Understanding the Keto Diet
You can’t read a health or lifestyle blog or walk down an aisle in the grocery store without the words “keto diet” catching your eye these days. The low-carb approach to eating has taken the world by storm and is creating quite a buzz for its ability to help you lose weight and burn fat. IF you are considering a keto diet, then it is essential you learn not only the basics but the details about this approach to eating so that you can make the best choice for you.
This beginner’s guide to keto explores everything you want to know about ketogenic eating, including what you can and can’t eat for ketosis. We explore the health benefits as well as the precautions you should know, and we share some tips to help you make the most of your keto diet experience.
The ketogenic or keto diet is an eating plan that focuses on eating low-carb, high-fat foods. In addition to helping some people lose weight, it has many other health benefits. The focus on the keto diet on low carb eating encourages your body to enter a metabolic state of ketosis, wherein it is using stored fat cells in your body for energy rather than the carbohydrates from your diet. Ketosis cannot be attained when there are already carbs for your body to use.
Looking at the basics of the keto diet, you want to strive for limited carbohydrates and more of your calories from fat. While we each process and metabolize food differently, the most common percentages touted among the keto community today is – you should keep your intake of carbs under 50 grams per day, but stricter adherents recommend eating under 30 grams per day. Most people on a keto diet strive to eat 60 to 70 percent of their calories from fat, 15 to 30 percent from protein, and just five to ten percent from carbs.
There are, however, several variations of the keto diet that you may want to consider, based on your needs. Some people do better with a cyclical keto diet, which includes five days of following a standard keto diet and two days of higher carb eating.
Other people choose to add in more carbs around workouts or physical activities. Some people believe that more protein is beneficial for them, so they choose a ratio that includes about 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein, five percent carbs. There is little evidence to support the weight loss effects of some of these forms of ketogenic eating, as only the standard and higher protein versions have been much studied in the scientific literature.
Most of the people choosing to adopt a keto diet these days are doing so to lose weight. This type of eating plan is used under exceptional circumstances to manage specific medical conditions, such as epilepsy, but in general, it is not recommended that you follow a keto lifestyle for extended periods. Below, we explore some of the health benefits, but there is little evidence as to the long-term effects on eating for ketosis.
The ketogenic diet was initially developed to treat epilepsy and other types of seizure disorders. The ketones and decanoic acids produced by this way of eating help to minimize seizures. Those who adhere to this eating plan often experience weight loss, though. Eating carbohydrates provide your body with a ready source of energy, which means your cells never turn to your stored fat to help it perform its daily functions. Carbs also trigger cravings, which can lead to overeating, another source of weight gain.
As the buzz about the keto diet grew, more and more celebrities started following it, which caused it to catch fire among the general population. For many, eating the “keto way” is easy to follow and makes sense, which allows them to accomplish their weight loss goals.
One of the reasons that the keto diet often works, though, is that by merely focusing more intentionally on what you eat, you are more likely to eat less. People on any diet tend to reduce their caloric intake, at least for a while. Eating fats and proteins leads to feeling fuller faster, which can stop you from overeating, too. It also takes more energy for your body to process these macronutrients, versus carbs, so you are also burning more calories during digestion than you previously did.
Most people on the keto diet lose between one and two pounds per week if they follow the plan carefully. Everyone is different, though, so you should not expect your results to be the same if your metabolic rate is slower or faster.
Your caloric needs may also differ if you are an athlete, perform physical work of any kind, or spend a lot of time outdoors. Keto eating will not help you lose weight if you are still eating too many calories. Reducing your intake is still necessary for the keto diet to result in weight loss.
The Health Effects of the Keto Diet
In addition to helping people lose weight in the short term, ketogenic eating has been shown to help with other health problems or to improve specific conditions. For example, ketogenic eating plans help people improve their insulin sensitivity, which can help with Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome.
By helping you to lose body fat, which raises insulin resistance, you can improve your glucose regulation. Those who can lose weight with ketogenic eating often experience improvements in their blood sugar and other diabetes symptoms.
The keto diet was created to help those with seizure disorders, and it is still known to be highly effective at reducing these symptoms. New evidence suggests that ketogenic eating may also help with other brain disorders and injuries, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries.
Other early research also includes some evidence that keto eating is connected to several reduced risk factors for heart disease, it is currently being tested in treating several types of cancer, and it may play a role in polycystic ovary syndrome as well as acne. These findings are all very early and require additional research to support these claims, though.
There is little research on the long-term effects of eating for ketosis. Those using this diet to lose weight should transition to a lower-fat eating plan once they have reached their weight loss goal.
The Side Effects of the Keto Diet
Many people who start a ketogenic diet experience what is known as “the keto flu,” which happens when your body is transitioning into ketosis. During the first few weeks of this eating plan, you may feel as though you have the flu, including having aches and pains, a headache, brain fog, and problems with your digestive tract.
As your body adjusts to using fat versus carbs for energy, you may feel like you have little energy or lack the ability to think clearly, and this time can also affect your sleep.
While these effects are temporary, they can be enough to for some people to shy away from this diet during this phase. If you want to minimize the impact of the keto flu, you can start by transitioning to fewer and fewer carbs for the weeks leading up to your transition to keto eating. It is also crucial that you drink lots of water throughout your keto experience.
Some people also experience what is known as “keto breath” when the body is transitioning into ketosis. This unpleasant odor has been compared to stale garlic and is a byproduct of your body learning to burn fat instead of carbs for energy. This, too, will pass after a time.
Many people suffer from headaches, especially at the beginning of the keto diet. You can minimize these by drinking plenty of water and getting enough electrolytes, and these headaches are mostly from dehydration.
Your body will be creating more urine on the keto diet, so you need to ensure you are replenishing your water and mineral stores regularly. In a section below, we offer more tips on how to improve your experience on the keto diet as well as maximize your chances for weight loss success.
What to Eat on a Keto Diet
So, what does one eat on a keto diet, anyway? Instead of focusing on high-carb foods, you want to center your meals on healthy fats, lean sources of protein, leafy greens, and plenty of non-sugary liquids. You do not have to limit when or how often you eat on the keto diet, so snacks are allowed, too.
Healthy fats are those that are high in a variety of fats, including some saturated and some unsaturated varieties. These fats come from natural sources and are not highly processed. Examples of sources of healthy fats include avocados, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and full-fat yogurt.
Many people think that a keto diet means avoiding vegetables, but that is false. While you want to stay away from starchy vegetables, like corn, you still need the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are found in non-starchy vegetables. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables should be a part of your keto diet. These will also help to replenish your electrolytes, which can help with dehydration.
Protein sources that are rich in healthy fats and come from whole foods are also welcome in the keto diet. Grass-fed meats like beef or free-range chicken as well as oily fishes like salmon are all excellent choices.
To make things simple, we have compiled a list of keto-friendly foods below. These should comprise the vast majority of what you eat daily.
- Nuts and seeds- chia seeds, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts
- Nut butter – made with just nuts and no other artificial ingredients or added sugars
- Eggs – pasture fed eggs are higher in omega-3 fatty acids
- Butter and cream- grass-fed options are higher in healthy fats
- Cheese- unprocessed cheeses made with full-fat milk
- Meats- grass fed red meats, poultry, sausage
- Fatty fish – tuna, trout, mackerel, salmon, shrimps, tilapia etc
- Oils – avocado, coconut, and olive oils
- Non-starchy vegetables – tomatoes, onions, peppers, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables
- Condiments- herbs, spices, pepper, small amounts of sea salt
Snacking on keto is allowed, if they fall within the nutrient guidelines of the plan. Some examples of popular keto snacks include:
- Nuts and seeds
- A hard-boiled egg
- A smoothie of plant-based milk, nut butter, and cocoa powder
- Yogurt mixed with nut butter
- Celery with guacamole
- P.S. These are just few examples, there are literally thousands of keto snack recipes tasting way better than our normal carb filled snacks
For a much detailed breakdown of keto foods – read this – What Can You Eat On The Keto Diet Plan?
Foods to Avoid While Eating for Ketosis
While eating for ketosis, you want to avoid foods that are high in carbs. Since some people are not sure what that means or which foods are high-carb choices, the following list includes many of the foods that should be avoided on the keto diet,
- Grains of any kind, including pasta made from wheat, rice, cereal, breads, and baked goods
- Fruit should be avoided except for small portions of berries
- Beans and legumes like lentils, chickpeas, peas, and kidney beans should be highly limited in their consumption
- Root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and turnips
- Alcohol, which is high in carbs
- Any product labeled “low fat” or “diet”, as it likely contains added sugars and is highly processed
- Products marked as “sugar-free”, as they often contain artificial sweeteners that can affect ketosis and are highly processed
- Foods high in sugar or with added sugars of any kind (including natural sugars)
- Most condiments and sauces contain added sugars and unhealthy fats
A Sample 7-Day Keto Meal Plan
There are literally hundreds of keto meal plans available online, and following these can help you stay on track, at least until you get the hang of what keto eating looks and feels like. Below, though, we share a typical one-week meal plan to help you envision what a low-carb, high-fat eating plan will cover.
P.S. This is just a sample meal plan, in actuality keto meal planning can be very exciting with delicious recipes. We recommend this 8 week customized keto meal plan, flexible enough to your goals and food preferences.
You want to eat a wide variety of foods so that you are getting nutrients from any different sources. All foods provide specific health benefits, so eating the same thing all the time can lead to deficiencies and health problems. We have included meals only but remember that snacks are allowed as long as they fall within the nutrient guidelines of ketogenic eating. And do not forget to hydrate.
Breakfast- Eggs fried with bacon, onions, and mushrooms
Lunch- A grilled burger patty with cheese, avocado, and salsa
Dinner- A salad of leafy greens topped with grilled steak and a hard-boiled egg
Breakfast- Plant-based milk with nut butter and a small handful of strawberries, blended
Lunch- Seafood salad with avocado and olive oil
Dinner– Parmesan-crusted chicken breast, steamed broccoli, salad of leafy greens
Breakfast- Omelet with ham, cheese, and spinach
Lunch- Turkey and cheese rollups with almonds
Dinner- Salmon and kale sautéed in coconut oil, steamed veggies
Breakfast- Yogurt with almond butter
Lunch- Burger patty with cheese, side salad
Dinner- Stir-fried pork with vegetables in coconut oil
Breakfast- Omelet with cheese, topped with salsa and avocado
Lunch- Celery with guacamole, nuts, cheese
Dinner- Pesto chicken and broccoli, side salad
Breakfast- Ham, eggs, and grilled tomatoes
Lunch- Chicken salad with feta cheese and avocado oil
Dinner- Grilled salmon and asparagus topped with butter
Breakfast- Omelet with cheese and vegetables
Lunch- Leafy greens with deli ham, blue cheese, avocados, and olives
Dinner- Baked halibut with broccolini served with butter
Supplements to Consider with the Keto Diet
On a keto diet, it is not necessary to take supplements, but many people find them to be useful for getting the nutrients they need. For example, if you are struggling with dehydration, you may want to take electrolytes or mineral supplements to ensure you are getting all that you need on this eating plan.
Many of the magnesium-rich foods that you may typically eat, such as beans and fruit, are also high in carbs, so those on the keto diet have less of an opportunity to get magnesium naturally in their diet. Taking a magnesium supplement can help avoid deficiency, which can affect your mood, energy level, and much more.
Some people on the keto diet choose to take MCT oil supplements, which stands for medium- chain triglycerides. These types of fats are metabolized differently than long-chain triglycerides, which are the type most commonly found in food. MCTs enter your bloodstream more quickly and become a source of energy much faster, which is why some people choose to take them to up their fat intake.
Adding salt, including sea salt, to your food can increase your mineral and electrolyte intake. Ketogenic eating changes your water and mineral balance, so you want to be sure you are getting enough.
Some people opt for an omega-3 supplement, especially those who do not like to eat fish, which is a significant source of these healthy fats. Those on a keto diet need to balance their omega-3 and omega-6 intake to maintain a healthy ratio, and taking a supplement can help. Most people do not get enough omega-3s in their diet.
Those who experience digestive problems on the keto diet may want to consider taking digestive enzymes. The high-fat content of this eating plan can cause nausea and diarrhoea in some, but digestive enzymes can restore balance to your digestive system and help you feel better.
10 Tips for Making the Keto Diet Work for You
If you are ready to take the plunge and adopt a keto diet, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of success as well as your weight loss results. The following suggestions come from many adherents to this way of eating who have been through the process themselves. Learn from the successes and failure of others with these strategies for making keto dieting work for you.
#1 Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration is quite common on the keto diet, as your body is processing fluid differently now that you are no longer eating as many carbs. You will urinate more while on this way of eating, which means you are losing more electrolytes. Drink plenty of fluids, including coconut water, which is rich in electrolytes. You can also combat mineral loss with bone broth, by putting salt on your foods, and by eating water-rich plants, like celery and cucumbers.
#2 Avoid Processed Foods
Some people look at keto as an excuse to eat whatever high-fat foods they want, but this will not help you lose weight. Adopting a cleaner, whole-foods approach is a safer, healthier, and all- around more balanced approach to eating for ketosis.
Whole, unprocessed foods like fish, avocados, and eggs will give you more of the healthy fats you need and less of the refined oils and unhealthy fats you do not. Keto is not an excuse to start eating all the fried and processed foods you can, and if you do, you will be missing out on significant nutrients your body needs.
#3 Be Sure to Eat the Right Kinds of Fats
It is possible to eat the wrong kinds of fats on the keto diet, which can adversely affect your cholesterol levels. Unsaturated sources are best, with only small amounts of saturated fats from natural sources. Stick to the fat sources listed above for best results and avoid refined oils and trans fats at all costs.
#4 Stock Up on Keto Staples
Any eating plan will have better results when you are prepared with the right essentials. Having a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator ensures that you are always ready to make a meal or snack that is aligned with your nutrition goals.
A keto pantry looks remarkably similar to a standard one except that that carb-rich foods have been eliminated or significantly downsized. You will not find a shelf of pasta and rice, for example, but instead will find more coconut and olive oil.
To ensure your keto success, here are some items you should always have in stock.
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Grass-fed butter
- Cheese made from whole-fat milk
- Grass-fed beef
- Cold-water fish
- Almond flour
- Herbs and spices
- Himalayan pink salt
- Coconut water
- Leafy green vegetables
- Canned tuna
- Nut and Seed butters
- Balsamic vinegar
- Assorted nuts and seeds (keep in the freezer to maintained freshness)
- Various broth bases or prepared broths
#5 Watch Your Sugars
Sugar is not a part of the keto diet in any form. This includes natural sources of sugar like maple syrup, agave or rice syrup, or honey. Many advocates of ketogenic eating also suggest avoiding other sweeteners, including stevia, monk fruit, and xylitol, at least for the first 30 days of ketosis.
When you cut all sweet things from your diet, you can better control cravings for carbohydrates. Sweeteners can often trigger binging or overeating in those with a sweet tooth. Once you have eliminated sugar for one month, you can try to introduce these healthy sweeteners in moderation to see how they affect your ability to maintain your eating habits.
One reason to avoid processed and prepared foods on the keto diet is that virtually all will have added sugars of some kind, especially those created to be “low fat” or “lite.” Added sugars go by many names on a label, which is why it is important to read nutrition facts carefully to see the carbs a product contains.
#6 Watch for Long Term Effects
Many people feel very energized and healthy while on the keto diet, so much so that they decide to make this way of eating a long-term habit. But, keto eating for life is not recommended for everyone.
If you have reached your weight loss goal, it is best to discuss your diet with your doctor to determine if staying on it longer is the right choice for you. More doctors recommend eating this way for only up to six months, perhaps longer in cases of extreme weight loss needed. Certain medical conditions may also support longer-term keto eating.
Beyond weight loss, though, staying on a keto meal plan may not be the right choice for you. Your doctor will be able to suggest if keto, a modified approach to keto eating, or some other meal plan is the best choice for you and your health.
#7 Eat Only When Hungry
You do not need to eat frequently or at pre-determined intervals on the keto diet, unlike other eating plans. Instead of worrying about how long you should go between meals, start listening to your body. Learn to identify the signs of hunger and eat only when you feel hungry.
Eating too much or often can influence your weight loss efforts. The longer you stay on the keto diet, the more you may notice that your appetite diminishes. This is due to your decreased intake of carbs, which are natural appetite stimulants.
#8 Pay Attention to Your Body’s Signs
Some people complain of persistent fatigue while on the keto diet. This is a sign that you may not be fully in ketosis or that your body is not utilizing the fats and ketones efficiently. Try lowering your carb intake even further, and revisit everything you are eating and drinking to look for hidden sources of carbs.
You can also try adding an MCT supplement to see if that helps. If you are still experiencing this feeling after several weeks, you may want to transition to another way of eating or talk with your doctor.
#9 Athletes May Not Benefit from Keto
Athletes, especially those who compete at an elite level, may struggle to get the appropriate nutrients with the keto diet. It can be hard to maintain or build muscle when you are not eating much protein. Those who exercise a lot or lift weights may need to increase their protein intake to achieve their athletic outcomes.
#10 Check with Your Doctor
Before starting any new eating plan, it is always recommended that you talk to your doctor. Anyone who has liver or kidney disease should not follow a ketogenic eating plan, as it can interfere with your health. If you have gastrointestinal issues or have difficulty processing fats, keto may be hard for you to follow.
Anyone who has had their gallbladder removed should avoid this way of eating. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before switching to a keto diet.
Those who are following the keto diet to manage a medical condition, such as epilepsy, should be working with a dietician or nutritionist, who should be monitoring their health and progress.
Tips on Eating Out with the Keto Diet
Many restaurants today cater to those who are on the keto diet, and choosing a keto-friendly option is becoming easier all the time. You can always opt for a meat or fish entrée that is not breaded or fried.
You can replace high-carb sides like pasta with vegetables. You can also opt for breakfast dishes like eggs or omelets, adding in cheese, vegetables, and meats like bacon.
To make other options keto-friendly, you can opt for burgers without the bun, add vegetables to dishes in place of potatoes, and add meats and cheeses to salads. For dessert, look for cheese options instead of sweets.
28 Days Keto Diet Plan
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