When it comes to starting the keto diet (or any diet for that matter), there's one thing all experts agree on. You *must* have a plan. "Never try to wing a keto diet," says Julie Stefanski, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D.N., a dietitian based in York, PA, who specializes in the ketogenic diet. "Set a start date and get prepared by reorganizing your pantry, planning out meal and snack options, and purchasing appropriate foods and dietary supplements," she says. "The biggest reason people have a hard time sticking with keto is that people don't have enough interesting foods to turn to, and high-carb favorites win out over good intention. If you didn't buy foods at the grocery store that fit the guidelines, there won't be an easy option in the fridge when you really need it." (A great place to start is this List of High-Fat Keto Foods Anyone Can Add to Their Diet.)
On the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are restricted and so cannot provide for all the metabolic needs of the body. Instead, fatty acids are used as the major source of fuel. These are used through fatty-acid oxidation in the cell's mitochondria (the energy-producing parts of the cell). Humans can convert some amino acids into glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis, but cannot do this by using fatty acids. Since amino acids are needed to make proteins, which are essential for growth and repair of body tissues, these cannot be used only to produce glucose. This could pose a problem for the brain, since it is normally fuelled solely by glucose, and most fatty acids do not cross the blood–brain barrier. However, the liver can use long-chain fatty acids to synthesise the three ketone bodies β-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate and acetone. These ketone bodies enter the brain and partially substitute for blood glucose as a source of energy.
Dinner: In a small sauce pan bring 2-3 cups of water to the boil. Cook a large egg in rolling boil for 5 minutes, then transfer to ice bath (a bowl with cold water and ice cubes in it). Wash and spin dry butter lettuce, top with sliced avocado and hemp seed. Serve soft boiled egg with cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce salad and mayonnaise as dressing.
Selecting the right food will be easier as you become accustomed to the Keto approach. Instead of lean meats, you’ll focus on skin-on poultry, fattier parts like chicken thighs, rib-eye steaks, grass-fed ground beef, fattier fish like salmon, beef brisket or pork shoulder, and bacon. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and lettuce, along with broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers, make healthy vegetable choices (but you’ll avoid starchy root foods like carrots, potatoes, turnips and parsnips). You can work in less-familiar veggies such as kohlrabi or daikon.
To produce energy, the body typically uses carbohydrates. But after a few days on the keto diet, with its restrictive carb intake, your body cannot produce enough energy and looks for another source — breaking down stored fat to generate energy in a process called ketosis. It takes about a week for the body to start that shift from using carbohydrates or glucose, to using ketone bodies. The keto diet can help people lose weight. Some studies show those on the keto diet lose an average of five percent of their body weight, however the mechanisms are not clearly established.
Natural fat, high-fat sauces – Most of the calories on a keto diet should come from fat. You’ll likely get much of it from natural sources like meat, fish, eggs etc. But also use fat in cooking, like butter or coconut fat, and add plenty of olive oil to salads etc. You can also eat delicious high-fat sauces including Bearnaise sauce etc., or garlic butter (recipes).
I am in ketosis!!!! I got the keto test strips and did the test this morning!! I am so excited!!! I have been on/off of the diet since my birthday on Aug. 11th when the kids took me out to eat! But I got back on the ball, did the soup diet again, and the 3 day kickstart and by golly it worked. I am now going to skip to week 2 of the meal plans coz there are so many fresh veggies at the food pantry and out in my garden. I can’t wait to taste the jalapeno popper soup! I am a little leery about the jalapeno and cheese muffins. I’ll post my thoughts after I try them. A little rest and then I will get to doing the prep. I really wanted to do that on Sunday after shopping but it just didn’t work out that way.
Alison Moodie is a health reporter based in Los Angeles. She has written for numerous outlets including Newsweek, Agence France-Presse, The Daily Mail and HuffPost. For years she covered sustainable business for The Guardian. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she majored in TV news. When she's not working she's doting on her two kids and whipping up Bulletproof-inspired dishes in her kitchen.
Question 2: Half of my family, including me, cannot do spicy. Now when I say spicy, Mild Rotel is spicy to us. So, can you suggest a comparable substitute? For instance, your Classic Buffalo Wings sound absolutely delicious but Frank’s Hot Sauce is way too spicy. When we make wings we usually make them sweet and not spicy. But also in other recipes, spicy spices are utilized so I wondered if there is a comparable spice to use? Again, if you have already addressed this topic, please just point me in the right direction and I will educate myself.
Ready to head out the door and start buying groceries? Slow down there, chief. Go through the pantry, fridge, freezer, and secret stashes under the bed, and get rid of foods with any significant carb content. In the first few days, you could end up craving them—badly. This means fruit, too. Even carrots and onions are too high-glycemic to work with keto, Wittrock says.
Achieving optimal ketosis hinges on finding the right balance of macronutrients (or “macros” in keto-speak); these are the elements in your diet that account for the majority of your calories, a.k.a. energy—namely, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. By the way, it’s often “net grams” of carbohydrates that are counted toward your daily intake; “net” deducts the amount of fiber in a food from its carbohydrate total.
The ketogenic diet is usually initiated in combination with the patient's existing anticonvulsant regimen, though patients may be weaned off anticonvulsants if the diet is successful. There is some evidence of synergistic benefits when the diet is combined with the vagus nerve stimulator or with the drug zonisamide, and that the diet may be less successful in children receiving phenobarbital.
Patty, Atkins puts in suggestions, like their own products, which are processed foods. The main plan is great and you can easily do it without processed foods! They emphasize fresh veggies and whole fat foods. Easy to use both these plans in conjunction. It’s what I’m doing. I eat almost all organic, whole foods. I’m going to try this ketogenic kick to see if I can break my stall.
I also have to tell you that you are HILARIOUS! I laughed so hard reading your lead up to the 3 day plan. Thank you for your guidance, honesty, outstanding sense of humor (we all need it), incredibly delicious recipes and your baffling organization. I truly don’t know how you get it all done. You make it “do-able” and fun. I’m actually excited to start!
Still, it can be hard to get enough fat when you first start this diet. Butter, nuts, coconut and olive oils, and fatty cuts of meat are all on the menu. However, don't go overboard with polyunsaturated fats like soybean, corn, or sunflower oil. Keto dieters who increase their intake of those fats often end up with gastrointestinal distress that causes them to jump ship.
Ha! Don’t even get me started Alisha! Mr. Hungry will eat whatever healthy low carb dinner I made and say it was delicious, then help himself to a pint of ice cream and eat THE WHOLE THING right in front of me! Now when I occassionally make low carb cookies or treats I let him have one and then it’s HANDS OFF because he can (and does) eat whatever he wants!
So excited that after 24hours I’m in Keto, Yea!! I need to know if I can have Chicken salad instead of Tuna salad? I’m allergic to Tuna. I bought Bumble Bee Chicken breast in water. I’m going to continue with your 12 week plan when I’m finished with this 3 day plan. So far everything is so yummy and that makes a huge difference. I’m certain I will like some things more than others but so far I am super happy. I have a fatty liver and am 60lbs overweight but the good news is no damage has started so if I lose the weight I’m sure the liver will get better and I will look and feel better too!
Some athletes swear by the ketogenic diet, not just for weight loss but for improved performance in their sport, as well. But Edward Weiss, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University, doesn’t buy it. “I hear cyclists say all the time that they’re faster and better now that they’re on keto, and my first question is, 'Well, how much weight did you lose?'” he says.
The ketogenic diet is a mainstream dietary therapy that was developed to reproduce the success and remove the limitations of the non-mainstream use of fasting to treat epilepsy.[Note 2] Although popular in the 1920s and 30s, it was largely abandoned in favour of new anticonvulsant drugs. Most individuals with epilepsy can successfully control their seizures with medication. However, 20–30% fail to achieve such control despite trying a number of different drugs. For this group, and for children in particular, the diet has once again found a role in epilepsy management.
"Plenty of people jump right in, thinking all they have to do is cut carbs and increase fat. All of a sudden, they hit a wall and get 'keto flu.' They feel tired, lethargic, and experience headaches," Wittrock says. "The primary reason they get these symptoms is lack of the three primary electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and magnesium. If you're deficient in any of these, you'll suffer mentally and physically. This is the single biggest reason people fail on the keto diet."
If you want to slam a protein shake post-workout, that's probably fine as long as you've got room for it in your macros. But shoot for one that is very low—like, zero—in carbohydrates. Pure isolates, such as Signature 100% Whey Isolate, are extremely low in carbohydrate. If you struggle to fit fat in during the day, toss a tablespoon of olive oil in with your shake. You won't taste it, and it gives a quick 13-14 grams of fat.
I’ve only one question. I work in shifts and at 4.30 in the morning I can not eat my breakfast (lazy – I manage to get out of bed and into my car in 30 minutes ;-). Not even if I make it the day before…I just can’t swallow the stuff. But I have to eat something because I’m in my car for more than a hour. Can I have a liquid breakfast at those times?
Hello! I recently lost 125 lbs following a keto diet. It’s starting to creep back on. My question is, have you tried a product like Keto OS? I want to eat Keto strictly, minus one meal a week. I feel that I will maintain better this way. I don’t want to knock myself out of ketosis and take days to get back in, though. My hope was that I can go full Keto, have one meal “off” a week and follow up with Keto OS to put me right back in and stay in for another week. Thoughts? Will this work? Thank you!
But generally speaking, if you plan to follow a ketogenic diet, you should aim to consume less than 10 percent of your total calories from carbohydrates per day. The remaining calories should come from 20 to 30 percent protein and 60 to 80 percent fat. That means if you follow a daily 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 200 of your calories (or 50 grams) should come from carbs, while 400 to 600 calories should come from protein and 1,200 to 1,600 should come from fat. (There’s a reason this plan is also called a high-fat, low-carb diet!)
So I’m late to the party, but I just found your blog last week. I can’t thank you enough for these simple, easy to follow recipes, meal plans, and shopping lists! They are so helpful and I appreciate the time you put into this. I did the 3 day kickstart for 5 days, mostly because I still had leftover food, and I’ve lost 5 lbs. so far! I’ve never done low carb before, and usually eat a mainly vegetarian diet, so this is very different for me, I think I purchased more meat in the past week then I have in the past year! I am strictly following the plan, but do you think after I’ve lost the weight I’ve wanted to, transitioning back to a vegetarian diet (with eggs and dairy) is possible or just a recipe for disaster?
1. Eat less than 20g net carbs per day if you want to get into ketosis. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the fiber grams (or sugar alcohols in some cases) from the total carb grams. Don’t guess – you’d be surprised how many grams of carbs there are in things you might have considered “free” like onions, garlic, tomatoes, and kale, just to name a few.
Carol- so sorry to hear about your stroke. I am not sure most doctors would approve of this diet due to most not being taught much on nutrition in med school, and most still believe in the old school high carb low fat way of eating. My experience has been a dramatic drop in my blood pressure in only a few weeks after starting this diet (172/105 down to 144/95!). I suggest giving it a trial of a few months to see how it may work for you.
Hi Cyn, The numbers are general guidelines but will vary depending on many factors, such as activity level, insulin resistance, weight and more. There is no single magic number, just conventional recommendations that are a good starting point. I will have a macro calculator coming soon that will help determine what is best for each person, but even then it’s an approximation. The only way to know for sure is to test. If keto is your goal, it’s usually best to start lower and then see if you can stay in ketosis when increasing.
It’s probably keto flu, make sure you’re drinking lots of water – get plenty of sodium, magnesium supplements and lite salt (potassium) are also helpful. It should only last another day or two until your body adjusts, but if you feel really bad then don’t push it or check with your doctor because something else could be wrong with you. Hope you feel better soon!
Protein: Keep in mind that keto is high-fat, and not high-protein, so you don’t need to eat very much meat. Too much protein turns into glucose in the body, making it harder to stay in ketosis. Stick to fatty cuts of grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild meat, and wild-caught fish. Red meats, offal/organ meats, pork, eggs (preferably pastured), fish, shellfish, and whey protein concentrate.