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Keto Diet Beginners Guide for 2021

Beginning the Keto Diet can be challenging. How and when do you “Fast?” What is OMAD (one meal a day), macros (macronutrients), keto flu, keto plateau, keto constipation? What to eat on the Keto Diet? So many questions. Well, you are in the right place.

Table of contents

Keto diet beginners guide instructions:

This is a very thorough keto beginner guide and as we proceed I will be referring you to other articles that explain in greater detail some of the topics.

I encourage you to read the referenced articles as needed and then come back here to go through the rest of this guide.

The Ketogenic diet is very different from the conventional (low fat) diet mentality. In the beginning, the keto diet it is confusing. There are multiple opinions and plenty of keto nazis to lead you astray.

For example, when I wrote this article that answered the question, “Is peanut butter keto?” I had a lot of keto nazis attack me and say it wasn’t keto. No single person owns the definition of “keto”. Keto is just short for ketogenic, which just means using fat/ketones as energy. Here is an article that explains the state of ketosis.

This keto diet beginners guide will lead you down the right path.

You have to unlearn what you think is correct

When beginning keto, Forget everything you thought you knew about diet and nutrition. The Ketogenic Diet is difficult for beginners because of all the conflicting information out there.

Start Keto with an open mind and a clean slate. Fat is your friend, not your enemy and the extra fat intake will help give you energy while you’re restricting your carbohydrates.

Keto beginners tip #1

You have to be committed, believe in keto and in yourself.

As you lose weight you’ll have family and friends make a lot of comments to you. Some positive, but a lot of negative comments also. When you tell them you are on keto, a lot of people will attack you.

Misery loves company, a lot of your overweight family and friends know they should try keto, but they either don’t want to or don’t think they can do it. It makes them uncomfortable to see you have success. Your success reminds them of their failure.

They want you to fail so they can feel better about themselves. I talk about this strange phenomenon extensively in this keto diet myth debunked article.

Keto does work and you should feel absolutely sure you want to do it. If you’re not totally on board you might not stick with it. Here is a good source that explains why keto is so popular.

Certain aspects of the ketogenic diet, like eating green leafy vegetables and intermittent fasting can actually improve immune system function. So not only will you look and feel better, but you might not get as sick as often.

An honest keto diet beginner’s guide should cover the dangers of the keto diet. They are exaggerated, but I break down all the negative aspects of keto in this article.

Also, don’t let anyone tell you not to do keto because it’s too expensive. It’s really not as long as you know how to do keto on a budget.

You’re not giving anything up with keto, you’re just making a trade:

A good keto beginners tip is to think…

“On keto you’re not giving anything up, your just making a trade, you’re trading junk food for good health.”


When explaining the keto diet to friends and family, just say you eat differently now. Tell them that you live a “low-carb lifestyle” when you reject those donuts. Out of ignorance a lot of people react negatively to the word “keto”.

If they want an explanation just tell them you are replacing sugar and starches with vegetables.

Age is not a factor, it’s never to old to try something different to improve your life.

This keto beginners guide is for both the young and old. You’re never too old to try something new and start a ketogenic diet. In fact, for people trying to lose weight after 40 it might be ideal. After eating sugary and starchy foods for years, our bodies become resistant to the blood sugar-lowering effects of insulin.

Not only can keto stop insulin resistance from progressing, in some cases the insulin resistance can actually improve. It’s not just losing weight and looking better. Insulin resistance leads to metabolic syndrome, which leas to prediabetes and then type 2 diabetes.

The ketogenic diet has the potential to even reverse type 2 diabetes.

Total Cholesterol is not a number to worry about

A lot of those beginning keto are overly worry about total cholesterol.

“(Ketogenic Diet) decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol”

Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients

Yes, your LDL (bad cholesterol) might increase, but so will your HDL (good cholesterol). In the absence of glucose (blood sugar), cholesterol doesn’t glycolate, oxidize, and become harmful.

New research shows that the LDL particle size is very important. We know that the ketogenic diet lowers triglycerides and lowering triglycerides is a way to increase particle size in LDL cholesterol.

“LDL particle size may also be affected by environmental factors such as drugs, diet, obesity, exercise, or disease. Factors that shift the LDL subfractions profile towards larger particles may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Particle size: the key to the atherogenic lipoprotein?

All doctors and keto beginners should read this study:

“LDL particle size and number compared with LDL cholesterol and risk categorization” that shows patients with small LDL particles are approximately 68% more at-risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). Small LDL particles are more atherogenic as they enter the endothelium and are more readily oxidized.

“In summary, the present study showed that LDL particle size (LDL phenotype) was closely correlated with circulating triglyceride (TG) levels and demonstrated, for the first time, that particle size is significantly associated with dietary carbohydrate intake.”

Higher levels of serum triglyceride and dietary carbohydrate intake are associated with smaller LDL particle size

Why am I focusing so much on cholesterol in this keto beginners guide?

Because elevated cholesterol is a reason a lot of keto beginners quit keto before they’ve even given it a chance. They will read something or maybe their doctor will warn them about keto raising cholesterol and they’ll get cold feet and quit.

So look at the big picture when evaluating your biomarkers

Track your biomarkers: fasting blood glucose, A1C, A1C, triglycerides, C-reactive protein (inflammation), and liver enzyme levels. It’s a good idea to get a physical before you start.

“Follow your doctors advice, but most doctors are not trained in nutrition. A second opinion never hurts.”

Robert Bryant- Ketogenicinfo

If your blood glucose and/or A1C numbers are high asked for a C-peptide (insulin) test and glucose tolerance test. These tests aren’t normally given, but it’s important to know if your pancreas is producing insulin.

If nothing else it’s comforting to know for sure if you are a type 1 diabetic or not. Type 1 diabetics don’t produce insulin. Here is a good resource that explains diabetes and the keto diet.

Keto for beginners tip #2:

Learn where sugar is hiding:

Carbohydrates, sugar, glucose, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, honey, corn starch, cane sugar, and molasses are all the same thing and another name for sugar. It’s included in everything these days so eating excessively processed foods can be unhealthy for your health.

“A recent study suggests that 75 percent of the weight-loss response in obesity is predicted by insulin levels. Not willpower. Not caloric intake. Not peer support or peer pressure. Not exercise. Just insulin.”

― Jason Fung, The Obesity Code: unlocking the secrets of weight loss

Excess sugar is poison to the human body because it raises blood glucose.

The pancreas must produce insulin to get rid of the glucose and over time, can cause our cells to become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is the root cause of most dietary diseases like obesity, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and yes even cancer.

This study titled, “Ketogenic diet in cancer therapy,” shows promise that a Ketogenic Diet does have an anti-tumor effect.

Here is a helpful article on How to get started on keto.

Keto for beginners tip #3:

Go through your cabinets and throw out all your high carbohydrate, starchy foods:
  • Bread
  • Pancakes/waffles
  • Cereal
  • Grains
  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Sauces (sugar)
  • Sweets of any kind (read labels)

Stop eating most fruit especially any fruit juice. The fruit is high in (fructose) sugar.

If you are going to have fruit eat it in small quantities and limit it to berries: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and avocados.

Here is an article on fruit and the keto diet.

Berries have a lower glycemic index than the other fruits. Berries contain anthocyanins and flavonols and are thought to have cardio-protective properties by reducing oxidative stress (antioxidants) and inflammation. Here is a comprehensive list of supplements to reduce inflammation.

However, to gain the health benefit, the entire berry has to be eaten and not just the juice. Fruit juice is just sugar.

The exception to the “limited fruit” rule is the avocado. Yes, the avocado is a fruit. It is a fleshy, plant product that contains a seed and can be eaten. I call it the Ketogenic Avocado because it’s almost the perfect Keto Food. I even wrote an entire article on the avocado’s health benefits.

Keto for beginners tip #4:

Eat plenty of fat, especially in the first 2 months.

When beginning keto it’s important to focus on getting fat adapted. This is the hardest part and can take between 3 and 6 weeks. There are things you can do to speed up the process. I recommend reading these Speed Keto Instructions.

Keto supplements you can take to assist in the process are:

Limit most dairy and no milk, it’s high in milk sugar (lactose). You can have heavy whipping cream, cheese, butter, and kefir. Whole milk Kefir is a fermented, tart-tasting, creamy, liquid yogurt type drink that is considered one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Here is a good video on how to make keto kefir.

Unflavored, unsweetened, whole milk Greek yogurt is also acceptable in small quantities. Stop drinking diet drinks and learn to drink just plain water, carbonated water, or lemon water.

Keto for beginners tip #5

Learn to read labels and count your carbohydrates.

When beginning the keto diet, you want to start gradually, strictly limiting your carbohydrate consumption. The first week try to consume about 50-60 grams a day, and then the second week 40-50, and then by the 3rd week you want to have your carbohydrate intake down to about 20-30 grams per day.

You can then maintain a 20-30 gram per day carbohydrate intake for as long as you want to continue to burn fat.

Out of the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates, the latter is not an essential macronutrient. The only carbohydrates that you need are the indigestible fiber and prebiotics to feed a healthy gut microbiota.

Yes, the brain does require some glucose, but studies show up to 70% of the brain’s energy needs can come from ketones. Our liver can make all the glucose it needs through a process called gluconeogenesis.

When you are in a state of ketosis, the liver uses fatty acids and amino acids to make glucose. This is based on demand. The liver just makes it (glucose) when it needs it.

Heal your gut with probiotic-rich kefir to repair your gut microbiome (video)

Use Good Oils and Not Bad Oils.

Ideally, your food shouldn’t come in a box or a carton, you want mostly fresh vegetables and meat, cheese, and keto-approved nuts. Almost all your carbohydrates should come from vegetables.

Limit your consumption of processed foods. There is so much hidden sugar and “bad oils” in processed foods it’s better to avoid them when possible.

Bad oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids and are processed with high heat which oxidizes them and makes them rancid. Oxidized oils high in omega 6 fatty acids have shown to be highly inflammatory and are thought to contribute to cardiovascular disease. Sunflower, peanut, corn, soybean, and cottonseed are the worst “bad oils”.

So what are “good oils?”

The best fats and oils for keto are cold-pressed oils. The oils are extracted without high heat and that keeps their chemical structure intact. Organic, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, pasture-raised ghee, butter, coconut oil, beef tallow, bacon grease are all good choices.

Just beware of the smoke point of your cooking oil and don’t get it hot enough to start smoking. Avocado oil and Ghee are best to use in high-temperature cooking because they have higher smoke points.

Flaxseed oil is very healthy, but not suitable as a cooking oil because of the low 225-degree smoke point. Ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and fish or krill oil capsules are good additions to your diet.

Eating fish will increase your heart-healthy intake of omega 3 fatty acids. For success on keto, you have to understand what the healthiest fats are and not eat what’s called “Dirty Keto,” which is just eating any and all fats without regard to keeping the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in balance. Strive for a 1:1 balance.

Smoke points in degrees Fahrenheit:

  • Avocado oil 520
  • Ghee 485
  • Olive oil 468
  • Beef tallow 400
  • Pork lard 370
  • Coconut oil 350
  • Butter 350

Good Fats and Bad Fats on Keto (video)

Put together a Keto Diet Food List:

How to Get Started on the Ketogenic Diet (Video)

Eat a lot of keto salads:

Salads are your friend, but learn what you can and can not put on your salad, watch the dressing, use olive oil and vinegar or Primal Kitchen brand or another sugar-free salad dressing.

Learn about the Glycemic index, which defines how foods impact blood sugar and insulin. Beginners need to understand that the Ketogenic Diet is is a low glycemic index diet. You can learn about the glycemic index here.

Fat has a glycemic index of zero and most vegetables have a low glycemic index. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables to avoid that have a high glycemic index.

Gaining knowledge of the Keto Diet is the key to success. Get on Youtube and watch videos on the Ketogenic diet. Dr. Ken Berry is a good source. Find Doctor Jason Fung’s books and webinars. He is amazing.

Another source is Dr. Benjamin Bikman, he is an expert on insulin. Look up Dr. Sarah Hallberg and study some of her research.

Also, I highly encourage you to watch all the Ketogenicinfo Videos on YouTube.

“The secret to fat burning is to become Keto or fat-adapted.”

Be prepared to break through a plateau on the Keto Diet.

Your first few weeks when you are beginning keto you will likely lose weight rapidly, but that will mostly be water weight. After a few weeks, your weight/fat loss will slow down.

You won’t necessarily be in a weight loss plateau, the body just needs time to reset and heal. You don’t lose weight in a straight line, you go up and down. Focus on monthly weight loss, not daily.

Going to the gym and lifting weights will help. Resistance training empties the glycogen (stored sugar) out of your muscles and speeds up the process of ketosis (fat burning).

Intermittent fasting and OMAD are a powerful weight-loss tool

Fasting and OMAd will help you get past a keto plateau. Just remember to be patient. Slower, consistent fat loss is healthier and more sustainable anyway.

Fasting and resistance training will help you quickly get into ketosis so you can start burning fat.

Contrary to popular belief, intermittent Fasting actually speeds up your metabolism. Check out this study on Science Dailey titled ” Fasting ramps up human metabolism.”

So, you’ll probably hit a weight loss plateau about 2-3 months into your Keto diet. Don’t give up, get determined.

Make a good Keto Shopping List and go to the store and buy some high-fat goodies:

Chicken is great but eat the higher fat sections like wings, legs, and thighs. The skin of the chicken contains collagen protein and chicken fat.

Get some vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, greens, lettuce, spinach, garlic, zucchini, celery, onions, mushrooms, kale. Here is a list with pictures of the best keto diet superfoods.

Beginners of the keto diet should drink a keto flu tonic to prevent cramps
Keto beginners should take electrolytes to Prevent the Keto Flu

Improve Your Keto Digestion:

To help prevent keto constipation eat foods high in prebiotic fiber. Vegetables are naturally high in fiber, and prebiotics is so important that I featured them in this article:

How to Prevent Keto Constipation.

Magnesium Citrate is a great supplement to take. Healing your entire digestive system is paramount to maintaining a strong immune system and improving insulin resistance.

Cook your vegetables in bacon, bacon grease, beef tallow, ghee, butter and/or olive oil and some heavy cream. All meat is fine but stick with the high-fat portions like fish, beef, pork and chicken wings, legs and thighs. Get yourself some MCT oil and use it.

A good keto diet for beginner’s guide should always include a tasty keto coffee recipe.

You can blend MCT oil in your coffee (keto coffee) or sprinkle some on a salad or just take a teaspoon of it. Using MCT oil as a meal replacement or an energy booster helps you get Keto-Adapted and using it as a pre and post-workout supplement helps your workout/exercise program.

When you are first beginning the keto diet drink Keto coffee to help you get keto-adapted. It will get your body adjusted to burning fat, and it’s delicious.

Keto Coffee (video)

Learn about the hormone called ghrelin:

Another name for ghrelin is “hunger.” Don’t fear hunger, it’s your friend, not your enemy. It doesn’t mean you need to eat, ghrelin is secreted on a timer based on when you’ve eaten in the past.

Your body either burns fat for energy or glucose, but the body always burns glucose first, so if you have that in your system you are not burning fat. Carbohydrates and sugars are broken down into glucose in the blood. With glucose present in your blood, you will not burn fat.

Don’t snack to speed up your keto Diet:

Spread out the length of time between meals. Start by eating a high-fat breakfast, eggs, bacon, avocados, cheese, etc. Then start skipping breakfast and eating a high-fat lunch, when you can do that, skip breakfast and lunch and only eat dinner.

That’s called intermittent fasting and it accelerates fat loss and overall health. Eating one meal a day is called OMAD and that’s a very effective form of fasting. The longer you go between meals the more it lowers your insulin and starts to signal your fat cells to release fatty acids to be burned as energy.

If you get hungry, drink a little apple cider vinegar and your hunger will disappear.

Frequent snacking can make you “hangry.” Learn how keto can end that hangry feeling once and for all.

Don’t give up on keto to soon because it can reverse obesity

Play the long game. The best tip for any Keto Diet beginner is to give it time. Most people quit before they’ve had a chance to adapt.

When you are thinking about beginning keto make a 100% commitment. Give yourself 6 dedicated weeks before giving up. You can invest 6 weeks in your own future, can’t you?

Keto can also reverse type 2 diabetes.

Not only can it reverse type 2 diabetes in most cases, but it can usually also prevent you from ever becoming insulin resistant, which is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes.
Don't give up on the keto diet
Patience is important when beginning keto

#1 rule for beginning keto is “don’t give up.”

When and if you have a bad day and fall off your keto diet, don’t give up.

If you follow these steps you can get back into ketosis usually within 24 hours.

When your body becomes adapted to burning fat, your life gets much easier. Until then, when beginning keto you might get jittery, irritable and feel like you have low blood sugar. Taking exogenous ketones can help and eating keto-friendly nuts, blue, gouda or Jarlsberg cheese and/or olives and a piece of lunch meat.

When beginning keto you might feel you have low blood sugar

You probably don’t have low blood sugar when you think you do. You just have “lower” blood sugar than what you are used to. That’s why you get that hangry feeling between meals. That hangry feeling will end after a few weeks and you get keto-adapted.

If you do slip up, then don’t give up on the Keto Diet, just wake up the next day and recommit to trying harder. Every day is a new day, strive to do a little better each day. Your health didn’t deteriorate overnight, so you have patience. Our bodies heal from the inside out.

The liver has to heal before the rest of your body can heal.

Here are some ways to heal your liver so it can generate ketones more efficiently. Remember, you need to be in a state of ketosis to burn fat.

If you stick with it, you will have success. When you get stuck and hit a stall, come back here and read: 12 Ways to Get Past a Plateau on the Ketogenic Diet.

Don’t rely on supplements alone

It’s not what you put into your mouth, it’s what you don’t put into your mouth that makes a difference. You can’t eat crappy and take a diet pill and think you’re going to have success at losing weight. Most supplements don’t do anything more than what you would get from eating healthy keto superfoods.

However, I do recommend taking antioxidants and the herb Berberine has been shown to help keto by improving blood sugar levels. A good keto beginners guide should never focus on supplements over a healthy, whole food diet with green leafy vegetables, fermented foods, olive oil, and meats high in omega 3 fatty acids.

Focus on waist size more than body weight. Focus on body fat, not body weight.

When beginning keto, weigh yourself first thing in the morning every morning in the same condition. Get up and relieve yourself (urinate) and don’t get dressed. Write down your weight. Once a week take a cloth tape measure and measure the circumference of your waist.

Men, measure yourself at the level of your belly button, and women at the widest portion of your hips. Write down your measurement, that will be a great barometer of your weight loss journey.

In the beginning, it’s hard, you feel like you can’t do it long term, BUT it gets MUCH easier after your body adapts to using fat as fuel. Hang in there, most people fail because they don’t stick with it long enough to get fat adapted.

After a few weeks, your energy will start going up and the cravings will start to go away and you’ll start feeling much better. It worked for me, here is my keto transformation story.

This keto beginners guide is very thorough, but might not have answered all your questions:

Here are the top 25 keto frequently asked questions answered.

*This information is not meant as medical advice. Please consult a physician before changing your diet.

Robert Bryant
Robert Bryant

After struggling for 25 years in the Army with Yo-Yo dieting, my health was in decline due to obesity. A doctor at the VA recommended the ketogenic diet. I have extensively studied the science behind keto and have started a quest to inform others. I created this keto diet beginners guide to help people get started. I was able to become completely healthy without drugs and so can you.

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