The keto diet is a favorite with Thrive Market members, which is why we stock a wide array of keto-friendly products and work hard to source reliable tips and guidance from trusted keto experts. If you’re looking to begin this high-fat, low-carb diet to help achieve your weight loss or overall health goals, we’ve created a complete guide to answer all your questions and help you get started.
How to Start the Keto Diet
What to Eat on the Keto Diet
What Not to Eat on the Keto Diet
What Fruits Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
What Vegetables Are Keto-Friendly?
What Snacks Can I Eat on Keto?
What Can You Drink on Keto?
What Alcohol Can You Drink on Keto?
How to Get Electrolytes on Keto
What Supplements Should I Take on a Keto Diet?
How Many Carbs Can I Have on Keto?
How Much Protein Do I Need on Keto?
How Many Grams of Fat Should I Consume on Keto?
How Many Calories Should I Consume on Keto?
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol on Keto?
Why Am I Exhausted on the Keto Diet?
How Much Water Should I Drink on Keto?
The ketogenic diet involves eating in a way that is high in fats and low in carbohydrates, as well as getting adequate protein. While the keto diet began as a way to treat epilepsy in children, many people have adopted this way of eating because it forces the body to enter a fat-burning metabolic state known as ketosis in order to get certain health benefits.
Achieving ketosis involves reducing your daily carb intake to 50 grams or less. As your body burns fat instead of glucose, your liver releases compounds called ketones. The presence of ketones signifies that you’ve entered ketosis.
While the keto diet generally always involves the same basic tenets, there are a few different versions of the diet. They are:
If you’ve considered getting started with the keto diet, you’ve likely heard of the “keto flu”: mild, flu-like symptoms that may pop up in the first week after transitioning into keto eating. For some people, these symptoms may include brain fog, fatigue, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and constipation. Luckily, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms of keto flu. For most, simply drinking lots of water, eating lots of colorful vegetables, and giving your body time to adjust to your new diet help ease the transition.
“Dirty keto” (sometimes called “lazy keto”) involves eating in a way that technically abides by the keto guidelines, but doesn’t prioritize nutrient-dense foods. You may think of dirty keto as eating a lot of processed foods, including low-quality meats or packaged snack foods with lots of additives. Many people who want the benefits of the keto diet without all the hard work in the kitchen prepping and cooking choose to do “dirty keto.”
While dirty keto is still technically considered keto, if you eat a lot of processed foods, you’ll miss out on the micronutrients that you would get from things like premium cuts of meat and nutrient-dense vegetables. You also may not be able to reach or maintain ketosis, since processed foods may contain too many added sugars.
Following a “clean keto” eating plan means eating high-quality, whole foods like grass-fed meat, sustainable seafood, and fresh produce while minimizing processed foods.
While the keto diet and the Atkins diet share many similar characteristics (namely that they both prioritize limiting carbohydrates), the main difference is the role that the ketosis state plays in each.
On the Atkins diet, there are four phases. During the introductory phase, carbs are limited to between 20 and 25 grams per day; by the fourth phase you may be able to consume as many as 100 grams of carbs per day, depending on your weight and overall health goals. There is no cap for the amount of protein you take in on the Atkins diet.
On the keto diet, the focus is not on weight loss, so the rules are less restrictive. While the diet still prioritizes high-fat, low-carb eating, keto is a bit more flexible, provided that you stick within the guidelines of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
It’s easy to understand why these “caveman”-style diets are often confused. The keto diet and the Paleo diet have a lot in common, but the keto diet has more specific guidelines for the macronutrients you’re supposed to eat.
Following the Paleo diet means eating high-quality meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, while eliminating grains, legumes, sugar, and dairy. It is primarily focused on eliminating unhealthy processed foods and returning to a diet that resembles how prehistoric humans ate.
Though the keto diet is similar to the paleo diet in many ways—like its emphasis on protein and fat and reduction of carbohydrates—it poses regimented rules about how much of each macronutrient you can consume each day. That’s because the goal of the keto diet is achieving a state of ketosis, which requires maintaining a specific balance of macronutrients in the diet.
There are a few notable differences between the foods you can eat on the keto diet versus the Paleo diet. For instance, the keto diet allows dairy and sugar-free alternative sweeteners like monk fruit, which the Paleo diet does not. On the other hand, the Paleo diet permits a broader range of fruits and vegetables than the keto diet.
Looking to begin the keto diet? Here are some tips for getting started:
When starting the keto diet, fully stocking your fridge and pantry is essential to set yourself up for success. The more prepared you are with ketogenic foods — such as proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables — the easier it will be to adjust to your new eating habits.
Here are some keto-friendly foods to stock up on:
It’s just as important to understand what you can’t eat on the keto diet as it is to know what you can eat. Here are the foods you’ll need to avoid:
While you can eat some fruits on the keto diet, many are off-limits. This is because most fruits are high in carbohydrates, which could put you over your limit very quickly. Because some fruits are lower in carbs, they may be eaten in moderation. Here are a few of those keto-friendly fruits:
Similarly, you’ll want to be cautious about which vegetables to eat on the keto diet in order to stay within your carbohydrate limit. Low-carb veggies like leafy greens and mushrooms are great options, but you should avoid starchy vegetables such as beets and potatoes. Here’s a quick list of the best keto vegetables:
Going keto (especially “clean keto”) involves a lot of cooking and meal prep, but what about keto snacks? It is possible to stick to the keto diet and enjoy snacks between meals — provided you know what to look for. Here are a few of the best keto snacks:
You can also enjoy packaged keto snacks in moderation. Here are a few healthy and convenient options:
You may not be able to drink a sugary soda or foamy, milky latte on the keto diet, but there are plenty of better-for-you, keto-friendly drinks to sip on and help you stay hydrated. From your morning coffee to a refreshing afternoon seltzer, here are some of the best keto drinks:
If you want to make your own keto beverages at home, here are a few of our favorite keto drink recipes:
While some diets prohibit drinking alcohol, you can still enjoy your favorite alcoholic beverages on the keto diet, as long as you stay within the carbohydrate limits. Drinks like carb-heavy beers and sugary cocktails aren’t compliant with the keto diet, but low-carb alcohols like wine or certain hard liquors can be consumed in moderation. As a general rule, look for drinks with 3-4 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
Here are a few alcohol options you can drink on the keto diet:
Electrolytes — which are essential minerals like sodium and potassium that the body needs to function — are important on the keto diet. That’s because eating a low-carb diet lowers insulin levels, which changes the way the body processes electrolytes.
Fortunately, it’s easy to get electrolytes on keto. For instance, you can simply sprinkle salt on your meals or toss a bouillon cube into sauces and soups to boost sodium levels. You may also add an electrolyte supplement to your water bottle to help replenish lost electrolytes.
While you don’t necessarily need to add any new supplements to your routine while on the keto diet, you may find it beneficial to incorporate extra nutrients to replace the foods you can’t eat. Some of the most common supplements recommended on the keto diet are:
Always consult your physician or other health care professional before starting to take any vitamins or supplements.
The amount of carbs you can consume each day is one of the strictest — and most important — aspects of the keto diet.
As a general rule, the ketogenic diet reduces total carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day (that’s less than the amount found in a medium plain bagel) and can be as low as 20 grams a day. The amount of carbs you can have each day while remaining in ketosis can vary from person to person, but typically, carbohydrates should make up just 5 to 10% of your daily food intake on the keto diet.
Keep in mind that as soon as you reintroduce carbohydrates into your system, your body will defer to using them for energy, taking you out of the fat-burning state of ketosis.
While on the keto diet, about 10 to 20% of your calories should come from protein. This number can vary a bit depending on the type of keto diet you choose to follow (for example, on a high-protein keto diet, about 35% of your daily food intake is from protein). While this number can look different from person to person, protein is beneficial for anyone looking to increase their energy levels and lose weight, while still feeling full after eating.
You should consume more fat than any other macronutrient while on the keto diet; approximately 70-80% of your total daily calories should come from fat. If you’re sticking to a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, this would equal about 165 grams of fat each day. You can figure out how many calories you should be consuming each day with a calculator that uses personal details like your age, weight, and height. Then, do the math to determine how many of those calories equals 70-80%. That’s how much fat you should be aiming to consume on the keto diet.
The keto diet is not a low-calorie diet; instead, it requires manipulating the macronutrients you eat each day in order to force the body into a state of ketosis, in which it burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. However, if your goal is weight loss, you’ll want to stay in a calorie deficit even as you’re staying within the keto guidelines. Talk to a doctor or nutritionist to determine how many calories you should eat each day, then use that to determine your fat, carbohydrate, and protein ratio.
Studies show that the keto diet can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels (the bad type of cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind of cholesterol). If you already have high cholesterol when beginning the keto diet, you’ll need to be especially careful to avoid things like processed meats, trans fats, and fried foods. You may also lower cholesterol levels by getting more soluble fiber or by taking a niacin supplement.
You may be experiencing the so-called “keto flu,” a period when many people report feeling exhaustion, brain fog, and other symptoms after beginning a low-carb diet. Over time, however, many people begin to notice a shift toward having increased energy while on the keto diet. Some experts say that it may take as long as several weeks to notice this positive shift, so try to be patient.
While you may need more water when first transitioning into a keto diet, it is commonly recommended that everyone drinks a minimum of two liters of water (or a half gallon) daily in order to maintain metabolic health and prevent dehydration.
If you are new to the ketogenic diet and experiencing symptoms of the “keto flu,” such as tiredness, headache, or digestive issues, try increasing your water intake. Hydration can help ease the symptoms of “keto flu.”
Here’s a simple equation to help you calculate net carbohydrates on the keto diet:
Total carbohydrates – grams of fiber = total net carb count
The number of net carbs will always be less than or equal to the number of total carbohydrates in a food.
Calculating the macros of different nutrients is also a simple equation: simply divide the calories from each macronutrient into your allotted daily calories, then multiply by 100. You’ll use this to stick to the keto limits of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
According to keto expert Thomas DeLauer, who personally lost a significant amount of weight by switching to a keto diet, the diet works best for “Those that want more mental clarity while also losing weight, [and] those that are doing a lot of endurance workouts and weight training.” A healthy balance of diet and exercise is always a great way to lose weight, as is maintaining a caloric deficit.
For those looking to get started with a workout plan while on the keto diet (or mix up their existing workout routine), DeLauer offers workouts on his YouTube channel, including kettlebell workouts, HIIT workouts, and workouts that can be done at home.
While everyone’s body is different, experts say that losing one to three pounds each week is a healthy weight loss goal. Losing weight too fast can lead to results that are difficult to maintain. If you think you may be losing too much weight, talk to your doctor.
The best way to maximize weight loss on the keto diet is by sticking to your carbohydrate limit.
You may simply be expecting too much too soon when it comes to weight loss on the keto diet. Because of the nature of ketogenic eating (high levels of fat and protein), you may start to gain more muscle from your usual workouts, which could lead to feeling like you’re not losing weight. Some studies also show that you may lose weight earlier on in a diet because you’re shedding water weight; if your weight loss slows over time, that’s a normal response to any diet.
The keto diet is popular for quite a few measurable reasons: devotees report things like weight loss, increased energy, and improvements to overall health concerns after switching to the keto diet.
Read on for more tips on starting the keto diet:
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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