The keto diet, as a rule, is very low in carbs, high in fat and moderate in protein.When following a ketogenic diet, carbs are typically reduced to under 50 grams per day, though stricter and looser versions of the diet exist.Fats should replace the majority of cut carbs and deliver approximately 75% of your total calorie intake.Snack Shopping
Proteins should account for around 20% of energy needs, while carbs are usually restricted to 5%.
This carb reduction forces your body to rely on fats for its main energy source instead of glucose — a process known as ketosis.
While in ketosis, your body uses ketones — molecules produced in the liver from fats when glucose is limited — as an alternative fuel source.
Though fat is often avoided for its high-calorie content, research shows that ketogenic diets are significantly more effective at promoting
weight loss than low-fat diets.
Plus, keto diets reduce hunger and increase satiety, which can be particularly helpful when trying to lose weight.
Ketogenic Diet Meal Plan
Switching over to a ketogenic diet can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Your focus should be on reducing carbs while increasing the fat and protein content of meals and snacks.
In order to reach and remain in a state of ketosis, carbs must be restricted.
While certain people might only achieve ketosis by eating less than 20 grams of carbs per day, others may be successful with much higher carb intake.
Generally, the lower your carbohydrate intake, the easier it is to reach and stay in ketosis.
This is why sticking to keto-friendly foods and avoiding items rich in carbs is the best way to successfully lose weight on a ketogenic diet.
Keto-Friendly Foods to Eat
When following a ketogenic diet, meals and snacks should center around the following foods:
- Eggs: Pastured, organic whole eggs make the best choice.
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey.
- Fatty fish: Wild-caught salmon, herring and mackerel.
- Meat: Grass-fed beef, venison, pork, organ meats, and bison.
- Full-fat dairy: Yogurt, butter, and cream.
- Full- fat cheese: Cheddar, mozzarella, brie, goat cheese, and cream cheese.
- Nuts and seeds: Macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and flaxseeds.
- Nut butter: Natural peanut, almond, and cashew butter.
- Healthy fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut butter, and sesame oil.
- Avocados: Whole avocados can be added to almost any meal or snack.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Greens, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers.
- Condiments: Salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and spices.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid foods rich in carbs while following a keto diet.
The following foods should be restricted:
- Bread and baked goods: White bread, whole-wheat bread, crackers, cookies, doughnuts, and rolls.
- Sweets and sugary foods: Sugar, ice cream, candy, maple syrup, agave syrup, and coconut sugar.
- Sweetened beverages: Soda, juice, sweetened teas and sports drinks.
- Pasta: Spaghetti and noodles.
- Grains and grain products: Wheat, rice, oats, breakfast cereals and tortillas.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, corn, peas, and pumpkin.
- Beans and legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans.
- Fruit: Citrus, grapes, bananas and pineapple.
- High-carb sauces: Barbecue sauce, sugary salad dressings, and dipping sauces.
- Certain alcoholic beverages: Beer and sugary mixed drinks.
Though carbs should be restricted, low-glycemic fruits such as berries can be enjoyed in limited amounts as long as you’re maintaining a keto-
friendly macronutrient range.
Be sure to choose healthy food sources and steer clear of processed foods and unhealthy fats.
The following items should be avoided:
- Unhealthy fats: Margarine, shortening and vegetable oils such as canola and corn oil.
- Processed foods: Fast food, packaged foods and processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meats.
- Diet foods: Foods that contain artificial colors, preservatives, and sweeteners such as sugar alcohols and aspartame.
Sugar can be found in a wide variety of beverages including juice, soda, iced tea and coffee drinks.
While on a ketogenic diet, high-carb drinks must be avoided just like high-carb foods.
It’s no small matter that sugary beverages have also been linked to various health issues — from obesity to an increased risk of diabetes.
Thankfully, there are many tasty, sugar-free options for those on the keto diet.
Keto-friendly beverage choices include:
- Water: Water is the best choice for hydration and should be consumed throughout the day.
- Sparkling water: Sparkling water can make an excellent soda replacement.
- Unsweetened coffee: Try heavy cream to add flavor to your cup of joe.
- Unsweetened green tea: Green tea is delicious and provides many health benefits.
If you want to add some extra flavor to your water, try experimenting with different keto-friendly flavor combinations.
For example, tossing some fresh mint and lemon peel into your water bottle can make hydration a breeze.
Though alcohol should be restricted, enjoying a low-carb drink like vodka or tequila mixed with soda water is perfectly fine on occasion.
A Sample Keto Menu for One Week
The following menu provides less than 50 grams of total carbs per day.
As mentioned above, some people may have to reduce carbohydrates even further in order to reach ketosis.
This is a general one-week ketogenic menu that can be altered depending on individual dietary needs.
- Breakfast: Two eggs fried in pastured butter served with sauteed greens.
- Lunch: A bunless grass-fed burger topped with cheese, mushrooms, and avocado atop a bed of greens.
- Dinner: Pork chops with green beans sauteed in coconut oil.
- Breakfast: Mushroom omelet.
- Lunch: Tuna salad with celery and tomato atop a bed of greens.
- Dinner: Roast chicken with cream sauce and sauteed broccoli.
- Breakfast: Bell pepper stuffed with cheese and eggs.
- Lunch: Arugula salad with hard-boiled eggs, turkey, avocado and blue cheese.
- Dinner: Grilled salmon with spinach sauteed in coconut oil.
- Breakfast: Full-fat yogurt topped with Keto granola.
- Lunch: Steak bowl with cauliflower rice, cheese, herbs, avocado, and salsa.
- Dinner: Bison steak with cheesy broccoli.
- Breakfast: Baked avocado egg boats.
- Lunch: Caesar salad with chicken.
- Dinner: Pork chops with vegetables.
- Breakfast: Cauliflower toast topped with cheese and avocado.
- Lunch: Bunless salmon burgers topped with pesto.
- Dinner: Meatballs served with zucchini noodles and parmesan cheese.
- Breakfast: Coconut milk chia pudding topped with coconut and walnuts.
- Lunch: Cobb salad made with greens, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, cheese, and turkey.
- Dinner: Coconut chicken curry.
As you can see, ketogenic meals can be diverse and flavorful.
Although many ketogenic meals are based around animal products, there is a wide variety of vegetarian options to choose from as well.
If you’re following a more liberal ketogenic diet, adding a cup of berries to your breakfast or a small serving of a starchy vegetable to your dinner will increase the number of carbs in this meal plan.
Healthy Ketogenic Snack Options
Snacking between meals can help moderate hunger and keep you on track while following a ketogenic diet.
Because the ketogenic diet is so filling, you may only need one or two snacks per day, depending on your activity level.
Here are some excellent, keto-friendly snack options:
- Almonds and cheddar cheese
- Half an avocado stuffed with chicken salad
- Guacamole with low-carb veggies
- Trail mix made with unsweetened coconut, nuts and seeds
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Coconut chips
- Kale chips
- Olives and sliced salami
- Celery and peppers with herbed cream cheese dip
- Berries with heavy whipping cream
- Cheese roll-ups
- Parmesan crisps
- Macadamia nuts
- Greens with high-fat dressing and avocado
- Keto smoothie made with coconut milk, cocoa and avocado
- Avocado cocoa mousse
Though these keto snacks can maintain fullness between meals, they can also contribute to weight gain if you’re snacking too much throughout the day.
It’s important to eat the appropriate number of calories based on your activity level, weight loss goal, age and gender.
If you’re unsure how many calories you should be eating, check out this article to learn how to calculate energy needs.
A Simple Ketogenic Shopping List
A well-rounded ketogenic diet should include lots of fresh produce, healthy fats, and proteins.
Choosing a mixture of both fresh and frozen produce will ensure that you have a supply of keto-friendly vegetables and fruits to add to recipes.
The following is a simple ketogenic shopping list that can guide you when perusing the grocery aisles:
- Meat and poultry: Beef, chicken, turkey, and pork (choose organic, pasture-raised options whenever possible).
- Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring are best.
- Shellfish: Oysters, shrimp and scallops.
- Eggs: Purchase omega-3-enriched or pastured eggs whenever possible.
- Full-fat dairy: Unsweetened yogurt, butter, heavy cream, and sour cream.
- Oils: Coconut and avocado oils.
- Avocados: Buy a mixture of ripe and unripe avocados so that your supply will last.
- Cheese: Brie, cream cheese, cheddar and goat cheese.
- Frozen or fresh berries: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.
- Nuts: Macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios.
- Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds.
- Nut butter: Almond butter, peanut butter.
- Fresh or frozen low-carb vegetables: Mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, peppers, onions and tomatoes.
- Condiments: Sea salt, pepper, salsa, herbs, garlic, vinegar, mustard, olives and spices.
It’s always worthwhile to plan your meals ahead of time and fill your cart with the ingredients needed for a few days’ worths of healthy dishes.
Plus, sticking to a shopping list can help you avoid tempting, unhealthy foods.
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits.
In fact, over 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health.
Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here is a detailed beginner’s guide to the keto diet.
What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- A standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs.
- A cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- A targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
Ketogenic Diets Can Help You Lose Weight
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease.
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is far superior to the often recommended low-fat diet.
What’s more, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.
One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet.
Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved.
Another study found that people on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the diet recommended by Diabetes UK.
There are several reasons why a ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet, including the increased protein intake, which provides numerous benefits.
The increased ketones, lower blood sugar levels, and improved insulin sensitivity may also play a key role.
Ketogenic Diets for Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar, and impaired insulin function.
The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75%.
Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 of the 21 participants were able to stop using all diabetes medications.
In yet another study, the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) in the higher-carb group.
This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, 95.2% of the ketogenic group were also able to stop or reduce diabetes medication, compared to 62% in the higher-carb group.
For more information, check out this article on the benefits of low-carb diets for people with diabetes.
Other Health Benefits of Keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
- Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar.
- Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth.
- Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression.
- Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
- Parkinson’s disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Brain injuries: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and aid recovery after brain injury.
- Acne: Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods may help improve acne.
However, keep in mind that research into many of these areas is far from conclusive.
Foods to Avoid
Any food that is high in carbs should be limited.
Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
- Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
- Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
- Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
- Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Foods to Eat
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
- Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
- Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
- Eggs: Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs.
- Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils: Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
- Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
- Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Condiments: You can use salt, pepper, and various healthy herbs and spices.
It is best to base your diet mostly on whole, single-ingredient foods. Here is a list of 44 healthy low-carb foods.
A Sample Keto Meal Plan For 1 Week
To help get you started, here is a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
- Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, and tomatoes.
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.
- Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil, and goat cheese omelet.
- Lunch: Almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and stevia milkshake.
- Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese, and vegetables.
- Breakfast: A ketogenic milkshake (try this or this).
- Lunch: Shrimp salad with olive oil and avocado.
- Dinner: Pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli, and salad.
- Breakfast: Omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion, and spices.
- Lunch: A handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa.
- Dinner: Chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, along with vegetables.
- Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder, and stevia.
- Lunch: Beef stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
- Dinner: Bun-less burger with bacon, egg, and cheese.
- Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet with vegetables.
- Lunch: Ham and cheese slices with nuts.
- Dinner: Whitefish, egg, and spinach cooked in coconut oil.
- Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
- Lunch: Burger with salsa, cheese, and guacamole.
- Dinner: Steak and eggs with a side salad.
Always try to rotate the vegetables and meat over the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.
For tons of recipes, check out these 101 healthy low-carb recipes.
Healthy Keto Snacks
In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, keto-approved snacks:
- Fatty meat or fish
- A handful of nuts or seeds
- Cheese with olives
- 1–2 hard-boiled eggs
- 90% dark chocolate
- A low-carb milkshake with almond milk, cocoa powder, and nut butter
- Full-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
- Strawberries and cream
- Celery with salsa and guacamole
- Smaller portions of leftover meals
Tips for Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet
It is not very hard to make most restaurant meals keto-friendly when eating out.
Most restaurants offer some kind of meat or fish-based dish. Order this, and replace any high-carb food with extra vegetables.
Egg-based meals are also a great option, such as an omelet or eggs and bacon.
Another favorite is bun-less burgers. You could also swap the fries for vegetables instead. Add extra avocado, cheese, bacon or eggs.
At Mexican restaurants, you can enjoy any type of meat with extra cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.
For dessert, ask for a mixed cheese board or berries with cream.
Side Effects and How to Minimize Them
Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.
This is often referred to as the keto flu and is usually over within a few days.
Keto flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort and decreased exercise performance.
To minimize this, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.
A ketogenic diet can also change the water and mineral balance of your body, so adding extra salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements can help.
For minerals, try taking 3,000–4,000 mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium and 300 mg of magnesium per day to minimize side effects.
At least, in the beginning, it is important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
Supplements for a Ketogenic Diet
Although no supplements are required, some can be useful.
- MCT oil: Added to drinks or yogurt, MCT oil provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. Take a look at several options on Amazon.
- Minerals: Added salt and other minerals can be important when starting out due to shifts in water and mineral balance.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss, and performance.
- Exogenous ketones: This supplement may help raise the body’s ketone levels.
- Creatine: Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
- Whey: Use half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake. You can find many tasty products on Amazon.
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A Ketogenic Diet Is Great, but Not for Everyone
A ketogenic diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic or looking to improve their metabolic health.
It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those wishing to add large amounts of muscle or weight.
And, as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick with it in the long term.
That being said, few things are as well proven in nutrition as the powerful health and weight loss benefits of a ketogenic diet.