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Keto Diet Guide for Beginners

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Table of Contents

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Contrary to general dietary recommendations which have proven to be false, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet. It's a diet that causes ketones to be produced by the liver, shifting the body's metabolism away from glucose and towards fat utilization. The ketogenic diet is an effective weight loss tool and has been shown to improve several health conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, epilepsy and even cancer. Healthy cells can use ketones for energy, but some types of cancer cells cannot use ketones. To learn more about the health benefits and applications of the ketogenic diet, make sure to read through our expert articles.

How does it work? Very simply said, when you eat food high in carbs, your body produces glucose and insulin. While glucose is used as the main source of energy, insulin enables glucose to move from your bloodstream into your cells. Insulin is also responsible for storing fat in your body and if your body produces too much of it, you put on weight. Excessive carbs, typical in modern diets, combined with lack of physical activity will likely result in weight gain. Based on a comparison of several scientific trials, low-carb diets outperform calorie-restricted diets in terms of long-term weight loss and health effects.

A common misconception is that our bodies, especially our brains, needs glucose. Although glucose is known to be the primary source of energy (your body naturally prefers glucose), it's nowhere near as efficient as ketone bodies, especially for the brain.

Depending on your goals and on how much you exercise, you can follow any of the four types of ketogenic diets: standard, targeted, cyclical or restricted ketogenic diet. All of them vary based on the daily carb intake and the timing of your meals. Recent studies show that in fact, carbs before or after exercise are not needed once you get keto-adapted and your body will happily run on ketones. This has been well explained in Dr Volek's and Phinney's book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.

Why Follow a Whole Foods Based Keto Diet?

A whole foods based has numerous health benefits; however, if your goal is to lose weight, it is often not enough. Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, bananas, dates or tapioca flour may be considered "whole foods" but definitely won't move the scales down. As a result, our approach is a whole foods based low-carb diet.

The KetoDiet approach is simple: It's a low-carb diet where the focus is on eating real food. With the growing popularity of low-carb diets, the food industry introduced foods that may be low in carbs but are laden with unhealthy ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other additives.

What works for one, may not work for another but in general, if your goal is to lose weight, you have to limit your carb intake even if it comes from healthy whole food based sources.

How Do I Know I'm in Ketosis?

There are a few ways for you to find out whether or not you are in ketosis. Although the most accurate way is to use a blood ketone meter, you can also use urine ketone strips or simply your common sense and listen to your body signals. You can learn more about Ketosis & Measuring Ketones in this post.

However, it's not just about carbs and ketones and you need to know your macros. Many people don't eat enough protein and overeat fat simply because they've been given the wrong advice.

Here's a good article to explain more: The Ketone Craze: Who Really Benefits From High Ketone Levels?

Do I Need To Count Macros on Keto?

When you follow the ketogenic diet, it is critical that you get the macronutrient ratio right. Ideally, you should be eating:

  • 5-10% of calories from carbs (net carbs). Typically, 20-30 grams of net carbs is recommended to start with.
  • 15-30% of calories from protein and
  • 60-75% of calories from fat. If your goal is to lose weight, your fat intake might even go below 60%. Fat is used as a "filler" and should make up the remaining calories.

The exact amount of fat and protein is a matter of individual body responses and activity levels. However, most people on ketogenic diets don't consume over 5% of calories from carbohydrates. You can read more about your ideal macros in the posts below:

You may find it easier to use an app to track your macronutrients. The KetoDiet App can track your macronutrients and do a lot more to help you achieve your goals.

Keto Diet Guide for Beginners

Keto Diet Guide for Beginners

Should I Count Calories?

It's a common misconception that you can eat unlimited amount of calories and still lose weight. In fact, you can put on weight even on a low-carb diet. Although this doesn't happen often, you will need to understand a few basic principles and avoid common mistakes.

Low-carb ketogenic diets are natural appetite suppressing effects This is why you'll eat less and won't need to count calories which is one of the three main effects of the ketogenic diet.

Keto Diet Guide for Beginners

However, if for any reason your weight is stalling for more than 2-3 weeks, you may need to consider keeping an eye on your energy intake (calories). Reaching a weight loss plateau may be caused by several reasons and you don't necessarily have to be eating too much, in fact, you may discover that you haven't been eating enough. In my experience, losing body fat becomes more and more difficult as you get close to your target weight.

To make it easy for you to calculate your ideal macronutrients on a ketogenic diet, we developed a free online keto calculator, KetoDiet Buddy - try it now!

What Foods Should I Eat and Avoid on a Keto Diet?

In short, you should eat REAL food (meat, eggs, nuts, yogurt, vegetables and occasionally some fruits). Apart from the obvious limitation of net carbs in food, it is also recommended to avoid processed food and any food that may contain preservatives and colourings. Complete list of keto-friendly foods can be found in my post here.

KetoDiet is not just about losing weight at any cost; it's about adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Where Can I Get Free Keto Diet Plans?

Starting the ketogenic diet may be challenging for those who are new to it. To make it easy for you, I have created several keto meal plans that include print-friendly shopping lists and useful tips for meal preparation to save time and money.

No diet plan fits all and you may need to make small adjustments to fit your needs. You can find even more diet plans here: 2 premium diet plans for accelerated fat loss, and 2 more free diet plans including a keto & paleo diet plan, and a vegetarian keto diet plan. To get all 3 free diet plans, you can simply subscribe to our newsletter - it's free and we will never sell your e-mail address!

You can search through the many recipes on my blog to find what fits your needs. If you need to limit your search to any special requirements, use the "categories" on the right side of my blog.

KetoDiet in a Nutshell

1) Basic Principles of a Whole Foods Based Keto Diet

  • Stick with the keto ratio: 60-75% of calories from fat, 15-30% calories from protein and 5-10% calories from net carbs.
  • Start by getting the daily net carbs (total carbs without fiber) down to less than 50 grams, preferably 20-30 grams. Increase slowly to find the optimal carbs intake. Most of you will be able to stay in ketosis at 20-30 grams of net carbs per day. Find the carbs limit that allows you to stay in ketosis.
  • Keep your protein intake moderate. Preferably, use your body fat percentage to get the best estimate for your optimal protein intake (0.6 to 1 grams per pound of lean body mass or 1.3 to 2.2 grams per kg of lean body mass).
  • Increase the proportion of calories that come from healthy fats (saturated, omega 3s, monounsaturated)
  • If your net carbs limit is very low (20 grams and below), avoid eating fruit and low-carb treats.
  • Eat when you are hungry, even if it's a meal a day. Don't let others dictate what you eat or how often you eat.
  • You don't have to limit quantities of food deliberately, but you should stop eating when you feel full, even if the plate is not empty — keep it for later.
  • Don't count calories — listen to your body, including hunger and fullness signals. Ketogenic and low-carb diets have a natural appetite control effect and you will eat less. Keep an eye on your calorie intake only if you reach a weight loss plateau, try KetoDiet buddy to find your ideal macros.
  • Increase the amount of water you drink — at least 2-3 litres a day.

2) Stock Your Pantry with Healthy Foods Low in Carbs

  • Learn to eat real food like eggs, meat and non-starchy vegetables. Contrary to what we have been told for decades, these are good for you!
  • If you need to snack, opt for healthy foods high in fat (foods containing coconut oil, macadamia nuts, avocados, etc.)
  • Include healthy foods like fermented foods, bone broth and offal in your diet.
  • Don't be afraid of saturated fat and use it for cooking (coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, tallow, palm oil - organic from sustainable agriculture).
  • Use unsaturated fats for salads (olive oil, nut oils, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil - organic, extra virgin). Some can be used for light cooking.
  • Avoid all processed vegetable oils, margarine, hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, canola oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil and corn oil.
  • Eat organic dairy (or none in case of allergies). Look for raw, organic, and/or grass-fed dairy. Avoid milk (high in carbs) or use small amounts of full-fat milk.
  • If you eat nuts, consider soaking and dehydrating them.

Keto Diet Guide for Beginners

3) Increase Your Electrolyte Intake (Sodium, Magnesium and Potassium)

Macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs) are not the only aspect you should focus on - micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are equally important. Those that are known to be deficient, especially in very low-carb diets such as below 20 g net carbs, are electrolytes. You can learn more about them here: "Keto-flu" and Sufficient Intake of Electrolytes

Here are a few tips to get your daily electrolytes:

  • Potassium: eat avocados, mushrooms, fatty fish such as salmon and add potassium chloride to your regular salt (or mix 1/2 teaspoon in 1 litre of water and drink throughout the day). Be very careful with potassium supplements, never exceed the recommended daily intake!
  • Magnesium: eat a handful of nuts every day to boost your magnesium intake and take magnesium supplement. If you eat less than 20-25 grams of net carbs, it will be very difficult to get to your daily targets.
  • Sodium: Don't be afraid to use salt (I like pink Himalayan rock salt) and drink bone broth or use it in your everyday cooking.

4) Beware of Hidden Carbs and Unhealthy Ingredients

  • Read the labels and avoid hidden carbs (Maltitol, Sorbitol, etc.), unnecessary additives, preservatives, colourings or artificial sweeteners. These could be found even in chewing gums and mints. Not only they can trigger cravings but they are also linked to many negative health effects. If you use sweeteners, here is a list of suitable sweeteners, opt for those with no effect on blood sugar.
  • Avoid anything labeled as "low-fat" or "fat-free", as it usually has artificial additives and extra carbs. It also has no sating effect and you will feel hungry soon after you eat it.
  • Avoid products labeled "low-carb" or "great for low-carb diets". It has been shown that most of these commercially available products are neither low-carb nor healthy!
  • Beware of medications (cough syrups and drops and many others) containing sugar and try to find sugar-free replacements.
  • For more tips, check out this post: 7 Surprising Sources of Hidden Carbs

5) Beware of Products Labeled "Low-Carb", Focus on Foods Naturally Low in Carbs

Make sure you always opt for real unprocessed food and avoid prepared meals full of additives and deceptive labelling. Low-carb products are often higher in carbs than they claim to be and often contain artificial additives.

It's no secret that aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener found in diet soda, has been shown to have many adverse effects on our health. Also, keep in mind there are strong financial interests to cover this up and deceive consumers. You can read more in the following posts:

6) Plan Your Diet in Advance and Avoid Binge Eating

To save time and money, you will need to plan your diet in advance, especially if you are new to it. Here are a few tips before you get started:

  • Get rid of anything that is not allowed on the diet (flour, sugar and sugary snacks, bread, processed foods, etc.) to avoid temptation. Trust me, if it's in your house, you will likely crave it. This way you will avoid unnecessary "fridge accidents" that may ruin your efforts.
  • If you have sugar cravings, have a glass of water (still or sparkling) with fresh juice from 1/2 lime or lemon and 3-5 drops of stevia. Drink tea (green, herbal, black) and coffee with cream.
  • Make a list of your weekly shopping for meals you are planning to cook. My 7-Day Grab & Go Keto/Paleo Diet Plan includes a shopping list ready to be printed.
  • To save time and money, have hard boiled eggs and cooked meat ready to be used in salad or for a quick snack. Slow cooked meat like this one could be used in many different ways (in omelettes or on top of lettuce and other vegetables). Meats suitable for slow cooking are cheaper and can be cooked in advance. I use this slow cooker or you can simply cook it in the oven on low-medium covered with a lid.
  • Make sure you always have keto-friendly foods on hand (eggs, avocado, non-starchy vegetables, meat, cheese, nuts or even home-made protein bars). Foods rich in protein are very sating and will help you overcome hunger cravings.

7) Get an App to Get Started & Track Your Progress

Planning and tracking your diet is highly recommended, especially if you are new to the diet. It's very easy to go over your carbs limit or to miss your protein targets.

You can get the KetoDiet App which has been designed specifically for low-carb, ketogenic & paleo diets. Not only you will find many keto & paleo friendly recipes but you will also be able to easily plan and track your diet.

I have also authored several Keto Cookbooks to make the ketogenic lifestyle easy to follow.

8) Keep Motivated - Join Our Support Group

Join the KetoDiet support group on Facebook and share your experiences. We created this group for sharing everything about low-carb, keto & paleo living including your favourite recipes, tips and success stories. Feel free to post your recipe creations, progress updates and any questions you may have about the ketogenic diet.

Need even more motivation? Join our KetoDiet Challenge - it's free and you can even win amazing prizes. Don't take my word for it - just read some of the amazing success stories of those who took part in our KetoDiet Challenge!

A few last words ...

  • Be strong during the first few days. Think of this time as something that will soon pass. There will be cravings and negative side effects over this period. Once it's over you will feel great and full of energy!
  • Imagine yourself a few pounds lighter wearing your old jeans and keep being positive! Stress will only have a negative effect on your weight loss.
  • If there is any reason you cannot avoid eating more carbs than you should, remember to do some physical activity to burn them. It is recommended you do some exercise no later than an hour after you eat extra carbs. If you're at a party, dance! And don't get in the habit of eating more carbs than you should.
  • If you disrupt your diet, don't get depressed; just go back to your plan the day after!
  • Finally, DON'T let anyone make you think you can't lose weight! And don't believe it's genetics. People may think you eat the wrong food - ignore them; it's your life and your health!

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Martina Slajerova
Creator of

Martina Slajerova

I changed the way I ate in 2011, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. I had no energy, and I found it more and more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

That’s when I decided to quit sugar, grains, and processed foods, and to start following a whole-foods-based ketogenic approach to food.

About the Reviewer

This article has been reviewed by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE who is a qualified expert. At KetoDiet we work with a team of health professionals to ensure accurate and up-to-date information. You can find out more on the About us page.

Let us know what you think, rate this post!

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Comments (125)

Great site!!

I keep coming back to your blog over and over. You have absolutely the best info on Keto than anywhere else on the net. Thank you, over and over.

Thank you so much Mary!

My husband and I would love to start a keto way of living. He is allergic to eggs, shellfish and nuts. We really need guidance in the way of a 7 day diet guide that we can both follow. Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide.

Hi Debbie, I'm afraid I don't have such diet plan but you can use the filtering options in our recipes to exclude the foods you can't eat: Recipes

I believe there maybe egg substitutes that might be keto friendly? If you keep reading this young ladies' blog you will find all the answers you will need to be successful on keto.

The good news is that we will soon have an egg-free guide! Keep an eye on the blog posts for updates 😊

I completely agree with the avoid foods labeled "low fat" or "fat free"
A friend a mine tried keto about 2 months back. I was hesitant to try it so I just researched it to learn more.
My friend thought that Diet coke was okay because it's "healthier" but she was drinking it so often that she continued to get really bad sugar cravings and was struggling to stay in ketosis.
She's now gave it up and has seen some nice results.

Good afternoon.  I have purchased your Beginners Keto book and i love the app.  However I have a question on the app.  The beginners recipes don't appear to be on the app.  Do I need to upgrade?  How can I load my own meals?
Thanks, look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Sue, thank you for buying my book and app! As much as I'd love to have the recipes in the app as well, I have contactual limitations and can't share them in the app. You can add them by creating a Custom Meal by "nutrition facts" which is the faster way to create a custom meal when you know the nutrition facts. Otherwise, you can create a custom meal by adding the individual ingredients together. I hope this helps!

Very helpful.

Wow, what an inspirational and helpful article. Thanks for breaking it down so well and making it easy to understand. I loved reading this!

Thank you Selma!

This is a real find for my friend and I. We have tried literally every diet ever invented and this is the first time we have looked forward to the food, not been hungry and seen results (good ones not just half a pound). My husband is in heaven every mealtime because he loves the meals. We really want to understand it properly and this has helped massively to clear up some myths and to understand the science behind it. I haven't read everything yet but I fully intend to and I will be ordering the book and downloading the app too.
Thank you x

Thank you very much, Rachel!

I know you want us to have 60-75% of calories from fat, 15-30% calories from protein and 5-10% calories from net carbs....BUT since I am already 50% BMI (5'5" 320#) should I not reduce the fat and increase the protein??  Please advise what percentage be reasonable on an already obese frame.
Thank you!
Melody Delparte
Tucson AZ

It depends on your macros - the suggested macronutrients are there just to give you a general idea of how keto looks like but may not always apply. To get the macros (in grams) ideal for individual dietary requirements and goals: KetoDiet Buddy - Easy Macro Calculator for the Ketogenic Diet

It’s very inspiring. I hope someone can help/ advise me before going ahead with the diet and the app. I’m in India right now, where I see some ingredients, fruits and  vegetables are difficult to come by. For example ripe avocados are very difficult to find in the place I’m posted in. Are there any recipes adapted to the region we are in so that the local produce can be used? Can we customised the recipes on the basic app? Is there an option to upgrade if i like the way the app is helping me ?

Hi Ram, I'm afraid it is not customisable for regions - the food database is universal (we use several different sources)and there is a wide variety of recipes included. the Basic app does not include tracking but there is an upgrade path available. I hope this helps!

Inspiring...look forward to getting back on the healthy bandwagon again, would be worth investing in an app to ensure i stay on track.

Hi, I'm a vegan. Is it possible to do the keto diet on a diet that completely shuns all animal products? I see the vegetarian version is very egg and dairy heavy.

Hi Rachel it is possible although I would not recommend it. Here's more about keto & vegetarian (includes general tips for plant-based): Vegetarian Diet and Keto - Can These Two Work Together?
And here's more about keto & vegan: Ketogenic Diet FAQ: All You Need to Know
I hope this helps!

I try and read this every couple of months to keep me motivated and on the right track. I am loving the app and planner for android can't believe I had the planner so long before using it. I guess like most things change is the hardest one of all, I used fat secret and got use to it but glad I changed both my app and my WOE.

Thank you for your lovely feedback, Pat! More features are coming soon to the Android app! 😊

HI!  Great blog I just started keto diet was using the primal palette ranch dressing and it was just pointed out to me that it has tapioca starch in it.  The rest looks good. Is it something I should stop?

I'm not familiar with it but it depends on the carb count per serving. Small amounts of tapioca should not make a difference. This may help in case it does significantly affect the carb count: Easy Keto Ranch Dressing

Hello Martina i see you make a lot of your own sauces, condiments, milk etc have you ever made your own almond milk and almond flour? I have found info on web saying after you make the almond milk you can dry the pulp and grind into almond flour would this flour work in your recipes? Would it be better to skip the milk making and grind the almonds? Thanks Donna

Hi Donna, I sometimes make almond milk. The dehydrated pulp you get when you make almond milk is not exactly like almond flour because it contains more fat and moisture (that is closer to "defatted" almond flour). Grinding the almonds is better - it will be closer to store-bought almond flour 😊

How do I upload my before photos? I took two (front, and side view on my i Phone.

Hi Melissa, you can do that in (you will find instructions on how to do that, including the photo guidelines, etc). For future queries, please, make sure you always send a support e-mail - we cannot guarantee to reply to all comments in time. You can contact us directly via:

Hi! I started the keto diet 2 days back after i read ur posts. But now i see many sites and other acclaimed nutritionist say that a 17 year old girl shudnt go for a keto diet. Awaiting ur take on this. Is it unhealthy or risky for a young girl like me to go for keto? Incase this helps you decide, i chose keto because i want to lose weight.
If keto isnt a good option can you suggest effective ways to lose weight?

Hi Sayogita, I can't advice on who should and who should not go on a keto diet but in general I don't think that age is an issue. What you should avoid is extreme calorie restriction which comes with micronutrient deficiencies and potential lack of protein - that is what may have a negative effect. A whole foods based low-carb or keto diet should not be an issue unless you have a health condition that prevents your from following the diet.

Thanks for the good insight.  Beginner information is very helpful when wanting to spread the word about this great way of life.  The fat ratio seems low to me.  This is more of a modified ketogenic diet.  It will work for folks that are fairly young and relatively healthy, but if a person as diabetes or even metabolic syndrome, they may need to be get closer to 80% fat or more!  having said that, you implied this in the article.  Thanks for sharing and keep the great information coming!
PS - I LOVE the last paragraph!  Nice touch😊

Thank you Tara! I think it depends on your goal. I think it's not so much about percentages but they percentages give us a good idea of the diet composition but they are relative. Since fat is used as "filler" and protein is determined by lean body mass and activity level (more or less constant), fat is what determines whether we lose, maintain or gain weight. In some cases, people end up eating 50-60% of calories from fat (overeating fat would be counterproductive). In other cases this can be 80% of calories from fat.

HI Martina  -
great blog, love the info, very well set out - thank you!
I have just started my keto diet and have one burning question:
I've been taking Apple Cider Vinegar (AVC - with the mother, organic, raw etc) for the past seven months each day - 20 ml in 1/2 glass of water. It has tonnes of health benefits and I like it. Its carb content is minimal - less than 1g in 1 tbsp - so that's not my concern.  BUt given the changing metabolism of my body is it ok to take it on a keto diet?

I'm sorry for the late response! Yes, ACV is absolutely fine 😊

What a great post!
I have learned a lot here, and will be back often to read and re-read your posts.
I am new to Keto and am finding out that it is a great way to eat, I never feel deprived nor do I feel hungry.
I actually have a hard time eating all the calories I am supposed to be eating daily.
I am cooking more and even my Husband is eating like I eat, since I am losing weight well, so far. I know that it takes time to lose the excess weight, I didn't gain it all in one day, and it won't leave all in one day either.
Thanks for this page, I am so happy to have been lead here but a member of FatSecret. They also help those of us to find the best way to lose weight, what works best for each of us.
Thanks again!!!

Thank you for your kind words!

I've been doing Keto for about 9 weeks now. Once I found the KetoDiet app, logging my food got a lot easier and I started seeing weight loss. The recipes are so delicious and I don't have that gnawing hunger feeling. The high fat content makes the food taste awesome!  I can't believe I'm able to eat such satisfying meals and lose weight to boot!!  I joined the 60 day Summer Challenge and it's made me so motivated!

Thank you so much for your kind words!

I would like to buy the app for 6.99 but when I press on it, it goes to 9.99. How I can fix this?

I'm sorry for the delayed response. The price listed on our website is in USD and you are likely looking at CAD or AUD on the App Store. We set our prize in USD and the App Store then lists all other currencies (plus tax).

I'm so excited to be apart of this challenge I've been having a real hard time staying motivated after being keto on and off for the past 3 months. I know having this support group is really going to help me stay on track.  But still not clear on how this works do we check in every day?

Hello Joy, all information about our challenges is here:

I was wondering if you are going to have an Android based app soon?  I just started Keto this week and would love to have your app, but I don't own any Apple products.  

Hi Susie, yes, we're working on it and it should be out in mid 2017 - more details are here: New Upgrade Path for KetoDiet Basic (iOS)

I am going to start Keto in about a week ( i am currently on a weightloss program that puts your body into ketosis and i want to maintain my weight loss. Carbs make me feel icky now!) and i am trying to figure out a plan of what and when to prep. I know i want to make ketobread, tortillas, a sweet treat, and keto pizza dough because those are the things that i know i will use every week ( we have a toddler so quick meals are a must). How do i decide and plan for making other things like ketchup, mayo, chocolate for fat bombs, etc? I know this may be dumb or super obvious but i am a full time SAHM and a full time law student so my brain doesnt always function at full speed lol! Should i set aside a day every month to do this? Will the side ingredients last that long? Should i prep the bread and stuff weekly? What do you recommend/ how do you do it?

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