Ketogenic Menus & Meal Plans

Mixed green salad with tomatoes
A freshly prepared salad in a large bowl. (Image: BrandlMichaela/iStock/Getty Images)

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet with a moderate amount of protein and high amounts of fat. The term "ketogenic" refers to the fact that this diet induce ketosis, a state in which your body uses fat and ketones, a byproduct of fat burning, as its primary source of fuel. Ketosis should not be confused with ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes. A ketogenic diet helps suppress your appetite and encourage fat burning, which can help you lose weight without starving, as shown in a study published in January 2008 of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

Ketogenic Diets

A ketogenic diet provides less than 50 g of carbohydrates a day. For example, the induction phase of the Atkins diet and the first steps of the South Beach diet are ketogenic. Ketogenic diets not only help for weight loss, but they have also been used for the treatment of epilepsy for over 80 years, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Researchers at Boston College are investigating the effect of ketogenic diets for the treatment of malignant brain cancer, as published in the February 2007 issue of "Nutrition & Metabolism." It is important to be aware that people going on a ketogenic diet may experience fatigue, headaches, dizziness or constipation in the first two weeks while their bodies adjust. Consult your doctor before going on a ketogenic plan, especially if taking medications.

Breakfast

For breakfast, choose non-starchy vegetables, providing up to 15 g of carbohydrates, a protein and some fat. Have cheesy scrambled eggs with 2 to 4 eggs with onions, mushrooms and spinach cooked in plenty of olive oil and topped with 1 to 2 oz. of cheddar cheese, or 2 eggs served with sausages and bacon, along with a roasted tomato drizzled with olive oil. Or roll slices of smoked salmon with avocado and cream cheese for a delicious riceless breakfast sushis.

Lunch

Avoid grains, starchy vegetables, sugar, fruits, milk and yogurt and make sure you get no more than 15 g of carbohydrates from non-starchy vegetables. A salad is one of the most convenient meal to have for lunch. Fill your plate with leafy greens, such as aragula, Romaine lettuce and radichio, along with slices of cucumbers, avocado and cherry tomatoes. Top your salad with protein from canned tuna, a chicken breast, slices of beef or hard-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with cheese, bacon, almonds, walnuts or macadamia nuts, as desired, and drizzle with a low-carb salad dressing. Alternatively, have a vegetable and meatball soup, without any potato, noodle or rice, accompanied with cheese if you like.

Dinner

For dinner, choose a protein, whether it is chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, pork or beef. Have 4 to 8 oz. of salmon, or pork chops or meatballs. Serve your protein with a big pile of non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans or red bell pepper, but make sure your serving of non-starchy vegetables do not provide more than about 15 g of carbohydrates. Include at least 1 to 2 tbsp. of fat that you can use to cook or to flavor your foods. Prepare a mushroom and cream sauce for your steak, use olive oil for cooking your meat and vegetables or simply drizzle it over your foods or add a few pats of butter to your pile of vegetables.

Snacks

Your snacks should not contain more than 5 g of carbohydrates and should provide plenty of fat and protein. Have a little bit of leftover meat, chicken or fish, hard-boiled eggs or deviled eggs, cucumber slices topped with a tuna salad, celery sticks spread with almond butter or a few cubes of any of your favorite cheese.

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