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What is a keto diet? Tips and printable keto foods list

The following article is a brief introduction to a keto diet. What is a keto diet, what are the benefits, and what can you eat on a keto diet? Come to understand the basics and print out our introduction to keto foods list.

What to eat on a keto diet plate with breakfast

Do you eat bacon all the time? How can you burn and lose fat if you’re eating more fat? What exactly is a keto diet?

I am asked these questions all the time, often by friends and family or online readers. Some people have a preconceived idea about the keto way of eating. Some people believe it to be scary and unhealthy while others think it’s a lose weight quick plan that may not be sustainable. 

What I want to tell you today is what exactly is a keto diet, or more appropriately a keto way of eating. I’m going to briefly discuss what it does, why it works, and why it’s a way of life not just a diet. Also, what are the best foods to eat!

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Plate of eggs, strawberries, peanuts, broccoli, etc.

What is keto?

There are many different interpretations of the key question here, what is keto? 

First of all, keto is short for ketogenic.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low carb diet. It’s actually been around for a lot longer than many believe. In fact, it was developed in 1921 by Dr. R. M. Wilder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to treat patients with seizures and to manage epilepsy. Lately, you’ve most likely seen movie stars and others in the media giving pros or cons to the way of eating.

The ketogenic diet is structured around three main macronutrients. Those are fat, protein, and carbs. Every person is different, however as a general rule, the breakdown percentages of the diet look like this:

  • 70-80% fat
  • 10-20% protein
  • 5% carbs

When one begins on keto, the first hurdle to jump over is to cut sugar and high-carbohydrate foods from the diet. This is accomplished with food planning and preparation and getting to know what other healthy choices will fit into this way of eating.

Okay, but what does a keto diet do?

When the human body burns fat, it create molecules called ketones. These ketones are what cells use for energy. The other possible source of energy we take into our bodies is sugar, or glucose. With a ketogenic diet, the goal is to consistently burn (or metabolize) fat rather than sugar. 

If the body succeeds in doing this, burning fat rather than sugar, we say it’s in ketosis.

Benefits of a keto diet

That brings us to the benefits of a keto diet. What are they? Of course, the first one most people think of is weight loss. The keto diet has definitely proven itself in helping the overweight lose those unwanted pounds and become healthier.

When you’re burning fat and in ketosis, the fat tissue releases fatty acids 4-6 hours after eating and during fasting, and our muscles use these for energy. In this way, you rarely feel hungry, and your body always has a source of energy available – body fat!

Personally, I can tell when I’m in ketosis. I’m less hungry and able to control my snacking. Everyone is different, but I feel less tired am able to exercise more and enjoy it. Some added bonuses are that it also helps control acne breakouts and helps lose or maintain body weight, which I’ve had issues with since middle school.

There are many other health benefits to a keto diet, although I’ve not personally experienced them. I’ve heard people speak on how it’s helped their diabetes, chronic pain, depression, even asthma, and migraines. Also, don’t forget the purpose the diet was originally developed for, seizures.

I’m not a certified doctor, so as with any health issues, I always advise checking with a trusted physician who is familiar and experienced with the ketogenic diet. Always do this before making any big changes.

Eggs, avocado, salmon, cheese, etc. overhead view

What should I eat on a keto diet?

Next, I would imagine, comes the question, “What should I eat on a keto diet?”

First of all, think about eating real, whole foods. I’m suspicious of anything pre-packaged with a far-off expiration date, although some are better than others. Whenever possible, choose fresh and organic.

When it comes to the all-important fats, select healthy fats high in saturated fatty acids and low in polyunsaturated fatty acids. I’ll list my preferred fats on a keto diet in a following section.

Keto proteins

Now for proteins! As I mentioned, fresh is best, and with meat also look for the words grass-fed, humanely raised, and wild-caught seafood. They have more nutrients and tend to not have as much exposure to added hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins. 

I eat a lot of eggs, beef, pork, fish, and poultry. Mix things up and get creative, but remember, protein intake should be moderate. In general, it should be between 60 to 90 grams a day, but everyone is different. Personally, I aim for 70 to 80 grams of protein per day.

Keto vegetables

Next, let’s move on to the veggies. Veggies are packed with nutrients, but always go for non starchy ones. My favorites are arugula, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, and peppers.

Overhead view of green vegetables

Keto fruit

What about fruit? Fruit is generally packed with sugar and carbs, but there are some low sugar fruits I enjoy on a keto diet.

For example, avocados, cucumbers, and eggplants are actually fruit. However, they’re not really what we think of as fruits, and my other traditional fruit options include lemons, limes, and berries.

Keto baking

Another important category for me is baking. Yes, I’ve always loved baking, and switching over to keto baking can be a challenge. However, it can be done, and often I think the recipes turn out better than the traditional bakes I used to make.

For flour, I suggest almond or coconut flour, protein powder (check your labels closely), and cocoa powder. For flavorings, it’s good to use mainly extracts and essential oils to give a punch of flavor. Also, xanthan gum is great for thickening in small amounts when whisked in well. 

Printable keto foods list

If you’d like to join the Explorer Momma email list, you will gain access to my bonus resource library. It includes helpful printables, including an awesome keto foods cheat sheet. More keto and low carb aids will be added to help us all on a keto journey.

Keto foods cheat sheet printable preview

Foods to avoid on a keto diet

That leads us to foods to avoid. 

Avoid sugar, but also sweeteners high in calories and fructose. That includes honey, agave, coconut sugar, Sucralose, maple syrup, aspartame, saccharin, and many others. Check all labels carefully.

  • Bread, whole-grain cereals, oatmeal
  • High-carbohydrate fruits like bananas, pineapple, mangos
  • High-carbohydrate starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn
  • Rice, quinoa, and corn flour
  • Anything overly processed

Healthy fats for a keto diet

My preferred fats to use include:

  • MCT oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee
  • Cocoa butter
  • Butter
  • Bacon fat (in moderation)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (mainly for cold recipes like salad dressings)
  • Avocado oil

Avoid:

  • Margarine
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Vegetable shortening

Keto sweeteners

My preferred keto sweeteners:

  • Swerve
  • Erythritol
  • Monk fruit
  • Yacón syrup
  • Stevia
  • Allulose
Foods found in a keto diet

A basic introduction to the keto diet

This is a very basic intro to the ketogenic diet as I personally understand it. Furthermore, it is a straight-forward answer to the often-asked and often-misunderstood question, what is a keto diet? I hope it helps you in your journey to healthier eating and life. 

The keto and low carb recipes found on this blog are easy to incorporate into a meal plan once you’ve determined your goals. I also like to specialize in recipes that are not necessarily for every day or for weight loss, but healthier options for holidays like Christmas, birthdays, New Year’s, and Easter. 

I love to bake, cook, and eat. It doesn’t have to be boring or the same thing day after day when you move to a keto way of eating. Join me in celebrating the recipes I love and how they can bring people together, while keeping us healthier too.

Foods found in a keto diet

Keto dinner recipes

  1. Southwest Style Keto Chicken Bowls
  2. Easy Instant Pot Keto Carnitas
  3. Creamy Keto Italian Sausage Soup
  4. Keto Jambalaya
  5. Low Carb Keto Turkey Meatloaf

Nutrition Disclaimer

Please be aware I am not a medical specialist or nutritional professional. On this blog, I share recipes and what works for me. Please do not take anything on this blog as medical advice and always consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.

I use MyFitnessPal.com to calculate nutrition facts as a courtesy to my readers, and I remove erythritol from the final carb count and net carb count because does not affect my own blood glucose levels.  

This is as accurate as possible, but it’s best to independently calculate nutritional information on your own with the specific ingredients you use. I expressly disclaim any and all liability of any kind with respect to any act or omission wholly or in part in reliance on anything contained in this website.

More resources

If you’re interested in a deeper dive into the Keto diet, I can recommend these resources that have helped me along the way.

Keto by Craig and Maria Emmerich

National Library of Medicine:

Ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment

Fat and carbohydrate balances during adaptation to a high-fat

The adjustment of energy expenditure and oxidation to energy intake: the role of carbohydrate and fat balance

Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health

A Ketogenic Diet Reduces Central Obesity and Serum Insulin in Women with Ovarian or Endometrial Cancer

Keto Chicken Bowls Southwest Style {Low Carb}
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