|Table of Contents for the Keto Diet for Beginners Guide:|
|1. What is Keto?||2. Health Benefits||3. Health Risks||4. Macronutrients||5. Foods to Eat|
|6. Foods to Avoid||7. Supplements||8. Free Meal Plan||9. Getting Started||10. Keto Recipes|
|Other Free Keto Resources and Information|
Introduction to the Beginner's Guide to Keto
Keto. It’s a popular dietary trend these days but what’s all the fuss about? Are all these people eating more fats really losing weight and becoming healthier... Or is it just a flash in the pan?
The keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet that has substantial research supporting its use for many diseases and challenges such as obesity, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, cancer, and more. We’re here to walk you through some of the benefits and make you aware of the risks associated with a ketogenic diet. Different people may go keto for different reasons -- but everyone stands to gain positive impact to their lives by going on this journey.
We’ll first give you a brief overview of the key terms frequently used within the keto universe; walk you through some of the primary benefits of keto; make you aware of some of the risks and how to avoid them; break down what your optimal macronutrient breakdown should look like on a daily basis; and help you ultimately build your grocery list highlighting foods you should consume, avoid, and supplements to consider for keto.
Finally we’ll put together a sample 5 day keto diet plan -- and give you a final high level approach to get you started on your keto journey.
The 9 Sections This Guide Will Cover:
- What is Keto and What Terms Should You Know - You’ll learn how the ketogenic diet isn’t just a new fad diet… it’s been around for decades and was first used to treat serious metabolic diseases! Understanding terms like ketosis, ketones, net carbs and metabolic flexibility will only support you in your ketogenic journey.
- Ketogenic Benefits - Hundreds of studies confirm the ketogenic diet’s benefits for seven main conditions: obesity, diabetes, metabolic disease, epilepsy, heart disease, brain disease and cancer. Most of us know at least one person diagnosed with one of these seven making the ketogenic diet that much more important to understand.
- Ketogenic Risks - The ketogenic diet is a restrictive diet that even when carefully planned may result in nutrition deficiencies and symptoms such as the keto flu, constipation, worsened cholesterol, too little fiber intake and changes in gut bacteria. Being aware of potential challenges will help you have strategies in place to combat these should the need arise.
- Keto Macronutrient Calculations - The ketogenic diet is a very different way of eating for many people. All the research and meal planning won’t help if you don’t keep your carbohydrates low enough to allow you to enter and remain in ketosis.
- Foods to Consume on Keto - This list will help you see that there is a wide variety of foods acceptable on a ketogenic diet. Variety ensures improved nutrition and prevents “food burnout.” Balancing plant foods with animal foods will also help you maintain optimal long-term health.
- Foods to Avoid on Keto - Many foods are rich in carbohydrates and thus need to be avoided while on a ketogenic diet. If you continue to include high carbohydrate foods you can slow down your own progress which can lead to building frustration.
- Supplements on Keto - Recommended supplements can help cover nutrition gaps, prevent symptoms, and help you feel your best while following a ketogenic diet. Bone broth, magnesium, probiotics, fiber and MCT oil are examples of helpful supplements to stock up on.
- FREE 5-Day Keto Meal Plan - Now you don’t have to figure out what healthy, balanced keto meals look like! Enjoy variety and nutrient-dense foods all while following ketogenic macro-nutrient guidelines.
- How to Start on the Keto Diet - Before you even start eating a keto diet, there are some important steps to take to make your transition and journey go smoother. Examples include cleaning out your kitchen, planning meals and grocery shopping, and brainstorming how you will handle social situations.
- SuperFat Keto & Paleo Recipe Book - We put together over 40 different recipes to help get you through the day, powered by SuperFat! Download the recipe book for free an enhance your dietary options today.
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What is the Keto Diet? What Key Terms Should I Know?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet, first used as a medical dietary treatment for children with epilepsy and metabolic diseases in the 1920’s. The diet has since gained worldwide attention for its positive effects on a variety of health conditions, including weight loss. To date, over 500 published studies provide the evidence-based foundation supporting the use of the ketogenic diet as a valid medical nutrition therapy for a variety of diseases.
Key Terms in the Keto Diet & What They Mean
Start reading about keto and you’re likely to encounter many unfamiliar words. Your success, both in the short-term and long-term, is dependent on your understanding of important terms and how your body is changing through the process. Familiarity with common keto terms will also help you communicate your lifestyle changes and progress to your friends, family and medical providers. Understanding how the body uses ketones for fuel will help you make appropriate diet choices; knowing how to minimize keto flu symptoms will most certainly help you feel better during the transition period; and knowing how to count net carbs will allow you to include healthful foods without skimping on fiber.
- Ketones - the byproduct of fat breakdown the body can use for energy during periods of fasting or ketosis. Three main ketones are produced: BHBA in the bloodstream, Acetone in the breath, and Acetoacetate in the urine (for a complete guide on ketones, click here)
- Ketosis - Ketosis is a highly desirable metabolic state in which your body uses stored fat for energy instead using of dietary carbs. You can achieve ketosis in a few different ways, but the main way is by adopting a ketogenic diet (also known as keto).
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis - This term refers to a state when ketones in the bloodstream rise to dangerously high levels. This is a life-threatening emergency, most commonly a risk factor for type 1 diabetics, but is rare in those undergoing nutritional or dietary ketosis
- Dietary Ketosis - A state also known as nutritional ketosis when too little carbohydrate intake forces the body to convert dietary fat and body fat into ketones for fuel
- Electrolytes - Sodium, potassium, magnesium are substances the body excretes more rapidly during ketosis and therefore must be replenished to avoid symptoms associated with the keto flu
- Keto Flu - A state of flu-like symptoms when the body’s electrolytes are imbalanced during the period of time when the body is transitioning from using primarily glucose as fuel to primarily fat (for a guide on keto flu and how to avoid it, click here)
- Net Carbs - Total carbohydrate grams minus fiber grams. Fiber is not digested as carbohydrate and does not raise blood sugar or interfere with ketosis so fiber grams are not counted in the daily carbohydrate goals. This helps keto followers to include more nutrient-rich plant foods without compromising keto benefits
- Keto-adaptation - The point at which the body has successfully transitioned from using glucose as its primary fuel source to fat. This results in an increased utilization of the ketones in the body for fuel which means less are excreted via urine or breath
- Metabolic Flexibility - The state in which the body can efficiently go back and forth from using glucose as fuel to using fat as fuel, depending on what fuel is available at the time
- Mediterranean-Style Keto Diet - a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet that obtains the majority of the fats from plants and unsaturated fat sources associated with the Mediterranean region of the world (like avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, seafood) rather than animal sources (red meat, eggs, cheese, butter)
- Standard Keto - the regular keto approach also referred to as “strict” keto that allows liberal amounts of fats, primarily in whole food form, like dairy and red meat, without an emphasis on fiber or unsaturated fats.
- Lazy Keto - the ketogenic dietary approach that does not require tracking of macronutrients or calories and is less strict than standard keto in regards to food quality. Some packaged foods, dairy and restaurant foods are acceptable.
- Dirty Keto - This approach emphasizes hitting macro goals and remaining in ketosis above all else. Food quality is not a priority. This approach allows liberal intake of processed and packaged low carbohydrate food, without an emphasis on vegetables or whole foods.
- Keto Fat Bombs - Keto fat bombs have the perfect ratio of fat, carbohydrates, and protein to help you lose weight and feel energized. They do this by helping your body remain in a fat-burning mode, even after you eat a satisfying meal. To learn more, click here.
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6 Major Keto Diet Health Benefits
While there are many cure-all claims found on the internet these days many of them lack research or validation. The keto diet, however, is the exception that proves the rule: there is compelling scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of the ketogenic diet for a number of health conditions.
Click to jump to a specific section:
Medical nutrition therapy is the term used to define when dietary changes are used therapeutically to treat or improve diseases, conditions, and symptoms. Hundreds of published studies show a ketogenic diet to be beneficial for a variety of health conditions including obesity, diabetes, metabolic and brain diseases, seizures and more. Recent research is also exploring the possibilities for using the keto diet as a component in cancer therapy. The ketogenic diet, therefore, is a type of medical nutrition therapy.
A ketogenic diet is a powerful way to manage many diseases, and research proves it as seen above! Less studied benefits and claims not yet substantiated include prevention and remission of all cancers, long-term improvements in digestive function, and improved management of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
What is the Keto Diet?
As a quick review, the ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. When done correctly, the foods you eat contain high-quality, healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil. Meats, dairy, eggs, and animal fats ideally come from grass-fed or pasture-raised aminals to avoid consuming too many agricultural toxins or pesticides. It's also important to remember that meat coming from conventially ranched animals is much higher in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids, due to their high soy and corn diets.
The keto diet also requires the consumption of lots of leafy greens and other low-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables. Low-carb vegetables include crucifers like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, in addition to other leafy greens like spinach, arugula, leaf lettuces, and chard. While fruits do contain some natural sugars, what matters most about your carb consumption on the keto diet are net carbs.
Review the previous section for more details on the key terms you need to know when considering the keto diet.
1. Keto Helps Fight Obesity & Promote Weight Loss
The most common American use for the keto diet is weight loss. Most Americans follow the standard American diet (SAD for short). The main hallmarks of this way of eating are that it's
- too high in processed carbohydrates and meats
- too high in sodium
- too low in nutrient-dense foods like colorful fruits and vegetables.
The incorrect assumptions of the 1980s and 1990s that high-carb, low-fat diets are good and high-fat diets are bad are partially responsible for this trend toward the obesity-causing SAD diet. The rise in convenience foods (including packaged snacks) and overall decline in home-cooking are also major contributors. This way of eating has resulted in epidemic levels of obesity in the US. The ketogenic diet offers a solution that doesn't feel like a deprivation diet, due mostly to its high-fat requirements.
Why Does Keto Work?
The short answer is nutritional ketosis. Ketosis is the state that occurs when your body begins burning ketone bodies instead of carbohydrates for energy. The goal of the keto diet is to reduce carbohydrate consumption enough to force your body into a state of ketosis. Once this takes place, fat replaces glucose as your body's main source of energy, and you become a fat-burning machine.
When your body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates, AND you're eating at a calorie deficit, you will begin burning your own body fat at a rate faster than your average low-carb diet like the Atkins diet.
Rapid weight loss on this diet (including up to a 10-pound drop in the first week, due to a loss of water weight) will help you stick with it. It's also a lot easier to stick to for the long term than fad diets because it doesn't leave you feeling hungry all the time. By reducing your carb and sugar intake and replacing it with fat, you'll eliminate extreme spikes and drops in your blood sugar levels, which will keep hunger at bay.
The keto diet isn't just a short-term weight loss solution. As long as you maintain ketosis at a calorie deficit, you will continue to lose weight in the longer term. Multiple studies show that continued body fat loss, even at the 24-month mark remains possible because the body converts fat to ketones for fuel in the absence of enough carbohydrates.
Another reason for sustained weight loss on this diet is likely because it doesn't reduce your resting metabolic rate. Most extremely low-calorie weight loss plans send your body into starvation mode and dramatically reduce your metabolic rate. This is likely to sabotage your long-term success. One study showed that obese patients on a very low-calorie version of the keto-diet maintained their resting metabolic rate while on the plan, likely due to the fact that they were able to maintain lean body mass while losing body fat. Add resistance training to your routine for added benefits.
Once you've reached your goal weight, you can up your calories while remaining in ketosis in order to maintain your weight and continue reaping the health benefits of the keto diet.
2. Keto Helps Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Most of what we've outlined above is applicable to type 2 diabetes prevention and reversion. While it's possible to look thin on the outside while struggling with your blood sugar levels, most type 2 diabetes patients also struggle with their weight. And chances are, if you're thin with diabetes, you're "TOFI" (thin on the outside, fat inside) – meaning you have more visceral fat hiding under your muscles than you think (and it's likely contributing to your disease).
Visceral fat (fat that collects in your midsection and in your organs) is a hallmark of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It's more dangerous than subcutaneous fat (visible fat that sits atop muscle and feels soft to the touch) because of the effect it has on your body systems. One study showed that a low-carb diet was more effective at reducing visceral body fat than a low-fat diet.
We've already mentioned the positive effects that the keto diet has on blood sugar control. When compared to low-glycemic diet, the keto diet is more effective, at least in the case of this study of online participants. That's likely because the very low-carb nature of this diet reduces the need for the body to create insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is not actually the result of an insulin deficit; it's due to insulin resistance, which takes place because of an abundance of insulin, which damages the walls of blood cells. In other words, a reduction in insulin production (due to the low-carb nature of the keto diet plan) gives your blood cells a chance to regain some insulin sensitivity. The increase in insulin sensitivity will actually help prevent or even reverse diabetes (or metabolic syndrome) over time.
An important note: ketosis is not the same thing as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a risk factor in uncontrolled diabetes patients (both types). It happens when there's an unhealthy build-up of ketones and your insulin levels are critically low. The result is extreme dehydration (sometimes to the point of being fatal), so it's important to have a doctor monitoring you if you have diabetes. A standard ketogenic diet or low-carb diet should not trigger ketoacidosis.
3. Keto Contributes to a Healthy Heart
Again, the evidence we've already outlined above applies to this section as well. A reduction in the risks for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome is also a reduction in the risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular diseases like stroke. But that's not the only reason the keto diet supports a healthy cardiovascular system.
In addition to providing major benefits to blood sugar levels and a reduction of visceral body fat, the keto diet has also been shown to dramatically reduce triglyceride levels in the blood and increase the size of LDL cholesterol particles.
For a quick review of cholesterol, we know that having high levels of small, very dense LDL cholesterol particles in the blood is associated with a greater risk of heart disease. The larger your LDL particle size, the less sticky it is and the less potential there is for it to create blockages in your arteries and increase blood pressure.
We also know that a high ratio of HDL to LDL is beneficial for heart health. While there's still more work to be done in this area, preliminary studies indicate that a ketogenic diet can help improve that ratio.
Contrary to conventional advice from dietitians, reducing your dietary cholesterol doesn't actually have much effect on your cardiovascular risk. That's because dietary cholesterol and saturated fats (the kind that comes in delicious, keto-friendly foods like eggs, coconut oil, and animal fats) doesn't actually raise your blood cholesterol levels in a way that's detrimental to your cardiovascular health.
In fact, tons of research shows that high-fat diets (especially monounsaturated fats like the kind you find in olive oil and avocados) actually raise HDL levels. And dietary carbohydrates do just the opposite, especially highly processed, high-glycemic ones. It's the processed carbs that impact the HDL to LDL ratio and negatively affect LDL particle size.
It would then follow that a low-carbohydrate diet would necessarily be beneficial for overall heart health, as long as it's rich in nutrient-dense foods.
4. Keto Has Been Shown to Treat Epilepsy
One of the original uses of the keto diet dating all the way back to the 1920s is for the treatment of drug-resistance epilepsy, especially in children. More recent studies have shown greater than a 50% reduction in seizure occurrence for children on a ketogenic diet. That's a major change! The explanation for these effects is due in part to a disruption of signaling in the hippocampus and liver. A study on rats supports this theory, in addition to the many studies on epileptic humans.
Side effects reported after kids were on the diet for three months included constipation, vomiting, hunger, and lethargy.
5. Keto Shows Promise with Neurodegenerative Conditions
In the case of Alzheimer's, the keto diet's effectiveness is, in part, due to the protection of hippocampal neurons by ketones. Hippocampal neurons are largely responsible for memory and learning and are vulnerable to degeneration in Alzheimer’s.
In the case of ALS, much more work needs to be done. The findings are somewhat inconsistent, but the overall evidence shows that dietary fats can have a protective quality for mitochondrial function, and ALS is a mitochondrial disorder. In other words, if dietary fats can help improve mitochondrial function (the part of your cells that helps you create energy), and ALS is the result of mitochondrial dysfunction and degeneration, it would follow that a high-fat diet could help ALS patients. The research hasn't totally borne this out just yet, but the preliminary findings seem promising.
While more research needs to be done, a promising study comparing the effects of a low-fat diet and a keto diet on 47 Parkinson’s patients showed significant improvements in nonmotor symptoms in the keto group over the low-fat group. This is an especially exciting finding because nonmotor symptoms are less responsive to the widely used Parkinson’s drug, levodopa. Nonmotor symptoms include urinary problems, pain, fatigue, daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment. Both groups showed improvements in motor symptoms.
6. Keto Gives Hope to Cancer Patients
Cancer cells feed on glucose, just has healthy human cells do. However, research has uncovered a critical detail that could bring the keto diet into the standard treatment plan for many cancer patients: cancer cells can’t burn ketones for fuel the way healthy human cells can. They need the glucose and can’t reproduce without it.
A study done on mice with metastatic cancer demonstrated that the keto diet decreased tumor viability and actually prolonged the lives of the mice. Scientists believe that one factor in why this is happening is the mitochondrial dysfunction in tumor cells. The dysfunction inhibits the cells from using ketones as energy and prevents them from growing or reproducing. And because the healthy cells surrounding the tumor are ketone-adapted, they create an unfavorable environment for the cancer cells. This leads researches to hypothesize that the ketone bodies themselves might have anti-cancer properties.
Ketone supplementation was part of this study, and more work needs to be done before these methods become the standard recommendation, but this research is exciting news for cancer patients looking for strategies to bolster the efficacy of their current treatment plan.
The Keto Diet Benefits Your Health
The ketogenic diet is a powerful way to manage many diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases. While there’s more work to be done, research supports keto’s efficacy in a number of important areas of human health. Further areas of study that haven't yet been rigorously investigated include the keto diet's effect on the prevention and remission of all cancers, long-term improvements in digestive function, and improved management of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
For now, it’s well-established that the keto diet is an excellent tool for weight loss, blood sugar control, mid-section fat loss, and the treatment of epilepsy. To learn about some of the risks of the keto diet, continue to our next article.
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Keto Diet Risks: What You Need to Know
Low carb diets such as the ketogenic diet have a myriad of long-term benefits, such as weight loss, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and improved heart health. However, they also carry some risks if not managed appropriately. The benefits often outweigh any potential risks with proper preparation and knowledge, especially if you are managing a complex medical disorder or history.
In addition, if a ketogenic diet is not well-planned with an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, plant fats such as nuts and avocados, and whole, unprocessed foods, nutrient intake may be inadequate and could result in a variety of negative effects
While a ketogenic diet has many benefits, it is not without risks. Preparation is key to help you manage your health while following, and after, a very low carbohydrate diet.
Cause for Concern
Flu-like symptoms due to imbalanced electrolyte levels in the body. The keto-flu is primarily a result of the kidneys excreting excess electrolytes during ketosis and must be replenished daily to prevent symptoms during the first few months.
Change in bowel movements and a risk of chronic constipation due to low fiber intake.
Negative changes in gut bacteria due to a decreased intake of soluble and fermentable fibers that act as fuel for healthy bacteria. (Learn about the importance of probiotics here)
Decreased performance and early fatigue during high-intensity exercise and sports. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel for high intensity exercise and optimal oxygen consumption therefore athletes’ performance may be affected.
Increased total and LDL cholesterol levels (though particle size of LDL cholesterol may increase in some which may reduce heart attack risk).
Decrease in cholesterol particle size, which raises heart disease risk in certain people.
When returning to an unhealthy diet, or alternating between cycles of low carbohydrate intake and then high carbohydrate intake, this may lead to rapid body fat accumulation.
Muscle Mass Loss
When body weight or resistance training exercise is not included. Ketones have been shown to be more protein-sparing than reduced calorie diets, but leaner individuals with limited fat stores are at higher risk of muscle loss or delayed muscle growth.
When a very low-carbohydrate diet is followed long-term. Risk is likely multifactorial and due to changes in gut bacteria, lack of fiber, genetics-influenced metabolism of nutrients, increased intake of animal proteins, decreased intake of nutrients, and more.
Ketogenic Diet Risks
Even with a healthy keto diet, unwanted side effects may still occur and could include some of the following described in this article.
The Keto Flu
Keto flu is common in the beginning stages of starting a ketogenic diet. If you get it, you'll experience flu-like symptoms due to imbalanced electrolyte levels in your body as part of getting used to burning ketones (a byproduct of eating high-fat foods) instead of glucose due to decreased carbohydrate intake. The keto-flu is primarily a result of the kidneys excreting excess electrolytes during ketosis and must be replenished daily to prevent symptoms during the first few months.
Some people have significant keto flu symptoms a few days after starting a ketogenic diet and some have very few–it all depends on the person. Symptoms may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Decreased focus
- Craving sugar
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Keto flu can be quite uncomfortable–but it's temporary as your body adjusts to a new diet. On average, it's a short term issue and lasts about one week. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help manage the side effects and get through it.
- Stay hydrated–this helps with muscle cramping and weakness. Plus, drinking water is just a good best practice on any diet, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
- Take it easy. Exercise is important for weight loss and overall health, but save the intense cardiovascular workouts for when the keto flu has passed. Try yoga or walking during this time.
- Replenish your electrolytes. When you start a ketogenic diet, your insulin and blood sugar levels go down and your kidneys flush out excess sodium. Furthermore, many potassium-rich foods bananas and beans are restricted in a keto diet. Try salting keto-approved foods like nutrient rich, leafy vegetables and avocados to replace those electrolytes.
- Get enough rest. Help combat any sleep difficulties you have during the keto flu by establishing good sleep habits. Don't watch TV two hours before bed, develop a calming nighttime routine, such as taking a bath and reading, and go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day.
Many people who start a keto diet experience a change in bowel movements or chronic constipation due to a meal plan with low fiber intake. Bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramping are all fairly common. However, it's important to know what's normal and what is a cause for concern.
Due to the decreased fiber intake in a keto diet, you might notice you defecate less, which is normal when you're eating fewer carbs–as long as you aren't uncomfortable. However, if you feel gassy, gloated, are straining to make a bowel movement, or have frequent diarrhea, you should take action. Try the following:
- Reduce your intake of coconut products and MCT oil–they are great for helping you get into the state of ketosis and stay there, but your body also digests them quickly–which can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhea, especially if you haven't eaten them often prior to starting a keto diet. Back off and introduce them gradually as your body tolerates it.
- Bump up your fiber intake. Soluble fiber acts as a lubricant for your colon, making it easier to move things along, especially if you have diarrhea. Focus on getting fiber from keto-friendly foods, such as broccoli and spinach. You can also supplement your diet with psyllium husk, which is approved on the keto diet.
- Take probiotics. Thy help combat the negative changes in gut bacteria due to a decreased intake of soluble and fermentable fibers that act as fuel for healthy bacteria. Learn about the importance of probiotics.
Decreased Exercise Performance
Adopting a ketogenic diet can lead to decreased exercise performance and early fatigue during high-intensity exercise and sports, especially if you've just started the diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel for high-intensity exercise and optimal oxygen consumption, therefore, athletes’ performance may be affected.
If you frequently participate in intense, short-duration physical activity, studies show a keto diet might not be right for you. Your body needs whole grains to support athletic activities such as sprinting, basketball, and soccer.
On the other hand, endurance athletes might fare better on a keto diet. But, it can take several months for your body to adapt to burning ketones rather than glucose for energy. Allow for an adaption period and work your way back into endurance activities.
Cholesterol Levels and Weight Gain
Ketogenic diets are typically higher in saturated fat intake and can result in a larger cholesterol particle size, which raises the risk of heart disease risk in some people, especially in people who have a family history of heart disease. While most keto dieters experience an increase in HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides, this isn't always the case.
When some people adopt a keto diet, they see a rise in total cholesterol in general, especially if they are eating a diet very high in fat. Genetic conditions also play a critical role in high cholesterol levels and heart disease. The bottom line? Work with your doctor to test your levels on a regular basis, especially if you start any new diet.
If you're going keto and want the best results, you have to be consistent with your eating habits and diet plan. If you only practice a ketogenic diet when it's convenient, you won't reap the health and weight loss benefits. In fact, if you cycle between a low carbohydrate intake and then high carb intake, it can lead to rapid body fat accumulation and weight gain.
When You Should Avoid a Ketogenic Diet
Most people experience a broad range of long-term health benefits when they choose a keto lifestyle–but as with anything, there are exceptions. When a very low-carbohydrate diet is followed long-term, some individuals have an increased mortality risk– due to multifactorial changes in gut bacteria, lack of fiber, a genetics-influenced metabolism of nutrients, increased intake of animal proteins, decreased intake of nutrients, and more that comes with following a high fat, low carb diet.
Also, if you are living with existing liver or kidney disease, are pregnant, have type 1 diabetes, or genetic metabolic diseases or deficiencies, you should obtain clearance from your physician to discuss risk factors before starting a ketogenic diet due to higher potential risks. Communicate with your doctor, listen to your body, and make dietary changes as needed.
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Healthy Keto Macronutrient Calculator
The ketogenic diet derives its energy primarily from fat - from body stores as well as dietary fat. Understanding your macronutrient goals will help you more easily follow a ketogenic diet to obtain health benefits. If you eat too many carbohydrates and too little fat, you likely won’t be in ketosis and therefore risk wasting your time and effort.
What do you do when you are on the run or away from home? Use these simple visual aids to stay within your macros when you are eating your next meal:
- 2 cups non-starchy vegetables (about the size of 2 medium fists) - examples include broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini
- 4-5 oz. protein (about the size of the palm of your hand with outstretched fingers) - this could be a combination of animal proteins like salmon and plant proteins like tofu
- ½ cup additional fat (about half of your fist) - this could be a combination of several kinds of fat like cheese, oil, nuts, and/or avocado and is in addition to what may be already included in your protein and on your vegetables
A common macronutrient breakdown is as follows:
10% of calories from carbohydrates
25% of calories from protein
65% of calories from fat (<10% from saturated fat for a Mediterranean-style keto diet)
25+ grams of fiber per day
This would be your macronutrient breakdown if you include ~25 grams of daily fiber in your carbohydrate allotment.
This would be your macronutrient breakdown if you exclude ~25 grams of daily fiber in your carbohydrate allotment.
For a 2,400 calorie diet, this would equal:
- 60g total carbs (yielding about 35g net carbs assuming fiber intake is 25g)
- 150g protein
- 173g total fat (<27g saturated fat)
- 25+ grams of fiber per day
For a 2,000 calorie diet, this would equal:
- 50g total carbs (yielding about 25g net carbs assuming fiber is 25g)
- 125g protein
- 144g total fat (<22g saturated fat)
- 25+ grams of fiber per day
For a 1,600 calorie diet, this would equal:
- 40g total carbs (yielding about 15g net carbs if fiber is 25g)
- 100g protein
- 116g total fat (<18g saturated fat)
- 25+ grams of fiber per day
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Foods to Eat on the Keto Diet
Heard about the keto diet and want to give it a try?
The keto diet or ketogenic diet is a variation on the classic strict low-carb diet. It’s also quite close to the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and the paleo diet.
There a wide variety of foods that can be consumed on the keto diet, although the emphasis is on eating foods that are high in protein and/or high in fat with limited intake of carbohydrates. Of course, the more varied your diet, the broader your nutrient intake, which can help prevent deficiencies. Fortunately, most low-carb vegetables are acceptable on keto, and, depending how strict you’re being, some low-carb fruits are okay too.
Below, will explain what foods you can and can't eat on the keto diet, but first, let's quickly go over how this diet actually works to help you lose weight.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
In order to explain how the keto diet works to help you lose weight, we need to clarify how the body uses energy.
There are two basic fuels that can “operate” your body:
- Sugar: from high-carb foods like bread, donuts, cakes, cookies, pasta, rice, and, potatoes
- Stored Fat
Your body will always try to use sugar for fuel first. This means that if you're eating a diet that's high in foods like doughnuts, cookies, pasta, potatoes, and breads, your body will use the glucose (sugar) from these foods first and foremost for energy — and you’ll never experience weight loss.
If there isn’t any sugar in your system, however, your body has to resort to the other option for fuel: Fat.
When the body runs out of sugar and has to resort to fat for energy, it is put into a state called ketosis. During this state, stored fat is broken down, and the liver produces molecules called ketones, which are then used as fuel for the body.
The keto diet emphasizes fat- and protein-rich foods so that the body will be in the state of ketosis all the time and effectively burning fat all the time.
What Foods Should Be Consumed on the Keto Diet?
One thing to note about the keto diet is that its guidelines and food lists aren’t “set in stone.” With the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet, for example, there are set rules and guidelines that must be followed. The keto diet, on the other hand, is more of a style of eating. That is, there are several ways you can do keto.
Still, there are certainly “do” and “don’t” foods on keto. Below, we’ll list and discuss the foods that are best for keto if you’re doing a fairly strict version of the diet. We’ll also include recipes in each section to help you start integrating these keto-friendly foods into your lifestyle.
Following these recommendations will almost certainly help you burn fat, lose weight, and increase your energy.
Best Keto Diet Foods by Category
Without a doubt, meat is at the core of the keto diet. It’s the perfect keto food because it’s naturally high in protein and fat. Plus, nearly all meats have zero carbs.
Combined, these benefits keep you fuller for longer and help speed up your metabolism. Meat gives you the energy you need to get through your day without making you feel sluggish or drained over time. Additionally, meats contain essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is especially essential for bone and muscle health.
- Beef: Steak, veal, ground beef, roast
- Pork: Ham, bacon, ground pork, pork loin, pork, chops, tenderloin
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, duck, wild game
- Goat & Lamb
- Organ Meats: Kidney, liver, heart, tongue, offal
Carb & Fat Content of Popular Meats
Beef Steak, 3 oz. (lean and fat eaten)
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 9.3 grams
Chicken Breast, 4 oz. (boneless, skinless)
- Net Carbs: 3 grams
- Fat: 3.5 grams
Bacon, 2 pan-fried slices
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 9 grams
Pepperoni, 4 slices
- Net Carbs: 1 gram
- Fat: 3.7 grams
Meat-Based Keto Recipes
1. Grilled Chicken With Avocado Salsa (Gimme Delicious)
2. Garlic Butter Steak (Life Made Keto)
3. Keto Sheet Pan Pizza (Delish)
4. Keto Bacon Egg and Cheese Bites (Maebells)
5. Leftover Turkey Casserole (That Low Carb Life)
Fish & Seafood
Like meat, fish and seafood are both keto-friendly as well. Both are high in protein, relatively high-fat, contain just a few (if any) grams of carbs, and provide numerous nutrients. Various types of fish, especially, provide excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which means they promote a healthy brain and heart. Fish also contain vitamins like potassium, vitamin B, and selenium.
Keep in mind that, although certainly low in carbs, shellfish is not quite as keto-friendly as fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines.
Keto-Friendly Fish and Seafood
Carb & Fat Content of Popular Fish and Seafoods
Salmon, 3 oz. portion
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 5.4 grams
Tuna, 6.5 oz. can packed in water and drained
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 1.6 grams
Shrimp, 8 large shrimp, cooked with moist heat
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: .5 grams
Fish- and Seafood-Based Keto Recipes
1. Keto Salmon Cakes (Hey Keto Mama)
2. Keto Tuna Salad (Diabetes Strong)
3. Walnut Crusted Salmon (The Healthy Foodie)
4. Baked Cod (Savory Tooth Low Carb Recipes)
5. Low Carb White Fish Pomodoro (A Spicy Perspective)
Egg & Dairy Products
Eggs are certainly a fitting food for the keto meal plan. This is because they have zero carbs and are high-protein.
For those who don’t require dairy-free keto foods, dairy products such as grass-fed butter, various cheeses, and heavy cream can be great on the keto diet too. Dairy products should be consumed “full fat,” meaning you should opt for whole milk over 2% or 1% and full-fat cheese over low-fat cheeses.
Keto-Friendly Egg and Dairy Foods
- Grass-fed butter
- Heavy cream
- Provolone cheese
- Gouda cheese
- Colby cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Soft cheeses: Cream cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese gouda, brie, buffalo mozzarella, camembert
- Whole milk
- Sour cream
- Mascarpone and ricotta cheeses
- Cottage cheese
- Hard cheeses: Havarti, feta, pepper jack, parmesan, mozzarella
- Greek yogurt
Carb & Fat Content of Eggs and Popular Dairy Foods
Egg, 1 egg
- Net Carbs: .5 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
Provolone cheese, 1 cubic inch
- Net Carbs: .4 grams
- Fat: 4.5 grams
Unsweetened Greek yogurt
- Net Carbs: 7.3 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Egg- and Dairy-Based Keto Recipes
1. Keto Breakfast Burrito (Ditch the Carbs)
2. Basic Keto Cheese Crisps (All Recipes)
3. Keto Egg Cups (Life Made Keto)
4. Bulletproof Coffee Recipe With MCT Oil (Wholesome Yum)
5. Keto 4 Ingredient Ice Cream (Chocolate Covered Katie)
Nuts are among the healthiest types of foods to enjoy on the keto diet, and they’re especially satisfying as a keto-friendly on-the-go snack. Just grab a small bag of almonds or a handful of nut trail mix, and you’ll be as full as you would be eating a sandwich. Nuts provide a plethora of nutrients. Pecans, for example, can lower your insulin levels, making them great for blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. Chia seeds have anti-inflammatory benefits. And macadamia nuts improve healthy HDL cholesterol level.
When it comes to keto, however, remember to avoid certain nuts such as cashews. Other nuts are much better for any type of low-carb diet.
Naturally, a variety of nuts can also be made into nut butters, which are perfect for spreading onto keto bread, spreading onto celery, or eating alone. Nut butters without added sugar even contain MCT oil and probiotics, both of which provide energy and help support the metabolism.
- Seeds: Chia seeds, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Nut butters (Macadamia nut butter,
- Sunflower seeds
- Pine nuts
Carb & Fat Content of Popular Nuts
Pecans, 19 halves (1 oz.)
- Net Carbs: 3.9 grams
- Fat: 20.4 grams
Flaxseed, 1 Tbsp., whole seeds
- Net Carbs: 3 grams
- Fat: 4.3 grams
Almonds, 23 almonds (1 oz.)
- Net Carbs: 6 grams
- Fat: 14 grams
Nut-Based Keto Recipes
1. Vegan Keto Walnut Chili (Abbey’s Kitchen)
2. Keto Nut Bar (Aussie Keto Queen)
3. Keto Chocolate Covered Almonds (The Keto Summit)
4. 3-Ingredient Keto Almond Butter Cups (The Big Man’s World)
5. Easy Almond Butter Fat Bombs (Hey Keto Mama)
When it comes to produce, you have plenty of options, all of which make great complements to other main dish keto foods like meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Still, it’s not a free-for-all. In the category of produce, veggies are always going to be better than fruits (which can contain quite a number of carbs), and non-starchy vegetables will always be better than other veggies like leafy greens.
As you likely already know, these veggies and keto-friendly fruits pack a lot of punch where nutrients and vitamins are concerned. From leafy greens (a keto favorite), you’ll get large amounts of calcium, iron, and folate — plus vitamins A, C, and K. From other vegetables like mushrooms, you’ll get niacin and riboflavin. And asparagus is great for chromium, folate, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.
- Leafy greens: Kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard leaves, Swiss chard
- Romaine lettuce, watercress, Boston lettuce, and field greens
- Bell peppers
- Herbs: Basil, cilantro, parsley
- Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage
- Green beans
- Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
- Sweet potatoes
Carb & Fat Content of Popular Produce
Spinach, 3 cups, loosely packed
- Net Carbs: 3 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Avocado, ½ cup, sliced
- Net Carbs: 6.3 grams
- Fat: 10.7 grams
Strawberries, 1 cup, halved
- Net Carbs: 11.7 grams
- Fat: .5 grams
Produce-Based Keto Recipes
1. Low-Carb Ginger Garlic Vegetable Stir Fry (Stay Snatched)
2. Keto Oven Roasted Vegetables (Wholesome Yum)
3. Zucchini and Parmesan Bake (Ditch the Carbs)
4. Low Carb Keto Roast Chicken Soup (Sugar Free Londoner)
5. Easy Keto Vegetable Ratatouille Recipe (The Keto Summit)
Various beverages are totally okay on the ketogenic diet — most notably, still and sparkling water, tea and coffee, and diet sodas. Of course, diet sodas aren’t recommended on any type of healthy diet, so if you can, stick to water.
If you’re interested in an alcoholic beverage, spirits are your best bet all around. Just don’t mix your gin, whiskey, vodka, or tequila with carb-laden mixers (even tonic water is full with carbs). Wine is acceptable on keto, but whatever you do, steer clear of beers. Other than a few, special low-carb options, beers tend to have the most carbs of any alcoholic beverage.
- Still water
- Sparkling water
- Green and black teas
- Diet sodas
- Spirits: Whiskey, vodka, tequila, brandy, gin
- Whole milk
- Coconut water
- Vegetable juice
- Unsweetened nut milks
- Unsweetened dry wines
Carb & Fat Content of Popular Beverages
Coffee, 1 cup (8 oz.) black
- Net Carbs: .8 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Whiskey, 1 shot (1.5 oz.)
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Almond milk, 1 cup, unsweetened
- Net Carbs: 1.4 grams
- Fat: 2.7 grams
Keto Beverage Recipes
1. Gin Fizz, The Ultimate Low-Carb Cocktail (Keto Diet)
2. Keto Infused Iced Tea (Low Carb No Carb)
3. Keto Berry Smoothie Recipe (Ketogasm)
4. Low Carb Strawberry Lemonade Mojitos (I Breathe I’m Hungry)
5. Keto Turmeric Milkshake (Ditch the Carbs)
Spices, Condiments & Sweeteners
In this category, we have those small ingredients that are present in so many recipes and meals, but that often go under the radar when it comes to nutritional content.
Best in the group are healthy fats like canola and olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. While most dried herbs and spices are low-carb, some are more keto-friendly than others as you’ll see below. For sweeteners, not too many are totally keto-friendly; however, in a pinch, we’ve provided some options.
Keto-Friendly Spices, Condiments, and Sweeteners
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Vinegars: Cider, white, and wine vinegar
- Broth and bouillon
- Dried herbs and spices: Black pepper, mint, basil, cloves, coriander, ginger powder, tarragon, garam masala, cinnamon
- Ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, mayonnaise (optimally, sugar-free)
- Soy sauce and tamari sauce
- Balsamic vinegar
- Monk fruit
- Dried herbs and spices: Ground cumin, oregano, paprika, onion and garlic powders, cayenne, turmeric, chili powder, curry powder
Carb & Fat Content of Popular Spices, Condiments, and Sweeteners
Olive oil, 1 Tbsp.
- Net Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 13.5 grams
Stevia, 1 pack (2 grams)
- Net Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Sugar-free ketchup, 1 Tbsp.
- Net Carbs: 4 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Keto Recipes With Spices, Condiments, and Sweeteners
1. Low-Carb Taco Seasoning (Low Carb Maven)
2. Keto Barbecue Seasoning (I Breathe I’m Hungry)
3. Homemade Sugar-Free Ketchup Recipe (Low Carb Yum)
4. Zero Carb Homeowner Keto Mayonnaise (Soccer Mom Blog)
5. Low Carb Sweetener Blend (Keto Cake Walk)
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Foods to Avoid on the Keto Diet
On a keto diet, you want to aim for a low-carb diet breakdown of about 70-80 percent fat, 5-10 percent carbs, and 20-15 percent protein. Some foods are much higher in carbohydrates and may jeopardize your ability to stay in ketosis and restrict weight loss.
Certain foods are rich in nutrients and fiber and may be able to be included in your diet in small enough quantities. However, these foods cannot be consumed liberally and should not be your staple food choices. Careful attention must be paid to serving sizes of these higher carb foods.
Keep reading to learn more about what foods you can incorporate into a ketogenic diet in moderation, and which ones you should avoid to yield the results you want.
Grains You Should Avoid
One agreed-upon truth about the keto diet is that you should avoid these flour-based, carbohydrate-rich foods–even whole grains. Consuming them can prevent ketosis and may increase blood sugar and insulin levels–which promotes body fat storage. To get the results you want, you're going to have to cut out grains. Avoid grains such as:
Remember, you should stay away from breads, pasta, pizza crusts, cookies, or crackers made with any of these grains. Try out a cauliflower pizza crust or zoodles if you want a keto-friendly alternative!
Beans and Legumes to Avoid
While beans are legumes are chock full of nutrients and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and folate, most are fairly starchy with too many carbs. For example, one serving of black beans contains 41 grams of total grams of carbs and 26 grams of net carbs. Chickpeas have a whopping 45 grams of total carbs and 32 grams net carbs! Cut out the following from your diet:
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- White beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Lima beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Fava beans
Carb counts for one cup of cooked beans:
- Black beans: 40.8 grams
- Pinto beans: 44.8 grams
- Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas): 45 grams
- Kidney beans: 40.4 grams
- Red beans: 120 grams
Lower-carb bean alternatives:
Because calculating net carbs can be confusing, and because making a mistake can ruin ketosis, many people on the keto diet avoid beans altogether. Quitting beans "cold turkey" can be tough, though, as beans play such an important role in cuisine. Fortunately, you can incorporate several low-carb bean alternatives into your keto diet plan.
- Beanless refried beans create the taste and texture of refried beans without the beans or the carbs. This dish uses eggplant or zucchini, bacon and spices – top with optional cheese or sour cream for an authentic south-of-the-border flavor.
- Peas are legumes, most peas contain about half the carbohydrates as beans. A cup of green peas contains only 21 grams of carbs, for example. Green peas are also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K and protein. Peas work well as bean replacements in chili, salads and curry, but due to their distinct flavor, peas may not work well in many other bean-based dishes.
- Lentils are also legumes with a total carb count of 40 grams, but they contain 16 grams of fiber, which brings the net carbohydrates down to manageable levels.
- Enoki mushrooms resemble bean sprouts and have a texture similar to cooked beans, making them a great substitute for beans. One cup of sliced enoki mushrooms has only 24 calories and a mere 5 grams of carbs. Enoki mushrooms are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. Enoki mushrooms are available fresh and canned, which make them easy to add to soups, salads and many other dishes.
- Nuts - Try buttery macadamia nuts, protein-rich almonds, or sweet pecans, which are chock full heart healthy vitamins but light on the carbohydrates.
- Other vegetables - A number of vegetables can mimic the taste and texture of beans without the burden of high carbohydrates. Try diced mushrooms, chopped zucchini or riced cauliflower as bean replacements.
Dairy Products to Avoid
While you don't have to avoid all dairy on a keto diet, you should be strict about limiting:
- Low-fat milk–stick to two percent or above, and don't drink more than one serving per day. Even better, opt for full-fat, raw milk. Heavy cream is also permitted.
- Shredded cheese–sometimes it contains potato starch to keep the shreds separate. Stick with slices or block cheese. Always choose whole milk, high-fat cheese rather than reduced-fat or fat-free cheese.
- Fat-free butter alternatives
- Low-fat whipped cream
- Low-fat cream cheese
- Ice cream
Fruits to Avoid
Like beans, fruit has a lot of benefits–but they also have a lot of naturally occurring sugars, and therefore, carbs. Steer clear of fruits such as:
- Honeydew melon
- Fruit juices
- Dried fruit
Some fruits can be enjoyed sparingly. Add fruits with a lower sugar content into your meal plan, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
Starchy Vegetables to Avoid
A good rule of thumb in avoiding starchy, carbohydrate-rich veggies is where they are grown. If a vegetable grows underground, it's a most likely high-carb. Avoid starchy veggies such as:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
Focus on incorporating lots of green, leafy, low-carb vegetables into your diet. Fill up on vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, and broccoli.
Sugars to Avoid
In general, sugars are a no-go on a ketogenic diet. However, did you know there are 56 different types of sugar you may encounter on nutrition labels? They are hiding everywhere you look, so you need to be vigilant. Avoid things that list any of the following:
- Cane sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Agave nectar
- Turbinado sugar
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Palm sugar
- Coconut sugar
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you're not out of luck. Try low-carb, healthy sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit in your favorite recipes. Here 75 of the healthiest keto-friendly desserts you can test out at home.
Nuts to Avoid
While nuts are not traditionally viewed as carbohydrates, some types have a higher carb content that may prevent you from consuming less than 30 grams of net carbs per day, so be careful. Read our complete guide to the health benefits (and nutritional analysis) of nuts here.
The good news most nuts are perfectly acceptable on a keto diet–and they're packed with healthy fats that foster ketosis. Remember to eat them in moderation and dole yourself out a serving size before sitting down with an entire bag. The lowest carb nuts are pecans, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and walnuts. Try out our delicious array of nut butters, too!
Avoid Meat and Fish Farmed in Factories
When possible, choose organic animal meats and seafood that are grass-fed rather than grain-fed–they have more valuable nutrients. You should also avoid processed meats that have a lot of nitrates and additives that add no nutritional value to your diet. In general, avoid:
- Hot dogs
- Packaged sausages
- Canned meat
- Beef jerky and bacon–they are acceptable in limited quantities but have a high sodium content, so eat them in moderation
- Chicken nuggets and fish sticks–unless they are homemade and breaded in coconut flour or another keto-friendly flour alternative
Oils to Avoid
While all oils have plenty of fat which is an important component of a keto diet–your body needs fatty acids to produce energy especially when you aren't eating many carbs. However, they aren't all created equal. You need to consume quality oils made from a healthy food source. Avoid processed or inflammatory oils, including:
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Peanut oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Sesame oil
The best types of oil for your body are virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil. Plus, they are delicious!
Beverages to Avoid
Like most diets, you should drink a lot of water when following a keto diet. However, if we are trying to limit carbs (and sugars) there are several drinks you should steer clear of, but it can be tricky to know what's acceptable. Avoid the following high-carb beverages:
- Beer–especially heavy beers such as stouts, porters, and ale. It's like drinking liquid bread.
- Most wine, especially sweet wines. Go for a dry red or white if you're having a glass or two.
- Cocktails–many spirits are fairly low in carbs but the mixers can do you in. Avoid mixers such as cranberry or pineapple juice and simple syrup. Club soda is a good zero-calorie, low-carb mixer.
- Flavored liquors
- Fruit and vegetable juices
- Diet sodas–many of the artificial sweeteners upset blood sugar, ketosis, and cause cravings
- Sweetened milk-based drinks, including coffee-based drinks and milkshakes
- Tea drinks with added sugar
Keep in mind, alcohol is ethanol, which your liver will focus on breaking down–and your body doesn't prioritize burning fat during that. So, drinking can seriously slow down weight loss even if you're following a strict keto diet. Check out this informative guide about drinking on a keto diet.
The Bottom Line
Just because a particular food appears healthy, it doesn't mean it's keto-approved. You have to retrain your thinking about the traditional food pyramid if you want to live a keto lifestyle and reap the benefits of this particular diet.
In general, avoid grains, starchy vegetables that grow in the ground, beans and legumes, processed oils, and fruits high in sugar. Limit alcohol and stay away from carb-heavy beers, wines, and mixers, and other sugary beverages. Focus on low-carb foods such as organic meats and seafood, green, leafy greens, water, low-carb nuts, soda, artificial sweeteners, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
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Keto Supplements to Ensure Balanced Health
A restricted diet plus the process of ketosis may increase your need for specific supplements. These may include:
The kidneys excrete excess fluid and electrolytes during ketosis so replenishing electrolytes is crucial to feeling well and energetic while minimizing muscle cramps.
- Sodium: Sodium must be kept in a delicate balance in the body to avoid excess water loss or retention, maintain adequate blood flow and keep the nervous system running optimally. Sodium can be obtained through pickled foods, salted nuts, broths, brothy soups, and simply salting food on your plate.
- Potassium: This electrolyte helps blood vessels to relax and calms heart rate. Potassium is rich in these keto-friendly foods: avocado, nuts, seeds, Swiss chard, cocoa powder, and mushrooms.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that helps muscles relax and may be needed to prevent constipation on a ketogenic diet. Two of the best forms of magnesium for oral intake are magnesium glycinate and magnesium threonate. This form is better absorbed than magnesium citrate. Magnesium sulfate is the form found in Epsom salt and is readily absorbed by the skin to soothe sore muscles. While food sources of magnesium are only absorbed by about 40%, it is still important to include magnesium-rich food sources like: hemp seeds, Swiss chard, Mackerel, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and dark chocolate.
FiberA review of 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials has found that 25-29 grams of fiber per day results in a 15 to 30 percent reduction in death from all causes. Even more benefit was observed in those consuming even more fiber per day.
- Insoluble: This type of fiber passes through the intestines to the colon where it adds bulk to the stool making it easier and quicker to pass. Examples of insoluble fiber supplements include psyllium seed husks and Metamucil (though these contain a higher percentage of soluble rather than insoluble fiber). Insoluble fiber is not recommended for those suffering from diarrhea.
- Soluble: Soluble fiber attracts water, forms a gel, slows digestion and is absorbed into the blood stream through the intestines. This fiber improves nutrient absorption and can help improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Grains, fruits and beans are high carbohydrate foods rich in soluble fiber. With a keto diet, you may not be eating enough of this type of fiber for benefit. Examples of soluble fiber supplements include Benefiber, Citrucel (methylcellulose), psyllium seed husks and Metamucil. This type of fiber supplement is ideal when battling constipation because it can soften or loosen stools making them easier to pass.
- Prebiotic: Inulin, chicory root, wheat dextrin and acacia gum are examples of prebiotic soluble fibers that feed healthy gut bacteria. It is especially important to protect your healthy gut bacteria from dying off which may jeopardize your long term health.
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides also known as medium-chain fatty acids, a type of quickly and easily absorbed fat primarily found in coconut and palm. For more on the benefits of MCT oil click here.
MCT’s can help you meet your fat macronutrient goals while simultaneously improving health. MCTs have been shown to reduce weight, body fat and food intake, improve metabolism and gut health, enhance insulin sensitivity, reduce lactic acid build up after intense exercise, improve brain function in those with Alzheimer’s disease, reduce CRP, an inflammatory marker, improve heart health and more! MCTs are most often available in oil and powder forms and make a great addition to coffee, smoothies, salad dressings, and cooked vegetables.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can be taken in supplement form (or by eating fermented foods). For more on the benefits of probiotics click here.
In some cases of a carbohydrate restricted diet, healthy bacteria in the colon does not receive enough fibrous fuel to stay alive which may jeopardize long term health. Probiotic supplementation may help to minimize this risk.
For ketogenic dieters who limit their meat consumption or feel more satiated by a higher protein intake, protein powders are a valuable supplement.
- Bone broth: Bone broth protein, yes, contains protein, but it provides so much more - collagen type 2, potassium, sodium, chondroitin, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid. This combination of nutrients works together to improve joint pain, skin aging, inflammation and weight management. This type of protein is easily mixed with hot or cold beverages and is dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and keto-friendly.
- Collagen: Collagen protein is derived from the bones, skin and cartilage of animals, but is not sourced from dairy like whey protein so it is suitable for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergy. Collagen protein offers an advantage over whey protein because it is high in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids help the body create its own collagen, the main protein in the human body, which supports healthy skin, hair, nail, joints, gut function, immunity, and strong bones. Make sure to consume collagen types I, II, III, IV and V for the most benefits. Like bone broth protein, collagen protein is easily mixed with hot or cold beverages and is dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and keto-friendly.
- Egg: This type of protein is obtained from egg whites and is keto and paleo-friendly, gluten-free, and soy-free. Egg whites’ protein provides all essential amino acids making it an excellent choice for muscle repair, recovery and growth.
- Whey: Whey protein is the most studied form of protein powder with substantial research supportings its use for muscle gain, repair, recovery and lean mass preservation. It is quickly absorbed and contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), key amino acids for muscle growth. While whey is sourced from cow dairy, and thus is not suitable for vegans, those with lactose intolerance or milk allergy, it is an excellent choice for many others. Choose grass-fed whey protein for improved nutrient profiles and a cleaner protein fuel.
- Vegan: Vegan protein powders often combine several sources of plant protein to form complete proteins and provide all essential amino acids. Common combinations include pea, hemp and rice proteins. In addition, vegan protein powders often add superfood powders, digestive enzymes, probiotics and other plant ingredients to provide a nutrient-packed supplement. Vegan protein powders are typically higher in carbohydrates, and therefore must be considered and counted when following a keto or low-carbohydrate diet.
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Free 5-Day Keto Meal Plan
A well-planned ketogenic diet will provide a wide variety of fats, vegetables, colors, flavors and sources to help meet nutrient, antioxidant, and fiber needs while staying under a carbohydrate threshold, often no more than 30 grams of net carbs.
2 large eggs, 1 thick slice bacon, 1/2 avocado, 1 cup braised spinach, 1/2 cup blackberries
(23g carbs, 15g fiber)
2 eggs, tomato, onion, garlic, basil, 1/2 cup spinach, goat cheese, 1 Tbsp oil, 1/2 avocado
(14g carbs, 9g fiber)
Creamed Coconut Bowl
1/2 cup creamed coconut milk, cinnamon, 1/4 cup raspberries, 1 oz. almonds
(18g carbs, 8g fiber)
2 eggs scrambled + 1/2 avocado + 2.5 cups mixed greens with olive oil, garlic and chives
(11.5g carbs, 9.5g fiber)
Chocolate Chia Pudding
1/4 c coconut milk, stevia, 1/4 c chia seeds, 1/2 c almond milk, 1 T cocoa, 1 T erythritol, 1/2 T cocoa nibs, 1 scoop protein powder
(26g carbs, 16g fiber)
Loaded Salad with Shrimp
7 oz. shrimp with 1 T ghee, 2 cups leafy greens, 1/4 cup olives, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 2 T EVOO, feta cheese
(16g carbs, 6.5g fiber)
1 can sardines, ¼ cup olives, 1 oz. cheddar cheese, 1 cup raw broccoli, 1 oz. macadamia nuts
(11.5g carbs, 7g fiber)
Boiled Egg Salad
1/2 avocado, 1 small head lettuce, 2 boiled eggs, 1 spring onion, 1 Tbsp EVOO (13g carbs, 8g fiber)
Loaded Greek Salad with Smoked Salmon3 oz. smoked salmon + 2 cups dark leafy greens + 1/4 cup olives + 1/2 cup artichokes + 2 T EVOO & vinegar + feta cheese + 2 T pecans
(11g carbs, 5g fiber)
Chicken Eggplant Curry
Chicken and eggplant cooked in a coconut cream curry sauce served over 1 cup cauliflower rice
(6g carbs, 3.5g fiber)
1/2 cup sauerkraut + 2 T sunflower seeds (9g carb, 5g fiber)
1 cup celery + 1/4 cup guacamole (9g carb, 3g fiber)
1 cup kale chips + 1 cup bone broth
(8g carbs, 3g fiber)
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup cherry tomatoes + 2 T pumpkin seeds
(11g carbs, 2g fiber)
1 oz. pecans + ¼ cup raspberries
(11g carbs, 6.5g fiber)
3.5 oz. salmon with 1 T ghee + 2 cups steamed broccoli + 1 T EVOO
(12.5g carbs, 5g fiber)
In 1 T ghee + 1 large bunch asparagus with salt, lemon juice, 1 T ghee
(8g carbs, 4g fiber)
With 1 cup sautéed cauliflower, 1 cup sautéed green beans, 1 oz. (14g carbs, 7g fiber)
5 oz. trout cooked in 1 T ghee, 2 cups sautéed greens beans with 1 oz. slivered almonds
(25g carbs, 11g fiber)
Pesto Zucchini Pasta with Crab
2 cups zucchini noodles + ½ cup artichoke hearts + 1 T olive oil + 2 T pesto + 3 oz. crab (17.5g carbs, 6g fiber)
60.5g carbs, 31.5g fiber, 29g net carbs
42.5g carbs, 23 fiber, 21.5g net carbs
53g carbs, 26g fiber, 27g net carbs
58.5g carbs, 27.5g fiber, 31g net carbs
60.5g carbs, 32g fiber, 28.5g net carbs
We've also compiled a list of options by time of day for you:
- Keto breakfast ideas (without eggs)
- Keto lunch ideas
- Keto picnic ideas
- Keto snack ideas
- Keto travel-friendly snack ideas
And for when you have to dine out...
If you're looking for a more in-depth keto meal plan you can reference this one as well: Everything I Ate for the Last 50 Days on Keto.
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How to Start On the Keto Diet
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
― Alexander Graham Bell, inventor.
When considering making a significant change to your diet, there are many steps to plan and think through so you feel prepared when a challenge comes your way. It is often said that consistency is key to success. Follow the tips below to help you maintain consistency in your keto diet and ultimately reach the health goals you are aiming for.
Top 3 Takeaways When Starting Keto:
There are many steps to consider before starting the keto diet, but the main points boil down to this:
- Review keto food lists and recipes and create your grocery list. Don’t forget to plan for snacks that you can keep in your car, gym bag, desk drawer or purse. Think nuts, nut butter, coconut chips, pickled and dried vegetables. Bookmark this list.
- Eating at a restaurant with friends? Grilled fish or protein, steamed or sauteed vegetables with added fat and salad with olive oil and vinegar can be ordered at many food establishments. Read more here.
- Experiencing any negative symptoms? Take a review of your diet and make sure you are eating real, whole foods and taking recommended supplements daily or as needed/directed by a doctor or health care professional. Include vegetables, nuts, seafood and a variety of proteins, enough fat at every meal for fuel, fibrous foods, and electrolytes.
9 Areas to Focus on or Consider When Going Keto
- Get familiar with a keto diet and your own goals. You must first understand the diet as a whole in order to plan for it properly. Calculate your calorie needs and your macronutrients so you know what you are aiming for. Become familiar with recommended foods to include and those to avoid. If you have a complex medical condition, make sure your doctor is on board and ready to support you and help you manage your health. Consider reducing any high-intensity exercise during the first few weeks of a ketogenic diet to make the transition easier. Plan to obtain baseline measurements and lab work before you start and 3 to 6 months later. A waist circumference, weight, body fat percentage, cholesterol panel, C-reactive protein, blood sugar, liver enzymes and an a1c level are great examples of what to track so you know how your body is responding to a ketogenic diet. Be aware of risks and potential issues like keto flu and don't just focus on the potential to lose weight.
- Choose your start date. Give yourself enough lead time to prepare for the other steps below before starting. This may take a few days, up to a few weeks. Consider upcoming holidays or social gatherings that
- Raid your kitchen. Throw out old and unhealthy products in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry to minimize your access to high carb foods. If other family members will be still eating some of these foods, create an area that is off-limits to you, but accessible to them. You’ll be ready to find low-carb alternatives to your favorite foods or ingredients when grocery shopping if you know what you need to replace.
- Plan your meals. To avoid mealtime panic, especially with a restricted diet, planning is key, but it doesn’t have to be done all on your own. Take advantage of online keto meal plans and keto cookbooks. Become familiar with brands of products and even restaurants in your local area that you can order keto-friendly meals from. Take time to consider your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and potential snacks in between! Before you...
- Grocery shop. Your grocery list should be based off of planned meals and snacks so you won’t feel unprepared when it is time to cook or eat. Use recommended food lists to stock up on keto-friendly staples like avocado, nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, veggies like cruciferous veggies and dark leafy greens, fish, dairy and meat. Buying MCT oil, erythritol or stevia and electrolyte supplements can also be helpful for those starting out.
- Gather your support network. Even if you don’t have family members or friends that can support you, many online keto support groups exist on Facebook, Ketodietapp.com and other websites. Your healthcare providers may also help provide support and accountability as you pursue health through a ketogenic diet. Share your goals, challenges and successes along the way.
- Think about social situations. Weddings, holidays, work events and family gatherings may pose challenges for you on a keto diet. Think through how you will manage these situations. Will you bring your own food? Eat before you go? Call ahead to the restaurant to know your options? All of these strategies can help you stay on track and endure less stress in these situations. We've got some tips here!
- Plan (or consider) your transition out of keto. Most people don’t follow a ketogenic diet indefinitely. Once you have reached your goals and/or feel ready to liberalize your diet, it is important to have a healthy diet plan to transition to so you can maintain your progress. Both Paleo and Mediterranean-style diets are examples of healthy diets that have less restrictions but may be more sustainable long-term after keto. These dietary styles allow foods like starchy vegetables and fruits, but still encourage avoidance of refined sugars, refined and white grains and processed foods, something everyone can benefit from!
- Begin your keto journey! Even if you planned thoroughly before starting a ketogenic diet, you may still encounter challenges you weren’t prepared for. Lean on your support network for motivation and encouragement. If you eat a higher carb meal or snack that throws you out of ketosis, continue on with a ketogenic diet with the very next meal. Success will be determined not by minor ups and downs, but by consistency over time.
Hopefully this guide helps give you an idea about how to safely get started on the ketogenic diet!
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