Often the best way to start is to simply jump in!
I’ve developed a very a brief Getting Started Guide that includes food lists and sample meal plans. I’ve also listed below my top 10 tips for following a Low Carb High Fat (Ketogenic) diet.
For reliable information, including medically sound information, please use The Diet Doctor website. They have additional guides as well as some delicious low carb recipes.
Top Ten Tips for Starting and Sustaining A Ketogenic Lifestyle
These are my Ten Tips for making a ketogenic way of eating work. When you finish reading them, read them again. When you’ve read them a second time, implement them one by one.
- Count all the carbs and keep them low.
When I first started keto, I didn’t know a macro from a micro, but I knew that I had to count carbs. Count total carbs; do not subtract fiber. That’s all I knew for the first four months, and I lost over 40 lbs. in that time. I discontinued all of my medications in those first four months. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Despite the detailed information here, don’t wait for perfection. Don’t drive yourself insane counting macros, weighing, and measuring. For accurate carb counts, use the USDA database to find nutritional values. Access the database here: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/. If the food you’re eating has a label, then use the nutritional information on the label. Know the carb count of EVERY food you put in your mouth BEFORE you put it in your mouth.
Decide you’re going to do follow a ketogenic plan 100% for two weeks. I promised myself at the end of two weeks, I’d eat the entire doughnut shop if I wanted. Just two short weeks. I was desperate, and I knew I had to follow the plan 100%. Even one little Hershey kiss can throw your body off, and you will not see the results you want. Keto can be unforgiving for those of us with metabolic dysfunction. Moreover, during those two weeks, you will be able to push through cravings and enjoy the benefits. Once you accomplish two weeks of success, the plan gets easier. Commit to four short weeks; one day at a time. No sugar, no starch, no grains. Decide “Come heck or high water, I’m following this plan for four solid weeks.” Then do it.
- Find your favorite keto foods to eat.
Use the food lists, sample meal plans, and the recipes in this book to find your new favorite foods. My favorites are steak, chicken wings, creamed spinach, and homemade Ranch salad dressing. When I’m tired of that, I’ve got meatloaf, taco soup, pepper steak, and coffee with heavy cream. As you identify your new keto foods, pick mostly from the green and yellow lists in the Getting Started Guide because those are the foods with higher fat and lower carbohydrates. You can eat from the red list occasionally, but you may surpass your carb limit more quickly than you intend.
- Limit carbs to 7-10 grams total per meal.
The “magic” that makes a ketogenic plan work is linked primarily to keeping blood glucose stable. Eating higher carb meals will raise blood glucose which is why you have to be 100% on plan and remain vigilant about counting carbohydrates. The physicians I follow who recommend a ketogenic diet, generally advise patients to count total carbs, which means not subtracting fiber. Some soluble fiber may impact blood glucose, especially in packaged foods; therefore, counting total carbs is a more conservative, but safer guideline. While you may find that you can tolerate up to 12 to 15 total carbs per meal, many people cannot. Cravings are worse for me when I exceed 7 total carbs per meal. Through trial and error or blood glucose monitoring, you can find your carb threshold.
- Eat to hunger.
A ketogenic diet does not work by starving body. Keto works by eating high fat foods such as fatty meats, bacon, chicken with crispy skin, etc. that keep blood glucose stable. Eat when hungry. Don’t gorge, but when your hunger is satisfied, stop eating. Moreover, do not eat again until you are physically hungry. As I explained to my husband, “If you’re hungry, you’re doing it wrong.” Don’t worry about how many strips of bacon make a serving. There are days when I am physically hungry. Eight pieces of bacon and three eggs are not “too much” on those days. On other days, two pieces of bacon and coffee is sufficient. Fat tends to be self-limiting and can make you sick if you overeat it. You will learn quickly when you’ve overeaten fat.
- Learn to listen to your body.
Know whether you’re eating what’s “right” by listening to your body. An ideal ketogenic meal meets these requirements:
a) You leave the table feeling satisfied. Not stuffed, but comfortable.
b) You don’t feel tired or sluggish 1 to 2 hours after eating, but you do feel energized. If you do feel tired or sluggish, then your meal was not ideal. Feeling tired or sluggish can be linked to eating too much protein, too many carbs, or a food sensitivity. Make note of the grams of carbs, fat, and protein in your meal. Use the USDA database or the nutritional label for accurate macros.
c) You do not feel hunger, true physical hunger for at least 4 to 6 hours after the meal. It takes a body that long to metabolize a meal when the balance of macros is right.
- Learn your hunger cues.
Physical hunger is not feeling anxious, frustrated, angry, or happy. Hunger is not an emotion. True hunger is not triggered by a commercial on television or by someone around you eating. Physical hunger is disruptive. It stops you from what you’re doing, and says softly, “Uhm…I need a little fuel here.” If you’re busy and you get distracted by hunger, you’re truly hungry. When you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not physically hungry, drink water, phone a friend, run an errand, clean, or go for a walk. Learning to trust physical hunger cues is a significant key to success.
- Don’t try to take shortcuts.
There is no substitute for real food. Whether you’re tempted by the convenience of “low carb” products, that are not really low in total carbs, or tempted by supplements that promise ketosis, or simply toying with the idea of a three-day gimmicky “diet”, “detox”, or “fast”, then don’t. Learning to eat real food and changing your habits for the rest of your life is going to make you healthy in two weeks, two months, two years, and two decades. Looking for shortcuts never got me further along my journey for any length of time.
- Eat real foods and pay attention to ingredients.
Looking for convenience, I made this mistake. If a food is marked “low carb”, “sugar-free”, or even “keto”, it probably isn’t a good option. When you pay attention to ingredients, you find that many sweeteners used by food producers will impede your progress. For example, diet soft drinks can cause stalls and many people find that drinking them increases hunger. Those who pay attention to ingredients are more likely to see better results.
- Create new habits.
You will not succeed doing the same things you’ve always done. To be successful, you will have to think differently about food and meals. When you eat, what you eat, and why you eat are going to be different on a ketogenic plan. You will have to learn to eat different foods, and create new meals. For breakfast I often eat nontraditional breakfasts foods such as a burger with cheese and bacon, smoked sausage, bacon with cream cheese, or a skillet pizza. For quick lunches I often eat leftovers or salad with deli meat, a boiled egg, cheese, and lots of homemade Ranch dressing. A juicy cheeseburger with bacon and mayo, hold the bun is always delicious and easy to find on the go. Even if you don’t like to cook, you can still create low carb meals that you enjoy. If you don’t DO something different, you will never BE different.