Ketogenic Dieting is Becoming Huge
Over the last few years, a ketogenic diet has become mainstream with more and more people ditching the carbs and sugar and moving towards a healthier diet. As a professional cook, your goal is to help accommodate these eaters just as you would any other dietary preference (Gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.).
Working on developing the proper knowledge to help guide you is another skill that chefs, line cooks, and other professional cooks need to develop. Let’s discuss what a ketogenic diet is, what the do’s and don’ts are and how you can alter your menu to easily accommodate these growing eaters.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
Quite simply a keto diet is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet. Naturally, there are variations of this diet but we are not going to focus on that as it would just needlessly complicate things.
Starches and ‘filler-food’ are the biggest carb contributors with stealth carbs sneaking in foods other ways, such as breading or sauces. Removing these from the plate to be served is a proper way of handling a request. Other times, it is advisable to inform the customer that the menu item is not able to be made keto-friendly and to suggest something different.
Tools and Resources
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Here are some of the better resources for helping you get the most of adapting your menu.
Carbohydrates VS. Net Carbohydrates
Fiber plays a large role in a ketogenic diet. The fiber in fruits and vegetables is not digested by the body and therefore, does not count as a carb. This means that food items high in fiber are desirable and can be your best friend when trying to find proper substitutes.
Depending on your establishment, you may have carbs as a large influence in your menu making it impossible to accommodate without stripping the plate of almost all content. If this is your menu, you may have a hard time adapting. Carbs are easily the cheapest type of food product to buy and serve.
The misconception a lot of people have about keto is that it costs more to serve a keto customer due to the focus on high fat and protein content food which of course costs more. While true, a keto dieter is satiated easily and has a much smaller portion requirement. This tends to help balance things out.
When substituting carbs with foods other than proteins or fats, vegetables fill in perfectly. Salads and vegetables tend to be the filler food of the keto dieter and can go a long way in helping manage the bottom line.
Keto-Friendly Vegetable Examples
- Brussel Sprouts
- Leafy Greens
Avoid These Foods
- Root vegetables
Popular Menu Item Alternatives Adjusted for Keto
Replace bun with firm lettuce like iceberg, butter, or endive. Caramelized onions are fine, but anything sugary like barbeque sauces should be omitted. Some prefer to handle the burger as a lettuce wrap, while others eat will a fork and knife.
Rutabega can be used in place of french fries as it is one of the few low-carb root vegetables. Moisture must be drawn out as much as possible before deep-frying otherwise it can become quite soggy. Do this by salting and leaving on an absorbent material like paper towel or cloth towel. You can also try par cooking them for a minute and storing for service where they can be deep-fried again.
Various Potatoes (Mashed/Baked)
Rutabega can be used as a substitute or extra serving of vegetables.
There is not much to substitute these grains with, as it is preferable to be omitted. However, Quinoa in small amounts can be OK for some keto dieters
Thickened Sauces and Roux
Most sauces such as gravy are not keto-friendly due to the amount of flour used in the roux. Replacing with an au jus is preferrable or sauces thickened naturally through reduction.
Many fruits have low net carbs due to their fiber content and are acceptable to use in moderation. Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, oranges, apples, etc., are all OK serve. Some keto dieters may be strictly zero carb in which case they would not consume fruit.
Creating Menu Items for a Ketogenic Diet
Just as more and more restaurants began to incorporate vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options into their menu, so will they begin to develop keto-friendly items. First we will cover some of the variations of the keto diet. Many of the variations can be extreme, so aiming for a middle ground is an ideal goal.
Types of Keto Diets
Standard Keto Diet
This is the variation that is advisable to follow if you are looking for good accommodation. Small amounts of carbs are acceptable but should be eliminated as much as possible. The carb macro goal for many Keto dieters is 20g of carbohydrates per day maximum. Listing the number of carbs for the serving on your menu will go a long way.
Zero Carb Keto
A bit more extreme diet is the zero carb keto diet where carbs are strictly avoided. This is done to maximize fat burning and weight loss. This diet would be highly protein and fat (Steaks, meats, dairy) with little to no fruits or nuts.
A paleo diet consists of high amounts of meat, fruit, fish, nuts and seeds. A Paleo-keto hybrid diet would be high in meat, fish, seeds and nuts but low in fruits and root vegetables.
Keto-Friendly Menu Ideas
Here are some simple and easy items to add to your menu without having to adjust your ordering too much.
- Bunless Burgers (Extra Cheese or Double Patties)
- Iceberg Lettuce Tacos
- Bacon-wrapped anything
- Rutabega fries
- Protein-focused salads
- Chili no beans
- Chicken wings, breaded with almond flour
Some of the biggest problems for keto dieters is normally fine menu items are blasted with carbs and made unfriendly to keto such as heavily breaded menu items, carb focused items, and limited protein-heavy items. A little foresight and planning will make any keto dieter feel at home and welcomed.