How to Start the Keto Diet (Keto Tips for Beginners)
Why I Started the Keto Diet
After a stressful time in my life, I found myself completely depleted with extra pounds packed on to my midsection. I knew without a doubt that I was back in that food coma… that cloudy state of mind… the tired, uncreative, unmotivated yuck. I knew it was time to get back on track.
After seeing a few friends that had success with the Keto Diet, I decided to look into it more. I needed to know if I even wanted to start the Ketogenic Diet, and then I needed to figure out HOW to start the Keto diet!
Quite frankly, before I started my research the whole idea of eating a low carb and high-fat diet (also known as LCHF) seemed REALLY at odds with all I’ve ever known!
Making the Change:
I spent nearly two days researching information about the Keto way of life. I learned what ketosis was (Ketosis is when your body burns fat for energy instead of sugar/carbs), but I couldn’t understand why people would need to eat a diet of high-fat foods in order to put their body into a state of ketosis.
After my study, it DID make sense to me and I was determined to do it for myself! I was DONE with feeling tired, sluggish, and uncreative!
Note that there are many companies that sell products that provide your body with exogenous ketones (your body naturally produces endogenous ketones). I don’t know anything about any those products and wanted to prove to myself that I could do this naturally. But you can choose to do it however you want! I won’t judge!
How the Keto Diet Works
There is a LOT of info online about how the keto diet works (I hate the word diet by the way). But to give you the most basic version, if you’re practicing the Keto diet (keto is short for ketosis) you consume foods that are lower in carbs (I aim for 20 carbs per day), medium in protein, and a high in fat.
Making Sense of the Keto Diet:
Here’s an illustration my sister shared with me a few years ago: She read the book, Born to Run, and in it, the author shares an analogy of a fire. I might not have it perfect, but here’s the summary.
When you are burning a fire, the kindling runs out quickly, right? You constantly have to replace it if this is the only way you’re getting fire. But, if you take the time to help the fire catch on to a nice big log, that fire is going to be a LOT more effective. And it will burn longer.
In this analogy, the kindling is the sugar and refined and processed carbohydrates. It’s not sustainable and our body doesn’t run at it’s best when that is what we use for fuel. But, if we fuel our bodies with good wholesome foods and reduce that carb and sugar intake, it is able to switch over and burn in a much more long-term sustainable state.
Mindset Shift: Fat is Fuel
What’s interesting is that our bodies are designed to do this! When you cut the sugar, your body naturally goes to fat as it’s source for energy. It’s the way our bodies were designed… to keep us from starving to death!
Your body will produce ketones in the liver when we take away the sugar/carbs. Those ketones are what fuel your brain and body. Cool huh? The mindset shift is that FAT becomes your fuel. Once you understand that, you start to look at fat differently.
Now, keep in mind that fats that are high in sugar will NOT work. You need fats that are low carb. This diet will be BAD if you eat a lot of fat but don’t cut down on your carbs. You’ve got to jump all the way in. And it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Top 5 Reasons to do the Ketogenic Diet
DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a doctor, nor can I PROVE any of this thru my own scientific studies and I have not researched if the FDA approves of these statements. I’m merely sharing what I learned while researching the Ketogenic diet. Please do your due diligence and consult a doctor to make sure this is a good fit for you and your current health conditions. I also read that this is not a recommended diet for people with type 2 diabetes. Please do your research first!
1. Keto diets lower blood sugar and insulin levels
It minimizes those blood sugar spikes! Read up on insulin resistance… I think a LOT of us are experiencing the effects of this without even knowing it! There are a LOT of benefits to this!
2. Weight loss
Because your body uses fat as fuel! Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing that harmful abdominal fat.
3. Many health benefits
When you start the keto diet and stick to it for a while, you may start to notice multiple health benefits. Some of these benefits include an improvement of brain function, better heart health, lower blood pressure, less acne, and more.
4. Increased levels of HDL
HDL or high-density lipoprotein is known as the “good” cholesterol. This cholesterol basically goes around and removes bad cholesterol from your body.
5. You won’t be FOOD OBSESSED
For us people that don’t enjoy taking the time to prepare meals, this is WONDERFUL! Because you’re eating higher amounts of fat and fiber, you stay fuller longer!
By day 5 I started skipping breakfast because I simply wasn’t hungry! Intermittent fasting is a whole other optional component of the keto diet, but not something I will go into today.
Let’s just say that instead of stressing out about what to eat 6 times a day (which is what I did on a past diet), I only eat 2-3 times per day, in about a 6-7 hour window of time. I feel way less obsessed with food now and I love it! (this one is my opinion)
How to Start Keto (Preparation Tips)
1. Find Your Why
First, you need to want to do this for you. Your WHY can’t be for anyone else. If you’ve never FELT good from eating right and taking care of your body, then you really have no idea what you are missing out on!
THAT is my why… the size three jeans and no muffin top are the bonus. (Ps. I love this book called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek)
2. Calculate your Macros
If you’ve never heard of “macros” before, don’t stop reading. It’s actually really cool! There are a TON of online keto calculators that will help you determine your personal macronutrient information. This Ketogenic Calculator is my favorite.
3. Prepare Your Kitchen
Toss out all the processed junk. Look at the labels of food. If you’re only eating 20 net carbs (that is the carb count, minus fiber count) per day, you don’t want to blow it all on one meal.
Soon I will create a sample shopping list, but for now, just start looking at labels! One Keto user created this spreadsheet that has the grams of net carbs listed. You can use this list as a resource!
Go buy all your veggies, but then immediately come home and wash them and prep them so you’ll USE THEM! Note that root veggies are not good veggies to consume. Go for the leafy greens that are your good carbs, and full of fiber. You’ll want to eat a good amount of veggies per day. Aim for at least 4 servings!
My most successful days happen when I can grab a pre-made salad (I suggest prep up to 5 days in advance… we used containers like these) from the fridge and some ready to eat veggies (like sliced cucumbers or celery).
4. Buy some Keto Strips
I use these Keto Strips because this is one component that I also love about the Keto way of life… you can easily measure your ketone levels and track your progress.
We are all different. We all have a different chemical make-up. What works for you might not work for another. The best way to measure what is and isn’t working is with these ketone strips.
Keep in mind that your body can store a two-day supply of glucose in the form of glycogen… so it could take a couple days of consuming no more than 20 grams of carbs to switch over to ketosis. These keto strips keep me informed about what my body is doing.
5. Get the MyFitnessPal app
You don’t have to buy the premium version. You can still input your desired macros for your goals (that’s the fat/protein/carb % you want daily). They just might be slightly off because you can only enter in %, and not the exact amount.
Use the macro goals you got from the Ketogenic calculator I mentioned above. Also, don’t STRESS! (Remember that stress creates the hormone cortisol which just makes you fat).
In the beginning, I just focus on my carb intake and haven’t worried too much about fat and protein % (more tips on how to keep it simple below).
Search Pinterest for low carb/keto recipes. Check out the Keto Meal Ideas we have (we’ll be adding more as I adapt and modify ones I’ve found).
You might like my blogging friends 90-second bread that actually tastes good! I whipped some of this up when the family and I had BLTA’s one night. SOOO YUMMY! You should also check out her bacon wrapped cheese sticks.
But here is what is REALLY IMPORTANT! If you fail to plan, you will fail. 10 days into my Keto journey I had a crazy stressful day and didn’t have meals planned. I attempted dinner and burnt it… at 8:30 pm, we were all starving and so we got PIZZA. I could have just eaten the top of the pizza, but I was tired, weak and hungry and succumbed. 😫
Make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day. When you first start the keto diet, your body is transitioning. You need to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in balance – that is key!
Now, this does NOT mean you go out buy Gatorade! NO! My first few days, when my body was switching over, I felt like junk (you will too). But my friend Matt, from A Thrifty Mom, advised me to take some magnesium citrate and potassium and drink bone broth (for the sodium).
Hydration is an important part, especially as your body transitions from being insulin dependent to ketones. Make a goal to get as many as 32 ounces of water within the first hour you wake up (I use this 24-ounce water bottle).
Then, aim to get in 32-50 oz before lunchtime. The key is to try and drink half your body weight in ounces of water, will be a huge help while on the keto diet.
8. Food Scale
You MUST have a food scale. You will use this tool on a daily basis because accuracy is key. Don’t eyeball the food you are eating, this is what can get you in trouble. You can easily over or under-eat what you should… trust me, weighing is a must.
Look for a scale that has a conversion button, so that it will do a mixture of units, so you can go from grams to ounces easily (this is the food scale I have).
Also look to see if it offers a tare function, where it will work to use a bowl, plate, etc on the scale! You put your plate on the scale first, then hit the tare button. That will zero out the numbers so when you put your food on it is only measuring the food, not the plate.
9. Get Supplements
I personally LOVE the doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack. The science behind the balanced amount of nutrients is amazing and since I started taking them 2 years ago (I didn’t start until I had lost all the weight by the way), I felt so much better.
When I miss a day taking these nutritional supplements (I consider them food) I feel it! You’ll also need potassium and magnesium citrate and sodium in your diet. So get some of those before you start.
Leave a comment or shoot me an email at Cathy @ fabulesslyfrugal dot com if you want to know how to get doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack at wholesale pricing. I can get you a 25% discount!
10. Get a Good Bathroom Scale
Get one that Measures Body Fat. I’m sure it’s not 100% accurate, but it does set a baseline. I like to weigh myself and also track my body fat % and muscle %. Check out this post to read my body fat bathroom scale.
5 Keto Tips For Beginners
This is the 3rd time I’ve discussed mindset. That’s because it’s SOOO important! What you focus on expands!
Instead of telling yourself “I CAN’T have this or I can’t have that” tell yourself that you choose to fuel your body with healthy foods.
You are choosing NOT to eat cookies anymore. You are choosing not to have cereal for breakfast anymore. You don’t want the inflammation and insulin spikes those foods provide anymore. Tell yourself that you will survive and actually LIVE BETTER without refined carbs!
Repeat after me. WHAT YOU FOCUS ON EXPANDS. (yes, I’m saying it twice)… Focus on the positive and what you can do. You can do it!
2. Don’t Forget the Salt!
This also goes against all I was taught back in the day (years ago when I was on a diet… they were so strict about sodium intake). Making sure you get enough good salts in your diet is key with this keto diet.
When you are on a lower carbohydrate diet you have a lower insulin level, so your kidneys will excrete more of the sodium, so you need to make sure you are adding it into your diet. Also, the sodium works with the potassium and magnesium you need to support your body when in the keto state.
Aim for an additional 3-5 grams of sodium from the foods you eat. Put some Pink Himalayan sea salt in your water or on your food (I use this one from Trader Joe’s… pink Himalayan sea salt is also good for hydration because of the trace minerals it provides). One teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt is two grams of sodium.
As I mentioned above, bone broth is also a good low cal source of sodium. You don’t have to make your own (heavens knows I ain’t got time for that!). I purchased the Pacific Foods Organic Bone Broth at my local Kroger store.
I drink it when I’m starting to feel a little off, and it is also a good morning drink when you start intermittent fasting. You can eat foods that contain salt and then add in the sea salt to dress up your foods to get the extra sodium that way. Cucumbers and celery are also a good call for getting more sodium into your diet.
3. Combat the Keto Flu
You’re probably wondering, “What is Keto Flu?” and I’m here to tell you that it is a real thing. But don’t worry… it’s a natural reaction and it means what you’re doing is working!
Keto Flu will manifest itself differently in each person. It’s what happens when your body switches from burning glucose to burning fat.
For me, I just had a TERRIBLE headache for a day and a half, and I was very short of patience. 24 hours in I was weak and cranky. So, I ended up leaving the house and wandering the aisles of Costco to protect my children. 🙂 It actually helped me feel a little better once I forced myself to get up and move.
Some people get nausea and even vomiting. The good news, it doesn’t last forever. 🙂 I didn’t have bone broth, magnesium or potassium the first day. Finally, that evening I bought some and took it… within 30 minutes I was feeling better and my headache eased up. Having those minerals in your system is so important!
Some people say that drinking a teaspoon of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar helps as well (I usually put mine in a cup of water).
Note: I wrote a whole post about Keto Flu Symptoms and Remedies that you might find helpful.
4. Kick the Cravings to the Curb
Changing your diet is hard those first few days and weeks. Because you’ve been addicted to sugar (and we know that sugar is an addictive substance), you WILL have extreme cravings. Knowing this and being prepared to combat them is key.
So stay away from ALL sweeteners those first two weeks. Even the ones that are keto-friendly! Why? Those sweeteners will trigger your cravings. If you can stay strong (take it a day at a time), you will find those cravings decrease.
For me, the mere thought of going through the Keto Flu again really helped me be strong those first several days. Challenge yourself to go the first two weeks with zero sweeteners. THEN aim to go through your first 30 days with no sweeteners.
DETOX YOURSELF! I promise you will survive! I can say this because I too am a recovering sugar addict… I detoxed before and I’m doing it again. Acknowledging your addiction is important.
Once you give your body that break, you may find that you don’t need those keto-friendly desserts or recipes that use those sweeteners. (ps – this is the Stevia I use… best-tasting stevia I’ve ever had).
5. Keep It Simple
- Don’t go crazy with your meal plan. I suggest eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch until you start to get the hang of things.
- Keep dinners simple. Modify what you already eat (unless you ate so poorly that there just isn’t modifying anything!).
- Don’t start a brand new exercise routine at the same time as starting the Ketogenic diet. THAT IS TOO MUCH TO TAKE ON! In fact, I completely stopped exercising and won’t start until I’m fully fat adapted and feel like I’ve got a good keto diet routine going.
The way I kept it really simple was scrambled eggs for breakfast, and a chef salad for lunch (with hard boiled eggs, bacon or ham, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, and homemade ranch dressing).
Have you done the Keto Diet? Share your tips and advice in the comments below!
https://www.youtube.com/user/drericberg123 (note that he sells items that I don’t think are necessary to purchase)
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I have been doing keto since last July and love it!
Check out the “copy me that” app for all your recipes. It’s so easy to use and you can easily search recipes based on “tags” that you set up based on the main ingredient of the recipe or type of recipe. Example of tags I set up is: chicken, steak, sides, desserts, etc.
Great recommendation on the app Marcie – thank you! Love that!
Can you give more information on the dotters supplements?
Hi Deana – Here is the information on the supplements: https://doterra.me/xbEbm66H. You can purchase them from that link to. BUT if you’d like to get them at a wholesale price, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll hook you up!
I have a question. I get using regular magnesium but magnesium citrate? Magnesium citrate is used by the medical profession as a laxative and can cause problems with bowel movements after prolonged use.
Hi AmberDani – great question… I just read everywhere to use Magnesium citrate. I dug in a little more after you question and here is an interesting conversation: https://www.reddit.com/r/ketogains/comments/6g4vap/why_magnesium_citrate/
Sounds like you can use magnesium citrate if you feel like the keto diet is causing issues with constipation. If you happen to find better information, please let me know!
How is it going with ‘going’ Keto? My husband and I are doing the Whole30 to determine which, if any, food sensitivities we have. I know Whole 30 is not for weight loss, but now that we are into this for 9 days, I am looking into eating so I can lose weight. Keto scares me with how much food and body monitoring there is. I will keep doing research and maybe after Whole30 I can convince myself to go Keto.
Day 31 of Whole30; reintroduction to legumes. Everything good. We followed the Whole30 to a T. My plantar fasciitis pain was gone after only 1 week on Whole30. My pain had come from inflammation. I’m still researching Keto so I can lose the weight.
It’s amazing how food can change how we feel!
An update on me… Keto did not work out for me. I will be writing about it soon. I initially lost 9 pounds, but it didn’t stay off. That’s not to say that Keto won’t work for you or anyone else… but it wasn’t a good fit for me (mentally/emotionally). I have found something that IS working for me, so I’m happy about that. I’ll update this post with a link once I have that blog post written!
Good luck to you with whatever you end up doing!
Oh. I’m a little bummed it didn’t work for you long term. Your posts sounded like it was working. I was looking forward to hearing more of your journey on Keto. Anyway, I’m glad you found something better for you.
Yep, it was working at first… but now I know that the initial weight loss was just water and glycogen from my muscles. BUT I learned something about myself thru the process, so I’m glad I tried it out!
Hi, Did you write about what you are doing now?!
I am a sugar/carb burner- apple shaped. I want to try Keto, but if it did not work for you I am nervous to try it. The science behind it sounds perfectly logical, and if you look at how we went low fat in the 90’s and now how overweight we are as a nation- it totally makes sense. Can you tell us what you did that did work for you? I am trying to gather all the information I can to make a decision. I am tired, sluggish and HATE feeling this way. Been to the doctor- I had my thyroid removed in 2011 and I am taking my meds and my levels are good. Just trying to change my diet because I feel that it could clean up. I am not diabetic, so do you or anyone else suggest I try Keto??
Hi Renee! Keto works great for a lot of people. It didn’t work great for me, mostly because if self sabotaging reasons. As soon as I fell out of ketosis, I’d give up for a day or two and eat like junk and then try again. I also never got out of the point where I felt strong enough to go work out… working out is a HUGE mental relief for me, so not having those workouts (that I talk about here: ) was detrimental to my mental health.
What have i been doing since I stopped Keto? Last April I learned about counting your macros. It’s more about eating the right amount of calories and a good ratio of fats, carbs, and protein. It was an adjustment as well, because I had to be precise about counting my macros (thank goodness for my fitness pal!). But it basically gave me a daily guideline and targets and felt empowering to me. There are a lot of great instagramers who talk about macro counting. My favorites are:
https://instagram.com/lillielovesmacros (also blogging here: https://lillieeatsandtells.com/) and
I also joined this coaching program: https://themacrochallenge.com/ to get support and training as I learned to make healthy sustainable food choices.
At the end of the day, the best workout, the best “diet”, the best anything is the one that you DO and stick with! 🙂 Embrace the process/journey. You’ll find what is best for you!
Thanks for answering!! I will give it a whirl. At least it will educate me even if it doesn’t work. But- being positive- it will work!! Thanks again.
Awesome Renee! And YES you are right… if nothing else, you’ll know! 🙂
Hi I am doing research on if I can continue taking my LLV from doterra and still be able to get my body into ketosis? I am only on day 2 and I feel like my body needs it but I’m scared it’s going to stop the process? Thank you
Hi Kamalani! I do not think there are carbs in LLV. If anything, it will support your body and ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need! Good luck!
Do I buy full fat cream cheese?
Do I use all parts of the bacon even the fatty parts?
Hi Donna! That’s totally up to you… once your body is in ketosis, fat becomes fuel! I personally can’t stomach the bacon fat, so I don’t usually do that.
Hi….I lost 20lbs recently on a low carb diet. Need a change. Want to lose only 10 more and keep it off. I never really understood Keto until now. I’m excited – to include some fat in my diet. Gonna get started.
Glad you found it helpful, Carly! Good luck! Let us know how it goes for you!
Thank you! These keto diet tips help a lot, I hope this can also help the other readers.
You are so welcome, Arthur! Thanks for your comment.