If you were familiar with the latest health trends, the ketogenic or keto diet would have appeared on your radar.
Keto claims to help you lose weight quickly if you consume more fat.
The key, however, is that this high-fat intake needs to be coupled with very little carbohydrate.
If done consistently, it is said to put your body in a state of ketosis that will cause you to switch from burning carbohydrates to burning stored fats for energy, along with other health benefits.
Although the trend has accelerated, there are still not many places in Singapore that offer food that meets the strict requirements.
Enter Ketomei, Singapore's first keto-focused food subscription service.
The local startup, founded just last December, wants to help more people make their diets a success by conveniently bringing keto meals to their doorstep.
They very kindly sent us a sample of meals to get a taste of the ketomei experience!
My crash course in Keto
Credit: Vulcan Post
Ketomei offers three types of meal plans, starting with a week-long plan for $ 180 for 12 meals.
According to their website, each of their meals contains “about 60 to 80 percent fat, 20 to 35 percent protein and only 5 to 15 percent carbohydrates”.
The six meals I received ranged from local flavors to popular cuisines like Western and Korean food.
From the selection it was easy to choose my favorites. Of course the food is subjective, but I found that ketomei chicken rendang, garlic butter salmon, and lemon and pepper chicken leg were a treat.
On the other hand, I wasn't a fan of the baked Barramundi (I usually like fish, but it was too fishy even for me).
Ketomeis salmon would be my first choice / Photo credit: Vulcan Post
Since it wasn't fair to talk about results after eating only six keto meals for three days, I decided to write down my observations instead. I have learned a lot from this short experience when I say it myself.
Between the knowledge of how tasty keto can be and learning interesting ways to replace rice, one thing was most obvious: keto requires a lot of commitment.
It struck me that keto foods tend to be rich because their high fat content can be carried by ingredients like cream and oil. It tastes great at first, but getting used to it every day takes some getting used to.
I also noticed that I became very thirsty and that my craving for sweet snacks and drinks increased like crazy.
Aside from my lunches and dinners in Ketomei, it was admittedly not a good thing to keep my selection of breakfasts and snacks within the keto rules.
I never thought that one day I would intentionally eat over 70 grams of fats in one meal.
That brings me to another point: Keto requires you to be all in.
It's not something you can do "most of the time" because you need to maintain certain amounts of fat and carbohydrates to get ketosis, and you won't benefit much from it otherwise.
One can say with certainty that this has opened my eyes to the determination that people use for better health!
Ketomei founder Constant Tong, who is familiar with these challenges himself, says he is trying to make it easier for people to get started with keto.
By providing consistent meal plans and reducing frustration with sourcing keto-friendly foods, he believes that "people will be interested in an experience they enjoy."
From technology freak to health freak
Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei
Starting Ketomei was a departure from Constant's previous career, which was nowhere near food.
The 52-year-old is a tech veteran who started as a software engineer at Singapore Airlines in 1992.
Over the years, he gained a wealth of experience as a leading product manager for companies such as the Internet service provider EdgeMatrix and the stock trading app TradeHero. He even co-founded a fintech startup in Shanghai.
At some point, Constant also tried playing games as a development manager at Electronic Arts in Los Angeles (if you spent six years) – "a dream job for an enthusiastic player," he tells us.
His last job was at Razer Fintech, where he was deputy vice president for the Razer Pay mobile wallet.
After all these years in technology, he admits entering unfamiliar food was something he would never have thought of, even though he jokes that he is "a decent home cook".
Constant's passion for keto began when he first tried the diet two years ago to "get rid of stubborn belly fat".
Since he was living in the United States at the time, there were not many obstacles in his way.
The availability of low-carb options in America made it “relatively easy to stay on the diet,” and he was thrilled to lose weight, gain more energy and focus, and sleep better.
But when I returned to Singapore for a job, I found it difficult to stay on keto because carbohydrates are the staple food in our local cuisine.
Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei
Due to his long absence, he missed local favorites such as chicken rice and beef rendang deeply. And giving them up, even in the name of health, would be totally un-Singaporean.
When he realized that many other “keto-ians” had the same fight in Singapore, he was inspired to find a solution to their problems.
The first steps to creating ketomei
One of the first things Constant did was to gather the right people who could fill his knowledge of food and nutrition.
"I was lucky enough to be introduced by an advisor to Chief Andrew Ng (who has been in Keto for half a year)," he says.
He also met Kelly Tan Peterson, whom he sees as "the best known keto influencer in Singapore and Malaysia".
With an award-winning keto recipe book and a strong online presence after over six years, he made sure that she came on board as a Ketomei nutritionist.
Chef Andrew Ng and Kelly Tan Peterson / Photo credit: Ketomei, Cooking Inspired By Love
Next, Constant made the decision for Ketomei to work with its production in a cloud kitchen as an online food delivery service.
While he's sure dieters would love more restaurants serving keto, the cloud kitchen and delivery model ensures that he can reach more people with lower rental costs.
He says he has invested a “low six-figure amount” that was less than the cost of opening a restaurant.
When he started putting the business together, Constant soon realized that this new industry was a steep learning curve.
“It's not easy to set up a commercial kitchen that can cook batches for several hundred people (at the same time),” he says.
With his team, he worked on ironing out every detail from sourcing the ingredients to creating the menu, developing a system to ensure that the food stays fresh after delivery, and setting up a subscription website.
It was a particularly challenging task for him to “create keto versions of Asian recipes”.
This unique problem eventually led to interesting solutions, such as using cauliflower or konjac jelly (from a plant root) to replicate rice grains.
Can't you have rendang without rice? Ketomei changes it to turmeric cauliflower rice.
Serve over 10,000 meals in 3 months
With their website and kitchen running smoothly, Ketomei launched its first customer group through a tasting on Christmas 2019.
They delivered their first meals on January 4, 2020.
Constant reports that the response was “overwhelmingly good”. More than 300 customers signed up and over 10,000 meals were served in the first 12 weeks.
During this time, they also "exceeded six-figure sales".
For a new company that is barely three months old, Ketomei is going full steam ahead and Constant says they are already facing “growing pain”.
For one thing, they already need a team expansion and are looking for investments to build a larger central kitchen to keep up with demand.
Constant believes that there are "over 100,000 people" interested in keto in Singapore, and that ketomei is well positioned to serve them.
Food delivery, cloud kitchens and the healthy food movement are three key trends that are rapidly changing F&B, and we're at the right time to take full advantage of these trends.
Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei
In addition to providing keto meal plans, his goal is to develop an app that allows customers to monitor their progress toward their personal health goals.
He points to DNA test kits and smart scales that have been popular recently, and believes that health technologies like this make it easier to understand what our bodies need.
"After all, my ultimate goal is to provide personalized nutrition," he says.
"When it comes to nutrition, everyone is different and needs a different eating plan to get the most optimized results."
All ages learn about the benefits of keto at the Ketomei launch party
It's not just people who already know about keto that he wants to reach.
"I knew we were solving a problem that keto enthusiasts would be willing to pay for," he explains. "But I want to bring keto mainstream to reach the people who need it most."
Be it for weight loss or to help people cope with diseases like diabetes and cancer, Constant hopes that ketomei, together with the right medical advice from doctors, can improve life.
To learn more about Ketomei, visit the website here and follow the Facebook page here.
Selected image source: Ketomei
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