The following is geared towards people who want to try out a ketogenic diet and just want to quickly know what they should and shouldn’t do. No confusing science or lengthy explanations here, only 15 easy guidelines to kick-start your keto journey.
How strictly the guidelines are followed is entirely up to you, but if you follow them 100% you can be assured you’ll be eating for your body and greatly improving your long-term health and well-being. If you want more details, feel free to read our comprehensive guide to the ketogenic diet >
A ketogenic diet should be high in fat, moderate in animal protein, and low in carbohydrates. Knowing and counting your macronutrients is encouraged until you reach your goals. At goal weight, employ the tactic “eat until full.”
Eat generous amounts of saturated fats like coconut oil and butter or ghee. Beef tallow, lard, and duck fat are great for cooking as they have high smoke points. Olive, avocado, and macadamia oil are also good fats to use in salads and drizzle over food. Do not use these for high-heat cooking.
Eat moderate amounts of animal protein and don’t over indulge. This includes red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, organs (liver and kidney), fish and shellfish. Aim for fattier cuts of meat where possible; all meals with protein should contain added fat as well. Be careful about sugars in cured meats like bacon, salami, and jerky.
Eat fairly free amounts of fresh or frozen green, leafy vegetables like spinach. Moderate amounts of cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage). Small amounts of nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers) and berries (raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries). Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes should be avoided completely on keto.
Eat restricted amounts of nuts and seeds. Aim to eat nuts high in omega-3 and low in omega-6 like macadamia nuts and brazil nuts. Try to eat limited amounts of blackberries and raspberries as other berries are higher in carbs. Pair the foods you eat with added fats to keep hunger down. Consider cutting snacks out of your diet completely as it generally leads to slower weight loss.
Cut out all grains (wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.) and sugar (added sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.) from your diet. This includes, but is not limited to soda, juice, sports drinks, candy, chocolate, bread, pasta, cereal, cakes, pastries, oats, muesli, and quinoa.
Try to limit your intake to only high-fat dairy like hard cheese, heavy cream, butter, and mayonnaise. Eat less soft cheese and half n’ half to keep carb counts down. Too much dairy intake can lead to slower weight loss, so try to create balanced meals that don’t heavily rely on dairy.
It’s common to experience the “keto flu” when transitioning to a ketogenic diet. Drink plenty of water and supplement electrolytes. Consider drinking bone broth as it’s filled with micronutrients that will make you feel much better. Most side effects are caused by dehydration or lack of electrolytes.
Make sure that you read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. There are tons of products out there with hidden carbs and sugar inside. Be especially careful with “low-carb” products that are not using good sweeteners.
You don’t have to eat three square meals a day, do what feels most natural to you. Eat when you’re hungry and don’t worry if you skip a meal – everything balances out. If you find that you feel better when you skip a meal, you can always consider adding intermittent fasting into your routine.
Try to reduce the spikes in your insulin levels throughout the day by cutting back on snacking. Try to go to sleep on a light stomach, eating 3 hours or more before bed. Getting a good night’s sleep will help regulate your hunger hormones as well.
Try to stay strict with your eating habits, tracking where necessary. Don’t weigh yourself too often as it can lead to stress – we recommend once a week. Make sure to take measurements with a tape measure too – sometimes the scale doesn’t move but the measurements do!
Adding in light exercise after meals or during the day is always beneficial. If you already work out, be sure not to over-exercise. Many people undereat when exercising; make sure that you’re feeding your body enough energy. You can calculate your macros with our easy keto calculator >
If you feel low energy or aren’t seeing the results you expect, consider adding more fat to your diet and consuming less protein and carbs. Many people find it easy to increase their fat intake by drinking ketoproof coffee in the morning. Reducing dairy and nut intake can also sometimes help with slow weight loss.
If you don’t consume organ meat, consider supplementing with a multivitamin. This can help with micronutrient deficiencies, which can lead to lethargy and problems focusing. Increasing the amount of leafy green vegetables you consume can also help.