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August 11, 2021


Christine VanDoren NSCA-CPT, ACE
Everything A Keto Beginner Needs to Know

Fact Checked By Christine VanDoren NSCA-CPT, ACE
 August 11, 2021

Keto Basics

A new and popular way to lose weight, not many people haven’t heard of the ketogenic diet.

It is known for involving a very low consumption of carbohydrates while progress is dependent on the individual.

Although it is very restrictive overall, there are still many nutritious and delicious foods that you can enjoy!

Before deciding to try the keto diet, make sure that it is right for you and your body!

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is becoming an increasingly popular way for individuals to lose weight (1).

It is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet.

The latter aspect is the one that matters the most, as carbs are severely restricted, no matter the source.

You can either keep your carbohydrates below 50 grams per day or make it 10% or less of your overall calories.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body and its overall functions.


Because you are essentially depleting that energy source, the body has to turn to something else-ketones.

Ketones are produced by the liver from stored fat. They provide energy for the brain, kidneys, heart, and other muscles.

Since the main source of energy (carbohydrates) is no longer being properly provided, but an alternative source of energy (ketones) is, the body is going through a partial fast.

Fat is being burned, while the lean muscle is being maintained.

However, since you are consuming only a moderate amount of protein on the keto diet, as eating too much can interfere with ketosis, it is difficult to gain muscle mass.

Every person is different, and you must keep that in mind while on the diet.

Individual metabolic rates and body mass index determine how quickly ketones are produced in the body.

Also, keep in mind that it takes a few days to reach a state of ketosis so being patient is important!

Once you do reach that state of ketosis, your cells will continue to utilize ketones for energy until you start consuming a larger amount of carbohydrates again.

The ketogenic diet has been used for about 100 years to treat epilepsy, and it first became popular for weight loss by Dr. Atkins in the 1970s (2).

Despite the longevity of this diet, it should be used on a short-term basis (3).

It is generally very difficult to follow long-term anyways, as the diet is so restrictive compared to the normal American diet that consists of over half of daily calories consumed coming from carbohydrates.

What foods can you eat on a keto diet?

Now that you have a better idea of how ketosis works, what should you be eating to be successful?

Both what you eat (and don’t!) is very important with making sure that you can reach your health goals.

Below is a list of a variety of foods that are safe to put in your grocery cart!


  • Berries (very small portions)
  • Avocados


  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus (4)
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Summer squashes

Protein sources:

  • All meats
  • Fish
  • Eggs (preferably whole)
  • Tofu


  • Full-fat cheese and dairy products
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Butter
  • Cocoa butter


  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds)
  • Seeds
  • Oils (olive, avocado, coconut)
  • Lard


  • Sparkling water (5)
  • Unsweetened coffee and tea
  • Vodka
  • Tequila

Foods to avoid or minimize on a keto diet

Given that eating too many carbohydrates or too much protein can take your body out of ketosis, you need to set yourself up for success.

The following foods should either not be included in your diet or should be minimized.

Keep in mind that the minimization of a food can only be included if it falls under your macronutrient goals.

The following foods should be generally avoided:


  • All fruits (except berries)


  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Any vegetables rich in carbs


  • Bread
  • Baked goods
  • Pasta
  • Breakfast cereals


  • Sweets
  • Processed foods (6)


  • Beer
  • High-carb alcohol

Tips and tricks for your diet transition

Both transitioning on and off a keto diet can be challenging for some.

No matter what changes you are making, the body needs time to healthily adjust.

Here are a few ways you can make your life easier when taking on the new challenge.

Transitioning onto a keto diet:

Start slow with the keto diet and don’t go cold turkey!

While some people can only make changes when going all in, most people do not work that way.

It is ideal to give your body time to adjust to your new eating habits.

Learn how to count your macros beforehand.

If you do not yet understand what macronutrients are, how many calories are in every gram, or how many grams you are allowed to eat, the keto diet can be very confusing.

Watch a quick video or read an article to understand how to count your macronutrients before getting started.

Find the low-carb alternatives for your favorite foods (7).

Starting a new diet doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you love!

Plan and research some alternatives for foods you feel like you cannot live without.

There are many keto-friendly brands and products that can still satisfy your savory or sweet tooth.

Have a dietician or nutritionist help you out.

You do not have to go through this transition alone!

Having the help of a professional can make the process a lot safer and smoother overall.

Hire someone to create your plan for you based on your specific body type and needs to ensure you are getting all of the important nutrients.

Transitioning off a keto diet:

Coming off of the keto diet can take your body about 14 days to properly adjust.

Be patient with yourself!

Changing everything suddenly after such a strict diet can wreak havoc on the body so be gradual with everything you do.

Be smart with your carbs.

Try increasing your carb intake by 5 to 10 percent each day.

Choose healthy and hard-to-digest carbs to avoid large blood sugar spikes.

Stay away from sugar initially, whether or not the source is natural (8).

Indulging can lead to faster than normal weight gain.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet that has helped many people lose weight by utilizing ketones as a main source of energy.

To be successful, it is important that you have the right foods on your grocery list and that you implement the tips suggested for transitioning both on and off of the keto diet.

If you decide this new way of eating is right for you, make sure to stay disciplined and optimistic throughout the process to see the best results!

Campos, M. April 14, 2020. Ketogenic Diet: Is the Ultimate Low-Carb Diet Good for You? Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

Gordon, B. April 2021. What is the Ketogenic Diet? Eat Right. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/fad-diets/what-is-the-ketogenic-diet

Unknown author. April 10, 2019. How to Smoothly Transition Off the Keto Diet. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-smoothly-transition-off-the-keto-diet/

Unknown author. August 31, 2020. Should You Try the Keto Diet? Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-try-the-keto-diet

Unknown author. June 3, 2020. Is the Keto Diet for You? A Mayo Expert Weighs In. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/is-the-keto-diet-for-you-a-mayo-expert-weighs-in/art-20457595

Wilderman, J. May 18, 2020. 6 Keto Transitioning Tips for Carb-Lovers. Trees for Health. Retrieved from https://www.treesforhealth.org/6-keto-transitioning-tips-for-carb-lovers/