Looking for a little guidance with your keto menu plan online? Just a quick Google search can yield a lot of different information about the ketogenic diet, the proper macros, or if the diet is even effective. And what about all of those recipes for keto brownies? Making a meal plan can be hard enough without learning all of the rules for your new meal prep routine.
This sample keto menu plan below can help take out the guesswork or trial and error for those looking to begin or adjust their keto plans. I have successfully worked with many clients looking to try the keto plan or those who are recommended to be in keto based on their personal metabolism and have found some of the best plans that are both successful and easy to follow.
We’ll also explain the strategy behind each meal. The goal is to help you understand how keto works so it is easier for you to make future menus on your own.
First, let’s set some ground rules for following this diet safely.
Following a Keto Menu Plan Safely
We will talk about the what to eat later, but first, we will talk about how much to eat. Eating in a caloric deficit can help you lose a bunch of weight at first but will cause you to go into a stressed state or “starvation mode” that will cause you to gain the weight back plus some because of a hoarding protective mechanism. Eventually, the pattern of yo-yo dieting can make it harder to lose weight each time you try.
In any weight loss diet plan, the safest and most effective way to lose weight is to eat the correct number of calories your body is asking for of the right type of whole, anti-inflammatory food. When you establish an energy pattern, you will lose weight slowly but steadily, like safely landing a plane, as your body releases excess fat for energy. The benefits of this are that you can lose weight while actually increasing your energy, improving your sleep, and reducing cravings.
These rules also apply to the ketogenic diet. In a keto diet, it is even more important to eat the right number of calories because if we are not getting enough energy from fat, then we will turn muscle protein into sugars which will both make you lose muscle mass and take you out of ketosis because of the sugar in your bloodstream.
When following the keto diet, you want to avoid sudden changes that throw off homeostasis and put your body in a stressed state.
The number one way to ensure a safe transition as you follow a keto menu plan is to continue consuming enough calories. If your goal is weight loss, you may be tempted to limit calorie intake. A general guideline would be, if you’re a male, do not exceed a calorie deficit of 800 calories a day. If you’re a female, do not cut any more than 500 calories daily.
Maintaining sufficient calorie intake tells your body it’s safe. This prevents a fight-or-flight response. (Learn more about what happens to your body on the keto diet in this video.)
Ketosis is a state when your body is not getting enough carbohydrates, it converts fat into ketones and burns that for energy. It is a slower process than carbs because your body tends to burn carbohydrates first. Now, in order to get into ketosis, your main goal is to limit carbs and increase fats. How many carbohydrates you should consume depends on your individual metabolism. That said, most people go into ketosis easily with less than 25 grams of net carbs a day. For every single meal on the keto menu plan, you want a balance of:
- 70% fat
- 20% protein
- 10% carbs
If you’re having trouble imagining what that looks like, this sample keto menu plan should make your journey into ketosis a little easier. Please note: This menu does not specify serving sizes. The amount of food you consume depends on your individual metabolism.
Breakfast Keto Menu Plan
Start your day with:
- Fermented veggies
As you can see, you’re starting the day with a substantial serving of fat.
Many people struggle with the high fat content of the keto diet. After all, the keto diet is give your body less sugar so it burns fat instead . . . the fat you already have. New keto dieters see the high fat content of the menu plan and think, “Why would I give my body new fat to burn instead of forcing it to burn the fat that’s already there?”
The keto diet is about using the same principles of weight loss explained above-eat enough whole, anti-inflammatory food in a steady pattern everyday to reduce stress, but using fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrates. The reason this is successful is due to insulin. When you are losing weight, there are other factors other than giving your body the nutrients it needs such as hormones, genetics, lifestyle and stress that come into play. One of these instances is insulin resistance. By removing sugars from the diet, you are increasing insulin sensitivity that also reduces cortisol. Some people are genetically more insulin resistant, others are insulin resistant due to their diet and lifestyle, and some people are deficient in specific micronutrients that limit glucose uptake in the cells.
Remember, even the keto diet plan should treat weight loss as a gradual process. You’re already reducing sugar. If you limit fat intake—your only other source of energy—your body thinks it’s in starvation mode. You avoid this stressed state by providing a consistent energy pattern through an increase in fat consumption. Give it time. Most people take at least 3 days to get into ketosis.
Now, there are some people who load their keto menu plan with protein. This approach can be effective in terms of getting into ketosis. But it’s not healthy, and it’s not sustainable. For one thing, fat does a better job of making you feel full. For another, this extreme change in energy consumption makes your body think it’s starving. The result is extreme cravings that are impossible to ignore for more than a week or two.
For a mid-day meal, try:
- Chicken thigh
- Mixed greens
- Olive oil
- Fatty nuts
Leafy greens are invaluable for a healthy keto menu plan. Greens are not only low in carbohydrates, but the carbs they do contain are primarily fiber. The process of burning fat can lead to an increase of toxins into your circulation. High-fiber foods loaded with anti-oxidants protect your liver by binding free radicals.
This lunch menu is also a great example of diversified fat sources. In addition to a fatty cut of animal protein, you see fats from olive oil and nuts. For quick reference, here are some great sources of fats to round out your diet:
- Extra virgin olive oil on veggies (not to cook with)
- Nuts and seeds
- Avoid high-carb nuts like cashews
- Great high-fat nuts include pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts
- MCT oils like coconut oil
- Heavy cream
For your evening meal, try:
- Fatty fish
Now that we’re all the way to dinnertime, you may have noticed that not one of these meals contains a plant-based protein like quinoa, lentils, or beans. These selections are all high in carbohydrates. It is extremely difficult to follow a vegan diet and the keto diet at the same time.
Fatty fish are a stellar source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Fish that classify as “fatty” include:
As for the veggies, remember to keep carbs down and fiber up. Avoid high-sugar vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, and beets. Stick to greens and cruciferous veggies such as:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
Snack Keto Menu Plan
For a bite between meals, consider:
- Fatty nuts
- Hard cheese (made from raw dairy)
Cheese can be an excellent source of protein and fat for a keto dieter. The trouble is that the kind of cheese you need is not easily available in the United States.
Most cheeses in the U.S. are made from plastic fats. These cheeses are made stable through a process that involves heating and hydrogenation. This makes them shelf stable, but it also makes them one carbon molecule away from becoming actual plastic. If you add hard cheese to your keto menu plan, look for products made from raw dairy. Also, be mindful that if dairy is causing inflammation, increasing mucus production, or causing digestive issues you may want to reduce it in your diet.
So, once you’ve followed this keto menu plan, how do you know it’s working?
There are tests to see if you’re in ketosis. Urine strips and blood measuring tests are the most accurate options. Saliva is very inaccurate. The optimum range is 1.5-3.0 mmol/meter. You do not want to exceed that range. Deep ketosis is essentially starvation mode, which is highly dangerous and can be an indication of ketoacidosis.
Keep in mind it takes a few days for the body to convert fat to ketones to be used for energy. Don’t start testing for ketosis after one day on your keto menu plan.
You may also come across ketone supplements or powders promising to get you into keto faster. They may make it easier to transition into keto but they will not get you into keto faster. The goal of the keto diet is to make your body create its own ketones. If you use these products, any testing you do will inevitably read like you’re in ketosis simply because you’ve consumed ketones. If your body has not burned off the glucose in the body yet, you will still burn that first even if ketones are present.
Finally, you should know keto isn’t for everyone. Each person’s metabolism is different. There are those for whom a ketogenic diet is the only weight loss option that works, often because they lead a sedentary lifestyle. For others, keto is one of many options. There are even individuals who get no results from a keto diet. And those who are insulin-resistant, have type 2 diabetes, or are pre-diabetic use the keto diet not for weight loss, but for stabilization and can return to eating carbs once they have increased their insulin sensitivity.
To get the best results and healthiest experience, we recommend reaching out a nutritional counselor. At Ph2 Nutrition, we get to know your goals, health history, and metabolism to establish the keto menu plan that is safest and most effective for you. If you’d like to learn more or inquire about an appointment, contact us anytime.