In this post we will cover how to get into ketosis with a custom keto meal plan, steps for easy transitioning, what foods to eat and avoid, possible side-effects, who should be avoiding keto including recipes and cookbooks to try.
Understanding the ketogenic diet is not difficult when you have the right information and guidance.
Ketogenic lifestyle has become rather popular among the health-conscious individuals due to its capability of helping you reduce inflammation, losing weight, and increasing brain functionaility. It has been effective in helping people lose weight, balance hormones, enhance mental cognition, and manage diseases, like epilepsy and diabetes. However, the diet can be hard to follow, especially when you are new to it.
Table of Contents
- Keto Diet Explained
- Who Should Avoid Ketogenic Diet?
- How To Know If You Are in Ketosis?
- Foods to Avoid
- Foods to Eat
- 10 Steps for Easy Transitioning to Keto
Keto Diet Explained
In a nutshell, the keto diet focuses on burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Your body prefers glucose as its energy source. The more carbs you consume, your body will keep converting it into sugar to generate energy. In simpler words, your body won’t burn fat when glucose is present.
To burn fat for energy, you must limit the consumption of carbs as that will reduce the stored glucose. As a result, your body doesn’t have any other choice but to start burning the stored fat.
The breakdown of carbs, protein, and fat in the ketogenic diet is as follows:
- Carbs (5% to 10% and fewer calories)
- Protein (30% to 35% calories)
- Fat (55% to 60% calories)
Eating a diet loaded with carbs helps your body in transforming the carbs into blood sugar (glucose) that can spike your levels of blood sugar. When the levels of blood sugar increase, it signals your body to produce insulin, which is a hormone carrying glucose to the cells to be utilized for energy. This is called an insulin spike.
Keto diet is a high-fat, low carb diet that includes reducing the intake of carbs drastically and consuming fat instead. When the body receives a low amount of carbs, it enters the metabolic state of ketosis.
The body becomes relatively efficient in burning fat to produce energy when it is in the ketosis state. It transforms fat into ketones inside your liver that supplies energy for your brain.
Keto diet reduces the insulin and blood sugar levels, which, along with increased ketones, offer plenty of health benefits.
Who Should Avoid Ketogenic Diet?
Before moving forward, it is essential to ensure that the ketogenic diet is safe for you. Generally, a keto diet can be safe for everyone. However, the following groups must consult a doctor before starting on any kind of diet:
- Diabetic patients taking insulin or other diabetes medication
- Individuals taking high blood pressure medication
- New mothers who are breastfeeding
- Any other underlying medical conditions not mentioned here, just to be extra safe
Be sure to get an opinion and recommendation from a medical expert before starting ketogenic or any other diet to ensure you do not have any pre-existing or unexpected medical conditions that could put your body in harm’s way.
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How To Know If You Are in Ketosis?
Ketosis is a grey area since there are multiple degrees to it. As a beginner, you must understand what the ketosis state is and how do you determine if you have entered the ketosis state. As a general rule, it takes about three to four days to reach full ketosis.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms:
- Enhanced ketones in your blood. It is the most accurate way of measuring ketosis using a special kit.
- Using a breath analyzer is another effective way to measure acetone, one of the three ketones in the body.
- You can use indicator strips to measure ketones presence in your urine.
- Increased energy and focus
- Weight loss or suppressed appetite
- Bad breath
Foods to Avoid
Before you make the transition, you must understand what are keto-friendly and non-keto type foods. Food that has a high amount of carbs must be limited. Here is a list of food items you must eliminate or reduce on a keto diet:
- Alcohol – alcoholic beverages have a high carbs content that can prevent or stop your ketosis state
- Unhealthy fats – restrict your consumption of mayonnaise, processed vegetable oils, etc
- Sauces and condiments – these often include unhealthy fat and sugar
- Diet or low-fat products – these have carbs content and are highly processes
- Tubers and root vegetables – parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cassava, yams, etc
- Legumes or beans – chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc
- Fruit – all fruits, except small portions, like strawberries, oranges, bananas, apples etc
- Starches and grains – cereal, pasta, rice, wheat-based products, etc
- Sugary foods – candy, ice cream, cake, smoothies, fruit juice, soda, etc
- Other snacks – crackers, pretzels, potato chips, etc
While some of these food items must be eliminated, you can still consume carbs about 5% to 10% of your overall daily calories.
You don’t have to cut out bread or dessert from your diet altogether. The good news is there are plenty of keto bread and keto dessert options available, which means you can satisfy your cravings without messing up your ketosis state. There are delicious recipes in the cookbooks by Kelley Herring that you won’t want to miss that we have personally tried.
Foods to Eat
You must be wondering what to eat on a keto diet? Here are the food items you can eat:
- Condiments – pepper, salt, healthy spices, and herbs
- Low-carb veggies – cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, and most green veggies such as spinach
- Avocados – freshly made guacamole or whole avocados
- Healthy oils – avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil
- Seeds and nuts – chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, sunflower, macadamias, etc
- Cheese – all unprocessed cheese, including mozzarella, blur, cream, goat, or cheddar
- High-Fat Dairy – butter, cream, hard cheeses, Greek yoghurt. Grass-fed is highly recommended.
- Eggs – omega-3 or pastured whole eggs
- Fatty fish – mackerel, tuna, trout, salmon
- Meat – turkey, pork, chicken, bacon, sausage, ham, steak, and red meat such as lamb and beef
- Fats and oils – avocado oil, olives, olive oil, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc
Your meals should include the majority of the forementioned foods.
One of the reasons ketogenic diet is so popular is that it can cater to various food preferences;
- ketotarian (vegetarian or plant-based version of keto)
- pescatarian keto (stays away from a meat-based diet but can eat fish)
- carnivore keto (focuses on a zero-carb meat-based diet)
10 Steps for Easy Transitioning to Keto
Following a low carb diet can prove to be complicated, but with some guidance, you can make it happen. Besides eating keto-friendly food as mentioned above, here are some practical steps to beware of to get started;
The keto diet aims to ensure you enter the ketosis state and to enhance your overall health. As mentioned earlier, it means your body must start burning fat instead of carbs for energy. However, to get to that state and to enjoy the full benefits of the keto diet, you must be well prepared.
While there are various ways to transition to the keto diet, the following simple tips will help you get started;
1. Follow A Keto Meal Plan
In order to give your best shot at keto, why not ensure you get off to the right start with a proper 7-day meal plan. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail, was one of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quotes that really ring true for a keto diet.
Regardless of the benefits you have heard or read about keto, it really boils down to a realistic plan that you can apply to your daily life on a consistent basis for a certain period of time in order to see some real results. Starting off and sticking to it for at least 7-14 days may not be such a big commitment considering the average person will try at least 126 fad diets in their lifetime and most will only last 6 days at it. For some people, that would be enough to see if the keto diet is a fit for them.
However, there is one key difference that makes the ketogenic different from most fad diets. The ketogenic diet allows you to eat most of the food that you are already eating anyway. You just need to apply adjustments such as portion control by increase or decreasing your intake of one or two of the major food groups to get the macronutrients needed to kick you into ketosis while still providing nourishing fuel for your body.
No need to force yourself to eat salads, soups, shakes or juice for 7 days straight unless it is something you do on a consistent basis already and you are happy to do so.
This custom keto diet plan creates a meal plan based on your food preferences.
If you don’t eat red meat, there’s a plan for that.
If you only want to eat fish as a meat, there’s a plan for that and;
If you only want a plant-based diet, there’s a meal plan for that too.
So it caters for vegetarians, meat-lovers, pescatarians and even those who can’t or don’t want to have dairy or eggs.
2. Calculating Macros
Knowing how to use a keto calculator helps to determine your specific macronutrient needs to get you started and to keep you on track. We use the Cronometer app that helps to track our nutrition and fitness for additional food and activities outside of your keto plan. For instance, the typical target of this diet is to restrict your daily carbs intake to 20 grams. This general goal might not apply to you, mainly if you are a professional athlete, if your job involves plenty of physical activity, or if you workout at least five times a week.
This is the reason why you need to identify your unique carbs requirement to ensure you safely support the ketogenic lifestyle. Using a keto calculator is an excellent way of determining the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat, you need to consume every day to reach ketosis and maintain it.
After that, all you have to do is select the right foods, prepare your meals in order to reach and maintain your target.
3. Cutting Out Carbs Gradually
The usual carb limit in this diet is about 20 to 50 grams/day in a 2000 kcal/day diet. For athletes, it is 100 grams/day. When starting a keto diet or other low carb diets, the majority of people find it easier to cut out carbs gradually. If you want to enter the ketosis stage fast, you would have to reduce the intake of carbs drastically. Keep on tracking your carbs intake during the transition and avoid letting hidden carbohydrates slip in.
This typically happens during the holiday seasons. Be sure to be mindful of what you eat during holidays and special occasions. Consider dining in and make keto-friendly Christmas dinner recipes to ensure you not only enjoy the holiday but stick to your diet.
4. Consuming Higher Quality Fats
You must ensure that your intake for healthy fats is 55% to 60% of your overall calories as it helps your body in using fat as the main fuel source as consuming the type of fats is more important than the amount.
Healthy fats are the primary element of a keto diet. For beginners, it takes some time to transition to this way of eating.
To enter into ketosis fast, make sure to consume only healthy fats, including:
- Plant-based fats, like coconut butter, olives, and avocados
- Nut butters and fatty nuts (avoid eating these too much)
- Fatty meats, ghee or butter, egg yolks
- Oils, including extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, MCT powder or oil
Understand that fats don’t mean that you can consume junk food and sugary items. Make sure you avoid eating desserts on holidays and opt for sugar-free Thanksgiving recipes or Christmas dessert recipes and other occasions.
5. Clearing The Pantry
If you are having a hard time sticking to the keto diet, then the easiest way is to prepare your environment. Many people find it difficult to resist the temptation of food, especially when it comes to desserts. If you want to eat only keto-friendly food, then make sure your kitchen is free of non-keto food.
Start by cleaning out your kitchen and donating all the food that is high in carbs, including rice, pasta, bread, sugary drinks, chocolate, candy, and more. Head on to the grocery store next, and buy keto-friendly food items to restock your kitchen.
Prep your meals for the week, including snacks, so that you already have healthy meals to consume. This trick will also eliminate the need to buy any food while on the go.
6. Regular Exercise
Exercise depletes your body of the stored glucose. When the reserves of glycogen are low and are not getting filled by carbs, the body begins to burn fat for energy.
7. Hydrating and Supplementing
Keeping yourself hydrated with water and using electrolyte supplementation is ideal for reaching ketosis painlessly and quickly. When the carbs count reduces, the glucogen stores naturally start depleting. As a result, you frequently urinate, losing electrolytes and water in the process.
While there are plenty of easy keto recipes to follow to maintain your ketogenic lifestyle, many people often neglect another important aspect of reaching ketosis – supplementation and hydration.
You are bound to be more vulnerable to keto flu if you don’t hydrate yourself. The best way to avoid the keto flu is to ensure you consume plenty of electrolytes and water.
Aside from that, increasing dietary fat, intermittent fasting, and light exercises can also help in recovering and preventing the keto flu.
The ketogenic lifestyle is excellent for individuals who want to enhance their metabolic health and lose weight. With the right guidance and understanding of this diet, you can easily prepare and begin your journey.
8. Monitoring Your Snacks
The most challenging part of being in a keto diet is eating out and snacking. When you are traveling, or are at work, it can get impossible to get your hands on keto-friendly foods. The best way to overcome this challenge is to prepare the snacks beforehand and have portable proper keto snacks so you can eat on the go.
Snacks can make a significant difference between falling off the wagon and staying on track on your diet. You can keep the following to keep yourself full between meals:
- Seeds and nuts
- Low-sugar beef jerky
- Keto nut butter
- Keto bars
Be sure to eat the right food, limit the carbs intake, and be consistent. Don’t deprive yourself by suppressing your cravings as it will only result in your binge eating and losing all that progress.
You can still enjoy desserts on a keto diet without any guilt. Try out the yummy recipes in Kelley Herring cookbooks today!
9. Possible Keto Side-effects
Before you enter the ketosis phase, you may go through different intermediary stages and perhaps some possible side-effects. Some stages you will love, like waking up with more energy than ever before. Your allergies might decrease, your digestion will improve, and you will notice an absence of the mid-day slump.
However, before you enjoy the benefits, you might also experience the keto flu or canker sores. This flu is a side effect of early ketosis. It isn’t exactly the flu, but you will experience the symptoms similar to the flu. The symptoms may include irritability, stomach ache, nausea, and lightheadedness. It is caused by the loss of carbs in your body.
Some might even experience keto breath which happens to be one of the signs that your body is in ketosis. Some people say it smells a bit like alcohol mixed in with a fruity or sweet after taste.
Remember, this is a normal part of the process. You must make sure that you are hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Consume soups and vegetables. Resist the urge to eat carbs to help you get over the slump. Even a slight number of added carbs can stop the ketosis process.
And if symptoms persist for more than you can handle, please stop and seek professional help.
10. Have Support At Hand
This may or may not help but it will depend on your definition of support. You may need a friend or family member to be on call or even to do this with you to keep you motivated. Perhaps just joining a support group on social media or a forum is good enough for you. Either way, research suggests that going on a weight-loss journey in a support group achieved better results for everyone as compared to those who did it alone.
Indeed, it is not easy to stick to any diet initially, but with these useful tips to follow for the keto diet, you can make the transition in easy steps;
- Calculating macros is important to find out what your specific macronutrient needs are for your body as it is dependent on your gender, age, weight and how active you are on a daily basis. From there, an efficient custom keto meal plan can be developed just for you.
- Start with a custom keto meal plan because failing to plan is as good as planning to fail! It takes time to establish a long-term change successfully. Give yourself time initially to prepare and adjust to the new routine. It’s better to make the transition in a few weeks, instead of rushing into it without sustainable habits.
- Foods to eat and avoid while on keto will help tremendously to stop you from falling off the bandwagon. Keep the macronutrient ratio in mind and with a bit of time, you will know them by heart. If you are not sure, read the nutrition facts before consuming or hop on here to check if your food is keto or not.
- Clearing out your pantry will help to reduce temptation but if the cravings still come around, prepare some proper keto desserts and snacks instead.
- Hydration with water and electrolyte supplementation is important to keep your body at its optimal level for fat burning.
- Keto diet is not everybody. Underlying medical conditions and unwelcomed side-effects such as keto flu and keto breath are things to consider seriously before embarking on keto. Better to seek professional help beforehand.
- Join a support group for people following the keto diet to keep yourself motivated. Start the diet with a friend, family member, or colleague to support one another throughout the process.
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Eve Mayhew is a stay-at-home Mum, graphic designer and wife who takes more of a relaxed and practical approach to her lifestyle. She prefers to live a more stress-free life and enjoys food and drink in moderation by counting her blessings rather than counting the calories or feeling guilty over the odd soft drink or fast food fix every now and then. (Contact Author)