Sometimes you may be tempted to cut out entire parts of the meal (such as dessert), but that isn’t a great long-term approach. Everything you do on keto should be sustainable; whether you choose to stick with it for years is entirely up to you, but the way you eat should be healthy enough to keep you going for that long.
Getting started with a keto checklist
These preparations will help you transition to a keto diet without too much difficulty:
Prepare the kitchen
When you’re making a drastic diet switch like keto calls for, you’ll want to rid your fridge, freezer, and cabinets of anything you can’t eat. This can take some time; you’ll find hidden carbs in foods you never imagined would have them.
Dedicate an afternoon to going through all your food stock and eliminating things you can’t have. If you have roommates or family members who won’t be joining you on your keto journey, think of creative ways to separate foods you can eat from those you can’t.
Reorganize your cabinets into “low-carb” and “regular” categories; this way, when you go to prep food, you’ll only have to look at ingredients you can have, eliminating most of the temptation.
Prevent keto flu
Keto flu isn’t an uncommon symptom of transitioning from a high-carb standard American diet (SAD) to a low-carb diet, but the symptoms can be lessened or even avoided altogether.
If you consume food and beverages high in electrolytes, take multivitamins, and ensure that you’re getting enough rest every night, your transition can be so smooth that it’s barely noticeable.
Think of going from a SAD to keto as scaling a 10-foot wall; if you eat a high-carb diet through Sunday and go completely low-carb on Monday, it’s going to be quite an adjustment.
If you begin adding in more healthy fats and slowly decreasing your carbs in the week leading up to the official diet start date, however, you’ll find that it’s like building a staircase for the wall — each step is that much easier.
Because you’re avoiding sugar, you’ll notice a distinct decrease in the amount of sweetness in your diet. Make a list of keto-friendly desserts that will keep you within your macros but allow you to satisfy that sweet tooth when you have cravings.
Remember what to subtract (carbs) and what to add (fats)
Keto is a full diet transformation, and sometimes it can be easy to focus on only what you need to take away (carbs) or on what you’re adding (fats). You must balance both: If you only subtract carbs, you’re going to be ravenous all the time, and that will eventually lead to uncontrolled snacking, which is almost certain to throw you out of ketosis.
If you focus only on adding fats, you may not get your carb count low enough, and this could interfere with — or even completely stop — your weight loss.
Determine what to measure and what to ignore
Multiple studies have confirmed that when people pay attention to what they eat (by counting calories or watching their macros, for example) and how much they weigh (by stepping on a scale regularly), their weight loss efforts are much more successful.
However, it’s possible to focus on the numbers too much and let them control you—remember to avoid this. Your hydration level can cause your weight to fluctuate by up to 3 or 4 pounds a day, so if you’re stepping on the scale every morning, keep that in mind.
If you’re measuring ketones, don’t forget that urine strips test for excess ketones, so it’s possible to have a very slight indicator, or even none, and still be in ketosis.
Remember that all these numbers are indicators and are useful for tracking progress over the long term, but don’t let any particular statistic discourage you in the short term.
Tell your family and friends
Starting this journey is exciting, and you should want to tell people! Other than just sharing something you’re pumped about, though, there are other advantages to telling family and friends about your diet.
First, it will help keep you accountable — if everyone around you knows what you’re starting, you won’t be as tempted to cheat. Second, it will make the inevitable dinner party or double date less awkward if you wait until then to let them know you have dietary restrictions.
Don’t be ashamed of what you’re doing — own it! This is an excellent step toward better health!
Identifying keto and low-carb foods
Keto-friendly foods are plentiful and delicious, but sometimes it helps to have a quick-reference guide to what you can and can’t eat. Here are some of the major categories you should keep an eye out for:
- Healthy oils and fats: Butter, olive oil, avocados, fish oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut oil, and even lard and bacon fat.
- Seafood and fish: Virtually anything in this category is good to go, just be careful of how it’s prepared (for example, breading is filled with carbs). Wild-caught seafood is the best! Keep your eyes peeled for tuna, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, cod, octopus, halibut, and bass, among others.
- Meats: Any kind of meat is fine, including chicken, lamb, venison, pork, and beef. If you have the option, choose grass-fed meat whenever you can.
- Vegetables: All the non-starchy vegetables are approved for keto. Avoid potatoes, large tomatoes, and corn, while focusing on broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, yellow squash, mushrooms, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, spaghetti squash, zucchini, onions, and garlic.
- Eggs: These are one of your best friends, and don’t think you’re limited to just the whites! The whole egg is fair game here, and the yolk adds phenomenal flavor!
- Dairy (especially full-fat): Milk itself has sugar and should be limited, but most other forms of dairy are keto-approved with no limitation. Various cheeses (especially hard ones), heavy cream, unsweetened yogurt, and butter are very common options on keto. Unsweetened almond milk is an excellent replacement for regular cow’s milk.
- Nuts and seeds: While you should be careful not to overindulge on these, walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and macadamia nuts are tasty treats you shouldn’t hesitate to indulge in!
- Flour replacements: Don’t give up baking just because you’re going low-carb! Explore options like almond meal, flaxseed meal, almond flour, and coconut flour.
- Berries: While most fruit isn’t on the approved list, many kinds of berries are! You still need to limit the amounts, but strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all good to go. On a related note, lemons and limes are also keto-approved, so use those to add some tartness to your new way of eating!
- Sugar alcohols and other sweeteners: Some of the best artificial sweeteners include monk fruit, erythritol, stevia, Truvia, and xylitol. Each of these varies slightly in its properties, so you may need to choose one for your morning coffee and a completely different one for baking.
Counting net carbs
An important thing to keep in mind is that not all carbs are created equal. Two classes of carbohydrates don’t count toward your daily macros, and they can make all the difference in the world.
|Type of Carb
|Why It Isn’t Counted
|Fiber is mostly non-digestible. Even though it’s technically a carbohydrate, your body can’t break it down into sugars and absorb them into your bloodstream.
|Broccoli, avocado, pecans, cauliflower, raspberries
|Although these begin as sugar, their properties change through the fermentation process; they still taste sweet, but the body can’t absorb them completely, and most are passed through the gastrointestinal tract untouched.
|Erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, lactitol