For those not in the know, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb and moderate-protein diet that has rocketed to popularity in recent years. It has been credited to thousands of weight loss stories and has been associated with the alleviation of inflammation and certain diseases. With all of that in mind, it’s no surprise that keto has become so popular.
You’ve likely heard about it through social media, friends or family members – probably quite a few times by now, too. If these conversations have gotten you interested in the subject, you’ve come to the right place.
Getting started on the ketogenic diet can seem intimidating, as the diet itself has quite a few restrictions. A fair amount of planning and dedication has to go into this new way of eating if you expect to have success. Here are some valuable tips to help you get off on the right foot on your journey toward ketosis.
Understand What You Can and Cannot Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
As we said above, the ketogenic diet is fairly restrictive. This means that there are a lot of foods on the “do not eat” list that you may be disappointed to see go from your diet. You can expect to say farewell to these food items:
- Rice, bread, pasta, corn and cereal
- Most fruits, with the exception of some berries (which should be enjoyed sparingly)
- Sugar and all artificial sweeteners
- Root vegetables, like potatoes and tubers
- Beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils
- Many forms of alcohol, including beer and most wines
- Sweetened condiments, such as ketchup and barbecue sauce
If that sounds like a lot to nix from your diet, it is. But don’t distress! The ketogenic diet still allows you to eat a number of delicious foods that you can prepare in any number of ways. In exchange for what you’re giving up in your diet, expect to incorporate more of these items:
- Meats, including fish and poultry (grass-fed is best whenever possible)
- Spinach, kale, mushrooms and other low-carb vegetables
- Dairy made with high amounts of fat, like butter and hard cheeses
- Nuts and seeds
- Berries, in small and infrequent amounts
- Stevia, as a sweetener
- Coconut oil and other high-fat cooking oils
- Hard liquor
- Tea and coffee that’s unsweetened
In addition to incorporating more of these keto-friendly foods into your diet, you should put an emphasis on eating whole foods as much as possible. Get into the kitchen, prepare your own meals, and avoid the prepackaged and frozen stuff in your supermarket’s freezer. Even if a prepackaged meal says that it is low-carb or ketogenic diet-friendly, it could still be packed with preservatives, sweeteners, and carbohydrates that will throw you off your game.
Now that you understand what you can and cannot eat on keto, it’s time to discuss our next point: Enjoying that food.
Create a Keto-Friendly Meal Plan
Meal planning and meal prepping are two things that the most successful keto dieters do. By planning ahead, you can take the stress out of the rest of the week – at least, where your mealtimes are concerned. By mapping out what you would like to eat throughout the week, you save time and money at the grocery store.
Tips for Shopping for Your Ketogenic Diet Plan
- Avoid prepackaged and frozen meals. These are often packed with unwanted additives that are not keto-friendly.
- Read the labels on everything that you intend to eat.
- Choose keto-friendly alternatives to your favorite carb-enriched foods. There are some brands that produce rice, breads, pastas, flours, sweeteners and more without all of the stuff that the ketogenic diet forbids.
- Understand that you’re going to be doing a fair amount of cooking. This could be a challenge for some new dieters, especially those who are accustomed to dining out or eating prepackaged meals on a regular basis.
Get Acquainted with the “Keto Flu”
No, we’re not talking about an actual virus. The “keto flu,” otherwise known as the “carb flu,” is a common side-effect of beginning the ketogenic diet. For dieters who don’t know this, the symptoms that they experience can be alarming. They might think that their diet is making them sick, when it really isn’t, and abandon their keto aspirations altogether. If you start to feel a bit less-than-great in the first weeks of being on the ketogenic diet, don’t fret. The symptoms you may experience are normal and usually very temporary.
Symptoms of the Keto Flu
Each person will experience this differently. Some might not even experience keto flu symptoms at all. If you do experience any of the symptoms below, don’t become worried unless they persist for longer than a couple of weeks or become severe enough to be life-disrupting.
Symptoms of keto flu include:
- Sore muscles and cramps
- Mood swings and irritability
- Bad breath
- Constipation and stomach aches
- Insomnia or difficulty finding restful sleep
What to do About the Keto Flu
Just because the keto flu is a normal part of the ketogenic diet experience, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it! Much like with the regular flu, the symptoms will have to go away on their own. However, you can manage them and attempt to expedite your recovery by ensuring that you have adequate hydration, increasing healthy fat and protein intake, and the addition of a very slight amount of “clean carbs” (like fruit) to help your body adjust to the transition of your old diet and your new one.
The ketogenic diet will change the way that you look at food and nutrition. Of course, there is a bit of a learning curve to becoming keto-adapted, but all hope is not lost. As long as you remain dedicated to the diet and avoid foods outside of what is keto-friendly, you’ll succeed on the ketogenic diet.