If you’re considering a change in your eating style for yourself and/or your family, especially one of such significance as a ketogenic diet, it is not only smart, but essential, to take a very calculated approach to this change and develop a detailed action plan before you decide to ‘dive in’.
Let’s take it from the beginning so that we are all on the same page from the start. In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a:
- Very low carb diet: 5% of total calories;
- Comprised mainly of fat: ~75% of total calories; and a
- Moderate amount of protein: ~20% of total calories
Comparatively speaking, the mean intake of carbohydrates for adult women in the US is close to 50%, with fat intake at ~34%, and protein intake at a little over 15% 1.
Without further ado, based on my research, professional experience, and my own personal experiences, here are my Top 3 first steps for any woman going Keto:
Step 1: Introduce healthy fats into your diet before reducing your carb intake.
For Lauren and I at Fearless Keto, heading into the Keto Diet with a much more ‘slow and steady’ approach is the best way to ensure its sustainability and prevent any Keto Flu symptoms that can arise from such a sudden and drastic change in diet. A great way to prevent any ‘carb withdrawal’ is to gradually incorporate small amounts of healthy fats into your meals and snacks a few days prior to any deliberate effort to cut down on carbs. Your body’s GI tract will be better able to adapt to this higher fat intake by ‘awakening’ your gallbladder to produce and release more enzymes to digest these fats without having to go into ‘overdrive’ mode. What is well-known amongst the ‘Keto Community’ is that, once you ‘up’ your fat intake, your overall intake (including carbs) typically drops—it’s almost an automatic response to the very principle of fat’s satiety value. Not only does fat taste great, but it also adds to our ‘fullness factor’.
Step 2: Decrease your carb intake gradually.
Based on a number of first-hand, personal experiences flooding the internet (including my own), the #1 way to ensure both short-term and long-term success on the ketogenic diet is NOT to drastically reduce carbs from one day to the next, as the standard ketogenic diet recommends. Instead, it is much healthier to gradually decrease carb intake on a more individualized basis.
If you’re starting from a high-carb eating style, going low-carb right away will put your body into a state of ‘withdrawal’ that will make it very difficult for you, both physically and mentally, to make it through those first few days.
You might not experience the rapid and immediate weight loss that the ketogenic diet is so popular for by going more gradual, but you will be much less likely to feel the physiological consequences associated with this drastic switch in your carb intake—i.e. the ‘Keto Flu’, not to mention its associated impact on your mental health. Taking things more slowly will also help reduce the risk of other side effects commonly associated with any drastic shift in lifestyle such as hair loss, fatigue, or constipation.
If you are experiencing any of these side effects, here are a few helpful guides we put together to help manage and treat them:
- Keto Flu Symptoms & Treatments
- Managing Hair Loss on a Keto Diet
- Managing Constipation on a Keto Diet
- Managing Fatigue on a Keto Diet
Step 3: Create a meal plan to rely on at the start of your Keto journey.
So, now knowing these bits of information, the next step is to create a meal plan starting with a grocery list which includes staple foods and ingredients. You can start with ‘tried and true’ healthy meals that you and your family already enjoy, scrutinizing the carb content, and tweaking the ingredients to make the overall meal lower in carbs and higher in healthy fats. If you’re the adventurous type and want to explore other options, the number of great ketogenic meal plans online is growing daily – in the Recipes section of Fearless Keto you can find some great breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack suggestions to start out with. Low carb, higher fat cuisine is truly more simple, and is in no way as daunting as you might think, especially if you are ‘easing’ into this eating style.
Starter Grocery List
The supermarket is ground zero. Everything you eat at home, which should be your initial plan, is driven by the contents of your grocery cart, and this is why a well-planned grocery list is very important. It should not only include ingredients on your meal plan but it should also include staple items that you should have on hand at any time. Don’t be surprised to see a number of your favorites that you already have in your kitchen already on this list—a friendly reminder that ‘going Keto’ is much less involved than you may imagine.
The following are a few key food items on your ‘starter list’, arranged in a typical supermarket aisle layout to help prepare you to take the first step in your journey to a healthier you:
Fresh Produce: Vegetables
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Herbs (fresh)—i.e. cilantro, basil, oregano, parsley, dill, rosemary
- Iceberg lettuce
- Leafy greens (the darker the better!)
- Olives (all varieties)
- Onions (all varieties)
- Peppers (all varieties)
- Romaine lettuce
- Snow peas
- Spaghetti squash
- Sprouts (all varieties)
- Summer squash—i.e. yellow, zucchini
- Swiss chard
- Tomatoes (all varieties)
- Berries—all varieties (i.e. blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)
- Lean cuts of beef—i.e. sirloin, round
- Lean ground beef
- Pork loin
- Ground chicken/turkey
- Uncured ham
- All fish & seafood (i.e. salmon, tuna, trout, shrimp, lobster, scallops, clams)
***All frozen versions of these above items are great to have on hand, so feel free to stock up!
- Feta cheese
- Full fat, unprocessed hard & soft cheeses (all varieties)
- Regular cream cheese
- Regular sour cream
- Heavy cream
- Half & Half
- Whole fat Greek Yogurt (plain)
- Whole fat cottage cheese / ricotta cheese
- Whole milk
Other items in the ‘Dairy’ section
- Unsweetened nut milks—i.e. coconut, almond, cashew, macadamia
- Pasteurized eggs—i.e. whole eggs and egg whites
- Tofu (non GMO)
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut butter
- Almond butter (no sugar added)
- Peanut butter (no sugar added)
Nuts & Seeds
- Macadamias (highest fat-content nut)
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Baking supplies and sweeteners
- Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- Sea or mountain salt
- Flavorings and extracts—i.e. pure vanilla, almond, maple
- Flaxseed meal
- Unsweetened coconut (shredded or flakes)
- Nut flours—i.e. coconut, almond
- Spices—i.e. cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,
- Sweeteners (i.e. monk fruit, stevia, erythritol, allulose)
- Dried herbs & spices—i.e. basil, oregano, black pepper, parsley, onion, garlic, & chili powder
- Mustard (any variety without added sugar)
- Salsa (no sugar added)
- High fat dressings—i.e. Blue cheese, ranch, and any dressing with minimal or no added sugar
- Vinegar (all varieties)
- Hot sauce
- Horse radish
- Soy sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Pickles (without added sugar)
- Olives, canned and bottled
- Capers, canned and bottled
- Tomato sauce (with minimal or no sugar added)
- Tea and coffee
- Lemon/lime juice
Bone and regular broth and bouillon
Canned fish & seafood in olive oil
Almost there! Just a few more thoughts before you get started: Once your kitchen is stocked with all of the essentials, it’s best that you have as much structure in your life as possible during the first few weeks. This will help make any transition much less problematic and certainly less stressful. The fewer variables that you introduce into your life, such as eating out or entertaining at home, the easier this transition will be. Take this period to figure and sort things out and allow time for introspection and retrospection. At this stage you may not realize that your body needs time to adjust as well. The changing composition of your diet directly impacts everything on the ‘inside’. Most important of all is that you will find that this eating style not only encompasses wholesome, delicious foods, but, in time, you will feel so good, both mentally and physically, that you won’t want to go back.