You’ve heard about the Ketogenic Diet (KD) and the many health benefits that come with it.
But now what? How do you actually do it?
In this article, you’ll get all the details you need to know to follow the KD, including a comprehensive 3-day sample meal plan!
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
In the first article of this blog series, we discussed how the KD is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
Now, let’s review the basics of the actual diet so you can reap all of these potential benefits.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine sets Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for macronutrients.
Macronutrients are the three main nutrients one can consume for calories and they include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. No other nutrient contributes calories to the diet.
The RDA is the average level of a nutrient that a person should consume in order to meet the requirement of healthy people.
Below are the RDAs for each macronutrient:
- Carbohydrates: 130 grams per day (45-65% of your daily calories).
- Fats: ~20-35% of daily calories
- Protein: ~10-35% of your daily calories (ranges from 11-46 grams per day based on age)
Macronutrient Ranges For The Ketogenic Diet
The KD focuses on high fat, low carbohydrate intake so the macronutrient ranges looks quite different than what you’re used to.
See the comparison below of what the Standard American Diet (SAD) looks like versus the KD.
Picture taken from Metagenics
On the KD diet, carbohydrate content is typically less than 50 grams of net carbohydrates per day.
This can be challenging to achieve as all plant-foods contain at least some amount of carbohydrate. Healthy foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains contribute carbohydrates in varying amounts.
Some great options for low carbohydrate foods include non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits like:
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous veggies
- Citrus like grapefruit, limes and lemons
High carbohydrate foods that should be avoided/limited include:
- Sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks and juice
- Too many fruits/dried fruits
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, butternut squash, beets
- Grains like rice, pasta, breads
- Legumes like beans, peas, lentils
- Sweetened condiments and sauces
Net carbohydrates is something to be aware of when monitoring your carbohydrate intake.
Here’s the calculation to find out the net carbs of a food/meal:
Net Carbs = Total carb grams – Fiber grams – ½ Sugar Alcohols grams
By monitoring net carbs instead of total carbs, you’ll more clearly see the influence of these carbs on your blood sugar levels. Remember, fiber is not absorbed, does not contribute calories or glucose, therefore, it should not be counted against your carb count for the day.
Additionally, there are various sugar alcohols that don’t really impact your blood sugar level as there is some degree of malabsorption involved after you eat them. Many “diet products” contain these sugar alcohols like erythritol, mannitol, xylitol, sorbitol, etc.
For simplicity’s sake, most just divide sugar alcohols grams by 2 and then subtract this from total carbs. There may be specific nuances to this rule based on the type of sugar alcohol, but this article will dive into that topic.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to calculate net carbohydrates yourself because it won’t be on the nutrition fact label, but it’s fairly easy to do.
Net-Carb Counting Example
Let’s review an example together:
Net carbs = Total carbs (19g) – Fiber grams (2g) – ½ Sugar Alcohol grams (15 divided by 2 = 7.5)
Net carbs = 9.5g in 1 serving
Adequate protein intake is important on the KD. However, people on this diet commonly make the mistake of over-doing protein foods. Protein is not a “free-food” and can potentially cause problems in achieving ketosis.
This is because of the process known as gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic pathway that can produce glucose from protein. By consuming more protein than necessary, you could get “kicked out” of ketosis due to this extra glucose production.
You can calculate protein needs based on a percentage of total calorie intake (~15-30%) or on body size (0.8 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight). Keep in mind that if you are overweight/obese according to your BMI, then sometimes body weight estimates can overestimate your protein needs.
Here’s a quick example calculating protein needs for someone who is 180 lb and consuming 1800 calories:
- 20% of calories=
- 1800 x 0.2=360
- Divide this number by 4 to convert protein calories into grams = 90 grams protein per day
- 180lb divided by 2.2 (to convert pounds into kilograms) = 81.81kg
- 81.81 x 1 = 81.81 g protein per day
While these numbers are not exactly the same (90g v. 82g), they are fairly similar and help meet the basic protein needs of this person.
Some healthy sources of protein include
- Protein powders (isolate form is best)
Fat intake should be the highest intake of all with a whopping 70% of fat from your total calorie intake. This is the most drastic diet change, as most people eat about 25% of their calories from fat.
The best tip to truly get into ketosis is to eat more fat than you even feel comfortable with! Drizzle oil and butter on all your foods.
Below are some nutritious sources of fat:
- Grass-fed butter
- Extra virgin olive oil/olives
- Coconut oil and milk (canned)
- Nuts (e.g. macadamia, almond, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
- Seeds (e.g. chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp, etc.)
- Full fat cheeses
- Cream (unsweetened)
- Fatty fish (e.g. sardines, anchovies, tuna, salmon, cod, etc.)
Tracking Tools On The KD
To calculate your macronutrient content on the KD, there are many applications you can use.
Here’s a list of some of the top-rated apps for keto.
At minimum, keep track of your food intake in a notepad for the first few weeks, as this is not an intuitive diet. Keeping track of your food, portions, and net carb grams (per meal) is a great place to start. After you get into the flow of the diet, tracking is no longer essential.
How To Do The Ketogenic Diet
Overall, to do the KD you will need to focus all of your attention to your macronutrient intake.
You will have to consume approximately 10% carbohydrates, 20% of protein, and around 70% of healthy fats. In order to properly consume these macronutrients, it’s helpful to use any of the tools listed above to calculate your exact macronutrient intake throughout the day.
It can be challenging to get started and stick to the KD plan. Work with me to help guide you through the process, get a personalized meal plan, and the accountability/support you need for success!
Below is a sample of a 3 Day Ketogenic Meal Plan that you can follow in order to start your KD today!
3 Day Ketogenic Meal Plan
- 2 scrambled eggs cooked in butter, 2 sausage links, ½ cup of sliced avocado
- Smoothie: 1 cup full-fat coconut milk, 1 tbsp MCT oil, 1 cup kale, ½ cup blueberries, 3 drops of stevia
- 3 oz. baked cod, 1 cup spinach with carrots and cucumbers, 1 tbsp avocado oil and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup almonds
- 3 oz. turkey burger, ½ cup of mashed cauliflower, 5 spears of asparagus
Nutrition Facts: 1311 calories, 54.4 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of fiber, 91 grams of fat, 80 grams of protein, 32.4 grams of net carbohydrates
- 2 slices of Keto Spinach and Onion Quiche
- ¼ cup almonds
- Stir Fry: sauteed ¼ lb. shrimp in 1 tbsp. Avocado oil, 2 tbsp. Coconut aminos, ½ cup of carrots, peas, broccoli, and ½ cup of cauliflower rice
Nutrition Facts: 1660 calories, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of fiber, 116 grams of fat, 97 grams of protein, 43 grams of net carbohydrates
- 1 cup 4% cottage cheese, ⅛ cup of chopped pecans, 1 tbsp of chia seeds, ¼ cup of blueberries
- 1/4 cup guacamole, ½ cup of celery, ½ cup of carrots
- Steak bowl with cauliflower rice, tomatoes, avocado, saute peppers and onions
Nutrition Facts: 1380 calories, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 24 grams of fiber, 94 grams of fat, 64 grams of protein, 32 grams of net carbohydrates
Guest Contributor Amanda Cook, MS, CNS Candidate