The ketogenic diet sounds too good to be true. Eat a ton, fight disease, feel amazing and reach the perfect weight? Do it all without feeling hungry? Crazy right? Yet the principle of keto is shockingly simple.
This guide offers a quick and easy ketogenic diet plan. We explain how the diet works, the platefuls of health benefits, plus results and printable meal plans. We’ve also got grocery lists, snacks, FAQs, dangers and other resources to set you up for maximum success.
Best selling author and nutritionist Dr. Fred Pescatore calls the ketogenic diet a way to enjoy life to the full while eating really, really well. Is there any wonder it’s the most popular diet in America?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
Allen Campbell, personal chef of NFL legend Tom Brady, says, “sugar is the death of people.” That’s the idea behind the ketogenic diet.
Piles of research shows most Americans eat too many carbs and too much sugar. In fact scientists now think high sugar levels play a major role in most disease.
Too much sugar causes inflammation. Inflammation drives sinus allergies and cancer, dementia and clogged arteries, arthritis, MS and a hundred more.
But how much sugar is too much? If you’re a typical American, you’re almost certainly overdoing it. Even if you don’t eat refined sugar, sugar-boosting carbs like bread and pasta do the damage just as well. The ketogenic diet slams the brakes on sugar with mounds of tasty, carb-curbing foods.
Ketogenic Diet Health Benefits
We could use the list of ketogenic diet health benefits to wallpaper a G.I. doc’s waiting room. Here’s a sampling:
- Heart disease. The ketogenic diet hammers heart disease. That’s according to tons of short-term research and a big long-term study. Dieters dropped body mass and “bad” cholesterol while boosting “good” cholesterol.
- Cancer. Cancer needs a lot of sugar. Sugar ramps up cell mutation. That means more dice-rolls on the cancer craps table. Sugar also feeds the cancer once it crashes the body’s party. A ketogenic diet means less cancer risk and less food for cancer once it starts.
- Weight loss. Ketogenic diets aren’t just for losing weight. That said, research proves the diet works for short and long-term weight loss. Best, it doesn’t turn us into listless, starving zoo animals. On the contrary, unlike piles of other diets, keto gives a full-belly satisfaction while it zaps the pounds.
- Alzheimer’s. Researchers think sugar triggers Alzheimer’s disease by bathing brain cells in a toxic sugar bath. The ketogenic diet cuts the sugar, cuts brain inflammation and hits Alzheimer’s in its cause and symptoms simultaneously. Patients who switch to the diet show remarkable improvements in cognitive ability.
- Sinus Allergies. Another favorite way sugar tortures us is through our blocked-up sinuses. Sugar makes the immune system act like a four-year-old after a cake-and-soda bender. Keto ends the party, often making sinus troubles vanish.
To learn more about stopping sinus allergies with diet, see our post on that here.
Still More Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
- Asthma. The jury is still out on the ketogenic diet as an asthma treatment. Some studies suggest diet may play a role in curbing asthma.
- Epilepsy. Dr. Russell Wilder championed the ketogenic diet in the 1920’s as a cure for epilepsy. Since then hundreds of studies show a drastic drop in seizures with the diet.
- Diabetes. Heaps of research proves keto blocks diabetes. Patients should use extreme caution though because the diet can conflict with medications.
- Curb the appetite. Ketogenic diets satisfy our need to feed by filling us with everything the body needs. Conversely, our typical high-carb diets make us hungrier no matter how much we stuff our faces!
- More happiness. Can a diet make us happier? Keto does, according to research. How does that work? It may come down to less ups and downs on the sugar roller coaster.
- A sharper mind. There’s evidence the ketogenic diet gives the brain a cleaner-burning fuel and clears up cognitive ability in several ways.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet works because the typical American diet doesn’t. Our diets are mostly carbs and sugar, with side dishes of meat and veggies. Think bread and pasta, breakfast cereal and corn, pizza, potatoes, even beans or quinoa.
All those foods deliver a ton of energy, but humans didn’t eat them until very recently. The keto theory says those foods are over-sugaring our bloodstreams, leading to almost every disease we know.
The ketogenic diet dials back the nutrition clock to simpler times. It says, “cut out the grains and easy sugars and focus on veggies, meats and healthy fats.” That simple choice cuts off the toxic sugar firehose in our bloodstreams and suddenly our problems start to melt.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the basis of the ketogenic diet. It’s the idea that instead of burning glucose for energy from digested carbs and sugars, we switch to burning something else called ketones. Ketones come from the breakdown of fats.
When ketone levels get too high, the blood can become too acidic. The idea with the keto diet is to reach ketosis so we’re only burning fats, not glucose made from dietary carbs. Ketones are thought to be a purer brain fuel than glucose.
The target for keto dieters is to hit an optimal blood/ketone level without going into the danger zone. The best level is about “2 millimolar.” As we start the diet, we can measure ketones with breath analyzers, urine strips or blood ketone meters.
But Does the Ketogenic Diet Really Work?
The ketogenic diet really does appear to work. Boatloads of case studies and scientific tests support the diet’s power. Dieters report less hunger, fewer symptoms, more stable moods and clearer thinking.
That said, the roster of keto’s critics grows bigger by the year. Some claim the diet isn’t healthy or say it’s too hard to stick to. Others say it can’t work long term or that it doesn’t work for highly active people, who need those carbs to work their muscles.
For a peek at how ketogenics works in the real world, skip down to our “reviews” section below.
How to Start the Ketogenic Diet
Kicking off the ketogenic diet for beginners isn’t rocket science. It’s as simple as cutting out a few beloved foods dialing down the ratios of what’s left.
- Don’t eat sugar, grains, big fruits or tubers.
- Do eat meats, “above ground veggies” and lots of healthy fats like nuts, avocados and coconut oil.
- Set the ratios at 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs. As we’ll see, that’s deceptive since veggies can provide a lot of bulk with very little carbs.
Ketogenic Diet Plan
Does that 70% fat idea sound crazy? It is. The ketogenic diet doesn’t say 70% of everything you eat has to be fat. It’s not asking you to sit there on the couch and fork down a bucket of Crisco. That’s because that 5% carbs will come from veggies that have very little carbs.
It’s kind of like saying, “Only eat one raisin a day, but the raisin can come inside a giant cake.”
Also, veggies have a “net carbs” value in the diet. For example, broccoli has 6 grams of carbs per cup, but 2 grams of fiber. We subtract the fiber to get a net carb value for broccoli of 4 grams per cup. That means someone eating 60 grams of carbs a day on the diet could eat 15 cups of broccoli!
That’s a lot of broccoli and it shows why the “5% carbs” idea is incredibly deceptive.
While we’re on the topic of fats, have you ever wondered if coffee is fattening? We’ve got your answer for that here.
- Sugar. That means table sugar, foods with processed sugar, corn syrup or any sweet thing that didn’t come direct that way from ma nature.
- Grains. That means bread, cereal, rice, wheat corn or any other grain.
- Tubers. This includes potatoes, yams and anything like that.
- Fruit. No oranges, no kiwis, apples, bananas and the like.
Ketogenic Diet Food List
Need a food list or a printable ketogenic diet grocery list? Look no further. Use the bulleted list below or click the image to enlarge, download and print.
- Fish. Stick with wild-caught, small fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, trout and catfish. Other allowed fish are flounder, cod, halibut, mahi-mahi and tuna.
- Eggs. Organic are best.
- Shellfish. Scallops, muscles, oysters, clams and so on.
- Red meat. Beef, lamb, goat and other. Grass fed meats rack up a better fatty acid count.
- Poultry. Chicken, duck, pheasant and quail.
- Pork. Just keep an eye out for added sugars.
- Bacon/sausage. Avoid the ones with nitrates and/or added sugar.
- Peanut butter. Use natural peanut butter with no added sugar, but go easy on this one because of the high omega-6 count.
Note that keto dieters are by no means limited to just the list of foods above. Also on the list are berries and most spices, though we need to count the carbs in those as well. There’s a great carb-counting food list here.
Looking for a printable list of ketogenic snacks? Check the list below or click the image to enlarge and print.
- Beef jerky. Get the stuff with no nitrates!
- Boiled egg.
- Pickled herring. This sounds gross but it’s absolutely delicious.
- String cheese.
- Deviled eggs.
- Veggies in guacamole.
- Veggies in hummus.
- Whey protein shake.
- Peanut butter on veggie sticks.
Those are the out-of-the-fridge and cupboard keto snacks. There are also dozens of great keto snack recipe lists online.
A Simple Ketogenic Diet Menu
Anyone can find tons of great ketogenic diet menus online. Here’s a quick-and-easy three day ketogenic diet meal plan to get you started:
- Breakfast: Egg and avocado scramble with tomato, sausage, bacon.
- Snack: Peanuts, string cheese.
- Lunch: Wilted spinach salad with beef tips, walnuts. Whole fat yogurt with blueberries.
- Snack: Boiled egg, salt & pepper.
- Dinner: Veggie/chicken stir fry with summer squash, zucchini, peppers, onions, peanuts, chicken chunks cooked in coconut butter with ginger and garlic. Side dish of blanched broccoli drizzled with olive oil and salt.
- Dessert: Peanut butter and carrot sticks.
- Breakfast: Pickled herring omelet with bell peppers and tomato.
- Snack: Mixed seeds, nuts and cheese.
- Lunch: Sardine salad with romaine, spinach, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Snack: Avocado half with salt and pepper.
- Dinner: Roast chicken meat with skin on, steamed broccoli with olive oil, green beans.
- Dessert: Kale smoothie with spinach, milk and blackberries.
- Breakfast: Avocado and tomato omelet with bacon.
- Snack: Almonds, hunk of cheddar.
- Lunch: Canned herring with cheese, berries and walnuts topped with full-fat yogurt.
- Snack: Sunflower seeds and walnuts with cheese cubes.
- Dinner: Chicken soup with celery and carrots, broccoli.
- Dessert: Beet green and kale smoothie with blueberries.
The point isn’t that this meal plan is the ultimate. It’s that it’s easy to craft your own plans once you understand the principle of lots of healthy fats, a ton of low-starch veggies and a good amount of healthy protein.
Ketogenic Diet Recipes
There are several good ketogenic diet menu plan cookbooks. Some even come free with Kindle Unlimited:
- Ketogenic Diet by Blake Anderson
- The Ketogenic Diet by Laura Edwards
- Ketogenic Diet by Steve Ballinger
- The Ketogenic Diet by Stella Parker
- Ketogenic Diet Recipes by Renil George
There are also a ton of great keto recipes online:
Is the Ketogenic Diet Just for Weight Loss?
The ketogenic diet can definitely work as a weight loss tool. Studies and real world stories show time and again that keto drops the pounds. It’s a medically approved path to fight obesity, though diabetes patients should work with their doctor to avoid conflicts with their medications.
Though keto can help with weight loss, it can also fit into a normal, healthy lifestyle. Anyone who wants to maintain a peak weight level can use keto without losing weight. Also, those who suffer from inflammatory, neurological, cardiovascular or other diseases can find relief through the diet.
Ketogenic Diet Reviews and Results
We checked out 20 real world dieters who tried the keto diet for 30 days. The results? An average weight loss of ten pounds, with some participants dropping 15 to 30 pounds.
We also checked out the top ten reviews of this diet on the web. 70% of the reviewers absolutely loved the diet, while 30% raised concerns about the dangers of the diet if it’s not done properly. One source said the diet needs a lot more research before people could use it with any kind of confidence.
People who loved the diet found it helped them lose weight, boost strength, drop sinus allergies, knock out hunger, elevate mood and cognitive power and increase endurance. Meanwhile, those who hated the diet found it made their periods worse and gave them intestinal issues.
The ketogenic diet isn’t without its list of side effects and dangers. The evidence shows the diet leads to safe and effective weight loss or disease management for many, but watch out for the pitfalls below:
- Diabetes patients should consult their doctors before starting up a ketogenic diet. The diet can conflict with diabetes meds and cause serious health problems including permanent organ damage.
- High blood pressure patients should seek medical advice before kicking off the diet. Keto lowers blood pressure, so using it with blood pressure meds can drop pressure levels dangerously low.
- Breastfeeding or pregnant moms should steer clear of the diet. Eating for two means getting lots of calories and vitamins.
- A high fat diet like keto may hide hidden health risks. Dr. Atkins, famous inventor of the high-fat, low-carb Atkins diet, died of blunt force trauma. His death certificate put him at well over 200 pounds with a history of congestive heart failure. This release has since been retracted, but it should give high-fat dieters pause.
- The ketogenic diet avoids all grains. Grains are an excellent source of B-vitamins, necessary for our health.
- Going to far into ketosis can damage our internal organs. We need to find the sweet spot, as the section below explains.
Ketogenic Diet Tools
Reaching ketosis is the key component of the ketogenic diet. We want to replace glycogen with ketones as our cells’ food of choice. That’s where keto’s weight loss and disease-battling power comes into play.
So how do we know when we’ve reached ketosis? More important, how do we keep from going overboard into “ketoacidosis” and organ damage territory?
The best blood/keto level during the diet is 2 millimolars. To ensure we stay in that level, we need a way to measure it. The tools below provide great ways to hit the keto sweet spot:
- Blood/Ketone Meter: This is the surest way to measure your ketones. They’re also very expensive (try $120 a month once you buy the strips).
- Keto Urine Strips. This is the way most dieters check their ketones. They’re not nearly as accurate but they’re a lot cheaper at about $3 per month.
- Breath Ketone Analyzer. There’s now a reusable $190 ketone breath analyzer called Ketonix. Top reviewers say it’s accurate enough to use every day.
Want another way to maximize your ketogenic diet? Take a look at our post on the ways ginger tea can maximize your cleansing powers.
Keto Supplements for Better Health
There are some great supplements out there for the ketogenic diet:
- Fish Oil: A fish oil supplement can lower triglyceride levels, amplifying the benefits of the ketogenic diet.
- Spirulina: Spirulina can lower “bad” cholesterol or LDL. That’s an important step when hammering a high-fat diet.
- Sodium: Lower blood sugar and higher ketones means less insulin. That’s great for our health, but insulin also tells our kidneys how much salt we need to keep in the blood stream. The good news is, we get to eat a bit more salt with keto. The same goes for potassium, which may require a supplement.
- Vitamin D: While a ketogenic diet itself won’t slash vitamin D levels, many Americans are vitamin D deficient. Keeping those levels up through sun exposure, eating liver or taking a cod liver oil supplement are a great way to maximize keto’s effects without the side effects.
- Magnesium: The ketogenic diet can deplete our essential magnesium levels. A magnesium supplement with keto is a great idea.
Finally, check out this handy ketogenic calculator for figuring your personal carb and protein levels.
Ready to start the diet? We hope this fast ketogenic diet plan kick-starts you to a life of health, happiness and optimum fitness! Good luck and let us know your story in the comments section below!