If you have been wondering what is a keto diet, a little history will help you understand its background and the science behind a ketogenic lifestyle. Nearly 100 years ago, two physicians at separate institutions were studying the effects of a diet that included extremely low concentrations of carbohydrates and extremely high levels of fats. Dr. Wilder from the Mayo Clinic tested this diet on epilepsy patients. Seeing how the diet activated ketone production, he coined it the ketogenic diet.
Over the years, various research hospitals and institutions have studied ketogenic diets and their success in the treatment of epilepsy. In 1972, Dr. Livingston from Johns Hopkins Hospital authored a report on the ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy and revealed that 52% had complete control of their seizures.
Why the history lesson? To show that the keto diet isn’t a fad! It has been used in medical practices for nearly a century and studied extensively. The secret is the macronutrient ratio that forces the body to convert stored fat into fatty acids and ketones in the liver for energy.
When ketone levels rise in the bloodstream, you are in the coveted state of ketosis and start to burn fat and lose weight. A classic keto diet gets 90% of calories from fat, 6% of calories from protein, and just 4% of total calories from carbohydrates. For weight loss, keto diet practitioners typically follow a 70-80% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrate breakdown.
If you’ve struggled with weight loss for years and opted for low-fat diets or low-calorie diets, these percentages will definitely come as a shock. This diet plan seems to break every conventional rule we’ve ever been told about losing weight.
And adapting to a keto diet plan can be a challenge. Shopping, meal planning, and preparing foods may take longer as you find your keto groove. Another consideration is that when you make a drastic change in the way you eat, you may not feel well as your body adjusts.
In the keto world, this is called the keto flu. Unpleasant symptoms, including digestive distress, headaches, weakness, muscle cramps, brain fog, and irritability, can occur within a few days of starting a keto diet plan. These symptoms are generally mild and typically only last a few days or up to a week.
There are a number of ways you can manage these symptoms while your body adjusts. It is vital to:
And, if necessary, you can slightly increase your carb consumption to ease your body into a fat-burning state.
In addition to the classic keto diet macronutrient guidelines, which are incredibly restrictive, over the years several other ratios have been created that many people find easier to adhere to. Plus, you get all the health benefits.
Classic keto: 90% Fats, 6% protein, and 4% carbohydrates
Modified keto: 82% fats, 12% protein, and 6% carbohydrates
MCT keto: 73% fats, 10% protein, and 17% carbohydrates
Before you attempt a keto diet, it is vital to understand macronutrients and how to calculate them. It is important to note that the macronutrient breakdowns, regardless of which keto diet plan you are following, are based on the percentage of calories—not volume or weight.
There are a ton of mathematical equations you can do, or you can use our keto calculator to find your optimal macronutrient breakdown whether you are trying to maintain your current weight, lose weight slowly, or accelerate weight loss.
Yes, the keto diet plan may have started as a treatment for epileptic children, but today, it has been proven to aid in fat burning and weight loss. The transition to fat burning, or ketosis, occurs when there isn’t enough glycogen or carbohydrates for the body to pull energy from.
When you reach ketosis, your body is forced to pull energy from stored fat. That is the secret for weight loss on a ketogenic diet. Fortunately, there are distinct signs you are in ketosis:
It should be noted that some people can struggle to lose weight, even when strictly following a keto diet packed with low-carb foods. There are many reasons you may not lose weight on a keto diet, including the fact that you aren’t eating enough and triggering starvation mode, or you may be eating too many carbs that are preventing your body from entering ketosis.
There are also a number of underlying health conditions that may skew your results—especially metabolic disorders like hypoglycemia or diabetes—or certain thyroid diseases. In addition, excessive exercise, hormonal imbalances, chronic stress, inadequate sleep, and even certain medications can keep you from reaching ketosis.
As with all diets, there is no set guideline for the amount of weight you will lose, or how quickly. Often, keto dieters will find that they drop several pounds of water weight within the first week or two, and then taper off to a sustainable 1- to 3-pound weight loss per week.
Following a keto diet can provide many health benefits, above and beyond weight loss.
Researchers from Duke University Medical Center have investigated the effects of several diets on food cravings and mood. According to the authors of the study published in the journal Obesity, individuals who followed a ketogenic diet had reduced hunger and improved mood in comparison to those who followed a low-fat diet.
Researchers link dietary carbohydrate consumption directly to high levels of triglycerides. In a report published in The Journal of Nutrition, the author recognizes that “carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia” is a paradox to conventional warnings against a high-fat diet and cholesterol levels. Following a keto diet plan drastically reduces your intake of carbohydrates, which can cause your triglyceride levels to lower.
Ketogenic diets are now being studied as a treatment for several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. In a recent study from the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers support using ketogenic diets in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, adult malignant glioma, and adult epilepsy.
The authors of the study hypothesize that all of these diseases are linked to oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and disrupted energy metabolism, and the diet “could alter the course and outcomes of these and other neurological disorders that share common pathways.” The researchers also note that this may lead to the development of new drugs, and they encourage further clinical investigation.
Researchers from Italy have identified that following a ketogenic diet may help restore brain metabolism and counteract neuroinflammation in migraines. This report published in the journal Neurological Sciences, reviewed data and prospective studies from 150 patients, and the authors of the study urge for more randomized controlled trials to confirm their hypothesis.
In addition to the evidence-based ketogenic diet benefits above, according to an article published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, emerging evidence supports ketogenic diets for:
The keto lifestyle does require a dramatic change in how you shop, meal plan and prep, and eat. Getting into ketosis, and staying there, requires a careful balance of managing your daily macros. As mentioned above, there are calculators to help you determine what is ideal for you.
One of the big challenges is adapting to new keto recipes; the foods you and your family love will change, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your food with gusto. The key to keto diet success is making sure you are still getting the flavors and the textures you love—just within your macro guidelines.
Here are some of our favorite keto recipes from around the web.
If you are doing intermittent fasting along with following a ketogenic diet, these recipes are a great way to break your fast. They come together quickly and are definitely kid-friendly.
Yes, you read that right—and this is an insanely yummy and satisfying keto recipe. From Carbmanager.com comes a hearty and flavor-packed breakfast featuring avocado as the bun.
This really isn’t a finger food, and you’d be better off using a knife and fork with this decadent breakfast treat. Enjoy the creaminess of the avocado and the fried egg with the saltiness of bacon and sausage.
Perhaps the only thing we’d do differently is to use a hot sausage in place of Italian sausage to give this Keto Breakfast Sausage Burger a bit of a bite.
One of the most popular Sunday brunch recipes is the grand Eggs Benedict. It is the combination of salty ham, tangy hollandaise, creamy, runny eggs, and chewy English muffin that makes it a favorite. That may not be keto friendly, but this recipe is!
From Danielle Walker at Against all Grain comes the fantastic, crave-worthy, Baked Eggs with Bacon, Greens and Hollandaise. This breakfast keto recipe is elegant enough for a special holiday brunch but easy enough for weekday breakfasts.
If you’ve never baked your eggs before—it is a game changer. The texture is beautiful, and once you learn how long to bake them in your oven to your liking, they don’t need babysitting like eggs cooked on the stove top do.
Who doesn’t love a great breakfast hash? There is just something about setting a perfectly fried or poached egg atop a crunchy and chewy base that screams decadence.
From Food For My Family comes this delicious keto recipe, Brussels Sprouts Hash With Eggs that is perfect for Saturday or Sunday mornings. The brilliance? The hash is made from Brussel sprouts and thick-sliced bacon. Another bonus is that the Brussels sprouts cook up much quicker than potatoes.
Brussel sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, packed with a variety of phytonutrients that demonstrate cancer-protection. And they are rich in essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Ranchers have been enjoying steak and eggs for breakfast for generations. It’s a great power breakfast that is filled with healthy fatsnu and protein to get you through your day. Do you have a presentation at work? Do the kids have a big final? This keto recipe is sure to boost brain power and focus.
Here, from Tasteaholics, is a keto recipe for Steak and Eggs that takes just 15 minutes out of your morning. You can really use any cut of steak you’d like, but sirloin, flank steak, or even skirt steak will cook up quickly and beautifully in an iron skillet.
Cook up some extra steak to top a salad for lunch or to make a healthy keto wrap for the next day. This is one of the secrets of keto meal planning—cooking one food for multiple meals.
From Paleo Foodie Kitchen comes this delicious recipe that combines the salty brininess of smoked or cured salmon with the creaminess of eggs. This recipe for Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon comes together as quickly as plain scrambled eggs.
Be sure not to overcook your eggs—a soft scrambled egg will work best here. There are a couple of kinds of smoked salmon to choose from that will work in this keto recipe. The cured cold-smoked Lox-style and the heat-smoked salmon both have their fans.
The heat-smoked salmon typically has a drier, flakier texture and is more heavily spiced. Read the packaging carefully, as it may contain sugar or other non-keto ingredients. Lox, which is what appears to be used in this recipe, has more of the texture of a raw fish, tender and thinly sliced. Either choice will boost your normal scrambled eggs by adding healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fat, and some additional protein.
According to Ayurvedic practice, lunch is the best time of the day for your largest meal. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that while the sun is the strongest, our “digestive fire” is at its strongest too. After sunset, the digestive fire softens and focuses more on a period of resting and digesting.
It isn’t always possible to have our most substantial meal of the day at lunch. Unless you work from home or have a full kitchen at your office (and the time to prepare a meal) your largest meal will likely be dinner. But, what we can take from the Ayurvedic practice is to eat lunch—and a healthy one.
In the middle of the day, as your energy naturally starts to wither, it is essential to rev up your metabolism with healthy fats and protein. Here are five of our favorite quick and easy keto lunch recipes that are great for meal prep and planning.
The Castaway Kitchen’s Bacon, Basil, & Greens Egg Roll-Ups are a feast for the eyes—and they are an excellent recipe for keto meal planning. Think of this as a thin-baked omelette rolled up with healthy and satisfying ingredients. Bonus—these egg roll-ups can be prepared in advance and saved for lunch or a quick breakfast as you head out the door. The choice is yours!
In this keto recipe, the protein comes from eggs and plenty of bacon, which also adds that salty, smoky flavor we adore. Basil, arugula, and chives add freshness. And let’s not forget the creaminess of avocado. Perhaps the only thing to make this more delectable would be a fresh squeeze of lime or lemon juice just to add a pop of acidity to this rich keto recipe.
Burritos are a perfect lunch food. They are loaded with flavor and spice, and, unfortunately for the keto dieter, lots of carbohydrates. But this Ground Beef Burrito recipe from Tasteaholics is keto-friendly, delicious, and perfect for keto meal planning.
You can prepare seasoned ground beef in advance, and then use it for this healthy burrito recipe to top a salad, or even for the Keto Taco Cup below. The key here is the wrap. Instead of a heavy flour or corn tortilla, this wrap is made from lots of eggs, coconut flour, almond milk, psyllium husk, and some leavening.
The texture, honestly, is more like a fabulous crepe than a flour tortilla—but just one bite, and you’ll agree, it’s a good thing. Fill a wrap with ground beef, and top with your favorite burrito toppings. A little cheese, some fresh salsa, and a couple slices of avocado, and you’ll be satisfied straight through to dinner.
Yes, in the keto world, we often see avocado toast for breakfast. But why not lunch? When you are in a rush, nothing could be quicker (not even a fast-food drive-thru) than slicing an avocado and putting it atop low-carb bread.
We love that Tasteaholic’s recipe for Keto Avocado Toast includes instructions for making fresh low-carb bread. For keto meal planning, a great, easy-to-make bread recipe is a must. The base is almond flour, which gives this bread just a hint of nuttiness and a great chew. Make the bread in advance, and then use it to create this delicious lunch, breakfast, or snack.
They have also upped the protein and natural fat by adding a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Don’t skimp on these; they are loaded with nutrients and give a satisfying crunch to this keto recipe.
If you’ve never liked chicken salad, don’t give up on this keto recipe yet. This is not the mayo-ridden and gloppy chicken salad of your youth. This is light, fresh, and uses beautifully roasted chicken, bacon, and yogurt, before being tossed in a light lemon, olive oil, and herb dressing.
Stuffed Avocado with Chicken Bacon Salad from Diethood mentions using nonfat or low-fat dairy, but to keep it keto apply a dollop of full-fat sour cream or yogurt instead. Once you’ve made this delicious salad, you’ll put it on your regular keto diet rotation. As a bonus, it packs well for lunches at the office. Just wait to peel and stuff the avocado right before you eat.
This recipe uses roasted chicken. So, when you schedule roasted chicken for dinner one night, be sure to keep this recipe on hand in your keto meal prep and planning. Learning to multitask your proteins for the week saves a ton of time and money.
From the Savory Tooth, this Shrimp Avocado Salad is a superb choice for a midday meal. Rich in flavor and healthy fats, it is satisfying yet light. And shrimp are an excellent keto meal-planning protein.
Shrimp cook up extremely fast and taste great in the coming days, even when cold and tossed into this salad. Shrimp can be sautéed, grilled, or even baked—and you can switch up the flavor profile by adding cilantro and chilis to give it a Mexican flare, or parmesan cheese and basil to satisfy an Italian craving.
A burger is one of the staples of our society. Cooked on a griddle until a nice crust forms on the outside while still being juicy inside is a real art form. But the buns and the side dishes can kill your keto lifestyle. That’s where this amazing burger recipe steps in.
From the Iron You comes a spin on the Juicy Lucy, the Spinach and Mozzarella Stuffed Burgers. If you aren’t privy to Juicy Lucys, here is the deal—they are basically inside-out burgers. The cheese (and lots of it!) is on the inside, and the burger is cooked until the cheese melts and runs out when you take a bite.
This recipe boosts the health factor by combining mozzarella, Parmesan, and fresh spinach for the inside gooey goodness. You can put these delectable burgers on a keto-friendly bun or serve with roasted vegetables. This burger can be dressed up or dressed down to complement whatever else is on your meal plan for the day.
Few foods have as many healthy omega-3 fatty acids as wild-caught salmon. Fortunately, salmon is available year-round now, so you can fall in love with this keto recipe and keep loving it again and again.
From Delish, this Broiled Salmon couldn’t be easier or faster to prepare. You can be in and out of the kitchen in 20 minutes, no advanced meal prep required. The flavor is bright and just a bit warming with the addition of grainy mustard and lemon juice. Then there are a ton of fresh herbs that brighten the flavors.
This salmon would be a great replacement for the shrimp in the Shrimp Avocado Salad recipe above. Salmon, after being cooked, stays beautifully in the refrigerator for up to three days. You could even crumble this up and use it in the Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon recipe.
If going keto made you lament taco Tuesday, have no fear,Keto Taco Cups are here! What is that one flavor you just love in a taco? Chances are it is the cheese. And what is better than melted cheese? A taco shell made out of melted cheese.
In this recipe from Delish, small taco cups are made out of the cheese by draping melted cheese over the backside of muffin tins. But you could do the same thing by draping the warm melted cheese over a rolling pin to create more of a taco shell shape.
Seasoned ground beef, sour cream, avocado, tomatoes, onions, and fresh cilantro top off the flavor profile. Don’t be afraid to spice things up with the addition of roasted jalapeño peppers. Remember, capsaicin in peppers is linked to healthy metabolism and fat loss.
Meatballs are kid-friendly and adaptable to virtually any profile you want to throw at them. And Perfect Keto has created a Superfood Meatball recipe that is luscious in its texture and flavor. Your family will never know there aren’t breadcrumbs in this keto recipe. They would also never guess they contain chicken livers.
Don’t let the idea of chicken livers turn you off. In this recipe, they are sautéed with the aromatics before being added to the raw ground beef. They add a depth of flavor, and the chicken liver’s nutrient profile is impressive. A single ounce provides 75% of your DV for vitamin A and 79% of your DV for B12, and chicken livers are a very good source of protein, folate, iron, phosphorus, and selenium.
After baking, you can eat these meatballs immediately or save them for your meal planning. Have a leftover taco cup on hand? Throw in a couple of these meatballs and make a lunch out of it. Of course, you can also simmer these in a pot of marinara, and serve over zoodles… if you so desire.
Fried chicken is a southern staple that is not keto friendly. Fried chicken craving—meet your match. From the Savory Tooth, comes this outstanding recipe for crunchy Keto Fried Chicken.
Every great fried chicken recipe starts with the dredge. Here, instead of wheat flour, a combination of almond flour and parmesan cheese is used. The cheese adds some fat, which makes this chicken crunchy and satisfying.
The real secret to crunchy fried chicken is double coating it. You first dip your chicken in the dredge, then into an egg and whipping cream mixture, and then back into the almond flour dredge. This gives the chicken its outstanding texture and flavor.
It may be tempting to use chicken breasts, but trust us, use the boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They have more protein, more flavor, and more healthy fats.
Yes, even on a keto diet, we need treats from time-to-time in addition to the fat bombs. Learning to bake and prepare sweets can be challenging without the go-to ingredients of flour and sugar.
Another great recipe from the Savory Tooth—New York style cheesecake that is remarkably keto friendly. The crust is a real treat in this recipe for Mini Keto Cheesecakes; instead of graham crackers, almond flour and butter are used to create a buttery and nutty crust.
The filling is very similar to a regular cheesecake recipe, but it uses a low-carb sweetener in place of sugar. The texture is creamy and delicious. The addition of fresh raspberries to the batter and on top give these cheesecakes brightness and a boost of antioxidants.
Sometimes we all just need some chocolate. At Tasteaholics, they have created a Keto Molten Lava Cake recipe that bakes up fast. In this keto recipe, heavy cream, an egg, cocoa powder, vanilla, and erythritol are used to make this crave-worthy dessert.
The best part, next to the taste? The macros:
Net carbs: 4 grams
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 13 grams
A keto diet can provide outstanding health benefits, including weight loss. But this diet does come with some concerns.
First, it can be tempting to overeat the wrong types of food. This diet isn’t just about cheese, bacon, and avocados. You must eat a good variety of low-carb vegetables to ensure you don’t run into nutrient deficits.
Second, talk to your doctor before making any dramatic change to your diet. It may not be appropriate if you have hypoglycemia, are pregnant or nursing, have kidney or liver disease, or have had pancreatitis in the past.
Third, to avoid keto flu symptoms, you’ll want to gradually reduce your carb intake over a couple of weeks. If you are currently eating 100 grams of carbs a day, reduce your consumption by 20 grams a week until you hit your ideal target.
Fourth, as the keto diet has become more and more popular, manufacturers are creating ready-to-eat meals and bars that may seem like a good idea, but need to be vetted well to uncover their true nutrient value. Focus on eating real foods, preferably organic fruits and vegetables, wild-caught fish, grass-fed or wild meats, and free-range poultry.
Fifth, if you have any questions about how to create a keto meal plan and diet that will work for you and your family, consult with a nutritionist. He or she can help you choose a balance of foods to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.