A complete guide to starting keto featuring keto friendly foods and your options when you run into trouble such as the keto flu. To add I show you all the option I bet you don’t even realize you have doing this diet. You’ll be amazed at the foods you don’t have to give up and all the replacements that taste just as good or better.
- Is It Keto Or Is It Low Carb
- How To Start Keto
- Best Foods For The Keto Diet
- Foods To Avoid On Keto
- Keto & Low Carb Recipes
- Benefits Of Keto
- Side Effects Of The Keto Diet
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Conclusion On How To Start Keto
I have been doing the keto diet for over 10 years now. I can promise I have made every beginners mistake and I can help you avoid doing the same thing. Truth be told the ketogenic diet isn’t “easy” as people may think. I will go into great detail about how lowering your carbs is great but can be an issue if you don’t know where to go from there.
Is It Keto Or Is It Low Carb
On the outside this question makes perfect sense. Keto and low carb are very similar but there is a very important difference you must know.
Everyone keto is low carb but not everyone low carb is keto!
- Low Carb Diet- Typically less than 100g of carbs per day.
- Standard Keto Diet- Less than 20g net carbs per day.
- Adjusted Keto- Between 20g-50g net carbs per day.
It’s recommended by the Dietary Guidelines of America to eat 45-65% of your daily calories in carbohydrates. Turning out to be 225-325g of carbs per day. As you can see that is a big difference.
Why Keto? What Is It?
There is a primary focus on the macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and proteins) within the diet to create an effect known as ketosis. Focusing mostly on the fats then proteins and lastly the carbohydrates.
What most people don’t know there are several ways to achieve a state of ketosis. You may have heard that keto isn’t a food item it is a state of the body. There are versions called lazy keto and dirty keto. All which have the same goal in mind to allow the body to achieve ketosis.
So, What Is Ketosis?
The bodies primary source of fuel is glucose. But, when carbohydrates are limited or restricted something amazing happens. Your body begins to create ketones*. Now, these ketones flow through your blood system to your brain*. Providing mental clarity* and energy to keep you going.
How Does The Keto Diet Work?
It’s simple, you lower your carbohydrates and your body handles the rest. When it’s said to limit your carbohydrates to less than 20g net carbs per day, you don’t want to give your body too many carbs where the reaction won’t happen.
What will happen is you will eat too many carbs for ketosis to start but not enough to keep you going for the day. This will have you feeling horrible.
- Insulin is lowered on keto*. This hormone regulates your fat storage so keeping it low will allow your body to tap into you fat for fuel allowing you to lose weight in return.
- When carbs are low, glucose is low*. At the point you need glucose and the carbs aren’t available the liver will create the ketones needed which will put your body into a state of ketosis.
Ketones are measured by beta-hydroxybutyrate* (BHB) and can be measured through urine, blood test strips and your breathe. When you enter into a state of ketosis mental clarity kicks in along with higher energy and decreased appetite.
I have personally did 48 hour fast with and still able to work and live my life without having to worry about my next meal.
How To Start Keto
Prep everything, get your keto food list in line, print recipes and let’s do this! The one thing I can say about starting keto is to forget everything you thought you knew before. If you don’t it’ll only get in the way of your experience with the diet.
I see so many people struggle because the typical diet consist of salads and bland chicken. That’s not keto! We eat good over here and the food is delicious!
Must Know Steps To Starting The Ketogenic Diet
- Do not stress yourself out. This has to be said because worrying is not going to help you here. Stressing, stresses the body out and that will effect how efficient the body is. You will make mistakes even with my help. These brands will sneak something in their ingredients that you were trying to avoid, it happens. Pick yourself up and continue going. This isn’t a 30 day trick it’s a lifestyle change and commitment.
- Know your keto friendly foods. I have provided my keto food list with a PDF for you to go shopping with. That way you don’t have to do any guessing. I also recommend that you know your ingredients as well because there are hidden sugars and even things labeled keto that should be avoided depending on how clean you plan to be. If it fits your macros, this is a term used when someone eats what they want but just stays within the limits of the keto diet.
- Do you have electrolytes? You will need them! Starting out when you lower your carbohydrates your body can no longer hold on to water like it did before. It will start the process of flushing your kidneys and all your vitamins and minerals with it. A common thing is frequent urination when starting out. It’s very normal. What you have to do is replenish everything you’re losing. The keto flu is a result of people not doing this and they start to feel bad. Some great brands are LMNT, Ultima and Everly.
- Watch your protein, especially women. This is something that isn’t talked about enough. Too much protein will not allow you tp go into ketosis. What happens is the body will turn the excess protein into carbs by a process called gluconeogenesis*. When this happens it too can cause you problems because it physically drains you and can’t produce enough carbs to keep you going. Yet, it is producing enough to keep the process of your liver making ketones to start. I have seen this far more common in women than men.
- Do not fear the fat. The high fat is what the diet is all about. It will keep you satisfied and keep you from being super hungry. Fat is scary at first, although delicious it is very calorie dense and we have been taught to watch out calories. Now, I am not saying go on a 3000 calorie binge but fattier meats like ribeye steaks topped with butter are great. It’s tasty, juicy and very filling on it’s own without the baked potato on the side.
- Carbs can be sneaky. Remember I said don’t stress? Well being the diet is a low carb diet you will dive yourself crazy over eating too many carbs. It’s not as easy as you think to overeat. I believe 20g net carbs is a great rule but it isn’t one to be set in stone. Let’s say you did 22 grams today, it isn’t the end of the world. But, be careful with these keto snacks and desserts. I highly recommend them but they can be a problem when switching especially if you’re addicted to sweets. To add, for the veggie lovers, some vegetables such as brussel sprouts are higher in carbs. Note these things as you plan your meals.
- Plan your meals. I can’t stress this enough on any new diet. What we will do in our minds is not prepare food. Then, when food isn’t there say to ourselves “well, I have to eat something” and that is a slippery slope. Once you plan our your meals for two or three weeks you won’t have to anymore because it will be a routine.
- Days you aren’t hungry. This is normal on keto. The high fat content will leave a lot of people not feeling hungry, in this situation do not force yourself to eat but you do need to stay on top of your electrolytes. Not eating is one thing but not replenishing the minerals lost will lead to you feeling bad.
- To exercise or not? Exercising is always a great option. However, when you first start and your glucose is low exercising can be difficult and be more of a bad strain on your body than a good one. Take it easy if you feel you need to and don’t push too hard on days you feel you don’t have it and are sluggish.
Get The Macros Understood
For survival, understanding the macros and how to count net carbs are the keys to eating. If you don’t understand that one part then you can’t really do keto without someone holding your hand pointing for you what you should and shouldn’t eat.
- Fat*-First, forget about counting calories for now. Not saying they aren’t important. Fat is your fuel when in a high fat diet. Before, for a quick “pick me up” people would use sugar because that was the primary source of fuel. Now, fat will do this for your body. Note, most people mess up here. You burn dietary fat before you burn the fat on your body. What does this mean? Don’t try to eat in excess thinking you will suffer from malnutrition if you don’t eat your body weight in fat. In a low fat world we also forget how fat helps in absorbing vitamins, minerals, aids in metabolism and even reproduction.
- Carbohydrates*-Without low carbs there is no ketosis. It’s the basis for it all. Even when everything else isn’t understood simply lowering your carbs will start ketosis. The body can’t help it. We are told that glucose is the main driver and energy but our brains and body can use ketones as efficiently. What about when I need carbs? The body can produce carbs from protein by a process called gluconeogenesis. You see, your body benefits hugely by your well being and staying alive so it does everything it can to take care of you.
- Protein*– The building blocks of it all and our essential amino acids. Without proteins our bodies struggle in do normal functions with regulating our tissues and organs. They are the key player in antibodies, structural support of cells and of course muscle preservation. How many times have the gym bros told you get the protein up? Because it works!
As a general rule, below are the macros percentages you want to focus on and aim for when creating your keto diet plan.
Percentages for a keto diet plan*:
Now What About Net Carbs?
When you look at a nutritional label you will see a break down of the carbohydrates. Fiber and sugar will be in a sub area under the carbs. This is what you need to count the net carbs in your meals.
Fiber isn’t digestible to the body. Therefore, we exclude them. This is why most store bought keto desserts you’ll se a huge advertisements saying “net carbs” but the back will look different. You get this number by subtracting the fiber from the overall carbohydrates.
Keto sweeteners such as allulose, erythritol and stevia all fit into this category as well because they aren’t digestible in the body. Meaning, they are subtracted as well.
Total Carbs Vs Net Carbs
When studying how to start keto you will come across people who count total carbs instead of net carbs. From my experience, I have found diabetics seem to go this route because some people actually absorb some of the sweeteners such as soluble and insoluble fiber. There are also some who see spikes when eating the typical keto dessert but they are the exception and not the rule.
To add, vegetables have quite a bit of fiber so choosing this method will limit your ability to eat them as well. If you’re having issues I would start with the keto sweets first because some ingredients aren’t always in your best interest.
Does Everyone Have To Count Macros?
There’s a thing called intuitive eating. When you have done keto for a while then you can do this. In the beginning, I highly suggest you do count macros. You see, when you are just starting your body is trying to make sense of what it is you’re doing. When you aren’t tracking, you won’t know where to make adjustments.
Best Foods For The Keto Diet
This is a straight forward version of my keto food list that you can find here. You’ll notice some striking similarities between low carb and keto here:
- Meats such as my favorite beef, lamb, chicken, seafood and turkey.
- Seafood like salmon, shrimp, oysters and canned fish such as anchovies.
- Good fats like butter, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, lard and beef tallow.
- Cruciferous veggies such as collard greens, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and lettuce.
- Dairy excluded to creme cheese, heavy cream, ghee and so many cheeses to choose from.
- Keto friendly condiments like hot sauce, sugar-free ketchup, may and keto approved dressing from great brands like Primal Kitchen.
- Beverages without sugar like coffee, teas and some keto friendly sodas like Virgils or Zevia.
This new list is to save the day when things get rough and should be used moderately and not become the cornerstone of your diet.
- Some fruits but mainly berries like strawberry, raspberry, blackberries then coconut, peppers, zucchini, pumpkin, avocado and cucumber.
- Low carb flours such as coconut and almond flour.
- Nuts & seeds ranging from peanuts, sunflower seed, pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine and pili nuts to name a few.
- Keto sweeteners are something that shouldn’t be overdone. It’s exciting to eat dessert that doesnt spike your blood sugar but you can loose sight and find yourself snacking all day with no real nutrients. It’s a slippery slope, just be careful because the desserts are good.
Foods To Avoid On Keto
Understanding what carbs to eat can be tricky. Some things like rice and noodles are obvious to most people. Yet, they don’t realize that apples aren’t keto friendly. Although, a vitamin and mineral packed fruit it isn’t made for a keto diet.
- Sugar is to avoided at all cost from honey to maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, candy, cakes, cookies, juice, soda, flavored water and energy drinks.
- Grains such as rice, breads, corn, oats and pasta that was mentioned earlier.
- Fruits like plantains, apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple and grapes.
- Legumes such as beans and chickpeas.
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes.
I am a huge believer in habits. If you remove these things from around you, your keto journey will be much better. They are very addictive foods and you’ll think you can’t live without them. I am here to tell you that you can.
Note, when it comes to foods to avoid I have to stress reading nutritional labels because I have gotten tricked myself. You’re going to make mistakes such as I did but they are learning experiences. I thought that the popcorn I use to eat was fine because according to the label it fit my net carbs. Only to find o the portion size were a few kernels and I was eating the entire bag.
Keto & Low Carb Recipes
Now, this is where I have built my entire site on. I believe we have entered a new era of cooking and keto food bloggers like myself are starting a new way of cooking. The original ingredients we had before such as all-purpose flour aren’t used in keto. So, what do we do when out culinary school training means nothing?
Some of my top recipes that are so easy to follow:
- Jalapeño Poppers
- Chicken Tenders
- Pumpkin Bread
- Egg Roll In A Bowl
- Stuffed Chicken
- Keto Waffles
- Buffalo Chicken Thighs
Benefits Of Keto
I love to highlight how keto was originally for patients with epilepsy but there are far more benefits than just that:
- Weight Loss– When it comes to losing weight it has been proven the keto diet cannot be denied its glory. In studies*** it has outperformed a low fat diet time and time again.
- Mood***– Entering ketosis causes your brain, nerves and anxiety to relax. So many people say they think so much clearer after thy have started keto. Brain fog be gone!
- Controlled Blood Sugar*-Personally, I think this is what is responsible for the great moods. People tend to get very cranky when blood sugar levels are going up and down.
- Reduced Appetite**– Again, I believe this is a product of controlled blood sugar. When your glucose is going up and down it sparks hunger because there is no home base.
- Lowering Blood Pressure*-This topic hits home with me because I suffer from high blood pressure. When you lower your carbohydrates your body will release water along with it. Outside of the nitric oxide most blood pressure medications are simply water pills. Holding on to water can increase blood pressure.
- Muscle Sparing Diet*-It’s known in the gym when you cut calories you loose muscle. But, it has been researched that keto is a far more muscle sparing diet than others. Save the muscle on keto!
- Clear Skin*-It isn’t set in stone but current studies suggest that keto has been shown to make skin conditions such as acne become better.
- Digestive Support*-When it comes to talk about the microbiome there have been studies linking keto to healthy gut bacteria.
- Lifespan*-With better health comes a longer healthier life and keto can help provide that.
- More Good Cholesterol*-There was a study back in 2002 that suggested keto caused people to experience higher HDL counts. Must be all the good fat!
Side Effects Of The Keto Diet
I have heard a few horror stories when people ask how to start keto. The approach the uneducated person takes is a model of the standard low fat diet. Eating a diet low in carbs but low in fat as well. Completely ignoring the extra urination that’s flushing your electrolytes through out the day.
The keto flu, when I say you will feel horrible, this is what we call those symptoms. Keto flu consist of headaches, fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, nausea, constipation, irritation and trouble sleeping. As you can see it’s nothing pleasant. And the worst part is this can be limited or avoided altogether.
You see, if you’re reading this you’re doing the research that’s needed before starting. Lack of electrolytes can can these issues. When you are depleting carbs and not giving your body any extra minerals what else could happen?
How To Get Electrolytes
Great sources of electrolytes are simple. Salt, that’s one of the huge ones with magnesium, calcium and potassium following behind.
- Bone Broth– Using bone broth is great because it already has a great salt and mineral complex. To add, it’s loaded with collagen from the animal. You can use this in place of coffee or tea in the morning. Along with replacing chicken or beef stock with it.
- Sodium-Just plain salt and water will do far more than you could ever think. In an eight ounce glass add about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of salt and down it whenever you start to feel a little off or you can even start your day with it. Another option, add more salt to your food as well. Not so salty you can’t enjoy it but some people avoid salt altogether from the fear of raising blood pressure.
- Electrolyte Powders– These are great because of flavor but they can get expensive when drinking several packs a day. Some great brands are Ultima, LMNT and Everly along with many others. As far as taste I would say Ultima and Everly lead the way.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is the keto diet safe?
For people with general health the keto diet is perfectly safe. Of course with any health concerns always ask your doctor. There are doctors that can be found online in your are that focus on the keto diet.
How long does it take to enter ketosis?
Depends, on average to enter ketosis is 3-4 days. But, it doesn’t stop there because it can take 3-4 weeks to become “keto-adapted” or “fat-adapted” which means your body is efficient at using the ketones it’s producing. Things such as how many carbs you ate prior to starting plays a role because the liver stores excess carbs that have to be depleted. Some people fast for a day before starting keto which helps kick them into ketosis faster as well. My advice, don’t rush it because the process will happen when done right.
How to get enough fat on the keto diet?
Getting the fat in is easier than you think. Choosing fatty meat, adding in butter and cooking with healthy fats you’ll have no issues. Don’t think chicken breast, think dark meat and even better fatty cuts of beef like ribeye steaks and fatty ground beef. We have been taught to run from fat through low fat diet but now is time to embrace it.
Is the keto diet good for diabetics?
Yes, it has been shown* to do wonders for diabetics by controlling blood sugar and A1C levels in patients. To add, you can find a ton of people on social media who have turned their lives around by starting the keto diet.
How do I know I am fat-adapted?
Honestly, it’s not something to stress over but there are a few markers that can be read through a blood ketone monitor. On average, a reading of 0.5-3 mmol/L on your monitor* will indicate this. But, this is a slippery slope because in some people the more fat adapted you are the readings don’t show anything because you’re using the ketones efficiently. Other signs are increased energy, decreased hunger, better sleep and losing weight are a few.
Is the keto diet healthy?
If you do it wrong and don’t balance out your meal and minerals you can cause problems with keto. You’ll end up deficient in electrolytes, B vitamins and other minerals like calcium and potassium. These things are important and when you remove carbs you have to replace them effectively. When you check all the boxes doing the keto diet is so rewarding.
Conclusion On How To Start Keto
Keto has changed not only my life but millions of people across the internet. It’s a great diet but must be understood before starting. Mainly because so many other diets are the opposite and you can’t cross those lines. One thing about keto I want to stress is use things like desserts and cheese to keep you from cheating but please don’t make them the center of your diet. You have a vision, you have a goal and those things can get in the way so be careful.