What’s a basic keto diet?

A basic keto diet is considerably higher in fat and lower in carbs than is typical of modern diets with pasta, bread and potatoes as their staples.

Your protein intake will remain pretty much the same, although if in doubt, it may be wise to eat a little more considering many older Americans don’t get enough .

Plainly stated, this means most of your calories will come from fat, about a quarter from protein and very little from carbs (< 10%).

The basic keto meal looks like a rib-eye steak, a side of asparagus and a handful of nuts. How many of your calories come from fats, carbs and protein is referred to as the macronutrient split..

The pie charts below show the different macronutrient split between typical carb dominant modern diets and a basic keto diet.


Staple foods to eat on a basic keto diet

This is not an exhaustive list of foods that can be included on a keto diet. Rather, it is an example of plant and animal food staples representative of a well-formulated basic keto diet.

A basic keto diet should still be a well-formulated one, so this means paying attention the the nutritional qualities of food, like the density of micronutrients and effects on your physiology (e.g. blood sugar and insulin levels).

A simple and common implementation of a well-formulated but basic keto diet might include a mix of animals that from the sea, land and air as well as some nuts and low-starch low-sugar fruit and vegetables.

Land animals
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
  • Duck
Marine animals
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Shellfish
  • Cod
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Courgettes
  • Salad
  • Seaweed
  • Low-sugar fruit
  • All sorts of nuts

Foods to avoid on a basic keto diet?

What you eat clearly matters but so does what you don’t eat. A basic keto diet doesn’t contain a lot of foods with starch or sugar, but the carby foods you do eat still matter in terms of their micronutrient density and effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

Depending on how starchy foods are processed, a person eating them may have an excessively high blood sugar and insulin response .

Smaller quantities of such foods also tend to cause a disproportionately high insulin and blood sugar response.

  • Drinks
  • Sodas
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Fugary cocktails
  • Flour products
  • Cakes
  • Pastries
  • Cookies
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Batter
  • Some sauces
  • Fats
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Peanut oil

For more on which fats to avoids and to include see our posts Good fats vs bad fats Part 1: how much and which ones? and Good fats vs bad fats Part 2: are saturated fats bad?.

Is my basic keto diet getting me into ketosis?

The only way to truly know if you are in ketosis is to measure your level of ketones either in your blood, breath or urine.

For more see our post 3 ways to measure ketones: which is best?.

If you don’t have a device to measure your concentration of ketones, you can often tell by the smell of your breath – it’ll be ‘fruity’ (to put it nicely).

If you’re amongst those suffering from brain fog on a modern carb dominant diet, you may notice it dissipate upon entering ketosis.

For more see our post How to be in ketosis ? .

Are there side-effects to starting a basic keto diet?

During the induction phase of a basic keto diet, physical symptoms are typically quite mild or non-existent for many people going off a modern carb dominant diet.

It is actually the changes to daily food habits and the inherent social aspects accompanying it that are more troublesome for many.

However, flu-like symptoms can occur when starting a basic keto diet. This is commonly referred to as the keto flu. It may last anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks.

For more details on the keto flu and how to manage it with ease, see our detailed post on the matter called (What is the keto flu or low carb flu and what to do about it? Coming soon). The take-aways for mitigating unpleasant keto flu symptoms are

  • initially making sure to appropriately supplement electrolytes such as salt, potassium and magnesium
  • temporarily limit exercise intensity and volume
  • reduce your stress load

Beyond a basic keto diet: personalizing it

Once you’re clear that a basic keto diet is high in fat and low in carbs, has certain staple foods to include as well as biggest offenders to avoid, and have gone through the dietary induction phase, you can now start thinking about personalizing your diet.

For a deeper dive into the ketogenic diets, see our post The ketogenic diet 101: make fat work for you. Taking your personalized basic keto diet and personalizing it requires that you clarify your goals

  • Is it for fat-loss or muscle gain?
  • Is it to battle a disease or merely to experiment with a new diet?
  • Do I have sports performance goals or not?
  • How can I optimize my intake of vitamins and minerals whilst remaining ketogenic? (see Marty Kendall’s optimising nutrition Facebook group for more)
  • Are there certain foods I’m allergic to or simply do not do well on?
  • How do I keep eating this way whilst avoid the stigma of the annoying dieter?

Personalizing your keto diet is great once you’ve got the basics down. We’ll take a deeper dive into the personalization angle in a future post. Let us know which of the question above you’re most interested in having answered.

Until then, enjoy your food and experiment with care and curiosity!