If you’re looking to get a jump start on your health and fitness goals this year, you may be thinking about trying the ketogenic diet. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase before — it’s a huge diet buzzword — but aren’t sure what it means. Here’s a primer: The ketogenic diet is an eating plan that drives your body into ketosis, a state where the body uses fat as a primary fuel source (instead of carbohydrates), says Stacey Mattinson, RDN, who is based in Austin, Texas.

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When you’re eating the foods that get you there (more on that in a minute), your body can enter a state of ketosis in one to three days, she adds. During the diet, the majority of calories you consume come from fat, with a little protein and very little carbohydrates. Ketosis also happens if you eat a very low-calorie diet — think doctor-supervised, only when medically recommended diets of 600 to 800 total calories.

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I know it may be challenging to follow a healthy low-carb diet, especially if you are new to it. I hope this comprehensive list of keto-friendly foods will help you make the right choices, whether your goal is to lose weight or manage a health condition such as type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and even cancer.

If you want to slam a protein shake post-workout, that's probably fine as long as you've got room for it in your macros. But shoot for one that is very low—like, zero—in carbohydrates. Pure isolates, such as Signature 100% Whey Isolate, are extremely low in carbohydrate. If you struggle to fit fat in during the day, toss a tablespoon of olive oil in with your shake. You won't taste it, and it gives a quick 13-14 grams of fat.

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You’ll quickly find that salads are your friend when in ketosis, and for a good reason: they provide lots of food to fill you up, but they’re not going to bog you down. A bed of spinach with some red onion, bacon, a little tomato, and a hot sauce vinaigrette is quick and delicious. Add in some protein – perhaps that leftover salmon from day 1 – and you’ve got a complete, healthy lunch.

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If you choose to make your sauces and gravies, you should consider investing in guar or xanthan gum. It’s a thickener that’s well known in modern cooking techniques and lends a hand to low carb by thickening otherwise watery sauces. Luckily there are many sauces to choose from that are high fat and low carb. If you’re in need of a sauce then consider making a beurre blanc, hollandaise or simply brown butter to top meats with.
The “Slaw Hash” Which is a actually eggroll filling without the wrapper is delicious even without being keto. My husband requests it every other week and he isn’t even really fond of cabbage. I use shredded cabbage, a few finely sliced white mushrooms, sliced white onion, ground pork or turkey, soy sauce, white pepper, a cap-full of bombay sapphire gin (tastes sort of like sake, without having to add a TON of sake), and one shredded carrot.

On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
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Mainly for health reasons, avoid soy products apart from a few non-GMO fermented products which are known for their health benefits. Also avoid wheat gluten which may be used in low-carb foods. When you give up bread, you shouldn't eat any part of it. Beware of BPA-lined cans. If possible, use naturally BPA-free packaging like glass jars or make your own ingredients such as ghee, ketchup, coconut milk or mayonnaise. BPA has been linked to many negative health effects such as impaired thyroid function and cancer. Other additives to avoid: carrageenan (e.g. almond milk products), MSG (e.g. in some whey protein products) and sulfites (e.g. in dried fruits, gelatin).

“One of the best meal planning tips I’ve ever received is to structure breakfast and lunch so that you don’t have to think too much about it,” says Emily Bartlett, co-founder of Real Plans. “If you’re OK with repetition, it’s ideal to have a simple selection of recipes for breakfast—including some that can be taken on the go. For lunch, go ahead and use your leftovers with a fresh green salad, and be sure to include a dressing that you really love.” Before you make your keto diet menu, check out the 13 things doctors want you to know about the keto diet.

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On the ketogenic diet, you will find a lot of recipes that call for almond flour and flax meal, which are healthy low-carb flour alternatives. Make sure, however, that you are aware of how much of these low-carb flours you are using. An over-reliance on these nut and seed flours can unknowingly cause you to consume too many calories, carbs, and inflammatory fats.
When it comes to meat, there’s not much to avoid. You should always make sure to purchase meat with fat and void lean cuts, as this will not help you lose weight. Remember, fat is your friend. Fat is needed, so your body has fat to burn and not sugar. When you are on a low carb diet, you are not fueling your body with sugar, so make sure you eat plenty of fat. If you don’t have fat to burn, your body will start burning glucose (even if you have fat stores). Your body needs to know that it never has to worry about not having enough fat.

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While macros will differ a little from person to person, the general rule of thumb for keto is to keep carbohydrates under 5% of your daily caloric intake. As long as you avoid the foods mentioned above, you should be fine. Google “TDEE calculator” if you need some additional guidance on how many calories to eat. I’ve had success following this way of eating as it allows me to eat foods that taste great. There are tons of resources online as well if you need additional guidance. A quick google search should turn up a ton of resources. Hope this helps!

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The meal plan is designed to ensure you get three balanced, healthy meals a day that address fiber, satiation, and adequate protein intake. The greatest part of a ketogenic diet is the fact that it spares muscle loss, where a carb-based diet doesn’t. Weight lost in a high carb, calorie-restricted diet will often come both from muscle and fat, whereas with keto, you can burn fat without sacrificing muscle. This is referred to often as “body recomposition” and leaves you with a much more preferred physique after weight loss.
There are three instances where there’s research to back up a ketogenic diet, including to help control type 2 diabetes, as part of epilepsy treatment, or for weight loss, says Mattinson. “In terms of diabetes, there is some promising research showing that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control. It may cause a reduction in A1C — a key test for diabetes that measures a person’s average blood sugar control over two to three months — something that may help you reduce medication use,” she says.

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Essential fatty acids (the omegas) provide core functions to the human body, but they are often times out of balance when on a standard diet. On keto, with a little bit of preparation, your omega fatty acids are easily manageable. If you want to know more about essential fatty acids, omegas, and how they interact with our body on a ketogenic diet, you can read more here >
There are three instances where there’s research to back up a ketogenic diet, including to help control type 2 diabetes, as part of epilepsy treatment, or for weight loss, says Mattinson. “In terms of diabetes, there is some promising research showing that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control. It may cause a reduction in A1C — a key test for diabetes that measures a person’s average blood sugar control over two to three months — something that may help you reduce medication use,” she says.

"Plenty of people jump right in, thinking all they have to do is cut carbs and increase fat. All of a sudden, they hit a wall and get 'keto flu.' They feel tired, lethargic, and experience headaches," Wittrock says. "The primary reason they get these symptoms is lack of the three primary electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and magnesium. If you're deficient in any of these, you'll suffer mentally and physically. This is the single biggest reason people fail on the keto diet."

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Many people choose ketoproof coffee or tea in the morning to ramp up energy with added fats. While it is a great thing, it’s also important to consume flavored beverages in moderation. This is amplified when it comes to caffeine as too much will lead to weight loss stalls; try to limit yourself to a maximum of 2 cups of caffeinated beverages a day.

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Don’t stick to chicken and steak just because you’re comfortable cooking them. Make dinner time the place where you can try new meats and recipes that increase your keto recipe resources. “At lunch and dinner, you can be creative and experiment,” Weaver says. “Just focus on cooking meat—pork, chicken, lamb, beef, or seafood. Meat is rich in iron and fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Use only organic oils, such as avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil.” Read up on these things you have to know before starting the keto diet.

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I wanted to put it out there that I made this meal plan specifically with women in mind. I took an average of about 150 women and what their macros were. The end result was 1600 calories – broken down into 136g of fat, 74g of protein, and 20g net carbs a day. This is all built around a sedentary lifestyle, like most of us live. If you need to increase or decrease calories, you will need to do that on your own terms. 

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Don’t stick to chicken and steak just because you’re comfortable cooking them. Make dinner time the place where you can try new meats and recipes that increase your keto recipe resources. “At lunch and dinner, you can be creative and experiment,” Weaver says. “Just focus on cooking meat—pork, chicken, lamb, beef, or seafood. Meat is rich in iron and fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Use only organic oils, such as avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil.” Read up on these things you have to know before starting the keto diet. 

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