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Keto diet for beginners

keto salad with halloumi and avocado

The keto diet, sometimes referred to as the ketone diet or ketosis diet, has taken the weight loss world by storm in the last decade or so. But one of the challenges – as with many diets – is coming up with a diet meal plan you can stick to. We’re here to help!

It is worth noting that this article mentions both meat and plant-based options. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, there is absolutely nothing to stop you going keto.

Simply refer to our articles, Can I do the keto diet as a vegetarian? and How vegans and vegetarians can do the keto diet on the Health Hub for more information.

Skip to: Keto diet for beginners | Keto breakfast weekly plan | Keto lunch meal prep | Keto dinner weekly plan | Keto desserts | Keto snacks | 5 tips for keto beginners

Keto diet for beginners

First, let’s take a quick look at the basics of a keto diet and what it involves. In a nutshell, a ketogenic plan aims to push your body into ketosis, a natural occurrence whereby it switches from burning sugar (glucose) to burning fat.1

We can encourage the body to go into ketosis naturally by limiting the amount of sugar we consume. Unfortunately for any bread and pasta lovers out there, this involves severely cutting the amount of carbohydrates in our diet.

This not only includes our favourite stodgy foods but also many items normally considered healthy, including most fruit and some vegetables that are high in sugar.2 Good sugar or refined sugar - it is all carbs!

With so many restrictions, keto for beginners can seem daunting.

Ketogenic diet plan

Let’s look at a typical ketosis meal plan. Essentially, what you are looking for in a good ketosis meal plan is foods which are high in protein and carb free.

While guidance does vary, it is generally agreed that in the first two weeks of the diet, you will want to eat fewer than 20g of carbs per day in order to kick-start ketosis.3 After that, you can start increasing the amount of carbs you eat slowly, up to around 50g per day.4

One of the wonderful things about a keto diet, compared with a low-fat diet, is that it can often feel very luxurious: you are allowed plenty of full-fat dairy!

Keto breakfast

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, for good reason. A hearty breakfast should give you the energy and nutrients you need to keep you going throughout the day.

Keto breakfasts are usually high in protein which is brilliant because research suggests that the daily addition of a high-protein breakfast could help to curb cravings.5

Keto breakfast suggested weekly plan

  • Monday: Cheese and mushroom, 3-egg omelette cooked in butter. Option: Add fried bacon.
  • Tuesday: Scrambled tofu in olive oil with a low-carb vegetarian sausage.
  • Wednesday: Greek yoghurt with flax seeds and chopped almonds.
  • Thursday: Whey or soy protein shake with spinach, berries, and cinnamon.
  • Friday: Low-carb granola with nuts, seeds, stevia, and flax seed.
  • Saturday: Nut butter balls with sugar-free chocolate chips, flaxseed, coconut, almond flour, and cacao powder.
  • Sunday: Keto pancakes with almond flour, cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest and butter for frying.
 

Some more keto breakfast food ideas that you could explore

  • Eggs (scrambled with cream, soft or hard-boiled, poached with spinach and hollandaise, omelette with cheese and bacon, egg cups or muffins)
  • Low-carb bread alternative (usually made using almond flour, eggs, or vital wheat gluten) with butter 
  • Tofu smoothie 
  • Cooked meaty or veggie breakfast (bacon, sausages, eggs, tomato, mushrooms all fine)  Protein shake 
  • Porridge or bran-based porridge 
  • Pancakes made from almond flour and protein powder 
  • Full-fat Greek yoghurt with flax seeds (linseeds) and almonds 
  • Keto-friendly fruit
 

Keto lunch

When you are trying to follow any type of diet, trying to source a suitable lunch on-the-go is one of the main dilemmas you might face.

One way to avoid this predicament is by effectively meal-prepping your keto lunches. By planning and preparing your meals in advance, you’re guaranteed a nourishing and gratifying lunch while keeping on track with your dietary goals.

Keto meal prep lunch suggested weekly plan

  • Monday: Salad bowl with avocado, grilled halloumi, grilled courgette, spinach, lettuce, and cucumber with sour cream (optional: add seasoned chicken grilled in coconut oil or butter)
  • Tuesday: Cauliflower fried rice with spring onions, mushrooms, peppers and a dash of soy sauce.
  • Wednesday: Cheesy stuffed peppers with beef, onion, garlic and cauliflower rice.
  • Thursday: Broccoli salad with red onion, almonds, bacon (or low-carb veggie bacon) and chives.
  • Friday: Courgette noodles with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Saturday: Mushroom soup with onions, garlic, stock, a bay leaf and single cream.
  • Sunday: Baked salmon with tenderstem broccoli and a lemon dressing.
 

Still looking for more inspo? Other easy keto meal prep lunch options could include

  • Salad with plenty of meat, cheese (or vegan alternative) and a creamy dressing or mayonnaise
  • Devilled eggs or egg mayo (or vegan version) with a green vegetable on the side
  • Squash or courgette spaghetti with ragu
  • Hummus with radishes and chicory
  • Hearty soup with cheddar cheese
  • Low-carb quiche (using ground almonds for the base)
  • Pesto chicken & veggies
 
Keto dinner

Just because you are on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t feel satisfied, full, and happy after your main evening meal!

If you find yourself in need of inspiration for your weeknight keto-friendly dinners, we’ve got some mouth-watering suggestions that will breathe new life into your mid-week menu:

Keto meal prep lunch suggested weekly plan

  • Monday: Salmon fried in coconut oil served with asparagus and broccoli topped with melted butter. Option: Add grated cheddar cheese.
  • Tuesday: Lemon and garlic chicken with roasted tenderstem broccoli.
  • Wednesday: Tomato and feta soup with parsley and basil.
  • Thursday: Prawn curry with coconut and tomato.
  • Friday: Courgetti Bolognese with grated cheese.
  • Saturday: Halloumi with Greek salad.
  • Sunday: Roasted cauliflower and tofu with lettuce tacos.
 

Keto dessert

While the keto diet can be restrictive in some ways, a major bonus is that you can still enjoy naughty treats and full-fat dairy. While you do need to avoid sugar and carbs, these are some of the tasty keto-approved desserts you can enjoy:

  • Raspberries or blueberries with whipped double cream, topped with chopped pecans.
  • Keto choc chip cookies made with almond flour and dark chocolate chips.
  • Keto loaf cake made with almond flour, dark chocolate chips and blueberries.
  • Peanut butter cheesecake bombs.
  • Keto brownie mug cake using almond flour, erythritol, cocoa powder, almond butter and unsweetened almond milk.
  • Keto peanut butter fudge with sea salt.
  • Peanut butter mousse with dark chocolate chips.

Keto snacks

Snacking is encouraged on the keto diet, albeit with some rules. Some of the best keto diet snacks include:

  • Almonds or Brazil nuts
  • Low carb hot chocolate (made with sweetener, not sugar)
  • Chunk of cheese
  • Sugar-free jelly with cream
  • Celery stick filled with unsweetened nut butter
  • Green olives
  • Greek yoghurt with flax seeds (linseeds)
  • 1/4 avocado with vinaigrette
  • Ready-made low-carb, high protein snack bars: 14 of the best protein bars & snacks
  • If in doubt, make a protein shake! The best protein powder for you

Keto diet supplements

Most people would advise those trying the keto diet also to take a supplement to make up for some of the vitamins and minerals the body is used to getting via carbohydrates.

Of course, Holland and Barrett has you covered in this department! Simply check out The best keto supplements – revealed on the Health Hub!

Keto diet supplements

Keto diet supplements

Most people would advise those trying the keto diet also to take a supplement to make up for some of the vitamins and minerals the body is used to getting via carbohydrates.

Of course, Holland and Barrett has you covered in this department! Simply check out The best keto supplements – revealed on the Health Hub!

5 Tips for keto beginners

1

Meal prep

Meal prepping is a valuable tool for dieting, especially when you are just starting out. It allows you to plan and control your macro intake, ensure you are eating the right size portions and can often lead to much healthier choices.

By prepping meals, you avoid impulsive food decisions, save time, reduce stress, and most importantly, maintain consistency.

2

Eating out on keto

Following a keto diet can be challenging while dining out, particularly if you are a beginner.

Many restaurant dishes are high in carbohydrates, making it difficult to find suitable options. Hidden sugars and additives in sauces and dressings, limited menu choices, and the temptation of indulgent desserts can make sticking to your keto diet a daunting task, but it’s not impossible.

Try to do your research first and scope out the menu beforehand. Olives, nuts and charcuterie plates are brilliant keto-friendly nibbles to kick off your meal. Then stick with high protein mains like a chicken Ceasar salad, steak, or grilled fish, and swap out starchy, carb-heavy sides for vegetables if possible.

Although desserts may be best avoided, a savoury cheese board makes a satisfying alternative if you are still feeling peckish at the end of your meal.

3

Keep track of your macros

Understanding macros and tracking them is key for achieving ketosis.

Macros, short for macronutrients, refer to carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. To track them, use a food diary or mobile app.

While keto generally follows a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat ratio, we recommend using an online keto macro calculator to work out a personal macro plan based on your goals. Focus on whole foods, read labels, and adjust portions accordingly.

Remember, it's a learning process, so be patient and enjoy the journey!

If you are looking for more advice about how to calculate your macros, check out our handy guide on the health hub.

4

Watch out for hidden sugar

When following a keto diet, it's crucial to be mindful of hidden sugars lurking in unexpected places like condiments.

Common culprits include ketchup, BBQ sauce, and sweet chilli sauce. Read labels diligently, opt for sugar-free or low-carb alternatives, or swap for keto-approved sauces like mustard, mayo, sour cream or hot sauce!

5

Don’t give up if you make a mistake

Don't give up on your keto journey too soon! Remember, meaningful change takes time. It can seem impossible at times but embrace the process, learn from setbacks, and celebrate small victories along the way.

The final say
  • The keto diet has gained popularity in recent years, but sticking to a restrictive diet can be challenging.
  • Whether you're a meat-eater or follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, keto is accessible to all. By referring to helpful resources and planning your meals, you can successfully navigate the keto journey.
  • Remember to track your macros, be aware of hidden sugars in condiments, and most importantly, don't give up if you stumble.
  • Embrace the process, learn from your experiences, and celebrate your progress.
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