Cooking In the Kitchen

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting the Keto Diet

If you are curious about the Keto diet, how it works and maybe even how to start, read on!  I am in no way a professional on the subject and also not your doctor, so take what I say with a grain of salt.  I am speaking to you from my personal experience and from the many hours of Youtube I have watched on the subject.  This is what worked for me and things I have learned along the way.  I will keep things pretty basic, but there is some really great science behind all of what I am saying.  I will leave more resources at the end of the post if you want to take a deep dive.

My Experience with Keto

I used the Keto diet for a year (until becoming pregnant) and just began using it again (after I finished breastfeeding- well exclusively pumping..more on that here).  

The first time I started the Keto diet, I melted down to my goal size in a matter of 5 months and stayed where I wanted to be easily.  I did not weigh myself the first few months of being on Keto, but only took body measurements.  I estimated that I lost 25-30lbs the first go around. I was not working out, only hiking on the weekends when I had the time. 

What is the Keto Diet?

The Keto diet is a low-carb, moderate protein and high-fat diet.  Your body learns to run off of fat for energy instead of carbs. The ketogenic diet allows your body to use your fat for energy and the ketones protect your muscles.  The ketogenic diet has many health benefits, such as weight loss, brain function & clarity, improved heart health, sustained energy levels (no more sugar crashes), aids in the treatment of diabetes, gives you better skin (less breakouts), cellular regeneration (autophagy),  and many others!

What CAN’T I Eat on the keto diet?

The easy answer to this question, is you will be cutting out all sugar, starches and carbs from your diet.  This means cutting out even natural sugars, like from fruit and cutting out carbs from other healthy foods like beans, potatoes, and corn.  You will quickly learn to calculate net-carbs on the spot!

Calculating Your Macronutrients

In order to do the ketogenic diet correctly, you MUST calculate your macronutrients.  This sounds a little daunting, but you can find out your macros in a matter of seconds (and for free) by using a macro calculator online.  My favorite to use can be found here: https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator/ 

If your goal is to lose weight, you will still need to be aware of your caloric intake.  A popular myth I have seen and heard from many people is that you don’t need to count calories while on Keto.  There is some truth in this, as you are less hungry and are therefore eating less calories, so counting doesn’t matter as much.  However, you are generally eating more calorie-dense foods and they add up quickly! No matter what diet you choose, caloric intake is always going to be important.

Download MyFitnessPal (Optional, but HELPFUL)

When starting out on any sort of diet, keeping a food diary is going to be an important step in holding yourself accountable. Logging your food is also going to give you a very clear picture of how close you are staying to your daily macronutrient goals. This is where downloading an app on your phone comes in, and I suggest MyFitnessPal. They have finally added ‘net carbs’ to their app, where you used to have to calculate this on your own.  This app lets you set goals for your macronutrients and caloric intake. It takes a lot of thinking and math out of the equation and allows for a much simpler experience in food logging. 

Here is a screenshot of my daily food diary (I haven’t entered anything in for the day yet).  At the top, you will see ‘Nutrients Remaining’.  These numbers are ones that I entered myself for my personal macronutrients:

The more you use MyFitnessPal, the easier and faster it becomes! It remembers your foods that you enter so you can easily add them to your food diary without having to search for them or scan them in again.

My one tip for the app is to NOT rely on their food database for nutrition unless you have to.  Always scan the barcode of your food straight from the product to get accurate nutrition facts.  Their database is filled with whatever anyone wants to put in there and are often times extremely inaccurate.

Create a Shopping List

Keep your shopping list simple.  There are SO many ‘Keto’ products out there now, but you need to be careful when looking at the ingredients used in these products and they also come at a high price point usually.  The list below is a list of ingredients I always keep on hand when doing the keto diet (some are linked to Amazon, but I also have notes on specific items I like to buy at certain stores. If you buy something from Amazon using the links below, we may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.)

Kristen’s Keto Staples

  • Eggs
    • The higher the quality, the better, however, I have stuck with the cheapest eggs I can buy and always been fine.  We go through at least 2 dozen eggs a week in my house at a minimum!
  • Butter
    • Ghee would be best here, but I go the affordable route and just buy Costco’s salted butter.  
  • Olive Oil
    • Buy high-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocados
    • Costco has a 3lb bag of dices avocados in the freezer section, which is cost-effective, but, I prefer fresh avocados!
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Meat
    • You will be eating a lot of meat.  I am not strict about the meats I consume, but like to keep a variety on hand.  Chicken thighs, chicken wings, and steak are our favorites!
  • Cruciferous Veggies
    • Veggies tend to have carbs, but these are the foods you should be ‘spending’ your daily allotment of carbs on!  Stick with cruciferous veggies though because a lot of other veggies have tons of hidden carbs in them.  Cruciferous veggies also are high in fiber and keep you more full for longer. Stalk up on:
      • Broccoli
      • Cauliflower/cauliflower rice
      • Kale
      • Brussel Sprouts
      • Spinach
      • Cabbage
  • Cheese
    • Some people avoid dairy, but I can’t help but eat cheese with almost all of my meals!  You can choose whichever cheeses you prefer.
  • Dark Chocolate
    • Stick with at least 90% dark chocolate.  There will be some carbs, but it will be minimal.  When you are eating small amounts of dark chocolate, it has many health benefits! It is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and other minerals.  I eat a square of chocolate by itself or use it for keto baking!
  • Almond Flour
    • I am a baker at heart and almond flour allows me to still bake treats.
  • Monk Fruit Sweetener
    • Buy this at Costco! Monk Fruit sweetener can replace table sugar in baking, is zero calories and has a bonus of antioxidants!  It is a natural and delicious alternative to regular sugar or other sweeteners.
  • Liquid Stevia
    • I am not a huge fan of the flavor, but it can be nice to add a few drops of sweetener into a baked good or drink if you have a sweet tooth! Trader Joe’s has a great and affordable liquid stevia that is usually in stock.
  • Canned Fish
    • We usually have tuna on hand.  If you enjoy fish, there are some great options out there for getting healthy fats and protein in.  Sardines are a great keto option if those float your boat!
  • Low-carb tortillas
    • Costco sells the Mission brand of these and we always keep them on hand.  While these aren’t the cleanest option, we love to make pizzas on them, eat tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas…you name it! 
  • Digital Food Scale
    • While this isn’t a food product, it is a kitchen tool that I use nearly every time I am preparing a meal! While it is a super helpful tool when doing the keto diet, I also use my scale for all my regular cooking and baking too!

Write out a meal plan

You can create a meal plan or look at some websites that offer a weekly keto meal plan.  I have inserted a few screenshots of my food diary below to show you what I eat in an day.

Typically, I eat eggs with cheese and meat for breakfast, a loaded salad for lunch and a meat protein of some sort with a veggie for dinner. (Most days I do not eat breakfast, because I like to practice 16:8 intermittent fasting.  You can find out more about IF in the resources below.)

What about alcohol?

The short answer is that you can have alcohol, in moderation, on the Keto diet.  However, you must be careful of the types of alcohol you drink and you need to know that it WILL slow down weight-loss, if that is your reason for doing this diet.  Also, alcohol tends to make people want to eat, so this could lead to extra caloric intake as well.

Low-carb/no-carb alcohols include:

  • Dry red/white wines ~ these typically have around 4-5 carbs per 5oz glass
  • Low-carb beers ~ some beers have as low as 2 carbs/beer, but you will need to be extremely careful about which beers you purchase.  Also, if you plan to have more than one, make sure you are tracking the carb intake.
  • Hard liquors, i.e.: whiskey, vodka, rum, gin etc.  These are typically 0 carbs (watch out for flavored liquors) and as long as you mix them with sugar-free mixers, you are good to go!  Remember that alcohol is high in calories though and these can add up.

My Favorite Go-to Keto-Friendly Snacks/Desserts

  • Deviled eggs
  • “Root beer” float- Simply add some heavy cream to a diet root beer. Delish! My favorite diet root beer is Virgil’s (you can find it at Trader Joe’s)
  • Chocolate mousse- I whip up heavy cream and add some melted chocolate and a few drops of stevia extract…chill in the fridge and enjoy!
  • Cheesecake – Keto cheesecake is hands down my favorite dessert to enjoy. Here is a link to my Pinterest Story Pin on making cheesecake: https://pin.it/r96aPNj
  • Mug Cakes-  When I was first getting off of eating sugar all day/every day, I would eat a keto mug nearly every night. Here is a good recipe: https://ohclary.com/keto-chocolate-mug-cake/
  • Pickled asparagus/pickles/olives- These are easy to keep in the fridge to snack on in a hurry without having to put any effort put into preparation
  • Salami/pepperoni- another grab-and-snack type of food we like to keep on hand
  • Berries- you have to eat berries in moderation, but when you need something sweet, they hit the spot!
  • Coffee- I am not a bulletproof coffee fan (you can read about that here), but regular coffee always holds me over if I am getting hungry and coffee is just a good pick-me-up.  You will need to watch what you add to your coffee though!

Grab a partner for success

The best advise I can give it to get whoever you live with onboard to trying out the keto lifestyle together.  It is much easier to do this together and motivating when you are both feeling food and getting awesome results!

Take Measurements or pictures 

The scale can be triggering for a lot of people (including me!) and especially woman as our bodies are very different from men.  The best route for tracking your progress is through body measurements and pictures.  But, do not put too much thought into this.  Listen to your body and how you feel to tell you how you are doing.  If you feel good, that is what matters!

Bottom Line

I have spent countless hours researching it and how to make it sustainable for my lifestyle and the keto diet is not for everyone. That being said, if you are looking to get a kick-start on weight loss while feeling really great and satiated, this could be for you! I would highly encourage you do a little bit of research on your own to see if the diet could work for you. Below are a couple of Youtube accounts that I love and have learned a lot from, as well as my favorite keto cookbook (it includes meal plans!).

Resources

Thomas Delauer– This guy is super knowledgeable about nutrition and the science of the whole diet. He can give you very in depth information on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the diet. If you are interested in Intermittent Fasting, he also covers this in detail.

Keto Connect– This is a young couple who is more relatable. They do a lot of reviews on new keto products hitting the market and are entertaining to watch.

Keto Made Easy Cookbook– The Keto Connect couple wrote a cookbook together a few years ago. This was my handy little guide for the first few months navigating how to cook low-carb. They also include meal plans in the back of their book!