Simple Guide to the Ketogenic Diet for Beginners

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Introduction

The ketogenic diet helps activate a metabolic pathway known as ketosis, which enables the body to use fat as energy. Glucose is our primary source of energy and takes priority over ketones, which are created through the conversion of fatty acids. Glucose is stored in the body as glycogen and is replenished through the consumption of carbohydrates.

The goal of the ketogenic diet is simple–deplete your stored glycogen so your body has no choice but to burn fat.

The restrictive nature of the keto diet helps suppress the consumption of processed, non-satiating foods such as breads and desserts. This is achieved by primarily consuming fats and proteins, which are highly satiating and inefficient at restoring glycogen.

In and of itself, the keto diet does not cause weight loss–instead it helps suppress appetite while maintaining a favorable state where stored fatty acids can roam freely from fat cells and be converted into energy. 

A notable downside to the ketogenic diet is the elimination of many whole fruits and vegetables. For this reason, the ketogenic diet’s long-term viability is questionable. The diet has undoubtedly helped many achieve dramatic body transformations and success stories speak volumes as to who the diet is really for–those who have lost control of their weight and appetite and need clear and strict guidelines to follow.

Your plan after the ketogenic diet matters just as much as your decision to begin. Falling into old habits of eating junk food will quickly bring you back to where you started. Healthy eating is a lifelong endeavor, and it doesn’t end if you decide to take a break from the keto diet.

Let’s Talk Carbs

Counting carbs is absolutely critical to your success on the ketogenic diet. Always read nutrition labels and don’t take risks on foods without them. You must become an expert at detecting foods that contain sugars, starches, and grains as ingredients.

How many carbs should you consume in a day? Although you’ll find many sources suggesting that 5-10% of your daily calories, keep the number simple. 20 grams of net carbs is a limit that generalizes well to the population.

Your key performance metric is net carbs. Why “net” carbs? Because fiber is a carbohydrate that doesn’t count towards your daily limit. This enables you to add a short list of vegetables to your diet without concern for exceeding your daily limit.

Best Fats for Keto

The fats listed are great additives to a meal that bring flavor.

Suggested Fats

  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
 

Avoid These Fats

  • Trans fats (hydrogenated oils)

Best Proteins for Keto

Meats are free to consume on the ketogenic diet, but with a few exceptions.

Suggested Proteins

  • Fish (Salmon)
  • Poultry (Chicken)
  • Pork (Uncured Bacon)
  • Soy (Tofu)
  • Eggs
 

Avoid These Proteins

  • Cured Meats (Contains Sugar)
  • Sweetened Protein Powders

Best Vegetables for Keto

A common misconception about the ketogenic diet is the you can only eat meats and cheeses. Although the list is shorter without starchy variants, there are still quite a few options.

Suggested Vegetables

  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
 

Avoid These Vegetables

  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Squash
 

Best Fruits for Keto

A few fruits are rich in fiber and can fit within your net carb limit. To keep your diet simple, fruits should mostly be avoided.

Suggested Fruits

  • Avocados
  • Lemon (Flavor)
  • Raspberries
 

Avoid These Fruits

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Melons
  • Grapes
  • Berries

Best Cheeses for Keto

Many people on the ketogenic diet enjoy their cheeses without issues.

Suggested Cheeses

  • Mozzarella
  • Cheddar
  • Gruyere
  • Swiss
  • Gouda

Avoid These Cheeses

  • American Cheese (Contains Sugar)

Keto Nuts, Seeds, & Legumes

Certain nuts are safe on the ketogenic diet. Legumes are less so. Peanuts are technically not nuts, and cashews contain a large amount of soluble carbohydrates making them an unfavorable choice. Yet, these two are very common to find as ingredients. Here’s a list of nuts you can eat on the ketogenic diet.

Suggested Nuts

  • Macadamias
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
 

“Nuts” to Avoid

  • Peanuts
  • Cashews

Best Drinks for Keto

Beverages can provide momentary satiation with a bevy of flavors to choose from, with artificial sweeteners providing a free pass to accessing a sweet profile without a caloric hit.

Suggested Drinks

  • Sparkling Water
  • Coffee (Black)
  • Tea (Unsweetened)
  • Diet Sodas
  • Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
  • Flavored Water (Droplets)
 

Drinks to Avoid

  • Juices
  • Sodas
  • Milk
  • Sweet Tea

Wrapping up…

These short lists should provide a foundation to get started on the ketogenic diet while helping to avoid common pitfalls in each segment of foods

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