May 5th marks two years that I’ve followed a Ketogenic lifestyle. Over the course of the past 2 years I’ve learned a lot about myself and the foods that I want to feed my body for fat loss and ultimately for better health. As I look back on this 2 year anniversary, knowing what I know now, how would I start all over again. How would I make the transition from the standard American diet if I was a beginner?
A Keto Diet plan for beginners is a short term (30 day) high fat, low carb diet that promotes the metabolic state called ketosis in a safe, quick manner. For the beginner to make the transition over to keto easier, the diet should include savory favorites like butter, cheese, bacon, green leafy vegetables, stir fry’s… while avoiding high carbohydrate foods like breads, rice & pasta
Keto Diet Rules
Easiest way to manage the keto diet is to count macros (Fats, Proteins & Carbs) instead of counting calories. This isn’t to say that calories aren’t important, but managing the Keto diet is easier if you manage to the macros. Most experts agree that the breakdown of macros should be:
- 70% Fat
- 25% Protein
- 5% Carbohydrates – (These should ideally come from vegetables)
The best way to manage your macros is to track all the food that you consume, in pre-historic times, you know like before Justin Bieber, tracking your macros would be an impossible task. Today, thankfully you can download a number of apps can be used to track macros:
- MyFitnesspal.com – Free online calorie counter and diet plan. Find nutrition facts for over 2,000,000 foods. To track nutrients, either scan the bar codes of various food items or manually find them in the app’s large pre-existing database. If you’re using a fitness tracking device, MyFitnessPal can likely sync with it to include its data in the exercise log…. this is the one I’ve used most
- Loseit – a calorie counting app that helps you reach your weight loss goal. Simply download the app, set your goals, and track your foods and exercises to lose weight.
- Carb Manager – Free carb counter and keto diet tracker for the low carb and ketogenic diet. Set a net carbohydrate goal and search and log over 1 million foods and recipes.
There are other calorie/carb counters available, a quick Google search will produce plenty of results. Choose one that your most comfortable with and make the commitment to track all foods. This is a key part to the strategy you can’t wing it at this point in the journey
What do you eat on a Keto diet?
- Poultry: Free-range Cornish hen, quail, goose, pheasant, chicken, duck, and turkey.
- Fish and Seafood: Cod, tuna, scrod, anchovies, mackerel, flounder, catfish, trout, mahi-mahi, halibut, sole, sardines, salmon, halibut, snapper, and calamari. Always opt for wild caught fish to avoid toxins present in commercially rearedfish.
- Grass-fed Meat: These include beef, venison, goat, and lamb. Meat from wild animals are also acceptable; however, avoid sausages and meats that come with sugary sauces and those covered in breadcrumbs. Choose the chunks of meat with more fat since they contain less protein and more fat.
- Pork: Boston butt, pork chops, ham pork, and loin. When choosing ham, be on the lookout for added sugar. Bacon and Sausages: Preferably, you should buy these at specialty health food stores. If this is not possible, always read the labels to avoid those which contain fillers such as soy or sugars.
- Canned Tuna and Salmon: Canned tuna and salmon are okay to consume while you are on the keto diet. However,avoid seafood rich in fillers, breaded seafood, and fried seafood.
- Vegetable Protein Powders: Protein supplements such as whey protein, hemp protein, pea, and rice are acceptable.
- Whole Eggs: This includes chicken eggs, and quail eggs which you can prepare through any mean desired; fried, softor hard-boiled, deviled, scrambled, or omelet style.
- Shellfish: Oyster, mussels, lobster, shrimp, crab (not imitation crab that contains additives), clams, scallops, and squid.
Fats and Oils
Because these are your main sources of energy while you are on this diet, go for the types of fats and oils you enjoy. These may include:
- Omega 3 fatty acids from fish such as tuna, shellfish, and salmon
- Fish supplements or krill
- Monounsaturated fats such as egg yolks, avocado, and butter
- Vegetable oils such as olive oil, coconut oil
- Non-hydrogenated beef tallow, ghee, and lard.
- Duck and chicken fat
For these foods, opt for organic ones or better yet, grow your own to avoid all pesticide toxins. . Vegetables that make it to the list are: (I try to get most of my daily carb intake from this list):
- Collard Greens
- Onions (high in sugar; moderate intake)
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Beet Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Bamboo Shoots
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Celery Root
- Swiss chard
- Snow Peas
- Bean Sprouts
- Salad greens and lettuces: Romaine, Arugula, Fennel, Bok Choy, Boston lettuce, Endive, Mache, Escarole, Sorrel,Radicchio
- Dill Pickles
- Mascarpone cheese
- Unsweetened whole milk yogurt (limit intake of this type of yogurt because it is a little high in carbs)
- All soft and hard cheeses
- Cream cheese
- Full fat sour cream (do not forget to check for additives)
- Full fat cottage cheese
- Heavy whipping cream
- Bulletproof coffee
- Decaf Tea
- Flavored seltzer water
- Decaf coffee
- Herbal tea
- Lemon and lime juice (limit intake)
- Clear broth or bouillon
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts: almonds, macadamias, pecans, and walnuts are the nuts with the lowest level of carbs meaning you can consume them in small amounts. Other nuts such as chestnuts, pistachios, and cashews contain a higher amount of carbs; these you want to eat in moderation
Nut flours: these are necessary because while you are on this diet, it does not mean baking no longer fits into your life. Nut flours such as almond flour will suffice.
- Inulin and Chicory root
- Lo Han Guo
- Liquid Stevia
Here are spices allowed on the keto diet:,,,this is where I try to “liven up” the meals
- Chili pepper
- Cilantro or coriander seeds
- Black pepper
- Cumin seeds
- Cayenne pepper
- Mustard seeds
What can you not eat on Keto Diet?
- Avoid all grains, whole meal included (rye, wheat, oats, barley, corn, millet, rice sorghum and buckwheat).
- Also, avoid all products made from grains; these include foods such as crackers, pasta, pizza, and cookies.
- Avoid refined fats and oils like sunflower, canola, grape seed, corn oil, soybean, and Trans-fats such as margarine.
- Avoid milk (only full-fat raw milk is acceptable). For coffee, replace milk with reasonable amounts of cream
- Avoid tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapples, mango papaya, etc., and some high carb fruit.
- Avoid fruit juice.
- Avoid factory-farmed pork and fish.
- Avoid all artificial sweeteners containing Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharine, etc.
- Avoid alcoholic sweet drinks such as beer, and sweet wine (I did a whole post on The Keto Diet & Alcohol click here to read that post)
- Avoid Soy products
That’s a crazy long list of do’s and don’ts… it certainly gets easier with practice and as long as you’re tracking macros and staying true to the numbers you will succeed. However, some people will find this cumbersome and prefer to have a detailed plan mapped out specifically for them.
- Eight-week meal plan created based on the expertise of certified nutritionists, personal trainers, and chefs.
- Meals that have calorie and macronutrient content tailored to their specific situation and goals.
- A nutrition plan with food variety to ensure they will get a wide range of nutrients and boost the likelihood of sticking to their diet.
- Meals that are based on personal food preferences to make their diet enjoyable and help them stay on track with their plan.
- Detailed recipes with step-by-step instructions to make meal preparation super simple (no prior cooking experience needed).
- A downloadable shopping list each week that details every needed ingredient they will need in the upcoming seven days.
- Options on how they can customize every meal even more to suit your taste buds.
What should I expect the first week of Keto?
Within the first week that you start the keto diet, some people report symptoms like headache, foggy brain, fatigue, irritability, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and constipation… commonly known as the Keto Flu.
Dr. Marcelo Campos, MD (Primary care doctor at Harvard Vanguard, lecturer at Harvard Medical School and clinical assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine) writes in his post: What is Keto Flu?
“A search for this term (Keto Flu) yields not a single result on PubMed, the library of indexed medical research journals. On the other hand, an internet search will yield thousands of blogs and articles about keto flu.
It is tricky to describe exactly what happens after the diet change, because we are left with only our own observations and experiences. These symptoms may not even be unique to the ketogenic diet; some of my patients describe similar symptoms after they cut back on processed foods, or decide to follow an elimination or an anti-inflammatory diet.
What causes keto flu?
Well, we don’t really know why some people feel so bad after this dietary change. Is it related to a detox factor? Is it due to a carb withdrawal? Is there an immunologic reaction? Or is this a result of a change in the gut microbiome? Whatever the reason is, it appears the symptoms attributed to the keto flu may happen, not to everyone but to some people, after “cleaning up” their diet.”
The Keto Flu seems to vary from person to person… I remember feeling a little weak and foggy for about 2-3 days, then symptoms cleared up and once past the “flu” I started feeling great. Most doctors recommend that you drink plenty of water and add half of a teaspoon of sea salt stirred in it to replace the water and minerals your body excretes during the first week or so of eating keto
How do I know I’m in ketosis?
Ketosis is the holy grail of the Keto Diet, the point where your body begins burning fat for fuel instead of storing it on your thighs. Beginners don’t know what to expect and I remember being so anxious to know if I was doing “keto” right. Here are some signs to look for:
- Keto Breath – a metallic or acetone smell to your breath. Your body will initially create more ketones that it will initially use and a by product of the ketones created come in the form of what’s known as Keto breath. It doesn’t last long, increased regularity of brushing and sugar free gum alleviate the issue
- Weight Loss – It’s kind of the whole point to this… The first week or so can see dramatic loss in weight and it’s so encouraging. I lost 8 lbs the first week… most experts will tell you that the initial drop is primarily water weight, and that may be, but it makes for one heck of momentum builder
- Fatigue – See Keto Flu above.
- Decreased Energy – Similar to Fatigue/Keto Flu, your body can take some time to become fat adapted or getting used to burning fat for fuel and not having the carbs/glucose for energy. That goes away after a short while and some people notice increased endurance once they’ve become fat adapted
- Increased Ketones in the blood – A surefire way to know if you’re in Ketosis is to test ketones in the blood using a blood testing meter. Ketone meters are reasonably priced and easy to use if you don’t mind drawing blood. I found this Bluetooth blood Ketone & glucose testing kit for under $50 on Amazon click here
- Increased Ketones in the urine – As the body creates ketones and your body flushes out water and minerals from your system, ketones count increase in your urine. You can buy Ketone strips to test the ketone level in your urine as a way to test for ketosis. This method is not nearly as accurate as the blood testing kit, but it’s really inexpensive to buy, I found them for under $10 here on Amazon.
How long should you do Keto?
This topic has no shortage of opinions… a Google search will attest to that. Let’s break this down into a few bite sized chunks:
- One Month – This is more of a proof of concept suggestion than anything else. Committing for the month allows for new habits to form, but more importantly after 30 days you should be able to look back and see meaningful results, this alone will motivate for a longer trial. At 30 days in I had lost 13.5 lbs and I was hooked!
- 3 months – Some people can take 2 to 6 weeks before their bodies become “fat adapted” and are accustomed to burning fat for fuel. The ideal time to see significant results is 90 days. At this point I had lost 33.5 lbs
- For life? – That’s quite a leap, 30… 90… forever. The stark truth is that if you return to eating the same way as you had before starting the keto (or any regimen for that matter) you already know what the results are going to be.
Look at a study done on Biggest Loser contestants, a wildly popular reality show that saw contestants achieve dramatic weight loss results:
Link to study: The average weight of the Biggest Loser contestants was back up to 290 pounds. There was only one contestant who didn’t regain any weight. 4 of these contestants have reported—after this study was done—that they now weigh even more than before their participation on the show – The 6 year ‘Biggest Loser’ study: Why Is It So Hard to Maintain Weight Loss? by Mayo Oshin | Habits, Psychology, Weight Loss
Experts can argue back and forth on the advantages and perils of the Keto diet long term. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual as to what they’re comfortable with. The ugly truth is that you need to come to terms with is that for long term success, you can never go back. I’ve been on keto for 2 years now and I know what results eating the standard American diet will yield…. it’s a latent super-power, I can gain weight just thinking of Big Mac’s and large fries.
Will I stay Keto forever? Maybe… I won’t always be the relentless Keto freak that my family has come to love, but there will certainly be some tenets of the Keto diet that will stay forever:
- Eat Whole Foods
- Limit sugar & highly processed foods
- Eat lean proteins & healthy fats
- Get most of my carbs from vegetables, nuts & seeds
A Keto diet plan for beginners needs to be like the free introductory offer for Netflix or Amazon Prime…. 30 days to get familiar with the program, see the results/benefits and come to the point that you can’t go back to living without it.
In our world of instant pots, instant coffee & instant gratification a beginner needs to see fast results that lead to realization that long term lifestyle change is the only way to see significant and lasting results…. but it’s key to have that early “proof of concept” to promote the long term change.
2 years and down about 80 lbs… I’m still not at my goal weight so the struggle continues… some days good, some not so much, but in a better place today than I have been for many years.
Happy Cinco de Mayo