1. Study Up on the Keto Diet
People differ in their psychological outlook regarding easing-in or jumping into a lifestyle change, but the more you know about the keto diet ahead of time, the better. Successfully following a ketogenic diet requires understanding how your body normally breaks down carbs and fats and uses them for fuel, and how that process changes when carbohydrates aren't available.
To find out more about your metabolism on a low carbohydrate diet and on a keto diet, start slowly by noticeably reducing carbohydrates for a week and taking note of your body's cues before reducing further. People differ but depending on initial carb intake, daily reductions of about 40-50g (about a serving of pasta or four slices of bread) are comfortable for many as they notch downward another 50g and hold for another week. You probably won’t be in ketosis until your carb intake gets down around 50g total each day and you hold it there for a few weeks, but you may find this progression model induces weight loss even before reaching ketosis. If, after a little while, the final meal plan doesn't agree with your body or preferences, you can choose to introduce other foods back into your diet.
2. Stock Up on Keto-Friendly Foods
It's hard to maintain a ketogenic diet without having the right foods on hand. You'll need lots of protein and heart-healthy fats to maintain your calorie intake without turning to carbs.
To prepare yourself, stock your pantry with these keto-friendly foods:
- Beef, pork, poultry, and seafood
- Nuts and seeds
- Cheese in moderation
- Olive, canola and peanut oils
- Non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower (including rice-cauliflower), asparagus and cucumber
As with any meal plan, sticking to it requires a good deal of discipline. Stocking your shelves with these healthy choices can help you avoid giving in to temptation (although it's usually fine to enjoy a special treat in moderation).
3. Get Rid of Carb-Rich Temptations
If you want to jump in without making moderate progressive changes as described above, and you love bread, pasta, rice and other high-carb foods but plan to commit to a keto diet, it's best to remove those options before you even start your new diet. Take some time to review your pantry and consider ditching or donating the foods that won't work with the meal plan.
Although people differ in their ability to reach and maintain ketosis, a ketogenic diet typically requires that you limit your carbohydrate intake to about 5 percent of your calories. That means the few carbohydrates you take in will be found in the non-starchy vegetables you eat.
These foods contain carbs (read labels to become more aware) and are therefore typically off-limits on a keto diet:
- Milk and yogurt
- Bread, cereal and pasta
- Rice, quinoa and couscous
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn
- Legumes like lentils, navy beans, black beans, and red beans
- Cakes, pies, cookies, and other desserts
- Regular soda pop and fruit beverages
- Sugar, honey, and molasses
Related: How to Track Macros on the Keto Diet
4. Anticipate the “Keto Flu”
While it's not guaranteed you'll experience any discomfort after starting the ketogenic diet, some people who jump right in have reported experiencing what's been dubbed the "keto flu." Switching from a regular diet can sometimes cause nausea, lethargy, headaches and muscle cramping.
If you experience these symptoms, this is your body reacting to the lack of available carbohydrates. It may last multiple weeks. During this time, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to combat the “keto flu”. You know your body better than anyone else does, so call your physician and discuss your symptoms when in doubt.
5. Plan for Other Household Members
Although you may be excited about starting a keto diet, It's possible that not everyone in your household will share your enthusiasm. Will you cook and eat separate meals from other household members? Will you have trouble steering away from carb-heavy foods when your family enjoys them? These are things that may make or break your keto diet success — so it's important to consider them ahead of time.
If your family does want to join you in switching to the keto plan, know that it might not be appropriate for everyone. The keto diet isn't recommended for children, pregnant women, runners or other serious athletes, or people managing type 1 diabetes. Accordingly, it's a good idea for everyone in your household to talk to their healthcare provider before deciding to go keto.