So you’re ready to try the keto diet.
But… you probably have a million questions:
- What foods are in? What foods are out?
- How will I feel? Will I be tired?
- Can I drink? Will I have a social life?
Don’t worry. We’re here to help.
There are all sorts of shopping lists and meal plans out there. It’s overwhelming.
We promise to keep it simple for you. And share our lessons learned after years of keto living.
In this Ultimate Guide to Keto for Beginners you will learn to:
- Determine “keto or not” with three easy questions.
- Make your first week shopping list in 5 minutes – all for under $100.
- Build 3 easy recipe structures that can be used day-in, day-out.
- Hit your macros without any calorie counting.
A lifetime — if you choose — of health and well-being awaits. A lifetime of mental clarity, physical fitness and reduced stress.
But first... we have to survive our first week.
Don’t worry though.. you get to eat those delicious fatty foods you were told your whole life to avoid.
Eggs. Cheese. BACON!
This is gonna be fun. You got this.
But First, Why Keto
So... why are we doing this again?
We want to induce “ketosis” — a process our body uses to get energy from fats instead of carbohydrates. It’s a perfectly natural process. It’s how our ancestors survived — and thrived — between meals (which was sometimes weeks back then).
Okay but why would we want to do this? Well it turns out some amazing things happen when our body runs this way. The ketogenic diet has been shown to:
- Moderate insulin and provide stable energy levels
- Boost cognitive performance
- Decrease anxiety and stress levels
- Starve cancer and precancerous cells (wow!)
It has also been proven to cure epilepsy overnight — when even the strongest drugs fail. That is how the ketogenic diet was first used back in the 1920’s.
The keto diet today is going through a renaissance. People are starting to use it as a lifestyle, not just a medical treatment. The more we learn about this way of living, the more exciting it becomes.
Keto is simple. You keep restrict carbs, eat moderate protein and load up with healthy fats.
This basic split (by calories) will put most people into Ketosis within 2 days or so:
Now we gotta be honest...
...we NEVER calorie count.
There are all sorts of fancy macro calculators out there and even services that will make you custom diet plans - we’ll refer you there if you want extra focus on specific weight loss or muscle gain goals.
We just make sure we eat the right foods — and eat until we’re full. Easy enough.
Okay, now let’s cover what’s in and out.
What can you eat?
The answer is anything that gets you into ketosis. Keto does not operate from an arbitrary list of rules. We just need to stick to the science.
The diet IS restrictive. But rather than memorize a list, we recommend asking 3 simple questions:
1. How many net carbs per serving?
Net carbs = total carbs - fiber. Anything over 5g is OUT.
2. Are you eating healthy fats?
Monounsaturated and saturated fats are better than polyunsaturated fats. There are a few exceptions (like salmon and walnuts) but generally this means NO refined vegetable oils like corn, canola and grapeseed.
3. How much protein per serving?
Anything over 20 grams should be eaten with healthy doses of fats. Avoid eating too many lean chicken breasts.
Remember we need to moderate our protein.
Protein can be converted to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This is why protein is only 54% ketogenic, while fats are 90% ketogenic.
A full keto food list can be overwhelming.
Many people never get past staring at those infographics.
The truth is we only really need a short list to thrive on keto. Like many things in life, our philosophy follows the Pareto Principle. A.K.A. 20% of the foods on our list deliver 80% of the taste and nutrition.
The secret is to find out which ones.
Famous investor Warren Buffett says he can improve your investment returns dramatically by giving you a punch card for which would limit you to 20 choices - for your ENTIRE life. You’d think real hard about those choices, wouldn’t you?
Why not do the same with food? You can improve your health by picking just the best. On the next page, we’ll reveal the first 12 on our punch card.
(we need to more time to think about the other 8... a lifetime is a long time ya know!)
Eggs are loaded with healthy fats, protein, and B vitamins – which you will need with grains out of your diet.
They’re cheap and downright delicious. You’d be crazy to start your morning any other way.
Besides being the most delicious food ever invented (I mean come on.. who doesn’t like bacon!?), bacon has many benefits to the keto diet. It’s fatty, full of protein and versatile.
You can cook it in the morning with eggs and save the fat to make veggies for dinner. Just make sure to find brands with low to no sugar.
Salmon is the fatty fish of choice for keto. It’s protein-rich and a great source of essential Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA.
Salmon is affordable and sustainably sourced. And it’s perfect on the grill with just salt and pepper. Dinner, solved.
We are going out on a limb here and say... Sardines are the #1 superfood NO ONE is talking about right now (besides Tim Ferriss of course).
They are full of Omega-3 fatty acids and protein. They have more vitamins and minerals than we could list on this page. And you can take them anywhere.
Oh ya... about the taste. You’ll learn to love them, we promise!
Need we say more?!
Make sure to pick fatty cuts like ribeyes. Grass-fed is best if you can find it.
Perfect on the grill or in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil and butter. The keto diet... where you can have your steak and eat it too.
Just one cup of broccoli delivers 5g of fiber, 4g of protein and tons of Vitamins A, C and K. Plus it has phytonutrients that are anti-aging and neuroprotective.
Cook it in butter and olive oil for the perfect complement to any dinner.
Another super-green. Spinach has all the health benefits of broccoli and can be used in almost any keto meal.
It’s the ideal base for a keto salad and cooks in minutes with olive oil to make a great side.
8. Coconut Oil
Coconuts are nature’s best source of medium-chain triglycerides (65%+). These MCTs are processed directly in the liver and convert to energy faster than other fat. With fats as your only energy source, MCTs will keep your energy levels up during your first week.
Plus coconut oil is naturally sweet and delicious. Fear not your sugar cravings.
9. Olive Oil
Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and goes with about anything you can think of.
Douse your meats and veggies with olive oil as a no-brainer way to get extra fats in your diet.
Of more than just guacamole fame, avocados are keto folks’ best friend. You could claim avocados are the #1 healthiest food on the planet.
They are LOADED with healthy plant based fats. Each one has 10g of fiber and twice the potassium as a banana. Take that carbs!
Slice them on eggs, top them on salads or eat them raw with a spoon. The possibilities are endless.
The go-to keto snack. Almonds have it all – healthy fats, fiber, protein and more calcium and magnesium than any other nut.
They are delicious, portable and yes... addicting. Eat them raw from the bag or blend them with coconut oil to make your own almond butter.
Yum. We recommend a grass-fed variety – Kerrygold Irish Butter is as good as it gets.
Total cost for the week
Budget is looking on point! Still have $8 left in the tank... more about that in the next section.
|Food||Serving Size||Servings/Wk||$ per Week|
|Coconut Oil||1 Tbsp||14||$6.99|
And what do you know, it gets us right at 2,000 calories per day.
We hit our ideal macro ratio too:
Extras at the grocery
Now take that $8 (or go wild!) and round out your shopping list with snacks and condiments.
YES! You can eat cheese. Grab some cheddar, pepper jack, feta or other cheese of your choice. Throw it on your salad or eat it right off the block.
Can’t have enough of these. Pecans, walnuts, macadamias and hazelnuts are all great picks in addition to almonds.
Find a keto-compliant dressing at the store (it’s hard, trust us) or better yet – make your own. Avocado oil and apple cider vinegar make a simple but killer combo.
Be careful here as most sauces are full of sugars or bad fats. Sriracha, tabasco, mayo, mustard and soy sauce are all great options to bring your meals to life.
Want to save another trip to the grocery store? Check out these 27 Clean Keto Snacks You Can Buy on Amazon Right Now
Our pantry is stocked. Now what should we make? Again, keep it simple.
Pick a few simple meals that you can eat day-in, day-out. At least to start. The goal is delicious, easy-to-make meals that deliver on macros and won’t break to bank.
Keto breakfast is EASY.
Every morning starts with a bowl of eggs, scrambled, topped with bacon and/or avocado.
And seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Add your favorite hot sauce kick it up a bit!
- 4 eggs
- 2 slices of bacon
- 1⁄2 avocado
|500||39 g||2 g||32 g|
Coffee, the keto way, is kind of a pain - but worth it.
If you’re like us, the day cannot begin without a fresh cup of joe. This is a perfect opportunity to get more healthy fats into your diet. And turn coffee into a treat!
You may have heard of “bulletproof” or “butter” coffee. Forget the cafe – make your own at home:
- 2 cups fresh brewed black coffee
- 1 tbsp coconut Oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp heavy cream
- 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Mix in a blender (preferred) or shaker bottle.
Have one in the morning, and you won’t be able to resist another after lunch.
|220||26 g||0 g||1 g|
With every afternoon comes a MASSIVE salad.
Load it up with fresh greens, nuts, cheeses and a fatty protein. Finish it off with a keto dressing and you’ve got a perfect lunch. Here’s our favorite power salad:
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1⁄4 cup walnuts
- 1⁄4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1⁄2 medium avocado, sliced
- 1 can of sardines, packed in extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp of Paleo Kitchen Ginger Cilantro Avocado Oil Dressing
|730||64 g||7 g||28 g|
A great time to slow down and prepare a nice meal.
An ideal combination is a fatty cut of meat + a veggie cooked in more fat. These are staple combinations we turn to regularly:
- Grilled salmon + brussel sprouts cooked in bacon fat
- Grilled skin-on chicken breast + broccoli in olive oil
- Pan-roasted ribeye + cauliflower rice in butter
Our favorite is #1 above:
- 8 oz Salmon, lathered in coconut oil (1⁄2 tbsp) and grilled with lemon
- 1 cup brussel sprouts
- 1 tbsp bacon fat
|600||37 g||4 g||57 g|
Let’s face it, cravings will happen. Be prepared.
Keto chocolate does exist but we gotta warn you... some brands (we won’t name) can taste like asphalt.
Try dipping a ≥90% cacao chocolate bar in coconut butter and/or almond butter to cut the bitterness and enjoy a delicious dessert. Himalayan salt can help too.
As you begin your journey, here are some tools you can use to tackle some of the big challenges people starting keto face:
Water and electrolytes will deplete as your body burns off stored glycogen. Drink lots of water (64+ fl oz per day) and don’t be scared of salt. Salty drinks like bone broth and electrolyte supplements are great ways to stay hydrated as you adapt.
Do you need to stay home, locked in a closet, with your phone off? Well.. no. Most drinks have carbs, but we know you have a social life to live. So opt for dry red wines, like cabernets or pinots, and clear liquors like Tequila.
Cheating. Shoot.. you had one too many beers or took down that cheesecake. Did you ruin it? No way. Relax... You might feel crummy, but your body will quickly return to a ketogenic state. The goal of keto is feeling healthy and happy, not strict adherence to rules.
Now go forth and conquer!
Thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: This website provides general information and discussions about health, nutrition and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Ben & Brandon are not doctors, registered dieticians or registered nutritionists.