Beginner’s guide to the keto / high-fat diet

Unlike so many fad diets, the success and popularity of ketogenic diets like Atkins have never dwindled. And as always, with notoriety comes heaps of misinformation. I wanted to sift through the false claims and get back to basics, so I decided to read Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution...

By Margaret Gray

What is the keto diet?

Essentially, a ketogenic diet is a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. People on a keto diet will only eat foods containing fat and protein (meat, fish, cheese, butter, eggs), while adding in very small amounts of carbohydrates, usually in the form of high-nutrient vegetables. Keto diets eliminate almost all sugars from an eating plan, leaving room for just a few servings of fruit per week, if any.

Dr Atkins emphasises that unlike other diets, which can be used for just a few weeks or months, that keto is a way of life to be adopted forever. “It doesn’t deserve to be called a diet at all”, he says, “it’s a way of eating for the rest of your (healthy) life.”

What are the effects of the keto diet?

A ketogenic diet should help you to:

·      Lose weight

·      Maintain weight loss

·      Achieve good heart health

·      Lay permanent groundwork for disease prevention

·      Fight hunger and cravings

·      Overcome sugar and carbohydrate addictions

·      Naturally consume less calories – without counting or obsessing over them

·      Eliminate toxic, processed foods from your diet

·      Stabilise your blood sugar levels

·      Stabilise your insulin levels

Why should I choose keto as opposed to a low-fat diet?

What sets the keto diet apart from others is the fact that it changes the way your body uses energy, tapping into your fat stores rather than the sugars you are eating. As Dr Atkins explains, “when you follow a low-carbohydrate approach, you get what I call a ‘metabolic advantage’”. Research shows that “when you control carbohydrate consumption sufficiently, your body will switch from burning glucose derived from carbohydrate to burning primarily fat for energy.”

Keto diet

Why is it called ‘keto’?

If you eat according to the keto diet, your body should go into a state where it is constantly burning fat. As the fat burns, it releases by-products called ketones. Dr Atkins explains: “When this happens, you are enjoying a state called ketosis.”

What about exercise?

One of the things that Dr Atkins outlines in his book is that exercise is non-negotiable. “Not only does it elevate your metabolic rate while you’re exercising, but it keeps your calorie-burning meter cranked up for significant periods after you’re through. This means you continue burning calories at a good clip even though you’ve stopped moving.”

Sample eating plan


Two scrambled eggs

Two turkey sausages


Greek salad made with romaine lettuce, half a tomato, feta cheese, olives, and dill vinaigrette

Small can of tuna


Broiled steak

Oven-baked turnips

Rocket and round lettuce salad


Ten to twenty olives

Keto as a vegetarian

Many think that vegetarianism and ketogenic diets are incompatible, but the truth is that ketosis can be achieved without eating meat. Here is recipe from Dr Atkins’ book Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution that is both vegetarian and keto-friendly:

Aubergine Parmesan

In this easy-to-make update of the classic version, un-breaded aubergine is grilled, not fried, and then baked. Less work; less mess – and just as delicious.

Prep time: 45 minutes

Bake time: 30 minutes

6 servings

2 medium aubergines, about 680 g (1 and a half lbs in total)

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

340 g (12 oz) low-carb tomato sauce (without added sugar)

110 g (4 oz) thinly sliced mushrooms

10 large basil leaves, torn in pieces

225 g (8 oz) mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

60 g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

1.     Slice aubergines into 1 cm (1/3 in) thick rounds. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 minutes for bitter juices to drain. Rinse and pat dry.  

2.     Heat grill. Arrange aubergine slices in a single layer. Brush each side with oil. Grill 13-15 (5-6 in) from heat source 2 to 3 minutes per side until browned.

3.     Heat oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5); lightly oil a 23 x 33 cm (9 x 13 in) baking dish; set aside. Combine tomato sauce, mushrooms and half the basil in a saucepan and bring to boil. Cook 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4.     Spread one half of the sauce on bottom of baking dish. Top with eggplant slices, mozzarella slices and remaining basil. Spread remaining sauce over layers. Sprinkle surface evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake 30 minutes until bubbling.

Total carbohydrates per serving: 15 grams (count only 10 ‘digestible’ carbs when doing Atkins); protein: 12 grams; fat: 16 grams; calories: 239

Dr Atkins’ book Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution breaks down the latest research into ketogenic diets, provides you with weekly meal plans, and countless keto recipes. 

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