So, you've thought about this carefully and have finally decided to create a ketogenic diet plan. But now you're confused about what you should and shouldn't be doing on a ketogenic diet. Which foods are good? Which ones should you avoid? What about cheat meals? And is there a special type of keto exercise to go along with a keto diet?
If you're a newcomer, starting a ketogenic diet plan can seem complicated at first. But it really isn't. A keto diet boils down to eating more fat, being moderate with protein, and limiting carbs to fewer than 50 grams a day. However, to make your ketogenic diet plan convenient and sustainable, you want to make it personal.
That is exactly what this guide is about – making a personalized ketogenic diet plan. We won't give you ready-made solutions here. Instead, we will teach you how to make a ketogenic diet plan that best suits your unique needs and goals.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about planning a keto diet. From setting your goals, to educating yourself, and planning keto meals, we have the essentials covered. Keep reading to start your keto journey today.
First, check out our short video on where you can find a ketogenic diet plan:
Before making a personalized ketogenic diet plan, you need to know what the ketogenic diet is about and what exactly is it that you want to achieve.
Consider doing the following:
The end goal of a ketogenic diet is, of course, achieving ketosis – the metabolic state where your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose. But you also need to ask yourself why exactly do you want to achieve ketosis? Is it because you want to lose weight, improve your health, increase mental clarity, or boost your energy levels?
Setting a goal is important because it will: a) help keep you motivated and b) help you track your progress. Furthermore, whenever you feel the urge to munch on carbs or start thinking that this diet just isn't for you, having a goal in mind will help you persist. After all, Setting a goal is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
A ketogenic diet is perfectly safe for most people. However, for people with rare medical conditions and pregnant and breastfeeding women, the diet may not be suitable. Medical experts list the following conditions as contraindications for a ketogenic diet :
- pyruvate carboxylase deficiency
- β-oxidation defects
- primary carnitine deficiency
Luckily, these disorders are rare. They affect metabolism in such a way that it becomes impossible for the body to use fat for energy and adapt risk-free to ketosis.
The keto diet is also a bit controversial when it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Research in this area is scarce but there are studies showing that a ketogenic diet provides enough nutrients to support a pregnancy and lactation. Others show that ketogenic diet significantly alters the growth and brain development of a fetus .
People with diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disorders often worry about starting a ketogenic diet. After all, ketosis alters glucose metabolism as well as liver and kidney functioning. We're here to tell you that you don't have any reason to be concerned. As far as research goes, a ketogenic diet is not only safe but even beneficial for people with these conditions [3, 4, 5].
Learning as much as you can about the ketogenic diet will help you avoid mistakes that would otherwise set you up for failure. For example, knowing the symptoms of ketosis will serve as an indicator that your diet is going well. Also, knowing how to calculate macros will increase your chances of making the right food choices to keep you in ketosis.
Lucky for you, there's plenty of keto information on the internet. But if you don't have the time to research the ketogenic diet, you can enroll in our learning course called the Ketocademy. The course is free and will help you learn the basics of a ketogenic diet in just three hours. You will learn what happens to your body on keto, how to plan and optimize ketosis, what benefits you will get, and how to make a ketogenic diet plan.
You can also benefit from knowing a bit about the biochemistry and science of ketosis. The more you know, the more you understand how it works. Our Ketocademy course covers the nitty-gritty of ketosis but you can also read our blog articles covering this subject if you're feeling curious.
Designing a Ketogenic Diet Plan
Now that you have your goals set and all the right information in place, it's time to move to the planning stage. To design a ketogenic diet plan that you can stick to, you will need to do the following: calculate your macros, shop for keto-approved food, and make your own keto meals. Optionally, you can include exercising and intermittent fasting into your keto plan.
Macros (short for macronutrients) are at the center of any ketogenic diet plan. They include the three energy-providing nutrients in food: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The energy that these nutrients provide is measured in calories, which you'll also want to take into consideration when going keto.
In case you didn’t know, the macros on a keto diet are turned upside down. Instead of relying on carbs for energy, you will be relying on fat. After all, the ketogenic diet is by definition a low-carb, adequate-protein, and high-fat diet. Besides that, the amount of macros you should be eating is strictly defined; there's no experimenting on a keto diet when it comes to this.
On a typical ketogenic diet plan, 75% of your daily calories need to come from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs. To make it simpler, this translates to eating no more than 50 grams of carbs per day and below 1 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight. The amount of fat you can eat will depend on your weight and your goals.
To get your personalized macros, you should use a keto calculator. Our Keto Calculator uses your features and goals to calculate the exact ratio and weight of macros you should be eating daily. These calculations are based on the standard ketogenic diet and will help you reach ketosis in no time. It doesn't get any simpler than this.
Making a Food List
The keto diet is quite strict when it comes to what you are allowed and not allowed to eat. For example, the diet excludes well-known kitchen staples like rice and bread but relies heavily on fatty foods like butter and avocado. This is why making a food list is so important; it will ensure you always buy keto-approved foods, so your money and efforts don't go to waste.
To make a keto food list, you will need to research what foods are keto-approved. Use websites like MyFitnessPal and SELF NutritionData that provide accurate nutrition facts on a wide range of foods. Optionally, you can look for ready-made keto food lists online. At Kiss My Keto, we've created one such short but comprehensive Keto Food List. You can pick and choose some or all of the foods in there and we will send you a personalized grocery to your email.
Here is an example of a keto food list including some well-known keto staples:
- Low-carb vegetables (cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini)
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, broccoli)
- Cream cheese
- Grass-fed butter
- Heavy cream
- Fatty parts of chicken (thighs and legs)
- Pork rinds
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies)
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
5) Fats and oils
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
The above-list is just an example to give you an idea of how you can organize your keto-food list for your ketogenic diet plan. Make sure to include foods from all major food groups, including supplement foods like spices, sauces, and sweeteners.
The keto diet relies heavily on whole foods and homemade meals. This method makes it much easier for you to track your macros since you know what is in your food. Processed foods and take outs, on the other hand, are often carb laden and contain hidden ingredients that could easily sabotage ketosis.
Luckily, making keto meals is easy because there are plenty of keto-friendly recipes out there. Check out our Keto Recipes section to if you need some inspiration for making keto meals. Our keto recipes section includes a variety of keto dishes by course and ingredients. All recipes include nutrition facts to make it easier for you to track your macros.
We also suggest making your meals ahead for more convenience. Let's face it, most of us don't have the time to prepare 3 meals every single day. Making larger batches that you can refrigerate or even freeze will help you save time while having keto meals always on hand. Another great option is to have your pantry filled with ingredients that make for quick meals and snacks.
And to make your keto meals even more keto, we suggest including supplements now and then. You can add protein powders and MCT oils to your morning coffee, muffins, soups, casseroles, and other meals. These products help you get into ketosis faster, suppress your appetite, and add nutrients to your diet. They're quite convenient, especially when you're struggling with balancing your macros.
Ketogenic Diet Plan Additions
The type of food you eat is the most important aspect of going keto. However, your lifestyle and even eating patterns can contribute to your success at reaching your goals. Many keto dieters include both exercising and intermittent fasting into their ketogenic diet plan and below, we explain why.
Exercising while on a keto diet is not only possible but also beneficial. It protects your health and improves your body composition. Once your body enters ketosis, you will also notice a rise in your energy levels which you can put to good use by exercising.
But do keep in mind that exercising is not necessary for your body to enter ketosis. It is simply a great option that will keep your body firm and toned and your bones strong. It also improves heart health and increases feelings of wellbeing. Studies show that exercising increases metabolic rate and prevents type II diabetes [6, 7].
It's best to start exercising only after your body has fully adapted to the ketogenic diet. The reason why this is so will be pretty obvious to you in the first week or two of this diet. This is when many people experience the keto flu. Read more about the keto flu here to see why it can make exercising difficult.
The type of exercising you want to include once you become keto adapted is up to you. It can be high-intensity, cardio, weight-lifting, stretching, or any other exercise that you prefer. Make sure to adjust your macros accordingly once you start working out because your body will need more calories and protein when you work out.
Intermittent fasting involves limiting you eating windows to just a few hours each day. For example, you skip breakfast and have your next meal later that day or even the day after. Your fasting period can last anywhere between 8 and 24 hours and you can safely do this once or twice a week . The amount of food you eat during your feeding window doesn't matter in intermittent fasting as much as the timing of your meals.
Intermittent fasting is popular among keto dieters because it helps break weight-loss plateaus and because of the scientifically-proven health benefits of intermittent fasting. Making it a part of your ketogenic diet plan will help you reach your weight loss goals if that's your main concern and improve your health in the long run.
Intermittent fasting is also a popular keto practice because it induces ketosis all by itself. According to medical experts, one of the metabolic effects of intermittent fasting is intermittent ketosis which is known to suppress appetite and inevitably make you eat less . This is good news for anyone trying to break out of their weight loss plateaus or simply eat less.
But even if weight-loss is not your main keto goal, you can benefit from occasional fasting. Studies show that intermittent fasting reduces risk of type II diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke [10, 11]. Fasting and calorie restriction in general is strongly linked to longevity and healthy aging.
On a ketogenic diet, you want to track your results and test for ketosis to see what works and what doesn't. There are several ways you can do this.
Ketone level measuring
Ketones or ketone bodies are your body's main fuel when you're in ketosis. When special tests detect them in your urine, breath, and blood, it indicates that you're in ketosis and that you're doing a good job. Ways you can measure the levels of these compounds in your system include the following:
Urine strips - Ketone urine test strips test for ketone bodies in your urine. They're affordable, easy to use, but not as reliable as other measuring methods. They are best for those of you who simply want to test if you've entered ketosis. You can purchase our easy-to-use, 200-count Keto Urine Test Strips here.
Blood ketone meter - Using a blood ketone meter is the most accurate, but also the most expensive, way to measure ketone bodies. It can cost you up to $150 if you want to test your ketones daily with this method.
Ketone breathalyzer - A more affordable and somewhat reliable ketone measuring device. It measures acetone levels in your breath and is non-invasive. You can also measure the levels of ketones in your breath by observing if you have that notorious ketosis breath. People often describe it as fruity.
Tracking your results is also easy. It involves measuring and journaling your changes.
If your goal is weight loss, you can:
Take before and after pictures – Initially, you may not notice much difference but as the weeks go by, you'll see major changes in your body shape in a ketogenic diet.
Weigh yourself– At the beginning of a ketogenic diet, you may notice a sharp drop in weight. But keep in mind that this is mostly likely water weight. In the second and third week, you can notice a decline of about 1 to 2 pounds per week. But keep in mind that it's normal for weight to fluctuate.
Measure your ketones– When your ketone levels are elevated, chances are your body is burning fat. Make ketone level measuring a part of your weight-loss tracking.
If your goal is improved health or performance:
Keep a journal – Note down any changes in your health and performance in a keto journal. Rate changes in your performance or well-being on a scale of 1 to 10. Subtle changes are easy to miss but become more obvious when you record them on a daily basis.
Before you start making your keto plan, we would like to give you a couple of tips and tricks that will help you reach your keto goals successfully and at the same time enjoy your keto journey.
1. Do eat carbs
Fruits and vegetables are a small but significant part of a ketogenic diet. You need a variety of low-carb plant foods to get enough fiber and micronutrients. Check out our list of low-carb vegetables to include into your ketogenic diet plan. As far as fruits go, berries are your best bet as they're low in carbs but dense in vitamins and minerals.
2. Check your health
Get your health checked before going keto. If you have any hormonal imbalances or metabolic problems, they could make it difficult for you to adapt to a keto diet. For example, people with diabetes or insulin resistance can experience severe hypoglycemia when starting keto, so they often benefit from a gradual rather than abrupt reduction in carbs.
3. No cheating allowed
You can't cheat on a keto diet. Most other popular diets allow for an occasional cheat meal, but you will not achieve anything by cheating when going keto. The goal of keto is to go into and stay in ketosis, just one cheat meal will kick you out of ketosis and you'll need to start all over.
4. Fat is good for you
Don't be afraid of fat, especially not saturated fat. Fat is your friend. It keeps you full, gives you energy, and increases your ketone levels on a low-carb diet such as keto. And it definitely doesn't make you gain weight. Saturated fat is especially good, despite what you've been told your whole life.
5. Protein limits are important
Be careful with protein. You need a moderate amount of protein to build and repair tissue and maintain muscle mass. But don't think you can experiment with your protein intake while on keto. Your body is able to generate glucose from amino acids in protein when carbs are scarce. This process is called gluconeogenesis and will easily kick you out of ketosis.
Instead of using ready-made diet plans, why not create one that best suits your needs, goals, and preferences? This will not only boost your chance of success but also make the keto diet enjoyable.
Your ketogenic diet plan should involve more than just a shopping list and a weekly menu. It needs to include goals, learning methods, and progress tracking among many other things.
Here, we've covered all the essentials that you need keep in mind when designing your personalized ketogenic diet plan. From learning about the keto diet to making your keto shopping list and tracking your progress, we have everything essential covered here.
Once you get started on your keto journey, you'll see that keto is more than a diet, it's a lifestyle. And you want this lifestyle to be true to your nature as much as possible.