It seems like everyone these days is talking about the amazing health benefits of a ketogenic diet. The benefits range from feeling more energetic to losing weight to having better mental clarity. (All categories we moms dream about…)
Restricting sugar and consuming plenty of healthy fats (as recommended in the keto diet) does show benefits to blood sugar regulation, appetite control, weight loss, reversing or managing chronic disease, calming inflammatory conditions, and even preventing and reversing cancer.
It all sounds great, but where to start?
Not to worry! The ketogenic diet is actually very simple to follow. In this post, I will help guide you through a sample weekly meal plan focusing on high quality fat-focused meals allowing for maximum nutritional benefit.
But first …
Is a Keto Meal Plan for Everyone?
Before beginning an dietary protocol, I recommend checking with your doctor as to what is best for your body. For most people, the ketogenic diet is safe and provides incredible health benefits. However, there are some people that should NOT attempt a ketogenic diet, and many moms may fall in this category. These people include:
- pregnant women
- women who are breastfeeding
- children under the age of 18
- women with irregular or absent menstrual cycles
- elite athletes
- women with clinically high cortisol levels
If you fall in one of these categories, simply following a real-food diet or the diet recommended by your doctor is best.
What the Keto Diet Is (& What It Isn’t)
The ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate diet that allows the body to transform its source of fuel from glucose to a more efficient form of energy. This source is called ketones, which are derived from fat. Properly done, this diet puts our bodies in a state of ketosis.
Beginning a keto diet can feel exciting since it includes a high amount of delicious, satiating fats. But let me be clear: grabbing a double bacon cheeseburger without the bun is not going to make you healthy. Junky high-fat options like that are full of chemicals, hormones, fillers, trans-fats, and artificial ingredients that our bodies are not able to process.
The true benefits of the ketogenic diet surface when you consume good quality fats and whole foods rather than their highly processed alternatives.
Keto Meal Plan: What’s on the Menu?
A detailed list of foods you can eat is always a must when pursuing any new dietary protocol. Remember, the goal of the ketogenic diet is to get the body into a state of ketosis or fat-adapted. Focusing on fat as the main course in all meals will help you to achieve ketosis faster.
Go crazy with this list! Fat is what a keto meal plan is all about.
- Coconut (meat, cream, oil, milk, butter)- Check for food sensitivity first.
- Avocado (the fruit and/or avocado oil)
- Cacao butter
- Olive oil (this one is my favorite)
- Duck fat
- Grass-fed butter (or ghee for a dairy-free ketogenic diet)
- Heavy whipping cream (full-fat coconut milk for dairy-free keto)- Check for food sensitivity to dairy first.
- Medium-chained triglyceride (MCT) oil
- Aged grass-fed cheese (cheddar, gruyere, manchego, gouda, blue cheese, and parmesan)- Check for food sensitivity to dairy first.
- Bacon fat/lard/beef tallow for cooking
- Healthy mayo
- Nuts: almonds, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts
- Seeds: chia, hemp, pumpkin
- Macadamia nuts/oil (best option for nuts as they have a high omega-3 fat content)
- Pasture-raised pork rinds (I like this assortment)
- Green or black olives
- Wild-caught salmon
Find a local farmer with these options, or there are some great mail-order options that ship humanely raised grass-fed meats and quality seafood right to your door.
- Pasture-raised pork/bacon
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild boar
- Cage-free/pasture-raised chicken
- Cage-free/pasture-raised eggs
- Wild-caught fish (salmon, tuna, shellfish, cod, sea bass, mackerel, mahi mahi, anchovies, sardines, lobster, scallops, mussels, crab)
Sticking to lower carbohydrate veggies (and limited fruits) are essential to staying in ketosis. The following veggies should take up most of your plate at each meal.
- Green leafy vegetables (romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, collard greens, cabbage, bok choy, dandelion greens, leeks, parsley)
- Fermented pickles (no sugar added)
- Minimal amount of berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
It is important to note that many sources promoting the ketogenic diet will use artificial sweeteners such as erythritol, sucralose, mannitol, sorbitol, dextrose. It is best to avoid these when possible as they disrupt the balance of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut. In my opinion using a little stevia is a good sugar replacement, but I still use it sparingly.
One important strategy for a successful keto diet is increasing salt intake. Especially when first beginning a ketogenic diet, this will help decrease symptoms such as fatigue and headache.
It is important to note that even on a ketogenic diet, vegetable fiber is critical to promote and maintain a healthy microbiome (gut bacteria) and should not be avoided as a means of decreasing carbohydrate intake. To put it plainly, eat a ton of vegetables!
How Much Do I Eat?
Each body is different and requires different amounts of macronutrients to thrive. According to Daniel Pompa, the ketogenic diet should contain the following balance of nutrients in a day:
- 65-80% of calories from fat
- 10-15% of calories from protein
- 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates (most of which should come from vegetables or low-glycemic fruits)
For women, I recommend leaning more towards the higher end of 10% of total calories from carbohydrates as it will help maintain healthy hormone levels and promoting healthy gut bacteria.
When beginning the ketogenic diet, it is wise to begin tracking your macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) using the percentage scale above. This will help to ensure that you are consuming enough fat to promote ketone production.
When Do I Eat?
Ideally, a keto meal plan means eating within a specific window of time rather than grazing and snacking all through the day. This is also called intermittent fasting and can be done in a variety of ways. One simple way to do it is to eat your last meal before 7:00 p.m. and not eat again until 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. the following day. That way we “fast” while we sleep and give the digestive system an extended rest period which allows our cells to increase energy production and efficiency.
Adjust As Needed
It is important to note that the meal plan below provides options for 3 meals per day. Once ketone production increases and the body is fat adapted, hunger and the need for frequent meals typically decreases. This is ok! Eat when you are hungry and eat until you are satisfied.
7 Day Sample Keto Meal Plan & Recipes
When starting anything new, keeping it simple and easy is key to success. Aim for an easy meal plan, even if that means a few repetitive meals or eating leftovers during the week. Focus on allowing the body to adapt to the change before diving into more elaborate ketogenic meals and varied meal plans.
Breakfast: Bulletproof Coffee or Tea
If you are sensitive to caffeine or coffee, try dandelion tea which has a similar taste and texture to coffee, but eliminates the caffeine while providing fantastic detoxification benefits.
Lunch: Leafy Green Salad with Salmon
- Fresh, wild-caught salmon
- 1/2 avocado
- 2-3 cups of green leafy vegetables
- 1 handful of macadamia nuts
- 1-2 TBSP of olive oil
- Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing (or homemade dressing with quality fats)
Dinner: Grass-Fed Beef Burger with Broccoli
- 4 oz grass-fed beef burger (prepare 2 for leftovers the following day)
- 1-2 TBSP of guacamole
- 1 cup of broccoli cooked in olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee
Breakfast: Bulletproof Coffee or Veggies Scrambled in Olive Oil
Lunch: Leftover Grass-Feed Beef Burger
- Top with choice of cheese, lettuce, onion, healthy mayo
- Kiolbasa (1-2 sausages)
- Cauliflower rice
- Asparagus roasted in butter or bacon fat
Breakfast: Coconut Flour Pancakes
Lunch: Chicken Salad Wrapped in Lettuce
Dinner: Bacon Chicken Alfredo
- Use zucchini pasta in place of the shirataki noodles.
- 3 eggs
- Bacon or sausage
- Cheese of choice (optional)
Lunch: Bacon, Turkey, and Avocado (BLA) Lettuce Wrap
- Assemble ingredients in lettuce wrap and topped with mustard, mayo, or both.
- Pickle on the side
- A handful of olives
Dinner: Ribeye Steak
- Grass-fed ribeye steak, topped with butter or ghee and seasoning.
- Side salad of leafy greens with shaved almonds, parmesan cheese, and real bacon bits slathered in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Sauteed cabbage in butter with salt and pepper.
Breakfast: Egg and Sausage Breakfast Sandwich
- One piece of high-fat breakfast sausage with no added sugar served between 2 fried eggs. (Yes, really!)
- A spread of guacamole over the sausage creates an excellent twist on textures.
Lunch: Stuffed Zucchini Sausage Boats
Dinner: Grass-fed Meatballs over Zucchini Pasta
- Topped with parmesan cheese
Breakfast: Bulletproof Coffee
Lunch: Avocado with Crumbled Pork Rinds and Side Salad
- Add a squeeze of lime or lemon on avocado if desired.
Dinner: Chicken and Spinach Alfredo
- Add one cup of spinach and let wilt in the sauce.
- Use zucchini pasta in place of the shirataki noodles.
Breakfast: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bomb
Fat bombs are a fantastic way to ensure that you hit your fat count for the day.
Lunch: Antipasto Salad
- Leafy greens/lettuce
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Dinner: Burrito Bowl
- Shredded beef or pork
- A massive mound of guacamole
- Sour cream
- Sautéed onions and peppers
- A fried egg if so desired
Common Questions About the Ketogenic Diet
I get a lot of questions about the keto diet. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:
All this fat! Will I gain weight?
First of all, the idea that fat will make us fat is a huge misconception in our society. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The fat in our bodies is actually a stored form of glucose. When blood sugar levels become too high, insulin levels rise in order to carry glucose into the cells for energy production. When the cells have an adequate amount of glucose to fuel themselves, the excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles or deposited as fat. In other words, excess carbohydrates (glucose) increases fat build up, not necessarily dietary fat.
Isn’t all this fat bad for heart health/cholesterol?
Our bodies need cholesterol. Our cells, brains, and even hormones are made from it! An article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the markers of cardiovascular health including total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides actually improve on a high fat/low carbohydrate diet.
It is important to note that LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) may appear to increase on a ketogenic diet. However, the total levels of LDL are separated into large and small sized particles. The large particles are beneficial and the small particles typically increase the risk of harmful cardiovascular conditions. As long as the large LDL-sized particle dominates over the small sized particles, then the increase in LDL is beneficial.
Can kids eat this way too?
The good quality fats of the ketogenic diet are beneficial for everyone! However, as children are still growing and require a massive amount of fuel for growth, a very low carbohydrate diet is not good for kids (unless recommended by a doctor for a specific medical condition). In order to make meal prep for a family easier, simply take the ketogenic diet and add some carbohydrates in the form of sweet potato, squash, or even some white rice. This will provide a fantastic balance between food groups for the younger crowd without having to prepare multiple meals.
Try the Real Plans meal planning app for more keto meal plans and a shopping list customized to your pantry. Using this app to meal plan is my not-so-secret weapon and saves me a lot of time in a week.
Keto Meal Plan: The Bottom Line
The ketogenic diet can help reset the body by balancing blood sugar and insulin levels and decreasing inflammation. It often promotes weight loss as well. However, the more I learn about health the more I realize that variety is key to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Especially for women, carb cycling is helpful versus following a strict lifelong ketogenic diet. This is the best approach to balance the hormone responses in the female body and feed the beneficial bacteria in our guts.
Do you have a ketogenic meal plans that works for you? Please share in the comments below!