The secret to doing a ketogenic diet right is to plan, plan, plan.
Once you create a roadmap, all you have to do is follow it.
This guide explains how to lay a solid foundation and set yourself up for success. After reading, you will know what keto diet plans are, what they look like, how to make one, and much more.
Topics covered include tips for getting started, healthy ingredients to include in your plan, foods to stay away from, how to organize a shopping list, advice for efficient meal planning and food preparation, tasty menu ideas, and plenty of samples and examples you are free to follow or use for inspiration.
Ready to hit the road?
A ketogenic diet meal plan gives you a complete overview of what to eat each day to reach your goal of entering ketosis.
How does it work?
First, you use an online tool to calculate your keto diet plan macros or percentages. You do this by entering information such as your age, gender, how much you exercise, and your weight goals. Using these details, the calculator will give you a personalized reading of what your macros should be in terms of:
Check out our full keto diet guide for beginners for more details.
Once you know how much you should be eating each day, the next step is to create a keto diet nutrition plan with meals designed to keep you within your daily limits. Usually each plan should be at least one week long.
You can create these programs yourself (read on to see how!) or use a ketogenic meal planning tool that will tell you what to prepare for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes snacks. The best ones come with a downloadable grocery list and easy-to-follow recipes for every meal.
Let’s zoom out for a moment to review what this way of eating is all about.
Basic rules of a keto diet:
Here’s what not to do: eat whatever comes your way, then look up the nutritional information and hope that you have magically stayed within your daily limits.
Instead, plan your meals ahead of time to guarantee you stay within your macros while eating a variety of healthy nutrients.
So how do you plan a keto diet?
Schedule all your meals for the week, making sure to stay under your carb limit, get close to the protein limit, and have enough healthy fats to keep you full and satisfied.
It sounds more complicated than it is! You’ll see examples of how to get this information written down and organized later in the guide.
Before you make your first plan, there’s something you should know.
If you’re new to this way of eating, the best piece of advice is to take it slow in the beginning.
For most people, carbohydrates make up at least 50% of what we eat each day. On keto, you’re going to bring that number down to less than 10%.
That’s a big drop. You can see why keto has the power to be so transformational!
But you don’t want to leap into the deep end before you know how to swim. Instead, go gradually so your body has time to learn and catch up.
How to start a keto diet plan step by step:
Ketogenic diet tips to keep in mind:
So, when you’re thinking about what your diet is going to look like, which ingredients are keto-friendly and what foods are not allowed?
This keto diet plan chart gives you a good overview of the basics for getting started.
|Keto-friendly||Avoid||Watch your portion|
|Beans and legumes||green beans|| chickpeas, lentils, |
most beans (watch your portion size)
|Condiments and sauces|| |
herbs and spices
olive oil and vinegar
salt and pepper
salad dressings with added sugar
|Dairy and substitutes|| |
almond milk, coconut milk (plain, unsweetened)
plain yogurt with no added sugar
milk, oat milk
|keto ice cream|
|low-carb alcoholic drinks|
|Fish and seafood||fresh fish and seafood from all animals, including clams, lobster, crab, shrimp|| |
tortillas (corn, wheat)
|Meat and poultry||meats, poultry, organ meats from all types of animals|| |
processed meats, such as bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, sausages
|Nuts and seeds|| |
|Sweeteners and sugars|| |
|Vegetables||non-starchy vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, eggplant, leafy greens|| |
Keep in mind that this is not a complete list of everything you should and shouldn’t eat. But it’s a good starting point!
When in doubt about whether something is keto-friendly:
And remember, what really defines what you can include in your keto meal plan is your personalized daily number of calories and the amount of each macronutrient (fats, proteins, and carbs) you are aiming for.
Since you are taking the time and effort to look after your diet and pursue a healthy lifestyle, know that it is also important to take into consideration the quality of the ingredients you put in your body.
Just because something fits your macros doesn’t mean it’s healthy. (Case in point: a double bacon cheeseburger from a fast food restaurant only has 4 g of net carbs without the bun.)
Read the labels of your foods, not just to find hidden carbs and sugars, but also to stay away from ingredients that just plain aren’t good for you.
Here's a visual guide of how to approach a healthy keto meal plan:
One of the great things about planning your meals ahead of time is how much time and hassle it saves.
The best keto meal plans come with a weekly shopping list so you can do a one-stop shop at the grocery store to pick up supplies. Then you don’t have to go back until the following week.
This saves you time and money, plus it cuts down on temptations and impulse buying.
Regardless of what meals you’ve got coming up, there are some staple items that are always good to have on hand.
Basic keto diet grocery list
As you know, about 70-80% of your daily calories will come from fat, 20% from protein, and just 5-10% from carbs.
The biggest challenge for most people is to stay under the limit for carbohydrates, so that will be one of your main focuses. Every ketogenic meal is low in carbs.
Even with bread, potato, pasta, and rice out of the picture, you’ve still got a whole world of flavors to play around with. When you think about it, a lot of those foods you used to eat were just a blank culinary canvas you used to build colors and flavors on. Take the canvas away, and you’re left with the essence of what makes the dish delicious.
So what exactly does that look like? In this section, you’ll see some practical examples of meal ideas to include in your keto menu.
How to make a keto meal plan
Here are some quick keto meal plan ideas to get you thinking about all the possibilities.
You can use these as a starting point to build your own unique menu based on what you like and what’s on sale or in season. Or use the basic meal concept, and once you master the recipe you can try it with different ingredients to switch it up and keep things interesting.
For example, if spinach is not your jam, replace it with asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, or broccoli. If you’ve already got chicken in the fridge, use that instead of pork or beef.
A single recipe can turn into several different keto meal options. It’s fun to experiment with flavors, plus you’ll introduce a wider variety of nutrients into your diet.
Your menu should have a recipe to follow for each dish, plus you’ll want to keep track of the amounts of calories and macronutrients.
Here’s a full day of an easy-to-follow keto jumpstart meal plan:
|Calories||Carbs (g)||Proteins (g)||Fats (g)|
|Breakfast||Scrambled eggs with spinach and cheddar cheese||364||3.1||18.9||30.1|
|Morning snack||Yogurt with strawberries||107||11.1||3.9||3.9|
|Lunch||Eggplant and walnut salad with romaine lettuce||376||18.9||18.9||41.1|
|Evening snack||Toasted pumpkin seeds||96||13.9||1.9||5.1|
Rather than going day by day, it’s best to plot out weekly keto meal plans so that you can include a variety of different foods (and therefore nutrients!) in your diet. Balance out your protein sources (beef, pork, poultry, fish, seafood) and your vegetables so you don’t get tired of any one thing.
Below is a 1-week keto meal plan to give you an idea of what’s possible.
Keep in mind that for any dish you cook, you can make a double recipe and freeze the leftovers. Put each serving in a separate container or ziplock bag, and in the weeks to come you’ve got that meal ready to go. The first week’s meal plan requires the most cooking and preparation, but later in the month, that hard work will come in handy!
If you are pressed for time, choose just a few favorite dishes, make double recipes, and use the refrigerated leftovers for repeat meals later in the week.
Here's an example of what your 1-week keto meal plan might look like.
As you can see, there are all sorts of ingredients and flavors to play around with in the kitchen.
Take your keto meal planning to the next level!
Simple keto meal prep for beginners:
Many people prefer to carve out a chunk of time during the weekend (1-2 hours) to do the weekly food prep because it frees up a lot of time and mental space during the hectic work week.
Plus, you get to actually enjoy cooking instead of cranking it out to get the food on the table ASAP. Turn on some tunes and get in the cooking zone! Finding pleasure in cooking can be a fun and effective part of building a healthy relationship with food.
You can also prepare and freeze food that you’ll eat within the next few months. This is a great way to take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales or buying in bulk.
Here's a downloadable template to guide your weekly meal planning.
There is more than one way to follow this way of eating. And that's a good thing! Each individual has a unique set of needs depending on their personal situation, food choices, and goals.
Check out the different categories below and choose the best keto diet plan for you.
When you’re new to this way of eating, it’s helpful to follow a roadmap that was made with beginners in mind. These keto starter meal plans include easy-to-follow instructions and explanations.
This helps to ease your transition to this lifestyle and bring you up to speed on important concepts. This way, you can avoid common mistakes and get off to a running start. You’ll be an expert in no time!
People who don’t eat animal products must be especially mindful when planning their diet to ensure they get all of the necessary nutrients4.
You want a plant-based keto meal plan that already excludes meat, dairy, and eggs, so you don’t have to make an extra effort to modify recipes or find substitutions. Luckily, there are lots of yummy ingredients for plant eaters to enjoy, from seitan, tofu, and chia seeds to vegetables, nuts and healthy oils.
Non-meat-eaters have a wide range of healthy and delicious ingredients available to incorporate into their diet. You want a plan packed full of nutrients and flavors, with sprinkles of creativity and a dash of the unexpected.
The keto diet program for vegetarians does include eggs and dairy (cream, yogurt, cheese, butter), but excludes all meats, poultry, fish, and seafood.
If shedding pounds and slimming your waistline are part of your health goals, you want a program that’s designed for weight reduction. Most people see results within the first week!
Enjoying visible (and often dramatic!) results fast can be a great motivator, although the first 7 days you’ll be losing mostly water weight. By week 2 you should be in ketosis, so your body will be switching over to burning fat quickly and effectively.
There are different options you can choose:
This low-calorie keto diet plan can be used to shed pounds quickly. You eat less than in other types of programs, so you combine the power of ketosis with a caloric deficit.
Consuming fewer than 1,200 Kcal. a day can slow down your metabolism and make you feel tired, so following a set program will help ensure you are eating enough to keep your body and mind running smoothly.
Combine the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting in one plan for outstanding results. The One Meal A Day (OMAD) methodology sets you up for success with time-restricted eating.
If you have hit a plateau in your dieting journey, this can be a good way to kick it back into gear. Plus, think of all the extra free time you’ll have when you only prepare food, eat, and clean up once a day!
Women have unique needs and challenges when it comes to dieting.
For example, they naturally have a higher percentage of body fat. Also, hormonal fluctuations throughout the month can increase food cravings, especially for high-carb and sugary products.
It can be helpful to follow a program designed with these issues in mind, like a female keto diet plan, for instance.
There is a common misconception that this way of eating has to be expensive. This affordable and low-cost keto meal plan incorporates money-saving strategies that make each dollar go farther.
Its recipes call for fewer ingredients (less things to buy) and are built around everyday products that are cheaply available in any small town grocery store.
Here's a program that proves it's possible to make healthy and delicious dishes that don't break the bank.
The ketogenic eating technique can be leveraged to grow muscle, but you have to be intentional about it. Protein is an important part of the formula, but it’s not the only variable to keep in mind.
This keto program for building muscle incorporates high-quality proteins (containing more amino acids) and keeps you at a calorie surplus (unlike most plans) without kicking you out of ketosis. That’s a delicate balance!
This keto diet plan for families focuses on kid-friendly recipes so everyone can enjoy sitting down around the dinner table together.
Keep in mind that except for rare cases, growing children should not be following a strict diet. In addition to the dishes you share, they can incorporate extra ingredients on the side and eat more healthy snacks.
Country or location
Number of calories
Types of keto
Even for people who love spending time in the kitchen, it’s nice to take a break every now and again. Luckily, there are dozens of companies that will deliver keto-friendly meals right to your door.
This is a great way to ensure you always have a few ready-made meals up your sleeve. This will help you stick to the diet even on unexpectedly busy days, which are bound to happen!
Here are just a few examples:
|Ketoned||Green Chef||Fresh n' Lean|
|Cost per serving (approx)||$15||$13||$13|
|Shipping||Free for 10+ meals||$9/box||Free|
Curious to learn more? See answers to common questions about this way of eating.
Most people notice the scales move in the first seven days. However, most of this is water weight. When carbs are stored in your body, they bind to water. When you cut down on carbohydrates, you burn off the stored reserves, and a large amount of water gets eliminated.
So while you may lose up to 10 pounds in the first week, fat loss doesn’t usually start until week 2, after you have entered ketosis.
You can lose weight very quickly, but each person is different. Heavier people can shed fat faster, and lifestyle also plays a role. For example, exercise can speed up the process.
Normally your plan will includebetween 20 and 50 grams of net carbs per day. However, the exact amount depends on your personal characteristics (age, gender, weight) as well as your activity level and goals.
In a typical month, you can lose about 4 to 10 pounds (1 to 2 lbs per week). However, the first month you begin it’s not unusual to see a bigger drop due to the loss of water.
In most cases, you begin to see measurable results in the first 7 days. This is a fast-acting diet, which is a great motivator for many people. Seeing it work from the very beginning creates positive momentum and makes it easy to keep going.
Many plans are organized into 5 daily meals: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, dinner, and evening snack. However, it’s totally up to you (unless you are doing intermittent fasting).
The basic guideline is to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Experiment and see what feels right for your body. Just be attentive to stay within your daily limits for calories and macronutrients.
When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to plan 5 meals a day (including snacks). But again, this is something you can play around with until you find what feels right for you.
If you go too long without eating, you might get hungry and either (1) give in to an unhealthy craving or (2) overeat later.
Your appetite actually decreases as your body adapts to the new way of eating, so you may naturally reduce the number of times you eat daily.
Eating healthy fats (like avocados, olives, almonds, pistachios, pecans, and chia and flax seeds) can help you get into ketosis. But the most important thing is actually what not to eat, and that is carbs. Each person’s macros are different, but usually you’ll limit your net carb intake to 20 - 50 grams per day. Also make sure to stay under your protein macro count.
No, you do not. You can drop pounds without being in ketosis. However, entering this metabolic state will help you burn fat more efficiently and feel less hungry. Both of these factors make you lose weight faster and easier, which is part of what makes the ketogenic diet so effective.
Week 1 is an exciting time. Many people lose several pounds, which is a great way to jumpstart the diet. You are feeling freshly motivated, and seeing results helps create momentum.
You should be aware that some people experience negative side effects as the body transitions into ketosis. If you feel low on energy, especially around days 3 and 4, take it easy. Drink lots of water, replenish electrolytes, and get quality sleep to help your body adjust.
1. Ludwig, David S. The Ketogenic Diet: Evidence for Optimism but High-Quality Research Needed. The Journal of Nutrition. Volume 150, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 1354–1359, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz308 ↑
4. Bakaloudi D, Halloran A, Rippin H, Wickramasinghe K, Breda J, Chourdakis M. Intake and adequacy of the vegan diet. A systematic review of the evidence. Clinical Nutrition Journal, Volume 40, Issue 5, Pages 3503-3521, May 01, 2021. Full text ↑