KETO BEGINNER’S GUIDE:
By Noreen’s Keto Kitchen
What is Keto?
- The ketogenic diet (Keto) is a low-carb and high-fat diet. The Keto diet shares many similarities to the Atkins diet and some other low-carb diets.
- Keto means drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with good healthy fats. The reduction of carbs in your diet, sends 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 supplies energy for the brain.
- Keto diets can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has many health benefits. Studies have shown that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health and well being in many ways.
- The Keto diet may even have benefits protecting against type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ketosis is a metabolic state defined by raised levels of ketones in the body, resulting from a diet that is very low in carbohydrates. Ketosis involves the body producing ketones out of fat, and using these ketones for energy instead of carbs.
If you remain under your net carbs, most people should enter Ketosis in about 2 to 3 days. However, it can take up to a week for some. That’s one of the reasons why cheating on the Keto diet (especially in the beginning) is not recommended. For some, a cheat meal/day could take them a few days or up to a week to recover from and to get back into Ketosis.
Fat Adapted on Keto:
Fat-Adapted is the process your body goes through on the Keto diet as it transitions from using glucose for energy to using fat to fuel your body ( fat from your diet and stored on your body).
On Keto, it generally takes a couple of weeks of low carb eating to become fully fat adapted. Most will say, it takes about 4-6 weeks for your body to fully make the transition.
Again, it is important NOT to cheat during these first few weeks. Having high carb meals during this time may interrupt your transition to fat-adapted and it may take longer to get to that state. If you are hungry, eat, but keep it Low Carb. After you have become fat adapted you will be running on fat and no longer sugar & carbs.
For me, this is when it got easy. The longer I have been Keto the easier it was for me to incorporate Intermittent Fasting to my way of eating.
Keto & Intermittent Fasting (IF) seem to go hand in hand. You may hear Intermittent Fasting come up a lot around Keto. Fasting is known to naturally cleanse the body and speed up the repair and regeneration of damaged cells. There are athletes who incorporate IF into their routines because of the benefits of fasting, but they may not necessarily be eating Keto.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating schedule (or a pattern of eating) which alternates between fasting and eating. You can set a time window for eating that works for you, eat only within that established time frame and then you would fast the rest of the time.
Hunger suppression/ decrease in appetite is something that eventually comes with the Keto diet (especially once you are fat adapted). This helps to make fasting something that comes more naturally rather than something that is painful. I can often go 16-18 hours without eating. I am not usually trying to fast this long, I just do it naturally because I am not hungry.
There are some that may argue that doing IF at the very beginning of your Keto journey is pointless, mostly because you are not fat adapted yet and your body is already going thru lots of adjustments to this new way of eating. These people usually say to gradually add Intermittent Fasting to your routine once you have become fat adapted.
There is A LOT of information out there about the different time frames to fast 14:10 / 16:8 / 18:6 / 20:4 . The first number in the set (18:6) is the number of hours you are fasting (18 hours) and the second number is the number of hours in which you would eat (6 hours). If you are interested in Intermittent Fasting, Google will be your friend. There are a lot of resources out there if you want to explore it more.
What about Cheat Meals?
Cheating on Keto is never really encouraged; especially during those crucial first few weeks. It can slow down the transition to becoming fat adapted as well as getting yourself into Ketosis. There will be some who say that they cheat and it doesn’t effect their weight loss. That may be the case for them, but it may not be that way for you. Every body is different and how we respond will vary. People have reported getting sick after a high carb cheat meal; nausea, vomiting, sluggishness, etc. and others report no symptoms at all.
For me, personally, cheat meals were never worth it. If I really craved something, I made a Keto version. A cheat meal to me is something maybe a little more Dirty Keto and I may go over my calories a bit, but never with Non-Keto foods.
Foods to Avoid:
You will want to keep your carbohydrates very low (20 net carbs), coming mostly from green leafy vegetables, nuts, and dairy. Do not eat any refined carbohydrates such as wheat (bread, pasta, cereals), starches (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit. The few exceptions to this are avocados, tomatoes and berries which can be consumed in moderation.
Here is a list of foods that you should avoid on the Keto diet:
- ALL Sugary foods: Sugar, Honey, Agave, Maple Syrup, Soda, fruit juice, sweetened teas & coffee, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, donuts,cookies, cereal, granola bars, etc.
- Artificial Sweeteners: aspartame, Acesulfame potassium, Saccharin,
- ALL Grains & starches: ALL Wheat-based products, corn, potatoes, oats, rice, pasta, cereal, corn starch, potato starch, rice starch, etc.
- Fruit: MOST fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries.
- SOME Dairy: Avoid Milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole) and low fat yogurts
- Beans or legumes: Soy, Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, hummus, etc.
- Root vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Low-fat or diet products: These are almost always highly processed and high in carbs/sugar. They may also contain grains and starches not allowed on Keto.
- SOME condiments or sauces: Read the labels. A lot will contain high amounts of sugar and unhealthy fat from soybean oil.
- Unhealthy fats: avoid processed vegetable oils, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, etc.
- Alcohol: avoid beer, cider, cocktails & mixed drinks as they generally have wheat & sugar. Many hard liquors/spirits are zero carbs and zero sugars, however they may throw some people out of ketosis briefly.
- “Sugar-free” diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some people. These foods also tend to be highly processed and may contain grains or starches.
What Can I Eat?
You should base all your meals and snacks around these foods.
Always check nutrition labels to make sure there are no hidden sugars, carbs or starches.
- Meat & Poultry: Red meat, steak, lamb, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
- Fish & Seafood: salmon, trout, tuna (canned or fresh), mackerel, shrimp, scallops, tilapia
- Eggs: organic is best if you can afford them
- Butter and cream: If you can afford the grass-fed then go for it, if not use what fits your budget- but use real full fat butter and full fat heavy cream.
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue,mozzarella, etc).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils: Extra virgin olive oil, Ghee, coconut oil and avocado oil.
- Low Carb Sweeteners: erythritol (such as Swerve), Monkfruit, pure Stevia
- Avocados: Whole avocados or natural guacamole.
- Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies (Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Green Beans, Brussels Sprouts) Cauliflower, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices. Mustard, no sugar added ketchup.
- Drinks: Water, coffee, tea, seltzer or sparkling water, unsweetened almond or coconut milk.
Veggies on a Keto Diet:
The carbs that you are eating should be mostly coming from dark green and leafy vegetables. Your meals should mostly consist of a protein (eggs, meat,chicken.etc) with vegetables (cooked in olive oil, butter,etc) and an extra side of fat (avocado, bacon, cheese).
Here is a list of some common low carb veggies:
|Spinach (Raw)||1/2 Cup||0.1|
|Bok Choi (Raw)||1/2 Cup||0.2|
|Lettuce (Romaine)||1/2 Cup||0.2|
|Cauliflower (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||0.9|
|Cabbage (Green Raw)||1/2 Cup||1.1|
|Cauliflower (Raw)||1/2 Cup||1.4|
|Broccoli (Florets)||1/2 Cup||2|
|Collard Greens||1/2 Cup||2|
|Kale (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||2.1|
|Green Beans (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||2.9|
Possible Side Effects of Keto:
The keto diet is safe for most healthy people, however there may be some side effects while your body adjusts to this new way of eating. This is best known as the “keto flu” and will usually only lasts a few days. Keto flu can include poor energy, headache, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea or digestive discomfort.
Not everyone will get the Keto flu. So don’t let it deter you from trying Keto.
To possibly reduce the onset of the Keto Flu, you can try a less restrictive regular low-carb diet for the first week or so to help ease yourself into it.
The Keto diet can also effect the water and mineral balance of your body, so adding extra salt to your meals, water, or taking mineral supplements can help.
In the beginning (first week or two), it is important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Normally, a Keto diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
Different Types of Keto:
If you do any research on Keto you may come across a bunch of terms being thrown around: Strict Keto, Dirty Keto or Lazy Keto. You may be thinking what the heck does that all mean? Well here you go:
Strict Keto: These people avoid all the NO NO’s on the list in the first part of this guide. They avoid all gluten, wheat, all grains, all vegetable oils, sugar,etc. They may also be exclusively eating grass fed beef,meat and butter/cream. They may be eating all organic vegetables and avoiding any type of sweeteners (even natural ones).
Some who are strict keto are doing so to really maximize the health benefits of this diet and may not be looking to lose weight. Essentially, the cleaner you eat the more strict Keto you are.
Dirty Keto: People who claim to be “Dirty Keto” are more concerned with the carb/fat/protein macros and calories of the foods and NOT what is actually in the food.
For example, a dirty Keto-er may eat a Low Carb Wheat tortilla, because they can fit it into their calories and Net Carb Count. As long as they are staying at or under their goal in carbs/fat/protein, they will eat it. Some Dirty Keto-ers will drink diet sodas and eat artificial sweeteners. While this is not strict Keto, people do have weightloss success with this less restrictive Keto way of eating.
Lazy Keto: Those who subscribe to the Lazy Keto way of life are counting carbs and usually nothing else; generally keeping carbs under 20 grams. They aren’t focused on calories/fat or protein.
This way of Keto-ing appeals to those who don’t want to log everything they eat. Lazy Keto could technically be Strict or Dirty Keto, depending on how you choose to follow the Keto diet.
Free-For All Keto: Well now this is my own made up term for how I Keto in my life.
How I eat is a bit of all of the above types. Let me explain:
- I avoid all wheat and most grains most of the time. The only exception is maybe I will allow a small bit of corn starch in a jar of sauce or salad dressing, as long as the carb count is reasonable for my goals.
- I generally avoid vegetable oil, canola oil, etc, opting for healthier oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter, etc. However, sometimes I will be a bit of a Dirty Keto-er and fry chicken wings in vegetable oil or use a salad dressing with a less than healthy oil. I do this infrequently and mostly because I am trying to work within my budget.
- Some days I track and log religiously down to every meal and snack, and other days I am a Lazy Keto-er and track very little, but always sticking to counting my carbs and eating Keto foods in moderation.
- When I started this diet journey I completely gave up all sodas including diet versions. I have been strict in that I have not touched a soda of any kind in 7 months.
- I will occasionally consume items with Sucralose in the ingredients, such as Powerade Zero or no sugar added ketchup. Sucralose to some is a total NO NO and to others they consider it okay in moderation. This woud be considered Dirty Keto because sucralose is an artificial sweetener.
- I mostly try to eat organic vegetables but will buy non-organic veggies if my budget doesn’t allow.
- Grass fed beef, meat, and butter are not things my budget can afford, so I get regular versions of these foods. I try to buy the ones that are most natural with minimal processing or ingredients. Again, always within my budget and means.
How Much Should I eat on Keto?
If you are doing Keto for weight loss, you will need to make sure there is a calorie deficit in your diet. When you eat fewer calories than you burn you create a calorie deficit. You must have a calorie deficit to lose weight regardless of what diet plan you are using.
It can be very helpful to use an online calculator or app to help calculate your recommended calories for weightloss, based on your height, current weight and activity level. Logging your meals (especially at the beginning) is important. It helps you to know that you are eating enough protein and fat, staying low carb and within your calorie goal.
There are ALOT of these kind of apps or online tools available (for free) and a quick Google search will lead you in the right direction. Many Keto-ers use Carb Manager or My Fitness Pal (which I use). Do a little research and see what works for you and what you like best.
Macros and Net Carbs on Keto:
The Keto diet is one that is high in healthy fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs. Your target for your daily nutrient/calorie intake is to be around 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Essentially, Macros are these goal numbers for fats, protein, and carbs.
Eating 20 grams of net carbs is the general rule for most on the Keto diet– but the lower you keep your carbohydrate intake, the better your results tend to be. Most Keto-ers will recommend keeping total carbs below 30g andnet carbs below 20g. There are some who will say to keep your Total Carbs under 20 grams. How strict you are is really up to you. For me personally, it is more sustainable to keep my net carbs at or around 20 grams.
What is a Net Carb? Well, Net carbs are your total dietary carbohydrates, minus the total fiber and minus Sugar Alcohols (if sugar alcohol is over 5 grams then you only subtract half of the sugar alcohol from your carb total).
Dining Out on the Keto Diet:
Dining out on Keto does not have to be hard. Your best bet is to stick with plain and simple foods. It sounds boring but it doesn’t have to be!!
It’s breakfast time, you are hungry and out and about or didn’t have any food at home. What are some things that you can eat?
Well, egg-centered meals are generally a good option. Such as an omelet or eggs and bacon. However, be mindful that a lot of restaurants are known to add pancake batter to the eggs to make them fluffier (such as IHOP). You will want to ask for a “cracked egg” omelet/eggs, implying they are cracking the fresh eggs into the dish and NOT using a pre-made egg mix containing a batter of some sort. Yeah, they actually do that and you have to ask specifically not to get that in your eggs.
It’s Lunchtime and you forgot your lunch at home! Now what? Well, burgers are usually a tasty and easy meal to get Keto. Many restaurants will now wrap up burgers in lettuce for you. Red Robin, In-&-Out, and 5 Guys do this regularly for their customers. You will want to avoid the ketchup, bun, fries/onion rings/etc, and go for healthy veggies instead. You can add avocado, cheese, bacon, mushrooms, extra lettuce, tomatoes, etc, to really bulk up the meal.
You want to go out for dinner but not off your Keto Plan, now what? Many restaurants generally offer some type of meat (chicken/steak/beef) or seafood dish (salmon, shrimp, etc). Order these types of meals, and substitute any high-carb sides like potatoes, pasta, rice, corn, for extra veggies. Broccoli, asparagus, green beans, salad, and spinach are all popular restaurant fare.
When eating out, I tend to order a Grilled Chicken/Shrimp salad with Caesar dressing and no croutons or a Steak with broccoli & cheese as a side. Also, many chain restaurants will have all their nutrition information up on their websites. If you can plan ahead and do your research it will make the whole dining out experience easier and less stressful.
Lastly, desserts will be tricky on the Keto diet. If you find yourself really needing something sweet while out on the town, a small bowl of fresh berries with unsweetened whipped cream would be an okay choice. Generally, I stick to a cup of coffee or tea with cream to finish off a nice meal.
Keto Snack Ideas:
The longer you are on Keto the less snacks you will find yourself needing, as hunger suppression is just one of the many benefits of Keto. But, starting out or on one of those “I am soooo Hungry” days, you may need a snack or two to help resist the carb laden temptations that are everywhere!!!
Here is a list of some great, easy and convenient Keto snacks (Strict & Dirty):
- Pickles: not only delicious and low calorie, but a great source of dietary sodium
- Pepperoni/Salami: try to get the most minimally processed
- Deli Ham or Turkey: watch for any added sugars or starches
- Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
- Canned Tuna or Sardines
- Pork Rinds: be careful of any hidden carbs/sugar in flavored pork rinds
- Cubed or Sliced Cheese: cheddar, pepperjack, swiss, mozzarella, etc.
- Jones Braunschweiger: these are an amazing source of vitamin A, and are high fat. I eat them by themselves most of the time, but sometimes will throw it on a buttered fathead bun- YUM!! (They are considered dirty keto based on the ingredients- 1 net carb for 2 slices)
- Almonds: salted, plain, watch for any added flavorings or sugar in flavored almonds: noreensketokitchen.com/product/bold-salt-vinegar-almonds-by-blue-diamond/
- Walnuts: always measure your nuts! It’s very easy to over estimate your portion
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Coffee with HWC: moderate caffeine has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss, throw in some Heavy Whipping Cream, and you have a high fat, surprisingly filling afternoon pick me up. Beware of any flavorings,creamers or syrups that you add to your coffee
- Celery or Cucumber slices with cream cheese/ blue cheese dressing/Keto friendly Dip
- Hard Boiled Eggs: You can find these out and about in a lot of convenience stores/grocery stores,etc – I make mine ahead and store in the fridge.
- Bacon: I bake my bacon by the batch now, less mess and more consistent bacon
- Berries with Whipped Cream: great to curve the sweet tooth but make sure you are measuring out portion of berries and the whipped cream has no added sugar- better yet, make your own!!!
- Unsweetened Chocolate Almond Milk: I ain’t gonna lie- I drink it straight out of the carton – when I just want a “glass of milk” this is my go to!!!
- Keto Fat Bombs: recipes for fat bombs are EVERYWHERE…. I no longer make fat bombs, they lost their appeal very quickly to me. I wanted to make real food that everyone could eat not just a Keto-er.
$$ Keto on the Cheap $$
A lot of people think that eating healthy means spending lots of money they don’t have on food they don’t love. Then add in a specialized diet like Keto and some may even think that its impossible… well it ain’t!! Here are some tips and ideas that have helped me to live within my budget, not get bored and remain Keto for life!
Buy in Bulk:
Buying in bulk is pretty much always going to help save money. I regularly check out the online circulars of my local grocery stores to see what chicken/turkey/beef/fish they have on sale that week. Even if I don’t need it at that moment, if it’s a great price I will stock up and freeze it.
Almond Flour – a 3lb bag at Costco is about $13 where I am (Click pic for more info). I haven’t found a better quality brand at a better price yet. I love this stuff!! I use almond flour for a lot of my baking.
Coconut Flour: tends to be a little bit cheaper than Almond Flour, from what I have seen in stores.
Chicken/Turkey/Ground Beef: I stock up on chicken breast and ground beef when it’s around $1.50-$2 a lb. I portion it out into 1 lb per ziploc bag, so I know when I grab it out of the freezer how much I’m getting.
Frozen Veggies: I hate when I buy fresh veggies and they go bad before I get to use them. It’s such a waste of food and money, so on a budget I find getting frozen veggies really helps to reduces the waste. I mostly try to get organic veggies, but sometimes my budget just doesn’t allow for it. In that case, typically I go for store brand frozen veggies that are cheaper and just as good quality as name brand ones. Costco has some great frozen organic veggie choices (cauliflower rice, Broccoli, Green Beans, Brussels Sprouts) and I try to stock up with them as often as I can.
Organic Salad Spring Mix: On Keto, you should be eating a lot of greens! The best deal I have found on this type of salad mix is Walmart’s Organic Brand- a 16 oz tub goes for about $3.80. Compared to my local grocery stores, this is at least $2 cheaper. https://grocery.walmart.com/ip/Marketside-Organic-Spring-Mix-16-oz/44391169
**TIP** To keep salad mixes fresh in a bag or plastic tub, place a few pieces of clean paper towel inside the container. This will help absorb any extra moisture and I find it helps the salad last a bit longer.
Cheese/Cream/Butter/Eggs: I normally buy these at Walmart and I buy the generic store brands. I have compared the prices to a local Aldi’s in my area and Walmart is cheaper on Cheese, Heavy Cream,Eggs and Butter. However, that may vary from store to store and region to region. If you are Strict Keto you will want to eat grass fed dairy as much as possible. Grass Fed doesn’t fit into my budget, but I do what I can.
You would be surprised what Keto Treasures you can find in some unexpected places.
I have seen lots of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt at TJ Maxx/ Marshalls/Homegoods, Ocean State Job Lots, Big Lots, Burlington Coat Factory and even some Dollar Stores.
Along with the Pink Salt, I have seen different Keto friendly flours (coconut/almond), Keto protein powders, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, collagen powders, sugar free coffee syrups, avocado oil, olive oil, low carb pastas & much more. Their stock is always changing so if you find something, stock up on it, because it will NOT be there when you go back.
What’s the deal with the Pink Himalayan Salt? It contains a bunch of trace minerals and adding this salt on a Keto diet can be beneficial. Salt, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are some of the most important electrolytes. It’s important that you are getting enough of them and drinking enough fluids. A lot of people think the Keto Flu is only possible at the beginning, but your electrolytes being off can happen anytime. So listen to your body.