Are You New To Keto and Ready To Get Started?
If you are new to the ketogenic lifestyle and are looking to learn the basic building blocks for this way of eating (WOE), then keep reading to find out what you need to know and how to get started quickly.
Congratulations You’re One Step Closer!
You have already taken one of the most important steps by seeking more information and educating yourself about the ketogenic lifestyle. We will highlight a few key areas to focus on to ensure your success with the ketogenic diet and try not to overwhelm you with too many scientific explanations.
STEP 1: Calculate Your Calories and Macros
STEP 2: Choosing Keto Friendly Foods Is Key
STEP 3: Foods to Avoid To Ensure Your keto Success!
STEP 4: Drink Water and Supplement Electrolytes
STEP 5: Don’t Wait, Get Started Today!
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet that makes the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates by producing ketones in the liver to be used as energy. Keto was created by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic in 1924 to treat (refractory) epilepsy in children and has seen recent benefits in fighting diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. The ketogenic diet is known by many names including keto, low carb high fat (LCHF), low-carb diet, and many others.
What is Ketosis?
When you dramatically reduce your carbohydrate consumption and replace it with healthy fat and non-processed whole foods the decrease in carbs causes your body to become amazingly efficient at burning fat from meals and fat stores for energy by placing you into a metabolic state called ketosis.
Ketosis is the bodies natural process of breaking down fats in the liver and producing ketones when glucose from carbs is in limited supply to help us fuel our bodies and provide energy to the brain.
When you eat or drink something high in carbs, your body produces glucose and insulin to break it down into your bloodstream and carry it throughout your body.
All carbohydrates, except fiber, ultimately end up as glucose and since glucose is the simplest molecule for your body to use as its primary fuel source fat is not used and is instead stored for later use.
The excess fat is rarely used because we keep piling on the carbs and never give your body a chance to use its built up fat reserves which ultimately cause weight gain. Of course, this is a big reason why we are facing an obesity epidemic in the United States.
What Are ketones?
By forcing your body into the metabolic state of ketosis by limiting carbs and increasing fats, we begin producing and burning a significant amount of ketones, particularly acetoacetate (AcAc) and its by-products beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB, also known as exogenous ketones) and acetone.
Three Main Types of Ketogenic Diets
- Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) SKD is the most popular and most widely used keto diet approach. Primarily based on 70 percent healthy fats, 25 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates.
- Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) TKD is a hybrid of an SKD and a CKD intended for people who workout a few times a week where you consume your carbs before working out so you can still perform a high-intensity exercise, but will only be out of ketosis for short periods of time.
- Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD) CKD is intended for athletes or bodybuilders where you cycle between periods of low carb, high fat, and high protein with periods of high carb, low fat and high protein. Mostly a low-carb diet, where you carb-load each week.
What Is Lazy Keto?
Lazy keto is mainly staying under 20 grams of carbs per day but not counting calories and not tightly following or tracking macros.
I think this is what most people starting out keto are doing and by all means, it’s a short-term approach to get going because it is a significant lifestyle change and you may need to ease into a strict keto diet.
For some “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) is a form of lazy keto where you eat whatever you want as long as you’re under 20 grams of carbs each day. I don’t recommend the IIFYM approach because you are setting yourself up for failure and frankly it’s not keto.
Just because the food fits into your macros does not make it keto. If this was the case, We could eat candy bars or fudge sundaes each day and not consume any other food as long as I stayed under 20 carbs each day. Do you think that’s a recipe for success? Of course not.
Keto is all about healthy whole food, removing processed foods, sugar and consuming food that is good for us.
That being said if you want long-term success and want to avoid weight loss plateaus following a more strict keto approach will serve you much better.
How To Get Your Body Into Ketosis and Become a Fat Burning Machine
It’s important to figure out what your daily target calorie intake and macros will be based on what your goals are. If your goal is to lose weight or fuel workouts to gain muscle, then calories and nutrient ratios are necessary so you can align your food intake with your goals.
Macro Ratios Are Important To Your Success
Keto macros are based on how much fat, protein, and carbohydrates you plan to consume each day. A general starting point is 60-75% fat, 20-30% protein, and 5-10% carbs usually 20-25 grams of carbs or less. These ranges can differ from person to person based on sex, body type, personal health, and your overall goals.
There are plenty of free keto macro, and calorie calculators available online that will give you customized macro ratios like the Keto Calculator by Ankerl.
Once you decide your macronutrient percentages, you need to figure out how many grams of each nutrient you will consume each day.
To keep within your macros especially when first starting out it can be helpful to use a fitness app like MyFitness Pal, CRON-O-Meter or KetoDietApp, to track your meals and even calculate macros.
Honestly, I have yet to find an app that I love using consistently and often find they can be time-consuming locating the foods you consumed, offer far too many variations of those foods and limited in their features unless using the paid versions.
That being said, I have been using Senza and like it more than the others listed above because it tracks net carbs by default and it’s free.
KETO TIP: Remember everyone’s body is different and what works for some might not work for others. It’s important to experiment and figure out what works for you by testing, tweaking and making changes if you are falling short of your goals.
So now that you know a bit more about macros its time to talk about what you should be eating.
If you are easily tempted by brownies, chips, and bread, you may consider removing them from your cupboards altogether, but this is pretty hard to do unless everyone in your house has also decided to go keto. It’s important to find a way to deal with temptation because there will always be a donut shop or fast food stop on every corner and you will need to be consistent to reap the rewards of your efforts.
The good news is as your body becomes fat adapted the cravings for carb and sugar-laden foods diminish significantly because your tastes change and the increased fat in your diet is incredibly satiating.
Having low-carb alternatives to your favorite foods is essential to your success, and surprisingly people not even doing keto will enjoy them. My family absolutely loves FatHead Pizza, pork rinds and all things I can make with cauliflower.
Some Recommended Keto Foods
Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry have zero carbs and provide an excellent source of quality protein with B vitamins, iron and zinc along with essential amino acids.
Examples of keto friendly meat and poultry options:
- Fattier cuts of beef like steak, ground beef, roast, and veal.
- Darker cuts of poultry from chicken, turkey, duck, quail, duck and wild game.
- BACON!! Of course, there’s more to the pig than our beloved bacon so make sure to include the chops, tenderloin, ribs, and ham.
- Organ meats like liver, heart, kidney, tongue, and offal.
- Bison although much leaner it’s a great source of protein and you can add healthy fats when cooking.
- Wild game like deer (venison) and elk.
Avoid the following types of meat preparations if possible:
Cured meats: Often use honey and sugars to cure the meat which only increases the carb count.
Breaded meats: Typically use things like breadcrumbs and flour.
Processed lunch meats: Many packaged and processed types of meat use starchy fillers to make up for the lack of real meat and include hidden carbs.
Meats cooked in sauces and glazes: Meats like you might find in Chinese food or BBQ are usually loaded with sugar, cornstarch or flour as thickening agents and finishing glazes.
KETO TIP: Moderate protein is essential to help maintain ketosis. Too much can cause gluconeogenesis where the body breaks down protein for fuel instead of fat and can hinder ketosis.
Most fish and some shellfish like shrimp and most crabs are carb free, keto friendly and great sources of vitamins and minerals. Fatty fish like trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and albacore tuna are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Be aware of some shellfish that do have carbs like clams, mussels, oysters, octopus, and squid.
Examples of keto friendly fish and shellfish options:
At less than 1 gram of carbs and nearly 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat eggs are a go-to food option on the keto diet due to their versatility and healthy nutritional value packed with iron, vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Different ways to eat eggs:
- Egg Salad
- Over easy
- Sunnyside up
Low Carb Vegetables
Not all vegetables are created equal! In fact, some veggies are high in carbs and starch (1 medium potato 28.4 NET carbs WOW!) and natural sugars (Carrots 8.66g NET carbs) which should be avoided if you are trying to limit your carbs to 25 or less each day.
Leafy greens and low-carb, non-starchy veggies should be high on your list each day, but eat some of these higher net carb options in moderation to keep your overall carb count down each day.
Examples of keto friendly vegetable options:
*All values listed as 1 cup uncooked unless otherwise noted.
- Asparagus (4.00g net carbs when cooked)
- Bok choy (<1g net carbs)
- Broccoli (3.64g net carbs)
- Brussels sprouts (7.06g net carbs when cooked)
- Cauliflower (2.8g net carbs)
- Celery (1.4g net carbs or 0.84 large stalks)
- Cucumber (1.97g net carbs)
- Eggplant (1.87g net carbs or 5.99 net carbs cooked)
- Green Cabbage (2.97g net carbs)
- Green Peppers (4.41g net carbs)
- Kale (5.41g net carbs)
- Kohlrabi (3.47g net carbs)
- Green Leaf Lettuce (0.50g net carbs)
- Iceberg Lettuce (0.93g net carbs)
- Romaine Lettuce (0.54g net carbs)
- Mushrooms (1.6g net carbs)
- Onions (9.11g net carbs 1/2 cup sauteed cooked)
- Radish (2.04g net carbs)
- Spaghetti squash (6.98g net carbs)
- Spinach (0.39g net carbs)
- Swiss chard (0.75g net carbs)
- Tomatoes (4.86g net carbs)
- Zucchini (2.75g net carbs)
Dairy: Who Doesn’t Love Cheese and Butter?
Cheese, butter, heavy cream and some full-fat unsweetened yogurts are good foods to include on a ketogenic diet. It’s wise to try and avoid dairy with high amounts of lactose which is the natural sugar found in milk and will spike your blood sugar and raise insulin levels.
Examples of keto friendly dairy options:
- Cheeses like cheddar, bleu cheese, brie, jack, mozzarella, parmesan, swiss, and feta.
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Full-fat yogurts
- Heavy cream
- Sour cream
Healthy Saturated and Mono-Unsaturated Fats
Healthy fats are truly the foundation of the ketogenic diet. If we want to fuel our body using fats instead of carbs, our diet must include 60-75% of our calories from fat.
Examples of keto friendly fat options:
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Coconut butter
- Coconut oil
- Egg yolks
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fatty cuts of red meat
- Fatty fish
- MCT oil
- Macadamia nuts and macadamia nut oil
- Nuts, seeds and nut butter (Fattier nuts like almond and macadamia nuts)
Nuts, Seeds and Nut Flours
Nuts are an excellent source of fats and proteins, but they do have carbs and depending on the type of nut can increase your overall carbs and protein ratios pretty fast especially if you don’t watch your portion size. Eating fattier and lower carbohydrate nuts like almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts or pecans can help keep your macros on track.
Examples of keto friendly nut options:
- Brazil Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
Nut and Seed Flours Can Help Kitchen Creativity
Almond flour, coconut flour, and flaxseed meal are solid substitutes for regular flour in baking recipes for bread, tortilla or bagel alternatives and dessert recipes. You can even use them in pizza and breading recipes to try and replicate some of your old carb heavy favorites.
Again, just like regular nuts moderation is key here so not to blow up your macros with the increased carbs and protein when consuming too much. Please consider if you’re getting kicked out of ketosis, gaining weight or experiencing gut issues you may think about removing them from your diet and seeing if they were the cause of your setbacks.
Examples of keto friendly nut and seed flour options:
- Almond Flour
- Chia Seed Meal
- Coconut Flour
- Flaxseed Meal
- Hemp Seed
- Unsweetened Coconut
Fruits: Can You Eat Fruit On a Ketogenic Diet?
Fruits are loaded with natural sugars otherwise known as fructose, and it’s best to eat fruit only occasionally. Of course, things like avocados and tomatoes are considered fruits, but we won’t include them in this list. If you are going to eat fruit, you should make sure its low-sugar fruit like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries in moderation.
Examples of low-sugar fruit options:
- Blackberry 1/2 cup raw (3.12 net carbs)
- Raspberry 1/2 cup of raw (3.34 net carbs)
- Strawberry 1/2 cup of raw (4.13 net carbs)
What Beverages To Drink On Keto?
Staying hydrated is an important part of your nutritional plan, and there’s no doubt water is by far the most crucial part of what to drink while on a ketogenic diet or any diet for that matter.
For many people, plain old H2O can get a bit boring, but there are other options you can add in addition to water for more variety which we’ve listed below.
Examples of keto friendly drink options:
Water: Glorious life nectar we call H2O is a must.
Naturally Flavored Water: You can flavor your water with slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or try including a sprig of mint.
Coffee: Countless millions praise this heavenly bean brew, and there’s no doubt its a go-to staple in most keto diets with choices like Bulletproof coffee, hot coffee, iced coffee, cold-brewed coffee, Americanos, coffee with heavy whipping cream, and coffee with MCT oil.
Keto tip: I love adding Emulsified MCT oil to my iced coffee each day which blends easily to hot or cold drinks and has lots of fat-burning ketosis benefits too.
Tea: Herbal teas, green, oolong, black, mostly any non-sweetened tea flavor you love to drink hot or cold. Try tea mixed with a bit of coconut or almond milk for a twist on regular tea.
Sparkling Water: Of course you have probably heard of La Croix flavored water along with many other brands. It’s carbonated and contains no sugars and is a great option if you need a carbonation fix.
Sugar: We have spent decades becoming addicted to sugar and its found in nearly EVERYTHING we eat, but if you want to have success with ketosis and become fat-adapted, it is essential to remove sugar from your diet especially in unnatural processed forms.
Check out these great tasting natural sweeteners to replace regular sugar. My favorite is 100% natural Erythritol which is a sugar alcohol naturally found in fruits and vegetables and has 0 calories & 0 carbs and sugar replacement with little effect on blood glucose. It’s a fantastic sugar substitute for those following a ketogenic diet because it has 0 net carbs.
Grains: Anything made from wheat including whole grains like wheat, barley, rye, quinoa, and buckwheat should be avoided altogether. Foods made from grains like bread, rolls, hamburger buns, bagels, tortillas, pitas, crackers, chips, cereal, pasta, corn, rice, donuts, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, and beer.
Starch: Avoid starchy carb dense vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, peas, yucca, and corn.
Fruit. Avoid medium to large sized fruits like oranges, apples, bananas, and tropical fruit like pineapples, guava, and mangos as they’re very high in sugar.
Low-fat Foods: Are low-fat foods making you fatter? Possibly, not only are these products typically higher in sugar and carbs than their full-fat counterparts they can cause you to overeat because you feel like they are better for you and portion control becomes an issue for many. Make sure you read the ingredients and better yet just steer clear entirely keto is the high-fat diet isn’t it?
Trans Fats: Margarine and spreadable butter replacements typically contain trans fats which raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. NOt only do these increase your risk heart disease and stroke, but lets real butter just tastes way better.
Fake Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Our goal on keto is to get back to eating whole REAL foods, and artificial sweeteners are mostly chemically produced. These types of sweeteners are known to increase cravings and may contribute to falling out of ketosis or stalling your weight loss.
Artificial sweeteners to steer clear of:
DON’T SKIP THIS PART! Most common problems like keto flu, headache, and constipation with keto come from lack of electrolytes and dehydration.
As we move from using glycogen and carbs to utilizing fat and ketones, our bodies become dehydrated because the glycogen and carbs must be stockpiled with water. As we use up our glycogen stores from our old way of eating we naturally excrete the water that was needed to store the glycogen through the kidneys.
The other reason is that high carb diets cause increased insulin levels and excess water retention by hindering sodium elimination. The keto diet lowers insulin levels and allows excess water to be released.
This is why it’s so important to drink lots of water, salt your foods, and supplement electrolytes if needed.
General electrolyte guidelines:
- 3,000 – 5,000 mg of sodium a day
- 1,000-2,000 mg of potassium for healthy adults
- 400mg of magnesium a day (helps prevent muscle cramps)
Good electrolyte food sources:
- Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (sodium)
- Bone Broth or bouillon (sodium)
- Avocados (potassium approximately 800 mg cooked)
- Dark leafy greens (potassium approximately 1,000 mg)
- Salmon (potassium approximately 800 mg per serving)
- Nuts (magnesium 75 mg per 1 oz of almonds)
- Cacao powder or dark chocolate (magnesium 80 mg per 1 tbsp)
- Fish (magnesium 60 mg per serving)
Quick Steps To Ketosis:
- Limit your carbohydrate intake. Try to stay below 20g net carbs each day.
- Limit protein consumption. Too much protein can cause your body to limit fat burning and slow ketosis.
- Increase your fat intake. It’s simple! Fat is what fuels your body on keto, satiates your appetite and stops your cravings.
- Drink more water. Yes! Grab a glass and drink it now…
- Incorporate Intermittent fasting. Try limiting your window of eating. Try not eating after dinner and don’t eat again until lunch the following day. Fasting will boost your ketone levels and help burn fat.
- Exercise helps. Exercise is great for your body and your mind. It will burn more calories and assist with ketosis. Not to mention it makes you feel great!
My best advice is not to stress yourself out. If you still have questions and you’re not quite sure about what you’re doing the most important thing is just to GET STARTED!
What To Expect After Starting Keto
Honestly, the first few days are going to be hard because you are switching from a lifetime of eating one way to an entirely different way of eating and fueling your body.
You may experience things like the keto flu, dehydration or fatigue due to electrolyte imbalances at first, but stay on track, and it will pay off.
Many lose several pounds of weight the first week, but this is mainly water weight from glycogen stores.
Starting keto and getting into nutritional ketosis seems confusing, but there’s so much great info out there so I encourage you to read as much as you can, ask questions, experiment and find what works for you.
You can get all of these nutrients from the food you eat, but there are a few supplements you can check out if you prefer the ease and measured amounts of micronutrients in a powder or vitamin supplement form.