Keto Diet Meal Plans

Evaluate Sample Ketogenic Diet Meal Plans Before You Start the Program

Ham and leek omelette
Philippe Desnerck / Getty Images

Ketogenic meal plans have been used by medical professionals for nearly 100 years to manage certain medical conditions. But more recently, the eating style has become popular among dieters looking to lose weight and athletes looking to improve performance. Before you decide to follow the program, take some time to evaluate a typical keto diet meal plan to make sure that it is an eating style that you can maintain for the long term.

What Is a Keto Diet?

A ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is a very low carbohydrate eating plan that forces the body to use fat rather than glucose as a primary energy source. When you follow the plan, you build meals around fatty foods and significantly restrict your intake of carbohydrates and protein. As a result of that macronutrient balance, acids called ketones are produced in the body. When ketone levels are high enough, the dieter is in a state of ketosis.

There are different reasons that people might use a keto meal plan. Some athletes use it to lower body fat and improve sports performance. Keto diets may be used to improve certain medical conditions such as epilepsy or neurologic illnesses. Some dieters also use ketogenic diets to lose weight.

How to Use Sample Keto Diet Meal Plans

The experts who supplied ketogenic meal plans for this article work with clients to reach specific sports, health, and wellness goals.

Your goals might be different and your health history may require that you eat different foods than those suggested here.

Use these meal plans to get an idea of what eating a ketogenic diet looks like. Evaluate each day's meals and think about whether or not the foods look palatable and if the eating style seems manageable.

If you decide that you think you'd like to try the eating style, connect with a nutrition or medical professional to create a plan that is personalized for you.

Keto Diet Meal Plan #1

The first sample keto diet plan comes from a full-time adventurer and elite athlete who uses the eating style to improve and maintain his sports performance. Patrick Sweeney also lectures on the ketogenic diet at conferences around the country and coaches others to adopt a life of adventure.

His sample meal plan is great for people who like to cook and experiment in the kitchen.

Day One

  • Breakfast: Adventure coffee (a unique recipe that combines coffee with coconut oil, heavy cream, an egg, butter, and occasionally cocoa powder) alone, or add breakfast cheese blintzes. Mix a cup of cream cheese with three egg whites in a blender. Cook the blintzes like pancakes, then add cream cheese and smoked salmon, or fresh raspberries.
  • Mid morning snack: Full fat greek yogurt
  • Lunch: Green salad with either salmon, chicken, or grilled shrimp and cheese.
  • Afternoon snack: Apple with almond butter
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon, spinach, green beens or cauliflower baked with shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Dessert: One square of dark ( >72 percent cacao) chocolate

    Day Two

    • Breakfast: Adventure coffee alone or add volcano eggs. Whip two egg whites to standing, top with a piece of smoked salmon and a few spinach leaves. Grate cheddar cheese on top and indent the top with a spoon. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 then put the yoke in the indent and let it drizzle down the browned sides.
    • Mid-morning snack: Goat's milk yogurt with a handful of almonds
    • Lunch: Goat cheese salad with walnuts and bacon
    • Afternoon snack: Almonds
    • Dinner: Turkey chili with beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers and grated cheddar cheese. Optional: add a fried egg on top. Eat with a side salad.

    Day Three

    • Breakfast: Adventure coffee alone or with a nutrient dense omelette. Saute garlic, red and green peppers, cherry tomatoes and avocado in a pan. When they are lightly cooked, take them out, add olive oil and mix in two eggs for an omelette. Add your favorite cheese and fresh spinach.
    • Mid-morning snack: Apple with peanut butter
    • Lunch: Leftover chili from the previous night
    • Afternoon snack: Brie and a Wasa cracker (a very low carbohydrate cracker)
    • Dinner: Duck on the barbecue with grilled eggplant and zucchini

    Macronutrient Balance

    Sweeney does not stick to a specific macronutrient balance when he begins his own ketogenic diet plan. Instead, he maintains a diet that includes no more than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day. When he goes over .6 on the ketone meter (a device used to measure blood for the presence of ketones) he goes up to 70 grams of carbohydrates and takes a ketone supplement.

    Keto Diet Tips:

    To maintain the keto eating style Sweeney suggests these these guidelines:

    • Look at the glycemic index to choose the best foods for your ketogenic meal plan. There are websites that provide the glycemic index (GI) or glycemic load of different foods. The glycemic index tells you how your body's glucose and insulin system will respond to different foods. Foods that are lower on the index (or have a lower glycemic load) are foods that digest more slowly and will help you to feel full for a longer period of time.
    • A glass of organic red wine is okay if consumed just a couple of times per week. Alternatively, you might enjoy two shots of tequila and two limes mixed with soda water.
    • Choose foods that take longer to digest and that have lots of nutrient density. But they should also be foods you like or you'll be unhappy eating them and you'll be less likely to stick to the diet.
    • Trying to lose weight with exercise and starting a keto diet at the same time can provide fast results for a "multiplier" effect. However, if you haven't exercised in more than 6 months, you should wait to start the keto eating plan. Begin an exercise program first so you are adapting to only one physical change at a time. After 2 weeks of working out 3-4 times per week, you should be ready to start the keto diet.
    • Experiment with intermittent fasting, especially before working out. For example, eat dinner early (6:30 or 7pm) then go to bed without eating. Work out first thing in the morning before you eat. Start your day with breakfast and adventure coffee.

    Keto Diet Meal Plan #2

    This two-day keto meal plan comes from a registered dietitian who prescribes the diet for clients who are looking to reach a variety of health goals. Pegah Jalali, MS, RD, CDN, is an adjunct professor at New York University, works at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, and is a private practice dietitian at Middleberg Nutrition, a New York City health and wellness practice.

    "I used to only treat children with epilepsy with the ketogenic diet. In the last year, I have had an increase in referrals for the ketogenic diet for clients ranging from weight loss, cancer, PCOS, diabetes and dementia."  But she adds that she does not believe in a one-diet-fits-all dietary approach.

    Jalali recommends that her clients work with a medical professional who is familiar with the diet to get the best results. "I do not think most of the general population would benefit from a ketogenic diet, although it can be very beneficial for some. The diet can be extremely challenging to stay compliant on long term so I find that clients who are very motivated and have a strong support system seem to be most successful."

    Jalali's sample ketogenic meal plan includes a variety of foods but requires less cooking.

    Day One

    • Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled with two tablespoons of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of cooked spinach with one tablespoon of coconut oil.  One cup of coffee with one tablespoon of butter and dash of cinnamon.
    • Mid-morning snack: : Six macadamia nuts with six raspberries
    • Lunch: Tuna salad (tuna with mayo, plus salt and pepper) in romaine lettuce
    • Afternoon snack: One half avocado sprinkled with flax seed meal
    • Dinner: Pecan crusted salmon with one quarter cup of cauliflower creamed with two tablespoons of heavy cream

    Day Two

    • Breakfast: Chia seed pudding made with full fat coconut cream
    • Mid-morning snack: Pork rinds
    • Lunch: Flax seed crusted chicken tenders with one half cup of roasted broccoli (add one to two tablespoons of butter)
    • Afternoon snack: Seaweed snacks
    • Dinner: Cauliflower crust pizza with mozzarella and bacon
    • Snack: Heavy whipped cream and four strawberries

    Macronutrient Balance

    Each person on the keto diet will have different macronutrient needs. Jalali says that typically the diets are about 65-85 percent fat, 15-25 percent protein and about 5 percent carbohydrates. "Some of my patients/clients find it easier to keep track of the foods they consume over the day, others prefer to keep track per meal since it holds them more accountable."

    "I recommend designing the meal around the fat and protein sources, since the carbohydrates are very limited. For example, if some one is having tuna for lunch, they may consider adding mayo to it. I also think a common mistake made on the diet, is individuals focus on reducing carbohydrates, but they do not increase their fat adequately. This may make it difficult to go into ketosis, especially if they are consuming too much protein. Some adults can be on a stable ketogenic diet consuming 50 net carbs whereas some may need to restrict to 15 net carbs."

    Another common mistake that she sees is that people focus too much on macronutrients: "Micronutrients are really important too as ketosis is metabolically demanding and the diet is not nutritionally adequate most of the time." She says that most of her clients take multivitamins, carnitine supplements, calcium supplements and sometimes selenium or zinc.

    Keto Diet Plan Tips:

    As part of her practice, Jalali offers the following advice to her clients.

    • Have regular blood work done to avoid vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and imbalances which are typical. Working with a healthcare professional who is familiar with the diet can also help manage side effects which may cause a lot of people from dropping out of the diet.
    • Make plans for what you will eat when traveling and socializing. For example if you are traveling, pack an avocado, can of tuna, and packets of mayo to make an emergency meal if you can not find any foods.
    • Ask ahead if you are invited to someone's house and see what they plan to serve. Ask if you can bring a keto-friendly side or dessert.
    • Experiment with new recipes. The more delicious keto meals you can make, the more likely you are to stick to the plan.

    A Word From Verywell

    There is scientific evidence that supports the use of a ketogenic diet to help manage certain neurologic conditions. There are also medical, nutrition, and fitness professionals that recommend the eating program for patients and clients who have other health goals. But just because the program works for some, doesn't mean that it's the best diet for you.

    For most people, this eating style is a significant departure from the diet that they are comfortable eating. Most of us build meals around lean protein and carbohydrates, not fat. So before you decide to adopt the diet, it's smart to evaluate keto meals plans and think about whether or not you think you can stick to it for the long term. For example, if you are an eater who loves to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal, you might not be able to maintain this eating style.

    If you decide to try a ketogenic diet, talk to your health care provider or registered dietitian to see if there are modifications you should make to keep your health on track.

    Continue Reading