The keto diet is a dietary trend that has gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts all over the world. It turned out very effective weight loss diet, although it is also one of the strictest diets you can follow.
For Malaysians and also most Southeast Asian countries, we grow up on rice and noodles as our staple food, so trying to eliminate them from our diet seems like a losing battle. Plus, carbs like rice and noodles are also some of the most affordable items to put on the table if you’re on a tight budget.
It may seem like an impossible goal, but it is possible with a little planning and common sense to eat keto on a budget in Malaysia. But first, you need to know the basics of the keto diet.
How keto diets work
As mentioned above, the keto diet seeks to cut out most carbs and replace them with fat. Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy, with the majority coming from staple foods such as rice, wheat, bread, potatoes, sugars, etc.
With a lack of carbs, the body will instead break down fat into ketones and keto acids in the liver. These are alternative fuel sources that will put the body into a metabolic state of “ketosis”, which is a kind of “fat burning” mode. This is a very energy-efficient state that will lower blood sugar and insulin levels, in addition to improving heart health as well. But the main reason people turn to the keto diet is the potential for incredibly effective weight loss in a relatively short period of time.
So what should I eat?
A keto diet is not easy. In fact, it’s incredibly strict, because even a slight deviation from the diet can force you to start over. The key is to maintain the state of ketosis, which can be easily disrupted by carbohydrate and glucose intake. For us Malaysians, it will be a hardship as we are forced to abstain from our favorite delicacies such as Nasi Lemak, Laksa and Roti Canai. If you really want to embark on a keto diet, you should start limiting your daily intake to these types of foods:
- Natural fats
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Dairy products
- Nuts and berries
Foods to avoid include things like:
With that out of the way, we’ve put together a short list of foods that are pretty cheap, easy to cook, and perfect for a keto diet.
Shirataki noodles are great carb replacements on a keto diet. These noodles are made mostly from konjac yam and contain less than 1 gram of net carbs per serving. It contains glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber that has many health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar spikes.
Shirataki noodles tend not to have much flavor. However, when you make them at home, they will take on the flavor of whatever you mix them with, so have fun experimenting in the kitchen. Mix them with the sauce and toppings of your choice and discover new flavors for a unique experience.
Coconuts are technically fruits, right? Although the keto diet generally avoids fruit due to its high carbohydrate content, coconut water is high in healthy fats and low in carbs, although you may want to prevent yourself from drinking too much coconut water. . Either way, unsweetened coconut milk, coconut flakes, and coconut cooking oil are all great additions to the keto diet. Coconut flour is another gluten-free and keto-friendly option often used in baking as a substitute for wheat flour. However, you should note that it does not rise quite the same as wheat flour and absorbs more liquid than other types of flour.
Fish and shellfish
Again, keto diets are strict, but that doesn’t mean you have to go completely vegetarian or vegan. For protein, fish and shellfish are very keto friendly. They’re packed with vital minerals and vitamin B. Best of all, they’re great low-carb protein.
Salmon is a great choice for the keto diet because it’s not only delicious, but also high in omega-3 fatty acids. However, as salmon can get quite expensive for us, Malays, sardines, tilapia and mackerel can serve as alternatives.
To vary the pleasures, you can replace the fish with shellfish. These include shrimp, mussels and squid. These shellfish contain little or no carbohydrates. Mussels tend to have the most carbs, but they contain so little that they might as well be negligible.
Now that a new price cap has been put in place for eggs, we can expect prices to be a bit higher. However, eggs are still an affordable way to supplement your keto diet. Although some of us may observe the myth of not eating the egg yolk, we recommend consuming the whole egg as the yolk provides much of its nutrition. Eggs can be prepared as a main course or as an accompaniment to other dishes. Egg frittatas go particularly well if you’re not in the mood for meat. Speaking of meat…
Delicious, gourmet and tasty meats. Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you have to give up meat. In fact, keto diets tend to favor meats because they’re a great source of protein and fat while being relatively low in carbs. The best cuts to favor would be red meats. These are your beef and lamb, preferably grass-fed animals. They tend to produce more omega-3 fatty acids and are higher in antioxidants than their grain-fed counterparts. In a Malaysian context, these meats can be quite expensive, especially if grain-fed.
While chicken may not be as effective for the keto diet, it’s still a cheaper and viable option for those trying to cut their food budget. For our non-Muslim friends, pork is also a decent option.
The meats are also quite easy to prepare and cook. A simple and appetizing recipe is to marinate your steak with garlic powder and olive oil and put it in an air fryer, turning it every 15 minutes or so. Simple but perfect!
Cheese and yogurt
Afraid of snacking during your diet? Do not be! As mentioned earlier, keto is a rather strict diet and rather difficult to maintain. During the first stages of the diet, you will tend to feel weak and lacking in energy. This is normal because the body tries to switch to burning fat rather than carbohydrates. Getting a few bites of a high-fat, high-protein snack is great to make sure you feel full in the process. A 100 gram of cheese is practically made up of fat, making it a great addition to any ketogenic diet. Cheese in general is not the cheapest snack you can find in Malaysia. However, you should be able to find cheddar cheese for a reasonable price.
On the other hand, yogurt is an excellent choice, especially with our hot and humid climate. Again, you might think that desserts like yogurt have no place in a diet. However, on the keto diet, yogurt is absolutely welcome because it’s low in carbs, usually having almost double the amount of protein. Unfortunately, Indian curd yogurt which is common in Malaysia might not work as its carb content might be a bit too high for the keto diet. You’ll want to look for plain or Greek yogurt instead.
Go keto in Malaysia
In daily practice, it’s probably not realistic to expect that we can all cook our meals from scratch using the above ingredients. Are there any quick shortcuts to an instant keto snack widely available at the local supermarket? The answer is yes, but in moderation.
For example, a jar of peanut butter, a can of tuna, even a packet of mayonnaise or cream for a quick sauce or to add flavor. Although some of these ingredients may cost more in Malaysia, you can spread the cost over several servings. For those of you who have to eat lunch or dinner out due to your schedule, the easiest way is to avoid ordering noodles or rice. Load up on servings of vegetables and tasty servings of meat, eggs or tofu. You can also look for restaurants that offer keto-friendly menu choices, although they may not be economical. If you’re ordering takeout, there are online services that focus on keto-friendly meal deliveries.
With these few guidelines, you should be ready to start your keto journey in an easy and affordable way. Remember, a keto diet isn’t about eating less. In fact, you shouldn’t worry about getting your fix. Lack of carbs doesn’t mean you’ll feel sluggish and weak. Eating plenty of protein and high-fat meals will ensure you have the energy to get through the day, while keeping your body in the fat-burning state of ketosis.
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