Ketogenic Meal Plan: How to Get Started
If this is your first time following a ketogenic diet, you are going to want to follow the KISS (keep it simple sweetie) method. We are going to start by following a basic (modified Atkins) Ketogenic diet macronutrient break down to devise our ketogenic meal plan. To find out how to calculate your estimated needs, use this calculator from Ruled.Me
So now that you know roughly how many grams of carbohydrates, fat and grams of protein your body needs in a day, the next thing you want to do is pick out your protein sources for the week. This is assuming you grocery shop once per week.
What types of protein can I eat on a ketogenic diet?
Pick three main protein sources that you want to base your recipe choices from. I always choose eggs because they are so cheap, really nutrient-dense, and super versatile. Next I pick two types of meat based on what sounds good. Maybe you want burgers so you’ll want to add ground meat to the list, or you found a really delicious sounding buffalo flavored chicken
The first thing to do is decide on what I like to call foundation meals. These are the foods and meals you naturally like to eat. One of the biggest problems I have with meal plans that have been planned out for you, that don’t allow you flex your schedule, is that its often filled with meals you don’t really like. You’re never going to stick to a diet (or lifestyle change like Keto) if you don’t like the food you’re eating.
So, think about what you LIKE to eat. Do you normally eat a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast? Cool, because you’re allowed to cream cheese on Keto and you can make Keto Bagels using Fathead Dough (click for recipe). They freeze great and you can eat one every morning. Do you normally eat eggs a couple of times per week? Awesome! You’re allowed to eat eggs so fill those blocks in on your meal plan form.
Maybe you eat a basic meat, veg and starch meal for dinner normally. That can be modified for Keto, just replace your starch with a non-starch vegetable, side salad, or increase the amount of just one non-starch vegetable you put on your plate. Fill that in on your form.
Do you like to skip breakfast and have a big lunch? No problem. You might want to read about Intermittent Fasting if you haven’t heard of or looked into that yet. The typical schedule is fast for 16 hours and fit all of your eating & macros into an 8 hour window. Maybe you’re a nurse and work the night shift, skipping dinner. That’s ok, too. This diet isn’t about depriving yourself. It’s about fueling your body with the right foods which decreases your appetite and allows you to burn body fat and feel great.
What types of oil should I eat on a ketogenic diet?
Next choose your oils: I use the same oils every single week for cooking. My greens, I like extra to cook in extra virgin organic coconut oil or bacon fat. I use either extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil for salad dressings. I use avocado oil when marinating foods to be grilled. Butter tastes good on everything and I get uncured bacon and keep the grease from it to cook greens and to fry eggs in—win win — it makes everything taste better just like butter and it’s a saturated fat so it’s less likely to get oxidized and has a higher smoke point which means it’s less likely to produce free radicals meaning it’s less likely to oxidized LDL cholesterol which causes heart disease the hardening of arteries and plaque buildup.
To stay on budget, only buy one type of oil per week or two per month. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to have all of the different types of fats and oil in the first week you start this diet. Decide which one you need first, buy it, and use that for your meals. Coconut oil is really versatile so I would recommend that as your first one to purchase.
What about Vegetables?
Next choose your veggies. This is where most of your carbs should be coming from on a daily basis. Learn to love your dark green leafy vegetables! Dark green leafy veggies are going to have folate, calcium and lots of other vitamins and minerals which our bodies need.
- Bok Choy
- Broccoli Rabe
- Chicory Greens
- Green Bean
- Lettuce (Green Leaf, Romaine)
If you try any of these and don’t immediately love them, try cooking them a different way (grilled instead of in the oven, or marinate them in balsamic vinegar and then top them with a yummy cheese like cheddar or goat). Brussel sprouts catch a bad rap, but honestly you should try sauteeing them in butter and topping with chopped bacon. I love a mix of broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflowers, and eggplant all marinated in balsamic vinegar then roasted in the oven. Yum!
Make sure you don’t just fill up on bacon and cream, and still eat a balanced diet with lots of greens!
Add vegetables into your menu plan as a side dish, or find a recipe like cauliflower “mac and cheese” and then top it with chopped bacon and jalapenos and eat that as your main course. This lifestyle is all about eating food that tasted good, fills you up, and meets your macros (or close to them), so that you can enjoy this long-term.
Fruit in Moderation
I stick to mostly berries majority being blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries just because they’re higher in fiber and higher in antioxidants. I’ll eat a handful by itself or whip up some heavy cream with a little bit of stevia and then throw in a berry mix and eat that as a sweet treat. Not every day, but occasionally when you need something sweeter.
Now that you have all of the foods that you want to eat for the week, stick to two or three different cooking methods. We tend to stick with the grill, oven, and stove top for most meals. Occasionally the microwave (90 second keto bread or thawing frozen veggies) or the Instant Pot (hard boiled eggs or chicken drumsticks). Once I know which meats I want to purchase that week then I need to decide how to cook them. Bacon I cook in the oven – 2 pounds at a time. Chicken or Salmon we grill or bake in the oven. Hamburgers or Steak are cooked on the grill. Ground Meat is cooked on the stove.
To make it easy so that I can flex my meals, I’ll pick recipes that I can quickly and easily add cooked meat to. So we grill all of our chicken on Sunday after we shop, and then it gets thrown into salads, soups, or on a plate with some veggies. Ground meat would get cooked on the stove and then that can be tossed into a taco salad, spread over zucchini noodles, or eaten in cheese shell tacos. This gives me a lot of meal options during the week and allows me to change my mind if I don’t feel like having salad I could make tacos instead. Just as an example.
How Much Time Do You Have to Cook?
This is an important but often skipped element of effective meal planning. You can plan all you want, but if you don’t have time to execute it, you won’t benefit from it. With this in mind, expand that list with qualifiers such as three make-ahead family dinners, two family dinners in 45 minutes, etc. In short, you want to give yourself more information about what you’ll need to make — the more specific you get here, the easier it is to find dishes that fit the bill.
This is where my tip from above about cooking all of your meat on Sunday for the upcoming week can help out A LOT. You’re not spending hours on Sunday prepping all of your meals for the week, which can be super tiring week after week, but it does cut down on the amount of time you’re preparing meals each day because your proteins are already done so you’re just cutting up vegetables or mixing together a big salad.
Pick and Schedule Dishes
Using the list you have, choose meals that fit the bill. Look to family favorites or peruse recipe sites for ideas. Consider the time of year, what’s in season and what everyone will feel like eating. When scheduling, take shelf-life into account (i.e. make any fish dish within a day or two of shopping, plan meals with shelf-stable and frozen ingredients for later in the week).
Pay attention to how many servings a recipe makes and the nutritional profiles of the dishes you schedule to make sure you meet your healthy eating goals.
Consider overlapping ingredients to minimize waste and cooking with a plan for leftovers to make the most of your food budget and time. If you want to eat better for less, shop seasonal produce and sales.
Consider creating a master recipe list. Having a list of go-to meals you know work for you and your family is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the master list so you can your own list of “foundation meals”. You can store recipes in your MyFitnessPal recipe box to quickly calendar meals directly into your food diary. Not only will this help you meet your goals, but it will also take the work out of logging at mealtime.
Put it on a Calendar
Print out a copy of my Keto meal plan form: Simple Yummy Keto’s Meal Plan Form
Fill in all of your meal for the week and then hang it somewhere that you will see it each day. The fridge is a great spot for this. When you’re hungry and need to eat, it can be rather inspiring to stay on track when you go to open the fridge door and see a reminder of the meal you had planned to eat that day.
Write Your Grocery List & Shop
You might as well do this along with filling out the calendar. Don’t forget to jot down quantities for each ingredient and take a quick inventory of what you already have to avoid overbuying. Save time at the store by grouping your list as they appear in the store.
The basic categories might look something like this:
- Dairy & Eggs
Write out your full shopping list. Stay on track while you’re shopping and don’t stray from the list.
Shop in the direction that makes sense! I start in dairy because these are either heavy for the bottom layer in the cart – unsweetened almond milk, heavy cream, sour cream, cheese. Then eggs sit on top of those things. Pantry comprises of things like broth, oils, canned olives, tamed jalapenos. Again these are heavy things that I want on the bottom layer of my groceries. Then produce and frozen next, depending on how your store is arranged. You want to keep your spinach, lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, etc. protected on the top layer of your groceries so they don’t get squished. When I unload the cart, I move things around to unload in basically the same order I loaded it in. Heavy things go on the belt first and I keep the eggs and produce as the last things I place to be scanned.
Prep Your Food or Set Yourself Up for the Week
Chop vegetables, grate cheese, make sauces or otherwise prep what you can in advance if that’s your plan.
Meal planning doesn’t just put you in a great position to stay true to your healthy eating goals, it can save tons of time, since you can prepare similar ingredients in batches and pre-make elements when you have time.
If you don’t have time to prep things for the week, at least set yourself up inside the fridge to be organized for what you need so you can grab them quick when you need them.
If you have non-keto people living in the same house as you, then organize all of your keto foods together in the fridge and in the pantry. This will help during the week when you’re cooking but also for the next week when you need to take inventory before you shop again.