Going Keto? Here’s Where To Start

You’ve got questions on how to start the keto diet, and we’ve got answers! First up: What are you going to eat? This collection of 49 tasty, low-carb and keto-friendly recipes will help you stick to your dietary goals.

If only extra pounds came off as easily as they seem to go on. But let’s face it, a plate of cookies will always be more enticing than a plate of baby kale. Sticking to diet resolutions is hard. That’s why many people turn to a diet like keto that sets strict limits for you. Also known as the ketogenic diet, it seriously restricts high-carb foods, but with a twist: You get to eat lots of fat while you lose weight. Surprisingly, the plan can work like a charm. 

While health experts may give the diet low marks as a long-term solution, keto has legions of fans, including on Yummly. Of course, a great road map for one person may not be the right choice for another—so check in with your doctor before you begin this or any new diet.

What is the keto diet, and how does the keto diet work?

A super low-carbohydrate diet (lower than the popular Atkins diet), keto relies on fat for most of its calories. This causes your body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis where you burn fat instead of the usual sugars, creating substances called ketones, which your body uses for energy. 

Health benefits of the keto diet

Originally used as a therapeutic diet to help control epilepsy in children, the keto diet may have brain-protecting benefits. It may also help some people with type 2 diabetes because the low-carb diet can result in fewer spikes in blood sugar. But these days, most fans turn to keto for quick and effective weight loss, at least in the short term. The high-fat diet also helps followers feel full while cutting calories. (Being on keto does not give you carte blanche; If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll still need to eat fewer total calories.)

Side effects and dangers of the keto diet

In the first week or so as your body adjusts to this extremely low-carb diet and enters ketosis, you may experience flu-like symptoms known as the “keto flu,” but people on the diet report these symptoms go away soon.

Staying on keto long-term is what causes concern among health experts. They worry that because the diet is high in saturated fat, it could contribute to heart disease over time. Keto limits many fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, too, so followers may not get all the micro and macronutrients they need. And the verdict isn’t out yet if keto can help keep weight off over the long haul.

What can you eat on the keto diet?

A typical keto diet consists of 70 percent of calories from fat, 20 percent from protein, and only 5 to 10 percent from carbs. Yummly can help you decide if a recipe is going to work for your keto goals: Look for recipes that say "Carbs 10% DV" or lower under the "Nutrition" section. Even easier, you can set your overall recipe-search preferences to "keto" under "Preferences" in your Yummly profile. (There are also apps you can download to help you track your carb and protein intake; with these you'll learn about "net carbs," which are total carbs minus fiber.

Here are the basics of what you can and cannot eat on the keto diet:

  • Fats are in. Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter, heavy cream, and rich nuts like walnuts and almonds: They're all considered healthy fats if you follow keto.

  • Enjoy plenty of leafy green vegetables, avocados, and additional lower-carb vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus.

  • Eat moderate-protein foods, including meats, chicken (with the skin), full-fat cheeses and other dairy, and fatty fish like salmon. Keto is not a high-protein diet.

  • Eat berries in moderation.

  • Occasionally eat unsweetened nut butters, and vegetables like onions that contain some carbs.

  • Avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, squash, and carrots (which are higher in sugar).

  • Also avoid grains, legumes, non-berry fruits, alcohol, low-fat dairy foods, sugars, and sugary condiments such as ketchup and barbecue sauce.

Now that you understand keto foods, are you ready to start your keto journey? Check out these popular keto diet recipe ideas on Yummly. (They also work for anyone looking for general-purpose low carb recipes.)

Start your day the keto way: keto breakfast recipes

 

A picture of a plate with a stack of Keto Pancakes and a fork taking some

With only six ingredients, including almond flour and milk, these tender Keto Pancakes come together in just a few minutes and will remind you delightfully of the classic ones. We predict they’ll earn a regular spot in your weekend rotation.

Keto followers clearly spend a lot of time thinking about carbs, if these grain-free 90-Second Keto Bread (which look like English muffins) and savory breakfast cookies (both starring almond flour) are any indication. Breakfast muffins sound starchy, but this version is eggy, like individual frittatas. On mornings when there’s no time to cook, consider a chocolate, blackberry, or green smoothie made with a non-sugar sweetener.



Keto dinner recipes: here’s the beef—and pork


A picture of a plate of Instant Pot Pulled Pork and some cole slaw

If you’re looking for keto Instant Pot recipes, Instant Pot Pulled Pork is an excellent place to start. Pork butt (also known as shoulder) quickly cooks to succulence and tastiness with smoked paprika and a homemade keto-friendly bbq sauce.

Cubans famously pair pork with mojo seasonings which include citrus juices, cumin, and garlic; you’ll want to account for the carbs in the orange juice if you go for this one, and of course, skip the usual side of rice. The next two are keto beef recipes, including highly Yummed Mongolian beef and tacos with ingenious melted cheese “tortillas.”



Winner, winner, keto chicken dinners


A picture of a sheet pan with Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas (Whole30 Paleo Keto)

Short on time? Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas is your friend. Chicken tenders, colorful bell peppers, and homemade taco seasoning mix come together for a whole meal in under 30 minutes.

Keto cooks play with a wide range of flavor profiles to keep their chicken dishes interesting, as these next recipes show. Try stuffing chicken breasts with chilies and cream cheese, cooking chicken thighs with a medley of Indian seasonings (serve cauliflower rice on the side to limit carbs), or going Mediterranean with plenty of garlic and herbs. If you’re in the mood for comfort food, consider a chicken, cheese, and cauliflower rice casserole; luscious avocado-bacon salad; and even oven-fried keto chicken coated in savory pork rinds instead of bread crumbs.




Keto chili and soups   


A picture of a bowl of No Bean Low Carb Keto Turkey Chili

Since the keto diet avoids legumes, you’ll want a chili recipe that does not include beans. No Bean Low Carb Keto Turkey Chili fills the bill; it opts for ground turkey instead of the usual beef, with the classic tomatoes and plenty of seasonings. It comes together in under an hour.

Keto slow cooker recipes, as well as keto Instant Pot recipes, are a boon to time-pressed cooks. These keto-friendly soups give you three ways to go.


 

Keto seafood and keto vegetarian dinner recipes


A picture of a cast-iron skillet with 10-Minute Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles

Are you a fan of zoodles? They’re a handy low-carb choice for “pasta” dishes like this 10-Minute Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles. With a spiralizer tool, you can crank out strands in minutes before coating them in butter, garlic, and Italian seasonings and serving them with sauteed shrimp.

Fat-rich salmon is a “yes” for the keto diet; try it baked with coconut oil, cilantro, and lime, or raw in a poke bowl dinner (with a base of shredded cabbage for the usual grains). If you’re looking for keto vegetarian ideas, these moist, grain-free veggie burgers are made with chopped mushrooms and cauliflower, with cheese and flaxseed meal to hold them together. (It's tough to be a vegan on keto, since legumes aren't allowed.)


 

Keto pizza, keto bread, and keto vegetable recipes


A picture of a whole Fathead Keto Pizza topped with cheese, mushrooms, and basil

The urge for pizza can be a strong one, and you’ll want to keep this clever Fathead Keto Pizza recipe handy for just those times. The crust, made with almond flour, cheese, and egg, crisps up beautifully in the oven. You bake it first, then add the toppings.

The next “bread” recipes carry on the themes in the pizza recipe, with plenty of cheese and grain-free flours. For more no-carb carbs, consider luxurious loaded cauliflower in lieu of potatoes, and broccoli in a creamy sauce thickened not with flour, but—you guessed it—cheese.

Sweet but sugar-free keto dessert recipes


A picture of The Best Keto Cheesecake topped with strawberries and with a slice taken out

Cheesecake, ice cream, cookies and more: None of these are off-limits when you follow the keto diet, thanks to a multitude of handy substitutions for non-keto ingredients. For starters, The Best Keto Cheesecake—dense, dreamy, and of course full-fat—is made with an almond flour crust and is sweetened with a sugar replacement.

Whipping cream, coconut milk, cream cheese, and even avocado freeze beautifully as the base for keto ice cream recipes and frozen “fat bombs.” As with the cheesecake, sugar replacements stand in for traditional sweeteners. In the mood for brownies, peanut butter cups, or fudge? You’ve got options! And then there are keto-friendly cookies, including macaroons, “sugar,” peanut butter, and even chocolate chip. Just remember to enjoy a couple, not the whole plate.




Ready to do this? Create a keto meal plan

With Yummly’s new Meal Planner tool, you can save keto recipes to build your diet plan and even create a shopping list.  



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