note to dieters

  • Ketogenic diet was initially introduced to epileptic patients as it helped control their seizures.
  • Dieters should follow the keto diet only as a means to lose weight. Practitioners should only follow it for two to three months and then shift to a restrictive diet with exercise.
  • Dieters do not get the required nutrients when on a keto diet and will require supplements.
  • Keto diet is not suited for all and it is always best to consult a doctor or dietician before starting it.
  • (Dr. Anita Mohan, former Kerala State Programme Nutrition Officer of Health Services)

For those not in the know, a ketogenic (keto) diet is one where you get most of your calories from fat, a moderate amount from protein and very little from carbohydrates. “The idea is to drastically reduce carbohydrate intake in the body and replace the carbohydrates with fats. This process puts the body in a state of ketosis. During ketosis, our body burns fat for energy efficiently,” he explains.

As his work required him to travel extensively, he could not regulate his diet or exercise and had thus put on weight. Upon a friend’s suggestion, Zaheer decided to go on a keto diet.

“I tried keto for a month and saw a difference in just a week. While most diets leave me feeling lethargic, this one actually made me feel energised.”

It also helped that Zaheer’s wife, Sherin, joined him on the idea. “Both of us would enter the kitchen and try out various keto recipes. Most people think fat is bad. But there are good fats, like what that we get from nuts, butter, whole eggs, cheese etc.” His friends, who noticed his physical changes, soon requested Zaheer to “send” them similar meals as well. That’s how Keto Republic began.

“There are a lot of people who are curious about the diet but are not trying it out as it sounds like a tough challenge — avoiding certain food and not really knowing what to eat. At Keto Republic, one can browse through the menu available on various food delivery apps and order what tickles their taste-buds.”

Almond and flaxseed dosa with fish curry from The Keto Kitchen

Almond and flaxseed dosa with fish curry from The Keto Kitchen  
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

While Keto Republic serves mostly continental dishes, The Keto Kitchen started by Dhanya Jacob and Rani Santhosh, has more of a desi touch. Almond and flaxseed dosa, keto puttu, country-chicken peralan, fish curry and cauliflower biriyani are among the dishes on offer. The venture began two months ago after Dhanya posted a query on social media asking whether there were takers for keto food. “The response was phenomenal. We now have 256 members in a WhatsApp group by the same name; all of them are our clients,” says Dhanya.

A nurse-turned homemaker, Dhanya claims to have lost weight after going on a Keto diet. Her neighbour, Santhosh, who joined her on her diet, also gushes about its benefits. The Keto Kitchen serves lunch and dinner.

“We try not to serve the same dish twice in the same week as we do not want the customers to be bored with the food,” says Rani, Santhosh’s wife. The dishes are cooked in coconut oil or butter while the salads are dressed in olive oil. Now, college-goers, techies, doctors, businessmen all form part of their dedicated clientèle. However, due to Lent, their service is on a pause.

What is ketogenic diet?

  • Keto is essentially a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. When on a keto diet, one avoids sugar in any form, starch and bad fat.
  • Source: The Internet

Dentist Suma Cherian, who often has food from The Keto Kitchen, says she is now preparing her own keto food. “As I don’t want a break from the diet, I make extra servings of thorans and make my own salads. I avoid root vegetables, which contain more carbs, and also fruits such as apples, oranges and bananas.”

Many dieters rue that they can’t satiate their sweet tooth while on the diet as sugar in any form is a strict no-no. Rajani Nair, who is pursuing a Masters Degree in Dietetics and Food Safety Management, however, whips up a variety of baked keto goodies in her kitchen. There’s dense chocolate cake, keto blueberry swirl cake, keto strawberry cake and matcha green tea cake. She has even successfully experimented with a keto ice cream.

Strawberry keto cake by Rajani Nair

“I use ingredients such as almond flour, stevia and dark chocolate powder for my cakes. A slice of a keto cake and a glass of black coffee is a great way to start the day, while a dollop of whipped cream on top turns it into a scrumptious dessert that can be had with a low-key paneer salad,” says Rajani. Zaheer says he too plans to introduce a range of keto-based sweet treats soon.

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