If you’ve been thinking of starting a ketogenic diet, this beginner’s guide is perfect for you.
The keto diet (or ketogenic diet) is a high-fat, low-carb, diet that offers many health benefits.
Several studies show that the keto diet can help you lose weight and improve your health.
Others also show living a “keto life” may lower your risk of age-related Alzheimer’s disease.
These are amongst many health benefits associated with eating a keto diet.
So whether you are looking to lose weight, burn fat, or lower your health risks, this low-carb diet can help.
In this article, I will talk about what is keto. And how starting a ketogenic diet, ketogenic guidelines, ketogenic rules, etc works.
In the end, I will also share a 3-day keto diet plan and delicious ketogenic recipes to help you get started.
Here is a complete detailed guide to the keto diet for beginners.
What Is a Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb meal plan that forces your body to go into a metabolic state called ketosis.
Ketosis is a normal metabolic state when the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates.
This is the goal of everyone who follows a Keto or ketogenic diet meal plan.
The body burns fat as fuel instead of glucose, the preferred energy source for the body cells.
In this process, the body produces ketones in the liver out of fat that can be used to fuel the brain.
Producing ketones and depleting blood sugar and insulin brings more benefits.
It includes all from weight loss, blood sugar control, and prevention of dementia.
More on these benefits later.
The Potential Health Benefits of a Keto Diet
There are several health benefits associated with following a Keto meal plan.
Some people choose this diet for weight loss reasons while others do it for better health.
This includes people with diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s, and heart diseases (1).
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome also see results from going Keto (2).
The reason for Keto being so beneficial is because blood sugar and insulin levels go down on Keto. Production of Ketones also contributes and brings its own set of benefits.
Ketone production improves brain health.
This is because ketones don’t cause cell death or create plaque accumulation in the brain. They also don’t cause inflammation (3).
To add, they boost mitochondrial health and function (4).
This is where the Keto diet and epilepsy and seizure treatment have a tie in.
The ketogenic diet was first developed in the 1920s to treat epilepsy. Mayo Clinic doctors noticed seizures were less frequent in some epilepsy patients (5).
They found commonality in the depletion of blood sugar.
To enforce this metabolic state, they created a specific and restrictive diet menu. It was designed to starve the body off of glucose to lower blood sugar.
Since then, the Keto diet has been a successful solution to prevent seizures.
With a Ketogenic diet, those with epilepsy enjoy a 90% reduction in seizure frequency.
Different Types of Keto Diets
For the most part, when people talk about a keto diet, they refer to the standard one. But there are several other types of keto diets.
Here’s a list of other popular keto diets.
Just choose the one that best fits your goal and lifestyle.
The standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is the most typical and basic keto diet. It follows the standard keto macro ratio of 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs.
It’s high in fats, moderate in protein, and low in carbs. This macro ratio is to be followed on a daily basis to stay in ketosis.
The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This keto diet works on a cyclical basis. You’ll be in and out of ketosis by rotating low-carb days and non-keto days. The typical schedule goes 5 ketogenic diet days followed by 2 high-carb days.
The reason behind this keto diet is perpetual depletion of carbs can cause symptoms. They include but are not limited to dry eyes, fatigue, dry sinuses, and thyroid problems. By having a couple of days of high-carb days, you can supplement the body with the glucose that can clear them.
The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): TKD is popular amongst those who work out at a high intensity. It’s because it accommodates your nutritional needs around workouts. This is an area that’s not adequately researched.
However, TKD dieters believe pre-workout carb meals can improve their workout performance.
High-protein ketogenic diet: This resembles SKD except for the protein intake. Compared to SKD’s macro ratio of 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs, HKD eats protein up to 35%. This brings down the fat intake to 60%, the lowest range of the keto macro ratio.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition attests to eating a high-protein and low-carb (6).
It reports it can curve hunger and reduce food intake.
While these variations exist, SKD remains the most followed and typical. Most research done on a keto diet is also on the standard keto diet.
If you are a keto beginner, it’s recommended that you start with the standard keto meal plan and adjust as needed.
Keto diet is certainly not one-size fits all. There are several types to fit and accommodate different lifestyles and nutritional needs. For most beginners, the standard version provides a good starting place. SKD is also the most researched and you find most resources on its diet.
How Keto Diets Work
Regardless of your choice of the keto diet type, getting the macros right is the key to reaching ketosis.
Macros short for macronutrients represent three-pillar nutrients.
They are an essential part of a keto diet more so than any other diet.
This is because keto diets rely on food balance to bring the body to ketosis. Too high in carbs prevent reaching ketosis just as much as too high in protein or too low in fats.
The balance between the three macros builds the keto body and determines diet success.
So what are macros and what makes up each one?
In simple terms, macronutrients are nutrients the body is run on. They supply what your body needs to function.
While there are more macros than those three, keto diets use fats, proteins, and carbs to rule the diet.
Keto Macros Basics
Fats: 60-75 % of your total calories. Fat sources include but are not limited to coconut oils, avocado oils, animal fats, dairy, and nuts.
Proteins: 15-30% of your total calories. Protein sources include fish, shellfish, meats, poultry, and plant-based proteins such as hemp. Some dairy provides a decent amount of protein.
Carbs: 5-10% of your total calories. To maintain this low level of carbs, it pays to stick with low-glycemic, low-sugar carbs. These include leafy greens, mushrooms, berries, avocado, and high-fiber low-sugar choices.
It’s a far-restrictive way of eating and many who start keto for the first time may need a week or two to get used to it.
But by keeping your diet within the macro portions, you will after 3-5 days drive your body to the state of ketosis. It’s a reaching point to aim for any keto dieter.
Since you need to be far more precise about your meals on a keto diet, the first thing to do is to calculate your macros.
While you can do the math yourself to find your macro portions in grams, I recommend using a keto calculator. It’s far easier and faster to get your numbers.
What you need to calculate your macros using the calculator is your weight, height, gender, and age.
You also need to decide how many carbs you want to start with. A typical range is 20-50 grams a day, so enter a number that best suits you.
If you are looking to lose weight on a keto diet, the calculator can take that into an account. Based on your goal weight and your activity level, it computes how much of each macro you need on a daily basis.
After inputting all your personal data along with your weight goal, it shows your macros in grams.
In other words, I’ll tell you exactly how many grams of each macro you need to consume per day to reach ketosis.
For example, the calculator might tell you to consume 25 grams of carbs, 78 grams of protein, and 158 grams of fat.
On a keto diet, your macro ratio takes more importance than any other diet. With the right combination and balance of your macro intake, you can induce your body to get to ketosis. In that newly achieved state, your body begins to burn fat for fuel rather than glucose.
How To Start A Keto Diet
Now you know your macro portions and get the very basics of a ketogenic diet, it’s time to get started!
So, where to start?
The beginning can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
To help you get started on eating keto with a breeze, we created a step-by-step guide on how to get started on a keto diet.
It’s made for absolute beginners, so if you are starting new one, you are in the right place!
Before You Start:
Here is the fine print: prior to starting keto, you need to make sure it’s right for you.
So your pre-starting step is to consult with your healthcare professional.
As a matter of fact, before you start any diet, get a clearance from your healthcare professional.
Once you get clear to start the ketogenic diet, it is time for Step 1.
Step 1: Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is the best route for ketogenic diet success. It’s because if you are not careful, it’s easy to stray from the path to ketosis.
That’s why getting your keto macros right and picking out your food ahead of time is crucial.
If you haven’t already, use the Keto Calculator to find your keto macro portions.
Once you have keto macro ratios, you know how many grams of fats, protein, and carbs to eat, and you can start food planning.
Let’s start with snacks.
Because a keto diet is so filling, you might not be snacking quite as much. Nevertheless, you’ll want a few things to nibble on.
So what are some good ideas for keto snacks?
How about pork rinds?
These high-fat snacks are a great alternative to potato chips. And don’t forget guacamole. It’s made from avocados, which are great sources of healthy fat.
Nut butter is another great option, but remember to buy brands without added sugar.
Cheese, hard-boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds… the list goes on. Basically, you need to pick snacks that are high in fat or protein.
So what should you drink when you’re on a keto diet?
The best answer is probably the simplest one.
Water is always the ideal choice for any diet, including keto.
Coffee is fine, but always make sure to use a lot of heavy creams. Remember, you’re trying to increase your fat intake. Try keto coffee or bulletproof coffee.
Other keto beverages include:
Bone broth, black tea, coconut milk full-fat, green tea, herbal tea, and infused fruit water are good too.
Maybe you love smoothies? If that’s the case, you should use nut milk as a base. Also, consider adding things like spinach and egg yolk. High-fat yogurt can go into the blender as well, like an avocado.
Check this list 8 delicious keto smoothie recipes..
But what about actual food?
Definitely consider seafood. Salmon is an excellent choice. It’s packed with nutrients and contains virtually no carbs. It contains a lot of fat as well, as do mackerel and sardines. In addition, you’re getting a great dose of omega-3.
Vegetables are important, but you have to choose low-carb options.
Starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams contain too many carbs. Cauliflower and zucchini are excellent options. Even better, they can be prepared in many different ways, so you never get bored of them.
Cheese is something you’re definitely going to want to load upon. It’s low in carbs and high in fat, which makes it a perfect choice.
Meat is also an obvious choice. This type of food contains virtually no carbs, and it’s a great source of protein. The best choice is grass-fed meat because it’s higher in omega-3 fats.
If you’re going to cook with a particular type of oil, choose coconut oil. This oil seems tailor-made for a keto diet. Coconut oil contains MCTs, which can easily be converted into ketones. Studies have shown that coconut oil works wonders for the brain. It can also help reduce belly fat. Olive oil is another great choice. Butter is obviously another option, as it’s very high in fat.
There are many more options out there for keto-friendly foods, but we’ve covered the basics.
Building your keto food list:
Oils: avocado oil, MCT oil, coconut oil, olive oil, Brain Octane Oil, fish oil, and macadamia oil. If you are vegetarian, opt-out of fish oil and use krill oil.
Fats: cacao butter, lard, grass-fed butter, chicken fat, and ghee.
Others: mayonnaise, egg yolk, fatty fish, coconut meats, and avocado
Nuts: almonds, brazil nuts, coconut, macadamia nuts, pecans, and walnuts
Seeds: chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, hemp, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
Dairy: yogurt, heavy cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and cheese
Vegetables: alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, celery, cucumbers, leafy greens, radish, spinach, and zucchini. Bitter greens including collard greens, kale, Swiss chards, spinach, and arugula
Leafy greens including lettuce, Romain, micro greens, and iceberg
Fruits: raspberries, blackberries, avocado, and olives
Meats: dark meats, pastured eggs, organ meats, pork, whey protein
Fish: wild-caught fish shellfish
Poultry: chicken and turkey
Vegetables: artichoke, onion, beetroot, carrot, tomatoes, green beans, jicama, and winter squash. Starchy carbohydrates are to be avoided or eaten in moderation.
Fats: grain-fed butter/ghee
Foods To Avoid?
Unfortunately, you’ll also need to avoid most grains.
This includes rice, wheat, and oats.
They’re just too high in carbs. Kidney beans and chickpeas also contain surprising amounts of carbs.
The same is true for many other beans. Aside from berries, you’re going to have to say goodbye to most fruits. They also contain a lot of carbs and sugar.
And lastly, stay away from sugars. This includes maple syrup and honey.
Step 2: Start Your First Week
Here’s what a few days will look like if you’re on the keto diet.
3-Day Keto Diet Plan
- Breakfast: Mushroom omelet
- Lunch: Chicken Caesar salad
- Dinner: Bison steak with broccoli
- Snacks: Walnuts, pistachios, low-carb keto smoothie
- Breakfast: Full-fat yogurt with keto granola
- Lunch: Grass-fed bison burger
- Dinner: Choose a roast chicken with cream sauce
- Snack: Avocado pesto keto toast
- Breakfast: Butter-fried eggs, bacon
- Lunch: Salmon, avocado spinach salad
- Dinner: Coconut chicken curry
- Snack: 1 oz of dark chocolate and fat bombs
As you can see, eating a ketogenic diet is not the challenge you might have thought.
But with any specialized diet, it’s important to plan ahead. It’s good to have foods from each macronutrient group.
Be aware that going on keto can cause serious changes in the body. You might even get something called the “Keto Flu.” This is when people get sick and exhibit many of the symptoms of common flu.
These symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and many others. Rest assured, this will only last a few days.
You should also be aware that your breath might start to smell. This is a common side-effect of the keto diet. As you produce ketones, acetone is released from the body. This can cause odors.
But there are also plenty of good changes that will occur. When you finally reach a state of ketosis, you’ll get a tremendous boost of energy!
Step 3: Fine-Tune And Continue
The final step to a Keto diet is to make little adjustments here and there. You might find that certain keto foods work better than others.
The most important thing is to keep trying new keto foods. You’ll start to build your own unique diet as you go.
Remember, it’s important to listen to your body. You’ll know when you’re eating food that works wonders for your body.
Hopefully, the keto diet now seems a little less complicated.
It should be obvious that this diet is also very beneficial. It doesn’t matter whether you want to lose weight, boost your metabolism, or help with diabetes.
A keto diet can be incredibly helpful for many people. It might be hard at first, but if you stick with it you’ll reap the rewards. And remember, this isn’t some crazy theory.
The Keto diet is proven through scientific research.
- (1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/
- (2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334192/
- (3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1464156/
- (4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15469884
- (5) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x
- (6) https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/87/1/44/4633256