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Starting a keto diet can feel challenging because there is so much to learn — and if you just want the keto diet for beginners, this article is your answer! Once you get the basics of how to start a low carb diet and have a keto food list handy, you’ll want to take a look at these beginner keto tips and tricks. They provide a quick and easy way to sort through all the information and focus on the most important aspects!
Keto Diet For Beginners: The Basics
You don’t need hours of research to follow a beginner keto lifestyle… just focus on these essentials:
- Find your macros – Use the macro calculator here to find out how much fat, protein, and carbohydrates to eat. Limiting carbohydrates is the most important part — this will allow you to enter the fat burning state of ketosis.
- Choose the right foods – Wondering what to eat on the keto diet? Start with the keto grocery list here. Then choose recipes from the keto recipe index for plenty of variety.
- Get enough water and electrolytes – Staying hydrated is important no matter how you eat, but especially on keto. Getting enough electrolytes will help you avoid keto flu, which is temporary but avoidable.
- Eat only when hungry – A natural effect of the keto diet is you may feel more satisfied with less food.
- Use the best tools and support – My keto support group and custom keto meal plans make it easy to stay on track.
- Focus on progress, not perfection – Start slowly if this is easier for you and don’t beat yourself up if you have setbacks. Don’t give up!
15 Best Beginner Keto Tips
Skip the information overload — focus on these tips to set yourself up for success!
If you’re just wondering, “What can I eat on a keto diet for beginners?” use this simple framework for your meals:
- Pick a protein – Meat, eggs, protein powder, etc.
- Pick a (low carb) veggie – Zucchini, cauliflower, leafy greens, etc.
- Add fat – Butter, olive oil, mayonnaise, etc.
You can find more details about foods in each of these categories below.
There is a long list of what not to eat on keto, so one of the easiest beginner keto diet tips to implement is to get rid of these foods:
- Grains – Wheat, bread, pasta, rice, cereal, corn
- Sugar – Table sugar, ice cream, sweetened drinks
- Starchy vegetables – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips
- Legumes – Beans, lentils, chickpeas (Peanuts are an exception in moderation.)
- High-sugar fruits – Bananas, apples, oranges
- Low-fat dairy – All cow’s milk (except heavy cream), low-fat yogurts or cheeses
- Seeds & vegetable oils – Margarine, canola oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, soybeean oil
- Processed “low carb” foods – Read labels for hidden sugar, starch, and artificial ingredients
If others in your household want to continue eating these foods, store them together so that you can at least avoid a certain cupboard or fridge shelf.
Stock Your Fridge
Fill it with good things to eat on keto for balanced nutrition:
- Healthy fats – Like avocado oil, olive oil, butter, and coconut oil
- Leafy greens – Such as lettuce, spinach, and kale
- Low carb vegetables – Focus on varieties that grow above ground, like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and asparagus
- Keto meats – Any kind of unprocessed meat is great, including chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc.
- Full-fat dairy – Including cheese and heavy cream
- Low carb fruit – Like avocados (the fruit exception that doesn’t need to be in moderation), raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and coconuts
Stock Your Pantry
Here are the types of items you’ll want to keep:
- Herbs & spices
- Low carb condiments
- Keto nuts & seeds
- Keto sweeteners
- Low carb flours – The most common ones are almond flour and coconut flour
- Sugar-free beverages – Water, coffee, tea
And one big thing you don’t need in your pantry? Exogenous ketones, ketone urine or blood strips, diet supplements, and processed products labeled “keto”. They are not necessary to have success on a keto diet for beginners. Your body will produce ketones on its own if you restrict carbs enough.
Get the full keto pantry staples list with more details on what you do need.
Ease Into It
Keto beginners may experience some shock after cutting carbs and sugar cold turkey. Try these approaches instead:
- Apply a couple of beginner keto tips at a time. This gives you time to adjust.
- Cut out foods gradually. Eliminate sugar first, such as soda and candy, then complex carbs like bread and pasta, and starchy veggies and fruit last.
- Listen to your body and be patient. If you finished your meal and still feel 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.
Carbs Are A Limit, Protein Is A Goal & Fat Is A Lever
All macronutrients play a role in achieving the metabolic state of ketosis — not just carbs!
Start by calculating your macros.
Use the macro calculator here to determine your macros.
Here is how to understand your macros on a beginner keto diet plan:
Carbs Are A Limit
Most people consume 20-30 grams of net carbs per day at a maximum. If you go under this number, that’s okay! It’s not a hard carb intake goal, just a limit.
Limiting carbohydrates will allow you to enter ketosis within a few days, after your body depletes glycogen stores in your liver. However, it can take a few weeks for your body to get used to burning fat for fuel.
Protein Is A Goal
Try not to go below this goal, or too far over it — keto is a moderate protein diet, and protein intake is meant to help your liver make glucose for parts of your body that cannot use fat for fuel. Too little protein can diminish muscle mass, while a large excess in protein might convert to excess 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. Fat keeps you satisfied and provides the majority of your energy.
Increasing fat up or down based on your goals. Increase it if you’re hungry, decrease it for weight loss, but remember you can’t go too low since it’s your main energy source. Keto is designed to be a high fat diet compared to many other ways of eating!
How Much Fiber Do I Need?
There is some controversy around this. USDA guidelines say 25-31 grams per day [*] and the National Academy of Science recommends 25-38 grams per day [*]. Some people do fine eating less than the “official” recommendations, but it varies depending on the person.
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.) on a keto diet for beginners before you try a supplement.
How To Know If My Macros Are Right?
Your macros are correct based on your results — measure and take pictures to help you track. 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, make sure you are actually in ketosis and not sneaking in carbohydrates from unexpected sources. If you are, take a look at that fat lever and see if you can nudge it down.
Portions Do Matter
It’s still possible to reach a keto plateau or even gain weight on a ketogenic diet if you consume too many calories. 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.
Eat Only When Hungry
On keto, there is no need to eat when you are not hungry! Focus on hitting your protein goal when you do eat, but otherwise let your body decide when you’re hungry. Ketosis acts as a natural appetite suppressant and improves insulin sensitivity — so you may find that you don’t get hungry as often, or not as ravenously so.
Avoid The Keto Flu
On a beginners keto diet, some people experience fatigue, nausea, or headaches — side effects of keto flu. The good news is, these symptoms are temporary and avoidable.
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 or make an electrolyte drink. Easing into it slowly can also help.
Learn more about keto flu!
Read the full guide to keto flu symptoms and remedies here.
Eating carbs causes us to store more water in our bodies, while a keto diet flushes out more water, so it’s crucial to drink enough. Aim for 16 cups per day.
Make Easy Keto Recipes For Beginners
Keto recipes are not required to stick to this lifestyle, but they sure make it easier and more enjoyable! Introducing your old comfort food favorites in keto form, like keto bread or keto casseroles, is one of the best keto tips that can help you stick to this lifestyle 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 need a keto cookbook for beginners, pick up the books below — with thousands of 5-star reviews.
Keto Cookbooks For Beginners
The Easy Keto Carboholics’ Cookbook
The Easy Keto Cookbook
Use Sweeteners Responsibly
Cutting out sugar is difficult, especially if you use keto to manage blood sugar levels or conditions like diabetes. 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, such as monk fruit and allulose. You can also see a healthy sweeteners comparison here to help you choose, and bookmark the conversion calculator here so you know how much.
You don’t have to do it alone! Get more beginner keto tips and support from others at all stages of the journey:
Plan Your Meals
Following a keto diet plan for beginners doesn’t have to take hours out of your day. I can do it for you!
It can be difficult and time consuming to come up with recipes that fit your macros, offer enough variety, and taste good. That’s why I create an 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.
Choose The Keto Lifestyle For You
Different people do low carb in different ways! Here are some of the most common:
- Strictly monitor calories and macros, usually with a tracking app
- A “clean keto” (aka “strict keto”) diet focused on whole foods
- 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)
- Learn more about lazy keto here and get lazy keto recipes here
- An “if it fits your macros” approach to keto
- Strictly monitor calories and macros, usually with a tracking app
- Eat anything even if it’s processed, artificial, or even has added sugar, as long as it fits your macros
- Learn more about dirty keto here
- Similar to lazy keto, but more lenient on carbs
- Carb limit can be as high as 50-100 grams
- Keto friendly foods and moderate carb foods may be allowed
Conclusion: Keto For Beginners
Remember, starting keto doesn’t have to be complicated. These beginner keto 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.