"The first great step for everyone would be to focus on eating whole foods instead of processed foods: swap your morning oats or cereals for eggs with avocado and see how you feel!"
Meet Noor Struik, a registered dietitian focused on LCHF (low carbohydrate healthy-fat) diets and founder of The Nourishing State. We asked her a lot of questions about her journey on the ketogenic diet, including pros and challenges, her favourite keto meals (and hotspots in Australia), and a few bonus tips for beginners.
Hi Noor, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your practice?
Hi there! I’m Noor, a registered dietitian and nutritional epidemiologist from the Netherlands. I started working as a dietitian 4 years ago and combined this with my master Nutrition & Health. Eleven months ago I moved to Sydney for my internship, whereby I conducted research on low carb diets and diabetes management. After finishing my internship and thereby my masters last year, I started my own practice – The Nourishing State.
In my practice, I focus on LCHF diets, diabetes management, PCOS, FODMAP and gut health. I believe that the psychology around nutrition and self-care plays a central role while improving diet and lifestyle. I, therefore, focus on eating behaviour so that my clients regain confidence in their nutritional choices and experience a long-term healthy relationship with food. Besides my work as a dietitian, I’m currently applying for a PhD position to investigate LCHF diets and metabolic flexibility at the University of Sydney.
That sounds amazing. Good luck! And when did you start your keto journey?
I first became interested in the keto/LCHF diet when I was working with a lot of type 2 diabetes clients back in the Netherlands. I noticed that by following the standard dietary guidelines we didn’t get the results we were after, and I believed – contrary to what they tell you at uni – my clients were accurately reporting their dietary intake. I began training in LCHF diets and started working with this approach, seeing great results with many of my clients.
My own keto journey started about 9 months ago, when a fellow researcher and dietitian advised me to try the keto diet to manage my headaches after two serious concussions the year before. This has made such a difference, and motivates me even more to help people get the right dietary advice to regain control over their health!
And what changes have you experienced since you started it?
The biggest change has been the reduction in the frequency and intensity of my headaches. Also, before I was hungry ALL day EVERY day. These days are over for sure. My energy levels are stable, I don’t experience bloating anymore and just feel really good.
Did you face any challenges so far?
To be honest, following a keto lifestyle has been pretty easy for me. I did start decreasing my carb intake step by step, but noticed quickly – and actually already knew – I have a taste preference for fatty foods. So it was easier for me to swap high carb foods like bread and pasta for avocados, eggs and full-fat dairy. I think the biggest challenge has not been for me, but for my friends and family, to see how I went from eating meat once a month to a couple of times a week. But sharing my – evidence-based – rationale behind this definitely made them more open to this change.
Talking about family... We always get this question from our followers: Do you have any tips on how to handle social situations, like events or dinner parties, when you are starting a LCHF diet?
When going out for dinner, it’s worthwhile to check the menu beforehand. I feel that most restaurants offer plenty of low carb options. Ordering meat or fish and substituting the fries/potatoes for veggies is always a safe option. If you’re having a dinner party at home, suggest preparing a low carb meal together. I’m sure your friends will be happy to, with so many tasty low carb recipes around.
And resist the temptations, you won't regret it later!
Which LCHF foods do you recommend to always have on the week menu at home?
My No 1. is eggs – I LOVE eggs, both nutrition and tastewise. Also full-fat Greek yoghurt, organic meat/fish, grass-fed butter, avocado, nuts, coconut oil, and – of course – chocolate!
What do you usually eat in a day?
Most days I have breakfast around 10 or 11 am – a few hours after I wake up. I’m focused on intuitive eating, meaning I eat when I’m hungry and really enjoy my meal then. For breakfast, I’d like to have Greek yogurt with a couple of spoons of my coco-chia pud, some blueberries, and cacao nibs. And I’d have a boiled egg with it, as it’s really important to make sure your protein intake is sufficient.
Lunch could be a simple “salad” with tuna, grilled eggplant, and cheese, for example, halloumi. Or an omelette with 3 eggs, parmesan, tomato, and mushrooms.
My go-to dinner option is an easy, super tasty Mexican bowl: spicy minced beef, avocado, sour cream, and grated cheese. And I definitely have a sweet tooth, so after dinner, I would have dark chocolate with for example peanut butter (must try if you haven’t already!).
We are definitely all in with this one. Any nut butter with chocolate is a must.
You live in Australia right now. How is the high-fat perception there? Are people still afraid of healthy fats or is the word spreading faster?
I feel that fats – especially saturated fat – is still demonised, although it is getting a bit better. It’s really important to keep spreading the evidence-based LCHF message and to make people aware of how dietary choices impact their health and wellbeing. Also, keep reminding and reassuring the ones around you that we shouldn’t blame the butter for what the bread did.
Are there many Keto spots in Australia? What is your favourite?
As I said, I feel that almost all restaurants offer low carb options, but it is nice to just be able to order without second-guessing.
Low-carb/keto hotspots in Sydney are Care by KEEP TONE, LB Canteen, Bondi Wholefoods, Hale & Hearty Pancakes, GoodnessCakes, Grill’d (low-carb burger buns yay!), and Health Freak Cafe.
In Bondi, I like to go to Calipress for the best bulletproof coffee, and the paleo Escobar dish at Parida is really good. Any other ones I should try? Let me know!
You heard it. Let us know in the comments below of any hotspots you know in Australia.
As a dietitian, for whom would you recommend a LCHF diet?
I would recommend a lower carbohydrate diet to – almost – everyone. The current Dietary Guidelines recommend an intake of 45-65% of energy from carbs, which is HIGH as the low-carbers among us know. A LCHF is especially beneficial for weight management, diabetes & insulin resistance, PCOS, as well as to improve acne and migraines. However, the first great step for everyone would be to focus on eating whole foods instead of processed foods: swap your morning oats or cereals for eggs with avocado and see how you feel!
What’s your advice for people who want to shift to a LCHF diet for the long-term? What’s the best way to approach it?
I’d say that depends on the person – some like to reduce their carbs cold-turkey and others like to ease into it. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach and by working together with a specialised dietitian, you’ll make sure your diet is nutritionally adequate and tailored to your needs and preferences.
To wrap it up: We know you already tried our KetoCacao bars. What’s your favourite time of the day to take a bite?
After dinner for sure – KetoCacao is perfect as dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth. I also like to eat a few squares before a workout or when the afternoon is still looooong and I want to stay focused.
Awesome, thanks Noor.
Noor runs her practice and the instagram page @thenourishingstate , make sure to check her out for recipes, tips and a lot of keto and nutrition-friendly content.