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January 20, 2021 / Amy Height

Ketogenic Diet Tips to Set You Up for Success

Two glass containers filled with meal prep of chicken, mixed nuts, and assorted vegetables

Ketogenics (or the “keto diet”) began in the 1800s as a treatment for diabetes and had a bit of a resurgence in the 1920s as a remedy for epilepsy. However, in the last decade it has reemerged as a tool to lose weight, stabilize blood sugar, and tackle cravings. The keto diet has become popular with athletes and everyday people looking to make a healthy change in their eating habits.

No matter your goals, committing to cutting your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day can necessitate planning and support. Here we’ll share easy ketogenic diet tips to set you up for success.

Keto for Beginners

As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains, the diet is meant to switch the source from which the body derives energy. Typically, carbs are our main source of energy, but without enough carbs for energy, the body shifts to breaking down stored and ingested fat into ketones. The ketones then become the primary source of fuel throughout the body. This is ketosis, the foundation of the keto diet.

The keto diet revolves around consuming high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate food. It emphasizes fats – like those found in coconut oil, avocado, lard, butter, nuts, and olives – and eschews carbohydrates from nearly all sources, including grains, fruit, and legumes.

Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet

As you might expect, one of the main reasons for embarking on a keto diet plan would be to lose weight. Once the body is running on fat for fuel, it is easier to access and utilize its own stored fat – a process called ‘lipolysis’ – which can lead to an overall reduction in weight. Ketosis has also been shown to produce metabolic improvements and improve health markers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels, insulin resistance, and blood pressure.

Many adherents of the keto diet also report a notable decrease in hunger, which can be explained by the lasting satiety provided by the diet’s high-fat content. Eating less frequently means fewer ups and downs in blood glucose levels which can be beneficial for blood sugar stabilization, mood, and energy.

Things to Consider When Choosing to Start the Ketogenic Diet

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stresses that body mass index and individual metabolic rates impact how quickly different individuals produce ketones. This means that some people lose weight more slowly than others, even on the same keto diet plan. You’ll want to understand both keto diet benefits and risks before starting the diet.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics does not recommend this eating pattern for individuals with:

It is important to consult your health practitioner before embarking on a radical change in diet, especially if you have an existing health condition. You may also wish to consult a Registered Dietitian to prevent nutritional deficiencies and help transition into a new plan.

Shifting your eating habits to the keto diet can be challenging, but possible with the help of ketogenic diet tips. Possible temporary symptoms of carbohydrate restriction include hunger, fatigue, low mood, irritability, constipation, and headaches. These usually dissipate when the body adjusts to its new fuel source.

On top of this, you may find yourself without your usual crutch foods – baked goods, refined sugar, and chips are not allowed on the keto diet. There is often an adjustment period where you will work through intense cravings to keep on top of your plan.

How you shop, eat, and meal plan will be different too. You will likely swap in high-fat alternatives for the foods you usually eat. Our tips for keto beginners will help ease your adjustment to a new diet plan.

Butter pecan cookies piled up on a white plate on a cloth napkin on a table.

Looking for a keto alternative for baked goods? These Butter Pecan Keto Cookies will hit the spot!

Tips for Getting into Ketosis

Pre-planning your meals can go a long way to aid the transition and to ensure you’re incorporating a variety of allowed foods. Now may be a good time to try out a keto diet meal plan and you may find that planning ahead will help keep you on track and excited about your meals. Something like this beginner keto one-day meal plan can be a good starting-off point, along with these ketogenic diet tips to help you get started.

Tip #1: Focus on key keto diet principles

Keto diet requirements vary depending on the source you reference. Rather than getting lost in the specifics, focus on the main actions that make the keto diet effective:

  1. Prioritize consuming foods that are high in fat.
  2. Reduce carbohydrates to stimulate fat burning.

Tip #2: Eliminate temptation

There will inevitably be moments when hunger strikes and challenges your willpower, but if you’ve removed tempting foods and only have keto-friendly foods available, it will be much easier to stick to your keto diet. Take the time to hide or discard all high-carb, non-keto foods to prevent easy access to tempting foods that might throw you off track.

Tip #3: Fill your fridge and pantry

Take an inventory of your fridge and pantry, then prepare your keto shopping list for the foods you need.

The majority of your calories will come from high-fat foods. Check to be sure you have things like:

When it comes to protein, opt for poultry, pork, and beef along with fatty wild-caught fish like:

Woman in an orange shirt holding vegetable skewers next to a grill outside.

Although starchy vegetables are out because of their high carb content, you still need the micronutrients offered by non-starchy plants. Incorporate green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and low-starch vegetables like:

Tip #4: Use tools to track your macros

Oftentimes what we estimate our caloric intake to be is much less than what it actually is. In order to be sure you’re progressing towards your ketosis goal, it’s advisable to use a calorie tracking app along with a scale. These tools will ensure you know exactly how many calories you’re consuming on a daily basis so you can achieve your desired results.

Tip #5: Balance your food

Ensuring adequate intake of a variety of nutrients across the food groups is essential on a keto plan. In addition to the high-fat foods that occupy 70-80% of your caloric intake, make sure you’re accounting for a spectrum of animal proteins, low-carb vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Focus, too, on including different types of fats, including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats.

On a keto diet, you might increase your intake of cholesterol (from foods like bacon and eggs). You can help counterbalance this (and other digestive challenges created by a high-fat, low-fiber diet) by ensuring you consume enough soluble fiber. Because it is not absorbed in the intestine, soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the intestine and moves it out of the body. Eating 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can help lower total and LDL cholesterol: you can accomplish this on a keto plan without exceeding your carbohydrate maximum by eating high-fiber, low-carb plant foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. Be sure to drink adequate water when you increase your fiber intake.

Avocado, gouda, walnuts and jicama on a gray plate on a table.

Try this quick snack of Bento with Gouda, Walnuts, Avocado, and Jicama.

Tip #6: Source most calories from homemade meals

Another ketogenic diet tip is to plan on cooking most of your meals at home. While it’s not impossible, eating out on a keto diet makes it more difficult to count your macros and measure exact caloric intake.

Tip #7: Plan for the keto flu

When you decide to limit carbs and begin a ketogenic diet there will be obvious changes felt in your body. The term “keto flu” has been coined to describe the flu-like symptoms some people may experience when first going keto. These symptoms include:

You can alleviate many of these symptoms by staying properly hydrated and replenishing electrolytes with supplements.

Tip #8: Gain support from a keto community

Join an online keto community or find a friend who wants to go on the keto journey with you. Success is easier to attain when you have the support of others. Together you can learn from each other, hold each other accountable, or share common struggles as well as triumphs.

Tip #9: Plan your keto diet meals

Planning will be your best friend, especially when you are pressed for time or when cravings for a stack of sweet pancakes strike. Based on the keto-friendly foods you have on hand, what can you make? Start by writing down what you have, then think up recipes that you could make with these. Fill in the blanks with ingredients you’re missing.

If you're struggling with recipe inspiration, there are a number of planners and applications that can help with this. Tools like PlateJoy are changing the way people plan by taking into account food preferences; what you already have in your pantry; and how much time you have to dedicate to cooking. Use PlateJoy’s custom keto meal planner to suit your life and your goals, helping you build a shopping list and a meal plan to stay on track.

Tip #10: Anticipate days when life gets in the way

Let’s face it, you will have social commitments that impede your ability to stick to your plan 100% of the time. Allow yourself a little wiggle room in your meal plan and don’t assume it will derail your body’s metabolic adjustments. Busy days and special events can be accommodated in your keto meal plan. The solid foundation you set will grant you a bit of space for the occasional indulgence.

How Do You Know You’re Body is in Ketosis?

Sign #1: Weight loss

Studies have shown that weight loss can occur once the body is in a ketogenic state.

Sign #2: Improved mental clarity

Although the initial period on the keto diet may cause feelings of fatigue and brain fog, long-term keto dieters have been found to experience clarity of thought and improved focus.

Sign #3: Decreased hunger

As you reach ketosis and ketone levels increase, you may notice feeling less hungry. Studies have shown appetite suppression is directly linked to higher ketone blood levels.

Sign #4: Changes in your breath

A common side effect of being in ketosis is a change in the smell of your breath. Acetone is a ketone that leaves your body through your breath and urine and has a unique smell that may seem fruity or reminiscent of nail polish remover.

Sign #5: Changes in your digestive system

A ketogenic diet drastically changes what foods you put into your body which can greatly impact your digestive system. It is normal to experience diarrhea and constipation as you shift into your keto menu but be sure to incorporate nutrient-rich foods to ensure you’re getting everything you need.

Sign #6: Ketone levels increase

As you transition into ketosis, your body will shift from running on carbs to using fat and ketones as fuel. You can tell you’re in ketosis when your blood ketone levels measure between 0.5 to 3.0 mmol/L. Aside from using a blood test, you can test for ketones in your breath with a breathalyzer or in your urine with indicator strips.

Easy Keto Meal Plan Recipes You Can Make in Less than 15 Minutes

If you’re a keto beginner or have been with it for some time, interesting recipes are essential to sticking with – and enjoying – your food. PlateJoy offers hundreds of delicious keto-friendly recipes and keto meal plans for every meal.

For breakfast, try this creamy Cinnamon Ricotta "Oatmeal".

At lunch, enjoy a flavorful Avocado BLT Egg Salad.

BLT egg salad with avocado on a blue plate next to a fork on a table.

Keto dinners can be satisfying and fulfilling when you cook meals like a Bistro Steak Salad with Horseradish Dressing.

Instead of snacking on carb-rich, packaged snack foods, plan on making Creamy Spinach Dip with Cucumber Slices instead.

The Takeaway

A ketogenic diet can be an effective way to shift your metabolism, stabilize your blood sugar, and increase your energy. Plan ahead and use our ketogenic diet tips to ensure adequate nutrient intake and make the transition from carb-full to carb-free a little easier.

PlateJoy is a great tool to help you get started with meal planning for a keto diet. The platform guides you towards new ingredients, supplementing the keto-friendly foods you already have on hand to help you build unique meals that support your lifestyle.

Amy Height
Holistic Nutritionist @ From the Ground Up Wellness

Amy Height is the founder of From the Ground Up Wellness, a holistic nutrition practice where she specializes in plant-based nutrition and helping her clients combat food addiction. She completed her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she received her certification in the Health Coach Training Program. She is a triathlete and CrossFitter with a passion for all things outdoors. By night, Amy stage manages Broadway musicals and she frequently travels North America seeking out the best vegan restaurants and the best run courses. Follow her on Instagram or check out her blog for recipe and wellness ideas.

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