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If you’re starting a keto lifestyle and looking for information on keto for beginners, I always recommend my keto diet plan overview, along with our free keto quick start guide. But often times, people in our Facebook support group ask me for keto diet tips and tricks, so here I’m sharing those today!
For the keto success tips below to make the most sense and to give you context, make sure you read my guide on how to start a keto diet first.
1. Start Simple.
Keep it simple, especially when you are starting out. The best way to start keto for beginners is to use a simple framework for your meals:
- Pick a protein – Chicken, beef, pork, turkey, fish, seafood, protein powder, eggs, etc.
- Pick a (low carb) veggie – Cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc.
- Add fat. Butter, oil, lard, ghee, cheese, bacon, avocado, mayonnaise, nuts, etc.
2. Remove Temptations.
One of the easiest keto diet tips to implement is to get rid of foods you need to avoid. It’s much easier to stick to your goals if you’re not constantly fighting temptation. Get rid of the following in your fridge and pantry:
- Grains including wheat, bread, pasta, rice, oats, cereal, corn, etc.
- Sugar including table sugar, candy, pastries, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, soda, juice, honey, maple syrup, etc.
- Starchy vegetables including potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc.
- Legumes including beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc. (Peanuts are an exception in moderation.)
- High-sugar fruits including bananas, pineapple, oranges, apples, grapes, etc.
- Low-fat dairy & milk including all cow’s milk (except heavy cream is fine), low-fat cheese, etc.
- Seed & vegetable oils especially margarine, canola oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil and soybean oil
- Processed “low carb” foods depending on ingredients, so read labels for hidden sugar, starch, and artificial ingredients
If your family is not on board with low carb eating, getting rid of everything may not be possible, and that’s okay!
If others in your household want to continue eating these foods, gather everything you want to avoid and store it together, so that you can at least avoid a certain cupboard, fridge shelf, etc.
3. Stock Your Fridge.
Along with getting rid of all the good stuff, fill your fridge with plenty of good stuff:
- Healthy fats like avocado oil, butter and coconut oil
- Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and kale
- Low carb vegetables that grow above ground, like zucchini, cauliflower and asparagus
- Meat like beef and pork
- Poultry like chicken and turkey
- Seafood like fish and shellfish
- Full-fat dairy like cheese and heavy cream
- Low carb fruit like avocados (the fruit exception that doesn’t need to be in moderation), raspberries and coconuts
Get the full keto food list for beginners here, including more details and a handy printable version. Notice the main focus is real, whole foods.
4. Stock Your Pantry.
Don’t forget to stock your pantry with keto staples, too! Pantry ingredients are most prone to be high in carbs, but here are the types of items you’ll want to keep:
- Herbs & spices like basil, dill and cinnamon
- Low carb condiments like mayo, hot sauce and mustard
- Nuts & seeds like almonds, macadamia nuts and sunflower seeds
- Sugar-free sweeteners like erythritol, monk fruit and allulose
- Low carb flours like almond flour, coconut flour and flax seed meal
- Sugar-free beverages like water, coffee and tea
And one big thing you don’t need in your pantry? Exogenous ketones, diet supplements, and processed products labeled “keto”. Always read labels and check if the actual ingredients are keto friendly.
While ketones are a controversial topic and some people have found that they help a little, they are absolutely not necessary to have success. Your body will produce ketones on its own if you restrict carbs enough.
Get the full keto pantry shopping list here with more details on what you do need.
5. Ease Into It.
If you’re starting a keto diet coming from eating a lot of carbs and sugar, cutting it all out cold turkey may be a shock. It can cause (temporary) keto flu symptoms and cravings, and while these can be manageable, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way.
Here are a few ways to ease into it that can be helpful:
- Apply a couple of these keto tips and tricks at a time. This gives you time to adjust.
- Cut out foods gradually. Eliminate all sugars first, such as soda and candy, then complex carbs like bread and pasta, and starchy veggies and fruit last.
- Listen to your body’s signals and be patient. If you finished your meal and are still hungry, try drinking some water, brushing your teeth, distracting yourself with something fun to do, or just waiting 20 minutes for your brain to catch up. If you’re still hungry after that, try a salty, water-packed snack, like olives or pickles.
6. Carbs Are A Limit, Protein Is A Goal & Fat Is A Lever.
The most important key to getting into ketosis is restricting carbohydrates, but there is more to it. Your other macros, which is short for macronutrients, play a role as well.
In a nutshell, here is how to understand macros for the keto diet:
Carbs are a limit.
This means you set the maximum that you can consume per day – typically up to 20 to 30 grams per day for most people. If you go under this number, that’s okay! It’s not a hard goal, just a limit.
Protein is a goal.
This means you want to reach this number each day, so try not to go below the goal. Going over a little bit is also okay, but a large excess in protein might convert to glucose and kick you out of ketosis; how easily this happens varies from person to person.
Fat is a lever.
After your carb limit and protein goal, the remaining calories you need for the day come from fat. This is what keeps you satisfied and provides the majority of your energy source.
You can use fat as a lever, increasing it up or down, based on your goals. Increase it if you’re hungry, decrease it to lose weight, but remember you can’t go too low (don’t get caught in the outdated “fat is bad” trap), since it’s your main energy source.
How do I determine my macros?
So, how do you know what numbers to use for the concepts above? Just enter your info into our keto macro calculator.
How much fiber do I need?
Several studies show that eating more fiber reduces risk of heart disease and cancer, but they were conducted with lower fiber levels than the recommendations (14-26 grams per day intead of 25-38). [*][*][*][*] So, you might actually be fine eating less than the “official” recommendations.
Start with 15-20 grams of fiber per day and add more a few grams at a time if needed, based on how you feel. Get as much fiber as possible from whole foods (vegetables, seeds, etc.) before you try a supplement.
How to know if my macros are right?
You’ll know if your macros are correct based on the results you see.
As a few group members said, “measure, measure, measure” and take pictures. Don’t just rely on the scale. Sometimes you might see improvement in how your clothes fit or your body measurements before the scale catches up.
If you don’t notice any results after a few weeks, first make sure you are actually in ketosis and not getting carbs sneaking in. If you are, take a look at that fat lever and see if you can nudge that down.
7. Portions Do Matter.
Portions are related to keto diet tip #6 above. Even though calories and portions are not the primary focus of a ketogenic lifestyle, they still matter.
It’s still possible not to lose weight, or even gain weight, on keto if you consume too much – this would be the case with any diet. The key to remember is that fat is a lever.
Fortunately, ketosis inherently reduces hunger and cravings, so you tend to eat less anyway. Many people find that eating low carb foods keeps their portions under control naturally, but if that doesn’t happen for you, you may need to pay attention to them.
8. Eat Only When Hungry.
A common question I get is whether you should eat when you are not hungry. Ketosis acts as a natural appetite suppressant, so you may find that you don’t get hungry as often, or not as ravenously so.
There is no need to eat when you are not hungry! Simply focus on hitting your protein goal when you do get hungry and eat, but otherwise let your body signal when to eat.
9. Avoid The Keto Flu.
Maybe you’ve heard of the keto flu, or maybe you’ve just experienced side effects of starting keto. It’s one of the most common questions about the keto diet for beginners.
As your body shifts its primary fuel source from glucose and carbohydrates to ketones and fat, it can take your body some time to adjust to this metabolic change. Ketosis also flushes out a lot of water stored in the body, which can cause your electrolyte levels to dip.
How to avoid the keto flu?
The good news is, the keto flu is temporary and avoidable.
The short version is, make sure you get enough electrolytes (especially sodium, potassium and magnesium) to avoid the keto flu. Salting your food generously is one of the best things you can do here; some people even add sea salt to their water. Easing into it slowly can also help.
Read the full guide to keto flu symptoms and remedies here.
Why do I get frequent headaches on keto?
Most commonly this is due to either dehydration or electrolyte imbalance – essentially it can be a mild form of keto flu. You’d treat it the same way, with water and electrolytes.
10. Stay Hydrated.
Drinking water is great for anyone, but especially if you are in ketosis. Eating carbs causes us to store more water in our bodies, while a keto diet flushes out more water, so it’s even more crucial to drink enough. Aim for 16 cups per day.
11. Make Easy Keto Recipes For Beginners.
Keto recipes are not 100% required to stick to a keto lifestyle, but they sure make it easier and more enjoyable! Once you have the basics down, introducing your old comfort food favorites in keto form, like keto bread or keto casseroles, can help you stick to it long term.
Here at Wholesome Yum, my focus is to provide you with plenty of easy keto recipes for beginners! Browse the full keto recipe index here.
If you like a physical book you can keep in your kitchen, the Easy Keto Cookbook has hundreds of 5-star reviews. (It also includes a more in-depth guide to starting the keto lifestyle and a list of the best keto swaps for high-carb comfort foods.)
12. Use Sweeteners Responsibly.
Cutting out sugar isn’t easy, but it’s worth it! Weight loss is the motivator for many people looking for keto diet tips, but the improved energy, focus, mood, and other “NSV’s” (non-scale victories) turn out to be a pleasant surprise for many people. And getting rid of those sugar cravings feels SO. GOOD.
But, it doesn’t mean saying goodbye to sweets altogether! You can make plenty of keto friendly dessert recipes instead.
The key to all of these is keto friendly sweeteners. Here are the ones I recommend:
13. Get Support
Starting out on a new way of eating isn’t easy, and you don’t have to do it alone!
There are hundreds of thousands of us in the group waiting to help you. We have people at all stages of the journey, so whether you need a place for keto for beginners, or you’re a more seasoned keto-er looking for others who get it, we’d love to have you in our community.
14. Plan Your Meals.
One of the best keto tips and tricks I always tell people is that meal planning is a game changer. Grabbing a bag of chips, a candy bar, or a box of pasta may be easy on a high-carb diet, but sticking to a low carb lifestyle requires more planning.
And that’s okay! It’s totally doable and does not have to take hours out of your day.
You can make your own plan, whether that’s planning for the week ahead like I do or simply looking at the day ahead in the morning. If you use a tracking app, some people find it helpful to enter what you’ll eat ahead of time so to help you plan better.
Or, you can just use my keto diet menu for beginners so I can do it for you.
Planning what you’ll eat each day – at least approximately – will save you both time and money. But, it can also be difficult and time consuming to come up with that plan, making sure it fits your macros, offers enough variety, and tastes good.
That’s why I create easy keto meal plan for beginners every week. They balance meal prep, super simple recipes (that even non-keto family members will eat!), and occasional leftovers to save time and money. I have options for a single person or a family of four, so that it can fit your life.
15. Choose The Keto Lifestyle For You.
At the end of the day, these keto diet tips will help anyone wanting to jump start their keto journey, but it doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Different people do low carb in different ways, that’s okay!
Often times people ask me about the different ways people can follow keto, and here are some of the most common:
- Strictly monitor calories and macros, usually with a tracking app
- Eat only clean, whole foods – focus is on nutrients
- Most carbs come from low carb vegetables
- Avoid wheat, gluten, artificial sweeteners, and added sugars, even if overall carb count is low
- Track only net carbs OR eat keto foods without tracking
- Approach to food may be clean (like strict keto) or not (like dirty keto)
- An “if it fits your macros” approach to keto
- Strictly monitor calories and macros, usually with a tracking app
- You can eat anything even if it’s processed, artificial, or even has added sugar, as long as it fits your macros
- Similar to lazy keto, but more lenient on carbs
- Carb limit can be as high as 50 grams, or even up to 100 grams for some people wanting more flexibility
- In addition to keto friendly foods, moderate carb foods may also be allowed
Curious what kind of keto I personally follow? I do a hybrid of strict and lazy keto. I do not track macros all the time (though I have gone through periods of doing so) and just eat keto foods without tracking, but I choose clean keto foods (no wheat, artificial ingredients, or added sugars).
You can see there are many ways to do it. All of them have benefits and can be effective, so do what works best for you!
Strict Keto vs. Lazy Keto vs. Dirty Keto vs. Low Carb:
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Summary: 15 Tips For Keto Beginners
Remember, starting keto doesn’t have to be complicated. These tips are a great starting point, and you might also like my keto cheat sheet system to keep all the necessary information in one place.
If you want to do more research, my keto guide is a great place to start. And, remember to always choose reputable sources that back their claims with scientific references, like the National Institutes of Health.
Below is a convenient Pinterest-friendly image summarizing the easy keto tips and tricks above!