Keto Diet for Beginners: Free Easy Start

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Keto Diet | Types for Beginners | Benefits | How to Start | Meal Plan

The keto diet for beginners is a low-carb diet focusing on healthy fats. It is more popular than ever because of its tremendous fitness and health benefits.

I wrote this article to give beginners the basic knowledge they need and a plan to incorporate the ketogenic diet into their lives today.

Do you look forward most to side dishes like potatoes, pasta, or bread when you eat out and find it hard to say no to dessert?

Then you’ve come to the right place. This beginner’s guide explains step-by-step how your body regains the ability to burn fat through a ketogenic diet.

What Is the Keto Diet for Beginners?

A keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet.

Accordingly, it reduces carbohydrates and maximizes healthy fats while keeping protein consumption moderate. Ketogenic diets aim to burn fat as the primary energy source.

After we are used to eating carbohydrates around the clock in Western society, many people’s bodies have unlearned to burn fat for energy efficiently.

Because it is more readily available, the body prefers energy from carbohydrates. The body starts breaking down fat reserves when very little glucose is available.

Fewer carbohydrates and more healthy fats lower insulin levels, setting the hormonal course in the body to lose weight.

When you feed your body carbohydrates, it converts them into glucose—consequently, blood sugar and the level of the storage hormone insulin rise.

As the name suggests, insulin stores excess glucose in the form of glycogen and fat.

As long as stored carbohydrates (glycogen) are present, the body uses them preferentially for energy production.

When glycogen stores are empty, the body must break down stored fat and convert it into ketones.

As soon as these fat energy bodies predominantly feed the energy supply, the metabolic state of ketosis is reached.

In contrast, insulin blocks the enzyme that breaks down body fat (Meijssen et al. 20011).

In light of this, researchers can predict up to 75% of gains and losses in overweight individuals based on insulin levels (Kong et al. 20132).

However, it is not only carbohydrates that increase insulin levels.

Keto vs. Low-Carb

While low-carb diets reduce carbs, keto also introduces healthy fats.

Since it was already developed in the 1960s, the Atkins diet is considered the classic low-carb diet. It aims to reduce carbohydrates.

But that’s where their problem lies. Standard low-carb diets neglect the role of fats and proteins. Because of the ubiquitous demonization of fats, low-carb diets are usually paired with lean proteins.

Moreover, until the 1990s, it was unknown whether protein could stimulate insulin (Nuttall et al. 19913).

On the other hand, pure fats such as extra virgin olive oil cause almost no insulin response. 

For this reason, classic low-carb diets such as the Atkins diet are not nearly as effective for weight loss as the keto diet.

In addition, research has also led health authorities to admit that saturated fat prevents heart disease instead of causing it (Hite et al. 20104Mozaffarian et al. 20045).

The ketogenic diet takes advantage of all these new findings.

Macronutrient Distribution

The keto diet for beginners follows one essential rule concerning fat, protein, and carbohydrates, also known as macronutrients. 

For this reason, the following macronutrient distribution about energy intake is the cornerstone of a keto diet:

  • Fat: 75-80%
  • Protein: 20-25%
  • Carbohydrates: 5-10%

Although the fat percentage seems intimidating initially, it’s easier to achieve than you might think. 

While a gram of protein or carbohydrate provides four calories, a gram of fat puts nine calories into your body.

Thus, fat only makes up about half the weight of your food. Furthermore, fiber is not counted in the carbohydrate balance because the body excretes it.

Accordingly, only net carbohydrates (carbohydrates – fiber) are essential for calculating macros on keto.

While most people can eat between 20 to 50 grams of net carbohydrates daily to maintain ketosis, experienced keto enthusiasts may sometimes eat up to 100 grams.

You can adapt your protein intake according to your exercise capacity. However, you shouldn’t undercut 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight to maintain muscle.

The keto diet for beginners allows a lot of olive oil

Ketone Bodies

During ketosis, the liver converts fatty acids into so-called ketones or ketone bodies, a new energy source for your body.

The body must adapt to these circumstances when you reduce carbohydrate intake for a long time and replace these calories with healthy fats and proteins.

In this regard, the metabolic state of ketosis is an entirely natural mechanism that has ensured the survival of our species.

If the carbohydrate stores were empty during food shortages, the body had to call on the fat reserves as a primary energy source.

Accordingly, the keto diet attempts to put the body into ketosis by depriving it of carbohydrates, which you can otherwise only achieve by fasting for 2-5 days (Courchesne-Loyer et al. 20176).

Since the Standard American Diet (SAD) is based on constant carbohydrate intake, the body can take 3-6 weeks to learn to burn fat efficiently again after starting keto.

Three primary ketone bodies exist:

  • Acetone
  • Acetoacetate
  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

In ketosis, ketones predominantly replace carbohydrates (Evans et al. 20177). 

Meanwhile, gluconeogenesis, the conversion of glycerol, lactate, and amino acids to glucose, kicks in to ensure that blood glucose does not become dangerously low (Melkonian et al. 20208).

That our brains only work on glucose is a myth. Because the brain and other organs can use ketones more readily than carbohydrates for energy, many people report they improved mental clarity, mood, and reduced appetite in nutritional ketosis (LaManna et al. 20109). 

In addition, ketones have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help repair refined carbohydrates’ cellular damage, which industrial seed oils are causing (Cannataro et al. 201910Kim et al. 201911).

Health Benefits

Countless health benefits show that the ketogenic diet is more than a weight-loss fad:

  • Gut Health: Studies show keto can improve abdominal pain and quality of life in people with inflammatory bowel syndrome (Austin et al. 200912).
  • Diabetes: A ketogenic diet helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Therefore, it reduces the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (Dashti et al. 200713)
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): The ketogenic diet can counteract this metabolic disorder by lowering insulin levels (Paoli et al. 202014).
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): The keto diet’s anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-regulating properties can relieve pain and symptoms of PMS (Masino et al. 201315Schmelzer et al. 201516).
  • Heart Disease: Ketogenic diets may improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar (Paoli et al. 201317).
  • Cancer: Keto diets have been the focus of cancer research for some time, as they can significantly slow tumor growth (Weber et al. 201818).
  • Epilepsy: Research shows that ketogenic diets help reduce seizures in children with epilepsy (Ulamek-Koziol et al. 201919).
  • Parkinson’s Disease: A recent study suggests that the keto diet may improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (Phillips et al. 201820).
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Depending on the duration and intensity of ketosis, keto helps improve Alzheimer’s disease (Rusek et al. 201921).
  • Brain Injury: Research suggests ketones are the better energy source for healing traumatic brain injuries (Prins et al. 201422).
  • Endurance: The ketogenic diet may help athletes use fat more efficiently as a muscle substrate, improving endurance performance (Phinney et al. 198323).
  • Weight Loss: It’s still the primary reason for its popularity. While keto improves weight, body fat, and blood lipids, it maintains muscles (Dashti et al. 200424).
The keto diet for beginners can improve endurance

Keto Diet Types for Beginners

There are five main types of ketogenic diets. Each takes a slightly different approach to distribute fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

You can choose the best method from the five depending on your daily routine, training, and weight loss goals.

1. Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

The SKD is the most common and best-researched version of the keto diet, which is why this article refers to it.

You stick to the classic keto macronutrient distribution and take under 50 grams of net carbohydrates daily.

2. Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)

The cyclical ketogenic diet is an excellent starter method for people intimidated by keto.

In this, you alternate between periods of low-carb eating for several days, followed by a period when more carbs are allowed.

For example, athletes also use this method to add more carbohydrates on training-intensive days.

3. Targeted Keto Diet (TKD)

The targeted ketogenic diet is similar to the cyclic diet because it allows increased carbohydrate intake after exercise.

Hence, the TKD makes particular sense to athletes since that is the best time to eat carbohydrates to help with muscle recovery (Ivy 199825).

4. High-Protein Keto Diet

Compared to the standard approach, protein intake changes only during the high-protein ketogenic diet. 

Due to the higher protein and lower fat intake, this variation is more similar to the Atkins diet than the others.

Here, macros distribution is around 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.

5. Keto Carnivore Diet

A strict carnivore diet eliminates all plant foods from the diet plan. Keto Carnivore is the precursor to this extreme diet that allows carbohydrate-free, non-animal fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, or avocado oil.

Although the keto carnivore diet has no fixed macronutrient ratio, you will burn fat as a primary energy source due to a lack of carbohydrates.

Keto Diet Rules for Beginners

Let’s not kid ourselves – getting started with keto sounds easier than it is. For this reason, I designed a comprehensive how-to guide to help you to get started on a ketogenic diet today.

To ensure a safe start to your keto journey, here are essential tips to help you avoid beginner mistakes causing side effects.

1. Stay Hydrated

When you start a ketogenic diet, your body must slowly empty its glycogen stores.

Since 2-3 grams of water are attached to every gram of carbohydrate in glycogen, you will inevitably lose lots of fluid.

If you don’t drink enough on keto, you will experience the following symptoms, also known as the keto flu, especially in the beginning:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Low motivation
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

But it’s not just fluid loss that can trigger physical symptoms.

Woman drinking coffee in the gym

2. Do Not Fear the Shaker

Once you deplete glycogen stores, electrolytes are flushed out with water. The most essential is salt (sodium), so its deficiency is also responsible for 90% of all physical ailments.

In particular, headaches and dizziness, the main symptoms of keto flu, are clear signs of too little salt consumption.

Unjustly, an unhealthy image has been attached to sugar’s white counterpart.

While sugar consumption promotes insulin resistance and body fat storage, salt increases insulin sensitivity and aids weight loss (Sakuyama et al. 201626).

Contrary to popular belief, countries with the highest salt consumption yield the lowest cardiovascular disease rates (Park et al. 201627).

In addition, salt takes the bitter taste out of food and acts against cravings. Since it also has a positive feedback loop, unlike sugar, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough salt.

Accordingly, you don’t need to fear salt if you aim for a smooth start on the ketogenic diet.

Since the keto diet increases the need for sodium, I recommend always seasoning foods sufficiently with a natural salt like pink Himalayan salt.

3. Embrace Healthy Fats

In a world that has been declared fat public enemy number one for decades, it’s not easy to suddenly eat this macronutrient in larger quantities.

For example, getting fattier meat cuts at the local butcher is already challenging. While cuts with natural fat end up in the trash, grocery stores are packed with nutrient-poor fillets and lean hams.

Nonetheless, we need to re-learn to get healthy fats from whole foods. Therefore, the following foods with healthy fats can help you establish a ketogenic diet:

  • Virgin coconut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Olives
  • Avocado (oil)
  • Cod liver (oil)
  • Fish roe
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Ghee
  • Organic lard
  • Beef tallow
  • Pastured eggs
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Flaxseeds

Once you become aware of healthy fats, you can find keto easier. Additionally, these fats taste fabulous and help you stay fuller longer.

4. Track Your Macros

Especially in the beginning, it’s not easy to keep track of everything when switching to a ketogenic diet.

That’s why some people find it helpful to calculate their daily intake of macronutrients and note their actual consumption.

Once you get used to the ketogenic lifestyle, you’ll better know how much protein and carbohydrates you can eat to stay in ketosis.

Especially since everyone’s body is different, tracking the exact nutrients you need to maintain ketosis can prevent you from not reaching your goals.

Therefore, knowing when you’re in ketosis is essential to customize your eating pattern to your body.

5. Learn How to Know When You Are in Ketosis

One of the most common questions when starting the keto diet is: How long does it take to get into ketosis?

Depending on your body’s ability to adapt to burning fat as a primary energy source, it can take 1-3 days or even a few weeks to get into ketosis.

Once you achieve the state of ketosis, you will notice it primarily by a decidedly clear head. In addition, cravings will decrease, and your energy level will increase.

Nevertheless, the best way to check ketone levels is through testing. Since ketones are transported throughout the body, there are several ways to measure them:

  • In your urine, through test strips
  • With a breath meter
  • In the blood through a glucose meter

Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but measuring ketones in the blood is usually the most accurate.

Although a breath meter can be expensive, it is probably the most convenient way to measure ketone levels. On the other hand, urine testing is quick and inexpensive but typically the least accurate method.

Keto Diet Meal Plan for Beginners

Once you’ve stocked your pantry with these keto staples, you’ll be ready to whip up a delicious LCHF meal anytime:

  • Pastured Eggs
  • Fatty Meats: Pasture-raised beef, lamb, chicken, pork
  • Cured Meats: Bacon, salami, prosciutto
  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, tuna, mackerel
  • Dairy: Grass-fed butter, cream, ghee
  • Cheese: Full-fat hard cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese, mozzarella cheese
  • Nuts and Seeds: Pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts, flaxseeds. 
  • Green Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce
  • Low-Carb Vegetables: Mushrooms, celery, onion
  • Fruits: Avocados, olives, lemons
  • Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, avocado oil
  • Spices: Himalayan salt, black pepper, turmeric
  • Drinks: Mineral water, green tea, coffee

The unprocessed natural foods on my keto shopping list for beginners guarantee success and help you maximize the health benefits.

Avocado, berries, nuts, and eggs are allowed on keto

Below is an example of a keto diet meal plan for beginners. Here, you can go wild with the keto staples and adjust the guidelines as you see fit.

However, it would be best not to exceed 50 grams of net carbohydrates daily. In addition, you don’t have to skimp on healthy fats and can refine the meals with olive oil or butter as you like.


  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with fried bacon and flaxseed
  • Lunch: Avocado tuna salad with egg
  • Dinner: Pork chops baked with cheese and steamed broccoli in olive oil


  • Breakfast: Omelet with avocado, peppers, and onion
  • Lunch: Chicken mayonnaise salad with cucumber, avocado, onion, and walnuts
  • Dinner: Roasted chicken legs with cauliflower puree


  • Breakfast: Full-fat Greek yogurt with almonds, cocoa powder, and berries
  • Lunch: Ground beef lettuce wraps with cheddar cheese, onion, and bell pepper
  • Dinner: Chicken stuffed with cream cheese, served with roasted asparagus


  • Breakfast: Fried eggs with onion and mushrooms
  • Lunch: Roasted pork belly, served with steamed kohlrabi 
  • Dinner: Mackerel fried in coconut oil with kale and toasted pine nuts


  • Breakfast: Cream cheese pancakes with raspberries 
  • Lunch: Grilled salmon with a salad of leafy greens, feta, and tomato
  • Dinner: Ribeye steak with butter and coleslaw


  • Breakfast: Fried bacon with two soft eggs
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil, feta cheese, olives, and lettuce
  • Dinner: Pasture-raised beef burger (no bun) with tomato, onion, cheese, and kale


  • Breakfast: Omelet with egg, feta cheese, garlic, and spinach
  • Lunch: Garlic butter steak with mushrooms and asparagus
  • Dinner: Cheese bowl tacos with guacamole

This ketogenic diet plan intentionally does not include snacks. On the one hand, not having snacks between meals helps you lose weight after it keeps insulin levels low.

On the other hand, the satiating effect and constant blood sugar levels of the high-fat, low-carb diet will eliminate cravings over time.

Of course, some situations cry out for snacks. For example, when you’re going on an outing. Here are the 40 best keto snacks to buy and make.

Recipes for Beginners

The first few days of the keto diet can be challenging for beginners. While it’s difficult to include enough fat in your diet, cravings can sometimes be a nuisance.

For this reason, here are the best recipes to fight cravings with the help of healthy fats without compromising ketosis.

Bulletproof Coffee
Learn how to make epic ☕ Bulletproof Coffee with 🧈 grass-fed butter to maximize your 🧠 health benefits on keto and intermittent fasting!
Check out this recipe
Bulletproof Coffee
Bone Broth
Whether for fasting, keto, or paleo, you can easily make a nutrient-dense ⚡ power tonic at home with this 🥣 bone broth recipe.
Check out this recipe
Bone Broth
Golden Milk
Reap the benefits of golden milk in no time with this simple recipe: 🌿 Vegan, 🥛 dairy-free, traditional Ayurveda, and even 🥑 keto-friendly.
Check out this recipe
Golden Milk

Foods to Avoid

The cornerstone to mastering the ketogenic diet for beginners is to know which foods you should avoid.


The white crystal is poison for your health and makes losing weight almost impossible.

Sugar can appear in countless forms, such as sweets, pastries, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, lemonade, juice, honey, agave, or maple syrup.

Contrary to popular belief, you should also avoid zero-calorie sweeteners and zero drinks, as they can negatively affect metabolism and fuel cravings (Pepino et al. 201528Yang 201029).

Sugar is not allowed on the keto diet for beginners

Processed foods

After decades of optimizing food production, most processed products contain cheap synthetic ingredients instead of expensive natural ones.

You’ll be surprised at what’s inside if you turn over some brand-name products. In particular, look for hidden sugars, starches, emulsifiers, stabilizers, sweeteners, and other chemical additives.

Also, labeling them as low-carb or keto foods rarely makes fake food aid weight loss, even if there are few net carbohydrates.

Sauces and Dressings

Ready-to-eat foods are a mecca for added sugars. I often can’t believe how much sugar can be in hot mustard. 

Moreover, balsamic vinegar is often 50% sugar. Likewise, ready-made dressings are pumped with sugar and sweeteners.

With barbecue sauces, the result can often be even worse. For this reason, making sauces yourself makes sense, or investing the amount in pasture-raised meat, which tastes better without needing condiments.

Low-Fat Products

Although low-fat products are equally highly processed foods, it’s hard to get the idea out of many minds that they would help with weight loss.

Yet, the exact opposite is true. While natural fat in whole foods dampens the blood sugar and insulin response, defatting significantly increases it.

In this context, the classic fats are usually dairy products such as skim milk, cream, yogurt, or cheese.

Protein Bars and Drinks

So-called sports nutrition sounds ideal for getting your body back in shape.

Nevertheless, these are highly processed foods with hidden sugars, sweeteners, emulsifiers, stabilizers, flavors, and cheap plant proteins, such as soy.

Likewise, protein shakes are the same fake food as bars. At the same time, even keto-friendly bars often contain over 40% net carbs.

For this reason, I would give these products a wide berth.

Protein bars are not suitable for keto


Grains have been able to get humanity through many harsh winters because of their ease of storage and sensational ability to build fat reserves.

In times of abundance, however, we no longer depend on grains. Because grains contain lectins such as gluten or wheat germ agglutinin that can bind to insulin receptors, whole grains, in particular, prevent weight loss (Shechter 198330).

For these reasons, on a ketogenic diet, you should avoid wheat, bread, pasta, rice, oats, cereal, corn, or pseudo-grains such as quinoa.


While vegetarians often have no choice but to eat legumes as a source of protein, you shouldn’t depend on them for keto.

Legumes are full of carbohydrates and lectins, making losing weight at any time difficult.

Avoiding beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts is crucial for weight loss.

Starchy Vegetables

Starch is nothing more than multiple sugars your body converts back into glucose, drastically increasing blood sugar.

Classic vegetables rich in starches include potatoes, sweet potatoes, and parsnips.


Although touted as healthy, most fruits are sugar bombs that can’t compete with vegetables, fish, or meat regarding nutrients.

While small amounts of berries and some citrus fruits are allowed, you should avoid common sugary fruits like bananas, pineapples, oranges, apples, or grapes.

Industrial Seed Oils

Subsequent vegetable oils are predominantly omega-6 fatty acids, which are already damaged during their industrial production, promoting inflammation and weight gain (Marchix et al. 201531):

  • Safflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat)
  • Margarine (trans fat)

Barbecue season, in particular, is a trap for cheap seed oils. That’s why you should never buy marinated meat. It will always contain refined vegetable oils that oxidize during heating.

Likewise, fried foods are a problem because people commonly use these cheap fats. Virgin coconut oil is the exception for frying and deep-frying because it is particularly heat resistant.


Although some spirits and wines are keto-friendly due to their low sugar content, alcohol consumption inhibits weight loss.

When you drink, the liver prefers to break down the alcohol instead of making ketones. Furthermore, avoiding beer, mixed drinks, and cocktails would be best.

Mix spirits with soda water instead of syrups, juices, and energy drinks to stay keto-friendly.

The Takeaway

Living a ketogenic lifestyle can be very refreshing. You’re euphoric, energetic, and less hungry.

While the metabolic state of ketosis burns your body fat more efficiently, it also allows you to think more clearly. So you’ll have to ask yourself: Why didn’t I start keto earlier?

Especially the beginning is not only challenging but also a stumbling block. You will not get results even after weeks without the necessary basic knowledge. Hence, many people give up on keto early.

Others do not know how to eliminate the side effects of metabolic change, such as keto breath, and resign.

With this beginner’s guide to the keto diet, that can’t happen to you. This article has everything you need to start keto today, from essential rules and methods to vital tips and a diet plan!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I start a keto diet?

Start a keto diet by reducing carbs and exchanging them for green vegetables, meat, fatty fish, cheese, grass-fed butter, olive oil, and nuts.

What do you eat the first week of Keto?

Start the first keto week with low-carb veggies, eggs, meat, fatty fish, full-fat cheese, grass-fed butter, olive oil, nuts, and berries.

How long does it take to start losing weight on keto?

While you will lose a few pounds of water within the first two weeks, it can take 3 to 6 weeks until you are fat-adapted and burn fat more efficiently.

What is the basics of Keto?

You eat plenty of healthy fats (~70%), moderate protein (~20%), and a few carbohydrates (~10%) on keto.



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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc.

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

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