10 tips for beginners: how to start keto in 2021 (with free printable lists)

You’d like to try ketogenic diet, but you have no idea how to start? You feel overwhelmed with all the information, rules and restrictions? If you’ve answered “yes” to both of these questions,  this post is for you.

When we started keto diet in 2019 we were also confused with all the rules and restrictions involved and took us quite a while to get used to it. Especially for me as I’m the one who’s cooking in our household. I’ve never been on diet before and never restricted myself to eating or not eating certain foods.

Let’s be honest 2020 wasn’t very keen for most of us, and certainly lots of people haven’t become more healthy during this last 12 months. Lots of sitting at home, watching Netflix and eating comforting foods was a problem of many of us. Recently one of my work colleagues asked me how to start keto diet, what to eat and this simple tips came to my mind. I thought I’ll share them with you, so maybe others who wants to start low carb diet will take advantage of that.

If you’d like to start ketogenic diet but you feel slightly lost, start simple and slowly. You don’t need to become keto master in two weeks. You shouldn’t go extreme if until now your diet was full of fast foods and sweets. I hope this 10 tips will help you to start keto diet, and become strong and healthy. Simply in ketogenic diet your body use fat instead of using carbohydrates as a fuel to produce energy. Human body use carbohydrates as its main fuel, but if you cut off the carbs to less than 30 grams per day, your body starts producing ketones to break down fats. The breakdown of fat for fuel and the creation of ketones is a normal process for everyone. Your body uses ketones for energy typically during fasting, long periods of exercise, or when you don’t have as many carbohydrates. In a person without diabetes, insulin, glucagon, and other hormones prevent ketone levels in the blood from getting too high. If your diabetic and you take insulin please contact your doctor before you decide to start a ketogenic diet.

Photo by Brianna West on Pexels.com

10 TIPS FOR BEGINNERS: HOW TO START KETO IN 2021

1. Start slowly.

If up until now you’ve been eating mainly pizza, pasta, bread, cookies and cakes, lowering daily intake of carbs to maximum 30 grams might be a big shock for your body. After couple days you might start not only feel really bad (if you will deliver your body much less carbs than usual, your sugar levels will drop and you might feel dizzy, you’ll experience fatigue or headaches), but you might decide that keto is absolutely not for you and give up. So if you’re that person or you feel like it might be really difficult for you to stop eating certain foods, start slowly. Take small steps to start getting used to your body to smaller carbs intake. For example every week eliminate one group of products that aren’t keto friendly: sweets, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, all products contains flour in general etc. This way you’ll slowly adjust your body to the new diet and also it won’t be so mentally stressful for your mind to give up on the foods you like and eat a lot. When you start feeling positive changes in your body it will encourage you to implement all the rules. Remember every small step brings you closer to your goal, which is strong, healthy and happy body.

On the other hand if your diet is not based on fast foods and pizza or feel like you’re strong enough to exclude some groups of food and go full keto, you can try and start implementing all the keto routes straight away, like we did.

2. Remember you don’t need to buy any exclusive or special keto accessories.

You don’t need ketone meters, keto apps or any special kitchen tools and gadgets. Of course if you’re a fan of this kind of things and you have enough money and time to use them, go ahead, they might make your life easier, but for sure they are not necessary to start ketogenic lifestyle. Keto apps might be helpful if you’re this kind of person who doesn’t have a problem with preparation of meals according to established rules, not only your own taste. So if you’ve been on some kind of diet before and counting macros is enjoyable for you, keto apps will be a great tool for you. Also you don’t need to buy any special keto foods. I know that online shops are full now of these kind of special keto condiments, sweets etc. But if you’re on a budget I would rather invest in good quality meat, fish and veggies.

3. What to eat what not to eat?

In general I think that’s the most confusing and problematic at the beginning. What can I eat if I need to exclude most of the foods and condiments? Will I be left with only couple foods I will eat on and on? The answer will be different depending of your skills, habits, needs and creativity. There is a group of people, that I don’t belong to, who doesn’t really mind to have varied meals full of various ingredients, rich in fruits, different vegetables etc. For these kind of people keto will be a great alternative. Prepare several recipes you enjoy and serve them in rotation, maybe changing some spices or swapping ingredients.

For those of you, who like me, might feel extremely restricted there’s also hope. Although you will feel limited at the beginning, with time and experience you will enjoy discovering new recipes or inventing your own ones.

But where to start?

Prepare a list of keto friendly products: meats, fish, veg, fruits, condiments, dairy, nuts, seeds etc. You can use my keto shopping list. It’s ready for you to download at the bottom of this post. Also you can have a look to my keto shopping list post where I also give some tips to keto shopping that might be helpful for you.

4. Dealing with carbs.

Calculating carbs for each meal seemed like a torture for me. So what I did was another list. I had 3 of them: veg list, fruit list and meat/fish/condiments list. Meat, fish and most of natural, unprocessed keto friendly condiments contains no carbs or very low carbs. I have listed vegetables and fruits according to the amount of carbohydrates from the lowest to the highest, the rest of foods had from 0 to maximum 3-4 carbs per 100g. (Meat, fish and seafood, also butter, oils does not contain any carbs, cheese, cream and eggs has usually less than 3 g per 100g. You just need to be careful with nuts.) I am a visual learner, so sticking this three lists to my fridge helped me a lot with arranging meals without checking the amounts of carbs in every ingredient every time I cook. I prepared list in pdf format so you won’t need to do it yourself, you have them ready to download on the bottom of this post.

5. No processed foods.

Highly processed foods like deli meat, sauces, salad dressings, ready meals and condiments have most of the times hidden carbs. Added sugars, flour thickeners or food additives discouraged us enough, so we simply decided that we stop buying highly processed foods. Anyway, checking all the labels every time we go shopping was time consuming and frustrating, as I said most of the products has added sugars that immediately removed the product from our basket. From time to time we buy chorizo, sausages or other things, but we always check the label and carb amounts. So I encourage you to do the same and exclude highly processed foods from your diet. You will benefit from this only.

6. Time and schedule.

If you don’t have much time or you simply don’t enjoy spending it in the kitchen, I have couple ideas that might help:

  • prepare in advance. It will speed up the cooking process but also you will make sure you always have all ingredients you need. Preparing all the ingredients and freezing them – you can dice or chop the meat in advance and freeze it. Do the same with veg: chop, slice and freeze. Mushrooms, onions, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage. Of course fresh is always better but if you don’t have much time to prepare your meals it is a solution. If you own a slow cooker, you can simply defrost meat and veg during the night and in the morning add spices and cook for couple hours, so when you’ll be back from work dinner will be ready. It’s great way to prepare soups, stews, goulash or a piece of meat.
  • quick breakfast – usually we don’t have much time to prepare good healthy breakfast in the morning. But you can make it easier having all the ingredients prepared earlier. Grate some cheese, slice onion, cucumber, chop peppers etc. Put each ingredient to air tight container and store in the fridge. It will shorten their life but you will eat them quickly. You can make this preparations twice a week, and every morning’s pop them into a salad or add to omelette. Here you have 14 quick keto breakfast ideas you can try.
  • soup for breakfast – it’s a good idea especially in winter time. Soups are fulfilling and warming, will give you a lot of energy in the morning. Simply just reheat a portion and eat as breakfast or pour to a thermos and take with you to work.

On the bottom of this post I added printable list of quick breakfast ideas based on eggs, veggies and meat with all the ingredients you can prepare earlier and store in the fridge.

7. Beef bone broth.

If we are in the soup subject I have to mention about beef bone broth. It’s a great base for all the soups. Beef bone broth is full of natural collagen. Simply ask your local butcher about beef bones, usually you will be able to buy them for a very little money or you’ll get them for free if you buy other meat. Place a bone in a large pot, add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and cook on very low heat for about 24 hours. Then cool it down, make couple portions in plastic containers and freeze. Add to each soup, it will not only make it more tasty and fulfilling, but also you will get plenty of nutrients.

8. Take it easy.

When your shopping list is ready, you have all the foods sorted on the lists, you can plan your meals. Make a list (another one) of couple easy keto dinners you’d like to eat. Obviously you can have a look at my recipes, but Internet is full of different keto recipe ideas, I’m sure you’ll find something for you’ll like. At the beginning don’t bother yourself with keto cakes, desserts or other sweets. For first 6 months we had only chia pudding and energy fat bombs as some kind of dessert. By the way we were so full after keto meals that we didn’t need any sweets.

9. Stock up your spice cupboard.

Spices are great if you want to add some variety to your meals. Basic piece of meat with creamy sauce can have several different flavours depending of the spices you use. So having plenty choice of herbs, spices and spice blends in your cupboard will let you prepare countless meat, fish and veg dishes. I find them super useful, they not only can make your meals more interesting, aromatic and flavoursome, but also help you to digest and have plenty health benefits.

10. Intermittent fasting.

The ketogenic diet combined with intermittent fasting gives amazing results. Reduction in body fat, weight loss and a general feeling of lightness are the advantages of a ketogenic diet in combination with fasting, which is not really fasting. Because you don’t feel hungry. It might seem crazy but fasting on keto is extremely easy. Because your body need more time to digest the fats, you can easily spend more time without eating and without thinking about eating. As a rule, fasting usually begins in the morning hours. The first meal should usually be eaten in the afternoon and evening. But in my opinion it depends on many factors. How your lifestyle looks like? Do you work a lot? Is your work require sitting in front of the computer for hours or you need to use the strength of your muscles and your brain from early morning? In our case it worked like that: if we needed to go to work in the morning we were having a good fulfilling breakfast like a portion of soup and/or eggs with salad. Second meal was around 5-6PM and that’s it. Usually we were not hungry after second meal. Sometimes we had a snack like some nuts during lunchtime. On the days we didn’t need to go to work we would delay breakfast until 11-12AM. We would have a second meal in the evening and again that’s it.

Why doesn’t intermittent fasting work well on a high-carb diet? When we consume large amounts of carbohydrates in a short period of time, blood glucose levels can rise significantly. The pancreas can secrete large amounts of insulin, which in turn can lead to hypoglycaemia and feeling sleepy. Reactive hypoglycemia is too low blood sugar that occurs in people without diabetes within 3-5 hours after a meal. It manifests itself in the manner typical of low glucose levels – trembling hands, increased sweating, palpitations, hunger attacks and disappears after consuming carbohydrates. Have you ever noticed these kinds of symptoms? It’s kind of a carbohydrate addiction. Hypoglycemia after meals is sometimes included in the symptoms of pre-diabetes. It is the stage preceding the development of full-blown type 2 diabetes, when carbohydrate metabolism is disturbed. In this mechanism, reactive hypoglycemia is associated with insulin resistance. With low tissue sensitivity to insulin, the pancreas secretes large amounts of it in order to break the body’s resistance to this hormone. Significantly increased insulin secretion in response to a meal leads to a situation where the energy from that meal is quickly “consumed”, that is transported to the cells, and there is still a lot of insulin in the blood. In this way, symptoms of low blood sugar appear a few hours after a meal. This is due to the fact that the strength of insulin action depends on its amount – the more active insulin we have in the body, the more aggressively it lowers blood sugar levels.

Again start slowly. The long-standing habits of eating several meals a day and snacking between meals are very strong. Let your body slowly switch to the new mode. Listening carefully to its reactions will help you with this. Are you really hungry right now or you just wanting to eat because you feel bored or because it used to be your normal meal time? Are you hungry or your body needs hydration? Listen to your body, but be honest with yourself. After couple weeks you will be able to recognise all the signals your body gives you.

I hope you’ll find this tips useful at the beginning of your keto journey, helping you to start a healthy lifestyle are being more mindful with what you consume.

Here you can download my keto shopping list and lists I mentioned in tips 4 and 6.

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