To keto or not to keto? Your fad diet questions answered

Western Sydney Local Health District dietitian Monica Nour with health promotion officer Laura Attallah.

Is it true that eating fat will help you lose fat? Ever wondered what the keto diet is about and if it’s right for you? We spoke to our own expert dietitian at the Centre for Population Health, Monica Nour, who answered some fat burning questions about popular fad diets.

Monica, what would you classify as a fad diet?

A fad diet is a diet that is “trending” or popular due to its reported success in promoting weight loss. Often these fad diets are not backed by sufficient scientific research.

What are some of the most popular fad diets in Australia?

Among those continuing to trend in Australia are the Paleo diet which eliminates dairy, legumes, grains and packaged foods, the 5:2 diet (also known as intermittent fasting) which involves consuming less than 500 calories two days per week and eating regularly on other days, and the keto diet which involves replacing carbohydrates with proteins and healthy fats so that the body breaks down existing fat stores to use as energy (a process known as ketosis).

There is a lot of buzz around the keto diet at the moment. What are the benefits and risks?

For many years the keto diet has been used to help manage clinical conditions such as epilepsy. It became popular more recently because it has some scientific evidence to suggest it can promote weight loss in the short term. However, there’s little research to confirm that weight loss is maintained.

Remember to always consult a doctor prior to starting a diet particularly if you have other health conditions.

The keto diet is high in protein which can have negative effects on those with poor kidney function. Other undesirable consequences of the keto diet can include headaches and bad breath which result from the fat burning process.

Monica Nour is a dietician at Western Sydney Local Health District.

What is the biggest fad diet trap that people fall into when trying to lose weight?

Everyone wants a quick fix or magic pill. While fad diets often promise this solution, they can be quite restrictive and difficult to follow in the long term. So while some short term weight loss (usually loss of our body’s water stores and not fat loss) may be achieved, people often fall into the trap of returning to old eating habits and regaining the weight. 

OK, so what is considered healthy weight loss?

Research suggests that slow weight loss of 1-4 kg per month may result in better outcomes for maintaining a healthy weight. But keep in mind that your focus should not always be on the number on the scales, but on improving your lifestyle. Sleep and physical activity are also important factors in maintaining a healthy weight.

What is the quirkiest diet you have come across?

The Banana diet – it promises to help you lose 10kg in a week if you just eat bananas. The person who created this must have been bananas!

Should you consider a fad diet? Here’s our expert advice. Photo credit:

Thanks Monica! Finally, what are your top tips for losing weight?

  • Quit the diets and aim for a balance of the five food groups as recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines (
  • Eat more vegetables (include them in every meal) and aim for two serves of fruit per day
  • Drink lots of water and save sugary drinks for an occasional treat
  • Swap processed snack foods for fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts or dairy such as low fat yoghurt
  • Learn your hunger and fullness cues and stop eating when you are comfortably full
  • Eat and drink smaller portions – for example, swap a large latte for a small one
  • Only drink alcohol in moderation – the calories add up
  • Have discretionary foods such as chips and chocolate only sometimes and in small amounts.

Motivated to Get Healthy?

If you’d like further support to lose weight, eat healthily and be more active, the Get Healthy Service is FREE for all NSW residents, 16 years and over. You’ll receive 10 telephone coaching calls, over six months, from a qualified nutritionist or exercise physiologist who can provide advice and motivation to help you reach your goals!

For more information:

Visit or ask for a referral during your next visit to a health professional.