This is a guest post from Louise Hendon. She co-hosts The Keto Summit and has written many keto cookbooks, including The Essential Keto Cookbook.
Creating a meal plan for yourself can be the difference between a keto diet which ends with success and keto diet which ends with a bag of chocolate chip cookies.
Think about it. If you have a meal plan to follow, you’ll never find yourself hungry/hangry with an empty kitchen, zero inspiration for keto-friendly meal options and Chinese takeout calling your name.
And in this article, we’ll share five tips for creating an easy, sustainable meal plan for the keto diet – as well as recapping what the keto diet is, and sharing a few helpful guidelines for folks just getting started.
What Is Keto?
The keto diet has one main goal: to change your body’s metabolism so that it switches its main fuel source from carbohydrates/sugars to fat. That metabolic state is called nutritional ketosis.
There are all sorts of health benefits to being in nutritional ketosis. It can help you lose weight, get rid of brain fog, increase your energy levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
What foods can you eat on a keto diet? Focus on eating a moderate amount of protein, a very small amount of carbohydrates and lots of healthy fats.
DO eat these foods: meats, organ meats, fish and other seafood, leafy green veggies, broccoli and cauliflower, olives, avocados, herbs and spices, coconut oil, ghee.
DON’T eat these foods: grains (like rice, oats and wheat), legumes (like lentils, beans and garbanzos), high-carb vegetables and sugary fruits, processed high-carb foods (like cookies, pasta and chips), and products containing peanuts or soy.
How To Create A Meal Plan For Your Keto Diet
1 – Breakfast #1: batch prep a few different breakfast options
It’s always hard to find enough time to get ready in the mornings, so having your breakfast prepped in advance can make your life easier.
These are a few tasty breakfast options you can batch prep during the weekend:
- Chia puddings (they’ll keep for up to a week if refrigerated)
- Egg muffins (keep these frozen)
- Homemade breakfast patties/sausages (keep these frozen)
Decide what you’d like to have for breakfast the night before, and leave it to defrost if needed. Then, in the morning, all you have to do is heat it up!
2 – Breakfast #2: make a quick and healthy smoothie
Okay, so maybe you forgot to defrost your breakfast the night before, or you already ate all the breakfasts you batch prepped… don’t worry, making a smoothie instead is a fast and easy solution!
Stick to a basic keto smoothie recipe, and add a few scoops of these health-boosting supplements:
- Greens powder
- Grass-fed protein powder
- Keto collagen
- MCT oil
If you have a little more time (perhaps at the weekend), you can turn your smoothie into a superfood-filled ketogenic smoothie bowl.
3 – Lunch/Dinner #1: stick to a simple formula to create balanced meals
There’s no need to prepare elaborate and wildly complicated recipes for your weekday lunches and dinners – you can use a simple formula to help you create simple but healthy meals, with plenty of variety.
Simply choose one from each row:
- Meat: beef, chicken, fish, pork, lamb, organ meats (e.g. liver)
- Cooking method: bake, roast, grill, saute, slow cook, pressure cook, stew, soup
- Vegetable: cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, carrots, asparagus, kale/spinach, broccoli
- Cooking method: bake, roast, steam, boil, saute, grill, mash, raw (don’t cook)
- Sauce: tomato and basil, ghee and garlic, olive oil with garlic and parsley, hot sauce, tamari soy sauce with ginger and garlic
As long as you keep your kitchen well-stocked with at least some of these ingredients, you’ll be able to throw together a keto-friendly meal at just a moment’s notice. And if you make extra for dinner, you can use the leftovers for lunch the next day!
4 – Lunch/Dinner #2: find a handful of one-pot recipes
It’s worth hunting down a few one-pot recipes to add to your meal plan – they require very little cleanup and they’ll give you a plate full of delicious meat, veggies and sauce.
The best types of recipes to look out for are:
- Stir fries
- Keto-adapted curries
There are plenty of one-pot keto recipes online, including this tasty one skillet shrimp and broccolini from Cristina. It’s perfect for weeknight dinners!
5 – Snacks: buy your favorites in bulk
Carrying snacks with you is a good idea if you’re traveling or know you’ll be having a busy day and may not have time for lunch – they’re also perfect for those moments when you need a little something between meals.
A few good snacks for you to stock up on are:
- Beef jerky
- Meat sticks
- Pork rinds
- Low-carb chips or crackers
- 100% dark chocolate
You can find tons of different snacks to buy online, but be careful: some brands use preservatives, flavorings and colorings which aren’t great for your health.
If you’re looking for recommended brands or would like to know which ingredients to avoid, you’ll find both in our list of the best keto snacks.
3 Tips for getting started on Keto
Keep these three tips in mind if you’re just starting out on your keto diet…
1 – Don’t limit your protein and fat intake to start off with and just concentrate on eating less than 25g of carbohydrates per day.
Switching to a low-carb diet can be a big adjustment, so it’s best to keep things simple to start off with. You can always adjust your protein and fat macros later – a good way to figure out how much protein/fat you need is by using a keto diet calculator.
2 – Clear your kitchen of non-keto foods and then re-stick with some of the keto-friendly foods we mentioned earlier.
It’ll mean that 1) you won’t have unhealthy treats in the house to tempt you and 2) you’ll have the ingredients you need for your meals!
3 – Choose a stress-free week to begin your keto diet by making sure you aren’t travelling, in the middle of a busy period at work, or have lots of social engagements.
It will take your body around a week to adjust to a keto diet, and you might experience some flu-like symptoms during this time. But if you get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and make sure to eat foods rich in electrolytes (like bone broth), you shouldn’t feel too bad.
Creating a sustainable meal plan can be the key to a successful keto diet.
It gives you an easy-to-follow roadmap, which means no more stress, no more last-minute panic over what to eat and no more accidentally going over your daily carb limits.
It makes it easy for you to prepare a healthy keto-friendly dish for every meal of the day, without spending lots of time thinking about it.
And with your diet taken care of, you’ll have more time and energy to look after your health in other ways (like exercising and meditating), explore your passions, and spend time with your loved ones.