Here’s what you need to know about the keto diet; the high-fat, low-carb diet everyone’s talking about.
Keto is making waves as the latest diet du jour.
By now, you’ve likely heard of the regimen, wherein carbs are ditched to make room for high-quality fats and proteins. After several days of strict adherence, the body pushes through a period of lethargy to arrive at ketosis. In this highly efficient metabolic state, you burn stored fat for fuel and those stubborn love handles finally fade away.
While the keto diet might seem like an ephemeral fad to some, in Los Angeles a low-carb lifestyle has been a staple for decades. Finding keto-friendly options on menus here is as inevitable as seeing sunshine in Santa Monica or discovering traffic on the 405 freeway.
“LA is one of the world’s most health-conscious cities,” observes Kat Odell, author of “Unicorn Food: Beautiful Plant-Based Recipes to Nurture Your Inner Magical Beast.” “Many restaurants naturally cater to this diet because oftentimes there’s someone working in the kitchen that’s practicing it themselves.”
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At Jaffa, a Beverly Grove hot spot specializing in Mediterranean food, chef Anne Conness effortlessly courts those in search of healthy and alternative meal options because she’s one of them. “The best part of Keto is that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or substance while eating on a restrictive diet,” she says. “Many of our dishes utilize Tahina (a sauce made from ground sesame seeds) — what some on the diet like to think of as ‘liquid gold.’ It’s extremely low in carbs, filled with healthy fats and packs a huge punch when it comes to flavor.”
Across the city, keto appears even in the cuisines you’d least expect. Mexican food is typically filled with rice, beans, tortillas — the sort of starches that are a big no-no to strict followers of the diet. But at Guerrilla Tacos in the downtown Arts District, chef Wes Avila is fixing up flavors specifically for a keto-minded crowd. His garlic shrimp is sautéed in butter and garlic — rich in fat and protein. It subs in pea tendrils in place of tortillas, yet gives up nothing by way of familiar Mexican tasting notes.
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At Tocaya Organica, a Mexican-inspired fast-casual chain, customizable keto bowls are a permanent fixture. “The cauliflower rice is probably the most unique item that distinguishes this bowl from our other menu items,” explains Tosh Berman, CEO and co-founder of of The Madera Group, which is behind the chain. “We want to make healthy and delicious food accessible and attainable for all.”
They aren’t the only ones. Virtually all of the city’s myriad fast-casual concepts offer options with high-fat quotients. “While it requires very strong discipline to enter and maintain ketosis, it is fairly manageable to follow a keto diet here,” says Dana Ehrlich, keto practitioner and founder of Verde Farms organic beef.
His organic, grass-fed proteins work their way into the many carb-free arrangements at True Food Kitchen. Slices of the steak sit atop a bowl of cauliflower polenta, or on a bed of bok choy and broccoli. “This diet combined with exercise has transformed my body at 44 years old,” adds Ehrlich. “I have needed to update my wardrobe so my clothes fit properly.”
Even gastropubs, notorious dens of gluten, are getting in on the keto game.
At The Fat Dog on Fairfax Avenue, a menu with a robust “between the bread” section still appeals to the keto crowd, just the same. A popular roasted chicken — marinated in honey lavender — is full of flavor and free of carbs. On the weekend brunch menu, the steak and eggs serves up more of the same.
There’s also the city’s legendary landscape of Japanese to tap into for keto considerations. “As a sushi lover, sometimes I’ll go to a bar and opt for sashimi only,” says author Odell of the rice-free preparation. “Asanebo in the (San Fernando) Valley will take care of all your keto needs.” Take one bite of the fresh raw fish and you’ll be a believer: Keto in LA is no passing craze.
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