The Best Keto Diet Menu for Beginners
If you’re beginning a ketogenic (or keto) diet, it’s important to understand how to build your meals so you eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. This beginner keto meal plan is your easy-start guide.
Keto breakfast recipes to start your day
If you're a newbie planning your weekly keto diet menu, make the meals as easy as possible. A keto breakfast, for example, can take advantage of many classic breakfast foods, including eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham. Eggs are real winners in the keto world. They're extremely versatile, easy to cook, and have just half a gram of carbs but 6 g of protein and 5 g of fat.
"Eggs have a lot of vitamins like vitamin A, B complex, D, K, E, calcium, and zinc," says Ryan Weaver, a personal trainer and keto enthusiast. "That's why eggs are an excellent choice for breakfast when you follow the keto diet. To avoid getting bored, you can try different ways of preparing the eggs—boiled, fried, or baked. Also, you can combine the eggs with different foods like bacon, ham, cheddar cheese, butter, mayonnaise, so you get a different recipe each day although using the same main ingredient."
Keto breakfast options include:
- Frittatas and quiches
- Hash with pork, kale, and eggs
- Baked eggs in avocados
- Omelet with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese
- Eggs scrambled with cream cheese, bell peppers, and spinach
And good news for coffee addicts: you can still have your morning cup of joe. You'll just need to adjust what you stir into it. Switch out flavoured creamer for the real deal—full-fat heavy whipping cream, which has only 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon. If you want to give your java a jolt of sweet, stir in a low-carb sweetener that uses sugar alcohols. But if you can skip the sweet, even better. In time, you'll retrain your palate to not crave a sugary start to the day.
Easy keto lunches
If you talk to keto aficionados, you'll find many save leftovers from dinner for the next day's lunch. Cook once, eat twice—your keto diet menu for lunch is solved. If you don't like leftovers or if you're craving something different for lunch, the mid-day meal can be as simple as a scoop of chicken salad. Or, hit the salad bar at a local grocery store and top a bowl of greens with some good-fat goodies. You can also try one of these simple keto lunches:
- Salad with chicken, eggs, avocado, nuts, cheese with olive oil and vinegar or another favorite dressing
- Rollups of lean, thinly-sliced deli meat wrapped around cheese and bell peppers or pickles
- Tuna salad or egg salad, made with rich olive oil mayonnaise
- Soup without pasta or beans
- Cauliflower rice bowl with a grilled protein, cheese, dressing, olives, and nuts
"One of the best meal planning tips I've ever received is to structure breakfast and lunch so that you don't have to think too much about it," says Emily Bartlett, co-founder of Real Plans. "If you're okay with repetition, it's ideal to have a simple selection of recipes for breakfast—including some that can be taken on the go. For lunch, go ahead and use your leftovers with a fresh green salad, and be sure to include a dressing that you really love."
Simple, delicious keto dinners
Easy keto dinner recipes follow one very basic principle: lean protein, plus a low-carb vegetable side, plus a green salad. You can also mix things up with casseroles, salads, or other low-carb, high-fat dishes, such as:
- Sausage ragu over sautéed zoodles (zucchini noodles)
- Ground beef-stuffed peppers
- Ham-and cheese-stuffed chicken breasts with loaded broccoli
- Hamburger steaks with mashed cauliflower
- Lettuce wraps with chicken, peanuts, and low-carb dressing
"A lot of folks find that batch cooking once or twice a week saves a tremendous amount of time and keeps you from spending every evening in the kitchen," Weaver says. "When keto meal planning, you want to follow general good meal planning practices, like shopping for the week's food all at once, which helps to save money, and prepping your vegetables when you get home. This is actually the best diet for your personality type.
Low-carb keto snacks
Snacks are a simple thing to add to your keto diet menu; they don't have to be complicated, and they're a great way to add healthy fats to your diet without increasing your carb count. Some homemade keto snacks include:
- Cheese crisps
- Bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers
- Fat bombs (a combination of healthy fats and flavorful ingredients, sometimes sweetened with keto-approved low-carb sweeteners)
- Deviled eggs
- Buffalo chicken dip made with cream cheese, mayonnaise, chicken, and buffalo wing sauce
Some store-bought snacks even work well for people eating a keto diet. They save you time and can be packed for snacks on the road. (Check out these tips from Whole Foods employees on how to shop and save.) Some ideas include:
- String cheese
- Beef jerky
- Iced coffee (cold-brew coffee with unsweetened almond milk)
Day 1 of a keto diet
Breakfast: Keto Pancakes with Keto Coffee (8 ounces of organic coffee with 1 to 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter or coconut oil); 2g net carbs.
Lunch: Skin-on baked chicken thighs with loaded broccoli (broccoli topped with sour cream, bacon, and cheddar cheese); 2g net carbs
Dinner: Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry; 10g net carbs
Snack: Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese; 1g net carb per serving
Total net carbs: 18.5 grams net carbs
While there are delicious-looking ketogenic recipes and meal plans online, experts like Weaver warn that you'll want to avoid relying too much on artificial sweeteners and unhealthy foods for your keto diet menu. Make sure your grocery list includes healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil.
Day 2 of a keto diet
Breakfast: Veggie Omelette Recipe with Keto Coffee (makes 2 omelets); 7.5g net carbs
Lunch: Baked Pesto-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Bacon with spinach salad; 6g net carbs
Dinner: Roasted salmon with lemon-butter sauce and 1 cup roasted broccoli; 4.5g net carb
Snack: Mozzarella string cheese; 1g net carb
Snack: 2 hard-boiled eggs with a sprinkle of smoked sea salt; 0.5g net carb
Total net carbs: 19.5 grams net carbs
If you can't fathom the idea of creating a new breakfast or lunch every day of the week, just have a favorite again. This might be one of the easiest ways to stay keto compliant during hectic weekdays.
"It's okay to repeat foods, but one should strive for a variety of foods as often as possible to capitalize on the unique nutritional profile—the vitamins and minerals—of each," says Paul Salter, RD and founder of Fit in Your Dress.
Day 3 of a keto diet
Breakfast: Two fried eggs, two strips of organic nitrate-free bacon, and half an avocado; 2.5g net carbs
Lunch: Spinach Frittata with Prosciutto and Spinach salad; 6g net carbs
Dinner: Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats with Meat; 8g net carbs
Snack: Texas BBQ Pork Rinds; 1g net carbs
Snack: Keto Peanut Butter Cups; 2g net carbs
Total net carbs: 19.5g net carbs
Craving garlic bread with your spaghetti squash lasagna boats? Keep in mind how quickly carbs can kick you out of ketosis. One piece of bread, and you'll have consumed enough carbs for your body to no longer rely on burning fat stores.
"On the ketogenic diet, you must avoid carbohydrates," Weaver says. "This means no bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies. Also, you should completely give up food and beverages containing sugar—ice cream, cake, puddings, soda, and other sweet drinks."
Day 4 of a keto diet
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 2 Country-Style Chicken Sausage Breakfast Patties; 2.5g net carbs
Lunch: Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup; 4g net carbs
Snack: Classic Meat Sticks; 2g net carbs
Snack: Colby Jack string cheese; 1g net carbs
Total net carbs: 24.5g net carbs
Don't stick to chicken and steak just because you're comfortable cooking them. Make dinner time the place where you can try new meats and recipes that increase your keto recipe resources. "At lunch and dinner, you can be creative and experiment," Weaver says. "Just focus on cooking meat—pork, chicken, lamb, beef, or seafood. Meat is rich in iron and fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Use only organic oils, such as avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil."
Day 5 of a keto diet
Breakfast: Ham steak with soft-boiled eggs; 2.5g net carbs
Lunch: Tuna Salad with 1/2 cup cucumber slices; 6g net carbs
Dinner: Instant Pot Creamy Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Spinach with 1 cup sautéed zoodles; 10g net carbs
Snack: 1 package chili-garlic olives; 0g net carbs
Snack: Ham-Cream Cheese Pickle Roll-Ups; 2g net carbs per serving
Total net carbs: 20.5g net carbs
Dislike fish? It's important to get a variety of healthy fats, including omega-3s, when you're on the keto diet.
Day 6 of a keto diet
Breakfast: 2 Low-Carb Biscuits with Almond Flour and Keto Coffee; 4g net carbs
Lunch: 6 Ginger-Sesame Chicken Meatballs simmered in low-carb marinara sauce; 8g net carbs
Dinner: Easy Healthy Taco Salad with Ground Beef; 5g net carbs
Snack: Cheese Ball with Cream Cheese, Bacon, and Green Onion (2 servings) with four 4-inch celery sticks; 3.5g net carbs
Snack: 1 ounce of dry-roasted salted peanuts; 3g net carbs
Total net carbs: 23.5 g net carbs
Tomatoes and tomato-based products have more carbs than you might think, which is why many marinara sauces are off limits for the keto eater. However, some store-bought marinara sauces are below four grams of carb per 1/2-cup serving, which makes it A-OK for a keto dinner. Be sure to read the labels, and avoid any sauce with added sugar.
Day 7 of a keto diet
Breakfast: 1/2 cup raspberries with 4 tablespoons unsweetened heavy cream, whipped; 4g net carbs
Dinner: Grilled pork chops with Buffalo Cauliflower and ranch dressing; 6g net carbs
Snack: Avocado Deviled Eggs; 1g net carbs
Total net carbs: 23.5 g net carbs
Keep low-carb, high-fat dipping sauces, such as salad dressings and flavored mayonnaise, handy when you're eating. They're an easy way to boost your total fat—the second most important nutrient to track after net carb totals—and they add flavor and creamy satisfaction to many proteins and dinners, from grilled pork chops to lamb burgers.