The Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Keto Diet Menu for Beginners
- What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
- Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
- Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
- 14-Day Keto Diet Menu for Beginners
When it comes to the keto diet, it’s essential to have a plan or keto diet menu, especially when you’re just starting out.
Once you get comfortable with the diet and you’re familiar with your favorite keto-friendly foods, you’ll be smooth sailing at the grocery store.
In the first weeks, however, having a keto diet plan in place is essential. When you make any major lifestyle change, planning ahead is key to helping you stick to it.
You’re probably aware that keto recipes are low-carb and high-fat, with plenty of leafy greens and low-carb veggies. But what does that look like on your plate?
Find out with this 14-day keto diet menu for beginners that covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even some options for dessert.
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet, with a focus on consuming mostly high-quality, healthy fats, and moderate protein.
Unlike your typical low-carb diet where you can just cut back on carbs, on the keto diet you need to pay specific attention to the number of carbs you’re consuming every day to achieve a metabolic state called ketosis.
You get into ketosis when you’re eating extremely low-carb and replacing the majority of your calories with healthy fats. This change in your diet causes your body to shift from burning carbohydrates (or glucose) as its primary source of fuel to burning fat as its primary source of fuel.
Carbohydrates are a readily available source of energy for your body (and in the standard American diet). When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into glucose that your tissues and organs can easily use for fuel.
Once your energy needs are met, excess glucose turns into glycogen — a storage form of glucose — which gets stored in your liver and muscle tissue so that it can be used later.
The trick to shifting your body from using glucose as its primary fuel source is to deprive your body of glucose.
This will eventually empty your glucose stores enough that your body needs to look for an alternative fuel source: fat.
Fat for fuel can come from the breakdown of fatty acids, or it can come in the form of ketones, which your body makes from fat in the liver.
In a ketogenic state, your body becomes very efficient at producing ketones and burning them as fuel, hence the name ketosis.
Your body produces three different types of ketones: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate, and acetone.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
Over the past several years, people have found different ways to approach the ketogenic diet.
Depending on your goals and fitness level, you may find one type of keto diet fits your lifestyle better than others. No matter which one you choose, the goal should be to shift your body from using carbs to using fat as your primary source of fuel.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of keto diets:
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
This is the most straightforward approach to the ketogenic diet. On the SKD, you’re keeping your net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) extremely low while focusing most of your macronutrient intake on fat and moderate protein. The goal of SKD is to get into and maintain a state of ketosis, burning fat as your primary source of fuel. The ideal breakdown for your diet is:
- High fats: 70-80% of daily calories
- Adequate protein: 20-25% of daily calories
- Low carbohydrates: 5-10% of daily calories
Use the Perfect Keto Calculator to find out the best breakdown for your body and goals.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The cyclical ketogenic diet is a good choice if your goal is to increase muscle strength and improve exercise performance. When following the CKD you’re cycling days of ketosis with days of higher carb intake.
A typical CKD will be five to six days eating a keto diet (very low-carb), with one or two days of higher carb intake.
The purpose is to reap the benefits of keto on carb restriction days, and to restore your glycogen stores for huge amounts of activity on the re-feeding carb days.
As mentioned earlier, glucose from carbs is a readily available source of fuel. For athletes and bodybuilders, this can be a great way to get the best of both worlds.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
The targeted ketogenic diet is similar to the standard ketogenic diet, with the exception that you can eat carbohydrates around (before or after) heavy workouts. This approach is good if you’re performing high-intensity workouts for extended periods of time.
If you exercise regularly and are burning fuel at a significant rate, this may be a smart strategy for you — especially if you find yourself “bonking” during workouts when you’re in ketosis.
Some athletes notice a decrease in stamina after they’ve switched to keto.
This approach allows you to benefit from the rapid fuel source of glucose, while also burning it up quickly enough to get back into a ketogenic state. This strategy is best if you’re working out for an hour or more at a moderate to high intensity.
High-Protein Ketogenic Diet
The high-protein keto diet is becoming popular as more people are discovering that they can eat higher protein while still maintaining a ketogenic state.
A high-protein ketogenic diet should be around 30-35% protein, with 60% fat, keeping carbs just as low as you would on a standard ketogenic diet.
This is a good option if you’re active and want to maintain muscle mass. It’s also an approach to play with if you’re having a hard time sticking to a very high-fat, low- to moderate-protein diet.
Regardless of your macronutrient ratio, the goal is to maintain a ketogenic state for as much of the time as possible, so you can reap all the benefits of being in a ketogenic state.
Benefits of a Keto Diet
Many anecdotal accounts of the keto diet claim rapid weight loss, better brain function, and fewer food cravings. But there are plenty of scientifically-backed benefits of the keto diet as well. Below are just a few.
Blood Sugar Control
Studies have found that people with type 2 diabetes do exceptionally well on a ketogenic diet. The extreme reduction in carbs showed an increase in blood glucose control as well as a reduced need for insulin controlling medication[*].
Despite higher caloric intake, the ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet for fat loss. Fat loss around the midsection (metabolically active fat) seems to be a specific target in ketogenic fat loss[*].
Many people report feeling enhanced mental sharpness and clarity when following a ketogenic diet. Part of this response may come from higher energy utilization along with the anti-inflammatory effect of the ketogenic diet[*].
Blood Lipid Profile
Following a ketogenic diet can improve your blood lipid profile. Specifically, it can increase HDL (good cholesterol) and also increase the size of your LDL particles. Larger, fluffier LDL particles are safer because they are less likely to contribute to plaques[*].
One of the three ketone bodies, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), has been shown to decrease inflammation in your body by blocking an inflammatory signaling pathway[*].
The ketogenic diet has been used for over 80 years to treat epilepsy, a disorder in which the nerve cell activity in your brain is disturbed, leading to seizures. In addition to epilepsy, the keto diet has also been studied for its positive impact on people with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease[*].
Ready to dive into a made-for-you keto diet menu?
14-Day Keto Diet Menu for Beginners
This diet plan focuses on maintaining the right macros that are most likely to bring you into a state of ketosis. The recipes are easy to follow and feature some key keto ingredients that should always be in your shopping cart:
- Grass-fed ground beef
- Dry-aged cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, and romano
- Heavy cream
- Grass-fed butter or ghee
- Olive oil
- Avocado (and avocado oil for cooking)
- MCT oil (and coconut oil for cooking)
- Macadamia nuts, almonds, and pecans
- Crucifers such as kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Low-carb veggies including zucchini, squash, green beans, bell peppers, leafy greens
Take the guesswork out of your transition into the ketosis with this keto diet menu for beginners. Your first week is covered with the recipes below.
- Breakfast: Cheesy Keto Bagels
- Lunch: Zesty Chili Lime Keto Tuna Salad
- Dinner: Nutritious Baked Pork Chops
- Breakfast: Avocado Egg Bowls
- Lunch: Low-Carb Romanesco With Cabbage Noodles
- Dinner: One-Pan Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Casserole
- Breakfast: Breakfast Casserole With Bacon, Egg, and Cheese
- Lunch: Grass-Fed Keto Beef Bulgogi
- Dinner: Lemon Balsamic Chicken
- Breakfast: Cinnamon Dolce Latte Breakfast Smoothie
- Lunch: Spicy Ginger Salmon Buddha Bowl
- Dinner: Loaded Cauliflower Bake
- Breakfast: Almond Flour Low-Carb Crepes
- Lunch: Crispy Parmesan Crusted Chicken
- Dinner: Crispy Skin Salmon With Pesto Cauliflower Rice
- Breakfast: Savory Breakfast Keto Sausage Balls
- Lunch: Portobello Bun Cheeseburgers
- Dinner: Keto Chicken Cordon Bleu
Your second week of recipes offers creative solutions to some non-keto favorites you might be missing. After you’ve mastered the recipes in this keto diet menu, mix and match them each week and start adding in creations of your own.
- Breakfast: Turkey Sausage Frittata
- Lunch: Rich and Creamy Keto Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Dinner: Spicy Grass-Fed Keto Fajitas
- Breakfast: Smoked Salmon Keto Avocado Toast
- Lunch: Easy Keto Chicken Salad
- Dinner: Keto Grass-Fed Beef Stew
- Breakfast: Micronutrient Greens Matcha Smoothie
- Lunch: Curry Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Dinner: Fathead Low-Carb Pizza
- Breakfast: Keto Egg Muffins
- Lunch: Low-Carb Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Dinner: Delicious Low-Carb Keto Meatloaf
- Breakfast: Fluffy Salted Caramel Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
- Lunch: Savory Shrimp Keto Stir-Fry
- Dinner: Low-Carb Keto Lasagna
- Indulgent Keto Peanut Butter Cups
- Creamy Chocolate No-Churn Keto Ice Cream
- Thick and Rich Keto Whipped Cream
- Matcha Chia Seed Pudding
- Chocolate Sea Salt Peanut Butter Bites
- Rich and Creamy Pumpkin Spice Keto Mocha
Your Must-Have Keto Diet Menu
If your goal is weight loss, then make sure you’re keeping an eye on portion size when following these delicious keto recipes. You might also skip desserts in the first few weeks to help jump-start your weight loss.
Skipping sweeteners (and possibly laying off dairy) is also a way to help push you out of a plateau if you find your weight loss stalls after a few weeks.
When making your shopping list, always include full-fat dairy (if you consume dairy), and pay attention to how many grams of carbs (net carbs) are in any packaged foods you buy.
For maximum health benefits and weight loss, avoid overly processed foods and choose whole food options.
For more tips on how to start your keto diet, check out these 5 easy steps to get started on keto.