Since I began a ketogenic diet in January, a number of people have messaged me asking what they need to do to get started. I had a small list and one piece of wisdom I could offer with confidence: “Eat fat.” Since that’s not exactly the most helpful, I put together something more substantial for the next person that asks me how to keto.
Behold, my non-professional, non-medical-based, Ketogenic Starter Guide. I created this starter guide based on my personal journey through this way of eating with the mindfulness that your journey may be very different from mine. But hey, here’s an approachable place to begin. I revamped the post I wrote in January based on what worked and what didn’t. Read, The first rule of dieting is: you ALWAYS talk about dieting here.
Going keto starts before you begin consuming loads of fats. It’s important to set yourself up for success. Here’s what I suggest you do the week(s) before in preparation.
Start a Pinterest Board with keto-friendly recipes only.
Pinterest is my digital cookbook. I have a board specifically for low-carb recipes and it’s dreamy. You can check out that board here. It’s my main source of recipes and food ideas. My favorite part about Pinterest is that I can type in a few ingredients that I have along with “low-carb” and BAM! Options! Bless the internet. Just because “you’re on a diet” doesn’t mean you have to eat cardboard flavored garbage. You get to eat butter, bacon and cheese, and OMG DID I MENTION BACON.
If you have carb heavy foods in your cabinet and fridge, eat all of them.
Especially the beers; let’s not let those go to waste. Bake yourself some cookies. Clear out the sugar. If you’re already carbed out, donate your non-perishables to eliminate temptation in the coming weeks. If there’s someone else in your house who prefers not to join your new lifestyle, make room in the cabinets and fridge specifically for your food. I personally made a “Keto-friendly shelf” and a “No-no shelf” in my cabinet, which has proven to be very helpful.
Invest in keto staples.
A majority of these items fill my cabinets, recipes, and daily intake. I’ve included all of the links that are Amazon Prime-friendly. Love me some free shipping. Start where you want, don’t get when you don’t want:
- Keto-friendly oil: Avocado oil, Coconut oil, MCT Oil (I don’t actually use this, but lots of ketoers do to add more fat to their day)
- Sugar alternative: Pyure, Swerve, and/or coconut sugar. The best part? They’re a 1:1 replacement for regular sugar AKA the devil in delicious disguise.
- Sugar free coffee sweetener. Unless of course, you’re one of those weird, plain coffee drinking types. No judgement, but I am judging.
- Camelbak: I LOVE my purple 1 litre Camelbak. I take it everywhere and feel like a professional hydrator with it. It helps that it has the bite valve because oral fixations are real. I also suggest water enhancers because you will be thirsty all the time, but may get bored of water. It keeps things exciting.
- Food scale: the most accurate way to measure the food you’re putting in your mouth hole. It’s also very easy to use.
- Ketone piss test strips: wanna know for sure when you’re in ketosis? Get these. You will use them heavily until you become adapt.
- Veggie spiralizer: I’m going to be super transparent, I’ve only used my spiralizer once and didn’t love it. Maybe it was the one I purchased. This one is much heavier duty, but I can’t swear by it because I’ve never used it.
- Scale (optional for obvious reasons) and measuring tape: to track your well-earned progress. The best part about this scale is that it tracks based on user including weight lost and your percentage lost. I wish I had gotten mine at the beginning of my journey just to enjoy how high that number was. 22 pounds down, WAHOO!
- Keto-friendly flours: Almond flour, Coconut flour, Xanthan Gum (not a flour, but a useful thickener). You will use these often, especially when you start missing carby meals. Fathead dough is heaven.
- Tupperware: you’re going to be doing a lot of meal prep (I suggest sticking to 1-2 days of meal prepping for the week to save time and energy on life) and you’re gonna need lots of containers to house those meals.
Print out a list of keto friendly foods to keep in your kitchen.
Instead of talking about what you will not be eating, let’s focus on the foods you can enjoy. It’s an especially helpful tool in the beginning with predicting what will be in your stomach and on your grocery list in the coming weeks. Kiss the grocery store aisles behind because you won’t be visiting them much anymore. When you do venture down those aisles, you’ll likely find yourself holding your breath. If you’re not holding your breath, you’re probably in the bread aisle, smooshing your face against the soft, aromatic loaves until someone approaches and quietly asks you to leave. We all have our moments. I found the list that’s easily accessible in my kitchen here.
Download MyFitnessPal (MFP) and set up your macros in the app.
First, you’ll want to know what your macros are. Until I started eating keto, I frankly had no idea WTF macros were. BEHOLD, THE INFORMATION YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR: macros are your daily intake goals in grams for fats, proteins and carbs. Your daily macros are set based on your body weight, type, body fat percentage and overall goal (i.e. maintenance, weight loss, etc.). In order to determine what my macros were, I used this handy dandy Keto Calculator tool on Ruled.me. Quick plug for that site – it’s a safe haven for us ketoers. There’s even information on what to order when eating fast food and tons of recipes.
I followed and tracked my first month strictly. Every bite that entered my mouth was entered into MFP. I also didn’t know that “net carbs” existed until month 2, so I was extra super strict. (Fiber and sugar alcohols are not included in your daily net carb intake.)
I’ll be honest, I despise tracking my intake/outtake. It easily becomes obsessive and exhausting. In my un-expert opinion, all you need is one month of close tracking. This will be the time you learn how to navigate this way of eating. Tracking will give you the opportunity to visualize how you’re hitting your daily macros and with what foods. Follow this for a month and you’ll be equipped with the information you need to put the right amounts of the right foods right in your mouth without relying on MFP to guide each and every bite.
Plan out your first 3 weeks of meals.
There are a few benefits to this:
- You’ll know exactly what you’ll need from the grocery store.
- You’ll know exactly what you’re eating for every meal.
- It takes a lot of stress off of you while you’re making these lifestyle adjustments.
- You won’t get stuck eating the same thing for 3 weeks and get sick of your food options. Keep it interesting.
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. I was worried that this would come back to bite me in the ass because everyone and their mother eats carbs on carbs for breakfast. It’s not hard though! Eggs! Bacon! Cheese! Tomatoes! Sausage! OH MY! I still get frustrated while eating out since all breakfast sides offered are carbs or a potato. Mainly frustrating because our society prefers to focus on the 97 different ways to prepare a potato than offering a healthier alternative. That frustration is for another time.
Here are a few of my favorite low-carb meals:
- Coconut Flour Pancakes: I make these about once a month and top them with Cary’s Sugar Free Maple Syrup. IDK if Stockholm Syndrome has taken me over, but they’re SO GOOD.
- Low-Carb Biscuits with Sausage Gravy: the gravy is super rich, so I usually cut out some of the cream cheese and replace it with more heavy cream.
- Egg Roll in a Bowl: I’m not a huge cabbage lover, but I do love egg rolls. It’s almost the same… almost.
- Sriracha Avocado BLT Salad: Todd and I threw this together one day and kept coming back to it. It’s so easy to make and appeals to keto-related macros goals.
- Mississippi Roast: this recipe calls for an entire stick of butter and wowowowow, it’s worth it. Requires slow cooker which is major plus because you just throw shit in a pot and forget it for hours.
- Low Carb Meatloaf: Todd got me a meatloaf pan just so I would make it again. Nothing beats a giant, square-shaped burger!
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad: want to try to best chicken salad in existence? I’m not kidding, it’s amazing. I stick to green bell peppers because they’re the lowest in carbs. This is super keto-friendly and I’ve made it many of times.
- Halo Top or Enlightened Ice Cream: Enlightened in better and cheaper IMHO.
- Low Carb Mousse Pudding: so easy. I’ve used this as a basis and added to it to make delicious little treats because my sweet tooth is the size of my ass.
- Cheesecake Fluff: this is SO GOOD. I usually add a few sliced up strawberries to it and it’s almost like the real deal. All that’s missing is the crust. Let’s be real, though. Unless it’s an Oreo crust, we don’t really care anyway!
Take extensive “before” pictures and measurements.
I regret not doing this more thoroughly at the beginning. While I do have comparison photos, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to have that embarrassing “before” shot from January 1st… likely because I was embarrassed then. Embrace it. Take in where you are right now and take the damn pictures. The most important reason behind this is if you’re using a scale, sometimes it won’t move, but you’re body is changing. Pictures capture when the scale lies. So do measuring tapes. If you’re looking to track your inches lost like a 90’s weight loss commercials, measure yourself! I didn’t do this either, but wish I had. I’m lazy AF in that department, but here‘s a measuring chart for tracking weight loss progress for those who are admirably more driven than I am.
Find a group for sharing resources, celebrating wins and receiving support.
Start on Reddit in /r/keto. The group is super supportive to everyone regardless of where you are in your journey. At the very least, stop in and click around. It has great reading material (especially this one) including an overview of keto and there’s a daily support thread where you can talk about your wins and your challenges.
Before I got to this point in writing this post, I was part of a group on Facebook called Keto for Badass Babes (women only group.) Sounds cool and super badass, right? It’s a large group, so I get the extreme moderation to an extent, however they censor every single post. For example, I posted the picture of the difference between my two shelves from above and after 10 minutes and 1 angry comment about being “triggered by carbs,” it was taken down and I was sent directly to the post about the rules of the group. This was strike 3 for me after 2 previous posts were quietly taken down, so I left. Not exactly the kind of support I’m looking for. Like many others who have received similar treatment, I joined the “No Rules” version of Keto for Badass Babes here (still women only.)
Regardless of where you choose to do it, I highly recommend finding a place to share your challenges and triumphs with people who are on the same journey. When you completely change your lifestyle, you’re gonna wanna talk about it and that’s good! It’s exciting! Find people who also want to talk about it with you! Your carb-eating friends will be grateful.
Once you go keto, you will never be meat-o. I don’t know, that didn’t work but I also feel it necessary to leave on this post so that everyone knows that I tried and miserably failed. In all seriousness though, once you go keto, a lot will change. Especially things you wouldn’t expect. You will deal with some side effects including one where people judge you because they don’t understand what a carb is. Read more about 25 side effects of the Ketogenic Diet here.