You now know the science behind the keto diet and why it works.
In this article, you’ll learn how to get started and maximize success. Here’s a quick and easy step-by-step guide to use as you begin, and to refer to any time throughout your journey, for support and guidance.
Step 1: Clean Out Your Pantry
Out with the old, in with the new. Having tempting, unhealthy foods in your home is one of the biggest contributors to failure when starting any diet. To succeed, you need to minimize any triggers to maximize your chances.
Unless you have the iron will of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you should not keep addictive foods like bread, desserts, and other non–keto friendly snacks around.
If you don’t live alone, be sure to discuss and warn your housemates, whether they’re significant others, family, or roommates. If some items must be kept (if they’re simply not yours to throw out), try to agree on a special location to keep them out of sight.
This will also help anyone you share your living space with the understanding that you are serious about starting your diet, and will lead to a better experience for you at home overall (people love to tempt anyone on a diet at first, but it will get old and they’ll tire quickly).
STARCHES AND GRAINS
Get rid of all cereal, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, oats, quinoa, flour, bread, bagels, wraps, rolls, and croissants.
SUGARY FOODS AND DRINKS
Get rid of all refined sugar, fountain drinks, fruit juices, milk, desserts, pastries, milk chocolate, candy bars, etc.
Get rid of beans, peas, and lentils. They are dense with carbs. A 1-cup serving of beans alone contains more than three times the amount of carbs you want to consume in a day.
PROCESSED POLYUNSATURATED FATS AND OILS
Get rid of all vegetable oils and most seed oils, including sunflower, safflower, canola, soybean, grapeseed, and corn oil. Also, eliminate trans fats like shortening and margarine anything that says “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” Olive oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are the keto-friendly oils you want on hand.
Get rid of fruits that are high in carbs, including bananas, dates, grapes, mangos, and apples. Be sure to get rid of any dried fruits like raisins as well.
Dried fruit contains as much sugar as regular fruit but more concentrated, making it easy to eat a lot of sugar in a small serving. For comparison, a cup of raisins has over 100 grams of carbs while a cup of grapes has only 15 grams of carbs.
Yes, you’re “getting rid” of unwanted foods in your pantry, but these foods can feed many others. Please, don’t throw them away! Find a local food bank or homeless youth shelter to donate them to.
Your pantry will seem empty after the cleanout. That’s because
products meant for longer-term storage are usually high in carbs
and full of unhealthy additives and preservatives. You’ll fill
your refrigerator shortly (Step 2) with healthy, natural foods.
Step 2: Go Shopping
It’s time to restock your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer with delicious, keto-friendly foods that will help you lose weight, become healthy, and feel great!
With these basics on hand, you’ll always be ready to prepare healthy, delicious, and keto-friendly meals and snacks.
- Water, coffee, and tea
- All spices and herbs
- Sweeteners, including stevia and erythritol
- Lemon or lime juice
- Low-carb condiments like mayonnaise, mustard, pesto, and sriracha
- Broths (chicken, beef, bone)
- Pickled and fermented foods like pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut
- Nuts and seeds, including macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Any type of meat is fine for the keto diet, including chicken, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, game, etc. It’s preferable to use grass-fed and/or organic meats if they’re available and possible for your budget. You can and should eat the fat on the meat and skin on the chicken.
All wild-caught fish and seafood slide into the keto diet nicely. Try to avoid farmed fish.
Go crazy with the eggs! Use organic eggs from free-range chickens, if possible.
You can eat all nonstarchy veggies, including broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic (in small quantities—each clove contains about 1 gram of carbs), Brussels sprouts, eggplant, olives, zucchini, yellow squash, and cauliflower.
Avoid all types of potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, corn, and legumes like beans, lentils, and peas.
You can eat a small number of berries every day, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Lemon and lime juices are great for adding flavor to your meals. Avocados are also low in carbs and full of healthy fat.
Avoid other fruits, as they’re loaded with sugar. A single banana can contain around 25 grams of net carbs.
Eat full-fat dairy like butter, sour cream, heavy (whipping) cream, cheese, cream cheese, and unsweetened yogurt. Although not technically dairy, unsweetened almond and coconut milk are great as well.
Avoid milk and skim milk, as well as sweetened yogurt, as it contains a lot of sugar. Avoid any flavored, low-fat, or fat-free dairy products.
FATS AND OILS
Avocado oil, olive oil, butter, lard, and bacon fat are great for cooking and consuming. Avocado oil has a high smoke point (it does not burn or smoke until it reaches 520°F), which is ideal for searing meats and frying in a wok.
Make sure to avoid oils labeled “blend”; they commonly contain small amounts of healthy oil and large amounts of unhealthy oils.
Step 3: Set Up Your Kitchen
Preparing delicious recipes is one of the best parts of the keto diet, and it’s quite easy if you have the right tools. The following tools will make cooking simpler and faster. Each one is worth investing in, especially for the busy cook.
When you’re trying to hit your caloric and macronutrient goals, a kitchen food scale is a necessary appliance. You can measure any solid or liquid food, and get the perfect amount every time. Used in combination with an app like MyFitnessPal, you’ll have all the data you need to hit your goals sooner. Some food scales can be found online for $10 to $20.
Food processors are critical to your arsenal. They are ideal for blending certain foods or processing foods together into sauces and shakes. Blenders don’t cut it, powerwise, for many foods, especially tough vegetables like cauliflower.
One great food processor/blender is NutriBullet. The containers you blend income with lids or drink spouts so you can take them to go or use them as storage. They’re also easy to clean, making the whole system extremely convenient. They typically sell for about $80 online.
Spiralizers make vegetables into noodles or ribbons within seconds. They make cooking a lot faster and easier—noodles have much more surface area and take a fraction of the time to cook. For example, a spiralizer turns zucchini into zoodles, and with some Alfredo or marinara sauce, you can’t tell you aren’t eating noodles. Spiralizers cost around $30 and can be found in large retail stores and online.
ELECTRIC HAND MIXER
If you’ve ever had to beat an egg white by hand until you get stiff peaks, then you know just how difficult it is. Electric hand mixers save your arm muscles and massive amounts of time, especially when mixing heavy ingredients.
You can find a decent one online for $10 to $20.
CAST IRON PANS
They’ve been used for centuries and were one of the first modern cooking devices. Cast iron skillets don’t wear out and are healthier to use (no chemical treatment of any kind), retain heat very well, and can be moved between the stove and oven. They are simple to clean up—just wash them out with a scrub sponge without soap, dry them off, and then rub them with cooking oil.
This prevents rust and encourages the buildup of “seasoning,” a naturally nonstick surface. Many cast iron pans come preseasoned, and this method preserves the coating. You can find them in many retail stores and online for $10 to $80, depending on the brand and size; Lodge is a popular brand, still made in the United States.
KNIFE SHARPENING STONE
Most of the prep time is spent on cutting. You’ll see your cutting speed skyrocket with a sharp knife set. It’s also a pleasure to use sharp knives. Aim to sharpen your knives every week or so to keep them in good shape (professional chefs sharpen their knives before every use). Sharpening stones cost under $10 and can be ordered online.
Step 4: Meal Plan
Using meal plans at the beginning of your diet greatly increases your chances of success. The meal plans include meals for every part of the day, premade shopping lists, and macronutrient and calorie count for each meal. They even account for leftovers. This will make starting out much easier and more enjoyable!
Meal plans work well because they give you goals and direction. If you know what you need to make next without thinking about it, you’re less likely to give up, change your mind, and order food from your favorite takeout spot. Also, since you know what’s coming next, you can look forward to it throughout the day and week.
Pay attention to the ingredients listed on the packaged products you buy. The best products have just a few ingredients with recognizable names, meaning they’re made with fewer additives and preservatives.
After using the meal plans for a few weeks, you set your body up to have the right expectations for how much food you’ll provide it and what type of food it will get (high in fat and protein and low in carbs). Even if you don’t continue to use meal plans, you’ll be familiar enough with the diet to know what you should be eating and how much.
CUSTOMIZING YOUR MEAL PLANS
The daily caloric goal in the meal plans is about 1700 calories, give or take 100 calories. If your caloric needs are higher or lower (don’t forget to use an online keto calculator before you start), adjust accordingly with some of the ingredients in the meals by simply taking out a little or adding a bit more. Additionally, you can always use an extra tablespoon of olive oil or butter when cooking to get an extra 100 calories or so.
Initially, you should look at the nutritional information provided for almost every packaged product to see if the product is low in carbs or not. Many companies love to add sugar, so be on the lookout. Over your first few weeks, you’ll get to know which products are good and which are not as you look at nutritional labels.
You’ll notice the quantities are not based on the quantities stores sell them in. Look for what would be closest to those amounts when buying the items. As you get more comfortable with your new diet and know the quantities you need, you’ll rely less on shopping lists.
Step 5: Exercise
As you start your diet and the pounds fall off, think about how to lose more weight or get healthier to feel even better. This is a great time to become more active through exercise.
Increase the amount you exercise relative to what you do now. If you don’t exercise at all, start taking short walks or slow jogs, or a combination of both, for 15 minutes every other day. If you already go to the gym or lift weights, add an extra exercise or start doing cardio. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, try to do a little more than you’re doing now.
That’s all it takes to become healthier. Exercise is incremental, and every increment is a boost to weight loss and feeling better.
If you have the time, try taking a class or doing an activity that involves moving, like a step class or dancing, or starts playing a sport like a basketball. It doesn’t have to be competitive, nor do you need to be good or have any previous experience. Such activities are an easy way to get on your feet, and you can learn a new skill in the process.
Staying fit through regular physical activity has been proven to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as reduce the risk for various heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. In combination with the keto diet, your health will improve dramatically, and so will your energy levels.
Any exercise, even if it’s 15 minutes a week, is better than no exercise. Don’t worry about how much you do in the beginning. Just start doing something and you’ll build from there naturally