Arvind S., a numbers analyst working with an investment bank in Bengaluru, went on the keto diet three months ago. Arvind lives in a joint family which is vegetarian. Though he eats non-vegetarian food outside, cooking meat at home is a strict no-no. However, he has found it quite easy to get into the keto routine thanks to the keto meal-delivery services started by companies like Grow Fit and Chefkraft, and restaurants that serve keto-friendly dishes. “I tried doing keto a year ago too but it didn’t work out very well. This time around I’m finding it much easier because the options for ordering in or eating out are wider, and you have keto products everywhere," says Arvind.

While Arvind cooks vegetarian keto stuff like salads and grilled paneer/tofu at home, at work he orders ready-to-eat keto meals that are not only compliant with the diet but also come with the all-important nutritional information on macros (aka macronutrients; the keto buzzword). Arvind has subscribed to meal plans by Bengaluru food-tech start-up Grow Fit, which supplies tailored meals to his workplace. He spends around Rs8,000 per month on keto-related products and meals. “The availability of keto-friendly meal options for delivery has made it so much easier to do the diet," says Arvind, who also puts in an hour of working out every day. Grow Fit meals subscriptions cost around Rs2,300-2,800 for a seven-day lunch plan.

Within a few minutes of talking to people who are on the ketogenic (“keto" for short) diet, the one thing that keeps popping up is the diet’s complex nature and how hard it is to follow. This is perhaps the reason why the marketplace around the keto diet has grown rapidly from nutritionist-planned meal programmes delivered to your workplace, to availability of products like ready-to-cook cauliflower rice, keto chocolate bars, avocado-based dips, meal-replacement powders and cooking ingredients like almond and coconut flours.

Start-ups like Mumbai-based Urban Platter and Food Darzee and Bengaluru-based Diet Delite and Grow Fit have robust inventories of keto food products and meal plans now. These ready-to-consume options are a godsend for people who don’t have the skills to cook or are too busy to do so, according to musician and food blogger Sahil Makhija. “People are lazy. They don’t want to research and cook. So these ready-to-cook products or meal plans are working for them," says Makhija, whose blog Headbanger’s Kitchen is possibly the most sought-after resource for keto-friendly recipes in India.

Mumbai-based Sahil Makhija cooks his own keto meals. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Mumbai-based Sahil Makhija cooks his own keto meals. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Grow Fit, founded by former Silicon Valley executive Jyotsna Pattabiraman in 2015, started off as a health- and calorie-tracking app with a team of doctors, nutritionists and food technologists, but has evolved into primarily a meal- and product-delivery platform for the health conscious. One of its main thrust areas now is the keto diet related meals and snacks. “We want to make keto accessible to the average busy Indian who doesn’t have time to get into all the meal planning it requires. There was a need for healthy, nutritious and tasty keto meals because of the diet’s growing popularity," says Pattabiraman.

Chef and restaurateur Gautam Krishnankutty, partner at Café Thulp and The Smoke Co. in Bengaluru, says when he started on the diet around three years ago, “most of it was do-it-yourself. I had an advantage in the sense that I’m a trained chef, but there were a group of people on keto who would exchange notes on a WhatsApp group, and for many of them it was a struggle...going to restaurants was a pain, figuring out what to eat, asking what’s in every dish. That’s when I started the ‘keto menu’ at Café Thulp," says Krishnankutty. Thulp, with four branches in the city, sees a number of executives walking in, asking for the keto menu, although an even higher number order items for delivery to offices via Swiggy.

Salad with steamed broccoli. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Salad with steamed broccoli. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Kiran Jonnalagadda, co-founder of Bengaluru-based HasGeek, which organizes technology events across the country, started the keto diet around two years ago. His advice for office goers who are ordering keto take-out? Check the labels and ingredients carefully. “Just labelling something ‘keto-friendly’ doesn’t make it so. Many brands use the term loosely, while getting it completely wrong," says Jonnalagadda.

Also, don’t go for the low-carb, high-fat diet just because a co-worker lost a lot of weight because of it. First, find out if the diet is right for you. Nutrition and fitness consultant Ryan Fernando, chief nutritionist at Bengaluru-based nutrition clinic Qua Nutrition, says since the consumption of fat in the diet is quite high, a person going on the diet has to first determine through genetic testing if her body is adapted to burning fat efficiently for energy. His advice is to consult a qualified nutritionist, who will tell you which tests to do in what frequency to make sure your body is responding well to the diet without any adverse side-effects.

Broccoli coconut soup. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Broccoli coconut soup. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Defining the keto diet

The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet in which approximately 70% of the daily calories should come from fats, 25% from proteins, and 5% from carbohydrates, forcing the body to burn ketone bodies instead of glucose for energy via a process called ketosis.

A typical Indian diet is particularly non-keto-compliant, with most of the calories coming from carbohydrates, and very few from fats.

Keto beef burger with bacon and cheese. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Keto beef burger with bacon and cheese. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

What’s in the keto ‘dabba’?

From the menus available online, Indian keto dabba services rely heavily on paneer and cheese for vegetarians. From cauliflower curd rice, cheesy keto uttapam and Thai-style paneer salad to bread and pancakes made with almond flour, there is plenty of original fare on offer for vegetarians. Meat eaters can choose from basic chicken curry and roti made from keto flour, to chicken makhini with almond cheese cardamom roti and baked chicken wrapped in Schezwan bell pepper zoodles. Desserts, including brownies, sugar-free chocolates, panacotta, and cashew laddus, are also available.

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