A keto diet is well known for being a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy. It’s referred to as many different names – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), etc.
When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.
- Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source.
- Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.
Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. Typically on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.
The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this through starvation of calories but starvation of carbohydrates.
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.1
Make keto simple and easy by checking out our 14 Day Meal Plan. Get meal plans, shopping lists, and much more with our Keto Academy Program.
Looking for Something Specific?
- What to Eat on a Keto Diet
- Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
- Getting Started
- How to Reach Ketosis
- How to Know You’re in Ketosis
- Keto Diet and Macros
- Types of Ketogenic Diets
- Physical Performance
- Dangers of a Keto Diet
- What Happens to my Body?
- Keto Flu
- Common Side Effects on a Keto Diet
- Less Common Side Effects on a Keto Diet
- Troubleshooting Further
- Saving Money and Budgeting
- Takeaways and Advice
What Do I Eat on a Keto Diet?
To start a keto diet, you will want to plan ahead. That means having a viable diet plan ready and waiting. What you eat depends on how fast you want to get into a ketogenic state (ketosis). The more restrictive you are on your carbohydrates (less than 25g net carbs per day), the faster you will enter ketosis. Learn which foods to avoid on the keto diet.
Here’s a quick video explaining what and what not to eat on a keto diet. Scroll down to see more in-depth information and a detailed list:
You want to keep your carbohydrates limited, coming mostly from vegetables, nuts, and dairy. Don’t eat any refined carbohydrates such as wheat (bread, pasta, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit. The small exceptions to this are avocado, star fruit, and berries which can be consumed in moderation.
Do Not Eat
- Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
- Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers – potato, yams, etc.
- Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
- Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners
- Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
To see more specific advice on what (and what not) to eat, see our full keto food list.
Try to remember that keto is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Your nutrient intake should be something around 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
Typically, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs is recommended for everyday dieting – but the lower you keep your carbohydrate intake and glucose levels, the better the overall results will be. If you’re doing keto for weight loss, it’s a good idea to keep track of both your total carbs and net carbs.
Protein should always be consumed as needed with fat filling in the remainder of the calories in your day.
You might be asking, “What’s a net carb?” It’s simple really! The net carbs are your total dietary carbohydrates, minus the total fiber. I recommend keeping total carbs below 35g and net carbs below 25g (ideally, below 20g).
If you’re finding yourself hungry throughout the day, you can snack on nuts, seeds, cheeses, or almond butter to curb your appetite (though snacking can slow progress in the long term). Sometimes we can confuse the want to snack with the need for a meal. If you’re in a rush and need a keto fast food option, there are some available.
Vegetables on a Ketogenic Diet
Dark green and leafy is always the best choice for vegetables. Most of your meals should be a protein with vegetables, and an extra side of fat. Chicken thighs basted in olive oil, with broccoli and cheese. Steak topped with a knob of butter, and a side of spinach sauteed in olive oil.
If you’re still confused about what a net carb is, don’t worry – I’ll explain further. Let’s say for example you want to eat some broccoli (1 cup) – one of my favorite keto vegetables out there.
- There are a total of 6g carbohydrates in 1 cup.
- There’s also 2g of fiber in 1 cup.
- So, we take the 6g (total carbs) and subtract the 2g (dietary fiber).
- This will give us our net carbs of 4g.
Here’s a list of the most common low carb vegetables. Though if you want a complete list, check out our guide on the best vegetables for a ketogenic diet.
|Spinach (Raw)||1/2 Cup||0.1|
|Bok Choi (Raw)||1/2 Cup||0.2|
|Lettuce (Romaine)||1/2 Cup||0.2|
|Cauliflower (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||0.9|
|Cabbage (Green Raw)||1/2 Cup||1.1|
|Cauliflower (Raw)||1/2 Cup||1.4|
|Broccoli (Florets)||1/2 Cup||2|
|Collard Greens||1/2 Cup||2|
|Kale (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||2.1|
|Green Beans (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||2.9|
Note: Are you a vegetarian or vegan and want to go on a ketogenic diet? It’s still possible! Just keep in mind that the dietary restrictions can sometimes be a little bit intense. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare to aid your success. To help out, we’ve published articles (with 7-day meal plans included) for both the vegetarian ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet.
Here are some examples of our newest keto recipes. Click on the recipe to see a fully detailed version with step by step photos and full nutrition breakdown:
- Keto Asian Salmon Green Bean Sheet Pan
- Sausage and Brussel Sprout Sheet Pan Meal
- Cookies and Cream Milkshake
- Keto Steak Zucchini Skillet
- Keto Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Smoothie
- Jalapeno Chicken Skillet Meal
We update the website multiple times a week with new and exciting recipes, so make sure you come back for inspiration on our library stocked with keto recipes.
If you have trouble cooking, feel free to follow along with us on our YouTube channel to see exactly how we create our recipes!
Sample Diet Plans
If you want a sample plan that has a few different ways people approach keto (light breakfast, fasting) with various recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner check out our 14 Day Ketogenic Diet Plan.
Your life doesn’t have to revolve around the planning aspect. You can go the easy route and get detailed shopping lists and months of meal plans made for you with The Keto Academy.
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
There are numerous benefits that come with being on keto: from weight loss and increased energy levels to therapeutic medical applications. Most anyone can safely benefit from eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. Below, you’ll find a short list of the benefits you can receive from a ketogenic diet. For a more comprehensive list, you can also read our article on the benefits of a keto diet.
The ketogenic diet essentially uses your body fat as an energy source – so there are obvious weight loss benefits. On keto, your insulin (the fat-storing hormone) levels drop greatly which turns your body into a fat-burning machine.
Scientifically, the ketogenic diet has shown better results compared to low-fat and high-carb diets; even in the long term. For more information, you can read our article on keto and weight loss.
Many people incorporate MCT Oil into their diet (it increases ketone production and fat loss) by drinking ketoproof coffee in the morning.
Control Blood Sugar
Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the type of foods you eat. Studies even show that the ketogenic diet is a more effective way to manage and prevent diabetes compared to low-calorie diets.
If you’re pre-diabetic or have Type II diabetes, you should seriously consider a ketogenic diet. We have many readers that have had success with their blood sugar control on keto. See more on keto and diabetes >
If you want to learn more, you can read about how keto can help control blood sugars >
Many people use the ketogenic diet specifically for increased mental performance.
Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain. When you lower carb intake, you avoid big spikes in blood sugar. Together, this can result in improved focus and concentration.
Studies show that an increased intake of fatty acids can have impacting benefits to our brain’s function.
To learn more, see our article on the benefits of a keto diet for the brain.
Increased Energy & Normalized Hunger
By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source, you will feel more energized during the day. Fats are shown to be the most effective molecule to burn as fuel.
On top of that, fat is naturally more satisfying and ends up leaving us in a satiated (“full”) state for longer.2 If you’re interested in the science behind it, you can read more about how keto and ketosis works.
The ketogenic diet has been used since the early 1900’s to treat epilepsy successfully. It is still one of the most widely used therapies for children who have uncontrolled epilepsy today. Learn more about how keto can help with epilepsy.
One of the main benefits of the ketogenic diet and epilepsy is that it allows fewer medications to be used while still offering excellent control.
In the last few years, studies have also shown significant results in adults treated with keto as well.
Cholesterol & Blood Pressure
A keto diet has shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. More specifically low-carb, high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in HDL and a decrease in LDL particle concentration compared to low-fat diets.3 Read more on keto and cholesterol.
Many studies on ketogenic diets also show better improvement in blood pressure over other diets.
Some blood pressure issues are associated with excess weight, which is a bonus since keto tends to lead to weight loss. If you have high blood pressure or other blood pressure issues, click here to learn how keto can reduce blood pressure.
Insulin resistance can lead to type II diabetes if left unmanaged. An abundant amount of research shows that a low carb, ketogenic diet can help people lower their insulin levels to healthy ranges. Read more on keto and insulin resistance.
Even if you’re athletic, you can benefit from insulin optimization on keto through eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s common to experience improvements in your skin when you switch to a keto diet.
Here’s one study that shows drops in lesions and skin inflammation when switching to a low-carb diet. Another study that shows a probable connection between high-carb eating and increased acne, so it’s likely that keto can help.
For acne, it may be beneficial to reduce dairy intake and follow a strict skin cleaning regimen. If you’re interested in starting a ketogenic diet for your skin, consider reading our article on keto and acne.
Getting started is simple: just dive in! It’s always good to spend some time cleaning out your kitchen pantry and adding in new staples. Check out our keto recommendations to start if you’re new and not sure what to get.
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