How To Get Started With Keto In 5 Easy Steps
“How do I get started with keto. What EXACTLY do I need to do?”
When I was thirteen, I remember standing on the edge of the high dive at the community pool. I was not an avid swimmer, nor did I really know how to dive properly. I had this vague sense of how I was supposed to position my arms and which direction my head was supposed to be pointed as when I left the diving board.
I stood at the end of that board for several minutes. I placed my hands over my head in the right position. I edged my feet toward the end of the board. I’d give a little bounce…and then freeze.
I’d take a deep breath and start the process all over.
I never did dive that day. I did manage a cannon ball though. 🙂
Getting started with keto is like that. You need to jump, even if you turn a dive into a cannon ball.
The hardest part of any new way of eating is getting started. For this post, I’m assuming you know a little about keto. Maybe you’ve got a friend or medical professional who recommended keto. Maybe you’ve been lurking in Facebook groups for weeks but still don’t feel like you know what to do.
People are talking about macros, MCT oil, ketones, electrolytes, keto flu? What the heck is keto flu? When I got started I didn’t even know what a macro was.
First, breathe. Relax. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all yet. It’s much more important to GET STARTED.
My Simple Definition of Keto
At the most basic level, keto is a way of eating that switches your body from burning glucose to using fat for fuel. This is what nature intended. This means high fat, low carb, moderate protein.
Don’t get hung up on the details if its going to keep you from starting, however the usual ‘macros’ (macro-nutrients) are 70% of calories from healthy fats, about 70-115 grams of protein per day and less than 20 grams of net carbs from veggies per day. Eliminate all sugar (it’s easier than you think, I promise!), grains and starches. Boom. That’s it in a nutshell.
When I first heard this 70% fats recommendation, I thought “there is no way I’ll be able to eat that much fat!” Fat contains more calories per gram than protein and carbs. It’s not as crazy or hard to accomplish as it sounds.
I’m not here to dive into all the science.If you want to learn more about how keto works, there are a lot of websites to consult. Two sites I trust to provide accurate information are ketovangelist.com, ketodietapp.com, ruled.me.
Decide WHY you are going to start eating a high fat, low carb, keto diet. I can give you a list of dozens of health benefits, but your WHY is the only one that matters. Your WHY will be the driving force on days you wish you could be eating that pile of mashed potatoes your friend is eating.
Note: Physical cravings rapidly diminish once you are in a ketogenic state. It’s your head that will mess with you. When your WHY is important enough to you, you’ll find it easy to stick to it.
Stop eating sugar, starch, grains. Instead eat minimally processed fatty meats (not lean meats), lots of healthy fats and low carb veggies. KetoDietApp has a great list of keto foods, including a food pyramid here.
Don’t get hung up on “traditional” meals or meal times. If you want an sliced steak, sauteed mushrooms and sour cream for breakfast, eat it. Eventually you’ll find you aren’t hungry at the usual times. If you aren’t hungry. Don’t eat. If you are hungry, eat. If you find yourself unusually hungry, eat more fat.
At first, this is going to seem counter-intuitive. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking fatty foods are bad. You’ll have to operate on faith at first. Commit to 3 weeks. If you are doing keto for weight loss, you’ll see results by then. That’ll be your reinforcement. On my fourth month of eating 100% ketogenically, I didn’t lose a single pound, but I lost 1.5 inches off my waist. At the start of my fifth month, the weight started coming off again. By then I’d lost a total of 17 pounds and two dress sizes.
If you are overwhelmed by the “macros” aspect of ketogenic eating, just start by quitting sugar, starch and grains. Don’t worry about tracking your fats, proteins and carbs yet. This is how I started. I didn’t start measuring my macros for the first six weeks. I knew if I did, it would make it seem too complicated and keep me from starting. I lost a whole dress size in that first six weeks. So, not tracking macros didn’t hurt me.
When I did start tracking macros, I found areas to improve and I made adjustments. I tracked my macros for a few weeks. I stopped tracking when I felt I had a good sense of what I needed to be eating each day. When you are ready to track macros, just download a free app, like MyFittnessPal. It makes tracking very easy.
Insure yourself against “keto flu”. I hate that people refer to it by this name. Basically, keto flu is just the body detoxing and is often a symptom of an electrolyte imbalance. Some people don’t experience it at all. My mom, who started eating keto at age 72, never had an issue. My daughter at age 25 experienced symptoms for several weeks.
I prepared with a Magnesium Glycinate supplement recommended by a keto veteran. This friend also suggested I use Nu-Salt instead of taking a potassium supplement and it made all the difference. You can use it just as you would table salt. I’m a salt lover and I was shocked how much this tastes just like salt. If you want to learn more, Martina, at KetoDietApp has a great post about keto flu here.
Ketogenic eating will change your bowel habits. I hear people complain about being constipated. I’ve never experienced constipation, though I did have a few days of zero bathroom activity. Your body is making serious adjustments, balancing out and resetting to a more healthy way of processing food. I find my bathroom habits are far more regular and “healthy” than they were before keto.
Read labels and purge your kitchen, refrigerator and freezer of non-keto friendly foods. I realize this may not be entirely possible for those of you with families, but the more you can eliminate the better.
I’m married and my husband (even though he’s diabetic) isn’t ready to become ketogenic. He and I made compromises and I was able to remove 11 bags of sugared, high carb foods from my house. I donated them to a family in need. Knowing the items in your kitchen are keto friendly is a huge benefit.
Keep learning at a pace you feel comfortable with. The more people learn about the health benefits of keto, the more we can combat the misinformation being disseminated by big government agencies. I’m not a crusader, but I’ve never been more angry to know how agencies like the ADA and USDA are recommending diets that are in direct conflict with the science of a healthy human diet. Healthy humans aren’t going to take expensive drugs fo a lifetime.
While you are learning, know there is a lot of misinformation about ketogenic eating out there. I’ve seen posts claiming a keto friendly recipe that include sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes contain 23 net carbs per cup. That’s 3 more carbs than you should have in a day. If something seems off, question it. Don’t blindly follow anything that claims to be “ketogenic”.
A Note About Meal Plans And Cookbooks
Keto meal plans can be a useful guide, but if they overwhelm you or make you feel like “I can’t do this”, then don’t use a meal plan. Everyone has different tastes, budgets, schedules, and culinary expertise.
I ordered The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse by Maria Emmerich after about 3 weeks of eating keto. She was one of the speakers at the keto conference I attended that started me on this journey. At first, I just used a handful of recipes. Now that I’m several months in, I’ve gotten more comfortable with additional recipes in this book.
Confession: This is a diary free recipe book, but I haven’t given up dairy. Many of the recipes call for non-dairy fats, but I just replaced those items with their dairy equivalents. Probably not what Maria had in mind when she published the book! I only mention it to show you you can take all this info and make it fit your needs.
Staples You Might Need
When I started, I told myself I would not buy any special products to “do this diet”. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. When I was at the keto convention where I learned about keto, there were many supplements and most weren’t cheap. I knew that would keep me from moving forward. I’m sure there are healthy benefits to many of them – but I’m not ready to add expensive supplements to my plan. I’ve found there are a few staples I’ve purchased and I’d recommend as you get started. I found Costco to be the best value for most of these items.
- Avocado or Olive Oil
- Heavy Cream
- Pork Rinds (no added flavor. The flavored ones have sugar in them)
- Sour Cream (make sure it’s only cream. Some brands add starch)
- Sugar Free Mayo (or make your own. This a ridiculously easy recipe.)
- No Sugar Added Stevia Ketchup and BBQ (I use AlternaSweets)
- Sugar Free Salsa (I use Pace Picante Sauce, Medium)
- Eggs (very handy for many recipes)
- Almond Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Stevia (I use Truvia. Not a blend or “in the raw”. Get a free sample.)
There you have it! Those are the basics of getting started. You can do it! The more you learn, the more you’ll come to understand just how important changing our fuel source from glucose to fats benefits our health. Here’s to your high dive (or cannon ball!) into the pool of keto living.