The ketogenic or keto diet has taken the diet world by storm. Some people see it as a quick way to lose weight, while others see it as a lifestyle choice and path to improved health, inside and out.
For anyone exploring the possibility of jumping on the keto bandwagon, the abundance of information on the internet and social media can be overwhelming. I often see people join a keto/low carb Facebook group desperate for answers and no idea where to start.
I’m writing this article in response to every new person I see asking the question, “What is keto, and how do I start?”
Below you will find:
1. What is Keto?
2. How many calories to consume and how to track macros.
3. What to eat?
4. Total carbs vs net carbs.
5. Resources, websites, and keto communities.
For the sake of keeping this geared toward the newbie keto’er, I’m keeping the information in this article super simple and basic. If you are looking for a more in-depth article including the science behind keto, I recommend clicking here.
#1. What is Keto?
Before I define the Keto Diet, let’s define a Low Carb Diet.
A Low Carb Diet means you are limiting your carbohydrate intake to 60 net carbs or less per day. (I’ll address total vs. net carbs in a minute) You may consume grains and starchy vegetables in moderation. There are no specific food restrictions with a Low Carb Diet.
The Keto Diet is a type of low carb diet that tracks three specific macronutrients (macros for short) and eliminates certain types of food. The three macros tracked on a keto diet are protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Even within the keto community, you will find different methods of “doing keto”, and if you’d like more information on that, hop over to this article: 7 Different Keto Methods.
But for the purpose of keeping this simple, here is the basic keto model, with percentages of how much of each macro you should consume.
High Fat: 75%
Moderate Protein: 20%
Low Carb: 5%
The keto diet eliminates all grains (wheat, oats, corn, rice, etc…), starchy vegetables, and sugar. As you can see, the keto diet is more strict than a basic low carb diet.
#2 How Many Calories? How to Track Macros?
Many people find they can eat higher calories on a keto diet and still lose weight compared to a low-fat, high-carb diet.
But unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how many calories any one individual can consume.
Perfect Keto has a Keto Calculator for you to plug in your information and calculate your suggested caloric intake. Click here for a keto calculator.
Once you have your calorie goals, I highly recommend using an app like Cronometer to track your food intake. There are other apps out there, but Cronometer has proven to be the most accurate.
Once you have your head wrapped around what you can eat within the desired macros, you can relax on the food log.
#3 What to Eat?
The next most common question in keto groups is, “What can I eat?”. There are so many amazing keto recipes out there, and I have a Pinterest Page dedicated to the Keto Diet and Exercise.
Feel free to check out all the yummy recipes I have pinned. I tend to pin way more dessert recipes than anything else because I have a crazy sweet tooth.
Click here to see my Pinterest Boards! (pssst…don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest)
However, with all the YUMMY recipes out there, even cooking and eating can quickly become overwhelming to the new person on keto, which is why I recommend for EVERYONE to start simple…very simple!
My standard answer in keto groups to the “what can I eat” question:
Consume: Meats, low-carb veggies (mostly above ground veggies), dairy, healthy fats, berries, nuts, and seeds.
Avoid: Grains, starchy veggies, and sugar
I’m a big fan of the KISS method. (Keep It Simple Sweetie…. or as some people say, Keep It Simple Stupid, lol)
Once you get the hang of simple keto eating, feel free to branch out into more complex recipes, including the desserts and fat bombs!
An example day of keto diet meal planning (1442 Calories)
This is what an actual day of eating might look like for me.
2 Eggs scrambled in 1 tbsp butter
2 cups of coffee with ¼ cup heavy cream
(444 Calories, 4 Carbs, 41 Fat, 13 Protein)
Thin-cut pork chop, pan-fried in 1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup broccoli
(304 Calories, 4 Carbs, 22 Fat, 25 Protein)
Baked Chicken with seasonings and Olive Oil
Brussel Sprouts (5 sprouts)
(330 Calories, 8 Carbs, 17 Fat, 34 Protein
2 cups coffee with ¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup of raw almonds
(364 Calories, 8 Carbs, 34 Fat, 7 Protein)
#4 Total Carbs vs. Net Carbs
Which one should you track? Honestly, it’s a matter of personal preference. My only suggestion is that you pick one and stick to it.
Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols
DO NOT subtract regular sugar. By law, food manufacturers in the USA must specify when sugar alcohols are used as a sweetener. The label will specify sugar alcohols, and that is what you can subtract.
Now, with that said, not all sugar alcohols are created equal, and some do actually impact your glucose levels.
I highly recommend the YouTube video from Keto Connect where they spent several days testing out different keto-friendly sweeteners and testing their ketones with a blood test.
You can decide which sweeteners you want to include in your diet based on that video.
#5 Resources, Information, and Community
Diets and lifestyle changes are always easier when you have others to support you, answer questions, provide guidance, and help motivate you. In this section, I will recommend some of my favorite groups, keto food bloggers, and YouTube channels.
Facebook Groups by my favorite Keto Food Bloggers:
I recommend joining all these groups! Facebook groups are great for asking questions, sharing recipes, and celebrating success stories!
- That Keto Life by Healthy Ambitions (that’s me, of course!! It’s a brand new private keto group!)
- Low Carb LCHF Keto Eating by Low Carb Yum
- All Day I Dream About Low Carb
- Keto Connection by Keto Connect
Keto Food Bloggers:
I have a few tried and true keto food bloggers that are my go-to pages when looking for a specific recipe.
Most of these pages have a search button, so you can plug in any keyword to find relevant recipes.
- Healthy Ambitions – Me again!! Keto Recipes, Keto Tips, Egg Fast, and even a few workout guides
- Maria Emmerich – 20 years of experience with the keto diet for weight loss and healing. AND, I’m one of her Keto Coaches!
- Low Carb Yum – Keto Recipes, Courses, and Meal Plans
- All Day I Dream About Food – Keto Dark Magic! So many great recipes, but I especially recommend her desserts!
- Keto Connect – Keto Recipes for real people, Food/Diet Experiments, Keto info….and they are super fun!
I love YouTube because you get to see the personality of people you follow. It’s especially great for recipes because sometimes it’s easier to watch a demonstration versus reading the instructions.
- Healthy Ambitions – did you know I have a YouTube channel too?? Make sure to subscribe! Lots of the same info as my blog, but in video format!
- Keto Connect – These guys just hit their 4-year Ketoversary and have been on YouTube for 3 years. Super cute and super fun to watch!
- Sugarless Crystals – He believes eating healthy should be as fun as eating junk food, and he’s got the low-carb/keto recipes to prove it!
- Thomas DeLauer – Thomas is an information powerhouse when it comes to the keto diet. His videos will educate you on various keto topics including intermittent fasting, inflammation, exercise, hormones, fat, and much, much, more!! He went from being 100 lbs. overweight to a leading influencer in the fitness industry.
I hope this clears up at least some of the keto confusion! If you have any questions or would like to know more, please comment below!