Keto Diet for Beginners: Plus Family Meal Plan & Recipes

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Here’s a riddle: what’s old and new at the same time? Answer: Dieting.

In this Keto Diet for Beginners Guide we will explain how keto, despite all the current buzz, is actually an old idea made new. And, how you and your family can benefit from it, not only as a means to lose weight, but how it can be integrated into an ongoing healthy lifestyle.

Keto at A Glance

First, what is it? Keto simply means eating fewer carbs and sugars to the point where your body consumes fat as a source of energy.

Essentially, all you have to do is eat things like pizza, steak, eggs, vegetables, cheese, etc., made in a certain way, while not eating things like processed foods, breads, and pastas that are made the wrong way. If you do this, then you’re eating a keto diet. It sounds simple. And, it is. We’ll explain more below.

Can a keto diet help you lose weight? Yes. Is it only for people who are overweight? No, it’s a lifestyle enjoyed by many, even those who are considered skinny.

Is it safe for everyone? No. individuals with kidney disease, diabetes, heart or bone ailments, and potentially other medical conditions should speak to their doctors before starting a keto diet.

Can your spouse or kids also eat a keto diet? They can. It’s safe except in the situations mentioned above. How about babies? Yes, it’s safe even for babies (sources: 1, 2, 3).

Should you eat a keto diet all the time? Forever? This is hotly debated by experts who hold lots of impressive credentials.

My take is that everything is best in moderation. My normal diet is naturally very close to keto thanks to my gluten and other food allergies. I believe you can use a strict keto diet to achieve your weight goal, then moderate your approach using the 80/20 rule, I believe you can obtain 80% of the value of staying on a keto diet by eating less processed foods that you can also get from eating paleo, Atkins, vegetarian, and even gluten free.

The guide below is based on classic keto principles. I have added some notes for those with gluten allergies. Once you’ve hit your weight goal, feel free to experiment with it to find the right balance for you and your family.

A Beginner’s Guide To Keto

The basic principles behind a keto diet involve reducing your daily carb consumption and increasing your fat intake.

It is similar to other low-carb diets that have been popular for decades, even centuries, except the ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fats in keto is lower than these others. This same concept of maintaining a low-carb diet to lose weight and stay healthy keeps returning because it works.

What Is The Keto Diet?

The entire purpose of this diet is to trigger a unique metabolic state called ketosis, hence the name keto. This state only happens when you lower your carb consumption.

When you enter a ketosis state, you’re forcing your body to switch its primary fuel source from sugar to fat, causing it to burn fat instead. This means you are burning fat literally in your sleep. Not only does this entire process make you lose weight, but you also tend to feel less hungry and more energetic as a result.

If you are a visual learner, then this video will help explain the concept to you:

Commonly Asked Question About The Keto Diet

What can I eat on a keto diet?

You do not need to count calories or do anything complicated. Eat as much as you need to feel satisfied from a keto-approved food list like the one below. As you can see, you have a lot of options.

For many, knowing which vegetables are keto approved is one of the most difficult aspects. A good rule of thumb is that you should eat vegetables that grow above the ground, such as cauliflower, broccoli, beans, avocados, celery, aubergine, capsicums, and any gourds.  

You can eat just about any meat.

Pay special attention to your fats. You will need to increase these since they are the source of your energy. So, buy more butter, olive oil, cheese, chia seeds, flaxseed, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc. than you normally purchase.

The below list cites popular items you can eat. If you prefer, you can print the grocery shopping list by clicking on the PDF below.

Produce

  • Avocado
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Green cabbage
  • Green onions
  • Lime
  • Mushrooms
  • Red bell pepper
  • Romaine or leaf lettuce
  • Spinach
  • White onion

Snacks

  • Kale chips
  • Olives
  • Pork rinds
  • Sliced avocado
  • String cheese
  • Unsweetened beef jerky

Proteins

  • Bacon
  • Beef ribs, ground beef, steaks and more
  • Breakfast sausage
  • Canned salmon, tuna and sardines
  • Charcuterie – salami, prosciutto, pepperoni
  • Chicken – any kind, but preferably boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Pork – pork chops, ground pork, it’s all good
  • Salmon and other fatty fish
  • Shrimp and other crustaceans like crab and lobster

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds

Eggs and dairy

  • Almond milk
  • Bleu cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs
  • Ghee
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Heavy cream
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • Salted butter
  • Sour cream
  • String cheese

Pantry staples

  • Almond butter
  • Almond flour
  • Chicken broth
  • Cocoa powder
  • Coconut cream
  • Monk fruit extract
  • Soy sauce
  • Vanilla extract

Spices & Oils

  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground ginger
  • Pepper
  • Salt

Oils

  • Coconut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil

What foods can you not eat on the keto diet?

Keto Diet for Beginners

You should limit how much of the below foods you consume. You can still have them provided you stay within your carbohydrate total daily limit. To keep things simple, maybe just leave out the following:

Grains in all their forms

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Flour & corn tortillas
  • Oatmeal
  • Oats
  • Pumpernickel
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Sandwich wraps
  • Sorghum
  • Sourdough
  • Wheat
  • White

These fruits

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Fruit Juices
  • Grapes
  • Mangos
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Tangerines
  • Dried fruits such as raisins, dates, and dried mango
  • Fruit smoothies (carb count will vary according to the fruits used)
  • All fruit juices (excluding lemon and lime juice)

Vegetables

You should also avoid eating underground vegetables such as potatoes, along with fruits, alcohol, rice, pasta, bread, carbonated beverages, and chocolate.

  • Artichoke
  • Baked potatoes
  • Cassava (Yuca)
  • Corn
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams

Beans:

  • Baked beans
  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Cannellini beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Great Northern beans
  • Green peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans

Dairy:

Limit your intake to no more than 3-4 ounces per day.

Keto Diet for Beginners

What Is the Connection Between This Diet and Going Gluten Free?

There is a coincidentally close relationship between a keto diet and a gluten-free diet. This is because a gluten-free diet also eliminates all wheat-based products. In fact, it’s common that many with gluten concerns can’t tolerate other types of grains, making a gluten-free diet feel more like a keto diet. As a bonus, keto diets may help those suffering from food allergies.

Keto is known for helping people improve gut health that often is already damaged by the time they realize that they have a gluten intolerance.

Improvements in gut health can be caused by your body beginning to burn fat instead of sugar during ketosis. Ketones are powerful, inflammation-fighting superheroes. And know that all food allergies and intolerances cause inflammation in the gut.

That said, if you are on a keto diet and thinking about also going 100% gluten free because you are already 99% there, then note that there may not be any meaningful health benefit in doing so. Unless you have a gluten intolerance, then there is little reason to avoid soy sauce, for example, which does sometimes contain gluten, if you are already on a keto diet.

What Are The Dangers Involved?

Although the keto diet is healthy for most people, there are risks and adverse symptoms you should be aware of.

The most common one is the “keto flu.” This is a nauseous feeling that might happen when you first start the keto diet. People experience various reactions such as gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, lethargy, or fatigue. One in four people who start keto experience this.

If you experience any of these issues when you start to lower your carb intake, try one or more of these five actions (in priority order):

  1. Increase your salt and water intake. This may alleviate any flu-like symptoms within 30 minutes. Do it twice a day or more, as needed.
  2. Eat more fats. If you sharply cut back on carbs without upping your fat intake, your body will think it’s starving. You’ll feel tired and hungry. A good keto diet includes enough fat and ensures that you’re not hungry after a meal and that you have plenty of energy.
  3. Slow your roll. Slow your transition to a keto diet by consuming more carbs. A more moderate low-carb diet with 20 to 50 grams of carbs a day will slow down your weight loss, but still lead to better health, especially if you’re cutting out sugar and processed foods.
  4. Exercise less for the first few weeks. Your body is adapting to a new fuel system, so don’t rush it. Take it easy for the first few weeks and then slowly increase the intensity of your exercise routine.
  5. Don’t ignore hunger. As long as you’re restricting your carb intake, eat as much of the keto-approved foods listed above you need until you’re not hungry. But, be sure to not eat too quickly so you can listen to your hunger signals, thereby avoiding overeating.

You can also go through some other unfortunate side effects, depending on your immunity, body type, and general resilience. These include a loss of energy, muscle cramps, bad breath, and a change in bowel movements. If you find yourself in the midst of any of these symptoms, make sure you talk to your dietician or doctor immediately.

Finally, while some stay on a keto diet for years, even the rest of their lives, this may not be for everyone. While it is proven safe for up to 6 months for most people, a keto diet’s impact on your health beyond that is simply unproven. Again, lots of doctors with impressive credentials disagree on this point.

Our advice is that you achieve your weight and health goals, then find the right balance for you and your family.

Keto Diet For Beginners

Is It Safe For Children?

Yes, it is safe for your child to temporarily go on a keto diet (see citations in Keto at a Glance section). But, should you do it? That’s a harder question.

For example, keto has been proven to help children with seizures or epilepsy, but the study noted that it is hard to get kids to stick to a keto diet, especially when they’re not at home. There are even animal studies showing keto may help some conditions like ADHD. And, naturally, it’s effective against obesity. So, lots of goodness. That said, our main concern is the total lack of studies about the long-term impact of keeping children on a sustained keto diet.

Kaitlyn Nowack at Cleveland Clinic makes compelling arguments as to why keto might not be ideal for children, which can be summarized in that as their bodies and minds are still growing, they have different needs than adults. So, what’s good for one may not be good for the other.

Instead of using keto to help your child lose weight, teaching them good eating habits, including not eating processed foods or sugary foods or drinks, will likely have the best long-term results. Another tip that is often repeated is to not focus on the scale. Keep it positive.

So, what should a parent do if they want to go on a keto diet, but they do not want to make different meals for their kids? It is not practical to make totally different meals, but you can eat different proportions than your children.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for carbohydrate is 130 grams, approximately 45-65% of their calories, whereas the keto diet limits carbohydrates to approximately 20 grams a day.

Does this mean that you have to prepare different food at each meal? One for you and one for your kids? Not unless you want to. You can simply fix different proportions of the same food for you versus the others at home.

For demonstration purposes, note that the “ketogenic plate” on the left has 20 grams while the “liberal” plate on the right has 100 grams of carbohydrates. They both show the same foods. So, you would fix one meal for everyone, but the proportions on the plate per person could vary.

How Long Does It Take to Start Losing Weight on Keto?

During the first few weeks of your new regimen, you will be likely to lose nearly ten pounds of water weight. After the first month, your body starts to burn fat to convert it into energy, and this is when the real weight loss begins.

How much weight you lose from this point forward depends entirely on you. Your weight loss also comes down to how long you can sustain this lifestyle change.

Easy Keto Diet Recipes For Beginners

Baked Avocado Eggs

Baked avocado eggs are amazingly creamy. This is a substantial meal that can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Keto-friendly, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 161kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 Avocado ripe but firm (not very soft)
  • 4 eggs some prefer smaller
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 0.5 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 0.5 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoon chopped parsley

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Line baking dish with parchment paper.
  • Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. .
  • Season the avocado halves with half of the kosher salt and black pepper, and put them in the baking dish.
  • Crack one egg into a small bowl, then slide the yolk in the avocado halves. Or, if you're feeling lucky, try your hand at breaking eggs directly into the halves. Include as much of the egg white as you can. Optional: add toppings, if desired.
  • Bake until whites reach your desired consistency, usually about 15 minutes. If the egg yolks have developed a thin crust while baking, you can remove it with a small sharp knife.
  • Add remaining kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes, and garnish with chopped parsley.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Do these freeze well? Though raw avocados can be frozen successfully, these baked avocados are best eaten right away. They can be kept in the fridge for up to 48 hours and reheated, but I do not recommend freezing them

Nutrition

Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 487mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 147IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 1mg

Skillet Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas in a skillet in 35 minutes. Best with cast iron skillet. Zesty marinade. Keto, Whole30, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, and kid-approved.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 283kcal

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs if you're feeling dark
  • 1 onion large; sliced into halved 1/4" slices
  • 2 Red bell peppers sliced into 1/4" strips, can use green peppers too.
  • 1 Pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or coconut oil or other high heat oil

MARINADE:

  • 4 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce gluten-free options exist; omit for Keto, whole30 and strict Paleo
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  • Marinade chicken for at least 6 hours in advance, overnight is ideal.
  • Preheat a large 12″ cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add in the oil of choice.
  • Once simmering, Stir in the peppers and onion slices, coating with oil. Add the pinch of salt over the top. Stir with rests of approximately 1 minute increments between stirs. Keep going until sweet.
  • Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Let pan heat up again!!
  • Add in the marinated chicken slices. Add in marinade also for extra extra zesty. One layer of chicken only or you will be less favorable. Cook more than one batch, if needed.
  • With all the liquid, it will look like soup at first. Let sit undisturbed for at least 5-6 minutes until chicken pieces begin to char and most of the liquid begins to evaporate. Stir and let sit again (another 5-6 minutes) to brown a bit. Once the liquid has disappeared, just saute a couple more minutes to brown the pieces evenly, and the meat is beginning to crisp and caramelize.
  • Yum!

Nutrition

Calories: 283kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 568mg | Potassium: 590mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1802IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Mongolian Beef

Mongolian Beef is a delicious Asian dish made primarily with beef and scallions. You can add more vegetables like broccoli if desired. Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Keto-friendly, and Paleo.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 602kcal

Ingredients

Beef Marinade:

  • 2 lb skrit steak thinly sliced against the grain
  • 4 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 4 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6-8 tbsp avocado or olive oil

Toppings

  • 6 large garlic cloves finely minced
  • 6 inch ginger thinly sliced
  • 4 whole red chili peppers Optional for those who like spice. Sliced and with seeds removed,
  • 6 bulbs scallions cut into 3-inch lengths.

Instructions

  • Thinly slice beef against the grain. Add coconut aminos to baking soda ingredients and mix well. Set aside in fridge to marinade.
  • In the meantime, prepare garlic, ginger, scallions, separate white and green parts. Optional for spicy version: remove the chili pepper seeds and slice them to thin strips
  • In a well-heated stainless steel skillet or cast iron, add 2 tbsp cooking fat. Pan fry the beef as one layer without disturbing over medium-high heat until crisp brown, about 2 minutes then quickly sear the flip side, about 30 seconds. Set the beef and the pan juice aside.
  • Add 1 more tbsp cooking oil, saute toppings with a pinch of salt until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add beef back to the skillet with toppings. Quickly toss to coat the flavor for another 30 seconds. Serve hot and immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 602kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 156mg | Potassium: 869mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 461IU | Vitamin C: 67mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 5mg

Meal Planning for Keto

Following a ketogenic diet is a lot easier when you use meal planning to cook large enough quantities that cover several meals. 

The above breakfast, lunch, and dinner options are set to serve 4 people. Naturally, if there are two of you, then this would be two meals each. Our recipe quantities are configurable; just click on the number of servings.

Example 7-Day Keto Meal Plan (only effectively cook for 3 days)

Monday

  • Breakfast: Baked Avocado Eggs (see above recipe)
  • Lunch: Skillet Chicken Fajitas (see above recipe)
  • Dinner: Mongolian Beef (see above recipe)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (full fat) topped with granola (keto-friendly type)
  • Lunch: Grass-fed, bun-less burger topped with avocado, mushrooms, and cheese, and served with a side of greens
  • Dinner: Pork chop with red beans sautéed with olive oil

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Baked Avocado Eggs (refrigerated from Monday)
  • Lunch: Skillet Chicken Fajitas (frozen from Monday)
  • Dinner: Tuna salad topped with veggies, celery, and tomatoes

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Keto Pancakes
  • Lunch: Grilled fish steak with olive oil sautéed spinach.
  • Dinner: Mongolian Beef (frozen from Monday)

Friday

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (same as Tuesday)
  • Lunch: Grilled fish steak (refrigerated from Thursday)
  • Dinner: Pork chop (frozen from Tuesday)

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Keto Pancakes (frozen from Thursday)
  • Lunch: Skillet Chicken Fajitas (frozen from Monday)
  • Dinner: Pork chop (frozen from Tuesday)

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Cauliflower toast made with avocado and cheese.
  • Lunch: Grass-fed, bun-less burger (frozen from Tuesday)
  • Dinner: Meatballs with zucchini noodles and cheese

This is the basic structure for an effective, week-long, ketones diet. Of course, you do not have to meal plan, making two meals at a time. Instead, you can cook fresh every day, but if you are like most people, then the #1 reason most give up on a diet like keto is because of the effort involved in cooking. You can have fun experimenting with this plan, adding and subtracting ingredients based on your tastes and preferences.

You can also consume a wide variety of snacks to assist with your diet that add some extra flavor to the mix. In addition to the ones listed in the “can do” list, healthy snacks that are a part of the keto meal may include:

  • Coconut chips
  • Jerky
  • Cheese roll-ups
  • Avocado stuffed with chicken salad
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Berries topped with whipping cream
  • Trail mix
  • Parmesan crisps
  • Keto smoothies made with avocado, cocoa, and coconut milk
  • Macadamia nuts

Preparing a shopping list (PDF) and picking up all the vital ingredients before your week begins are crucial steps in meal prepping. Having a wide range of ingredients to pick from come cooking time allows you to experiment with recipes and makes the diet a lot more fun in general.

Related Content

If you are into pizza, like we are, and you want some homemade keto-friendly options, then you might like our three gluten-free pizza recipes.

keto diet for beginners
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Feel The Burn

Thanks to dietitians, researchers and various experts, we now know more about nutrition and its effects on the human mind and body than ever before. We are beginning to delve into diets such as the ketogenic diet that uncover the mysteries of metabolic processes such as ketones. 

We know that this diet can help assist with your weight loss, but it’s also proving to be useful when tackling a wide range of problems such as controlling blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.

Armed with sufficient knowledge about the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet, a flexible meal plan, and a handful of easy and delicious recipes, you are now ready to start transforming your life by leveraging ketosis to your advantage.

Nothing is better than eating naturally so nature naturally improves your health while you are working, playing, exercising, — even while you sleep! 

Disclaimer:

This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.

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The Husband

The Husband

Hi! I’m Mike. I’m happily married and have a young daughter. I’ve lived all over the world and have learned a lot from seeing others’ perspectives. I’ve also had many life altering health challenges. Fortunately, my lovely and brilliant wife helped save me by finding a new and better way for us to live. We started The Healthy Treehouse to share what we’ve learned and to learn from others, too.