ketogenic diet ultimate starter guide

Ketogenic diet: Ultimate starter guide for keto beginners

What is a ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet or keto diet is a term used to refer to one of the low-carbohydrate and high-fat diets. The main idea of this diet is to intentionally reduce the intake of easily digestible carbohydrates and increase the number of consumed fats. It helps make your body switch to using an alternative source of energy – ketone bodies, which replace glucose. Ketones bodies appear as a result of the breakdown of body fats by the liver.

The term “ketogenic diet” was first coined by Dr. Russell Morse Wilder, at the Mayo Clinic in 1921. The diet was created as an alternative to fasting treatment for children with epilepsy. The main recommendations for this diet included 1 gram of protein per kilogram, 10-15 grams of carbohydrates per day, and the rest of the consumed calories as fat.

Unfortunately, in 1938, with the invention of diphenylhydantoin, which is the drug for the treatment of epilepsy, the ketogenic diet started to lose its popularity. However, in 1994, the diet regained its popularity following NBC’s Dateline TV show which featured a unique case of keto diet treatment. The n episode of the show was based on a true story about a two-year-old boy Charlie Abrahams who suffered from severe epilepsy with uncontrollable seizures.

Different types of keto diet

Nowadays, there are many varieties of the ketogenic diet. They differ due to the different proportions of macronutrients such as fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In most cases, the choice of one type or another is affected by the person’s lifestyle and state of health.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

Typically, this type of diet consists of a daily intake of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)

It is a type of diet in which you consume low carbohydrates 5-6 days a week as with the Standard Ketogenic Diet, and allow yourself an increased intake of carbs for the remaining 1-2 days. This type of diet is well suited for beginners who want to adapt to a new eating style and those who want to lose weight or build muscle.

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) Ketogenic Diet

It is a diet based on using medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which in most cases is extracted from coconut oil. Adding MCTs allows you to increase your carbohydrate intake and expand your range of foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

You should be careful with this diet and you need to go through it under the supervision of a doctor since it has various side effects associated with the gastrointestinal tract.

Possible side effects include diarrhea, vomiting and bloating

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

The basic principle of this diet is to consume 20-30 g of protein immediately 30 minutes before the start of the workout. So that you have enough fuel to train and then you can return to ketosis again. This diet is suitable for people who are subject to active physical training and who require increased endurance.

High Protein Ketogenic Diet

This diet is similar to SKD only with increased protein intake. In this case, the proportions of daily nutrient intake would be 65% fat, 30% protein, and 5% carbs. The diet is well suited for those who want to lose weight or are engaged in bodybuilding.

Modified Keto Diet or Keto 2.0

Keto 2.0 is a more simplified version of the ketogenic diet. With this diet, you can reduce the number of fat consumed by up to 50%, and the number of carbohydrates by up to 20%. In addition, this diet allows you to eat more grains, vegetables, and fruits. Moreover, it is a perfect option for those who want to lose weight and can’t stick to a standard keto diet.

How does keto help you lose weight?

Obesity is one of the most significant public health problems around the world today. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016 the number of obese people reached 650 million. Most chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and gallbladder disease are strongly associated with obesity.

Recent studies have shown that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is very effective in losing weight quickly and reducing the risks of various diseases associated with obesity.

The core of the ketogenic diet is a metabolic process called ketosis. If a person starts to consume a small number of carbohydrates, less than 50 g per day, the level of glucose produced in his body begins to fall. When natural stores of glucose are unable to provide a person with the necessary level of energy, his body switches to a state of ketogenesis.

During ketogenesis, the liver begins to break down the body’s fat stores, converting them into ketones. Ketones, in turn, replace the functions of glucose, starting to provide the human body and brain with the necessary level of energy.

What foods can I eat on a keto diet?

To get the most out of your keto diet, you need your body to stay in ketosis for a continuous period of time. To do this, you should reduce your carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams per day and increase your intake of foods containing natural fats.

You need to carefully select foods and think over your menu, excluding foods that contain a large number of carbohydrates and sugars. The optimal value, in this case, will be 0.

Below is an example of foods that you can consume on a ketogenic diet. In addition, you may also use our extensive list of keto-free foods to help you plan your daily or weekly nutritional meal plan.

Keto-friendly food list

  • Meat like bacon, beef, pork, lamb, sausages, chicken
  • Seafood like anchovies, clams, salmon, shrimps, tuna
  • Vegetables like asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant green beans
  • Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, coconuts, lemons
  • Nuts & Seeds like almonds, brazil nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, peanuts
  • Dairy products like butter, heavy cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, greek yogurt
  • Cheese like mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar
  • Oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil
  • Condiments like Horseradish, Mayonnaise, Mustard, Ketchup

Foods not allowed on the keto diet

Avoid eating foods high in carbohydrates and sugars as this can put you out of ketosis. Below is a list of foods to avoid on the keto diet.

  • Sugar-containing foods like soda, fruit juice, cookies and candies
  • Fruits – most fruits on a keto diet should be excluded due to their high sugar content. For instance: oranges, pineapples, bananas, apples, pears, grapes, fruit juices 
  • Vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, artichoke
  • Starchy food like bread, rice, cookies, tortillas, porridge and oatmeal
  • Dairy like low-fat mayonnaise, evaporated milk, sweetened yogurt
  • Oils like processed oils
  • Beverages like colas, hot chocolate, ginger ale, sports drinks

Keto diet starter meal plan for beginners

Below you can find an example of a weekly meal plan for a keto diet. You can mix dishes from different days to create your unique keto meal plan.

Please take into account that there are many variations of the same dish on the Internet. Choose a recipe based on its nutritional information and your daily macronutrient needs.


  • Breakfast: Classic omelet with bell pepper and Strawberries
  • Lunch: Plain Tuna Salad and Cheese slices
  • Dinner: Chicken Caesar salad

Total calories: 1531


  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with bacon and mushrooms
  • Lunch: Spinach salad and Cheese slices
  • Dinner: Baked pork chops and Zucchini spears

Total calories: 1507


  • Breakfast: Avocado egg bake and 2 strips of Bacon
  • Lunch: Cucumber tomato salad with tuna and Cheese slices
  • Dinner: Peppered steaks with mushrooms and Spicy garlic broccoli

Total calories: 1479


  • Breakfast: Raspberry greek yogurt and Pecans
  • Lunch: Spinach & Avocado Soup
  • Dinner: Easy Pan-Fried Lemon Chicken and Roasted asparagus

Total calories: 1464


  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs with cherry tomatoes and Blueberries
  • Lunch: Arugula salad and Almonds
  • Dinner: Balsamic salmon

Total calories: 1459


  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with feta and Strawberries
  • Lunch: Tuna stuffed pepper
  • Dinner: Baked chicken pesto parmesan and Steamed broccoli

Total calories: 1341


  • Breakfast: Keto Chaffle and Strawberries
  • Lunch: Turkey lettuce rollups and Avocado
  • Dinner: Pork chops with prosciutto and sage

Total calories: 1576

Tips for starting keto

Track Your Macros

Keeping track of your calorie and macronutrient intake is an integral part of the keto diet. It can help you balance your diet and adapt it to your lifestyle. As a result, you will achieve the desired result much faster because you can avoid transmission and exit from the state of ketosis. You can use one of the many apps such as MyFitnessPal or Carb Manager to track your calorie and nutrient intake.

Plan Your Meals

Making your meal plan and stocking it up in advance will help you stay in continuous ketosis for a long time. Moreover, it will help you avoid situations in which you have to make spontaneous decisions about cooking with a limited number of ingredients and when there is a lack of time. 

Prepare To Keto Flu

Keto flu is a transient response to metabolic changes in the body resulting in replacing the primary fuel source of glucose with ketones.

This reaction has some side effects that can last from several days to several weeks.

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • insomnia
  • constipation
  • exercise difficulties

You may reduce side effects by consuming more water, consuming mineral-rich foods, and adding a little more salt to your meals.

Drink Enough Water

During the keto diet, there is an abundant release of salt and water from the body. It is due to a decrease in the number of carbohydrates that are usually responsible for water retention in the body. Therefore, it is necessary to control the level of your hydration.

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a method of eating food in which the fasting and eating phases are cyclical. For example, you can eat for an 8 hour time frame and then fast for 16 hours.

The combination of intermittent fasting and the keto diet allows your body to reach ketosis faster and lose weight. It is because fasting decreases your body’s glycogen stores and insulin levels, causing your body to convert fat into energy naturally.

Ketogenic diet side effects and health risks

The transition period after a short stay in ketosis can be accompanied by various side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, exercise difficulties and constipation. This period is called “keto flu” and can last from a few days to a couple of weeks.

A long-term keto diet can also lead to severe side effects including liver steatosis, hypoproteinemia, kidney stones, and vitamin deficiencies.

The ketogenic diet is contraindicated in patients with pancreatitis and liver failure. Therefore, before using this diet, you better consult your doctor or consult a professional nutritionist.

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