Keto Diet Meal Plan for Beginners

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Written by Vanessa Roberts, Keto Expert and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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This step-by-step guide is designed for keto beginners who are considering a positive lifestyle change and want to know how to make the transition in a healthy and effective way.

Why do you need a plan? 

Understanding the road ahead will help you:

  • Prepare for the journey.
  • Know what to expect.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Stay on track.

This roadmap to beginning a keto meal plan gives you easy-to-understand explanations of each step to take so you don’t get lost or turned around.

By the end, you’ll know what to expect in a keto starter meal plan, which foods to eat and avoid, and benefits of this way of eating. This will allow you to fully put into practice all the topics covered in our super keto guide. You will also get to see a full day of sample meals, answers to frequently asked questions, and much more. 

We move at your pace so you don’t miss a thing.

 

What is the keto diet plan for beginners?

A ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein way of eating. 

Most people start the keto diet because it is highly effective for weight loss. But that’s not the only benefit that makes keto so attractive, as we’ll see in the next section

To follow this regimen, each person must calculate and monitor two things:

  • Macros, or macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins).
  • Calories.

Your target numbers for macros and calories depend on your unique individual profile. Factors such as your age, gender, weight, physical activity level, and goals help to shape the best plan to fit your needs.

Go ahead and calculate your targets to get started.

Or keep reading to learn more.

Please be aware that this type of diet is not generally recommended for children, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those with conditions affecting the liver, kidneys, or pancreas.

An important first step for everyone is to speak with your doctor before making major changes to your diet. 

 

Benefits of a ketogenic diet for beginners

Wondering why this way of eating has become so popular?

Here are some of the many benefits you can experience by starting keto:

  • Increased weight loss.
  • Reduction in appetite and cravings.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity.
  • High energy levels throughout the day.
  • Better mental focus and concentration.
  • More and deeper sleep.
  • Reduced inflammation.
  • Clearer skin. 
  • Helps overcome addiction to sugar and processed foods.
  • Helps build a healthier relationship with food.

Scientific studies have suggested that keto may also be helpful for certain medical conditions, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Brain injuries.
  • Certain cancers.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Heart disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Keep in mind that research is still ongoing and the results are not conclusive in all areas.

 

Drawbacks of the keto diet plan for beginners

There are some challenging aspects to consider when deciding if keto is right for you.

First off, it requires effort and organization. There are tools you can use to help plan your meals and keep track of your macro counts, but it does require effort on your part. 

Making food decisions ahead of time is helpful for many people who want to gain more control and awareness around what they choose to put into their body.

However, other people quickly lose motivation, and end up falling off the wagon. 

There are steps you can take to make things easier for yourself. 

To avoid burnout, successful ketoers sit down once a week to plan meals and calculate the macros involved. This frees up more mental space and energy during the week, as you’ve already decided what you’ll eat each day.

Ideally, you’ll also set aside time to do food preparation for the week, so sauces and ingredients are prepped and ready to use for daily meals. To make it easier, you can also get a personalized meal plan that is ready to use, so all you have to do is follow it.

Another common reason people have trouble following the diet is that they find it to be too restrictive.

How are you supposed to live without pizza, pasta, or pancakes?

What most people don’t know when starting out is that there are tons of ways to work around keto restrictions. 

You can use substitutes (for example, pizza made with a cauliflower crust, pasta made from spiralized zucchini, and pancakes made with almond flour).

In many cases you can use your favorite recipe and simply leave out certain ingredients. You can even make sugar-free desserts like keto brownies.

There are gazillions of keto recipes online you can use for inspiration to create all sorts of dishes with a wide variety of flavors.

Lastly, it’s important to know that some people experience negative side effects when they first begin the diet, including:

  • Decrease in energy and mental focus.
  • Increase in hunger.
  • Digestive/stomach issues.
  • Nausea.

The good news is that these symptoms are temporary. Your body goes through a transition period in the keto diet induction phase as it adapts to using fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. After a week or two, these symptoms should disappear on their own. 

It’s also possible to prevent or reduce these symptoms, as we’ll see in the next section.

 

How to start the keto diet plan for beginners

We all know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

But getting started is the hardest part!  According to professor and researcher Piers Steel, 95% of people procrastinate in one way or another.

So if you’re having trouble getting started, you’re not alone.

The simplest way to build some forward momentum is to take baby steps so you don’t get overwhelmed. This is easier on your body and mind, rather than jumping in and trying to do everything all at once.

Once you begin to see and feel the results of ketogenic eating, your motivation and forward momentum will increase day by day.

Here are the baby steps to get started on keto:

  • Calculate your personalized macros and calorie count that you will need to reach your keto goals. This is just to give you an idea of what you are aiming for.
  • Next, without making any changes to your diet, write down everything you eat and drink in one day. 
  • Calculate the macros (fats, proteins, and carbs) and calories you have eaten that day. This is to help you see where you are now, and to start getting familiar with counting macros.
  • Now, you can begin to bridge the gap:
    • Stop eating processed foods and unhealthy sugars (soda, candy, cookies, etc.)
    • Gradually cut out high-carb foods (pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.)
    • Eat more keto-friendly vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, etc.)
    • Try making some new keto recipes for fun and to see what keto-friendly meals look like.
  • Continue to calculate your macros each day. When you are getting close to your goal macro and calorie amounts, you are ready to get started with your full keto meal plan for beginners. Your meal plan should strictly follow your macro goals.

Taking these pre-diet transition steps will help to prevent negative side effects that can come from making too many big changes too quickly.

Other tips for starting keto are:

  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is the cause of many negative symptoms, plus drinking water can also curb hunger and cravings.
  • Make sure to get enough electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Get lots of sleep.
  • Don’t overdo it. Give your body time to adjust.

 

GET A CUSTOM KETO PLAN

 

Foods to eat and avoid on a keto beginning plan

As you may know, the ketogenic diet is very low in carbs, moderate in proteins, and high in fats.

For most people, cutting carbs is the biggest change, and requires the most attention. 

You will be avoiding high-carb foods such as:

  • Grains and starches: bread, pasta, rice, corn. 
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes.

You will be limiting high-carb (but also high-fiber, so low net-carb) foods like:

  • Beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa. 

You should also stay away from high-sugar foods and drinks, like:

  • Soda, sports drinks, fruit juice, sweet tea.
  • Pastries, cookies, cakes, donuts.

When in doubt, look to see how many grams of carbs are in a serving size of the food in question. Usually you will be aiming to eat between 20-50 grams of net carbs a day, depending on your individual macros.

Keep in mind that for healthy keto, you should also minimize your intake of processed and/or packaged foods and avoid things like artificial flavoring, coloring, and hydrogenated oils. Regardless of how many carbs they do or do not have, these foods are simply not good for you.

So what should you be eating?

Here’s a keto food list for beginners to start with:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce.
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado oil, avocado.
  • Proteins: beef, pork, chicken, fish, seafood, eggs.
  • Nuts and seeds: pecans, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds.
  • Certain dairy products: butter, cream, plain Greek yogurt.
  • Water, sparkling water, tea, coffee.

Because this diet is low-carb and high-fat, you will probably be eating more fat than you are used to. 

Does it seem strange to eat lots of fat when trying to lose weight?

It may seem counterintuitive, but eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Weight gain is actually caused by eating more calories than your body uses. 

One of the good things about increasing your fat intake is that fats make you feel fuller for longer. That means you are less likely to add extra calories by snacking or overeating.

Fat plays a special role in the ketogenic diet because it is the fuel your body will be using for energy. We usually burn carbs for energy, so when you cut your carb intake, your body has to use fat for fuel instead. 

Aside from carbohydrates and fats, the third type of macronutrient is protein. 

Protein must be included in your diet in moderation. Keto focuses on high-quality food, so you want to choose real ingredients over processed ones. That means more fresh cuts of meat, poultry, and fish, and less deli meat, sausages, and bacon.

Vegetarians may want to check out our plant-based meal plan for alternative protein sources.

 

Keto diet shopping list for beginners

To set up your keto kitchen, you may need to take a trip to the grocery store. But before you do, look through what you already have. 

When making a healthy lifestyle change and building a new type relationship with food, it feels good to start fresh. Begin by going through each part of your kitchen and removing all the food products so you can see them.

  • Throw out anything that’s past its expiration date.
  • Put any foods that are fine to eat but not good for keto in bags and set them aside to donate to a local food bank. This way, you won’t be tempted to eat them!
  • Finally, wipe everything down (pantry shelves, fridge, freezer) so you are starting with a clean space. 

Now you can put back any keto-approved foods you already have, and it’s easier to see what you need to get at the grocery store. Remember never to shop on an empty stomach. 

What types of ketogenic food are good to have on hand?

Fridge:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Butter
  • Soft and hard cheeses
  • Sour cream
  • Cream
  • Greek yogurt

Keep in mind that if your veggies are losing their luster or you have ingredients close to their expiration date, you can switch them to the freezer. Go ahead and freeze them raw, or use them in a sauce or recipe and freeze the leftovers. Keep in mind that not all products can be frozen. Most cheeses are okay to freeze, although it may alter their texture.

In addition to leftovers, it’s nice to have something in the freezer that’s easy to cook on days where you are unexpectedly busy.

Freezer:

  • Shrimp (easy to cook straight from freezer without defrosting)
  • Ground beef
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Berries

It’s always a good idea to always wrap and freeze individual portions separately. That makes it easy to later thaw or defrost only the amount you need. Don’t forget to write the date on the freezer bag!

Some foods do not need to be refrigerated, so you can take advantage of special deals like buy-one-get-one-free and stock up on these items without worrying about them going bad.

Pantry:

  • Olive, avocado, coconut oil
  • Balsamic vinegar, other vinegars
  • Herbs and spices
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Unsweetened nut butter
  • Almond, coconut flour
  • Chicken/beef/bone broth
  • Canned tuna, sardines
  • Olives
  • Pork rinds
  • Beef jerky

 

1-day sample meal plan for beginners


Now that you’ve stocked the kitchen, it’s time to eat! 

Well, almost. First it’s time to get organized. It’s important to plan your meals ahead of time so that:

  1. you are not tempted to snack all day long.
  2. you set yourself up for success by selecting a combination of meals that will provide a variety of nutrients while keeping you under your daily carb limit.
  3. you don’t have to spend time or energy figuring out what to eat during your busy day.

Here is an example of a keto diet menu for beginners to give you an idea of what a day in the ketogenic life might look like:

  • Breakfast: Cheese omelet
  • Morning snack: Yogurt with strawberries and chia seeds
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with tomato, artichoke, and avocado
  • Evening snack: Celery and peanut butter
  • Dinner: Pork chop with asparagus

Calories: 1,744  | Total Macros: 28.8 g net carbs, 79.4 g protein, and 140.6 g fat. 

Optional: add a keto dessert, like a low-carb brownie

 

BREAKFAST Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
  Egg 2 large (122g) 192 0.8 13 14.6
Cheese omelet Cheddar cheese 1/4 cup, shredded (28g) 114 0.4 7 9.4
  Extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon (14g) 119 0 0 13.5
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
425 1.2g 20g 37.5g            
MORNING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
  Plain yogurt (whole milk) 1/2 cup (122.5g) 75 5.7 4.3 4
Yogurt with strawberries and chia seeds Strawberries (whole) 1/2 cup (72g) 23 4 0.5 0.2
  Chia seeds 1 oz (28g) 137 1.7 4.4 8.6
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
235 11.4g 9.2g 12.8g            
LUNCH Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
  Spinach 2 cups (60g) 14 0.8 1.8 0.2
Spinach salad with tomato, artichoke, and avocado Cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup (74.5g) 13 2 0.7 1.5
  Artichoke hearts 1/4 cup (42g) 22 1.4 1.2 0.1
  Avocado 1/2 avocado (100g) 161 1.8 2 14.8
  Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon (23.5g) 6 2 0.1 0
  Avocado oil 2 tablespoons (28g) 248 0 0 28
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
464 8g 5.8g 44.6g            
EVENING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
  Celery 2 medium stalks (80g) 13 1.6 0.6 0.2
Celery and peanut butter Peanut butter 2 tablespoons (32g) 200 0 0.2 22.8
             
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
203 5.6g 8.6g 16.2g            
DINNER Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
  Pork chop 1 chop (134g) 190 0 32.8 6.5
Pork chop with asparagus Asparagus 8 spears (120g) 27 2.6 2.8 0.2
  Butter (salted) 2 tablespoons (28g) 200 0 0.2 22.8
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
417 2.6 35.8 29.5            
DAILY TOTALS   1,744 cal 28.8g net carbs 79.4g protein 140.6g fat

 

The plan above should give you a taste of some good keto meals for beginners, but keep in mind that your ideal macro and calorie counts will vary depending on your personal profile. This is why it’s important to customize your plan to make it right for you. 

 

PERSONALIZE YOUR MEAL PLAN

 

Keto diet plan for beginners FAQ


If you don’t ask, you’ll never know! Here are the answers to frequently asked questions from your fellow keto beginners.
 

Low-carb doesn’t mean no-carb! You are allowed to eat small amounts of this macronutrient, mostly from vegetables, nuts, seeds, some cheeses, and dairy (yes, these foods contain carbohydrates!)

Carb-heavy foods like bread, rice, and pasta should not usually be included in your plan

Some good ones are olives, cheese cubes, celery and carrot sticks, and pecans. Make sure to control the portion size and count what you eat toward your daily macros.

To get into ketosis and make your body burn fat for fuel instead of carbs, the most important thing is to stay under your daily carb ceiling. You can accelerate the process by exercising, doing intermittent fasting, and getting enough sleep. 

Here are a few ideas to start your day the ketogenic way: 

  • Omelets or egg muffins (egg + spinach, cheese, bell pepper, mushroom, tomato, bacon, goat cheese, feta)
  • Eggs and bacon or sausages
  • Pancakes made with almond or coconut flour (no syrup)
  • Plain Greek yogurt with blackberries and chia seeds
  • Strawberry smoothie with coconut milk

Yes, exercise can and should be a part of your healthy new lifestyle. There are even keto exercise plans for beginners to help you get started. 

The only caveat is that you may have a harder time working out during the first week or two, when your body is still adapting. Listen to your body and don’t push it too hard, especially at the beginning.

Most people need to stay under 50 net grams or carbs a day to go into ketosis, although it depends on your personal macros. This is much lower than most people are used to, which is why we recommend you give yourself a pre-diet transition period so that your body and mind have time to adapt (see above for details).

 

Other ketogenic plans


Looking for alternative routes to take along your keto journey? Check out the options below: