Ketogenic Diet for Beginners in 2024: What to Eat, Tips, FAQ

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Ketogenic diet: how many times have you heard about it lately? It is indeed one of the most fashionable diets ever, which promises sensational results and has millions of enthusiasts around the world.

In this comprehensive guide to the keto diet for beginners we explain what is meant by this name, how it works, the pros and cons and give you directions on what to eat and what to avoid. All of this, always bearing in mind that you can’t lose weight fast and that to lose weight you have to change your habits, leaving your comfort zone.

The indications provided in the article are not intended as medical information, so if you decide to follow this diet you must still hear the opinion of an expert doctor or nutritionist, especially if you have health problems to keep under control.

Click on the title to jump on the section you’re interested in or keep reading after the menu.

Keto diet for beginners: what it is and how it works

The ketogenic diet is, to simplify, a diet that provides for the reduction of carbohydrates in order to ensure that the body produces independently and without resorting to external aid the glucose it needs to survive. Similarly, this scheme aims to ensure that all fat contained in fat is consumed in the form of energy.

A ketogenic diet is made up of 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10% carbohydrate; on average a normal person who takes between 1800 and 2000 calories a day must take a maximum of 50 grams of daily carbohydrates to properly follow this regime.

Starting from this assumption, we pass to the meaning of the word “ketogenic”.

It is called ketogenic because to function it must produce “ketones”, bodies that derive from lipids and that are normally produced by the body and then expelled; following the keto, instead, the ketones are produced in quantities much higher than the norm in order to start the ketosis process.

Ketosis is defined as the moment in which the body no longer depends on carbohydrates to survive but on the contrary must burn fat to survive. When carbohydrate intake is reduced and consumption of good fats is increased, more ketones are produced which are used to produce energy and to allow the body to survive (and lose weight).

Dieta Chetogenica

The importance of ketosis in the keto diet

Ketosis is the highlight when following a ketogenic diet. Ketosis is potentially reached already after 3-4 days from the time when you start taking less carbohydrates, precisely because the body begins to understand that its new energy source is no longer sugars synthesized by carbohydrates but are other elements, fats precisely.

It must be said, however, that not all subjects react in the same way that ketosis can be more difficult to achieve and require more time and more attention.

How do you understand if you are in ketosis?

1. Breath that smells of acetone

One of the first symptoms of ketosis is the breath that smells of acetone: these are the fatty acids that are transformed in the liver and kidneys to cause this symptom, considered the simplest to identify when following the ketogenic diet.

2. Increased thirst

When the body starts using excess glycogen, the need to go to the bathroom increases and this leads to an increase in thirst. When insulin levels decrease the body in fact starts to expel excess water and salt causing an increase in thirst. This method is not the most accurate to understand if you are in a state of ketosis or not, because thirst and hydration are also factors related to other situations.

3. By measuring urine

Ketone strips are one of the most scientific methods of understanding one’s condition. They are found in pharmacies and specialty shops and can be used to understand where you are. The problem with the strips is that our urine can be affected by many elements as well as the level of ketones.

4. Through blood tests

As with everything, blood tests are the most effective way to tell if you are in a state of ketosis or not. Classic blood tests or strips similar to those used to measure blood sugar levels can be used. In this second case, the ketone meter in the blood must indicate a value between 0.5 and 3 mmol / L in the case in which the body has entered ketosis.

The different types of ketogenic diet

There are different types of ketogenic diet, based on carbohydrate intake.

  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): it is a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat diet. It generally contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates. The percentages of carbohydrates, fats and proteins are defined based on the weight of the person in question and the calories consumed daily;
  • Cycogenic ketogenic diet (CKD): this diet involves periods in which you take carbohydrates, for example 5 days in keto followed by 2 days of carbohydrates;
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): this diet allows you to add carbohydrates when you are training;
  • High protein ketogenic diet: it is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more proteins. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbohydrate.

The targeted and the cyclical are designed for athletes or those who practice bodybuilding, while the other two are followed and studied more extensively.

Keto diet for beginners: benefits

The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for the treatment of neurological diseases such as epilepsy.

Several studies have now shown that diet can have several benefits including:

  • Heart disease: the ketogenic diet can improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar;
  • Cancer: the diet is currently used to treat different types of cancer and slow tumor growth;
  • Alzheimer’s: the keto diet can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down its progression;
  • Epilepsy: research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children;
  • Parkinson’s: a study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease;
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: the ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which can play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome;
  • Brain injuries: an animal study found that diet can reduce concussions and promote recovery after a brain injury;
  • Acne: lowering your insulin levels and consuming less sugar or processed foods can help improve acne.

Remember that this diet does not work miracles and above all that it must be followed, in specific cases, only and only under medical guidance. The research shows the benefits, but any research can be partial and subject to revision.

Ketogenic diet: contraindications

Following the ketogenic diet means radically changing one’s eating habits and for this reason the risks associated with this diet can be numerous risks.

Here are some:

  • Heart problems: if you do not take good fats the risk of increasing heart problems is very high, because it can increase LDL cholesterol (the bad one) which is responsible for heart disease;
  • Lack of nutrients;
  • Liver problems;
  • Kidney problems;
  • Constipation.

The risks can be real or not and may or may not occur but it is always good to keep in mind that any diet should be properly evaluated and weighted according to one’s needs, conditions and goals. In the case of keto, even more attention is needed when looking for information and talking to specialized personnel.

Ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting

Ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting often go hand in hand and complete each other.

It is not mandatory to follow both if you just want to follow one of the two, but the benefits of the intermittent fasting we explained to you can be amplified if you follow a keto.

Ketogenic diet: side effects

A ketogenic diet can have temporary side effects that can definitely annoy. Not all people have problems and are victims of side effects but these are still possible:

1. Flu symptoms

This is not a real flu but it is the way the body adapts to the reduced carbohydrate intake. Keto-flu symptoms can include anything from headache, weakness and irritability, to constipation, nausea and vomiting. For many people, this influence lasts up to a week.

2. Hunger

Even if the protein intake is high, it can be normal to feel hungry in the beginning. It is not real hunger, but it is an addiction to sugars and carbohydrates so when the body begins to understand that these two elements are no longer introduced, it begins to reclaim them leading to hunger.

3. Dehydration

Keto can dehydrate the body and in the long run this could be a problem: increase the amount of water that is taken and, if necessary, increase the doses of salt for food and / or support with special supplements.

Ketogenic diet: foods to avoid

If you have decided to follow a ketogenic diet, these are the foods you need to avoid:

  • Sugary foods;
  • Complex carbohydrates;
  • Fruit (other than wild berries);
  • Legumes;
  • Root vegetables and tubers;
  • Low-fat or dietetic products;
  • Unhealthy fats;
  • Alcohol;
  • Dietary foods without sugar.

Ketogenic diet: allowed foods

If you have decided to follow a ketogenic diet, these are the foods allowed:

  • Meat;
  • Fatty fish;
  • Eggs;
  • Butter and cream;
  • Cheese;
  • Nuts and seeds;
  • Healthy oils;
  • Avocado;
  • Low carbohydrate vegetables.

Ketogenic diet: allowed snacks

If you do not follow intermittent fasting and feel hungry while you are following the keto, here are some allowed snacks:

  • Cheese;
  • A handful of nuts or seeds;
  • Cheese with olives;
  • Hard-boiled eggs;
  • 90% dark chocolate;
  • A low-carb milkshake with almond milk, cocoa powder and peanut butter;
  • Low-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder;
  • Strawberries and cream;
  • Celery with sauce and guacamole;
  • Protein pancakes.
Keto Food Pyramid

How to follow a ketogenic diet

If you want to try the ketogenic diet, you must follow these basic rules:

  • Eliminate / reduce carbohydrates;
  • Stock up on fatty foods like nuts, oil, but also avocado, butter, cheese and eggs;
  • Take vegetables: always eat low-carbohydrate vegetables at every meal, which not only reduce appetite but above all provide the necessary nutrients;
  • Build your personalized plan: to follow the Keto diet it is good that everyone defines their own plan so as to better organize meals and enjoy when eating;
  • Follow your progress: take a picture of your body at first and monitor your weight and changes periodically. This way you will really see how you are changing;
  • Be consistent: there is no shortcut to success. With any diet, consistency is the most important factor. Do not be discouraged, even in the case of temporary side effects.

Ketogenic diet: an example of a weekly menu

How is a ketogenic diet structured? What to eat during the day? Here is a weekly plan, with a menu that allows you to understand what is granted and how to organize your meals.

1. Monday

  • Breakfast: Bacon, eggs and tomato
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta
  • Dinner: Salmon with grilled asparagus

2. Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Omelette with, tomato, basil and goat cheese
  • Lunch: Protein Pancakes
  • Dinner: Meatballs, cheese and vegetables

3. Wednesday

Breakfast: Low-fat yogurt
Lunch: Shrimp salad with olive oil and avocado
Dinner: Pork chops with cheese, broccoli and salad

4. Thursday

  • Breakfast: Fried eggs with sauteed vegetables
  • Lunch: Grilled burger with salad
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon with spinach sautéed in coconut oil

5. Friday

  • Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia
  • Lunch: Stir-fried beef with coconut oil and vegetables
  • Dinner: Hamburger without sandwich with bacon, eggs and cheese

6. Saturday

  • Breakfast: Sandwich with cooked ham, whole white yogurt
  • Lunch: Tuna salad with celery and tomatoes and vegetables
  • Dinner: Pork chops with vegetables

7. Sunday

  • Breakfast: Fried eggs, mushrooms and bacon
  • Lunch: Salad with vegetables, salmon, avocado
  • Dinner: Steak and salad

Always try to rotate vegetables and meat, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.

insalata di salmone ricetta

Ketogenic diet for weight loss

The ketogenic diet is often used to lose weight also thanks to various researches that have shown how to follow this regime is a great way to lose weight correctly and consistently.

Here is how ketogenic diets allow weight loss:

  • Increased protein intake: increasing protein in the diet is beneficial for losing weight;
  • Limination of food: eliminating sugars and carbohydrates from the diet increases the chances of losing weight;
  • Gluconeogenesis: eliminating carbohydrates, fat and proteins become energy sources during the ketogenic diet and this has been associated with greater chances of losing weight;
  • Decreased appetite: ketogenic diets make fuller and lead to decreased appetite directly modify hunger hormones.

These are just some of the effects of the ketogenic diet that allow weight loss.

Ketogenic diet and gym

Following a ketogenic diet without combining it with physical activity is incorrect, as it is incorrect to follow any diet without physical activity.

To get the most out of diet and physical activity combined to lose weight, cardio activities are the most recommended because they continue to work together with food to help weight loss.

This does not mean not being able to / having to lift weights but certainly at the beginning it might be more difficult to do so, precisely because there are no carbohydrates that are burned by weight.

At the beginning of the keto diet you may feel fatigue and difficulty but as you go on and the body gets used to it, the gym and physical activity will also improve as shown by several studies.

Is the ketogenic diet for everyone?

Is the ketogenic diet for everyone? Like all diets, keto is not for everyone either.

Keto is a difficult diet and requires sacrifices, especially if you love carbohydrates; it is a diet that requires a radical change in one’s habits and also a considerable expense, given that the cost of the ingredients and foods to be taken if one follows this diet is quite high.

Ketogenic diets can also be followed in the short term to help you lose fat and improve health. Regardless of the timing, the key to success is to be persevering.

A ketogenic diet may not even be the best option for vegetarians or vegans due to the key role played by meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.

These are the people who should never follow a ketogenic diet:

  • those who take drugs for diabetes;
  • those who take medicines for hypertension;
  • those who breastfeed;
  • those with food problems.
Avocado Keto

Ketogenic diet: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the ketogenic diet.

1. Are carbohydrates completely banned?

Yes and no. At the beginning it is good to reduce them to see the effects of the new regime but after a few months it is possible to introduce them occasionally but remembering to go back to the regime immediately after eating them.

2. If I follow this diet do I lose all my muscles?

All diets can lead to weakening and loss of muscles. Keto has a point: since you take proteins, your muscles tend never to disappear, especially if the diet is associated with an appropriate fitness plan.

3. Can I follow a lighter keto?

Of course, you just need to eliminate the sugars and reduce the carbs without necessarily bringing them to the levels required by the keto.

4. What happens if I go back to the old diet after keto?

If you follow a maintenance diet, constant and healthy, you will continue to benefit from the effects of keto on weight. If, on the other hand, your eating habits are once again incorrect, the effects of keto will soon vanish. If you decide to reintroduce carbohydrates after reaching your ideal weight, we recommend doing it slowly and keeping an eye on how your body reacts.

Dieta chetogenica

Ketogenic Diet: The Bottom Line

Choosing a way to eat keto could help you lose weight, be healthier, think more clearly and live longer. It takes time to get used and above all we need to be ready to change our lifestyle and adapt. This does not necessarily mean following a very strict set of rules, but even just reducing carbohydrates and eliminating sugars could be a fundamental but difficult step for many.

Keto, like all diets, has its pros and cons and in all cases it must be followed by keeping its conditions under control and monitoring the situation, if necessary also under medical supervision.


The ketogenic diet has many proven benefits but remains a controversial diet. The most debated issues are saturated fat intake, cholesterol, red meat intake, if the brain needs carbohydrates.

This guide has been written to inform you about the ketogenic diet and how it works. The choice whether or not to follow this regime, how to follow it and for how much, is left to personal free will. We recommend hearing the advice of an experienced doctor, especially if you suffer from diseases.

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