Stress Free Tips for Making an Easy Keto Meal Plan
Ketogenics (or the “keto diet”) began in the 1800s as a treatment for diabetes and had a bit of 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; and has become popular with athletes and everyday people looking to make a healthy change in their eating habits.
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.
Check out this keto-friendly Crispy Bacon-Wrapped Avocado Slices.
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; without enough carbs for energy, the body shifts to instead break down stored and ingested fat into ketones. The ketones then become the primary source of fuel throughout the body.
No matter your goals, committing to cutting your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day can necessitate some planning. A keto meal plan can be a valuable way to structure your diet and make it easier to remain in ketosis and feel your best (if a ketogenic diet turns out to be a good fit for you).
Pull up a plate of bacon and eggs and take in these tips to craft your own easy keto meal plan.
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
Humans rely primarily on glucose for fuel. Typically, this comes into the body by consuming carbohydrates. When very little carbohydrate is consumed, the body – searching for glucose – can go to two other sources: the liver, where glucose is stored as glycogen, and muscle tissue, which can be broken down to create glucose. If these backup stores are depleted (usually after a few days), the body will begin to use fat as its primary fuel. The liver produces ketone bodies from fat, which can be used in the absence of glucose. This is ketosis, the foundation of the keto 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: this 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.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics does not recommend this eating pattern for individuals with:
- Pancreatic disease
- Liver conditions
- Thyroid problems
- Eating disorders (or a history of thereof)
- Gallbladder disease or those who have had their gallbladders removed
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. 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, as baked goods, refined sugar, and chips are not allowed on the keto diet. There is often an adjustment period where you will work through some 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 typically rely on.
Looking for a keto alternative for baked goods? These Butter Pecan Keto Cookies will hit the spot!
Keto Meal Planning
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). 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 tips to get started on a keto diet plan.
Tip #1: Start with Your Refrigerator
Planning your meals begins at home with what you already have. Take an inventory of your fridge and pantry: this will form the basis of your meal plan.
The majority of your calories will come from high-fat foods. Do you have things like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, beef tallow, ghee or butter, eggs, macadamia nuts, and full-fat dairy on-hand?
When it comes to protein, opt for fatty wild-caught fish like salmon, mahi mahi, mackerel, catfish, and tuna in addition to poultry, pork, and beef.
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 like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower; and tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and peppers.
Tip #2: 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 inspriation, 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. PlateJoy offers custom keto meal plans to suit your life and your goals, helping you build a shopping list and a meal plan to stay on track.
Tip #3: 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.
Try this quick snack of Bento with Gouda, Walnuts, Avocado, and Jicama.
Tip #4: Plan for 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. You can have a little wiggle room without derailing your body’s metabolic adjustments. You can account for busy days and special events in your meal plan. Having a solid foundation will grant you a bit of space for the occasional piece of birthday cake.
Easy Keto Meal Plan Recipes to Spice It Up
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, like this creamy Cinnamon Ricotta "Oatmeal" or a flavorful Avocado BLT Egg Salad.
A ketogenic diet can be an effective way to shift your metabolism, stabilize your blood sugar, and increase your energy. A well-balanced keto meal plan can ensure adequate nutrient intake and make the transition from carb-full to carb-free a little easier; plus, having a plan can help you avoid the drive-thru and stay on track with your nutritional goals. 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.