How to start a keto diet can be a daunting question when just getting started. You’ve heard of the amazing health benefits and weight loss benefits of the keto diet but you just dont know where to start. All this talk of fat v.s carbs and counting macros may be confusing at first. Dont worry! Training your body to burn only fat is within your reach.
There are a few changes that you will need to make in your life. First, a little background on why people gain weight. One of the greatest contributions to weight gain is that our bodies have grown accustomed to burning sugar as a primary source of fuel. As a result, it has forgotten how to burn fat. This should come as no surprise because the majority of the foods we’re exposed to are loaded with sugar. I know you must have many questions about the keto diet. You have come to the right place. I’m going to show you the main facts you should know about how to start a keto diet in order to get the most from this journey.
The Keto Diet Philosophy
Why did the ketogenic diet catch the world by storm? Its philosophy is simple – to turn our bodies into amazing fat burning machines! This is known as ketosis, a process in which your body burns fat as its primary source of fuel. Why would our body choose to burn fat instead of glucose? We don’t give it a choice. Ketogenic dieting removes glucose, thus forcing our body to burn fat.
It’s a challenging journey that will reward you with the healthy body, mind, and soul that you deserve. This blog post will show you all about how to start a keto diet and 7 rules that you must follow while on keto.
Rule #1: Find Motivation by Understanding the Benefits
The problem with other diets is that they are designed around a single benefit – losing weight. One form of motivation is enough to spark our intrigue in the beginning, but that enthusiasm can fizzle out. Eventually, we’ll lose our grip and fall off the wagon.
Ketosis teems with benefits because it actually changes the body on a fundamental level. It will become an efficient fat burning machine. If you are a beginner with keto, then reading this article will give you more information on the keto diet.
So what else happens during ketosis? First and foremost, you are going to lose weight when following the ketogenic diet. This is usually the motivation that is used to fuel our desire in the beginning of any diet. What most people don’t expect is to have all of this excess energy. Most diets leave us feeling drained but ketosis refreshes our mind, body, and spirit. In short, you will find yourself with a huge boost of energy throughout the day.
While I find the boost of energy to be quite motivation in itself, some other benefits include:
- Appetite Suppression
- Better Mental Focus
- Lower Risk of Diabetes
- Lower Blood Pressure
Rule #2: Know your Goals
You have to define your “why” if you are going to be able to push yourself into making healthier choices. I’m not going to lie to you, how to start on a keto diet journey can be quite difficult. You will need to have clearly defined goals in order to push yourself over the initial hurdle. You want to make this a long term lifestyle change not a temporary fad. So let’s move onto an important part of how to start a keto diet. That is, how to start setting goals.
What is your main driving force for trying out this new diet? Most people will answer with, “My goal is to lose weight.”
I want you to go deeper than that.
“I want to lose weight so I can fit into my favorite outfit.”
“During the afternoon, I feel sluggish. I want more energy.”
“My family has a history of diabetes. I don’t want to be next.”
Only by knowing your specific goals can you really start to push yourself into making the changes necessary to live a healthier life. Write down everything that you want to accomplish.
Rule #3: Always Check Food Labels
Reading food labels is going to be the skill that makes or breaks your diet. Companies are really good at packaging their products to make them look healthy but they are required to place all ingredients on the label. Keep an eye on the following:
- Ingredient List
- Total Carbs
- Serving Size
Companies sometimes try to hide high carb foods behind a low serving size. For instance, some condiments will only show 3 grams of carbs per serving but then you look at the serving size to see that it’s only one tablespoon.
Rule #4: Eat the Right Foods
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how to start a keto diet, how to start finding the right foods is our next step. As you might expect, you will have to eat the right foods to get your body into ketosis. That should come as no surprise. But this list is far too comprehensive to add into a single post. So I feel the best approach is to show you the right categories and give you some shopping tips.
Here are some keto-friendly tips to follow when shopping:
Stay on the outer area of the supermarket. This is where you will find all of the fresh, unprocessed foods. All of the processed junk is sitting in those aisles so avoid them as much as possible.
Always check food labels to make sure there are not carbs. Some companies are really good at trying to hide their carbs.
Fats are the most essential part of the ketogenic diet. But the type of fat you are eating makes a huge difference.
Good Fats vs Bad Fats
When on the keto diet, its important to start distinguishing between the bad fats and good fats. For example, avoid artificial trans fats and processed polyunsaturated fats that are processed, overheated or altered. These include hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Check the label on items like cookies, crackers and other processed foods because these unhealthy fats are often hidden in there. They are also found in margarine and vegetable oils such as cottonseed oil, canola oil, sunflower oils and others.
The types of keto “healthy fats” that you want to eat on a keto diet include: keto approved saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, unprocessed, natural polyunsaturated fats, and naturally occuring trans fats.
Notice the key to recognizing which fats are good and which fats are bad depends on whether or not they’ve been processed in a factory(bad) or occur naturally(good).
Here are a few food examples of good fats:
- All forms of meat(natural saturated fats). Choose grass-fed, organic meats when possible.
- Butter and Eggs(saturated fats): a form of natural fats
- Avocado(monounsaturated fat)- Avocados are a staple of the keto diet
- Full-fat dairy products(natural trans fats and saturated fats). Some of these foods include yogurt, butter, and cream. Just pay attention to the label so you can account for any carbs. In most cases, regular milk is only keto-friendly for cooking. However unsweetened almond milk is a good alternative.
- Virgin olive oil(monounsaturated fat)
- Nuts and seeds(natural polyunsaturated fats). Again, be careful with carbs here.
- Avocado Oil(monounsaturated fat)
I have only scratched the surface here. Just be sure to check food labels carefully. Make sure to avoid hidden carbs.
Rule #5: Avoid These Foods
Getting your body into ketosis requires you to stay away from all carbs. You’re going to have to limit your carb intake to approximately 20 grams per day when on the keto diet. How to start reading food labels will become an important step to avoid hidden carbs.
With that said, let’s look at some of the foods that you must avoid.
Grains: All foods created from grains are not allowed on the ketogenic diet. This includes whole grains. They contain a high number of carbs and can throw your body out of ketosis.
Beans: Even though beans are not unhealthy per se, they are loaded with carbs. That means they are not allowed on the ketogenic diet.
Fruits: Again, fruit is healthy in its own right but it does not work with ketogenic dieting. The only exception to this are low-sugar fruits like blueberries.
Starchy Veggies: Starchy vegetables are usually those that grow underground. Potatoes, carrots, and turnips are all loaded with carbs and not allowed on the ketogenic diet.
Sugars: Companies use over 50 different names for sugar when placing it on a food label. The bottom line is that sugar is sugar and it is always unhealthy. Just a small amount will throw your body out of ketosis.
Rule #6: Keep Track of your Macros
Macro is short for macronutrients; it is a way to measure the ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs in our meals. So let’s look at another important part of the keto diet, how to start tracking macros.
Fat (70%): You will be eating more fat than any other macronutrient. This will force your body to start using fat as its primary source of energy.
Protein (25%): Protein is an important part of your diet. It helps your body repair muscles that your body might try breaking down while on a diet. The problem is that too much protein can actually throw your body out of ketosis, so be careful with how much protein you eat.
Net Carbs (5%): You can get everything your body needs without any carbs. They are not necessary and you will feel much better when you lower them to this amount. To determine the net carbs of a product, subtract the fiber from the total carbs as listed on the food label.
Rather than trying to do this manually, I recommend that you use one of the free macro calculators that are available. I’ve taken the liberty to find you an amazing one right here:
Rule #7: Track your Foods
Keep a food journal or use an app to track your foods. With ketogenic dieting, it’s important to keep track of what you’re putting into your body. The two most important things to track are as follows.
Serving Size: You would be surprised at how small a serving size is in some cases. When you start tracking it, you’ll start to pay closer attention to the amounts you are eating. It will help you learn portion control.
Carbs: Of course, you want to track carbs while on the ketogenic diet. But until you start tracking them, you might not realize exactly how many you are eating. For instance, some artificial sweeteners have 1g. per packet. That’s not a lot, but it adds up if you use it all of the time.
How Do You Know You Are in Ketosis?
Once you start on a keto diet, how do you know when you’ve successfully achieved ketosis? There are several ways. One is to see how your body feels. Are you losing weight, do you feel more energized? These are signs that’s you’ve probably reached ketosis.
If you want to know for sure, then you can use ketone test strips for urine to find out. You can test your urine and see if you are in ketosis.They are easy to use and very helpful. Ketone test strips are especially great at the beginning of the keto diet when you are unsure about how the different foods you eat affect your body. The ketone strips will help you track your diet and you will see positive ketones in your urine once ketosis has been achieved. They will also alert you if you fall out of ketosis. If you eat too many carbs or cheat on your diet, you will likely see a negative result on the ketone strips.
Now that you know how to start a keto diet, its time to take action! It’s so exciting to reach our goals but sometimes the aftermath can be foggy. What’s important is that you keep up the momentum. You have a whole happy, healthy life ahead of you. From this point forward, you have a couple of choices.
You can add on a few carbs to your diet every week until you are staying at the same weight. Or you can keep eating the keto diet while maybe adding on some exercise to tone your muscles. Just don’t regress into your old eating habits or you’ll be in the same situation. There are so many keto success stories; yours can be one of them!
Here’s to your continued health and the happiness that goes along with it!
Elena Daisley is a licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist (MT, ASCP certified) with over 10 years of experience in the medical field. She holds bachelor’s degrees in both Biology and Laboratory Science from the University of Central Florida. Elena enjoys helping others on their journey to healthier living.