I’ve never been so impressed with any diet’s results as I have been with keto. But starting and maintaining the keto diet is no easy feat, especially when you’re starting on your own. I combined my experience with my research to create an easy, step-by-step process of reaching the main purpose of keto – to get your body into ketosis.
This is a guide on how to start the keto diet for beginners and is something I wish I had when I started keto on my own! You can follow a few steps at a time, or start with the first, move on to the second, etc. I highly recommend this gradual method, so that your transition doesn’t feel so extreme and so that you can more easily manage any side effects that arise.
To make your transition into the diet easier, I include recommendations for meal delivery services that deliver high-quality keto-friendly meals to your door. Having meal kits or prepared meals takes the edge off deciding what to eat, how to make it, and how to shop for it.
Introduction to the keto diet
The ketogenic diet, commonly referred to as the keto diet, has gained significant popularity in recent years due to its effectiveness in promoting weight loss. Originally developed in 1929 as a treatment for diabetes and epilepsy, the keto diet has now become widely recognized for its ability to induce a state of ketosis in the body.
The keto diet requires individuals to get 60 to 80% of their daily calories from fat, with 15 to 20% from protein and only 5 to 10% from carbohydrates. In contrast, the standard American diet (SAD) often consists of a high proportion of simple carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and potatoes, making it difficult for the body to shift into a fat-burning mode.
When you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose. In a high-carb diet, your body will continuously rely on glucose for fuel, leaving little opportunity for fat burning. Excess glucose that is not utilized by the body will be stored as fat, contributing to weight gain over time.
By reducing carbohydrate intake, the keto diet forces your body into ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body's carbohydrate stores become depleted, and it starts to rely on fat as the primary fuel source. In this state, the liver produces molecules called ketones from fatty acids, which are then used as an alternative energy source for the brain and other organs.
Apart from weight loss, the keto diet has shown promising benefits for certain medical conditions. Research suggests that it may help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and provide therapeutic benefits for individuals with epilepsy and certain neurological disorders.
However, it is essential to note that the keto diet may not be suitable for everyone, and you should consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant dietary changes.
The keto diet induces a metabolic state called ketosis, where your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose. The restricted carbohydrate intake on a keto diet leads to a depletion of glycogen stores, forcing the body to seek alternative fuel sources.
Without glucose to burn, the body begins breaking down stored fat. As part of this process, your liver begins producing ketones. These ketones signal your body to continue burning fat. So long as it does not have carbohydrates to break down for quick energy, your body will remain in ketosis.
The keto diet emphasizes healthy fats, and eating complex carbohydrates for your carb intake. On a typical keto diet, you get about 60 to 80% of your daily calories from fat, 15 to 20% from protein, and only 5 to 10% from carbs.
There are several types of keto diets, but there are 2 that are the most researched and popular – Standard Keto and High-Protein Keto.
Please note that everyone enters ketosis at a different rate. If you strictly follow the keto diet, you may start to see results in the first week, but according to various factors such as current diet, body composition, and exercise level. While some transition into keto in 5 to 7 days on average, others might take 7 to 10 days.
And without further ado, here’s how to start the keto diet for beginners in 10 steps.
Processed foods are those that have been manipulated away from their original state. They are usually prepared by canning, drying, baking, freezing, or roasting with preservatives that chemically sustain form and flavor.
Always read nutrition labels. Since I started my own health journey years ago, I became a nutrition label-reading nerd. I was surprised to find how many additives there are in the standard foods I ate like breads, yogurts, and cereals. Additionally, if you don’t know the ingredients in the product – don’t eat them.
Processed foods typically use high amounts of preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers that contain chemicals your body isn’t made to break down. This usually leads to your body storing these chemicals in unhealthy ways that lead to inflammation, water retention, decreased metabolism, and weight loss prevention.
Eliminating processed foods will allow your body to work more naturally, enter ketosis more easily, and maintain your weight in a healthier way.
Start thinking about getting your calories from whole foods that promote your body’s natural functioning and ketogenic state. This means replacing processed foods you might typically eat with more whole foods.
Processed foods to avoid:
Breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, pastries (especially packaged ones)
Sodas, many juices, vitamin water, energy drinks, sports drinks
Candy, cookies, ice cream, granola bars, premade smoothies, dried fruits
Premade salty snacks
Chips, pretzels; flavored, coated or roasted nuts
Yogurts, cheeses, butters; check the labels for preservatives and avoid pasteurization
Sliced deli meats, hot dogs, sausages, some hamburgers
Mostly wine and beer since they usually have added sugar and preservatives
Most salad dressings and premade sauces
Check nutrition labels
Hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, margarine
Sodium nitrates, sodium nitrites, BHA, potassium bromate, hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup
Maltitol, aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, Splenda, xylitol
Eating high amounts of carbs will prevent your body from entering ketosis, which is our goal! After you’ve removed processed foods from your diet, you can start reducing your carb intake. But remember – low carb doesn’t mean no carbs.
The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) requires about 5 to 10% of daily calories from carbs per day. According to the typical 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, 5 to 10% translates to about 20 g to 30 g of net carbs per day.
There are 2 ways to count carbs: total carbs and net carbs. Total carbs is the total number of carbs in all the foods you consume per day. Net carbs is the total amount of carbs, minus the total amount of fiber you consume.
Check out the below meal from Factor’s Keto Plan. It has a total carb count of 12 g and fiber count of 3 g per meal. This means that the net carb count for this meal is 9 g.
Factor’s Keto Plan is an excellent option for making ketosis as hassle-free as possible. All meals are fully prepared and only require a few minutes of heating, so all you have to do is unpack, heat, and eat – no prepping or planning required.
You can order 18 keto-friendly Factor meals per week. Factor even offers extensive keto-friendly dessert add-ons like the Keto Picnic Pack or Keto Dark Fudge Brownies.
Plus, all meals on the Keto Plan have under 15 g net carbs per meal, making managing your carb counts super easy. To make your first try of Factor’s keto meals more affordable, you can use our discount code – Get 50% OFF your 1st box + 20% OFF the next 4 boxes!!
Most of us eat a lot more than 20 to 30 g of net carbs a day, which is why I recommend a gradual transition. Physically, your body needs time to adjust. Mentally, you need time to monitor your transition and potential side effects.
Sugar, including any foods with added sugar
“Natural” sweeteners like honey, agave, and molasses
Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and beans
Fruits that are high in sugar like mangos, bananas, grapes, pineapple, plums, raisins, apples, oranges, and pears**
Fruits are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants. Eaten in very small amounts, they can be beneficial, and you can include some low-fructose fruits in your keto as long as you don’t exceed your daily carb count.
However, fruits contain the sweetest naturally occurring type of carb, fructose. Your body will first break down fructose for energy before it moves on to burning fat. So, fruits are okay in very small amounts.
Avocado – 4 g net carbs per avocado or approx. 200 g
Raspberries – 5 g net carbs per 100 g (about 1 handful)
Blackberries – 5 g net carbs per 100 g
Strawberries – 6 g net carbs per 100 g
Coconut meat – 6 g net carbs per 100 g
When eating a low-carb diet, it's important to eat plenty of vegetables, so you’re consuming enough vitamins, nutrients, and fiber that will help your body optimize its ketogenic state. Fiber is particularly important on keto since most of your calories are coming from fat and protein, which aren’t fibrous foods.
You’ll want to start incorporating nutrient-dense, fiber-rich low-carb veggies into your diet. Leafy greens are particularly great as fiber resources.
Green Chef offers non-GMO, USDA- and CCOF-certified organic, low carb veggies. It also has excellent Keto meals packed with 100% organic veggies and perfectly balanced keto macros.
Eating a keto diet means getting most of your calories from fat – healthy fats. SKD requires about 70% of your daily calorie intake to come from fat. This equates to about 165 g to 180 g of fat per day from whole, natural sources.
Since you won’t be eating enough carbs, you’ll need to supplement with healthy fats to keep your body going. While there are plenty of unhealthy fats like highly processed dairy products or hydrogenated cooking oils, there are plenty of healthy fats that’ll help train your body to continue burning fat.
Fat (per 100 g)
Net Carbs (per 100 g)
Protein (per 100 g)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(grass-fed, free-range, sustainably caught, non-lean)
Free range eggs (2 eggs)
Chicken thighs (1 thigh, 130 g)
Bacon (3 slices)
There are many easy ways to increase your fat intake. These include adding a little olive oil, coconut oil, almond slivers, bacon bits, or flaxseed meal to a salad as healthy garnishes.
Full-fat dairy products are commonly recommended as a good source of protein and fat content. But dairy products in the US are typically highly processed and pasteurized. Dairy products in the US also typically come from animals that are fed hormones, antibiotics, and filler foods that make their dairy produce full of chemicals.
Look for dairy products from animals who aren’t given hormones, antibiotics, or filler-rich foods. Adding a bit of cream to your coffee is another great way to help you get your fat intake for the day.
Fresh N Lean’s Keto Plan is an excellent option for high-quality, humanely sourced proteins and produce. Beef is grass-fed, elk and venison are grass-fed and pasture-raised, all poultry is free-range, and fish is sustainably sourced! All proteins used by Fresh N Lean are free of antibiotics or hormones.
While Fresh N Lean isn’t certified organic, it uses as many organic ingredients as possible. Plus, the Keto Plan is entirely gluten-free! Fresh N Lean even conveniently calculates your fats, proteins, and net carbs for you.
SKD requires that you eat about 20 to 30% of your daily calorie intake as protein. On a 2000-calorie-per-day diet, this translates to about 65 g to 80 g of protein per day.
Getting enough protein is crucial to keeping your liver supplied with enough amino acids that will help it function properly and to maintaining muscle mass. Your liver uses amino acids from the protein you intake to help it produce glucose that powers your cells and organs.
Everyone responds to protein in a different way. As you transition into keto and start exercising more, you can start experimenting with adding protein to your diet. You might be able to eat more or less protein than the recommended amount and still stay in ketosis.
I recovered more quickly from workouts, and I had more energy throughout the day. Once I was in ketosis and had a good exercise routine, I had to increase my protein intake from about 65 g to at least 80 g and was still able to stay in ketosis.
Increasing exercise will help your body get into ketosis sooner. The more you exercise, the more your body burns glucose for fuel. The faster you burn through your glucose stores, the faster your body will achieve ketosis and start burning your fat stores.
You’ll want to increase exercise slowly if you don’t already have an exercise routine. As your body transitions from burning glucose for fuel to burning fat for fuel, you may start to feel sluggish and weak. Stay hydrated and take rest days.
Low-carb diets like keto have a diuretic effect on your body – as in you’ll pee a lot more! You’ll also lose your typical hydration stores since carbs are stored in muscles and the liver as glycogen, which also stores water. Once you burn through these stores, you won’t retain as much water as your body is used to retaining.
Staying hydrated will prevent a lot of unwanted keto side effects. Since your body will be recycling water a lot more efficiently than it normally does, be careful about staying hydrated throughout your transition. Not consuming enough water can cause an electrolyte imbalance and may lead to constipation, weakness, dizziness, nausea, cravings, and kidney issues.
When I started my initial transition phase, I had all of the above-mentioned issues. It wasn’t pretty, and I wanted to quit keto. Instead, I did a little research and thought I probably was dehydrated. I added supplemental electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and sodium to my diet, and within 12 hours, I was feeling better!
One excellent source of keto-friendly electrolytes is bone broth. Drink a cup or 2 per day with some added Himalayan sea salt (packed with minerals!) and bam – daily electrolytes.
A cup of pickle juice is also a great electrolyte supplement – no added salt needed.
Maintaining hydration is among the most important aspects of this diet. I haven’t found a reliable resource on the amount of each electrolyte required per day, so I can’t make any recommendations for this. Please speak to your healthcare professional for recommended electrolyte intake when transitioning into and when maintaining the keto diet.
You might experience some unpleasant side effects as your body transitions from burning glucose to burning fat for fuel. The biggest side effect to prepare for is the keto flu.
Muscle weakness or soreness
Irritability and sadness
Diarrhea or constipation
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Poor focus or confusion
Stairs may feel impossible, your sleep might be disrupted, and you might feel generally distressed. When I first transitioned into keto, I felt weak and irritable, which lasted for about 10 days. While it was an unpleasant time, the symptoms did reduce – as did my weight!
Everyone transitions into keto with differing levels of difficulty. Some people experience all these symptoms, while others make their way into ketosis with ease. Some may never get the keto flu and some may get it for a couple of weeks. If your symptoms last longer than 3 weeks, you should consult a doctor.
The best way to limit or avoid keto flu is to transition into keto gradually. Take each step slowly and observe how your body responds to each change.
Another way to avoid keto flu is to stay hydrated and consume enough electrolytes! Staying hydrated is great for your general health and is something you should pay even close attention to when transitioning into and maintaining keto.
Common mistakes are plenty when starting keto for the first time – it involves a lot of nutritional adjustments that you may not be used to. The most common mistakes include:
Low-carb diets like keto have a diuretic effect on your body, so you’ll be recycling water a lot more quickly than you normally do on a moderate or low-carb diet.
To stay hydrated, you can take electrolytes as vitamin supplements, bone broth with added Himalayan salt, or pickle juice without added salt. Adding Himalayan salt to your water is a great easy way to get the sodium you need!
You might be drinking your carbs without realizing it. Sugars and carbs are hidden in a lot of beverages, even in drinks that are typically considered healthy like fresh pressed juices.
Juices and smoothies might be great dense sources of vitamins and minerals, but they’re also dense sources of carbs and sugars. The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is to ensure you’re getting in your electrolytes and eating whole proteins and veggies as close to their original form as possible.
Fruit juices – apple, orange, grapefruit, pineapple
Fresh pressed or squeezed juices including green juices
Veggie or fruit smoothies
Lattes can be okay if you know the macronutrient content of the milk. Coffee is also a great appetite suppressant if you’re experiencing some hunger when transitioning into keto. Some milk and creamers are A-okay to add to your coffee or froth for a latte, but some brands actually add sugar to milk, which already has naturally occurring sugars.
Alternative nut milks can be great additions to your keto diet if they don’t have added sugar. Many alternative milks add sugars to enhance the milk flavor. They may also add a ton of preservatives to enhance the texture of the milk to make it more like regular milk and give it better frothing ability.
Almond and macadamia nut milks are the lowest in carbs and highest in fat content. Soy and oat milks are the most processed, highest in sugars, and lowest in fat content. So the next time you order a latte – ask to see the carton the milk comes in. You might be surprised at just how much sugar and additives are in that milk.
Teas (without added sweeteners) – black, green, herbal
Seltzer water – flavored is okay as long as there’s no sugar added
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a great addition to starting keto. It can help improve your digestive processes, vitamin and mineral absorption, and amino acid production in your liver. If you’re having digestive issues, add a tablespoon per day with a meal and see whether that helps. You can increase to 2 tablespoons per day if the effects are positive.
Factor offers a few Keto-friendly drinks each week like these Vanilla and Chocolate Brownie protein shakes. Since these are protein shakes, they’re more like meals. However, they’re a good example of an easy keto-friendly beverage that’ll keep you on track.
Each shake is blended with plant-based protein along with coconut oil, MCT oil, zero-calorie monk fruit sweetener, and some stevia extract for a total of 2 g net carbs each shake.
Many diets allow a cheat day once per week in order to give your body and mind a break from the hard work and diet adherence you do during the week. A cheat day typically means you take a day to eat whatever you want in whatever amount you want. But taking a cheat day on keto will reverse all the hard work you did to get yourself into ketosis.
If you take a cheat day by eating carbs and sugars, you’ll throw your body out of ketosis. Getting back into ketosis can take anywhere from 1 to 3 days depending on what you ate on your cheat day, how long you were in ketosis before your cheat day, your exercise level, and more.
To keep the temptation of taking cheat days to a minimum, try out a meal delivery service and order enough meals to cover your entire week. That way, you’ll always have a keto-friendly meal ready to go in your fridge when temptation arises.
Trifecta is another fantastic meal delivery service that provides high-quality, fully-prepared, ketogenic meals. Meals are chef-prepared and seasonally fresh. They arrive at your door fresh and never frozen to ensure that you’re eating your keto meals as close to their original, nutrient-dense state as possible!
The Trifecta app has a nutrient tracker in which you can enter all your Trifecta meals. You can also scan the bar codes of extra ingredients or foods you might add to your meals each day, which makes following your keto diet even easier.
Starting and maintaining a strict diet like keto is best done with support! The keto diet can be difficult to manage since a lot of socializing happens around food and drinks. So – let your inner circle know that you’re starting this diet.
Letting others know may help you feel more accountable for staying on track. You might feel less alone and more empowered to continue your journey to ketosis.
If you go out to a restaurant, see if you can peruse the menu ahead of time, so you can more easily make informed meal choices. You might need to call the restaurant and ask for nutrition information for specific ingredients.
I find that checking menus ahead of time relieves the pressure of counting macros and making the best meal choice for my diet. I also have the time and privacy in the comfort of my own space to do ingredient research if needed or make that call to the restaurant to find out ingredient information.
You may have to ask the kitchen to mix and match a few things on the menu, but you might also find there are actually quite a lot of options for the keto diet when eating out.
Transitioning into a keto diet for the first time is a process of discovery. Treat your transition with curiosity and compassion for your body. Relative to most diets, keto is pretty restrictive, so start slow, monitor your side effects, and consult a physician when needed.
Remember to stay hydrated by drinking extra water and consuming electrolytes. Bone broth with added Himalayan salt or pickle juice are both great options.
And keep up your social life! Remaining isolated in your efforts might make following this diet more challenging than necessary. Keeping up your social connections and letting them know about your efforts can improve your results and keep you on track.
This might require a little extra work and research if you’re going out to restaurants, but you’ll find that most restaurants offer plenty of veggie, meat, fish, and dairy options that are keto-friendly.
I recommend ordering from a meal delivery service that provides fully-prepared keto-friendly meals to make transitioning into your keto diet even easier. By ordering from a meal delivery service, you can completely remove the effort of planning, shopping, and prepping!
My top recommendation for a meal delivery service with a keto plan is Factor since it offers fully prepared, fresh meals with the best-balanced macros for the keto diet. It also offers excellent add-ons that are mostly keto friendly. You can construct your own meals from fully prepared proteins and veggies and keto-friendly desserts.
Not necessarily. If you follow the standard keto diet of 70% daily calories from fat, 20% daily calories from protein, and 10% daily calories or less from carbs, you’ll reach ketosis in about a week, maybe a little more for some people.
There are 3 methods for measuring ketone levels:
Urine pH strips
Urine pH strips are the cheapest and most available, but not the most accurate. You can usually find them in your local convenience store, grocery store, or pharmacy. Breath testers are the newest method of measuring ketones and are mostly available online, along with blood meters.
Blood meters are the most studied and accurate tests. They measure ketone levels in your blood by pricking your finger for a small blood droplet and analyzing the sample.
Following the keto diet for vegetarians is possible but not recommended for vegans. Many vegetarians can get their protein sources from dairy or eggs. However, following keto for vegans is difficult since most protein sources come from high-carb foods like beans and grains that aren’t typically eaten on a keto diet.
Fresh N Lean’s Low Carb Vegan meal plan is a better option for vegetarians and vegans. It’s not keto, but it offers low-carb, high-quality, fully prepared meals to make following a lower-carb vegan diet as hassle-free as possible.
The best way to measure your macronutrients is through a tracking app like MyFitnessPal or Trifecta. You can also use the website Nutritionix.com to search for the macronutrients of specific foods. It’s the most extensive and updated resource on food nutrition tracking available online – and it's free!
If you’re new to keto, counting your calories will give you a good idea of how to balance your macronutrients and how much food in each macro category you should be eating per day. Doing keto right means eating around 2,000 calories per day of whole, nutritious foods, which isn’t a strict number. Once you get the hang of what your keto meals will consist of, you don’t need to count calories.
Some meal delivery services like Fresh N Lean, Trifecta, Green Chef, and Factor will count macros and net carbs for you. They also provide fully prepared, individually wrapped meals with complete nutrient labels so you can easily keep track of your keto macros.