If you have made it here then you have likely heard of the ketogenic diet and considering giving it a go. The hardest part is making the commitment to start and figuring out what to do. Here are our top 7 tips for starting a keto diet.
We wish we had found a starting a keto diet list like this when we started 2 years ago. We immersed ourselves in information when we started and we found it would have been a lot easier if we stuck to these 7 simple tips for starting a keto diet.
7 tips for starting a keto diet
1. Clear out your pantry (& Fridge)
This would be the first thing we suggest you do. We did this and I found it actually really helped with motivation and made the whole thing feel more real. It also was really important for us to remove all that temptation. It was much easier to avoid the sugar and carby foods if they simply weren’t in the house.
When you are cleaning out your pantry, the best thing to look for is added sugar, soy, corn, wheat and things like rice flour. If you can’t determine from the ingredients if it will fit your new keto lifestyle, check the total carbs. Anything that is more than 5g per serve is probably going to be too high and should go on the clear out pile.
Another great tip when you are cleaning out your pantry is anything that is unopened may be able to be donated to a local food bank. When we did this, we went from a full pantry to about one shelf of stuff. Over time, this will change as you begin to restock with all the awesome keto friendly options. Check out our keto shopping tips for some ideas.
I admit this is much easier if everyone in the house is jumping on board the keto train. If it is only you or the adults of the house transitioning to a keto life we would recommend finding a spot in the kitchen to store the non keto foods and make that off limits for you.
The other thing that can make this difficult is if you are the main cook and grocery shopper in your house. Knowing that there are carb-filled foods around can play on your mind. Believe me. My advice if you are cooking for the family is to make the dinner keto friendly and the rest of the family will be unlikely to even notice. The other option is you can always cook a grain for the side that they have and you don’t. For example, they have pasta with meatballs and you have it with some spinach instead.
2. Watch out for hidden carbs – reading nutrition labels
This will be something you become really good at as you progress on your keto journey. I can promise you that you will now be the person that flips over a product in the supermarket, scans the ingredients and nutritional panel and either quickly put it back or excitedly put in your shopping cart.
At first the label can feel a little overwhelming. The first thing you want to check is the ingredients. Is there any added sugars? Sugar can be called many different things on labels. Check out the infographic below from That Sugar Film to understand the different names that can be used.
Once you have checked the ingredient list, the next step is the nutritional label. On the nutritional panel there is a section for carbohydrates or carbs. The things to consider here are how many carbs in a serving and how much are you likely to eat. if you can work the carbs into your daily limit then it’s a winner. For a comprehensive guide to reading nutritional labels check out how to read nutritional labels.
The more you do this the better you will get at knowing which products to check and which ones would be a waste of time. You will find yourself heading towards the fresh produce sections of the grocery store more than the aisles you used to head to. When you look in your grocery cart, you will realise there aren’t as many packaged items in there. Check out this keto food list to get a better understanding of the best keto foods you will find at the grocery store.
3. Electrolytes and the keto flu
When you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake you stop retaining as much fluid in your body. This can be why you can see a dramatic weight loss in the first few weeks on a keto diet. As you are not retaining as much fluid in your body, this affects the electrolyte balance.
Some of the symptoms you may experience due to an electrolyte imbalance could be headache, brain fog, nausea, heart palpitations, fatigue and muscle cramps. It can help to supplement with sodium, potassium and magnesium when you are transitioning to a keto diet to help with these symptoms, and also make sure you are drinking enough water.
We make a conscious effort to salt our food well and take some Himalayan pink salt under our tongue if we are feeling a bit meh. We also supplement daily with magnesium. It is best that you speak with your doctor about what supplements will be best for you, especially if you are on any sort of medication or have any medical conditions.
Check out this in depth guide about keto flu for more information.
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4. Don’t be scared of the fat!
We have all spent our whole lives being told that fat is bad and that saturated fat causes high cholesterol. Most of us have spent years buying all the low fat products as we thought they were the best for our health.
Guess what? News flash!! When you transition to a ketogenic diet, you can eat fat. Better yet, you want you to increase your fat intake significantly. The best thing about fat is it adds so much flavour to your food. Start cooking your vegetables in fat. If you prefer steamed vegetables, add some butter to them when you serve them.
One of our favourite tips is to save the bacon grease from cooking your bacon and add that to vegetables for flavour.
There are lots of different ways to increase the fat in your diet. These are some of our favourites
- Cooking with fat. Use coconut oil, olive oils and animal fats like butter, bacon grease and lard.
- Add fat as a side. Think avocado, cheese, eggs or some ranch dip
- Bulletproof drinks. These are very popular in the ketosphere and are great way to have your coffee in the morning. Some of our favourite bulletproof drinks are a bulletproof coffee, bulletproof bone broth and bulletproof chai. You can also add coconut oil or MCT oil to this keto hot chocolate.
- Snacks. Things like nuts, cheese, avocado and cured meats.
- Choose the fattier cuts of meat. If you prefer the leaner cuts like eye fillet add some flavoured butter on top when serving.
5. Cooking at home
One of the best things you can do when starting a keto diet is to spend some time on the weekend preparing some delicious keto meals for the week ahead. If you can avoid eating out while you are getting used to the ketogenic diet it will make life easier for yourself. Cooking at home gives you much more control over the type and quality of the food you are eating.
The first step is to write out a meal plan for the week. If you can write down your plan, it is easier to commit to and makes it easier to plan out your week. If there are some meals that can be prepared ahead, it’s a great idea to cook up a batch on the weekend, ready for the week ahead. That way if you have a super busy or stressful day, you have dinner there ready and will not be tempted by takeaway.
Breakfast meal prep
Some great breakfast options that you can prep ahead of time:
Lunch and Dinner Meal prep
Some excellent lunch and dinner options you can prep ahead of time:
All of these options are great to cook up a big batch of on the weekend and store into portions in the freezer, ready for a quick dinner, or to even to have stored up for a week when you don’t have meal prep time on the weekend. We often have some chilli and beef stroganoff in the freezer for an easy meal option.
6. Keep it Simple
This is a common mistake from people new to the ketogenic diet. It’s really easy to become excited about keto and want to do all the things in the first week. Don’t focus on tracking, testing blood sugar or fasting when you begin. Just get through the first week or two by removing carbs and eating real food.
As mentioned above, if you are coming from a standard American or Australian diet, you will likely have some carb or sugar withdrawals. You may also feel hungry more than before as your body adapts to the change in diet. If you try and do too much in these first few weeks, you could set yourself up for feeling like you haven’t succeeded and that the diet doesn’t work.
We asked in a couple of different keto facebook groups, what tips would you offer someone starting out on keto. The overwhelming response was to keep it simple. Don’t overthink it. A great way to keep it simple is to check out this keto food list and just eat these foods.
Another key step to keeping it simple at the start is to eat when you are hungry. I would take some nuts and cheese to work in case I felt hungry and then when the sugar cravings came on, I would have a handful of nuts or a slice or two of cheese. This really helped my brain and body understand that it WAS NOT going to get it’s sugar hit anymore and I started to crave the sugar less.
7. Take measurements & photos – don’t rely on just the scales
Before photos and progress photos will help you see the changes in your body that the scales may not always reflect. It can be a real moral booster to see the fat melting away from photo to photo. I would recommend taking a front view and a side view in your underwear once a month. After 12 months on keto, you will have 12 comparison pictures to look back and see how far you have come. We didn’t do this and really wish we had.
It’s also a really good idea to record measurements of your body once a month. You will see the cm/inches fall off over time, even if the scale is not changing. Take measurements of your upper arm, chest/bust, waist, hips, thigh and calf. Erika says you can even measure your neck. Again, this is another thing we regret not doing at the start of our journey.
You may also want to get some blood tests done. Now, this is totally up to you. If you are a person that likes numbers or have health concerns like diabetes, you will want to see how your numbers change as you become fat adapted and your body changes.
So, there you have it, our 7 tips for starting a keto diet. We would really love to grow this list and expand it further. Please let us know your top tip for starting a keto diet in the comments below.
If you are looking for more information check out our keto beginner guide series.