This article is reviewed by a team of registered dietitians and medical doctors with extensive, practical clinical and public health experience.
Keto Diet Plan: 7-Day Menu & Comprehensive Food List 2023
The ketogenic diet has been around for many years, originating in the 1920s as medical nutrition therapy for people with epilepsy. However, diet culture scooped it up in the early 1970s with Robert Atkins, M.D.’s first published diet book, named The Atkins Diet. Decades later, it is now one of the most popular weight-loss strategies worldwide. This low-carbohydrate (carb), moderate-protein, high-fat diet is said to burn fat and aid in weight loss by putting the body into ketosis.
Some research suggests the keto diet can help promote glycemic control and improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s important to note that research lacks the diet’s long-term effects on overall health. Therefore, if you are interested in pursuing the keto lifestyle, you can meet a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian or nutritionist. This one will help you explore your specific health needs before following a significantly high-fat, low-carb diet.
Keto Diet Plan For Beginners
If you’re looking to lose weight, chances are you’ve heard about the keto diet. It’s all the buzz in today’s diet culture, with some people even trying it to lose belly fat. The ketogenic diet is an extremely low-carb diet where carbohydrates make up only 5-10% of the day’s total calorie intake. This calculates to approximately 20-50 grams of carbs (15-30 g net carbs) per day, which is extremely low compared to a regular healthy diet. For example, the Mayo Clinic states that the average person eating a 2,000 calorie diet needs 225 to 325 grams of total carbohydrate daily to support normal body function.
Unsure how to differentiate net carbs from total carbs? Net carbs take into account your fiber intake by subtracting the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrate. Keto diets do not consider fiber as part of the carbohydrate energy source since your body doesn’t digest it the same and it doesn’t trigger an insulin response.
However, keto eating is more than just consuming fewer carbs. Your body’s energy source actually changes, but in order to supply that energy, most of your calories have to come from foods high in fat while on the keto diet.
The remarkably decreased intake of net carbs forces the body into the metabolic state of ketosis, which is the process by which your body relies on fat for its energy source instead of glucose.
During ketosis, your body uses ketones as an alternate fuel source. These ketones are molecules produced in the liver from fats when your glucose supply runs low.
Your fat intake should replace the majority of the energy you cut when you decrease your carb intake. In fact, it should account for approximately 60-80% of your daily calorie intake.
Furthermore, protein intake should deliver approximately 10-20% of your daily energy needs. Sufficient protein intake is essential to maintain muscle mass. However, too much protein in a keto diet can also hinder your weight loss as any unused energy is stored as body fat.
Of course, it’s critical to remember that these percent ranges are very generalized and do not speak to anyone’s individual specific needs to reach ketosis.
Risks Of The Keto Diet That Beginners Should Know
While studies have shown a positive correlation between a low-carb diet and blood sugar control for people with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to remember that long-term research is lacking in terms of its impact on other aspects of health.
The keto diet was not designed initially as a way to lose weight. However, what was once a treatment for epileptic seizures has turned into a highly commercial weight loss diet. Unfortunately, just because something is marketable does not always mean it has your best interest in mind.
The percent ranges for macronutrient consumption while following a keto diet plan are very general and do not consider any underlying medical conditions. The ketogenic diet is even contraindicated with certain health conditions such as renal disease.
If a company stands to make money from your weight loss, it is essential to do your research. Look beyond promises for rapid weight loss and consider the long-term effects that the diet can have on your physical and mental health. Low-carb diets that are high in fat present some concerns. Potential risks of the ketogenic diet include
- The keto flu: symptoms that not only occur soon after reducing intake of your net carbs. Besides, it also includes headaches, foggy brain, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and constipation.
- Stress on your kidneys: your blood and urine become more acidic with the increased intake of animal products, and this can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
- Nutrient deficiencies: studies have shown the average keto meal is low in vitamins such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus, among many others.
- Changes to your gut bacteria: a recent review of a very low-carb diet showed changes to a healthy gut bacteria. The reduced net carbs and high-fat content of a typical keto diet affect the way your gut bacteria are fed.
- Hypoglycemic events: research has found that while reduced intake of net carbs can help regulate your hemoglobin A1c, it can also increase the risk of dangerously low blood sugar readings.
- Damage to bone health: one study discovered increased markers for bone breakdown in athletes following a keto meal plan. Bone health was only restored when the participants increased their daily intake of net carbs.
- Muscle cramps: when adapting to the keto diet, you may urinate more due to varying insulin levels and increased sodium excretion. As a result, you may experience dehydration and low electrolyte levels.
- Reduced muscle mass: the ketogenic diet mimics persistent starvation, which one study correlated to muscle atrophy.
- Increased chance for chronic disease and mortality: one long-term study showed higher all-cause mortality in men and women who consumed a low-carb diet high in animal products.
- Increased mental anguish over your body image: the ketogenic diet leaves very little wiggle room in its restrictions, often evoking feelings of failure if you eat foods outside of the diet. Furthermore, a very low-carb diet is not realistic long-term and can often result in more weight gained than lost after the diet restrictions are lifted.
The diet culture hype behind the ketogenic diet prioritizes losing weight at all costs. Frequently you see supporters of the diet recommending fewer net carbs than your body needs in a day to simply survive. In order to safely implement keto diet restrictions, it is highly recommended to do so under medical supervision
Designing A Keto Diet Meal Plan
Designing your ketogenic meal plan can feel very overwhelming if you are just beginning your keto journey. If you have the stamp of approval from your doctor, consider meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist to adjust your macronutrients and safely meet your individual nutrition needs.
To keep the keto diet simple, focus on reducing your net carb intake and supplementing those cut calories by increasing your fat intake. There are many delicious keto recipes that have been tested and loved over the years, but you can easily put your own spin on those popular keto recipes to make them fit your taste preferences.
Examples Of Friendly Foods For Applying In The Keto Diet Plan
If you intend to start a keto diet, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of arranging your keto meals and snacks with all the new dietary restrictions. Keto-friendly snacks and meals should revolve around low-carb foods such as
- Eggs: hard-boiled eggs
- Poultry: chicken, turkey
- Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, herring
- Meat: beef, pork, organ meats
- Full-fat dairy: unsweetened yogurts, butter
- Nuts, seeds, nut butter: almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts
- Oils rich in healthy fats: canola oil, coconut oil, olive oil
- Avocados, avocado oil
- Full-fat cheeses: cream cheese, brie, cheddar, mozzarella
- Non-starchy vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, greens
- Sugar-free beverages: water, unsweetened tea, black coffee
Examples Of Foods To Limit On A Keto Diet Plan
- Sugary foods: ice cream, candy, maple syrup, honey
- Bread and other baked goods: cookies, cakes, white bread, whole wheat bread
- Sweetened beverages: sweet tea, regular sodas
- Starchy vegetables: corn, potatoes, peas
- Fruit: bananas, grapes, citrus, apples
- Grains, and grain products: rice, cereals, tortillas
- Pasta: white pasta, whole wheat pasta
- Beans and legumes: kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, lentils
- Some alcohols: beer, sugary mixed drinks
- Artificial sweeteners may kick you out of ketosis due to their effect on insulin levels if consumed in excess
It is also highly recommended that you avoid processed foods and trans fats as much as possible when eating keto. Also, be aware of the notable amounts of saturated fat that comes with eating animal products. High-fat animal products tend to be high in saturated fats, which work against heart health.
7-Day Sample Keto Meal Plan
Please remember this is a general keto meal plan that provides approximately 50 grams of carbohydrates daily. It should be adjusted accordingly to meet individual nutrition and health needs. Achieving ketosis is highly individualized and not recommended for everyone.
- Breakfast: western omelet with vegetables and ham chunks
- Lunch: cobb salad made with hard-boiled eggs, turkey, and avocado
- Dinner: grilled salmon and lemony asparagus
- Breakfast: overnight oats made with chia seeds and shredded coconut
- Lunch: cauliflower crust pizza
- Dinner: bell peppers stuffed with ground beef and cheese
- Breakfast: mushroom spinach frittata
- Lunch: tuna salad in lettuce wraps
- Dinner: beef tenderloin and grilled bell peppers
- Breakfast: 2 eggs served sunny side up over sauteed peppers or greens
- Lunch: chicken taco avocados
- Dinner: Philly cheesesteak lettuce wraps
- Breakfast: loaded breakfast taco bowl with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, and pico de gallo
- Lunch: cheeseburger tomatoes
- Dinner: pork chops and grilled vegetables
- Breakfast: mushroom, spinach, and goat cheese baked eggs
- Lunch: Mediterranean grilled chicken salad
- Dinner: chicken alfredo served with zucchini noodles
- Breakfast: keto blueberry muffins
- Lunch: BLT cheese wraps
- Dinner: salmon served on a bed of lettuce
Ideas For Keto Snacks Between Meals
A Variety Of Diets
Nutritionally Balanced Meals
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- Hard-boiled eggs
- Beef jerky
- Macadamia nuts
- Guacamole with fresh vegetables
- Vegetables and cream cheese dip
- Avocado topped with chicken salad
- Celery and tuna
- Bacon-wrapped avocado
Keto-Friendly Beverage Choices
- Unsweetened coffee with heavy cream
- Unsweetened teas
- Sparkling water
- Diet sodas (controversial; effect on insulin may kick you out of ketosis)
- Keto smoothies
Comprehensive Keto Shopping List
Deciding what to eat on a keto diet or trying to plan your ketogenic meals can be tricky with so much misinformation out there. While it would be impossible to include all the food options that fit within the keto diet restrictions, below are several low-carb examples that can be enjoyed on their own or included in popular keto diet recipes. In addition, many branded ketogenic diets also have products that are made specifically for those following the low-carb lifestyle.
Aim to eat fruit with a lower glycemic index, such as
- Brussel sprouts
- Heavy cream
- Plain greek yogurt
Meat And Poultry
- Canned tuna
- Goat cheese
- Cream cheese
Planning your meals ahead of time, whether you’re following a ketogenic meal plan or not, can be very helpful when choosing foods that fit within your nutritional needs. Plus, it helps keep your budget and food waste in check.
The Bottom Line
The keto diet has gained recent popularity as a weight-loss method, promising fat loss by sending your body into ketosis. All kinds of keto meal plans, keto-friendly snacks, and other products saturate the diet market. However, if you’re planning to start a keto diet, this abundance of information can feel overwhelming.
The idea behind the high-fat, very low-carb diet is to send the body into ketosis, so your body will burn fat as its primary energy source. Therefore, when designing your keto diet plan, it’s essential to include healthy fats such as canola oil, olive oil, fatty fish, and full-fat dairy products. The keto diet also expects you to limit high-carb foods such as bread, baked goods, pasta, sugary foods, sweetened beverages, high-carbohydrate fruits, and starchy vegetables.
If you are considering a low-carb keto diet to lose weight, it’s essential to consider its effects on all aspects of your long-term health. The ketogenic diet was not designed as a method to manage your weight. As such, research is lacking on its long-term impact when used for losing weight.
“Eating keto” may not necessarily result in the healthy weight loss you’re hoping for, and it also poses potential risks. For these reasons, it’s important to discuss any severe dietary restrictions with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist before making changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
When following the ketogenic diet, you will significantly decrease your carb intake and replace that cut energy with high-fat foods. As a result, your carb intake will only account for approximately 5-10% of your day’s total calories, while your fat intake accounts for about 60-80% of your day’s calories.
Yes, peanut butter can be keto-friendly. Peanut butter is moderately low in carbohydrate content. For every two tablespoons of peanut butter, you’re getting approximately seven grams of total carbs or five grams of net carbs. Nonetheless, it is still important to monitor your portion sizes and intake when trying to lose weight.
Unfortunately, rice is not considered a keto-friendly food choice. Just a ½ cup serving of brown rice will account for a significant portion, if not all, of your day’s allotted carbohydrate intake while on the ketogenic diet.
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