By now, you know that the keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. In this post, I focus on doing the keto diet, not on what it is. Healthline is a good resource if you're looking for more basic information about the keto diet.
If you're at the point where you know what keto is, what it does, and are now looking for the "how" then you've landed in the right spot!
My Experience with the Keto Diet
I started keto in September of 2019 after seeing friends have a whole lot of success with the diet. I weighed 165 pounds at the time and ended at 134. So, 31 pounds off, which was in a matter of 4 months. Had I known what I know now, then that timeline would surely have been shorter.
Before keto, my idea of a diet was severe calorie restriction. I deprivation dieted, and it was extremely hard. I was always hungry and lacked energy on this type of diet, so it just wasn't sustainable.
But that's where keto is different. The amount of fat in the keto diet will keep you feeling full, and you'll naturally lose weight as a result. Sure, the food you consume will be of high caloric content, but you'll eat much less while remaining satisfied.
Additionally, you'll feel much more energized. No more high carb, post-lunch crashes to contend with.
There are so many tips and tricks I wish I had known when I started the diet. I often hear that keto is hard, and it can be, but it doesn't have to be.
Keto done right isn't hard, and it can be somewhat time-consuming, though. Meal planning is key, but you don't have to be a slave in the kitchen to be successful.
Along the way, I've picked up easy snack go-to's, breakfast replacement options, and ways to sneak pizza, tacos, and quesadillas into my diet. And that's all without breaking keto!
The thing that is so addicting about the keto diet is that once you start to see the weight loss (seriously, in the first week), you become afraid to "break keto." What does breaking keto mean? It means kicking your body out of the state of ketosis, where it is using fat as energy instead of carbohydrates. It takes a few days to get into keto, so one slip up will certainly put you back.
How do you break keto? It's simple. You'll break ketosis if you eat too many carbs.
Speaking of Carbs
On the keto diet, all you'll really care about is counting carbs (at least initially). Depending on your body weight and carb intake, you'll need to shoot for anywhere between 25 and 30 NET CARBS.
So what are Net Carbs?
Net carbs are simply total carbs, less fiber, less sugar alcohols, and less other sugar replacements (like allulose) that your body can't metabolize. Sugar alcohols are things like stevia, swerve, and erythritol.
Your body doesn't digest fiber or certain sugar replacements, so they are excluded from the carbs that count in your diet.
Notice how I said certain? There are good sugar replacements and bad sugar replacements when it comes to the keto diet.
How Many Net Carbs You Can Have
The general advice is usually around 25-50 per day. I aim for no more than 25 net carbs per day, and I don't recommend going below 20 consistently. Doing so will result in not getting enough fiber into your diet, hello constipation! It also could lead you to consume too much protein, which will throw your macros off.
The Ideal Keto Macro Ratios
The Keto Diet aims for a ratio of 5% carbs, 65% fat, and 30% protein. You'll see some modified versions of this like 5-10% carbs, 65-75% fat, 25-30% protein. Depending on the day, you'll likely fall in some range of these variations.
You're going to hear a lot about macros. But at the beginning of your keto adventure, I wouldn't track them. It just makes the keto diet hard, instead of the easy diet it should and can be.
Just keep in mind this is not a high-protein diet. You can't just eat meats and cheeses and expect your body to go into ketosis. That's not keto. That's Atkins. You need more fat than protein to get your body into ketosis, and loading up on meat won't get you there.
What's the difference between a low carb diet and a keto diet?
A low carb diet only focuses on reducing carb counts and typically isn't as restrictive in carbs as keto is. Low carb diets can include a wide variety of non-grain types of carbs. In comparison, the keto diet requires a more stringent approach to carb intake. Additionally, the keto diet focuses on obtaining a high amount of fat as a percent of caloric intake.
Most People Think They're Doing Keto When They are Doing Atkins
The fat in your diet is the most critical thing when we are talking about getting your body into ketosis. The hardest part of keto is making sure you consume the correct amount of fat. Too many people think of "low or no carbs" and lots of protein. But that's simply not the keto diet. It's the Atkins diet.
I'm not knocking Atkins because that's what I was essentially doing when I first started keto…. And I did lose a ton of weight.
However, I plateaued, and I hit a point where I would spend days or weeks on the scale without any improvement. And then, I found out about the correct macros, and more importantly, I discovered fat bombs.
Boy, I wish I had discovered these sooner on my keto journey. I only found out about fat bombs when I hit a weight loss plateau and was looking to correct it.
Fat bombs can be a delicious way to have a snack and introduce a bunch of fat into your daily diet. It's the easiest way to get the necessary fat into your diet and maintain a state of ketosis.
Fat bombs are fat-packed, sweet treats that give your body an abundance of healthy fats. They also help skew your diet towards the macros it needs to keep your body using fat for fuel.
My favorite recipe is chocolatey and sweet and hits the spot every time.
Foods You Can Eat While on the Keto Diet
There is a wide variety of foods you can eat while on keto. The trick is making sure you are eating the correct portions. Some foods can be eaten in limited quantities, while others can be consumed in moderation. Only foods containing no carbs and high fat could be considered "unlimited."
Below is a breakout by category of foods that are keto friendly. Foods that have a hyperlink have an additional guide on their keto friendliness.
Vegetables that are Keto Friendly
Many veggies are keto friendly. I'm sure that others will disagree with carrots and peas being on this list. Keep in mind that definitions of keto friendliness vary depending on the source. To me, it's keto friendly if I can use it in a recipe and enjoy a standard-sized portion.
- Green Beans
- Carrots – limit intake.
- Artichoke Hearts
- Brussel Sprouts
- Peppers (both sweet and hot)
- Peas – limit intake.
- Spaghetti Squash
- Lettuce, Spinach & Other Green Leafy Veggies
Vegetables that are not Keto Friendly
- Potatoes – all varieties
- Butternut Squash
- Acorn Squash
Fruits that are Keto Friendly
Except for limes and lemons, all fruits on this list are under five net carbs for a .5 cup serving. I've excluded limes and lemons from this limit because they are consumed differently and have low carbs per whole fruit.
- Acai Berries
- Star Fruit
- Lemon, limit intake
- Lime, limit intake
Fruits that are not Keto Friendly
The fruits listed below have more than five net carbs per .5 cup serving.
- Apples, all varieties
- Oranges, all varieties
Meats & Poultry that are Keto Friendly
For the most part, meats and poultry are keto friendly. Except for ham (due to the curing process), you should be able to find meat and poultry with zero net carbs. You'll want to watch for anything that is processed, marinated, flavored, or seasoned as they tend to have added carbs.
- Fresh cuts of Beef
- Fresh cuts of Chicken
- Fresh cuts of Pork
- Fresh Cuts of Turkey
- Some Ham
- Some Lunch Meats
- Some Sausages
- Some Beef Jerky
- Some Meat Sticks
Meats & poultry that are not Keto Friendly
When buying bacon, ham, or any processed meats, always check the label. Carb counts can vary greatly.
- Some Flavored Bacon
- Some Beef, Chicken, Pork, and Chicken that are Marinated
- Chicken Nuggets
- Some Ham, particularly maple-flavored or sugar added
- Some Sausages
- Some Beef Jerky
- Some Meat Sticks
Seafood That is Keto Friendly
Many types of seafood can be enjoyed while on the keto diet. It's important to note that shellfish are not entirely carb-free. However, they are keto friendly. The following are considered keto friendly:
Seafood This is Not Keto Friendly
It's a common misconception that all seafood is keto friendly. However, that is not the case. In particular, mollusks have high carb counts. For example, a 3 ounce serving of mussels has a whopping six net carbs.
- Imitation Crab Meat
Nuts & Seeds that Are Keto Friendly
Except for cashews, most nuts and seeds are keto friendly. The most keto friendly nuts and seeds are:
Note: Carbs and fat are per 1 ounce serving or roughly a handful.
- Pecans – 1.2 Net carbs and 20 grams of fat
- Brazil Nuts – 1.4 Net carbs and 19 grams of fat
- Pili Nuts – 1 Net carb and 23 grams of fat
- Macadamia Nuts – 1.5 Net carbs and 21 grams of fat
- Walnuts – 2 Net Carbs and 18 grams of fat
- Hazelnuts – 2 Net carbs and 17 grams of fat
- Flax Seeds - .6 Net carbs and 12 grams of fat
- Chia Seeds – 2 Net carbs and 9 grams of fat
Other Keto Friendly Nuts and Seeds are:
- Almonds – 2.9 Net carbs and 15 grams of fat
- Pine Nuts – 2.7 Net carbs and 19 grams of fat
- Peanuts – 2.2 Net carbs and 14 grams of fat
- Pumpkin Seeds – 3.3 Net carbs and 13 grams of fat
- Sesame Seeds – 3.1 Net carbs and 15 grams of fat
- Poppy Seeds – 2.6 Net carbs and 12 grams of fat
- Sunflower Seeds – 4 Net carbs and 15 grams of fat
Food that is Not Keto Friendly
Note: There are keto-friendly options available where foods are designated as "traditional."
- Traditional Chips
- Traditional Bread
- Anything containing flour or cornstarch
- Anything containing sugar
- Traditional Rice
- Traditional Pasta
- Some Vegetables (see above for list)
- Most Fruits (see above for list)
- Traditional Cereals
- Nuts and Seeds, excluding cashews
- Sweet Salad Dressings
- Some Condiments
- Some Cheeses
- Some Seafood (see above for list)
- Some Processed Meats
Good Sources of Fat
Getting enough fat into your diet is critical on the keto diet. Below are excellent sources of fat in addition to fat bombs, cheeses, and keto friendly nuts and seeds.
- Heavy Cream
- Sour Cream
- Cream Cheese
- Some Cream Based Salad Dressings
- Oils – Coconut, Olive, etc.
- Peanut Butter
Common Food Replacements
As you become more acquainted with the keto diet, you'll find ways to replace carb-laden staples such as pasta, rice, and potatoes. Here are some common replacements:
Pasta – Zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, eggplant, shirataki
Rice – Cauliflower rice, shirataki, hearts of palm
Tortillas – There are plenty of keto friendly, low carb tortillas on the market that taste good! You can use them for tacos, pizza, etc.
Regular Ketchup – Heinz has a no sugar added version that tastes the same as regular ketchup.
Regular Spaghetti Sauce – I use Rao's. It's pricey, but it is also a delicious sauce. I've also had a lot of luck finding low carb marinaras and spaghetti sauces at TJ Maxx.
Chips – There are keto friendly chips, such as Quest chips. You can also make your own using low carb tortillas. Another alternative is making veggie chips. All you'll need is just need a mandolin, a pan, and oil and salt.
Pizza - You can always use a low carb tortilla as the base for your pizza. Other options include fathead pizza dough, chicken crust pizza, and cauliflower crust pizza.
Other Sauces – G Hughes makes a line of sauces for people with diabetes. The company has a variety of bbq sauces. You'll find that the sauces contain less than two net carbs per each two tablespoon serving. A honey mustard sauce is also available. I usually find the sauces at Walmart, but you can also find them at larger grocery stores.
An Overview on Sugar Replacements
Sugar replacements can contain carbs, but not all carbs are equal. See, not every sugar replacement is processed in the same way by the body. Some carbs are digested, which your body can use as energy, and other carbs are never digested. They simply are excreted when you urinate.
Some sugar replacements or sweeteners have digestible carbs, which should be added to your net carb count. The only sweeteners you should consume on the keto diet are monk fruit, erythritol, stevia, and allulose.
I was well over a year into the keto lifestyle before discovering that certain sugar replacements contained calories. The funny thing is that I was looking for a honey replacement and the primary ingredient was Maltitol. I googled the now-familiar ingredient out of curiosity, and boy was I ever surprised at what I read.
Maltitol turned out to be not such a keto friendly ingredient. Unfortunately, a lot of big brands that have keto products use it.
After learning more about Maltitol, I checked the nutritional labels on some of my low net carb snacks… and ugh. Snacks that I thought only 2-3 carbs per serving contained 8-10. So now I have about ten boxes of Atkin's chocolate-covered candies and peanut butter bars that will go unused.
As interest in the keto diet has risen, so have the number of brands offering "keto friendly" products. I'm an ingredient list hawk and have found numerous products with high total carb counts and high amounts of Maltitol, and high quantities of Maltitol are not keto friendly! The FDA has not taken a position on the definition of net carbs, leaving brands to define it instead.
The typical advice is to count half of the carb content when calculating net carbs, and my advice is only to use sugar alcohols that are truly keto friendly. Along the way on your keto journey, you'll find many keto-focused brands, and they typically use truly keto friendly replacement sugars like erythritol.
What to expect your first week on the Keto Diet
You can expect a pretty decent weight drop in the first week of keto. For me, it was 8 pounds, and that's what kept me on keto… because it showed me the diet works! In the following weeks, you'll continue to drop weight. I would expect 2-4 pounds per week, depending on your starting weight.
The thing about keto and what makes it soooo easy to stick to is you just won't want to kick yourself out of ketosis. And you could do that with one slip and then spend two or three days getting your body back into the same state.
How easy is keto to stick to?
I've been on many diets in my lifetime, and they all amounted to calorie restriction. With keto, you aren't counting calories; you're counting carbs. I've never felt hungry on keto, and I've never felt deprived or weak.
If anything, my energy levels picked up (no more midday crash), and I wasn't hungry.
Adverse side effects of keto – Keto Flu & Constipation
I'm not going to lie and tell you keto is all rainbows and butterflies. Because there can be some nasty side effects of keto. However, there are also solutions as long as you know how to handle them.
There's something known as the "keto flu.". I've personally haven't encountered it, and neither has any of my other keto buddies. However, it's a widely known phenomenon due to salt reduction occurring in the diet.
If you are currently eating a diet high in processed foods, it could impact you. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium, and as you move to things like whole foods, meats, cheeses, healthy oils, and fats, the amount of sodium in your diet is naturally reduced.
A lack of sodium will cause an electrolyte imbalance and can lead to symptoms such as nausea, constipation, and headaches.
Fiber and the lack of it in keto
Too many people try to take the keto diet to the extreme and aim for as few carbs as possible. However, that isn't necessary. A lack of fiber in the keto diet will cause gut distress, or putting in bluntly, constipation. And it's also not good for you.
You'll need low-carb veggies, nuts, and other sources of fiber to prevent constipation. Meats, cheeses, and oils have no fiber. Don't get carb scared! Just be carb cognizant!
It's really easy to go overboard with the net carb target, but don't do it. If you try to approach a zero-carb diet, you will not get any fiber.
Your body needs fiber. Don't neglect this fact as you go keto.
Hidden Carbs and Keto
You've got to watch out for hidden carbs in foods. What are hidden carbs? They are carbs that you don't think you'll consume because of the type of food. Or they're carbs in foods that you believe are keto friendly until you look at the serving size.
I'll give you a few examples.
Hidden Carbs at Restaurants
I always look up the carb content at restaurant chains where the info is readily available. Imagine my shock when I looked up an omelet at IHOP and discovered it was loaded with carbs.
Not sure if it is true, but I read that IHOP adds pancake batter to their omelets.
The lesson of this story is don't assume that restaurants are preparing dishes as you would. They can be laden with carbs that you wouldn't even think of.
There are all kinds of hidden carbs you'll have to watch out for. It's not difficult to do, and you just have to make sure you are looking at nutrition labels and google searching nutritional values for restaurants you may visit.
The most significant source of hidden carbs is in products of standard serving size.
The easiest way to overload on carbs is by not looking at the serving size. Sure, sriracha (which I love) is only one net carb on the surface. BUT the serving size is only one teaspoon. So, if you are a lover of all things sriracha, like me, then you could eat a ton of carbs without realizing it.
There are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, and I easily used two tablespoons or more… that's six or more carbs, and that's not really keto friendly and not a way I would consciously choose to use my daily net carb allowance.
Heavy cream is another perfect example of hidden carbs. There are only .4 carbs in a tablespoon, which can certainly help with a milk replacement in coffee. But in a sauce recipe that's not keto balanced, it could be a disaster.
See, the thing is that newbies on the diet can think, "Oh, that's keto friendly!" But that doesn't mean you can consume any quantity you wish and stay in keto.
Fast Food and Keto
When I first started keto, I was doing "dirty Keto" without realizing it. This was primarily due to trying to find a quick lunch or not knowing what to look for at the grocery store. I would stroll endlessly through the grocery store at lunchtime to find a keto friendly option. Often, I'd leave the store empty-handed and swing into McDonald's or Wendy's on my way back to work.
Now I know there were plenty of keto friendly options available to me. But, I didn't know what I know now at the time.
What is Dirty Keto?
Dirty keto is eating fast food minus the carbs. So your breakfast might consist of an egg McMuffin from Mcdonalds, less the English muffin, or a no-bun burger from Wendy's at lunchtime. Ordering like this helps in a pinch, but it's definitely not a diet you want to follow every day.
And guess what else? If you approach keto this way, you'll get too much protein and not enough fat!
I'm not saying that there aren't good fast food options, because there are. It's just not something you should eat all the time. There are better options available. So, that brings me to lunchtime grocery store options if you forgot your lunch or didn't prep.
Keto and Alcohol
There's certainly a lot of debate over whether alcohol and keto mix. Hardcore ketonians will say you absolutely cannot have any. But, I'm not hardcore, and I know what has worked for me and my keto friends.
I haven't experienced an issue with alcohol consumption and weight loss while on the keto diet. And neither has anyone I've known that has adopted the keto diet.
But here's the thing… you've got to be super careful about the types of alcohol you are consuming. Non-lite beers, craft beers, and ordinary sugary cocktails are out.
However, there are still drinks that you can have on the keto diet that won't kick you out of ketosis.
My go-to is Miller lite and cocktails made with either MIO or low sugar mixers.
Plateauing and What to do about it
It's going to happen… At some point, the weight loss will begin to slow. You might go three or four days without any movement on the scale. Or quite possibly you could go a week or two.
When this would happen to me, I would go off of keto for a weekend and restart. My experience is scientifically backed with no data, but it seems to have worked for me!
I'm not saying to start eating potato chips and pasta if you take a break from keto, and trust me, that will make it even harder to restart. I am saying that I would reintroduce healthy carb foods, like fruits and veggies that aren't necessarily keto friendly.
Initially, I used keto for weight loss. Once I hit 5 pounds below my goal weight, I stopped. I now use keto as a weight management tool.
I try to maintain my weight within an 8 pound range. Once I hit the high end, I go back to keto. I'm religious about it, and it is a firm rule I follow.
You'll probably hear that keto is a fad and that once you stop following the keto diet, you'll gain it all back. I'm not going to sugar coat it and tell you this won't happen to you, and it might. If you revert to your pre-keto habits, you'll likely be right back at your starting point.
But here's the deal: Keto isn't just a diet. It's a stepping stone into the development of a low-carb lifestyle. And if you treat it as such, you'll find long-term success.
Two Things You Should Do Everyday to Hold Yourself Accountable
Weigh yourself. Seriously, just do it. Number one, it will make you feel good to see your progress, and number two, it will help you see when your progress is hitting a lull.
Test your keto progress with pee strips. Since I hit my goal weight, I don't use them consistently, but they are essential when starting keto. You'll know when you hit ketosis, and trust me, breaking that will be your most significant deterrent in breaking keto.
You'll see your progress on the scale, and you'll see it on the pee test strips.
Keep self-accountability and progress in your mind, and I have no doubt you'll succeed on this diet.
My goal in this post was to help you pick up the keto diet in an easy fashion, so I want to go over my top tips quickly.
Tips for Starting Keto
- Understand what net carbs are and how to calculate them.
- Track how many net carbs you are consuming each day. You should aim for 25-50 net carbs.
- Don't go protein-heavy, and stay mindful of your macro consumption.
- Stack up on low-carb[ls1] , high-fat snacks.
- Weigh yourself every day to track your weight loss progress.
- Test your pee with strips to see your keto progress.
- Avoid low-fat versions of foods.
- Watch out for hidden carbs.
- Always read nutrition labels and pay attention to serving sizes.
Summing It All Up
I'm not going to lie; the keto diet can be challenging.
It doesn't have to be, though.
That's why I created this guide and website, so you get a good understanding upfront of keto diet challenges and workarounds.
On this website, you'll find simple keto recipes and ideas. My goal is to make keto easy by providing tips, tricks, and easy recipe ideas. Eventually, I'll add meal plans you can follow, including ingredients, Sunday prep instructions, and overall macro counts per day.
My philosophy on keto is simple… strictly manage your net carb count, ignore calories, and fat bombs are your friend.
If there is anything that I missed in this guide, please leave a note in the comments section.