Are you ready to see weight loss results, boost energy, and feel your best? If yes, you’ve come to the right place.
The keto diet is a high-fat, very low carbohydrate diet designed to bring your body into ketosis.
The diet works by greatly reducing carbohydrates and increasing your fat intake to up to 75% of daily calories.
The keto rules have it that fats should replace the majority of your daily calories.
Protein and carbohydrates count for the rest of the 25 percent of macronutrient intake.
To illustrate, this translates to your macros looking something like this:
- 75% of calories from fat,
- 20% from protein
- 5% from carbs (20g-50g of net carbs per day on average).
With the keto diet, the aim is a complete shift of the energy and fuel source of the body.
This carb reduction forces your body to deplete the body’s glycogen stores, which is the first choice of energy, and forces your body to rely on fats (or ketones) for fuel.
This process is called ketosis. It’s a metabolic state where your body taps into stored body fat and fats from foods for energy.
The diet is well sought after not only for its fat-burning ability but also as a way to generate a speedy weight loss.
Plus, ketogenic foods are naturally more satiating than carbs.
People on a low carb diet often find themselves with a lower appetite, which can further aid in the shedding of excess weight.
In addition to weight loss, research has attributed certain health benefits to the keto diet.
These include a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and better mental clarity, as well as reducing symptoms from other health conditions such as epilepsy.
In this article, you’ll discover what the keto diet is and the easiest way to get started. Plus, I’ll also provide a 7-day keto diet plan and menu to get you started.
What Is The Keto Diet?
Living a keto lifestyle means following a low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet.
It is the swapping of fat for carbs that pushes your body into ketosis, using its alternate energy metabolism.
Because our diets are typically so carbohydrate-heavy in modern society (especially in the United States), starting a new diet can sometimes feel intimidating.
As the standard American diet often consists of heavily processed foods lacking in nutrients.
The type of diet we eat can impact everything from our weight to our energy levels and overall health.
Unfortunately, diets with lots of carbs and very little nutrients that many of us in the United States eat may leave us feeling sluggish and lead to inflammation and health problems long term.
While keto is certainly a lifestyle change, it comes along with so many health benefits!
Plus, the good news is that it’s becoming more mainstream, which means there is tons of information and inspiration for keto meals and keto-friendly options out there- even sweets!
What Is Ketosis?
Following a ketogenic meal plan can provide health benefits for a variety of different conditions, such as epilepsy, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
In fact, the keto diet first came about as a way to help reduce seizures in epilepsy patients.
It has also been shown to improve insulin resistance, blood pressure, triglycerides, inflammation, and cholesterol.
It takes following a keto diet for about 7 days before your body burns your glycogen stores and really gets going with ketosis.
Once there, you’ll start producing ketone bodies as a byproduct of this altered metabolism. This is a good thing because it means that your body is burning fat stores around the clock!
When you start the ketogenic diet, it’s best to keep your carb intake to 5-10% of your daily calories.
As you continue, you’ll find your personal carb “sweet spot”, which may be different from another keto dieter’s.
For example, while some people can maintain ketosis on 40 grams of carbs per day, you might need to drop to 20-25 grams of total carbs.
To determine your total carb intake, we recommend using a keto calculator.
But, a good rule of thumb is to limit carbs as much as you can. That will allow you to reach ketosis faster.
To get and stay in ketosis your fat intake should make up about 60-75% of calories on a daily basis.
Protein is also fairly low at around 15-30% of energy needs, while carb intake is usually restricted to 5-10%.
It is a good idea to test your ketone levels with ketone test strips, which can determine if you have reached a ketogenic state.
It can take some time to figure out what these macros look like on a daily basis, but our 7-day keto meal plan will take the guesswork out of your first week and help you get started!
Ketosis is a process that happens in the body when there is not enough carbohydrate intake to use for energy.
When carbs are not present, your body switches to using fat metabolism for fuel. When your body does not have enough glucose, your liver takes the fat you eat and turns it into ketone bodies.
Those ketones then travel throughout your bloodstream and are used by your muscles and other tissues as fuel.
Since it is a big change for your body, the transition into ketosis can sometimes come along with a few short term symptoms, often called the keto flu, which is essentially carb withdrawal.
You can tell that you’re on your way to a ketogenic state from changes in appetite or breath, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, headache, weight loss, and some digestive issues such as nausea or diarrhea.
However, once you reach ketosis you should notice increased focus, decreased brain fog, and increased energy.
During this process, it is important to pay attention to hydration and electrolytes.
It can be a good idea to supplement with some bone broth or sugar-free electrolyte water.
The most common way to confirm you are in ketosis is through ketone test strips, which test the amount of ketone bodies in the urine.
Once you reach a ketogenic state, the goal is to stay there throughout your keto journey.
The best way to do this is by sticking with a low-carb, high-fat keto diet, which will ultimately lead you to a smaller waistline and improved health long term.
Some keto dieters also chose to supplement with exogenous ketones or MCTs, as well.
Basic Keto Diet Rules
The keto diet is a low-carb diet, like the paleo or Atkins diet, but with a high amount of high-quality and healthy fats and moderate protein intake.
The first week of eating keto food is important to burn up the remaining glycogen in your body and transition into ketosis.
The standard ketogenic diet keeps the average daily carb count to about 50g net carbs, however, eating fewer carbs is a great way to guarantee you reach ketosis.
For the best results, many keto dieters like to limit themselves to about 20g net carbs per day for the first few weeks, before doing some experimenting to find out what amount of carbohydrate intake best suites them.
Besides carbs, how you distribute the rest of your macros is key.
Fat is arguably the most important macronutrient in a keto diet, so getting enough fat is a key keto diet rule.
Healthy fats should make up about 75% of your total calories.
How much protein you eat can also make a huge difference in your results, which is why a moderate amount of protein is also a big part of a keto lifestyle.
Protein should make up around 15-30% of your daily intake.
The Potential Benefits of the Keto diet
Increased Fat loss
Because your body is able to burn fat for fuel, increased fat loss is a major benefit.
In a ketogenic state, your body is able to burn a significant amount of fat at rest, and therefore reduce your fat stores.
A low carb, high fat diet helps you lose a lot of weight for a variety of reasons.
In addition to reducing fat stores, a keto diet can greatly reduce water weight that tends to come along with a high carb diet and increase satiation as well.
Reduced Appetite and Increase Satiety
Following a keto diet plan can also cause reduced appetite and increased satiety because of the reduced insulin and fat stores in your body.
This reduces hunger hormones and allows your body to hear more clearly when the brain says “you’re full”.
Lower Risk of Obesity and Weight Gain
All of the above benefits combined result in a lower risk of obesity and other health concerns that come along with it.
Because of the impacts on appetite, satiety, and body weight, the keto diet has been shown to prevent weight gain in the long run as well.
Improvements in Insulin Levels and Insulin Sensitivity
Eating a low carb diet greatly improves insulin levels in the body.
When you are eating a high carb diet, there is often a high amount of insulin present in the bloodstream, which gradually causes your body to become less sensitive to its presence (aka insulin resistance).
As the levels of insulin in the blood regulate during a ketogenic diet, insulin resistance greatly improves.
Better Cholesterol Levels and Heart Health
Eating healthy fats on a ketogenic diet can greatly improve HDL (good cholesterol) and HDL/LDL ration (your ratio of good to bad cholesterol), and improve triglycerides.
Making sure to eat a healthy diet of foods high in unsaturated fatty acids is an important part of seeing better results and improving cardiovascular disease while following a keto diet.
Improvements In Certain Medical Conditions
A ketogenic diet has been shown to help with a variety of medical conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and PCOS.
Foods You Can Eat on Keto
The following is a framework for the best foods to eat while following a ketogenic diet.
When you find brands that you love, make a note so that you can add them to your shopping list in the future!
60-75% of daily total calories, and your main source of energy!
- Dairy products — Greek yogurt, sour cream, cheese (especially goat cheese, cream cheese, or cottage cheese), and heavy cream. Avoid skim or low-fat dairy products, as they tend to include much more sugar.
- Nuts/Seeds — nut butter from almonds (almond flour), cashews, or non-GMO peanuts; pistachios, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans; flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds.
- Oils — olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides), avocado oil, and coconut oil.
- Animal Fats — Fatty cuts of meat from organic and pastured sources; fish oil. Try to go for low sodium and less processed meat options when possible.
- Plant Fats — coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil.
15-30% of total calories, how much protein you eat keeps your metabolism on track.
- Eggs — go for organic, local, and pastured when possible.
- Poultry — fatty cuts of meat like turkey, and chicken thighs are best. Dark meat has more grams of fat (and just as many grams of protein) per serving than white meat.
- Seafood — fattier species like herring, salmon, trout, mackerel, and tuna; clams, shrimp, scallops, and lobster for shellfish. Many of these are high in polyunsaturated fats, which is great for your cholesterol!
- Meat — grass-fed bison and ground beef, organ meats, venison, and pork.
- Tofu can also be a great option if you are vegan or following a vegetarian keto diet.
5-10% of daily caloric intake, when possible, go with high fiber and complex carbs.
- Non-starchy Veggies — peppers, brussels sprouts, zucchini, asparagus, leafy greens( spinach, arugula, lettuce) mushrooms, broccoli, onions, spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice, and tomatoes. Avoid starchy vegetables.
- Fruit — Blackberries and raspberries, avocado, and tomatoes. (fruit can make a great keto dessert for those of you with a sweet tooth as well, plus they’re packed full of antioxidants!)
Condiments—fresh herbs and spices, salt and pepper, lemon juice, mayonnaise (a great way to add a few extra grams of fat to a meal), and vinegar.
Sugar-Free Keto Sweeteners — stevia, monk fruit sweetener, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols such as erythritol and xylitol
water is the clear keto-friendly drink of choice, but the following are also permitted:
- Water infused with citrus (hello, vitamin c!), cucumber, berries, peppers, or mint.
Sparkling water, as long as it’s sugar-free.
- Water infused with electrolytes, as long as it’s sugar-free
- Black coffee, keto coffee, and/or bulletproof coffee
- Green, black, and herbal tea.
- Bone broth makes a great base for soups
You may also choose to supplement with exogenous ketones
Healthy Keto-Friendly Snack Options
One of the greatest things about a keto diet is that you don’t have to ban snacking. Be sure to keep lots of keto snacks on hand to stay in a state of ketosis.
These easy keto recipes are flavorful and don’t take much time to prepare.
Here’s are a few to add to your shopping list:
- Dip low-carb veggies (like cucumber or bell peppers) in a tablespoon or two of guacamole
- Sliced olives and salami
- Hard-boiled eggs (also great to add to a keto breakfast)
- Keto smoothie (try coconut milk, cocoa, and avocado, throw in some spinach to increase your fiber intake and get some extra calcium and vitamins)
- Almonds (or your favorite nuts) and cheddar cheese
- Kale chips
- Berries with heavy whipping cream (keep your berries in the freezer for a cold keto dessert)
- Celery, cucumber, or peppers dipped in herbed cream cheese dip
- Low-glycemic fruit with 1-2 tbsp of nut butter
- Half an avocado stuffed with chicken salad
- Coconut chips
- Cheese roll-ups
- Parmesan Crisps
- Greens and avocado with high-fat dressing
- Homemade trail mix (try unsweetened coconut, nuts, and seeds)
- Avocado cocoa mousse
Even though snacking is encouraged, keep an eye on your portion size and total calories. Overeating is overeating, no matter where the calories come from.
The best way to stay mindful of this is to keep a food journal and meal prep!
Foods to Avoid on Keto
Almost as important as what you can eat, is what you should avoid. You’ll definitely want to avoid anything with lots of carbs.
Back away from anything that’s overly processed and high in sodium and sugar.
Traditional bread and pasta, as well as cookies and other baked goods, need to go uneaten. For a comprehensive no-no list, keep the following handy:
- Grains — anything processed, like spaghetti, cereal, tortillas, wheat, oats, rice, and noodles. Some whole grains may fit into a keto diet in moderation because of the fiber content, but always make sure to read the food label and calculate net carbs.
- Sweets — all sugar, including agave, honey, and maple syrup; traditional desserts such as ice cream and candy.
- Sugary Drinks — Juice, bottled teas, and sports drinks, and all soda.
- Starches — Starchy veggies, mostly root vegetables including potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, corn, carrots, and peas.
- Beans/legumes — kidney and black beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
- Fruit — steer clear of high-glycemic fruits, especially citrus, pineapple, bananas, and grapes.
- Condiments — any high sugar/carb sauces like BBQ, bottled salad dressings, and dipping sauces.
- Margarine, shortening, and vegetable oil (including canola and corn) are all unhealthy fats that should be avoided. Remember, we want to substitute healthy fats and foods that include polyunsaturated fat when possible.
- Avoid fast food, processed meats and meats high in sodium (hot dogs and sausage, for example), and packaged foods.
There are so many variations for food choices when following a ketogenic diet!
And, there is simply no need to follow a meal plan lacking in flavor when so many delicious recipes are available.
Feel free to mix and match these keto recipes, as long as you remember the basic guidelines for the standard ketogenic diet:
- 75% of your meals should be fat
- 20% protein
- 5-10% carbs
It also might be helpful to aim for 50 grams of net carbs or less when starting out.
Common Side Effects and Keto Flu Symptoms
The Keto Flu is a combination of adverse effects that often occur in the first week or so of the diet, while you are transitioning into a ketogenic state and burning remaining glucose.
This often includes headaches, fatigue, irritability, constipation, insomnia, brain fog, and digestive issues.
- Diarrhea – depending on how much fat you were eating before, the increase in grams of fat in your diet could cause some short term digestive issues such as diarrhea.
- Upset stomach – This is another digestive issue that can occur for a short period of time as you get used to eating a lot of fat. As your body adjusts your appetite, these digestive issues should go away.
- Constipation – This often comes along with any big diet changes, plus reducing the grams of fiber you are eating by cutting back on carbs can cause some short term constipation. An easy way to avoid this is to make sure you still include plenty of non-starchy vegetables in your meal plan.
- Dizziness – For the first week or so, as you are transitioning into ketosis, you will have very low blood sugar levels, which can cause dizziness. Once your body makes the switch to burning fat stores and ketones for fuel, this symptom should go away.
- Fatigue – Fatigue, and exhaustion can also be a common side effect due to the reduction of glycogen stores and low blood sugar during your first week of keto. Like many of these side effects, once you enter ketosis you will notice greatly improved energy.
- Kidney stones – Increased fat and protein intake can put an extra load on your kidneys, which can cause an increased risk of kidney stones for a small group of dieters who try keto. Including whole foods and avoiding highly-processed meats will result in a reduced risk for kidney stones.
- Muscle cramps – Muscle cramps can occur during your transition into ketosis due to dehydration or lack of electrolytes (like sodium and potassium). The best way to avoid this is to drink plenty of water, along with fluids high in electrolytes such as bone broth or sugar-free electrolyte water. It may also be a good idea to speak with your doctor or dietitian about adding a magnesium supplement to reduce cramps.
Common Questions About the Keto diet
Since we have been encouraged for so long to eat a low-fat diet, a common question is whether a higher fat diet like keto, paleo, or Atkins is healthy.
And the answer is- Yes! The keto diet plan can be adjusted to meet your needs and leaves plenty of room for fruits, veggies, and whole foods.
For the best results (both with health and weight loss) we encourage you to get enough protein and eat meats high in unsaturated fatty acids and low in sodium.
This often typically means steering clear of processed meats and packaged foods. Combine this healthy diet with regular workouts for the best results!
Another common question is how much body fat you can lose on a low carb diet like keto, and how much weight you can lose is totally personal!
How eating fewer carbs and following a keto lifestyle will impact your body depends on several things, such as how it compares to your previous diet plan, your activity levels, and if you’re making the right choices when it comes to food.
If you were previously eating a low-fat diet that was high in carbohydrates, you will likely see a big difference!
One popular combination in diet plans is keto and intermittent fasting. While it is not necessary to combine these diets, doing so may be an easy way to reach ketosis faster. Because your body can more easily switch to burn fat for fuel when fasting, intermittent fasting may help make the transition into ketosis smoother.
While a keto lifestyle can have so many benefits, we want to make a disclaimer that it is not necessarily the best diet for everyone. This diet can have adverse effects on people with underlying kidney issues or liver problems, as the increased load due to fat and protein can be harmful.
We also do not recommend the keto diet plan for any women who are pregnant or people with previous or current disordered eating. If you are on medication for diabetes, make sure you speak to your doctor before starting the keto diet.
Successful keto diets are all about consistency and long term persistence. If you can make it through the first week, you’ll be off to a fantastic start! What’s more, you’ll be amazed at how differently your body feels in ketosis.
Most people report increased energy, a lifted “brain fog,” and fewer cravings and temptations. Limit snacks to fats and protein, allowing your carbs to come from veggies and fruit instead.
Read labels to avoid sneaky sugar-laden foods, especially when it comes to beverages! And drink plenty of water. Reading the keto rules, this can sometimes feel like a restrictive diet, but with a plethora of keto-friendly recipes, you won’t be short on delicious options. We hope our easy keto meal plan can take the guesswork out of planning your first few days, as well.
- Yancy, William S, et al. “A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet to Treat Type 2 Diabetes.” Nutrition & Metabolism, BioMed Central, 1 Dec. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325029/.
- Paoli, A, et al. “Beyond Weight Loss: a Review of the Therapeutic Uses of Very-Low-Carbohydrate (Ketogenic) Diets.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nature Publishing Group, Aug. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/.
- Giugliano, Dario, et al. “More Sugar? No, Thank You! The Elusive Nature of Low Carbohydrate Diets.” Endocrine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29556949.