Many people have asked me, through social media accounts and in person, of my Moroccan keto & low carb diet experience. Which one am I on? What’s the difference? Is it just me or are all the family doing it? How has it affected my Moroccan food and family life? And how do I keep it up during holidays in Morocco?
So I thought this would be a good idea for a blog post & an opportunity to answer all these questions in one go, as well as have it all in one place. However, before I dive into the answers of the above questions, let’s go over some basics:
What is a Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. In fact, over 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health (1Trusted Source). Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
The Keto Diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Ketogenic diets are really good for weight loss however, in addition to that, it can also cause a massive reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
What is a Low Carb Diet?
The typical low-carb diet does not have a fixed definition, It’s simply referred to as a low-carb or carb-restricted diet. This eating pattern tends to be lower in carbs and higher in protein than a typical Western diet. It usually emphasizes meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.
You’re basically supposed to minimize your intake of high-carb foods such as grains, potatoes, certain high carb fruits and high-sugar drinks & junk foods. The recommended carb intake per day generally depends on your goals and preferences. Here is a common table I found easy to understand:
- 100–150 grams. This range is meant for weight maintenance or frequent high-intensity exercise. It gives room for plenty of fruit and even some starchy foods like potatoes.
- 50–100 grams. This range is intended for slow and steady weight loss or weight maintenance. There’s still room for plenty of vegetables and some fruit.
- Under 50 grams. This is geared toward fast weight loss. You can eat plenty of vegetables but very limited fruit. Berries are more suitable as they are low on the glycemic index (GI).
Is Low Carb High Fat Diet (LCHF) the same as the Low Carb?
LCHF stands for “low-carb, high-fat.” It’s a fairly standard very-low-carb diet but with an even greater emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods. It focuses mostly on meats, fish and shellfish, eggs, healthy fats, vegetables, dairy products & nuts. The fruit is limited to berries and you have to increase your fat intake. On a general low carb diet increasing fat isn’t a must.
The recommended carb intake on this diet can range from 20–100 grams per day.
What’s the difference between Keto & Low Carb?
The low carb and keto diets are two popular ways of eating that involve restricting your carb intake. Given that they both limit carbs, you may wonder what sets the two apart.
The main difference between these diets is carbohydrate intake. On a low carb diet, you typically eat 50–150 grams of carbs per day, but on the keto diet, daily carb intake is restricted to fewer than 50 grams.
Another main difference is protein intake. With low carb diets, protein intake may be high, but with keto diets, protein intake should be moderate at around 20% of total calories. This is because excessive protein intake can prevent ketosis. Additionally, fat intake tends to be significantly higher on the keto diet, as fats replace carbs and protein.
My Moroccan experience with Keto
On Keto I somehow really struggled with having enough fats, I would try to incorporate avocado as much as I can but ended up using it mainly in dips and smoothies. I LOVE butter but realised on Keto that I only previously used to have it on bread or jacket potato 😉 So that bit was a problem for me.
Another issue I had was the guilt of eating full fat! I think many people experience this at the beginning. I was raised to believe fat was bad, fat made you fat, ie, don’t eat fat. Then all of a sudden it was the opposite, fat is good, full fat is healthier, eat lots and lots of fat, good fats that is.
Being on the Keto diet suppressed my appetite. I no longer felt as peckish as I used to throughout the day and so I naturally ate less and really wanted to enjoy and appreciate the meals I did sit down to eat.
Overall, all the above aside, although I did find it difficult to stick to as a permanent lifestyle, especially in Morocco and with my active family and social life. I can hand on heart say, I felt so good in my health, well being and mindset while I was on it. I was more energetic, I felt light and proactive. I gained a better concentration span and I also feel it improved my memory.
My Moroccan experience with Low Carb
After some time being on a keto diet I managed to lose weight and feel much lighter & more active. I no longer felt lethargic and heavy. I hadn’t hit my target weight yet and started to really struggle. I basically felt left out & missed feeling part of the family dinners and get-togethers. I started to slip up and eat some things I wasn’t meant to here and there which then followed with the guilt trips.
My Muslim Keto Coach helped me through this and suggested I switch to LCHF. This way I would at least stay on the right track, maintain my weight loss and stop feeling guilty. She helped me so much and combined with Intermittent fasting & sunnah fasting Mondays & Thursdays, I still managed to lose weight, it was slower but steady alhamdulillah.
Going on the LCHF eventually lead me to the more common low carb diet which in my culture & food traditions naturally formed into the Low Carb Mediterranean Diet I am on today. 😉
So, the Mediterranean diet is actually very popular among health professionals. It is based on the traditional foods of Mediterranean countries that includes Morocco & Turkey ;)))). It was recognised back in the 20th century where studies showed that this diet may help prevent heart disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes (18, 19Trusted Source, 20).
A low-carb Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern named after its original diet but limits higher-carb foods like whole grains, pasta & rice. A low-carb Mediterranean diet has been said to be better for heart disease prevention than other low-carb diets, although this is yet to be confirmed in studies.
Unlike a regular low-carb diet, it emphasizes more on fatty fish & chicken instead of red meat and the really fatty meat encouraged on Keto, that I’m not a big fan of. In addition to this, I liked that it encourages more extra virgin olive oil instead of fats like butter.
Where we are from in Morocco fish, olives & olive oil is widely available, common staple foods used in many different Moroccan dishes and cheaper than in UK and UAE. I realised this diet didn’t just suit my lifestyle, food culture and taste preference but was much more economical & cheaper to maintain.
It saves me time. I am able to cook one main meal we will all eat together as a family and I can make some sides for the rest of the family that I don’t need to touch.
Summary: I am really happy with this being my main diet and lifestyle, I like that I don’t have to count anything, I’ve always been bad with apps and numbers. Finally, I find it easier to switch back and forth onto keto & LCHF from this diet when I need to.
How were you introduced to Keto?
Fate caused me to meet a lovely Swedish Muslim sister that happened to be on the Keto diet herself at the time, and then she basically taught me and guided me through so much Masha Allah.
Are you on a Keto or Low Carb Diet & Why?
I’m on both lol! I was initially on Keto for weight-loss reasons, then when I lost some weight I found it much easier to continue on a Low Carb. This may sound weird, but psychologically, I pretend I’m on full Keto so when I occasionally have a high carb vegetable such as peas or Ajwa dates, organic honey or some pomegranate, I don’t get so distressed about it. This way of thinking keeps my Low Carb diet in check.
Plus as a Muslim, I don’t want to compromise in doing the sunnah & eating recommended foods that are mentioned in the Quran for their health properties.
Overall, the main goal for me is to never give into refined sugars, trans fats & processed foods. Aiming to be on Keto but definetely fullfilling low-carb 😉
Is it just you or are all the family on the Keto Diet?
There was a time when during my struggles to stay on Keto my hubby and kids decided to support me by joining in. This was a fun and challenging time, it pushed me to learn more keto recipes, bake more keto treats and it was actually through this time that I learned how to incorporate my love for Moroccan cooking into my diet. When you do things on your own you can get lazy, especially when it involves cooking 2 or more different meals.
Then, after a few months of our Keto adventures, we had some sort of family thing that involved some extra family visits and through cooking for our visitors that are NOT on Keto, obviously the kids and hubby slowly just fizzled out of it, and somehow never went back. Actually, so did I at that point. I took a few breaks from Keto, I was up and down like a yo-yo, I gained some weight again too ;(
How has Keto affected your Moroccan food?
Being a Moroccan who loves my Moroccan food and culture, I was forced to try and make my Moroccan dishes keto-friendly. I always used olive oil anyways so that bit wasn’t a problem. I learned how to always add the olive oil to my cooking AFTER, this way it keeps all its goodness. I also started experimenting with avocado oil & coconut oil. This was completely new to me and I never cooked with these before.
Moroccans use a lot of root vegetables in their cooking, I ended up replacing these with butternut squash, aubergine & zucchini or shall I say courgettes. Carrots are ok in moderation. I found myself learning how to cook and bake all over again. This can be time-consuming at first but definitely worth the effort in the end.
I would say my biggest challenge was eating my tagines without potatoes & bread and drinking my harira soup without the vermicelli. I never liked whole chickpeas, I only loved it in a hummus dip, so that part didn’t affect me. However, I used to not use the cornflour mix to thicken it as I found that the vermicelli was enough to give the harira that thicker texture.
During Ramadan, Keto forced me to take out my bowl of harira before adding the vermicelli and I can’t say I enjoyed it as much. You learn to substitute things like that so, for example, I would prefer some Moroccan vegetable soup instead. I just didn’t add any potatoes to it and because it was blended, it still held it’s consistency. I also found that cauliflower was a great replacement for potato. I made cauliflower Tortilla & hashbrowns for breakfast.
And cauliflower pizza crust which I was pleasantly impressed with.
Overall, apart from the struggle of not enjoying my Moroccan salads & Tagines with Moroccan bread, I can’t say it changed much. I substituted the sugar in my ete (Moroccan Mint Tea) with Erythritol so I still enjoyed that alhamdulillah.
How has keto affected your family & social life?
In terms of going out for dinner, it was great. I joined some sisters for some evening meals in restaurants and I always managed to find some keto-friendly options, my toughest challenge was staying away from fries, (my biggest weakness 🙂
When we went to Indian or Pakistani restaurants I chose things like saag paneer and tandoori chicken. When we went out with family it was always Turkish food, we LOVE LOVE LOVE Turkish food, Masha Allah. When we visited our favourite Turkish restaurant in Leicester called KONAK my order will often include the SUCUK IZGARA which is a grilled spicy garlic sausage, KOPOGLU which is garlic yoghurt with fried aubergines, green pepper and chilli flakes and of course their delicious mixed meat grills.
Grills always come with marinated olives, hummus and a side salad. Chicken wings and grilled halloumi cheese is another common favourite and if you like prawns I would definitely recommend the PRAWN COCKTAIL which is prawns served on a bed of lettuce and avocado with fresh lemon. There’s so much low carb options you can choose from there and no feeling left out at all. Unfortunately despite my request to have my meal served without the rice or fries, I was told they could not deduct the price of the meal as it was set as a fixed price and menu. Having said that though, the service and setting, lighting and vibe were always clean, pleasant and authentic.
Desserts were a mission, wherever I went there weren’t many sugar-free options. Even frozen yoghurt seemed to have the added sugar. Sometimes I was able to order fresh fruit without the whipped cream, ice-cream or yoghurt but it was very rare and often included grapes or kiwi which are high carb fruits with their high natural sugar content. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend going out for desserts, but make sure to spoil yourself with some safe homemade ones. This is my favourite sweet keto snack to make because it’s easy and quick to make.
Inviting people to my home for dinner wasn’t as problematic as being invited to someone else’s place. When you invite someone to your home you are still in control on what food you prepare and give, so you can always make sure there are suitable options for yourself. If you didn’t feel like eating it’s not as rude or noticeable because it’s your food that you are not wanting to eat, lol for example, sometimes I’ve been taste testing all day so I don’t feel like eating later. And quite often the host is too busy serving, clearing and preparing you don’t get to sit much anyway.
Going to someone else’s home, on the other hand, is the opposite. You do not have any choice on what is going to be cooked and served. I always get stuck. I don’t want to appear rude, self-centred or stuck up. In the Arab culture, it is so so rude to refuse food, you have to take and try at least a little. And Moroccans REALLY do not take no as an answer, they assume you are just being shy or polite because this is the culture. Your host will not feel relaxed to eat if you are not eating, and taking your own packed snack or lunch is unthinkable, it will be taken as a huge insult even if you do not mean it to be. So, in this case, I just eat as little as I can possibly get away with without offending the host and make dua for Allah to count it as a sadaqa for me 😉
On Eids, weddings and other celebrations I just simply take the day off and be careful to not overindulge.
How do you stay on keto during holidays in Morocco?
On holidays to Morocco I just simply go on the Low Carb Mediterranean Diet, it’s so much easier and less troublesome. Morocco is full of fish and salads and melons during the summer. There’s aubergine, roasted pepper salad, marinated olives, fish tagines etc, you don’t even notice the bread. Fizzy drinks are a big thing there but I never like fizzy even from when I was a kid, it was always too sweet for me. Stick to water, water is the best!
If you have a big family in Morocco and expect them to be inviting you, say your doctor advised you against sugar and take your alternative sweetener with you for your tea. My family poured my cup of ete for me before adding the sugar to the pot. I think these days where there is more knowledge of diabetes people are becoming more aware and accepting of these concerns.
Try not to ever give into sugar if you can and stay away from those delicious Moroccan sweets. I have actually been experimenting with making keto-friendly Moroccan sweets and Insha ALLAH will be posting the recipe of these delicious Moroccan keto walnut cookies very soon so stay tuned.
What are your entertaining solutions?
When I have been on Keto and have invited people to my home, I’ve either made it a complete keto dinner party to give them a try and taste of what it’s like or I’ve made up a menu that included a variety of both keto and non-keto foods so that there was something for everyone. Here are some Keto appetizers I made for some friends.
Visit our Keto recipes page for some Moroccan Keto food ideas.
Any advice for Muslim or Moroccan mums on a Keto or Low Carb Diet?
I’m definitely not an expert, however, if I was to share a few things that helped me out, it would be the following:
- It’s hard doing things on your own, you can get lonely and less enthusiastic. I found that when I made a low carb one-pot meal for everyone to share it was so much easier. Of course, I would make little things on the side but the main dish was always something suitable for all. This made me feel included and less left out. For example, if the main dish was chicken curry, I would probably have it with salad but the kids will have rice. If it’s Friday and I made couscous, I would still eat together with my family from one plate. I would just pick all the veggies I can eat from the top and enjoy it with the meat, without the couscous.
- When the kids really miss a dish that’s full of carbs, and you know that dish will be very tempting. Make it for them on a day you are fasting, give it to them during the day so it’s finished by night time 😉 If there are any leftovers give some to the neighbours lol. If you are anything like me you will end up having it for breakfast 😉
- Meal prep. Meal prep is crucial. There will be busy days, lazy days or very depressing days. But if you always have something quick and easy in the fridge or freezer, chances are you’re most likely to stay strong and not give in. A few must-haves are mixed berries, yoghurt, nut butter, double cream & dark chocolate for sweet cravings, and definitely some ready-made chermoula paste and pre-cut veggies for quick stir-frys. Also Ready cut avocado, strawberries, spinach & assorted seeds along with almond or coconut milk, can be most helpful for quick keto smoothies too.
- Everyone is on different levels of progress so don’t compare yourself to others, this will bring you down. Everyone is different and will have different wants and needs. Set yourself a target or goal to suit you and your family and life. Nothing is written on stone as they say. Go at your own pace and level, as long as you can see some progress, even if it’s small, stick to it. I lost weight much slower on low carb than on keto but low carb suited me better and I was able to stick to it. Slow & steady progress is better than no progress.
- Even if you slip up here and there, don’t stress about it, pick yourself up and start again. Pretend it didn’t happen. This is so common when you first start a completely new or different lifestyle.
- Finally, if you decide this is the way for you, and you did choose to move forward and make it long term, then below are some recommended products well worth investing in if you don’t have them already. A good quality blender is really helpful for morning bulletproof coffee, shakes & smoothies. A good electric grill will reward you with lots of tasty protein & veggie treats which will be a lot more than usual on a low carb diet. And an air fryer is the best thing ever invented for anyone who loves the texture and flavour of fried food but would like to avoid the health risks that comes with it.
Why do you share non-keto recipes on your blog and social media?
I started my food blog years before I even knew anything about keto. In addition to this, the initial intention for it was to share recipes and information on Moroccan cultural food and Uzbek cultural food and how we have overlapped them to compliment each other. I also wanted to make a collection of the two cultural foods, among other universal recipes, for my children to benefit from.
My keto cookbook recommendations
In conclusion, I have to definitely say that if you choose to try a low-carb diet, pick a plan that suits your lifestyle, food preferences, and personal health goals. For me, it took some time, some ups & downs and some emotional rollercoasters to realise that the Low Carb Mediterranean Diet was the one for me & my lifestyle. I didn’t even know it officially even existed, to be honest.
I love the fact I can have more fruit and vegetables & still OCCASIONALLY enjoy potatoes, lentils, chickpeas and beans because as Moroccans we like Adis, Harira and Loubia etc. And I could happily have that with no bread!
I found that being more realistic and setting myself achievable goals helped me actually achieve them. However what works for one person may not work for another, so the best diet for you is the one YOU can actually stick to.
I pray you have found this post helpful, if so please do share this post with your family and friends. If you have any other queries, tips or suggestions, I would love to hear from you.
Have you been or are currently on any of the above-mentioned diets? If so, how was it like for you and were they successful, challenging or a waste of time? Please let me know your experiences in the comments section below.